Monday, 11 February 2013

Jinnah dreamt of a secular Pakistan

As the drones bomb the militants and the militants bomb civilians, Jinnah's dream and Pakistan itself both lie in tatters.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Father of Pakistan (left) with Mahatma Gandhi, Father of India

Yet, the nation still has hope if only it can return to Jinnah's will. Speaking to the Central Legislative Assembly in 1935 Jinnah said: "Religion should not be allowed to come into politics….Religion is merely a matter between man and God." Jinnah drew a clear line between politics and religion, with religion clearly limited to being "between man and God". This statement should have laid the foundation of a secular Pakistan.

As late as November 14, 1946, 9 months prior to independence, Jinnah said: "I am not fighting for Muslims, believe me, when I demand Pakistan." Jinnah pursued Pakistan neither in the name of Islam, nor exclusively for Muslims. The Father of Pakistan was more than willing to endorse an undivided India, which he openly did when he accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan. All Jinnah wanted was to ensure that the social and economic interests of the conglomerate of the Muslim-majority states remained secure. This was an assurance Gandhi, Nehru and other Indian politicians were not willing to extend. The weaker and smaller conglomerate of the Muslim-majority states was at risk of being economically subdued by the larger and more prosperous conglomerate of the Hindu-majority states. Thus, Pakistan was created neither in the name of Islam, nor exclusively for Muslims, but rather in pursuance of a secure politico-economic future for all the inhabitants of the Muslim-majority states of the subcontinent. The two nations in the "two-nation theory" were not the religious denominations of Hindus and Muslims, as perhaps many today would like to believe, but rather the Hindu-majority states and the Muslim-majority states of undivided India.
I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in due course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of the individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.
"No distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state," said Jinnah at his presidential address to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947. He went on: "Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in due course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of the individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state." Seldom has anyone described a secular state in words better than these. Jinnah spoke of the state recognizing the status of these denominations as "citizens of the state" and ignoring religious identity.

Jinnah also drew a clear demarcating line between the religious identity of the citizen and the business of the state. During the same speech he stated: "You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed. That has nothing to do with the business of the state." Tragically, in today’s Pakistan, not only are Pakistani Ahmadi citizens "not free" to go to their mosques, they are not even permitted to call them mosques.

Despite the way minorities such as the Ahmadis or Hazaras or other religious and ethnic groups are treated today, Jinnah’s own pro-minority beliefs were patent. Speaking about the Shudras, or Untouchables, during his address at the All India Muslim League session at Delhi, in 1934 he said: "In the name of humanity, I care more for [the Untouchables] than for the Muslims." These words were not uttered before a Hindu gathering, which could have led some to argue that perhaps he was trying to win their favour. These words were, in fact, openly stated during his address at a Muslim League session.
Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims – Hindus, Christians and Parsis – but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.
While drafting the constitution of Pakistan, Jinnah's objectives and values were clear. "Why this feeling of nervousness that the future constitution of Pakistan is going to be in conflict with Shariah laws," he asked in January 1948 in an address to Karachi's Bar Association. A month later, Jinnah elaborated: "The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly…Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of men, justice and fairplay to everybody…In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims – Hindus, Christians and Parsis – but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan." 

An unequivocally secular state, operating on the lines of "equality, justice and fairplay to everybody" is what Jinnah dreamed of. Jinnah’s secular philosophy of statecraft, was encapsulated by his use of the term "everybody" with respect to all the citizens of the country he founded. Even if he did not use the term "secular" overtly, his vision was certainly one of a secular Pakistan. Without doubt, it can be stated that Pakistan was made neither in the name of Islam nor exclusively for Muslims. Pakistan was made to secure a prosperous social, economic and political future of all the inhabitants of the Muslim-majority states of the subcontinent. The dying father of this nation left for us a clear and practicable will. For six decades that will has remained nothing more than a forgotten dream.

In February 1948, just months before his death, Jinnah said: "But make no mistake, Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it." But by virtue of the Article 2 of the Constitution, which states that Islam shall be the state religion, Pakistan made exactly this mistake and in the process did a great disservice to Islam. @newreligionEU

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