By Yasser Latif Hamdani
December 30, 2019
The Founder of Pakistan repeatedly said that Pakistan shall not be a theocratic state to be run by priests with a divine mission. In the last All India Muslim League’s convention in Karachi in December 1947, he explained that in his view Islam did not stand for an ecclesiastical state. He also refused to be the president of the Pakistan Muslim League that was a successor to AIML stating that he could not as the de facto Head of State also lead an avowedly communal organization. It is said that he wanted to transform the League into a national body in Pakistan as it no longer made sense to have a Muslim League in a country that was overwhelmingly Muslim majority. Meanwhile he wanted the Muslims in India to united under the flag of Indian Union Muslim League to protect and fight for the rights of the Muslim minority. For once his will did not carry the day as far as Pakistan was concerned. Ultimately he was forced to tell an interviewer that the time for such a move had not yet come but that the decision to have a purely Muslim organisation was not irrevocable and would be revisited when enough progress has been made. However the critical point here is the distinction between a majoritarian group nationalism and a minority group nationalism. This is what separates the minority Muslim nationalism of 1930s and 1940s from the majoritarian Hindu nationalism we’ve seen in India, just Black nationalism in the US can never be equated to White nationalism that plagues it. A minority nationalism is about survival and a majority nationalism is about subjugation.
The problem with Pakistan is that those who came after Jinnah could not make that subtle distinction between the two`. Instead of heeding the 11 August speech and allowing the distinctions of majority and minority to vanish over time, Pakistan has insisted on letting them become ossified into non-negotiable positions. In the process Pakistan has become a theocracy on all counts. Apologists for theocracy in Pakistan say that Pakistan is not a theocracy because parliament is sovereign. The truth is that the first line of the Pakistani constitution states: Sovereignty of the entire Universe belongs to Allah alone. So that is the deity clause of our constitution. However this alone does not make Pakistan a theocracy. After all Republic of Ireland has a similar clause and the statement “One Nation under God” exists in the US pledge of allegiance as well. The Objectives’ Resolution undertakes to enable Muslims to live according to Quran and Sunnah. Here the word is enable not enforce- a critical difference. So it is true that the Objectives’ Resolution – while a communal and majoritarian document- does not make Pakistan a theocracy in a legal and constitutional sense. Therefore the 1956 and 1962 Constitutions cannot said to be theocratic constitutions though these had distinct theocratic features. There were Islamic provisions in deference to the Muslim majority and Muslim cultural life but they by and large did not seek to impose religion. The office of the president was reserved for Muslims alone and that was the beginning of real constitutional discrimination in Pakistan against the minorities. Nevertheless, the office of the Prime Minister, in whom was vested executive authority under 1956 Constitution, was open to any citizen of any faith. Significantly neither constitution had a state religion, because the consensus was that a state could not have a religion.
The 1973 Constitution provided for a state religion and also went further than 1956 Constitution by closing the door on minorities vis a vis the office of Prime Minister. The repugnancy clause i.e. Article 227 made all legislation subject to injunctions of Islam. The freedom of expression clause had the glory of Islam exception. It was a thoroughly discriminatory and theocratic constitution from the beginning but introduction of Federal Shariat Court and provisions added by General Zia ulHaq’s military regime made it an outright theocracy.
So it is about time we admit that we are a theocracy run by priests with a divine mission and it would seem that a great majority of Pakistanis want it that way. Minorities of Pakistan are second class citizens and at least one minority – a forced one- has no rights at all in the country. On a legal plane in Zaheeruddin v State 1993 SCMR 1718 the Supreme Court abolished religious freedom in Pakistan in 1993. Priests with a divine mission sit in the Council of Islamic Ideology and the Federal Shariat Court constantly vetoing any progressive legislation in the country. If they would have their way – and they soon might- they might even abolish the Muslim Family Ordinance 1961 which gives women certain rights. Instead of religion being the personal faith of an individual, it is entirely the business of the state in Pakistan, indeed its only business. Every single promise made in the 11 August speech has been betrayed. One can only suggest then to let Mr. Jinnah rest. Take his portraits off please and take him off the currency. Here are suitable replacements – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Zia ulHaq, the two architects of this theocracy. Maybe some of the denominations of the currency can also have Imran Khan, the founder of Naya Pakistan. Drop the pretense for god’s sake. Accept you are a theocracy and become a pariah state.
There was a reason why Jinnah never used the term Riyasat-e-Medina. It was not on account of his much vaunted indifference to religion. On the contrary it was because Jinnah understood – as many amongst Muslims have – that Riyasat-e-Medina worked because of the divinely guided Prophet (PBUH). Who amongst the leaders of today can take up that mantle and I remind you that to do so would be blasphemy? Any attempt to replicate it by lesser mortals would lead to papacy and that Islam does not allow. It is correct that Islam does not stand for an ecclesiastical state like the Vatican City. It stands to reason then that Islam stands for a secular state run by secular people where religious freedom is allowed and the principle of La-Ikrah-Fid-Deen – there is no compulsion in religion- finds fullest expression – a level playing field for everyone to convince the other of their point of view.
I will end this article with a quote from Karl Marx who wrote: “Every giant presupposes a dwarf, every genius a hidebound philistine. The first are too great for this world, and so they are thrown out. But the latter strike root in it and remain. Caesar the hero leaves behind him the play-acting Octavianus, Emperor Napoleon the bourgeois king Louis Philippe.”
Original Headline: Pakistan is a theocracy
Source: The Daily Times, Pakistan