The raison d’être of Pakistan’s creation in 1947 was religious intolerance. The much touted Two Nation Theory smacked all commonalities between Hindus and Muslims of United India out of the South Asian ballpark and defined the two communities as being so dissimilar that they could not exist together as one nation, despite having done precisely that for over 1,200 years, and continuing to do so in modern day India.
A more ‘liberal’ version of the Two Nation Theory — propagated by the likes of Dr Ayesha Jalal — that has been formulated after cherry picking Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s words from the 1940s, suggests that the theory was merely supposed to result in a federation where Hindu and Muslim states shared power — religious consociationalism, if you will. Apparently, Jinnah merely tried to protect the Muslims of India from their economic downfall, almost all of which was self-inflicted and had nothing to do with the religious identity of the community.
However, not even Jinnah apologists can argue against the fact that the Two Nation Theory defined Hindus and Muslims as two distinct nations that could not seemingly exist as one state. No one can really argue against it after Jinnah said this, “...it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality, and this misconception of one Indian nation has troubles and will lead India to destruction if we fail to revise our notions in time” (March 22, 1940, Lahore). Or this: “In all things (Muslims’) outlook is not only fundamentally different but often radically antagonistic to the Hindus. We are different beings. There is nothing in life, which links us together” (Interview with Beverly Nichols, 1943). Nope, ethnicity, culture, language and history, nothing linked Hindus or Muslims of the Indian subcontinent together.
Jinnah, however, did contradict most of his pre-partition words in the famous August 11, 1947 speech where Hindus were supposed to cease being Hindus and Muslims were to stop being Muslims. Jinnah might have eventually wanted to create a secular state but formulating one after using religion — or the religious identity of a community depending on your brand of history — in a separatist movement would have won an oxymoronic marathon by some distance.
Whether it was supposed to result in a federation, or in two separate states (like it eventually did), the Two Nation Theory unequivocally stated that Hindus and Muslims cannot coexist. And that basically is Exhibit A of religious intolerance. Just because Jinnah’s version of intolerance was not baked inside a theological oven, does not make it any less divisive — definitely not after it led to the biggest mass migration in human history and the death of over half a million lives owing to genocidal butchery.
Jinnah’s prognosticated destruction of an India where Hindus and Muslims are forced to evolve a common nationality is yet to come true in modern day India, where these communities are doing pretty alright considering they have “nothing to link them together”. However, his idea of Muslims as “one nation” did take a nosedive in the Bay of Bengal in 1971 and continues to be pulverised in modern day Pakistan. Jinnah’s Pakistan — whichever version stimulates your fantasies — died along with the Two Nation Theory in 1971.
For all practical purposes, modern day Pakistan came into existence on December 16, 1971. The country that was created via an Islamo-nationalist ideology in 1947 ceased to exist after Bangladesh came into being, especially since this new state’s creation in itself was a damning verdict on the former’s raison d’être. Hence, it was time for Pakistan to learn its lessons and realise that religion should not be used to unite a state that is so ethno-linguistically diverse. With Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto — like Jinnah, another man secular and liberal in his outlook — at the helm, it was time for Pakistan to right the wrongs of 1947 and maybe adopt a secular code, which would separate religion from the state. Bhutto did the exact opposite.
Bhutto’s 1973 constitution made Pakistan an oxymoronic Islamic republic where sovereignty belonged to Allah and, in turn, to Allah’s laws. He also declared the Ahmedis as non-Muslims, proudly calling it the “solution to a 90-year-old problem”, and adopted a pan-Islamic vision in which he viewed himself as the leader of the Islamic world. By the end of the 1970s, Pakistan was two for two, in terms of ‘secular’ leaders who defined Muslims as one nation, and also two for two, in terms of ‘secular’ leaders who manifested archetypal religious intolerance.
That the two torchbearers of secularism in the history of Pakistan created a separate country in the name of religion and excommunicated a religious sect respectively speaks volumes for the legacy of secularism that we have inherited. That the two torchbearers of democracy refused to work under the mandate of Congress and the Awami League respectively and needed separate states to manifest their ideals, reveals our democratic ancestry. And so it should come as no surprise that both religious coexistence and democracy are alien concepts for us.
Contrary to popular opinion, modern day Pakistanis have not diverged from the path that the founding fathers — both of them — carved out for them; they are sinking in the present day quagmire precisely because they are clinging on to the aforementioned path. The recent chants of “Shia kafir” (infidel Shia) shouted by Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (or Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), to sideline and target the Shias, have not sprung into the mainstream out of the blue. The demand to excommunicate the Shia community is the natural corollary of the verdict against the Ahmedis, and the dearth of Shia-Sunni harmony is the logical offshoot of the Hindu-Muslim disharmony.
That Jinnah failed to play the part of the leader of a minority group working for a united India obviously gives credence to separatist movements in Balochistan. And since Bhutto politicised the process of takfir (apostasy), religious sects are now well and truly under the takfiri guillotine.
Apologists of Jinnah and Bhutto, often the same group from the Pakistani ‘intelligentsia’, instead like to blame Ziaul Haq for this mess that we find ourselves in, completely ignoring the fact that Zia merely hogged the spotlight on a stage set by the two founding fathers of Pakistan and Pakistan 2.0. When you are defining nationhood through Islam and when you are incorporating Islam into the constitution, an Islamist usurping the helm would come and have a ball. And that is precisely what Zia had.
To rectify the present and work towards a better future, we will have to first be honest about our past. The well-meaning Jinnah and Bhutto fan club needs to stop distorting history to showcase their idols as emblems of secularism or religious tolerance. Both men regularly contradicted the ideals that they ostensibly stood for, both men oversaw countries being divided owing to a refusal to coexist, both men used religion for their self-seeking goals and both men have left behind a very tangible legacy of intolerance.
The Pakistan of 2014, and beyond, can only improve if it owns up to the mistakes of 1971 and 1947. Creating fictional legacies and fabricated histories will only proliferate cluelessness and further thrust Pakistan inside the quagmire of disintegration.
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