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Opinion

Food for thought as Pakistan turns 75

Ayesha Jalal in her Struggle for Pakistan book has aptly stated: Truncated State, Divided Nation Religion is often...
Published August 17, 2022
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Ayesha Jalal in her Struggle for Pakistan book has aptly stated: Truncated State, Divided Nation

Religion is often thought to have been the main impetus behind the creation of Pakistan. The historical evidence militates against such certitude. The demand for Pakistan was intended to get an equitable, if not equal, share of power for Indian Muslims in an independent India.

What instead emerged, to use the words of the founder of Pakistan, was a “truncated . . . moth-eaten and mutilated state.” If their claim to nation-hood had been conceded, Muslims as a “nation” were divided into two mutually hostile states. Religion as political identity did play a part in the outcome but not, as is believed, by conceding the right of self- determination to Muslims qua Muslims.

In keeping with the Cripps offer of 1942, the right to opt out of the Indian union was given to provinces, not to communities. Since the principle of self- determination was extended on a territorial basis, Congress opted to cut its losses by letting areas with a Muslim preponderance split off from the Indian union.

According to the terms set by Mountbatten for ratifying partition, a minority vote of non-Muslim legislators prevailed over the majority opinion of Muslim legislators of Punjab and Bengal to keep their provinces undivided.

If partition ended up stripping Muslims of their dominance in undivided Punjab and Bengal, it sundered the Muslim nation on whose behalf the AIML had raised the demand for Pakistan. These paradoxical results of the recourse to religion as the basis of politics are inexplicable without accounting for the crucial interplay between politics in the regions and the centre in late colonial India. Once Pakistan came into being, the place of religion in state ideology was a question that had to be faced squarely in this Muslim homeland.

The question of partition of India originated in relation to ‘economic power’ of Muslim majority provinces, in principle Punjab and Bengal, against non-Muslim domination which has been exclusively, but wrongly, used with reference to political power without fully appreciating that economics and political are ‘Siamese twins’ and their attributes cannot be separated. It is a hard fact that whole history of All India Muslim League (AIML) is deprived of any sort of economic plan for the state that was being sought.

Now on August 14, 2022 we do not have anything to complain as we have consistently identified these conjoined twins as ‘politics’ and ‘religion’ instead of ‘politics’ and ‘economics’. It is for this reason that in 2022 we are trying to settle the Taliban issue in Swat whereas India is presenting a vision and plan for the next 75 years.

We are still deciding whether conventional banking is to be allowed or not, not realising that the government is the biggest dealer of bank interest in both the local and government sectors. There is nothing strange. This is the natural outcome of a wrong vision. Nevertheless, we cannot continue this mindset. If this mindset is to be continued then there is no rationale and basis for the two-nation theory and the state created based on it.

The precedence of economics over politics has to be demonstrated by politicians. It is unfortunate that Muslims of India and their political parties lacked this essential attribute of politics. The Indian National Congress (INC), the founder of ‘Bharat’ or ‘Hindustan’, embraced this clear vision in Karachi in 1931. The economic framework for the country after independence was laid down in the Karachi session of INC and the same is termed as ‘the Karachi Resolution’. It stated:

The Gandhi Irwin Pact was endorsed by the Congress in the Karachi Session of 1931 that was held from March 26-31 at a temporary city constructed at the place now called ‘Numaish Chowrangi’. Gandhi was nominated to represent Congress in the Second Round Table Conference. Just a week back, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru had been executed. So, there was anger in the public whose point was that why Gandhi did accept to sign the pact.

So, when Gandhi was on the way to attend the Karachi session, all over the route, he was greeted with the Black flags. In the Karachi session, Congress passed a resolution to dissociate itself from and disapprove the political violence in any shape. The resolution which was drafted by Gandhi, admired the bravery and sacrifice of the three martyrs. In the same line, the Congress endorsed the Gandhi-Irwin Pact and reiterated the goal of “Poorna Swaraj”.

Resolution on Fundamental Rights and Economic Policy

The Karachi session was presided over by Sardar Patel. The Congress adopted a resolution on Fundamental Rights and Economic Policy which represented the Party’s Social, Economic and Political programme. It was later known as the Karachi Resolution. Nehru had originally drafted it, but some Congress leaders thought it was too radical and it was redrafted. We have been told that MN Roy also played a role in drafting this resolution, but Nehru himself later said that MN Roy had nothing to do with it. In any case, the redrafted resolution made the Karachi Session memorable, because for the first time, the resolution tried to define what would be the meaning of Swaraj for common people.

Some important aspects of this resolution were:

  • Basic civil rights of freedom of speech, Freedom of Press, Freedom of assembly, Freedom of association,

  • Equality before law

  • Elections on the basis of Universal Adult Franchise

  • Free and compulsory primary education.

  • Substantial reduction in rent and taxes

  • Better conditions for workers including a living wage, limited hours of work.

  • Protection of women and peasants

  • Government ownership or control of key industries, mines, and transport.

  • Protection of Minorities.

Thus, the Congress which had an agenda less than a few years back had the most impressive agenda in hand now and made this agenda- the basis of its political programme for the next many years to come.

This resolution became the preamble of the Constitution of India and all the aforesaid economic policies were consistently applied. There may be disagreement on the merits of the policy; however, the fundamental principles were consistently applied without resort to ‘engineering’ after every five to ten years.

