Can we afford to bypass Jinnah’s Pakistan?

By Raza Rumi

Published today by Jinnah Institute, Islamabad:

Notwithstanding the contradictions inherent to pre-1947 Muslim politics, Jinnah was clear about certain fundamentals. Pakistan was to be a secular, democratic state. It was not destined to be a national-security obsessed and a paranoid military-intelligence complex.
Pakistan was to be a federation and Jinnah’s advocacy in the 1930s and 1940s was majorly focused on achieving a de-centralized governance paradigm. Finally, the new state was envisioned as a peaceful country, which would interact and establish relations with its neighbour India following the US-Canada model. Jinnah indicated that he would not mind settling down in his native city Bombay after his retirement. All of these facts are on public record and not fantastic or imagined tenets of his vision. What was so alarming about Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan that had to be virtually undone by the custodians of a Praetorian state? Not unlike Pakistan’s history, Jinnah’s legacy is a contested and fractured narrative.

After successive victories, the right wing of Pakistan won a significant battle under General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988) when it officially established the “ideology of Pakistan”. However this victory was not limited to official pronouncements but significant institutional changes were also effected to achieve a colonial archetype from South Asian history i.e. a “permanent settlement” of ideological contours. Lord Cornwallis may have undertaken such a settlement for Bengal’s fertile land but Pakistan’s education system, the media and the public discourse finally declared such a settlement as the sacred “truth”.

This sacred “truth” nullified Jinnah’s vision and historic struggles to achieve a fair deal for the Muslims of India, which had culminated in the creation of a truncated and “moth-eaten” Pakistan.

In terms of domestic governance of the new polity, Jinnah’s speeches to civil servants, firm advice to military officers and even to some of his errant politician colleagues were clear. The bureaucracy and the Army had to operate within the legal boundaries and a new direction for the post-colonial state had to be negotiated without undermining the rule of law and the imperative of creating a citizen-responsive state. To the military men Jinnah said the following in June 1948:“…I should like you to study the constitution which is in force in Pakistan at present and understand its true constitutional and legal implications.” And, to the civil service, […]