Pakistan’s renewal | Pakistan Today

Pakistan’s renewal

Re-visioning Jinnah’s idea of a state

Pakistan is passing through the most dangerous period of its existence. There have been more killings of security personnel and civilians in the wake of terrorism since 2001 than the civilian and military personnel killed in all Pakistan-India wars. A good number of deaths have taken place in urban area. Most of these killings are attributed to the Taliban and their affiliate groups based in the tribal areas and other religious-extremist and sectarian groups based in mainland Pakistan.

A good number of people subscribing to Islamic or conservative-rightest orientations talk about the treacherous Indian policies that threatened Pakistan but they do not criticise any specific militant Islamic groups that have killed more Pakistanis. They often defend the Taliban and similar extremist and terrorists groups by suggesting that violent activities are resorted to by the agents of Pakistan’s foreign enemy-countries rather than the genuine Taliban who are friends of Pakistan. They also attribute sectarian killings to hired killers rather than engaging in dispassionate review of the developments in Pakistan over the last two decades to understand internal turmoil. Some describe the violent activities of the Taliban groups as a reaction of the innocent people by American drone aircrafts.

The divided and confused state of mind of a large section of populace has enabled religious orthodoxy and religio-cultural intolerance to seep deep into the society. It has penetrated the state institutions, including the lower echelons of the military and a large section of ex-service personnel. At times vague and generalised statements are issued by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and other political parties, including the Tehrik-i-Insaf, on terrorism. The madrassas that share sectarian identity with the Taliban and their affiliates consider it obligatory to support them. The military’s policy of periodically using right wing Islamic groups for defending the causes important for the military or to pursue their partisan agenda in the domestic context has also created enough space for these groups to survive.

There is no empirical evidence to suggest that the suicide bombing and bomb explosions can be linked directly to drone attacks. Up to now, no Pakistani media person has ever been allowed by the Taliban to visit the building and compound attacked by drone aircraft. The Pakistan media has never been allowed to cover the funeral prayers for those killed in a drone attack. A number of suicide bombers or others involved in violence have been arrested by law enforcing agencies over the last three years. No one has ever linked his violent activities to the killings of his relatives by drone aircraft.

In the first week of November, the Taliban leaders based in Pakistani tribal areas refused, once again, to recognise the Durand Line as the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This stand is in line with the policy of the Afghan government on the Durand Line. This exposes their so-called friendship with Pakistan. This is in addition to the repeated claim of the Taliban leaders that they wanted to implement Islamic Sharia as articulated by them in Pakistan, rejecting Pakistan’s constitution and law.

Had India publicly questioned the legitimacy of the Durand Line, all supporters and sympathisers of the Taliban would have condemned the statement. When it comes to the Taliban, the story is different. These developments have distorted Pakistan’s identity and vision.

There is a strong need to renew Pakistan’s identity as enunciated by the founding fathers, especially by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Muhammad Iqbal as a counterpoise to Taliban’s vision of Pakistan.

Jinnah visualised Pakistan as a modern democratic state that sought ethical basis of state and society from Islam. He viewed Islamic teaching and principles as a source of guidance for the society and law making rather than a set of punitive and regulative legal system. He and his colleagues were convinced that Islam and democracy can work together and the touchstone of a political system was its representative and popular orientation.

The state was to encourage the Muslims to lead their lives in accordance with the principles and teaching of Islam rather than enforce a sharia-based notion of the state. Jinnah pleaded the case for the establishment of Pakistan as a homeland for the Muslims. He never argued that a new country was needed because Islam was danger in united India. He talked of the threats to Muslim identity, rights and interest in a Hindu-dominated united India.

He articulated an alternative nationalism that challenged the hegemony of the one Indian nation concept and emphasised Islam as a common denominator for political mobilization and identity formation for the Muslims. Thus, the movement for the establishment of Pakistan was not a religious movement. Nor was Pakistan created for Islam or for enforcement of Islam as visualised by Islamic parties and groups.

Some of the leading Islamic parties that had opposed the establishment of Pakistan began to talk of an orthodox and conservative vision of an Islamic state that enforced Sharia as interpreted by each Islamic group. This was meant to justify their return to politics after independence.

The perspective of Islamic orthodoxy was never entertained by the Pakistani state and policy makers until General Zia-ul-Haq assumed power in July 1977. He sought the cooperation of orthodox and conservative Islamic groups to sustain him in power. Later, his government joined hands with the United States and conservative Islamic states, especially Saudi Arabia, to build Afghan-Islamic resistance to the Soviet troops in Afghanistan (December 1979-February1989). Zia-ul-Haq used the state apparatus to enforce Islamic legal order as visualised by Islamic orthodoxy, mainly influenced by Saudi vision of Wahabi Islamic traditions. The slogan in the Muslim majority provinces of the Punjab and NWFP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) for the 1946 elections like “Pakistan ka Mutlab Kia, La-e-La Il-lalla” rather than the resolutions of the Muslim League in the pre-independence period were adopted to rearticulate Pakistan as a religious state and the state took upon itself the enforcement of religious orthodoxy.

If Pakistan has to overcome internal violence, civic disorder and exclusionist political and religious approach, the state and society has to discard the legacy of the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq and return to the tolerant, liberal, democratic, constitutionalism and inclusionist vision of the polity and equal citizenship for all citizens irrespective of religion, caste, region and gender, as advocated by Jinnah and others. The renewal of Pakistan’s original vision can initiate the process for turning Pakistan into a normal functioning democratic and forward looking state that seeks ethical inspirations from Islam.

The writer is an independent political and defence analyst.


  1. shahis said:

    For God's sake leave poor Jinnah Sahib alone. Poor fellow never said anything about what he thought of Pakistan except a couple of lines on August 11th, 1947. Before that and after that he simply kept his lips sealed without a word about what Pakistan would be and what all the struggle for Pakistan was for. Imagine one of the best lawyers of the sub-continent leading a struggle for the creation of a country and never saying a word about the destination towards which he was leading millions of people. And then every one who was with him in the struggle betrayed him and sabotaged his project from day one.

    • max said:

      Please do not call Mr. Jinnah poor fellow. It was he who set the tone of religious division.

  2. SABIHA RAJA said:


  3. nirmal maunder said:

    I do not think one speech of Jinnah will provide the answer for such a deep rooted problem.He himself had been contradicting himself like the other ideologue Mohd Iqbal.Pakistan has to re look at the basics,It can not be a theocracy in
    modern times.

  4. Banday said:

    If we look at Jinnah's live, his political stances keep on evolving with a focus on doing relevant politics for power. We need to understand that like Jinnah, Pakistan has also evolved in its political orientation. It is not 1947 today, we cannot hide behind Jinnah & claim legitimacy for our views. We should be brave enough to call for new social contract today aligned with today's realities…

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