Saturday, May 14, 2016

How Shikarpur is failing its children

If you want to see how Sindh has failed its children, consider visiting a public school in some of the obscure towns of the province. I always knew that government-run schools have flaws but the extent of this problem was always abstract for me until I had a first-hand experience. Recently I was in Shikarpur (the city once known as the Paris of Sindh) to attend a cousin’s wedding. While in the town, I thought it would be a good idea to see how education is doing in a place that is known for its academic excellence; Shikarpur is known for producing many prominent poets, historian, politicians and bureaucrats.

Though much has been written about education emergency in Pakistan, but to my surprise, I discovered that the real problems are often greatly neglected in our discussions. There has been too much emphasis on accessibility i.e. putting 6.2 million Sindh’s out-of-school children in the schools. But what has not been talked enough is why do parents don’t send their children to school? The conventional wisdom usually argues that these folks simply don’t understand the importance of education. However, talking with teachers and parents, I learn’t how completely out of place such a myth is.

One reason people in these villages do not show interest in school, is lack of basic facilities in the government-run-schools. One such schools that I visited is shown in the pictures below. This school lacks even the basic infrastructure such as chairs. Students are made to sit on the floor. Since there are no fans and bulbs available in the classrooms, so the class takes place in a veranda (open area) where students take a benefit of sunlight, while some put copies in front of their face to avoid its scorching beams.

Wall is used as a blackboard
Out of nearly 200 students enrolled in this school, hardly 30 were present on the day I visited. One teacher highlighted that since there is no toilet in the school so many students go to their homes and never return back. 

At the back of kids is a picture of toilet which has no doors or availability of water
It is ironic that while education budget of the province has increased and the government claims to be spending the same on public schools but it seems that the infrastructure has seen anything but improvement. The fact is that the largest chunk of this budget is being spent on raising teachers’ salaries and the so called “School Specific Budget”. But one wonders what is the purpose of increasing teachers’ salaries when there are not even enough students to be taught in a class? In most government schools, teachers’ are political appointments who only show up on the day of elections. Why not instead spent same money on improving the infrastructure that renders an enabling environment?

I had a chance to mention this to a World Bank representative to Sindh Education Department. She argued that the problem is not that the kids are sitting on the floor but whether these children are endowed with enough knowledge and skills or not. She further argued that in number of private schools, classrooms are equipped with air-conditions but students know nothing. While I share the essence of her argument but we must not forget that the ultimate purpose of school is to render an environment that enables and motivates students for learning.

Secondly, there is no mechanism to investigate whether the children who are enrolled in the government schools, getting stipends, free books and uniforms; are actually learning anything at all or not? Among 5 government schools that I visited, none of the students from 3-4 class was able to read or properly respond in English except recounting basic alphabets. Class 3 student finds it difficult to answer “Where do you live?” With such an education these kids are barely getting literate, let along educated.

We must also understand that 21st century demands a holistic approach to education. Our schools need to encourage children for out-of-box thinking, nurture curiosity and help flourish innovation and creativity. Without these skills, no matter even if we achieve 100% enrolments, we should be rest assured that we are encouraging a generation of illiterates who will be a socio-economic and political problem for the country rather than a potential dividend. 

I am glad that with the help of financial contributions from friends, we have provided this school with desks.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Three Reasons why military coup is unlikely

Pakistan is facing its most serious political crisis in years, only matched by the PNA ‘Pakistan National Alliance’ movement of 1977 that set the premises for the martial law by dictator Gen Zia Ul Haq on the pretext of what was described as the massive rigging by the PPP government.

Rumors have been rife in Islamabad that the sound of the boots is getting louder, pushing us only further into a state of uncertainty. But here are the four reasons why the military takeover is highly unlikely not only this time around but also in the foreseeable future.

1) An Independent Judiciary

In the past, all military takeovers have relied on the validation from superior judiciary. At some instance, they successfully managed to wrestle judiciary in supporting army take overs; such as validation of Zia ul Haq’s martial law when the courts failed to assert the primacy of civil over the military power, while at others, military rule was declared unconstitutional, as in Asma Jilani Case.

