Decolonization and Nation-Building In Pakistan: Islam or Secularism?

Pakistan

Pakistan was created after a post-colonial struggle based on an Islamically motivated mobilization against non-Muslims-both the British colonizers and Hindus. The political elite that led the anticolonial struggle initially used Islam to mobilize the masses, but once it came to power, it chose a secular and monolingual nation-state model with excuse of maximizing their national security and improving the socioeconomic status of their Muslim constituencies. This choice of a secular and monolingual nation-state model has resulted in recurrent challenges of increasing magnitude to the state in the form of Islamist and ethnic separatist movements. The contradiction between the goals of the original mobilization that established the state and policies of its postindependence leaders and governments is a major structural source of instability and violence in the long run.


Abstract:

In this paper, arguing against the depiction of Pakistani nationalism and anti-colonial struggle as a secular movement, I have made an attempt to show how religion had an important role to play in the nation building of Indian Muslims. I have discussed how Pakistan was created after a postcolonial struggle based on an Islamically motivated mobilization against non-Muslims-both the colonizers and Hindus. In the later part of the paper, I have examined how that the political elite that led the anticolonial struggle initially used Islam to mobilize the masses, but once it came to power, it chose a secular and monolingual nation-state model with excuse of maximizing their national security and improving the socioeconomic status of their Muslim constituencies. This choice of a secular and monolingual nation-state model has resulted in recurrent challenges of increasing magnitude to the state in the form of Islamist and ethnic separatist movements. I conclude by arguing that the contradiction between the goals of the original mobilization that established the state and policies of its post-independence leaders and governments is a major structural source of instability and violence in the long run.

It should be noted that so much has already been written on related topics and hence the arguments I have presented in this paper are not necessarily a new contribution to knowledge. This paper only builds upon the works of writers like Faisal Devji, Ayesha Jalal and others.

Introduction:

There are many countries where religious movements challenge secularism, such as India and the United States, and there are many countries that face challenges from secular ethnic separatist movements, such as in Russia and the United Kingdom. However, it is very rare to find a state like Pakistan that simultaneously faces challenges from both religious and secular ethnic separatist movements. Secularists oppose the theocratic system of Pakistan; they argue that Jinnah and others in the Muslims league had struggled for a secular Pakistan and hence Islam should not have anything to do with the constitution and other matters of the state. On the other hand, Islamists oppose the secular policies of state and argue that Pakistan was created as a “Madina-e-saani” (new medina)1 and hence should be governed according to Islam.

The opposition and challenges to the Pakistani state, and secular-religious conflicts in Pakistan are more puzzling because whatever the causes of Islamist or ethnic separatist movements may be in other parts of the Muslim world, such challenges should have been least expected in a country like Pakistan that was created after so much struggle and sacrifice. Most of the presentday Muslim-majority nation-states (exceptions being Afghanistan and few other regions) were occupied by imperialists at some point in the history; however, Pakistan is one of those few Muslim countries where millions of Muslims mobilized for independence and tens of thousands were killed in the struggle for freedom. After what the people had to suffer from in the process of decolonization, one might expect their nationhood and statehood to be among the most robust in the Muslim world, and among the least likely cases to be existentially challenged.

Yet, the world has seen how the Pakistani state is constantly challenged by ethnic separatists and Islamist movements. These challenges have resulted in tragic events such as territorial dissolution of East Pakistan, and more recent incidents such as Lal Masjid massacre and APS attacks. Even after 70 years of struggle and loss of so many lives, these challenges to the state continue as the question of why Pakistan was created remains unanswered.


1. I will often use this word new madina or madina saani. This is in reference to claim by traditionalists that Pakistan is or was supposed to a land based on principles followed by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Madina. It also used to draw parallels between Muslims who left India to settle in Pakistan, and early Muslims who migrated to Madina from Makkah.


