Pakistan is Entwined with Democracy

Pakistan is Entwined with Democracy

In its origin, rationale, nature, course and leadership, the Pakistan Movement was truly democratic. During the last phase of the freedom struggle (1937-47), the leadership at the top and at the lower cadre was democratic and Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who overwhelmingly influenced the course of Indian Muslim politics, was a democrat to the core. He believed in democratic ideals, constitutionalism and evolutionary methods.

Jinnah’s was a tried-and-tested leadership even before he was called upon to lead the Muslims and regenerate the All India Muslim League. For almost two decades, the Quaid represented his constituency in the central legislature and, by then, he had carved out a niche for himself in the pantheon of nationalist and Muslim leadership. He had also served as the spokesman of both the Congress and the League.

The Quaid had started out from a modest beginning, gradually working his way up in the course of about three decades. He did this with sheer hard work and through fair and legitimate means. During the late 1930s and 1940s, he was Muslim India’s supreme leader.

By the late 1930s, the Pakistan scheme had been enunciated and had also found a number of influential advocates. Quaid-i-Azam was being continually pressed and persuaded by, among others, Allama Iqbal to pronounce it as the goal of the Muslim League and also the ultimate destiny of the Muslim India. But Quaid’s approach was cautious and democratic: he would not commit a national organization to it unless there was sufficient public opinion among Muslims in favour. Thus, he delayed its adoption as Muslim League’s – indeed as Muslim India’s – supreme goal till March 1940.

The Pakistan ideal was not something imposed from above rather it was an ideal that the Indian Muslims had debated and discussed for almost a decade. In an obvious reference to the Muslim outlook during this period, Jinnah, while addressing the Aligarh students in late 1940, said, “… when I addressed you last year, the Lahore Resolution … had not been passed but I noticed that you were anxious for the declaration of the ideal embodied in the Lahore Resolution. In other parts of India, I had noticed the same feeling. What I have done is [only] to declare boldly what was stirring the heart of Muslim India.”

“Pakistan” was, thus, an ideal that had been arrived at through a process of discussion and deliberation i.e. through a democratic process. The hesitation, the caution and the tardiness, if at all, that characterised Jinnah’s adoption of the goal is an index not only to the inherently democratic approach of Jinnah, but also to the process of building up a consensus on the proposed ideal.

Interestingly, the Pakistan demand was justified in terms of the postulates of both Islam and of Western political liberalism.

The Muslims, though vaguely aware of the existence of ‘the spiritual essence of nationality’ within themselves as early as the closing decades of the 19th century, had yet basked in what Prof. Barker calls an “unreflective silence”. The Hindu onslaught, especially during the late 1930s, finally wakened them from this mode. Increasingly bewildered, and reclaimed from their psychological wilderness, they searched their inner social consciousness in an attempt to find coherent and meaningful articulation to their cherished, but as yet undefined, yearnings. To their great relief, they discovered that, to quote Iqbal, Islam working “as an ethical ideal plus a certain kind of polity” had endowed them with a moral consciousness of their own. Furnishing them with “those basic emotions and loyalties which gradually unify scattered individuals and groups,” it had worked, as “a people-building force” and had “finally transformed them into a well-defined people.” Scattered though they were across the length and breadth of India, they had yet to develop the will to live as a nation, on the basis of their social heritage. Their sentiments of nationality had flamed into nationalism. And nature had, moreover, endowed them with a territory which they could occupy and make a state as well as a cultural home for the newly discovered nation. In the ultimate analysis, it were these two prerequisites, as laid down by Renan, that provided the Indian Muslims with the intellectual justification for claiming a distinct nationalism for themselves.

In addition, the goal, as defined by the Quaid, was related directly to the life, the anxieties, the likes and dislikes, the hopes and aspirations of the Muslim masses. He attributed the authorship of Pakistan to the door of “every Muslim,” such was the measure of democratisation the Pakistan idea had received and achieved at his hands.

