Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nation states don't need ideologies to exist

Scientific thinking has an inbuilt mechanism with which it corrects errors of a previous generation. What Karl Popper called the doctrine of falsifiability helps uncover anomalies and inconsistencies in an established paradigm. Since science has its eyes on precision, the focus is on devilish details.

Ultimately, through observation, facts that are inconsistent with the reigning paradigm emerge. Slowly, one of the alternate paradigms triumphs over the competing paradigms for several possible reasons: its solution to the crisis is more elegant, and holds promise of future inquiry. Soon enough, a new crisis emerges and alternate paradigms are proposed. As science experiences a paradigm shift, presumptions are reset.

One of the greatest examples of this phenomenon is the Copernican Revolution, which changed the Earth's status as the center of universe. Before the Copernican Revolution, the Earth's status as the center of the universe was considered fundamental to everything from explanation of why the clouds move to why water pumps work. Faced with the new idea that it is in fact the Earth that revolves around the Sun, all fields of science had to gradually adapt to this new idea. Since then, Copernican Revolution has become a metaphor used in various fields, including Philosophy where Kant used it in his "Critique of Pure Reason".

After Pakistan was formed, Jinnah's goal became a single Pakistani nationality without any discrimination of religion

Politics is also a science. Political science deals with political ideas and theories of statehood and nationalisms with its own established paradigms. One such paradigm is the ideology of Pakistan. It is the view of this author that Pakistan's ideology needs a Copernican Revolution.

The two standard established myths on which our ideology stands are the following:

1) Pakistan was created in the name of Islam to establish an Islamic state.

2) Hindus and Muslims are two nations and therefore cannot live together.

The facts do not fall quite in line with these myths. For example, if Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, why were Jinnah and the Muslim League ready to abandon the idea of Pakistan for the federal scheme proposed by the Cabinet Mission Plan? Contrary to the claims made by ideologues of Pakistani ideology, the Cabinet Mission Plan had no reference or guarantee for a future Pakistan, though it is true that Jinnah's selling point to his own people for the Cabinet Mission Plan was that Muslims never expected the British and the Congress to give them Pakistan on a platter. This selling point, interestingly, was suggested by Woodrow Wyatt who was a confidante of Jinnah. When first suggested, Jinnah is reported to have responded excitedly "there you've got it".

Secondly, had the idea of Pakistan irrevocably committed the League to an Islamic state, why is it not mentioned in the Lahore Resolution? Indeed the words "Islam" or "Islamic state" do not emerge once. Then we have the testimony of Raja of Mahmudabad who claims that he was told by Jinnah not to forward the idea of an Islamic state from the Muslim League's platform. In fact Muslim League all throughout the Pakistan Movement did not pass a single resolution calling for an Islamic state.

The issue of the two nation theory is also not as clear cut as our textbooks make it out to be. Two nation theory was a purely constitutional argument changing the status of Muslims from a community to a nation. It did not at any place say that Muslims and Hindus could not co-exist. What it did say was that the constitution of India had to recognize this fundamental reality so that a large community - no less than 90 million - was not disadvantaged in India. This is what was later coined as consociationalism which is a standard mechanism to bring deeply divided communities with competing aspirations together under one constitutional scheme. In order to establish the status of Muslims as a nation, an argument had to made in terms of established parameters of nationalism ie culture, common history, dietary habits, personal law etc. The argument forwarded by Jinnah rested entirely on these four points - none of which were directly linked to theology per se. Piercing the veil one sees that this Muslim nationalism was exclusively Indian, ie Indian Muslims constituted a nation, and not that all Muslims everywhere constituted a nation. To put it mildly, it was a skilled lawyer's argument which was neither ideological nor irrevocable.

That the two nation theory was revocable - at least to the mind of its greatest and most successful proponent - is patently obvious in the famous 11th August speech. When he says "in due course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in a religious sense because that is the personal faith of an individual but in a political sense," Jinnah is not just talking about fair and generous treatment of minorities - something which he did many times - but is actually speaking of gradual elimination of religious identity in favour of a single Pakistani nationality. Before 1940, by and large his attempt had been to bring Hindus and Muslims together in one yoke as Indians. After Pakistan was formed, his goal became a single Pakistani nationality without any discrimination of religion. It was for this reason that Jinnah had appointed a Hindu as the first law minister of Pakistan and asked a Hindu to write Pakistan's first national anthem.

It might be added of course that Jinnah's own life does not conform to the two nation theory as it is taught to the children of Pakistan. Most of Jinnah's professional adult life was spent amongst Hindus and Parsis and it was in these communities he had his closest friends and colleagues such as Gokhale, Tilak, Sir Ferozeshah Mehta, Kanji Dwarkadas, Durga Das, Diwan Chaman Lal, Dalmiya etc. The unkindest cut he was to receive at the hands of his great rival Gandhi was that Gandhi called him "Jinnah the representative of the Mohammaden community". He was a shareholder in most of the leading Hindu owned business concerns such as Tata and Birla and owned securities in Air India right till the end. He might not have entirely approved of his daughter's marriage - as the story goes - but it did not stop him from sending her flowers. Contrary to myth fed to us, Jinnah never disowned his daughter. As a Khoja Shia Muslim, the inheritance law applicable to Jinnah's estate is Hindu personal law. How ironic for a man who our textbooks say created a state based on irreconcilable religious differences between Muslims and Hindus.

Finally it may be said that Jinnah was at his finest as a luminary of the freedom struggle, as a lawyer-parliamentarian and as a statesman when he spoke out in the defence of Bhagat Singh, the great Lahori freedom fighter that our state - the state that is said owe its existence to Jinnah - refuses to honour. Here is an excerpt:

"The man who goes on hunger-strike has a soul. He is moved by the soul and he believes in the justice of his cause; he is not an ordinary criminal who is guilty of cold-blooded, sordid, wicked crime.

"What was he driving at? It is the system, this damnable system of Government, which is resented by the people.

"And the last words I wish to address the Government are, try and concentrate your mind on the root cause and the more you concentrate on the root cause, the less difficulties and inconveniences there will be for you to face, and thank Heaven that the money of the taxpayer will not be wasted in prosecuting men, nay citizens, who are fighting and struggling for the freedom of their country."

Nation states do not need ideologies to exist. Nor can all generations to come be held to ideas of a previous generation. Pakistan's ideology - distorted as it is - is responsible for many of the ills that plague Pakistan today. Let us jettison this ideology as outdated and face the fundamental fact that it is not sine qua non to Pakistan's survival as a state. It is time to get rid of the excess baggage of a distorted history.

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