However, over the past years, since judges’ struggle against Musharraf’s rule, the judiciary has earned an unprecedented independence and a stature. This emergence of historical judicial power within the political setup draws its legitimacy from the support of civil society, media, political parties and global legal community – all stand vehemently anti-dictatorship.

Any attempt to validate military takeover will weaken the strength of judiciary, as in military rule, judges and courts are subordinates and military supreme. Therefore, the Constitutional cover-up is no longer available for the army rule.   

2) A vibrant Media

One of the less acknowledged features of Pakistan is the rise of vibrant Media that acts as agenda-setter, gate-keeper and watchdog of this fragile democracy. Over the years, it has played a dynamic role in shaping the narrative and public discourse vis-a-vis democratic culture in Pakistan.

Today, whether it is Pakistan’s relations towards India or the treason charge against former military dictator, the popular media channels support the stance of civilians which maintains supremacy of the constitution and define national interests of Pakistan which may not necessarily fall in line with the military’s defined national interests. This is unprecedented in our history, especially keeping in view, that most of the media houses, in past have acted as mole of the deep state.

In such a situation, where military has already received strong criticism within media, any attempt to initiate coup will subject it to further questioning.   

3) A crony parliament will be hard to achieve

One of the tragedies of Pakistan is that apart from military, the civilians have also done equal damage to the growth of a democratic tradition in country. Especially, since 1970’s, with the rise of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto; when politicians for the first time became truly ascendant over the institutional framework, democracy had constantly fallen PREY to confrontation between different political parties.

Some of these parties in pursuit of their myopic interests have flowered dictators and served in their crony parliaments. But today, all the major political parties stand united against the undemocratic forces.

The memories of the last military dictator and the way he treated politicians and judges is still fresh in the minds of many. They may not look too kindly on a coup this time.

The future events in Pakistan are always hard to predict, but looking at the trajectory of events and circumstances, there is little likelihood of a direct military takeover for the time being. However, let’s also not forget that the ‘soft coup’ through some political forces, had already been staged.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Questions you should expect being a Pakistani abroad

One of the biggest advantages of living abroad is the chance to hear what people think about your country. I have been living in Germany for the last three months. During this short stay, I have made friends from different regions of the world. At first, it appeared mystifying, the fact that everyone that I had met, knew something about Pakistan.

It is no surprise that with the ongoing situation in Pakistan, where every day there is horrifying news, in the imagination of people that I have come across; Pakistan comes closer to being an aberration.

Wishfully I often think, how wonderful would it be, if my foreign friends ask me about Pakistani cricket, spicy food, resilience of people, sheer beauty of the country, warm and fabulous hospitability and amazing moral stature of Pakistanis. But what I often encounter, on contrary, makes me realize that Pakistan after more than six decades of its existence remains an enigma to world.

Here are few questions you should expect being a Pakistani abroad. Each one reflects not only our identity dilemma but also an acute challenge of transforming the common perception of Pakistan as the most savage country into the stabilizing force in the world.  

1)  Brother you are from Pakistan and you don’t speak Arabic?

The most intriguing question that many ask is how come Pakistanis don’t speak Arabic. It is may be due to their ignorance about other countries. But part of the answer for this inheritance crisis also lies in our own yearning for Arab-ness that preoccupies all of us.

Especially, since 1970’s with Pakistan’s turn towards the Middle East, there has been an attempt to escape from Pakistan’s Indian roots and emphasize on shared consciousness of Islamic Brotherhood. It was reinforced by the programme of Islamization with an objective of ‘otherizing’ India – which meant removing the historic, geographic, civilizational and cultural traces of Pakistan’s South Asian identity. What this desire ‘to be a Middle Eastern’ country has done is that it has established a national narrative which is essentially not rooted in history, but rooted in fantasy.

Even to-date the struggle to define ‘the Pakistani’ remains unabated. Unless, we revisit the national narrative to clearly reflect what constitutes a ‘Pakistani identity’, we as nation would remain confused and conflicted in different parts of the world. 
2)  Why Pakistan export terrorism?

