Yasser Latif Hamdani
with Pakistan and its perpetual identity crisis stems from the confusion over
its narrative and founding myth namely that it was created in the name of
Islam. In several of my previous articles I have written in some detail as to
why the claim that Pakistan was founded in the name of Islam is ahistorical and
disastrously misleading. Yet it is always followed by the same question: “If
Pakistan was to be a secular state, why separate from India?” This naïve
question is repeated by people on all sides of the divide, from Pakistani
Islamists to right wing Hindutvists in India. I shall endeavour to answer this
simplistic formulation through this article.
was not created because India was going to be secular but rather because
political leaders of the Muslim community believed in earnest that no matter
how secular the constitution, the Caste Hindu majority would never allow
Muslims a share in power and resources. Muslim leaders were not the only one
who had this apprehension. An identical struggle for electoral representation
and a separate status was waged by none other than Dr B R Ambedkar on behalf of
the Dalits or Scheduled Caste Hindus. Gandhi’s emotional blackmail led to Poona
Pact, but the Dalits feel marginalized in India even today.
in South India, the Dradivians wanted to create Dravidistan against what they
viewed to be North Indian Hindu tyranny. Indeed their leader E V Ramasamy
Periyar wrote to Jinnah asking him to ally himself to Dravidistan movement as
well. If Dalits had formed contiguous majorities in North West or North East of
the subcontinent they might as well as have created a Dalitstan. If Sikhs
constituted majorities in these areas they might have created a Sikhistan.
was just not the factor here. British India’s minorities felt very strongly
that Caste Hindu majority would never allow a fair and equitable share of
government and resources to minorities. The genius of Jinnah was that after a
lifetime of disappointment with his Caste Hindu colleagues in the Congress, he
managed to create a solid voting bloc for Muslims. Till 1946 there was still
room for an all India federation of some kind with autonomy for Muslim majority
areas. That was torpedoed by the Congress.
previous articles I have shown with evidence, the idea of Pakistan was not a
religious demand. Indeed Islamic religious parties like Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam,
Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind and Jamaat e Islami opposed it tooth and nail because they
felt that their primacy would be ensured in a country where Muslims are in a
minority as opposed to a country where secular minded political leaders of
Muslim majority would call the shots on the economy and culture of the country.
The religious parties – especially Maulana Madni- called for Misaq-e-Medina
with the Hindu majority whereby the Hindu majority would rule and the Ulema
would rule the Muslim community like a fiefdom. To some extent that is what has
happened in so called secular India since independence. Shah Bano case and the
events surrounding All India Muslim Personal Law Board are a fulfilment of that
Pakistan gradually gave up the secular prescription of statehood that Jinnah
had so eloquently laid down on 11 August 1947. Nevertheless there are certain
achievements of Pakistan in so far as its service to the Muslim community is
concerned which cannot be denied. Sumit Sarkar, the great Indian historian,
credits Pakistan with the creation of a Muslim bourgeoisie. The impulse for
Pakistan had come from new salaried and petit bourgeoisie. Before Pakistan, the
Muslim community chose professions such as agriculture or soldiering. Pakistan
created the opportunity for new avenues. The Muslim aversion to key economic
professions was a worldwide phenomenon, even in Ottoman Turkey.
It must be remembered that secular Turkey
under Kemal Ataturk had banned 30 odd commercial professions to Non-Muslims in
1932. Pakistan did not do any such thing, but the rigours of running a state of
their own, forced Muslims of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and then NWFP (now KPK)
to enter into professions such as banking, insurance, industry, commerce etc.
The business sector you see today headquartered in Islamabad and Karachi are
all fruits of this country. In a united India, headquarters would not be in
urban centers of Karachi or Lahore. Islamabad presumably would not even exist.
innovation, fintech, mobile networks etc would have been centered elsewhere.
This was the reason and the practical economic rationale for having Pakistan.
We see this battle still going on as urban professional classes collide with
the rural agrarian classes. That is the real battle to be won.
have of course done a lot better (as we did before the 1980s) if we had not
dragged religion into every activity. This is also the reason why Pakistan must
be a secular state. Untold damage has been done to Pakistan’s economy by
institutions like Federal Shariat Court and Council of Islamic Ideology,
especially by their unthinking judgments on the issue of riba and interest
banking. None of these great judgments have done anything for the development
of Islamic finance or economy. The biggest centres of Islamic Finance are
London, New York and Washington DC not Islamabad or Karachi. Islamic Finance
needs to develop on its own inherent strength in competition with other
capitalist modes. Today more research on Islamic Finance goes on in secular
West than in Pakistan because they take Islamic Finance as yet another mode and
economic model while we keep debating religious modalities of what it means to
be correct. Ultimately the choice element must remain for the idea to be
just one way we have made an utter mess of things. Our emphasis on religion is
so overwhelming that most tourists are scared of coming to Pakistan. The raison
d etre of Pakistan was never and can never be imposition of one narrow minded
interpretation of our great faith. I will let Mr. Jinnah have the last word on
what the rationale of Pakistan was. He said in 1946, at the height of the
Pakistan Movement: “What are we fighting for? What are we aiming at? It is not
theocracy, not for a theocratic state. Religion is dear to us. All the wordly
goods are nothing when we talk of religion. But there are other things which
are very vital-our social life and our economic life, and without political
power how can you defend your faith and your economic life.” Is there any room
for any dispute after this? The rationale for Pakistan was economic, political
and social not religious.
Source: The Daily Times, Pakistan