The question of Pakistan and futile debate over Jinnah:

Pakistani nation continues to face an identity crisis. It is still stuck in the same old questions of whether Jinnah was secular or religious? Did he want Pakistan to be secular or Islamic? Paradoxically, both secularist and religious political camps consider Jinnah to be their hero. The secular parties do not openly denounce the faith but argue that religion must be confined to the private lives of individuals. On the other hand, the religious groups emphasize the role of ‘shariah’ ie the Islamic law in the society.

The heated debate over Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan is not just restricted to political parties, rather it has been an important part of academic discussions over the issue of the identity of Pakistan. The writers such as Eqbal Ahmed, M.J Akbar, Ayesha Jalal and Hamza Alaavi have painted him as a secularist. Some writers such as Larry Collins have even dared to portray him as a Muslim who drank, ate pork, shaved beard, rarely attended mosque and hardly gave any importance to role of God and his book even in his personal life let alone the public sphere. On the other hand, the ulama, and the writers such as Rizwan Ahmed, Yahya Bakhtiyaar and Hashim Raza have constantly challenged this depiction of Jinnah as a secular and areligious person. For them, Jinnah was the epitome of a true Muslim leader in the Indian sub-continent, a leader who struggled for the creation of a New Madinah that was supposed to run according to Islamic principles.

What both camps fail to understand is that Jinnah did not write much to explain his vision for Pakistan. The only primary sources we have are his speeches, statements, memories of those who met him and his letters. All these sources are subject to different interpretations and I believe that it is not very wise to judge Jinnah purely based on his words in the era of decolonization. At least, the binary of secularist and Islamist is highly problematic when dealing with someone like Jinnah. The claims that he shaved or used drink do not prove that he was a secular, similarly the claims such as that he prayed five times a day do not prove him to be a staunch Islamist either.

What is important to understand is that Jinnah was a man of immaculate credibility and an outstanding lawyer who would never lie even in a field where telling lies was not only part of profession but considered a way of life. However, while he was not a liar, he was not politically naïve person either. It is possible that Jinnah believed that revealing his true intentions about Pakistan might result in failure to achieve his desired outcomes. In his career as a lawyer, Jinnah was a master at carefully choosing his words and evading the questions that would weaken his case. He brought the same skills to the field of politics and used them to fight for the creation of Pakistan. Had Jinnah declared Pakistan to be either purely secular or entirely based on Islamic principles, both ways he could have lost a lot of support that he needed for the creation of Pakistan. Instead of making such a mistake, Jinnah resorted to a very clever and careful use of words and tried to reconcile between Islam and principles of modern state such as democracy and secularism. This is evident in his following words:

“Pakistan is the premier Islamic State and the fifth largest in the world. . . The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1,300 years ago. Islam and idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of men, justice and fairplay to everybody.’’ (Burke, 2000)

In many similar speeches, Jinnah spoke about a country that would run on “Islamic principles of social justice and democracy” which he believed to be the same as practiced in a modern, secular democracy. By doing this, Jinnah apparently envisaged an Islam which was supposed to be perfectly in line with universal modern principles of equality, liberty and fraternity. Whether we call it his ability to manipulate the masses or his wisdom, what we must accept is that Jinnah was successful at winning the support of both Muslims and secular Pakistanis in his struggle for the creation of Pakistan. As Ali Usman Qasmi argues in the book Muslims against the Muslim league, one of the reasons for his success was the failure on part of his opponents like Maulana Madani to come up with a better solution. (Qasmi and Robb, 2017)

It was a mistake on part of Muslims who supported him and the scholars of time that they did not question his ambiguous speeches and the practicality of his ideas. They themselves did not pay much attention to how it would be practically impossible to reconcile between the will of the God and will of the people. In other words, they failed to understand the inherent contradictions between Islam and the principles of modern state that were produced during the Europe’s enlightenment era. No one asked the important questions such as who will have the rights of legislation? What will be the role of religion? Who will be sovereign? The God or the people? What will be the sources of legislation? The religious texts or the parliament? These questions remain unanswered as Pakistani state continues to suffer from the identity crisis and conflicts.