In the minds of many, Pakistan is a warrior state – a hothouse for jihadism – where Osama bin Laden was found and many other militant groups flourish. Of course, there is truth in this brash assertion. For long, we have used jihad both to gain domestic support and fight with imagined security threats from neighboring countries. This consistent pursuance of foreign policy within the narrow spectrum of security obsession has come to haunt us in many ways. Internally, it has made us a paranoid and xenophobic nation. Externally, it has made us a pariah state – as isolated as North Korea and Iran.

The choice is clear – we either become a modern, progressive and developed South Korea or remain known to the world as a nuclear-armed North Korea.  If we prefer the former, than we need to adopt a radically different path one that includes; getting rid of the menace of terrorist groups that define us today, reversing our attitude towards India and redefining our geographical calculation.

Over all these months, I have come to two overarching conclusions. Firstly, Pakistan is not all about that the world knows. Secondly, Pakistan is surely what the world knows. My reaction to these questions has always been to support people when they are right and to correct and rectify them when they are wrong about Pakistan. For instance, I tell the world around me, that Pakistan is not a jihadi state, how people are moderate and have always opted for democratic self-expression, but I can’t be oblivion of the fact that there are a lot of militants who live in Pakistan and we need to do something to get rid of those.

However, to their doubts over the fundamental question of Pakistan’s identity, my effort has always been to correct our own historical flaws and to explicate to those around me that we have much in common with India than the puritanical strain of Islam that has influenced us in defining our identity. Afterall, Ramadan was Ramazan and Allah Hafiz was Khuda Hafiz in Pakistan until 1980’s. Whether we like it or not, this is what our history is and we can’t escape history.

Having said that, certainly, few others are also to be blamed for our international image. Especially, the Western media for barely documenting the real Pakistan. But the responsibility to revamp our own actions to influence how others perceive us is solely ours.  

By: Kashif Ali

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Military operation alone is no solution, Pakistan needs pragmatic policy

Placed between the devil and the deep blue sea, Pakistan has finally ended its prolong fickle to launch a military operation in North Waziristan. Especially after the unfortunate siege of Karachi airport which resulted in loss of many innocent lives, there has been a proverbial consensus among many Pakistanis in support of military operation. However, there are still many, flooding on social media – not so happy with this war, labeling their counter-parts as utterly wrong. Let me just say for them that sometimes war is a necessity. More importantly, the government’s decision to declare war against terrorists is consistent with the principles of just war: it is being fought to save Pakistan and Pakistanis from Taliban attacks, it is being undertaken by a legitimate authority and above all this war is waged only as a last resort.  

However, the ongoing military operation against those responsible for the brazen assaults is not the first operation in Waziristan. In 2004, President Musharraf amidst international pressures deployed thousands of military troops in South Waziristan against the militants lead by Waziri commander, Nek Mohammed. The end result was the Pakistan Army signing a peace deal with Nek Mohammed known as the Shakai Agreement. As Hussain Haqqani writes, “the general hugged and garlanded the man responsible for the killing of Pakistani soldiers just a few weeks earlier”. The truce was brought to an abrupt end by the militants – they returned more organized, effective and revitalized in their protracted attacks on Pakistanis.

The second operation was launched by Pakistan People’s Party led government. The military intervention accompanied once again the peace agreement signed with the tehreek nifaz-e-shariat muhammadi. The nexus between TNSM and TTP was allowed to flourish as government continued appeasement. The failure to opt for an all-out blitz produced dreadful consequences. Each time the agreement was broken and militants emerged strong enough to penetrate the SWAT.  

As today's debate ensues about new potential military "solution", it is imperative that the discourse must also accompany certain policy changes to ensure its sustainability. Here are the three which I believe are instrumental.

Comprehensive and all-out:

Pakistan has never opted for an all-out operation in Waziristan. Instead, it has been inclined towards reconciliation with different groups. For long we have distinguished between good and bad Talibans. For instance, Pakistan has given unqualified support to Haqqanis whom the military considers as good Talibans despite knowing that group has become a really big liability for Pakistan. This distinction must terminate now.

