The vision of Pakistan

Published: August 12, 2015
The writer is a professor of political science at LUMS

The writer is a professor of political science at LUMS

With the nation celebrating its 68th Independence Day as a moment of joy, the occasion also provides us with an opportunity to think about the vision and the objective of creating the new state of Pakistan. The vision that pulled the diverse Muslim communities from different regions of British India together in demanding and finally winning an independent homeland in the Muslim majority areas of the subcontinent became subject to many conflicting interpretations. This was not unusual though. Every post-colonial state has been through this process. In contrast to Pakistan, however, other comparable states were able to resolve the question of what kind of state and society they wanted their country to be. They did it through the agency of a nationalist party, charismatic leadership and political institutions.

Pakistan found itself in too much of a deficit in every quality that could keep the country on track for achieving the vision that the founders had outlined, most notably Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his August 11, 1947 speech in the Constituent Assembly. There cannot be any other authentic account of the vision of Pakistan than this address of Jinnah at the premier institution that had before it the dual tasks of writing a new constitution and also legislating to deal with a wide range of issues. The importance of this speech also lies in the fact that it was Jinnah’s first speech as the president of the Assembly. The speech touches on a diversity of subjects, from the importance of a law-based society to corruption and nepotism, termed “poison” to highlighting the challenges of poverty, equality and communal harmony. The essence of this remarkable speech, however, lies in three very modern ideas of state and nationhood.

First, there would be equal citizenship rights for every one regardless of religion, ethnicity and caste. What Jinnah meant by this formulation was the territorial conception of citizenship, discounting religious affiliations. Second, territorial citizenship will dissolve the differences and make Hindus, Muslims and communities of other faiths equal in rights and obligations. Finally, religion was a private matter of the individual, and the state had nothing to do with it. In other words, what Jinnah visualised was neutrality of the state in religious matters, a concept that is essential for internal peace and stability.

These are some of the Enlightenment ideas many post-colonial leaders, including Jinnah, liberally borrowed from Western civilisation. Jinnah was a constitutionalist in his training, profession and practical politics. It is unfortunate that every school of thought and political strand have attempted to interpret Jinnah to sell their own specific brand of politics and ideology. This is always true when it comes to great leaders in history because their popularity carries a heavy weight of argument on the side of conflicting political brands.

Pakistan lost track of Jinnah’s path even before it could walk any significant distance on it. The influence of mullahs, the weakening of Jinnah’s successors and the disintegration of the spirit of Pakistan brought into prominence leaders and political forces that had nothing to do with the founder’s vision. In less than a decade, bureaucratic-military leaders captured the state apparatus and reduced Jinnah merely to a symbolic portrait to hang behind their desks in offices.

No wonder, then, that the destiny of Pakistan over the decades has become disputed. The religious right demands an Islamic state, simply to capture power in the name of religion and do the same things the ‘moderate’ parties and leaders do. The ruling political establishment of Pakistan has used power as an opportunity to rob and run, leaving behind nothing but chaos, disorder, and finally, extremism and terrorism.

Pakistan can recover its lost vision. For this to happen, it will have to bring the corrupt, thoughtless political establishment within the bounds of law and accountability. That will be the new beginning.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • mahakaalchakra
    Aug 12, 2015 - 5:22AM

    CORRECTION: Pakistan can recover its lost vision. For this to happen, it will have to done away with OBJECTIVE RESOLUTION and bring the ESTABLISHMENT AND DEEP STATE within the bounds of law and accountability. That will be the new beginning.Recommend

  • harkol
    Aug 12, 2015 - 6:08AM

    I’d say Pakistan achieved the aim of its founders – A theocratic homeland for Sunni Muslims, where religion is the foundation of state.Recommend

  • sabi
    Aug 12, 2015 - 7:21AM

    “Pakistan can recover its lost vision. For this to happen, it will have to bring the corrupt, thoughtless political establishment within the bounds of law and accountability. That will be the new beginning.
    For this to say we don’t realize that military establishment (Late) has spent billions upon billions for keep coming in order to loot this country situated on one of the best irrigated and fertile land in the world.Recommend

  • sm
    Aug 12, 2015 - 8:55AM

    I read this type of stuff every year as mid-August approaches. But the chasm between the dream and reality of Pakistan keeps widening. Ghandhi must be thanking Jinnah now..Recommend