It appears that Jinnah had a Janus face that we will never be able to fully understand as we can neither go back in time nor bring Jinnah back to life. The continuous debates on what he really wanted are conceptually fuzzy, meaningless and futile. What both groups would agree on, and what is quite evident in his speeches is that there was at least some element of Islam in the anti-colonial struggle that led to creation of Pakistan. Instead of focusing on Jinnah alone, the next part of this paper outlines the role of religion in the process of nation building and decolonization in India.

Scholars of Nationalism and the case for Pakistan:

The leading scholars of nationalism, including Benedict Anderson, Ernest Gellner and Eric Hobsbawm have all argued that either language or ethnicity or both played the decisive role in the nationalist mobilization of intellectuals and the masses in Europe. (Anderson, 2006; Gellner, 1983; Hobsbawm, 1991)

In their understanding, nationalism was a consciousness among a community leading to its self-assertion and the consequent emergence of a state. The Marxist scholars have linked nationalism to the class struggle or as a struggle against feudal or imperialist class. (Snyder, 1964)

On the other hand, many scholars have defined nationalism in the case of third world countries as a struggle against the colonial powers. For them, the indigenous elite in these countries represented the nationalist movements while what united the masses was shared language, history or culture. (Smith, 1983)

Nationalism has also been seen as a state of mind of human beings – a manifestation of certain ideological goals which they wish to realize through united efforts. (Shafer, 1974.)

It is strongly rooted in the, thoughts and behavior of people. For Gellner(2008), it is a political principle, which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent. Smith(1983) in an earlier research, defines it as a sentiment which he believes is as old as history. And there are many other scholars who view it in terms of a process leading to various disparate or oppressed ethnicities towards right to self-determination and an independent state.

Most of these definitions are centered around European history where nationalism took roots as a demand for self-determination since the late half of the 18th century. In this context, cultural homogeneity and ethnic cohesion formed the basis for the organization of the homogenous cultural identities into an autonomous nation-state. It was due to the rise of this type of nationalism that many empires with heterogeneous cultural groups got disintegrated and new independent states emerged with homogenous cultural identity. These nationalist leaders used ethnicity or language to mobilize the masses against previous regimes based on religious legitimacy, as observed in the fragmentation of Christendom into numerous nation-states based on ethnicity and language in Europe. (Smith, 1983)

What must be understood is that it is not an easy task to provide generalized and acceptable definition of nationalism that suits all nationalist movements. These Eurocentric definitions of nationalism clearly overlook the importance of religion in the anti-colonial struggle of states like Pakistan and Algeria. In the section that follows, I argue that in the case of Pakistan, which arguably witnessed one of the most popular “nationalist” mobilizations in the Muslim world for independence, not ethnicity or language, but religious identity played the key role in the process of decolonization. Unlike struggle against the Christianity in Europe, Muslim nationalism in Indian sub-continent that led to formation of Pakistan was based on religious mobilization. People of different languages, culture and history united against the non-Muslim British colonizers and Hindu majority and demanded their own state. It is because of these reasons that the theories of nationalism must be revised to consider this distinctive path to nationhood through religious mobilization observed in countries like Pakistan and Algeria.

An Islamically motivated mobilization followed by choice of secular and monolingual model:

The Indian Muslim populations in British India were immensely diverse; they were not only spread across India, but also had distinct cultures, languages and history. They included all sorts of Muslims- poor, labor, peasants, rich landlords and Western-educated intellectuals. In order to struggle against the Hindus and British, they not only overlooked their cultural, linguistic and class differences but also their sectarian disagreements. The only thing that they all had in common was their belief in Allah and Prophet of Islam Muhammad (ﷺ). This meant that when Muslim nationalism arose in the 1920s and 1930s, it did not have any ethnic, linguistic or class basis; the only possible common denominator was Islam.

