ROVER’S DIARY: After 71 years —Babar Ayaz - Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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ROVER’S DIARY: After 71 years —Babar Ayaz
To obtain the support of the masses, the elite used religion unabashedly. The mixing of religion with politics has always been a dangerous formula. All nations that have chosen this path have become captive to religious forces

Last week, the country officially celebrated the 71st anniversary of the 1940 Pakistan Resolution. This day is also known as Pakistan Day. The truth is that all the Muslim League documents (e.g. Allama Iqbal’s 1930 Allahabad address, Jinnah’s 14 points, the 1940 Lahore Resolution) had only asked for maximum autonomy for the Muslim majority provinces and principalities within the framework of India.

These documents acceded only to the centre’s foreign policy, defence, communication and currency. But, because of the strong centre policies of the Indian Congress, this demand ultimately resulted in the division of India. However, the same demand was raised by the Awami League 24 years after Pakistan was made. And, even today, smaller provinces’ politicians have the same demand, hence their insistence that the 1940 resolution should be implemented in letter and spirit.

The slogan for maximum autonomy for Muslim majority provinces was led by the Muslim ruling elite and the salariat — to borrow the term from Hamza Alavi — for their own vested interests. To pull in public support, the emotive slogan of religion was exploited by the leadership. So while the end objective was to seek maximum autonomy for Muslim rulers and the middle classes of these areas, the means used to achieve this end was religion.

At every official forum and in most of the important documents, the term used was ‘Muslim majority states’ and not ‘Islamic state’. The difference between the two is clear: while a Muslim state is where the Muslims are in majority, an ‘Islamic state’, which we have eventually become, is where laws have to be in accordance with shariah.

The present friction in society is because sloganeering and emotive use of religion to gain the support of the masses during the Pakistan movement, have been dictating the course of the country — the course that is likely to lead us towards another bloody end.

Right from the very beginning, the religious leadership started asserting itself because they were provided space by the Pakistan movement leadership. Acceptance of the Objectives Resolution was the first capitulation. One speech by Mr Mohammed Ali Jinnah on August 11, 1947 — often quoted by the liberals — cannot wipe out the umpteen speeches by him and other leaders declaring that the Muslims of India need a separate homeland because they are a separate nation and want to live according to the cannons of Islam.

The question that needed to be asked was, were the Muslims of India not following Islamic teachings when they were living in India for the 1,000 years before partition? Of course they lived in India as Muslims without any challenge from other religions. On the contrary, although Muslims were a minority, they ruled India for over 800 years and it never occurred to them then that they were a separate nation. However, when it came to democracy, where numbers matter and the Hindu majority would have had the upper-hand, the Muslims were reminded — after centuries of convenient amnesia — that they were a separate nation.

So the analogy is that while running away from democracy, the Muslim elite in India acted like a spoilsport brat who, after taking his batting turn in the neighbourhood match, walks away with his bat saying that his mother needs him and hence he cannot field.

Only when the British started reforms to allow limited self-rule powers to the Indians — which would have meant rule of the majority — Indian Muslims’ amnesia was cured. The Two Nation Theory evolved from the basic demand that maximum autonomy should be given to the Muslim majority provinces and principalities. This was motivated by the fear of the Muslim elite that they would lose control of the provinces they ruled. The Muslim elite of the areas where they were in a minority took a leading role in this movement because they were moved by their diminishing share in government services in these provinces before the Government of India Act 1935 was introduced.

To obtain the support of the masses, the elite used religion unabashedly. The mixing of religion with politics has always been a dangerous formula. All nations that have chosen this path have become captive to religious forces.

In what is Saudi Arabia now, the house of Saud used Wahabi Puritanism as justification to establish control over other tribes of the region and on the two most holy Muslim sites, Makkah and Medina. Today, the ruling family finds it difficult to open up Saudi society for any fresh air. For instance, basic fundamental rights are denied to women and all moves even by the ruling family are sabotaged.

In Israel, where land was acquired in the name of religion, any move by liberal Jewish leaders to accept genuine Palestinian demands is resisted by religious extremists.

In Iran, where the democratic revolution against the King was hijacked by the religious lobby, today the religious supra-body overrules any reforms and the democrats are languishing in prison. Many have also been killed.

Thus, Pakistan is no stranger in this company. The religious laws that discriminate and are being misused for settling personal vendettas cannot be changed because again the religious extremists draw their strength from the basic Pakistan movement slogans. Conflict is sharpening between the Arab tribal value system of the 7th century and capitalist social values of the 21st century. This friction is taking a toll on Pakistani society. The faster the human value system progresses, which is the natural course of history, the stronger would be the resistance of the forces of regression. Little do these religious retrogressive forces realise that human history and value systems are not static and that the process of change is continuous. Any attempt to arrest the advancement of history, no matter how violent, is temporary — that is the lesson of history.

The writer can be reached at

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