(The Election Commission of Pakistan rejected the nomination papers of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Ayaz Amir. He is a journalist and columnist. An objection criticising Amir for writing articles “against the ideology of Pakistan” was filed against his nomination papers by complainant Babar Salim.
According to Pakistan’s Constitution, one cannot be a Member of Parliament if he or she has “worked against the integrity of the country or opposed the ideology of Pakistan.”)
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
April 08, 2013
The returning officer’s decision to reject Ayaz Amir’s nomination papers should be a wakeup call, instead of blaming the poor returning officer who was taught by the state never to question the idea that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam. Now we blame the returning officer for rejecting what he has been taught to reject? Liberalism, pluralism, secularism, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, all these fine ideas militate against the manufactured and concocted ideology of Pakistan.
Must there be an ideology for a nation state like ours? Pakistan did not have an ideology. It was an accident of history like any other nation state. The identity politics leading to its creation were hardly ideological. It was, in essence, a push for power sharing between the bourgeoisies of the two major communities of India represented mainly by two major parties in India. It goes without saying that the father of the nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was not the ideological type. In fact, on the various types of tests prescribed by returning officers, the founding father would have failed, especially if on account of the ideology of Pakistan. Granted he may have paid lip service to Islamic principles on occasion, but always to reinforce that Islam was compatible with democracy and equality. By July 1947, the most ardent of Muslims amongst Jinnah’s supporters realised full well that Jinnah did not intend to give in to their demands about Sharia. In a confidential letter addressed to Mountbatten, Rob Lockhart, the governor of NWFP, reported on August 9 that local League leaders were annoyed because Jinnah had told them bluntly that he would not establish Shariat law (See Appendix IV. 17, Page 462, Volume IV of the Jinnah Papers).
Certainly agreeing or disagreeing with an ideology — imagined or otherwise — cannot be a factor in full citizenship. After all, only a few years after the creation of Pakistan, Dr Khan was leading the main establishment party: the Republican Party. Similarly, when the 1964 presidential elections rolled in, Fatima Jinnah’s candidature was endorsed by people like Abdul Ghaffar Khan and others who had been opposed to partition. The creation of a new state automatically meant new alignments and configurations. Just as in India, many Muslim League stalwarts joined the Congress Party, a number of Congressmen in Pakistan, dead set against Pakistan till August 1947, and joined the Muslim League. Later on there was splintering. The Azad Pakistan Party of Mian Iftikharuddin who had supported Jinnah’s endeavours in Punjab, both financially and morally, merged with Ghaffar Khan’s original Pakistan People’s Organisation to form the National Awami Party. The question of the ideology of Pakistan first arose in the late 1960s. It reached a fever pitch with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hauling Wali Khan into court on the issue of the ideology of Pakistan. General Ziaul Haq took it to the next level of course by bringing special religious provisions in the eligibility criteria contained in Articles 62 and 63.
If nothing else this whole sordid drama that has unfolded should be enough to convince us that the time has come to separate religion and ideological imaginings from the state in a very practical and substantial way. Whether a person can recite Dua-e-Qunoot or not, and whether a person agrees with the ideology of Pakistan should not form any part of the criteria for eligibility. The only eligibility criteria should be twofold: financial integrity and ability. Beyond that everything should be the personal business of an individual.
Now that the cat is finally amongst the pigeons, perhaps our politicians will get their act together and cooperate to get rid of the superfluous provisions of our constitution, especially the loyalty to an ideology instead of the constitution of the Republic. Pakistan, therefore, has a choice to make. Do we want to be an ideological state or a democratic state? Ideology and democracy cannot coexist. There have never been an ideological state that has been able to reconcile itself with the idea of representative rule.
Finally, a word for the learned Mr Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, the honourable Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan, as a lawyer Mr Ebrahim has been at the forefront of a number of civil rights cases, notably representing the petitioners in Zaheeruddin v the State. Of all people Mr Ebrahim should have known better than to approve such convoluted and questionable scrutiny being undertaken by the returning officers. Yet wonders never cease. Every citizen should — irrespective of ideology — be allowed to have an equal say in how to run a country, a fundamental right that should not be curtailed by tyranny and arbitrary action.
What is tyranny and arbitrary action? John Locke prescribes a simple test in his Two Treatises on Government. He states that tyranny and arbitrary action is when “a governor, however entitled, makes not the law but his will the rule and when his commands and actions are not directed towards the preservation of his people but the satisfaction of his own...other irregular passion.”
Is what happens in the name of religion and ideology in this country not a continuing and perpetual irregular passion?
As for the ideology of Pakistan, it is about time we grow up and bid farewell to pipedreams and shadows.
Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Jinnah: Myth and Reality.