During the 1930s, Allama Iqbal (1875-1938), the poet-philosopher of Muslim India is said to have conceived and articulated, the idea of a separate Muslim polity to the Muslim League leadership, thus giving a more potent objective to the Muslim community than constitutional rights and representation in the civil services. Iqbal believed in the unity of an Islamic society and state and argued that Islam could only be preserved by creating an “Islamic state” which would unite the Muslims of India and preserve their way of life. For Iqbal, Islamic or Muslim brotherhood was the only thing that would integrate Muslims of all ethnic and linguistic origins. Thus, his concept of ‘qaum’, ‘ummat’ or ‘nation’ was not only ideological but also territorial. This was the idea carried forward by Muslim league to mobilize the masses against the colonizers and demand a separate homeland. (Islam, 1981)

The following words of Jinnah’s speech at the All India Muslim League Conference in 1940 clearly outlines the kind of religious rhetoric that was used to mobilize Muslims of India:

“The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, literatures. They neither intermarry, nor dine together, and they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.” (Ahmad, 1968)

It was at this conference that league adopted the famous Objectives Resolution for the creation of a separate political entity within a loose Indian confederacy. A key change was evident in the Muslim Nationalist Movement during the post-1940 period. There was a reorientation of the objectives of the Muslim League and their focus shifted from securing minority rights toward achieving a separate and independent political entity for the Muslims of India. Soon, despite opposition by Congress, and even influential Muslims like Hussain Ahmad Madni, Maududi and many others, Muslim League was able to mobilize the Muslim masses behind the slogans of Pakistan – a “new Madina” for Muslims where they thought they would organize their lives according to Islamic ideology. The Muslims of India did not speak a common language; they did not have a homogeneous culture; they did not even have a geographical or economic unit and hence Muslims of Pakistan were not a nation in the traditional Western sense – a people living in a contiguous territory with the same ethnic origins, similar culture, and, above all, one language.

The only thing that they had in common was their belief in One God and his Prophet. The overarching ideology under which the struggle for Pakistan was justified was the famous Two-Nation Theory. The idea behind Pakistan was that Hindus and Muslims were two separate and dichotomous nations by virtue of their conflicting worldviews, beliefs, social habits and other aspirations and hence they could not co-exist in all united India. Farzana Shaikh aptly puts it when she writes that Pakistan defined itself against India, particularly on matters of religion, and not merely against the British. They defined themselves as a Muslim minority against the Hindu majority. (Shaikh, 2009)

Muslims clearly rejected the standpoint of the Indian National Congress that all Indians were part of one nation. They never supported the idea that Muslims could also enjoy equal rights in an independent India based on democracy and secularism. For them, the idea of a secular India was nothing more than a cover for establishing Hindu rule. (Smith, 1970)

The Lahore Resolution in 1940 envisaged the creation of a separate state for Muslims in the north-western and north-eastern zones of the Indian Subcontinent in which Muslims were in majority. One crucial factor that must not be overlooked is that the movement for Pakistan would not have been successful if many ulama didn’t support it. The radical Deobandi scholars like Madni considered the Muslim League a stronghold of the pro-British landlords and politicians and writers like Maududi openly opposed Jinnah’s call for Pakistan and regarded it as un-Islamic struggle. Many argued that the elite that lead the struggle were Westernized in their life-styles and were not practicing Muslims. It was only possible with support of scholars like Ashraf Ali Thanwi and Shabbir Ahmed Usmani that league was able to win over mass support of Muslims.

Muhammad Iqbal had declared the goal of creating a “Muslim state” in northwest India in his presidential address to the Muslim League in 1930. “‘Islamic state,’ ‘Islamic government,’ ‘Islamic constitution,’ and ‘Islamic ideology’ were the slogans of the pre-independence era and these slogans were successfully utilized to mobilize mass support for Pakistan. Dr. Israr Ahmed in his Isthiqaam e Pakistan mentions how the anti-colonial struggle was referred to as “Jihad” and the ones who left India to settle in Pakistan compared their “hijrat” (migration) to that of the Muslims at the time of Prophet who went to Madina from Makkah. Muslims fled India for Pakistan and Hindus fled Pakistan for India during the Partition of India, with an estimated 17 million people permanently leaving their homelands in “the largest transfer of populations in recorded history,” once again demonstrating the religious nature of the mobilization for independence.(Davis, 1949)

