Democratic Pakistan – Liberal or Islamic state

There is a firm debate on national scale as to whether Pakistan should be a religious or a secular state. It is an academic debate for decades. A democratic progressive Pakistan is tied with Pakistani identity based on the fact of plurality of its being.

The polarization is so endangered that one fraction of the society categorically emphasized that Pakistan as an Islamic state and other segment of the society firmly describe as a secular state. Text books in schools and universities of Pakistan teach country an ideological state created for Islam. The peculiar statement of Muhammad Ali Jinnah the founder of Pakistan is quoted that Pakistan is liberated to becomes a laboratory of Islam besides the objective resolution making Islam as a religion of state.

On contrary liberals quoted the address of Mr. Jinnah made on September 11, 1947 on inauguration of the constituent assembly. The speech is advocated as a principle de jure policy statement of Jinnah made on the occasion. Aitzaz Ahsan names it a Megan Charta of Pakistan declared by Jinnah who was most eminently qualified authority to spell out the raison d’être of Pakistan.

“Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find in course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindu and Muslims would be cease to be Muslims, not in religious sense because, that is the personal faith of individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

Jinnah sudden death threw Pakistan into a disputed question of the nature of state and both the contending groups referred Quid e Azam different statements to legitimize their own stance. Adeel Khan pointed in his article that the demand of Pakistan was purely a secular nationalistic demand because Muslim of subcontinent felt threatened by overwhelmingly Hindu majority, economically not religiously. Therefore Alvi called it “the Pakistan movement was not a movement of Islam, but of Muslims.”

Immediately after the death of the father of nation, this controversy emerged. On one hand there was religious class who demands an office of Shaikul Islam and in this way want to dominate the decisions of parliament. In simple words this class of religious leaders wants Pakistan as a theocratic state. On the other hand the modernist class wants Pakistan a secular democratic state. To some extent this controversy was solved as a result of introduction of objective resolution 1949.

Maulana Shabir Ahmad Usmani, member of the constituent assembly at that time maintained the stance, “Islam has never accepted the view that religion is a private matter between man and his creator and as such has no bearing on the social or political relations of human being.”

Almost three decades this religious liberal controversy was not a subject of major national debate. Once again it surfaced as a result of general Zia ul haq Islamization policy. It brought back the disputed question of the nature of state.

The impact of this unresolved dispute is multiple which we can see as a result of sectarianism, violence and continuous human rights abuses. The people are in confusion that which type of state Pakistan is likely to be. We have a blend of religious as well as liberal laws in our constitution. Some laws are made as a result of domestic pressure while the others are as a result of international factors.

A statement was pass by the Prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif “we want to make Pakistan a liberal democratic country”. It is difficult to say whether this was a slip of tongue by the prime minister or some calculated thoughts were behind the statement. The prime minister face intense attack by the religious lobby for calling Pakistan a liberal democratic nation.

It is a welcome step. But the world liberal should be replaced with modern democratic state. Modern Democracy was the core element of the ideology of Pakistan even at the time of independence. It was clearly articulated by the father of the nation. “The new state,” he said, “would be a modern democratic state with sovereignty resting in the people and the members of the new nation having equal rights of citizenship regardless of their religion, caste or creed.” To those liberals who quote this statement of Quide e Azam must keep in mind that there is no mention of liberal democracy in this statement instead it is modern democratic state. Similarly there is a difference between an Islamic state and a theocratic state.

In a society like Pakistan where there is two extreme views, the implementation of both in an exact manner is impossible. So there is a dire need to adopt a way which can satisfy both the poles. There is a need to create Pakistan to be a modern democratic state with freedoms of beliefs, and religion. We must reclaim the original ideology of Pakistan if we want to establish a tolerant society.


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