Recent events have brought to the forefront the death grip that the religious right has over the ideology and direction of the state. However, what is seldom discussed is the inherent contradictions in the politics and ideas of the religious right from pre-Partition days to the present.
At the time when Jinnah was spearheading the movement for Pakistan, the religious right, and more specifically the Majlis-i-Ahrar and the Jamaat-e-Islami founder Maulana Maududi, were vociferous opponents of the concept of Pakistan. On March 3, 1940, the working committee of the Majlis-i-Ahrar met in Delhi and reportedly passed a resolution disapproving the Pakistan plan and in some subsequent speeches, the Ahrar leaders reportedly dubbed Pakistan as ‘palidistan’. Maulana Mazhar Ali Azhar, an Ahrar leader, appealed to the people not to be misled by the slogans for Pakistan and, on other occasions, even referred to Jinnah as Kafir-i-Azam.
Maulana Maududi was also hand in hand with the Ahrar in opposing Jinnah's Pakistan. Maududi is reported to have stated that “Pakistan is a fool’s paradise and an infidel state of Muslims” and that “the Muslim migrants are deserters and cowards, who fought a national battle, but when the time came to pay the price, they took the path of escape”. The Maulana, as well as the Ahrar, felt that Jinnah's idea of Pakistan was a territorial anomaly which went against the Islamic principle of universal brotherhood and, therefore, was against the injunctions of Islam.
It should be noted that these are the same religious organisations or people, amongst many others, who moved to Pakistan after Partition and therein instigated the anti-Ahmadi movement, and browbeated the state into relinquishing its secular tendencies in favour of a theocratic state. This was, in part, due to the fact that the religious forces, even at the time of Partition, knew that religion could be effectively used as a tool to stoke emotions and heighten sensitivities in the new state, thereby necessitating the relevance and importance of religious clerics in society.
It is in lieu of this that, after Partition, the very same organisation started painting Jinnah in a religious cloak, to garner greater legitimacy, suppressed their historical opposition to the creation of Pakistan and manipulated and altered their own pseudo-religious stands in order to gain power in the otherwise ‘un-Islamic’ nation state, so much so that the same religious parties and persons who were ferociously in league with the Congress in India, and in favour of a secular and united India, were demanding a theocratic Muslim state in Pakistan against the very concept of universal brotherhood that they espoused so passionately pre-Partition! In fact, the religious right went as far as co-opting, propelling and garnering a religio-political cloak of legitimacy for the military dictators of the country, who, in return, augmented the street appeal of the religious parties with actual power in the corridors of governance.
It has always been a power struggle. And the people of Pakistan, being as gullible as we are, have sadly been at the forefront, ensuring their success. In fact, by allowing the religious right to play on its religious sensitivities and sensibilities over the past 60 years, the people of Pakistan have allowed the same to triumphantly weave a web of lies, whereby the biggest opponents of the state of Pakistan miraculously became its saviours. And if that isn't a shame, I don't know what is.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2011.