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Quaid's Concept of Pakistan

The News International Pakistan - December 25, 2005
By S Irtiza Husain

The current controversy over whether the Quaid-i-Azam envisaged (and the founding father's intended) Pakistan to develop into an "Islamic" or a "Secular" state going on for some years now must have surprised our founding fathers.

Any summary of historical developments during the last one thousand years of Pakistan's life is not intended here but tracing its path we can say in the Quaid-i-Azam's colourful phrase, "Pakistan was born the day the first Muslim set his foot on the sub-continent soil". The first Muslims who came were traders. Their religious faith was their main asset. As time passed other forces also joined in moulding and developing the Muslim mind.

For eight hundred years Muslims remained the dominant power in the sub-continent and this state of Muslim domination remained if not in substance at least in name unchanged till 1857. The collapse of the 1857 resistance proved to be a watershed for them.

The post 1857 situation lasted for a few decades and began to change with their gradually taking to English education but much more so with the introduction of the system of local self-government and the principle of one man one vote by the British. Now the Muslim came face to face with an entirely new situation. Uptill then their entire political experience was limited to only two conditions. They were either rulers or they shared a common bondage to British rule with the other communities. The prospect of coming under the domination of one of those communities now began to loom large before them. It was inevitable and unavoidable as, again in the Quaid-i-Azam's picturesque phrase "Brother Gandhi has three votes, Brother Jinnah only one" (it may be added Gandhi also said "How can one Muslim be equal to three Hindus?") and this position was not likely to change even in the distant future "as far as thought can reach". For meeting the developing new situation many suggestions, proposals and schemes were mooted, examined, discussed and discarded one after the other as being unsatisfactory. It was only in 1940 that Muslimsí opinion overwhelmingly almost unanimously rallied round the Quaid-i-Azam and converged on one point that Pakistan was the answer to their problem and it was up to them to achieve it. It was a goal to be struggled for and achieved by the Muslims for themselves. Therefore, when achieved, Pakistan had to be a state of Muslims, though not necessarily an exclusively Muslim or "Islamic" state which in any case nobody has so far been able to define.

The Quaid-i-Azam was fully cognizant of the complexities of this situation. Although they were not really opposed they only seemed to be so, he reconciled these factors in statements on different occasions. One of these was the oft-quoted 11th August speech in the Constituent Assembly. One sentence in it "religion has nothing to do with the affairs of the state" is picked out and stressed in particular, but its "completion", so to say, by the same Quaid-i-Azam only three days later on 14th of August before the same Constituent Assembly as a correction of not retort to, Mount Batten's remarks is never mentioned. He said, "The tolerance and goodwill the great emperor Akbar showed to non-Muslims is not of recent origin. It dates back to thirteen centuries ago when our prophet (P.B.U.H) not only by words bout by deeds teethed the Jews and Christians, after he had conquered them, with the utmost tolerance, regards and respect for their faith and beliefs. The whole history of Muslims, wherever they ruled is replete with those humane and great principles which should be followed." It needs not to be added that the Quaid-i-Azam was not limiting the application of those principles to freedom of just going to mosques or churches or temples or gurdwaras.

While the enunciation of the complete view of the Quaid-i-Azam on Islam and treatment of minorities in the 11th August speech is very important. Another reference made by him in the same speech must not be overlooked and also be noted.

He said; "If you will work in cooperation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you no matter what relations he had with you in the past is first, second and last a citizen of the state with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make" (stress added).

In two successive sentences, in the first once and in the second twice, he pointedly referred to "the past". Which was this past? Of course not the past of centuries. He had the decade of 1937-47 in particular in mind. That was a period of utmost strained and extremely embittered relations between the two communities, Hindus and Muslims and the bitterness, it must again be stressed was not caused by difference of faith or any restraint imposed over ways of worship. It was so because of the clash simply of political interests. By this time the words "Hindus" and "Muslims" had acquired more political than religious connotations and did not just mean followers of two separate religions. He also earnestly desired that the bitterness of the past should not be carried over into the present and the future marring relations between the two new dominations. They were both sovereign states now and their responsibilities far transcended those of two contending political parties of a colony even though they were the successor authorities to that colonial power.

This being the position, the Quaid-i-Azam's concept of the state of Pakistan has to comprise two basic thoughts. First, "let it be clear that Pakistan is going to be a Muslim state based on Islamic ideas of democracy, equality and fraternity; these are the basic points of our religion, culture and civilisation." "All we ask of you now is to build Pakistan as a bulwark of Islam. Islam has taught us that whatever else you may be and whatever you are you are a Muslim. One can go on quoting one speech after another. This was his firm belief and whenever he said this, he, as he said, was voicing not only his own sentiment but the sentiments of million of Muslims."

At the same time, however, he also realised one danger inherent in making Pakistan a Muslim state that was of efforts to turn Pakistan from Muslim into a theocratic state, an ecclesiastical state ruled by priests with a divine mission. Otherwise although the word "secular" was not current in his days and even if it had been he did not see any contradiction between a Muslim state and a "secular" state. The aim in both cases would have been a state based on principles of democracy, equality of all of its citizens, social justice, and non-discrimination on any ground of caste or creed, and equal opportunities for all without distinction. Welfare state was the aim in both cases, whether it was "Muslim" or secular.

The Quaid-i-Azam's third basic thought was, as he said: "It is not our purpose to make the rich richer and to accelerate the process of the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few people. We should aim at levelling the general standard of living among the masses." He categorically rejected the western economic theories and practice saying "it will not help us in achieving our goal of creating happy and contented people. We must work our own destiny in our own way and present to the world an economic system based on the true Islamic concept of equality of men and social justice". This was not an idealistic concept but his preoccupation with political developments gave him no opportunity to dilate on this concept.

DISCLAIMER: The public material presented here is taken from various sources as it becomes available. It is presented without any bias to, or interpretation of, the contents whatsoever. We would be grateful for any help anyone can provide in obtaining other such public material of national importance to Pakistan in order to aid intellectual discourse and debate.

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Not even his political enemies ever accused Jinnah of corruption or self-seeking. He could be bought by no one, and for no price. Nor was he in the least degree a weathercock swinging in the wind of popularity or changing his politics to suit the chances of the times. He was steadfast idealist as well as a man of scrupulous honour. The fact to be explained is that in the middle of life he supplanted one ideal by another and having embraced it clung to it with fanatic's grasp to the end of his life.

The Great Divide, pp.38-39
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