Pakistan’s ideology was grounded in the intense feelings of injustices amongst the Muslim minority in undivided India. Majority of Muslims in pre-Partition India wanted to protect their Muslim identity, and political and economic rights. These feelings became the foundation of the two-nation theory. While leaders of the Indian National Congress contested such claims, the All India Muslim League fought the case of the Muslims of the subcontinent and was successful in gaining a separate country on the basis of separate identity of Muslims.
Had Muslims been treated equally in undivided India, Muslim nationalism might not have emerged so strongly. Social justice, equality, protection of political, religious and economic rights were the foundation stones of Pakistan’s ideology. If any other group had a population relative to Muslims in undivided India, it might also have followed the same path to claim independence. The struggle for independence was universal in principles and specifically about Muslim nationalism. These principles were elucidated time and again by the Quaid-e-Azam. This was done most emphatically and famously in his address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State … Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction 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. ”
The ideology of Pakistan would have been better served had the country claimed and demonstrated to be more secular than India. By secular, I mean the provision of religious freedom to all citizens. When the Quaid said “we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one state”, he was definitely referring to people belonging to all sects of Islam as well as to those belonging to other religions, all ethnicities as well as men, women, children and transgenders. The apt rejoinder to those who were opposing the creation of Pakistan on the basis of the two-nation theory would have been to make Pakistan a haven for tolerance, equality of citizenship and protection of citizens’ economic, religious and political rights. If the basis of Muslim nationalism was the fear of numerical majority of the Hindus in undivided India, we should not have let any such fear find place in in the hearts of religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan.
The country has suffered every time we have violated the principles of Pakistan’s ideology. The first step in solving any problem is recognising that there is one. Let’s accept that the ideology of Pakistan was violated when non-Muslims were barred from holding certain positions of high power. Passing the Objectives Resolutions violated Pakistan’s ideology, as the state entangled itself with religion — against the teachings of the Quaid.
Pakistan’s ideology was violated when East Pakistan was not provided with its political and democratic rights in 1970. It is violated when Christians continue to be made targets of laws that enable the settling of personal scores on the pretext of religion and when almost 1,000 non-Muslim women are forced to convert and marry Muslim men every year. Pakistan’s ideology is violated when transgenders are shot and are not given due care in hospitals and when the Council of Islamic Ideology subjects laws protecting women to unjustified scrutiny and not allowing DNA to be used as primary evidence in rape cases. Pakistan’s ideology is violated when Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are deprived of their due share in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and when the people of Fata are not accorded their fundamental rights.
If we want a strong and prosperous Pakistan, then we have to ensure equal rights for all citizens. In the current constitutional and institutional set-up, basic rights are being grossly violated. Let’s make Pakistan stronger by following the true spirit of Pakistan’s ideology.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2016.