By Yasser Latif Hamdani
June 23, 2019
The problem 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.
Pakistan 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.
Similarly 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.
Religion 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.
In my 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 vision.
Obviously 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.
All the 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.
We would 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 successful.
This is 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