Pakistan : Islamic or Secular State
By Misbah U. Azam, PhD
On the 62nd anniversary of independence, the government, political forces, media and the people at large, are still locked in the debate of whether the Quaid-i-Azam wanted to run Pakistan under the Shariah or desired it to be a secular state. To answer this question one may recount historical events since 1906, the year when the All-India Muslim League was founded.
A famous scholar, Dr. Mehdi Hassan, has claimed that the Indian Muslims had “fear” of democracy, because the Muslims in India had security and identity concerns in a future democratic independent India as a minority that had ruled for about a thousand years.
In 1900, when the rulers declared Hindi as the official language in the largest Indian province UP, these concerns assumed ominous proportions. At that time a few visionary Muslim leaders founded the All-India Muslim League on the occasion of the annual All India Muhammadan Educational Conference to safeguard the rights of Muslims in independent India. But there is no evidence that the Muslim League ever demanded the imposition of Islamic law for the Muslims of India.
Their demand for an independent entity for Muslims came after Dr. Allama Iqbal put forth the idea of a separate state for Muslims. The religious right uses some references from the Quaid’s speeches to contend that he wanted Pakistan to be an ideological Islamic state; however, the available videos of his speeches show that his vision of Pakistan was a democracy where every citizen had access to education, freedom of speech, freedom to practice religion, good relations with neighbors, independent judiciary and a vibrant economy.
The Objective Resolution of 1949, which was moved by Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, was the first constitutional document to mix religion with politics. Subsequent events showed that the Objective Resolution could neither deliver democracy nor Islam to Pakistan. Gen. Zia, who believed that democracy and political parties were not consistent with Islam, tried to impose his version of Islamic laws and plunged the country into an international jihad. His policies not only brought the drug and Kalashnikov culture but also created the born-again Muslims like Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir, who, after being picked up by Nawaz Sharif as DG ISI, got the agency involved in jihad even farther from Kashmir and Afghanistan. He involved the ISI in Central Asia, Sri Lanka and Arakan where Muslim groups were fighting for an independent enclave. Thanks to Lt. Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi, who as the new DG ISI not only cleaned up some mess created by Nasir,but also tried to keep the ISI as much out of the 1993 election process as possible.
The majority of Pakistanis are Muslims. Their real issues are to have easy access to education, clean water, food, affordable and quick justice, law and order and a vibrant economic environment. Any system on the basis of justice is actually the Islamic system. By replacing judges with qazis, adding punishments like chopping off hands, public flogging etc. may not be a great service to Islam and Pakistanis as well.