History cannot be rewritten; nor can lapses and omissions occurred or committed in the past be corrected with retrospective effect. A truncated state that the Quaid bequeathed to us has never been able to achieve economic stability. The fundamental question is whether we the Muslims are somehow inferior to other communities of India in a variety of areas or fields, especially in the spheres of economics.

It is increasingly clear that the country was bereft of any economic vision since its inception. In other words, our politicians failed to deliver to the nation something like ‘the Karachi Resolution’. The failure of politicians always leads to economic chaos as is seen in South American and African countries.

In Pakistan, the failure of politicians is largely attributed to undesired intervention of armed forces in politics, which started with the induction of a serving Army General Ayub Khan into the federal Cabinet. In my personal view, the reason was the sheer failure of politicians in the economic spheres. In this regard, I would be hesitant to exclude even the Quaid.

In my view when the Quaid used the words ‘truncated’, ‘mutilated’ and ‘moth-eaten’ he was, in fact, alluding to the absence of sound economic foundations of a newly-born country. I have repeatedly read his first speech that he delivered in the constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947. It appears that he had already visualized a ‘future corrupt Pakistan’. I quote one part. This is to be seen in the current debate in 2022 in our society. Nothing has changed. The Quaid said:

One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering - I do not say that other countries are free from it, but, I think our condition is much worse - is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put that down with an iron hand and I hope that you will take adequate measures as soon as it is possible for this Assembly to do so.

Black-marketing is another curse. Well, I know that black-marketeers are frequently caught and punished. Judicial sentences are passed or sometimes fines only are imposed. Now you have to tackle this monster, which today is a colossal crime against society, in our distressed conditions, when we constantly face shortage of food and other essential commodities of life.

A citizen who does black-marketing commits, I think, a greater crime than the biggest and most grievous of crimes. These black-marketeers are really knowledgeable, intelligent and ordinarily responsible people, and when they indulge in black-marketing, I think they ought to be very severely punished, because the entire system of control and regulation of foodstuffs and essential commodities, causes wholesale starvation and want and even death.

How ironic it is that although Quaid’s words are repeated by every head of state or government with great energy and enthusiasm, the level of corruption and bribery is only rising. That Pakistan’s ranking has worsened on the corruption perceptions index is a fact. Past and present are hardly different from each other. In my view, the question is politics. From 1947 to 1971 there was no political cohesion between the two wings of the country.

Military was on the side of West Pakistan; therefore, there was political peace, however relative, and economic development in this area. However, there was political turmoil in the eastern wing of the country that ultimately led to the creation of Bangladesh. In Pakistan, from 1971 to 2022, there was no political consensus on many major and vital subjects such as:

  1. Proposed construction of Kalabagh Dam,

  2. The political turmoil created by Gen Ziaul Haq in the name of religion has been exacting its toll on northern areas for over 20 years;

  3. Growing lack of hydel resources for water storage and power generation;

  4. Exploration activities in Balochistan remain hamstrung by political tensions since 1952; and

  5. No devolution of power to lower tiers of governance as laid down in the Constitution. No Provincial Finance Commission in Provinces. Article 140A remains unimplemented.

These are a few examples. All of these subjects which are economic in nature have been ignored by politicians for vested interests. In other words, they have failed to fulfill their primary responsibility of removing obstacles to economic development. When politics fails the eventual collateral damage is always economy. This is the story of Pakistan.

Be that as it may, a truncated, moth-eaten and mutilated state needs to redefine its politico-economics reality, otherwise this state will always be bracketed with Afghanistan and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. A state of emergency is required for settling the political issues identified above. There is always a solution to a problem. If the solution requires some reconstruction that should be done voluntarily before events take over and foist a decision.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Comments

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Mumtaz Ahmed Aug 17, 2022 05:10pm
Excellent article and review of the defaults committed by the State ( Most of the time in Uniform)
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Hassan Aug 18, 2022 01:57am
While I normally respect your articles, this one was disappointingly full of common clichés that are oft repeated by the liberal elites from their ivory towers. The problem is not that Islam based politics has caused issues including what led to the negligence of the economy, or an economic vision. The problem is that ignorance of the Islamic Ideology left a vacuum to be filled by all and sundry corrupt psuedo-religious forces which focus on length of beard, music, hair splitting infighting or sectarianism, and secular liberal fanatics on the other side. If we had genuine fully qualified Arabic language literate ulama who we sent to the university of Al Azhar or Fez to study Islamic economic principles the way The Quaid envisioned in his speech to the state Bank of Pakistan, we would have had our economic vision. This vision would not simply be about banning riba (that's school boy level) but also incorporate a market free from "Gharar", trade being totally transparent without ambiguities, a ban on misleading advertising, product features advertised automatically implied in contracts, consumer rights, much better efficient trading standards, audit and accounting for every rupee, mandatory labelled prices or price structures for all goods and services in the market (cutting out creating people based on the way they look), etc etc etc I could go for many pages about the Islamic rules of trade, principles of banking, and economy. If we had really followed the Islamic Ideology properly, rather than shout slogans, pay lip service, and not been so insular as to not send ulama for training outside Pakistan, we would not be in this economic mess, or ideological identity crisis.
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