The religious rhetoric and powerful attractive slogans such as “Pakistan ka matlab kya, la illaha ill lallah” were successfully used to mobilize mass support for Pakistan. In sum, the league used Islam to mobilize the Indian Muslims. It was emphasized that they were a group distinct from Hindus and the unity of the Muslim nation was largely based on fear of a Hindu majority which was a factor external to the Muslim community. Those wanting a separate state were defined as “Muslims living in the subcontinent,” a definition that did not take into consideration any ethnic, linguistic, cultural, regional, and economic differences among the Muslims of India. It was believed that the larger umbrella of Muslim identity had taken care of these differences. In other words, not language, ethnicity or culture but religion played a vital role in nation-building and decolonization that led to creation of Pakistan.

Turn Toward Secularism and monolingual state model and the resulting conflicts:

This section of the paper discusses why and how the leading elite chose the secular and monolingual model. This secular turn itself needs an explanation but fully explaining all the causes of the secularist turn falls beyond the scope of this paper. The most convincing explanation for me is the ideological conviction of the western educated elite that only secularism could dramatically improve the socioeconomic status of the Muslims. The association between Muslim religious identity and socioeconomic backwardness apparently led many members of the elite to think that religion(Islam) itself was a cause of Muslims’ socioeconomic underachievement, and hence motivated the choice of secular nationalism as a panacea for backwardness. This is the explanation that Faisal Devji also gives when he writes that the ideas of Jinnah and the elite of the Muslim League were shaped by the Enlightenment, and their understanding of “Muslim” identity was an unusually ecumenical one. He explains that this was also because many of the leaders themselves belonged to various Shia minorities, which may have been another motivation for their advocacy of secularism. (Devji, 2013)

In sum, the critical decision to adopt secular nationalism after an Islamic mobilization for independence was conditioned by the ideological conviction of the Jinnah and others that secular systems could alone guarantee the socioeconomic development and the survival of their newly independent states in the modern international system. Nasir Islam argues that “the use of Islamic slogans by the bourgeois, Westernized leaders [in Pakistan] was largely a facade,” and, quoting Myron Weiner, emphasizes that “the Westernized, largely non-religious leadership which led the pre-independence movement… had no desire for an Islamic state”. He sums up the turn towards a secular and monolingual model in the following words:

“In hindsight, one can say that Pakistan was born with a temporary sense of national identity, developed as a reaction to militant Hindu nationalism. Various Muslim groups in the subcontinent were able to suspend their regional, ethnic, and linguistic identities. Religion – as a way of life – had become the predominant force as a basis for nationalism, other ethnic factors being temporarily pushed aside. But this certainly did not mean that regional and other ethnic identities had been assimilated by this newfound sense of Muslim nationhood. This sense of Muslim national identity became less important, once the objective of Pakistan was achieved and the external “enemies” of the Muslim nation – the Hindus and the Colonial regime – were removed from the domestic political scene. Territorially the Muslims had achieved the status of a nation. But the question remained: How could a sense of national identity be sustained in the absence of visible external threats to the Muslim nation? During the post-independence era, the sustenance of Pakistani national identity and the process of national integration would be greatly influenced by two sets of factors: regional-ethnic diversity and the policies of Pakistani power elite.” (Islam, 1981)