The realities of changing regional politics require that we must ensure that the tribal territories are no longer hiding ground for militants. In the aftermath of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, it will make Pakistan’s position very difficult on international front. Therefore, the ongoing military action must not differentiate among different groups – the only way for Pakistan to avoid playing into the hands of the militants yet again.

Reversal in Pakistan’s Afghan policy:

As Pakistan begins a decisive military action, we must also ask difficult questions on what actually brought us here. Any self-introspection in the past would reveal that our wounds are self-imposed. For long, the military establishment had flirted with these militant ordeals to push for an Islamabad friendly government in Kabul. Today a decade later, not only Pakistan remains enormously unpopular within Afghanistan but these militant organizations have put the very survival of Pakistani state itself at stake. Thus, the military operation is not going to be effective until it is coupled with a critical assessment and review of Islamabad’s Afghan policy.

Develop a counter terrorism strategy:

The ease with which the terrorists attacked the country’s busiest and heavily guarded airport indicates that strength of the militant groups has grown considerably. More worrying is the proliferation of these networks across the country. The military operation in Waziristan is one dimension; dealing wholly with the crisis of militancy in Pakistan entails a coherent counter-terrorism strategy.

For instance, the first thing that the United States did after the awful attacks of 9/11 was to establish Homeland Security. The reason was that CIA, FBI and others lacked the ability of unconventional combat. Pakistan also has more or less the same weakness. Our police, paramilitary and intelligence forces are at best reactive, not attuned to be pre-emptive. There is a serious need to strengthen the capacity of intelligence agencies.

Without adopting pragmatic, long-term policy solutions, the objectives of military action will not be achieved. We are already too late to embrace these. It’s high time that we must act now and act fast.

By: Kashif Ali

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Is there a ray of hope for Pakistan?

