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The War Within Islam ( 12 Oct 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan’s Lost Souls

By Nadeem F. Paracha

October 9, 2011

The debate over what constitutes ‘Pakistan ideology’ is an old one. Today, more than 60 years after the creation of Pakistan, this debate is an still on-going battle. Even though in the last 30 years the rightists have managed to gradually push the liberal narrative of Pakistan ideology on to the sidelines, it is yet to completely overwhelm it.

But it was not exactly the scholarly superiority of the rightist narrative that got itself imbedded in the school curriculums and in the media. It just got lucky when, to preempt and address rightist opposition, Z A Bhutto’s left-liberal regime (1972-77) made certain pragmatic moves that badly backfired. He ambitiously attempted to infuse certain aspects of the rightists’ national narratives in his government’s largely leftist, liberal agenda and appeal.

This move saw him unwittingly create the space that mainstream Islamists were searching for — a space they then used to not only shake up the Bhutto regime through a movement (1977) but also pave the way for a reactionary military coup and dictatorship (Ziaul Haq). Interestingly, the term ‘Pakistan ideology’ was not even part of Pakistan’s ideological discourse until the mid-1960s.

Its emergence can be traced to one of the most fascinating debates that took place between the Islamists, mainly the Jamat-i-Islami (JI) and the country’s then burgeoning leftist intelligentsia. It took place between 1967 and 1969 during the students and workers movement against the Ayub Khan dictatorship. Though the JI was staunchly against the secular Ayub regime, it began pulling itself back from the movement when the protests began being dominated by the left in the shape of Marxist student organisations (NSF), progressive Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun and Bengali autonomists (Sindh United Front, National Awami Party and Awami League), and the emergent Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Shaken by the autonomists’ rejection of a ‘Punjab-driven’ West Pakistan’s claim to power and by the students’ and the PPP’s socialist overtones, JI chief and scholar Syed Abul Ala Maududi, formulated the scholarly/propagandist foundations of what he called the ‘Pakistan ideology.’ In his writings of that period, he revised Pakistan’s nationalistic raison d’etre claiming that Pakistan did not come into being as a nation state (for a Muslim majority) but as an ‘ideological state’ (i.e. ‘Islamic state’).

The JI enthusiastically published Maududi’s new thesis along with his earlier writings but omitted republishing the essays he had written before Pakistan’s creation in which he had lambasted Pakistan as being ‘Na-Pakistan’ (Land of the Impure), because it was being conceived by a ‘flawed Muslim’ (Jinnah).

Famous progressive writer, Safdar Mir, was the first to notice the omission. In a series of articles he wrote for the popular pro-PPP literary journal, Nusrat, he sardonically lay into Maududi’s claims by reproducing the inflammable contents of Maududi’s missing essays. Mir’s rebuttal was hailed as a victory of progressive forces at the time, but Maududi’s thesis were still carried forward by pro-JI men like the lawyer, A K. Brohi (who was part of the Ayub regime) and novelist Naseem Hijazi, both of whom severely attacked the time’s dominating leftist forces for being ‘anti-Islam/ Pakistan.’

Maududi’s thesis was blown away by the triumph of leftist/ secular parties in the 1970 elections. However, a decade later, the same thesis, rejected by the electorate in 1970, was regenerated with a vengeance by the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in the 1980s.

In fact the thesis actually began informing state policy.

So that which for the last 30 years has continued to be proudly paraded in speeches, schools and the media as ‘Pakistan ideology’ – i.e. the claim that Pakistan was conceived as a theocratic state and a ‘bastion of Islam’ — was not exactly Jinnah’s vision, but rather a sudden 1960s intellectual concoction of the JI and its friends in the civil-military establishment.

During the same aggressive debate that took place between the progressive intelligentsia and Islamist ideologues in the late 1960s, the question of ‘Pakistani culture’ had also propped up. The progressives were represented by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. In 1969 he wrote a detailed report in which he explained Pakistani culture as being a combination of cultures that included those of the various Islamic sects in the country, the cultures of the land’s various ethnicities, elements of western culture and distinct cultures of various minority groups residing in Pakistan. To him Pakistan’s culture was naturally pluralistic.

The rightists disagreed. They accused the report of being ‘a Trojan horse through which the leftists were trying to storm the fortress of Islam (sic).’ They insisted Pakistan had an ‘Islamic culture’, suggesting that cultural practices like dance, music, painting and drama and concepts like diversity and pluralism were the ‘leftists’ weapons’ to cow down Pakistan’s ‘Islamic society’.

Faiz responded by saying Islam is universal and cannot be associated with a single nation. He said Pakistan has its own culture that has many aspects, one of which was Islam. ‘We do not have a monopoly on Islam,’ he concluded. Though much of Faiz’s report continued to be discussed during the Z. A. Bhutto regime, its findings and suggestions became taboo history once the Bhutto regime was toppled in a reactionary coup in 1977.

In Ziaul Haq, the rightist ideologues finally found a man willing to transform the rightists’ narratives of Pakistani culture and ideology into state policy, something that gradually has become part of what is now considered conventional mainstream thought.

Source: The Dawn, Karachi