Despite the emphasis on Islam and the Muslim way of life, the Islamic law did not become the basis of Pakistani legal system and the newly formed state remained as the “Dominion of Pakistan” with British Indian laws in place. The disagreement over what is meant by a Muslim state was a major reason for Pakistan’s inability to formulate its constitution until 1956 and even after 1956, the issue of implementation of shariah law remained an important question. The political elite that took over was clever enough to not antagonize the ulama and it did not openly repress Islamist movements even after Pakistan’s founding as a secular state. They successfully and instrumentally used Islamic discourse to facilitate Muslim mobilization and once the British left, hardly any attention was paid to the promises and slogans of the anti-colonial struggle. Interestingly, many of the founders of Pakistan were Shia Muslims, even Ismailis, a smaller subsect of Shiism, and as such, these elites may have also had a sectarian motivation to establish a secular state with a very ecumenical definition of Muslim identity. Not only was Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, a Shia, but Aga Khan, the key businessman who financed the Muslim League, was an Ismaili. (Devji, 2013)

Pakistan consisted of five provinces, Balochistan, Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), Punjab, Sindh, and East Pakistan, each province having a particular ethnic majority with its own native language, namely, Baloch, Pashtun(NWFP), Punjabi, Sindhi, and Bengali (East Pakistan). In contrast, a significant percentage of the Muslim League and the elite that led the struggle were Muhajjirs or Urdu speaking people. The Pakistani government did not consider this ethnic diversity and declared Urdu to be the only official state language of Pakistan even though the vast majority of the population did not speak it. Nasir Islam explains how the choice of a monolingual model led to a major conflict in the following lines “The effort of the Central Government to impose Urdu as the national language and the denial of representation on the basis of population by the West led the Bengalis toward a complete distrust of the central government”. Ayub Khan’s military coup in 1958 made matters worse as Nasir Islam explains how “the military bureaucratic-industrial complex that became all powerful in the Ayub era was largely unrepresentative of East Pakistanis”.  (Islam, 1981)

Under Ayub’s dictatorship, Punjabis established their political economic hegemony and sidelined previously powerful Mohajir elite. “Ayub governed as a pro-Western, pro-business leader who shared the largely secular views of the mohajir class he had brushed aside”. (Schmidt, 2011)

The 1956 Constitution anointed the state as the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” and Bengali was also given recognition as one of the official languages. These two measures did not have any real significance and were merely meant to appease the Islamist and Bengali critics of monolingual secular state model. However, these legislations without any real implementation were not sufficient enough to resist the tide of Islamism and ethnic separatism. The Punjabis still dominated in the military and establishment and the Bengalis of East Pakistan were not even allowed to exercise the political power that they deserved due to their demographic superiority. The problems of under-representation and the appearance of internal colonialism were further intensified during the military dictatorships of Ayub Khan (1958–1969) and Yahya Khan (1969–1971). The Bengali Awami League led by Sheikh Mujib ur Rahman won a land slide victory in the 1971 elections, but the West Pakistani elites did not allow him to govern Pakistan and this resulted in a deadly military conflict in which several hundred thousand Bengali civilians were killed. Soon, with India’s intervention, Pakistan lost its major part and the new state of Bangladesh emerged.

Even after this huge loss, the ethnic separatist challenges continued and still continue in this country where Baloch, Pashtun, Sindhi, and Mohajir ethnic groups all resent and resist a Punjabi hegemony and military involvement in the matters of state. Baloch nationalism presents the most significant ethnic separatist nationalism in the contemporary politics of Pakistan. Baloch are the majority in the province of Balochistan, which constitutes 40 percent of Pakistani territory and includes most of the country’s oil and natural gas resources, and yet the province remains largely undeveloped and neglected. Ethnic Baloch has tried to revolt against Pakistani rule in 1948, 1953, and then through the 1960s and 1970s the Baloch demands for separate state continue today. (Majeed, 2010)

“In 1998, several Baluch parties joined with Mohajir, Pashtun and Sindh parties to form the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM), which seeks to challenge Punjab hegemony in Pakistan’s political life”. (Tharoor, 2009)

These ethnic groups together make up 40 percent of Pakistan’s population and this organization is a concrete embodiment of the full spectrum of ethnic minority resentment in Pakistan. The more recent movements such Pashtun Tahaffuz movement are current examples of ethnic conflicts in the state. (Shah, 1997)