  • James
    Aug 12, 2015 - 9:05AM

    This is not the Pakistan of Jinnah, but is exactly the Pakistan of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.Recommend

  • Prakash
    Aug 12, 2015 - 9:17AM

    In short, Jinnah didn’t know what he was setting in motion. Some vision!Recommend

  • sabi
    Aug 12, 2015 - 9:24AM

    “I’d say Pakistan achieved the aim of its founders – A theocratic homeland for Sunni Muslims, where religion is the foundation of state”.
    You mean paid mullahs of Indian Congress?.Recommend

  • Hella
    Aug 12, 2015 - 11:34AM

    Read Jinnah’s speeches. Like every politician he said different things to different audiences. His August 11 speech is just one among many others where he clearly stated that Islam would be the basis of Pakistan. His closest colleagues knew his mind and hence passed the Objectives Resolution, which would have been fully supported by Jinnah, would he have been alive. His secular vision etc. is just a myth.Recommend

  • Hella
    Aug 12, 2015 - 11:39AM

    @sabi, so Pakistan followed paid mullahs of Indian Congress? Pretty ironic. No wonder they even got Pakistan to adopt an Indian language Urdu as the sole national language even if it meant the break-up of Pakistan. Looks like Pakistan is partly ruled by the British and partly by the Indians. Indigenous Pakistanis seem to have no role.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Aug 12, 2015 - 2:17PM

    Always a pleasure reading your views…..on a lighter note I read that Hafiz Saeed is about to unveil HIS version of Pakistan’s ideology and I would not be surprised if his version gets a bigger response than yours……..sad but that is what has happened to Pakistan over these 69 years. Recommend

  • sabi
    Aug 12, 2015 - 7:19PM

    Yes pretty ironic that military ignored the orders of the founder of this country and shook hand with mullah and used it both against internal (democracy) as well external ‘threats’. In a way it was like-Kante se kanta nikalna.You can see it very well who started the game-Kante se kanta nikalna.I have just given the facts.Recommend

  • Umar hafeez
    Aug 13, 2015 - 12:31AM

    I am amazed by how 90% of the comments under any story about pakistan come from Indians and Hindus, even when its in a pakistani paper . This fact more than anything validates the reason for making of Pakistan . The Hindu mindset is still anti Muslim and anti Pakistan and i thank my leader Mr Jinnah to see this and for having made pakistan as per the wishes of the musalmans of subcontinent . Thanx to him we are able to live free and decide for OURSELVES what kind of a country we want to live in . Dont belive me ? Ask the Muslims of kashmir and Gujarat how they feel.Recommend

  • Umar hafeez
    Aug 13, 2015 - 12:34AM

    I would also request the paper editors to please take editing process more seriously and ban these anti pakistan ideology comments from Indians as they have no right to speak in our internal matters and should concentrate on making their own country a Hindu nation on line with the vision of modi and rss doctrine . Thanx.Recommend

  • someone
    Aug 13, 2015 - 1:50AM

    I think to recover Jinnah’s vision, Pakistan would have to remove “Islamic” from its name.I am not sure that the leadership after Jinnah understood his idea. He probably meant a state based on “Islamic” principles and not an “Islamic” state. Both are different things.Recommend

  • observer
    Aug 13, 2015 - 2:18PM

    The vision of Pakistan? Are we still debating this? It is a settled matter. Pakistan is a pure Islamic state, fully adhering to Sharia laws and all Islamic teachings. Pakistan is the savior, preserver and leader of the Islamic Ummah. Recommend

  • Manish Rastogi
    Aug 13, 2015 - 6:04PM

    @Umar hafeez “The Hindu mindset is still anti Muslim and anti Pakistan”.
    Well the mindset may be agaist Pakistan but definitely not agaist Muslim. I am a hindu & know more about my ‘hindu mindset’ more than you.

    You may not see Indian comments in other newsportal from Bangladesh, Indonesia, UAE & other muslim. So that should be enough by your own logic to decide about Hindu mindset. Recommend

  • JSM
    Aug 14, 2015 - 5:51AM

    @Umar hafeez:
    180 million Muslims in India come in the way of making India a Hindu nation. Should India do to them what Pakistan did to Hindus/ Sikhs in Pakistan?Recommend

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