There are two ways of interpreting a glass half-filled with water. You can either call it half-full or half-empty. Even though referring to it as half-full may give you hope, I do not intend to excite the readers by projecting fake optimism while so much is going terribly wrong in Pakistan.
I still believe that despite all the unpleasant happenings, not all is lost yet.
Terrorism, failed state of affairs, discredited army, incompetent leadership, hopelessness; there is enough going on in Pakistan that is a cause of despair and is indicative of a bleak future, but there exist some promising prospects in our country as well.
I have come up with an arbitrary list of four.
To some, they may sound trivial, but for me, they are important. In each one of them, I see a silver lining in the pitch dark clouds hovering above our nation and its people.
1. Potent drama industry
The zeal and aura of Pakistani dramas seems to be back once again. The same enthusiasm that prevailed during the 1980s and 1990s can be seen once again. The reason why I feel the drama industry is a source of hope for Pakistan’s future is because it continues to thrive amidst all repressions.
It is true that the quality of our dramas has reduced on an overall scale, and if I am honest, then majority dramas are just another walk in the Indian footsteps. However, that, in no way, can be generalised for our drama industry.
The best thing about Pakistani dramas ─ be it few if not a lot ─ is the way they project issues from a social and satirical perspective.
The emphasis in these dramas upon the complex class gap and women-related dilemmas of our country have certainly left a tremendous impact on the viewers and projected a different strata of Pakistani society ─ a society that is seeped in conservative dogmas envisioning women merely as vulnerable, weak models of sacrifice and objects of sex.
Such contributions towards recreating a positive image of women and above all the surprising revival of Urdu dramas with the brilliant producers and directors of our small screen industry, are gifts worth celebrating.
2. Unshackled media
There is certainly a lot more that needs to be persecuted as far as Pakistani media is concerned. What makes me list the media as something that is going right in Pakistan is the voice that a free liberalised mass media has allowed the citizens of this country to have.
Five years ago, a rape victim or an acid assault somewhere could have remained unheard of, but today these evils aren’t left unexposed.
This voice and leverage that mainstream media has brought for a lay man is of paramount importance for Pakistan, and not only from the point of view of imbibing democracy. It also pushes us to self-interrogate, so we contemplate, question our purpose, our actions, so that we can get past the criticisms of Pakistan winning its first ever Oscar for a documentary that could put any nation to shame.
Our news channels and judiciary  have become so active together and for once we can see a positive collaboration between the two as well. Both being the crucial pillars of the state have now become partners in the dispensation of justice. The media is playing an instrumental role in uncovering many of the white-collar crimes that have remained unexposed historically and have direct bearings on country’s political and economic life such as Arsalan-gate, Memo-gate. These attempts to hold the powerful to account are the manifestation that justice is no more a commodity to be dispensed of by the nobility. What we have now is ‘freedom of speech’ that will not be shunned anymore.
We as a nation have a voice that cannot be silenced anymore. The power lies with us, too, now. Isn’t this a cause for celebration?
3.   The awakened youth
The real strength of Pakistan is its youth. The Pakistani youth has firmly taken up the future of this country in their hands. The youth of today is active, ambitious, determined and well-equipped with the right skills that help redefine the future of this country.
The youth today is far more aware of its rights and duties than it was a decade before.
Today, the Pakistani youth can be seen in every stream of life. Be it education, health, civil society; they are enthusiastically working and volunteering to create a better future for this country.
I know many of the students from my university, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), who run small non-governmental organisations (NGOs), that center around providing education within their communities. These young students are passionate to volunteer, be it at the cost of lucrative job prospects, for the betterment of our country. This may not be much but we all know that every little helping hand can make a cumulative difference to our country and its people.
I feel it is important to mention StepUP Pakistan founder Ali Moeen Nawazish, who is Pakistan’s world record holder and a Cambridge graduate. Graduating from one of the world’s top universities, he could have landed a job that offered him all the comforts and privileges of life. Instead, he traded all the potential luxury for a philanthropic path with utmost dedication towards running an NGO that works to promote education in some of the obscure towns where people are rarely able to educate themselves.
What stands out from these instances is that there is more to Pakistan than terrorism, domestic violence, corrupt leaders and a failing infrastructure.
For me, these stories are not only fascinating, but an indication that when there prevails commitment to social change, then change itself becomes a possibility.
4.   Flame of hope
This by far is the most vital of all things in a life of a Pakistani: Hope.
Pakistani people have undergone enormous challenges in the last sixty years, and still continue to face them daily; these troubles are neither their fault nor anything they deserve. What is unique about a Pakistani citizens is the way they’ve become stronger with each passing day and every new challenge that they’ve had to face.
The ordinary people have always managed to stand up in the face of every tragedy that has been afflicted at our country with daring audacity. Whether it be the earthquake in 2005 that killed 74000 people and left 3.5m homeless, or the devastating floods and the psychological wounds, courtesy of our tainted leaders, the common people have always been expressive of what this country needs in contrast to what has been lorded over them by the callus, corrupt and narcissistic ruling elites.
The political state in this country is undoubtedly depressing, however, the collective conscience of its citizens without whose efforts, hard work, altruism and commitment, the future would look irredeemable; makes hope in Pakistan rekindle.
The above mentioned list may simply be considered irrelevant in the face of all the daunting problems that Pakistan has been encountering, but if one looks at it under a positive light, it is also a manifestation that there is still a lot to be proud and hopeful about.
Read more by Kashif here. 


Will China-India relations dent Pak-China relations?

China and Pakistan historically have enjoyed long standing, versatile and cordial relations. From the very beginning, in 1955, when the then Prime Minister Chaudary Muhammad Ali and his Chinese counterpart Zhou Enlai consolidated their support on mutual understanding, the relationship between the two countries have remained ‘tested by adversity’.