Islamist challenges have been another problem that the Pakistani state continues to face. The main Islamist political parties have been Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat ulama e Hind, which aim to bring about the shariah law in the state. Although not one of the mainstream religious political parties have won support in elections, but their influence is far beyond their electoral weight. There are many incidents that demonstrate the successful pressure of Islamists on the Pakistani state. The most evident influence of religious groups was when they successfully organized street demonstrations in 1953 that had a role in eventually compelling the Pakistani state to declare Ahmadis, who self-identify as Muslims, as a non-Muslim group. They supported the declaration of Pakistan as an “Islamic Republic,” and their demands were fulfilled in 1956 Constitution. The best days for these groups were during the dictatorship of Zia Ul Haq (1977–1988) as they succeeded in pushing Islamization measures, such as the legislation of “Hudood Ordinances” in 1979 and the establishment of a Federal Shariat Court in 1980. The more recent dictatorship of Musharaf and the post 9/11 policies of Pakistan have been more secular and anti- Islamism. This has resulted in groups like Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan to continuously question the legitimacy of the state. The events such as Lal masjid and APS school attacks have resulted in loss of millions of lives as Pakistan continues to fail in maintaining its territorial integrity. These crisis in Pakistan are rooted in uncertainties over the country’s precise relation to Islam. Although in 1947 Pakistan was created as the first self-professed homeland for Muslims, the contestation over role of Islam has continued to resonate to the present day—with significant political, economic and strategic implications, in and beyond Pakistan. (Shaikh, 2009)

In the post 9/11 era, Musharaf’s decision to support United states in the so-called war on terror has intensified these islamist challenges to the state. His plan of secularization of state as opposed to Zia’s short-lived Islamization shows how the establishment has always used religion when it suited their interest and turned towards secularism when their objectives were fulfilled. In sum, the unexpected turn toward secular nationalist policies after independence came as a shock to the people who were mobilized using religious rhetoric. Ethnic separatist and Islamist challenges to the state grew over time, culminating in mass political movements such as Awami League and Tehreek Nizam e Msutafa. These movements were followed by violence and bloodshed such as in the secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan (1971) and more recent conflicts such as Lal masjid incident in 2007.

Conclusion:

Several conclusions result from this study of nation-building of Muslims in Indian sub-continent. Firstly, I have argued that Pakistan was founded on the basis of an Islamic mobilization against non-Muslim opponents and hence the generalized theories of nationalism must be revised when looking at the case of Pakistan. Secondly, I have suggested that the political elite initially used Islam to mobilize the masses but once it successfully came to power, it chose a secular and monolingual nation-state model with the excuse of maximizing progress and development. Despite using the religion to mobilize the masses, the elite that led the struggle preferred secular systems over religious ones. The final part of my paper has explained how this choice and contradiction between goals of mobilization and policies of post-colonial state remains a major source of the recurrent challenges to the state in the form of Islamist and ethnic separatist movements.

Secularism faces a structural and path-dependent crisis of legitimacy in Pakistan because of a historical or genetic disjuncture located at the very origins of Muslim nationalism that led to the creation of Pakistan. There are ideological confusions at the heart of Pakistan – a confusion that has led to damaging and dangerous consequences. These ideological confusions are not only cause of internal Islamist and secular ethnic challenges but also the reason for lack of clarity in the foreign policies of the state. The inherent contradictions and confusions in the nation state formation of Pakistan suggest that these ethnic and Islamist challenges are unlikely to disappear easily, at least not until the same people continue to rule and make same mistakes that they have been making since the creation of Pakistan.

Many have blamed Islam itself for the conflicts; however, I argue that it is not Islam per se that accounts for Pakistan’s decline, but the country’s ambiguous, if not conflicted, relation to Islam as a political ideology. It is this ambivalence on part of those who have been ruling the country that is chiefly responsible for the uncertainties that have plagued the country’s identity and resulted in conflicts and loss of lives. So deep are these uncertainties that even 71 years after Pakistan’s creation, fundamental questions about the state’s historical purpose and about concepts of political belonging remain unanswered.

Works Cited:

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