Furthermore, it was demanded on the basis of the universally accepted principle of self-determination. This principle, enunciated by President Woodrow Wilson, was invoked to solve the problem of nationalities in Europe after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the aftermath of the First World War. This is an accepted democratic principle, which any influential minority in a larger entity which, however, is concentrated in some specific area could invoke to rid itself of the domination of a permanent, hostile majority in the larger context. An indirect invocation to this cardinal principle occurs in Jinnah’s first pronouncement on the Pakistan ideal i.e. in his Lahore address (1940). Therein, he asserted that his proposition was intended to facilitate “our people to develop to the fullest our spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political life in a way that we think best and in consonance with our own ideal and according to the genius of our people …”

To revert to the democratic nature of the Pakistan movement, Pakistan is often considered, as for instance by Leonard Mosley, Penderal Moon, H. V. Hodson, Margaret Bourke-White and other writers on the last phase of British raj in India, as a “one-man achievement”. During the course of the movement, the Quaid never resiled from his essentially democratic outlook and approach.

In the first place, he refused to become for-life President of the All India Muslim League even when such an offer was made.

Secondly, whatever he did, he did with the concurrence of the Working Committee and/or the Council. Not only did the Council of the All India Muslim League met regularly, it also used to meet in emergency sessions whenever anything important came up for deliberation. Never did Jinnah, for that matter, commit the Muslim League to any scheme, proposal or plan without consulting the High Command and the League Council.

The movement was conducted on democratic lines, and through normal democratic processes. Pakistan was not something to be conferred by the British, or conceded by the Hindus – but something which the hundred million Muslims of India were to wrest in their own right, through their own inherent strength.

Pakistan was not only established through the democratic process but, more importantly, it was also conceived as a democracy. “I do not know what the ultimate shape of the constitution is going to be, but I am sure it would be a democratic type, embodying the essential principle of Islam,” the Quaid averred in his broadcast to the people of United States in February 1948. The other leaders of the Pakistan movement also believed in democracy and had always upheld the democratic cause.

Unfortunately though, democracy was not allowed to flourish in Pakistan, for one reason or another. It was made to undergo intermittent spells of martial law and political disruption. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had the charm, the charisma, the training and, above all, the skills to salvage Pakistan and put it on a firm democratic footing after the 1971 debacle; but, then, as Khalid bin Sayeed says, he “was primarily motivated by animus dominandi … the aggrandisement of his own power … to control every major class or interest by weakening its power base and by making it subservient his will and policies”. He claimed to be a statesman but made Pakistan a patrimony, with himself as “the Rajah”. Thus, Pakistan became a “democracy of dictators,” as Bhutto himself called it.

After all the endless turmoil and series of crisis, what really saved Pakistan for democracy was, incredibly though, the overwhelming penchant for it, not so much among the political elite which was found to be generally out to compromise, but the general populace whom an Iskander Mirza here and an Ayub Khan there would pronounce unfit for democracy.

This penchant was reflected in the passion for elections, whatever the constraints, whatever the rules of the game and however limited the choice may be. In any case, after the long night of authoritarian rule, the November 1988 elections represented the first glimmering of a glorious dawn and the eventual triumph of democracy. Above all, they indicated that contrary to what had been usually, but cavalierly, trotted out, democracy does suit the genius of Pakistan. Interestingly, despite the 1999 political disruption, due chiefly to Nawaz Sharif’s animus dominandi approach and Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan’s GNA’s one-point agenda for Nawaz’s exit, Pakistan finally returned to full-fledged democracy in 2008, after several periodical hiccups. And, it is now going to form its third consecutive democratically-elected government.

Pakistan was achieved through the democratic process and it could develop politically, socially and otherwise only through democracy. Long years have been wasted thoughtlessly, and it is time to settle down, to sheer hard work and build Pakistan along democratic lines. The present democratic venture since 2008 must, therefore, be supported at all costs, no matter whichever party/parties one had voted for during the elections. Not to speak of building up Pakistan as a modern welfare state, even her sheer survival calls for a democratic order.

Pakistan is a multiracial, multilingual and multicultural country and in such a kaleidoscopic landscape, national integration could be accomplished, if at all, only through a democratic polity and democratic process. Hence the democratic roots of Pakistan must be strengthened at all costs, and any deviation from the democratic path must be vigourously resisted.

Finally, it is worthwhile to remember that our basic loyalty should be to the national unit and what unites us as Pakistanis is greater than that which divides us into parties or factions.

Courtesy: Business Recorder

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