Pakistan was a key ally for China throughout the Cold War period in coping with India and the Soviet Union until the Gorbachev and Beijing reached and acceded to certain demands. However, many advantages were also accrued to Pakistan as a result of its alliance with a more culturally diverse,  communist country like China. It furthered Pakistan’s security, rendered Pakistan weaponry in the 1965 war with India and China adopted a pro-Pakistan stance on the Kashmir dispute.
However with the dawn of the current century, China’s relations with India and Russia have undergone a dramatic shift in strategic partnership from enmity to entente. In the case of Pakistan and India, the uncertain triangle of China-Pakistan-India has historically been constructed around the lines that the dilution of China’s relations with one country provides an impetus to China’s improvement in relations with other country. This current paradigm shift therefore gives rise to an important question;
What impact will the ongoing Sino-India rapprochements have on the Sino-Pakistan relations?
Will it lead to a weakening of Sino-Pakistan entente?
The answer I believe is no.
This is because there are essentially three underlying factors that continue to uphold the Sino-Pak cordiale despite China’s evolving economic relations with India and concurrent partnership with Russia.
The first rationale for China’s continued friendship with Pakistan lies in Beijing’s economic focus and its utmost priority of economic growth. During the Cold War, Pakistan was an important strategic partner for China in coping with India while at the moment China sees Pakistan in terms of its economic interests. China currently is the world’s second-largest consumer of oil. Apart from the significance of Pakistan’s strategic location, the Gwadar port situated in Balochistan has reinvented Pakistan’s regional significance as an energy corridor for China. China’s enthusiasm about the Gwadar port and its immense technical assistance to Pakistan is one such example of this economic co-operation between the two countries.
For China, the economic incentive for its heavy investment in the construction of this port lies not simply in all ‘weathered friendship’ dynamics between Islamabad and Beijing but in the strategic value attached to the Gwadar port, which for China is no lesser than that of the Karakoram highway.
This port provides China with the closest access point to the Persian Gulf and also renders an access route to the Arabian Sea’s warm water to many of the central Asian landlocked republics including the Chinese Xinjiang. Currently, China receives a majority of its oil supplies from the Middle East, but through this port Pakistan does not only provide China an alternate transport route linking from Pakistan instead of Iran and Sudan, but at the same time Pakistan has become crucial to China’s bid for regional influence.
Secondly, China at the moment is highly sensitive about the growing role of the United States in the region and the US leaning towards India in the Asian continent. To counter this, China perceives Pakistan as its best, if not its last, bet in terms of the diplomatic support which Pakistan historically has rendered to China. Whether it be the facilitation of the United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s visit to China through the diplomatic support of Pakistan in 1971, or the question of China’s right over Tibet and Taiwan, Pakistan has always advocated full diplomatic support in favour of China.
Importantly as well, was Pakistan’s valuable support for China to gain seat in the United Nations.
Thirdly, China’s interest in a stronger Pakistan parallels its own interests. It tantamount to China, that the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan does not get further exacerbated. For Beijing one way is to be aligned with Pakistan and cooperate in order to mitigate the outcome. Although China has its own reservations with US presence and its heightened activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, it certainly does not want the US to fail in Afghanistan. A failure of such magnitude could eventually drive radical elements into Chinese territory and with radicalisation of the region also acts as a trigger for extremism and separatist activities within Xinjiang, where separatist activities are already at peak.
A weaker Pakistan under the influence of the Taliban, or any other extremist group, for China acts as facilitator between various entities operating in Afghanistan, Pakistan and insurgent elements in its own region of Xinjiang. Thus, a progressive and strong Pakistan also benefits China because it mitigates the violent outcome in terms of the criminal elements operating in the Uyghur region of China. Therefore, it is China’s own domestic interests that make its role in the Af-Pak struggle is of great importance and its support for a strong, independent Pakistan is crucial for its own geo-strategic needs.
On the Afghan front, China is vigilant of maintaining good relations with Kabul without offending the Pashtuns elements in the Taliban itself.
Thus, China today being a major power sees the world through the prism of its global interests. Unlike the Cold War standoff, one cannot argue that its rapprochement with India will affect China’s relationship with Pakistan because of the gravity of China’s interests in Pakistan.
By Kashif Ali

No, this is not Jinnah’s Pakistan

I am writing this piece with reference to Mr Yaqoob Khan Bangash’s article of March 18 titled “Jinnah’s Pakistan”. Notwithstanding the fact that the writer is a chairperson of the history department of Forman Christian College, I would, like to highlight few contentions that I have with his conclusion:

“Jinnah’s Pakistan is an Islamic state, which defines who a Muslim is, excludes those Muslims it does not like and is not very democratic.”
Anyone acquainted with history would not disagree with the fact that the struggle for Pakistan was certainly couched in religious terms. A lot of historians have also argued that Jinnah did appeal to the normative values of Islam. He incorporated religious differences in his rhetoric as a sufficient justification for demanding a separate state for Muslims, which eventually led to the creation of Pakistan in the name of religion.
However, based on Jinnah’s ‘politicking and attempt to construe religion as a source of binding Muslims together, what Mr Yaqoob has suggested is that Jinnah always conceived Pakistan to be an ideological/Islamic state guided by Islam.
My only contention is if Jinnah truly did want to create an Islamic state.
Did he want a state where religion would be the only source of identity, where no other orthodoxy would be tolerated except, of course, the dominant Sunni orthodoxy?
Would he have wanted a place where the state would be arrogated the right to define who a Muslim is and who is not – where the state would have the right to put a bar against non-Muslims to occupy positions of the head of a state, the head of a government and the head of Federal Shariah Court (FSC), president and prime minister and head of FSC respectively?
Did Jinnah dream of a state that would have a declared state religion, permeated through the religious realm?
If this was truly the case, I would like to know why almost all the ulemas (religious scholars)including Maududi’s vehicle Jamaat-e-Islami, vehemently opposed the partition and creation of Pakistan. After all, wasn’t it always this that they wanted in the very first place?
If Jinnah’s Pakistan was always meant to be an Islamic state — which defines who a Muslim is, excludes those Muslims it does not like — then why did the Majlis-i-Ahrar-i-Islam (MAI) – a band of Muslim leaders dedicated to an extreme, conservative viewpoint - not support Jinnah?
After all, was it not MAI who had engaged in vigorous anti-Ahmadi campaigns in Punjab? Leaders like Shabbir Ahmad Usmani and Ashraf Ali Thanavi are two exceptions.
It was also this exclusionary approach that attracted several members and sympathisers from among other Muslim political parties. These included the Unionist Party, a potential rival within the province. This was coupled with the fact that MAI also supported an Islamic system for the Muslims of India.
If Jinnah’s Pakistan was meant to be an ideological state guided by Islam, then why did Maulana Maududi, who wanted to transform Islam from merely a faith into an ideology (read Seyyed Wali Reza Nasr on Maududi and the making of Islamic revivalism) oppose Jinnah?
If Jinnah and the Muslim League (like Maududi and the Jamaat-e-Islami) looked to Islam as a legitimising force for Muslim politics, then why were they categorised as such by people likeMaududi:
“No trace of Islam can be found in the ideas and politics of Muslim League… Jinnah reveals no knowledge of the views of the Holy Quran, nor does he care to research them…yet whatever he does is seen as the way of the Holy Quran. All his knowledge comes from Western laws and sources. His followers cannot be but jama’at-i-jahiliyah (party of pagans).”
If Jinnah did not want to create an Islamic state for Muslims then why was he, in fact, pursuing Pakistan?
Pakistan was certainly a decision aimed at emancipating the Muslim community; it was a struggle of one community versus another, not deen (religion) versus dharma.
Scholars like Ayesha Jalal have shown how the popular narrative of Pakistan being based on religious lines is flawed. Turning to religion as a deliberate imprecision was part of Jinnah’s bargaining strategy to seek that power for Muslims.
Remember, Jinnah himself initially was the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. Therefore, in hindsight, one can say perhaps Jinnah did not realise what would inevitably happen, but it is historically incorrect to say that his intention was to create the Islamic Pakistan of today. That would be equivalent to arguing that the loopholes in the legal system of today’s Pakistan show that Jinnah was not a constitutional lawyer.
While Mr Yaqoob has criticised the liberals for overstretching Mr Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech of promoting a secular state, he has done the same by oversimplifying Jinnah’s embrace of Islamic principles to show that Jinnah had promised an Islamic state.
If the dearth of Jinnah’s speeches endorsing secular credentials follow that Jinnah envisioned Pakistan to be an Islamic state then there are also many speeches which can be quoted, which clearly indicate that Jinnah never wanted an Islamic state based on one dogma and rigid system of law that is idealised today in Pakistan.
Therefore, yes, this, today, is not Jinnah’s Pakistan.
By Kashif Ali