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Initial response of democracy in Pakistan
Dr. Rajkumar Singh2/25/2021 11:30:26 PM
Strong degradation of the Constituent Assembly, a democratic institution, was itself an indication that its future in Pakistan is bleak. It also proved an inherent contradiction that intelligentsia of the Muslim League and its mass represented. The three layers of society - leadership feudal elements and the common masses had fixed their eyes on power, self interest and welfare of all respectively. Among these, the first two had been in close contact in the national movement and the third was exploited in early and mid-forties in the name of Muslim nationalism and religious ideologies. As a result of this peculiar composition the august body had failed to create a political elite in Pakistan as a mark of modern democratic polity with social justice. It gave birth to a political elite that generally preferred narrow personal gain to national interest and have engaged in internecine quarrels fuelled with greed in situations which required unity and self sacrifice for the nation.
Democratic vision of leaders
While struggling for the creation of Pakistan, with intervals, the two expressed the vision of the type of society they stood for. As most of the leaders of the Muslim League belonged to a liberal Westernised, they carefully articulated the aspiration of the Muslims in different parts of India for substantially improved material conditions and an absence of Hindu economic and cultural domination. Earlier Sir Syed Ahmad sought a rational exposition of Islam that represented a qualitative change from the past into the modern era. He held the Quran to determine our understanding of Islam and brought out its relevance to the new society of his day, he rejected the canonical traditions and the authority. Mohammad Jqbal as a step further rejected the static traditionalist interpretation of Islam and asserted that the quran provides an essentially dynamic world-view for Muslims. As a proof of this assertion he pointed to Ijtehad and wrote ……….. eternal principles when they are understood to exclude all possibilities of change which, according to the Quran is one of the greatest signs of God, tend to immobilize what is essentially mobile in its nature ……… What then is the principle of movement in the nature of Islam ? This is known as Ijtehad. Though Iqbal conceded the need of some representation at the level of Muslim Legislative Assembly, his emphasis on representative democracy within the framework of Islam was clearly evident.
Further, the leaders of Muslim League including Jinnah, the founding father, may have thought sincerely about the application of Islamic principles, but they certainly did not regard the movement for Pakistan as an effort to recreate some kind of a 'golden age' in Islam. In the minds of most, whatever the other inducements underlying the demand for Pakistan, the project certainly had an idealist element involving the issue of identity and Islam. As early in 1913 Jinnah himself articulated an ideal when he said, "When you find that Europe consisting of different nationalities and powers can maintain what was known as 'Concert of Powers' during the recent war, it is too much to ask and appeal to Hindus Mohammedans, the two great communities in India, to combine in one harmonious union for the common good." But miserably Jinnah failed to keep his own advice, either in undivided India or in 'mouth-eaten' Pakistan. In pre-partition period and particularly from 1937 onwards, the Muslim League under the leadership of Jinnah repeatedly asserted that democracy was not suited to India as it would lead to a permanent Hindu majority. It operated with an extremist communal ideology which increasingly took a fascist form based on hatred and irrationality.
First democracy in practice
After the formation of Pakistan, it is true that Jinnah tried to make a turnaround and argued in favour of secularism and democracy. The Constituent Assembly of Pakistan came into existence on August 10, 1947, and a day after, Jinnah in an inaugural speech adopted a more practical approach : You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with business of the state ……. We are starting in the days when there is discrimination between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state ……. You will find that in due course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state. This statement of Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah was treated for a long time as the 'Magna Carta' of minority safeguards in Pakistan. No doubt, it was a very good beginning and an excellent ideal. Thus, the founder of Pakistan had formulated the principle of equality of all citizens irrespective of caste, creed and religion, and the framers of the Constitution followed this principle. Except for the provision that the head of the state must be a Muslim, there is no discrimination in the Constitution on the grounds of race, caste or religion in respect to citizenship or rights in the constitution.
Other considerations
Apart from the religious basis of Pakistan, there was a strong philosophical cause backed by the socio-economic-political backwardness of the Muslim community. In the pre-independence days, the Muslim League was so mush absorbed in the fight for Pakistan that it could never develop any social or economic programme. It was likely that the upper strata of the Muslim League did not want any social change because that would have affected their social position. In Pakistan, the leadership that had assumed control of the new state, though committed in broad terms of Islam, was largely Westernised and secular in outlook. It represented the emerging Muslim bourgeoisie and the feudal elite which had internalised the ideals and the idiom of Western secularism. They held religion to be a largely private matter between man and God. Along with intelligentsia they believed that it was only a matter of time before the forces of modernity and secular liberalism would completely marginalise such elements in society. Leaders of the Muslim League especially Jinnah due to his ultimate commitment to Islam, conceded its central theme while formulating the broad principles, 'Islam is not only a set of rituals, traditions and spiritual doctrines, Islam is a code for every Muslim which regulates his life and his conduct in all aspects, social, political, economic, etc. It is based on the highest principle of honour, integrity, fairplay and justice for all. One God, equality and unity are the fundamental principles of Islam. But even Jinnah, the tallest of leaders, could not shift political and ideological gears after having inculcated year after year a certain ideology and practised a particular type of politics.
These were too good to last. The initial efforts of these secular minded leaders did not yield any positive result because it was nipped in the bud by a nexus of feudal forces religious fundamentalism, bureaucracy and the army as well. To deny civil liberty we need an undemocratic system. And to justify and legitimise an undemocratic system we need religious fundamentalism and majoritarianism pretending to be nationalism.
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