Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fundamentalism at the foundation

In the Daily Times, Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur points to the fundamentalism at the foundation of Pakistan.

The Objectives Resolution and the state’s affinity for fanaticism has a historical background. Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Stockholm University, in a piece titled ‘The demand for Pakistan and Islam’ (Daily Times, June 8, 2010) says that the opportunity for Jinnah to make a breakthrough in the Muslim-majority provinces of northwestern India — Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh — arrived in July 1945 when the British government announced provincial elections for February 1946. He says, “... the tactics that the Muslim League adopted during the long election campaign... (included) efforts to appeal to the bigotry of the electors. Pirs and maulvis have been enlisted in large numbers to tour the province and denounce all who oppose the League as infidels. Copies of the Holy Quran are carried around as an emblem peculiar to the Muslim League. Feroz [Khan Noon] and others openly preach that every vote given to the League is a vote cast in favour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).”

“... The ML [Muslim League] orators are becoming increasingly fanatical in their speeches. Maulvis and pirs and students travel all round the province and preach that those who fail to vote for the League candidates will cease to be Muslims; their marriages will no longer be valid and they will be entirely excommunicated...”

It beggars belief that Jinnah was in the dark about the “appeal to the bigotry of the electors”. Apologists for Jinnah have projected his secularism but have tactfully glossed over other aspects; many spontaneous remarks contradict his secularism. He once stated: “I want the Muslims of the Frontier province clearly to understand that they are Muslims first and Pathans afterwards...” This has nothing to do with secularism.

The readers would wonder what necessitated these tactics. For one it was a part of Muslim Leaguers’ belief and ethos and, secondly, the 1937 elections demonstrated that without resorting to appeals to religion, they could not survive. Agha H Amin in his piece ‘Idea of Pakistan: Myth and Reality’ details the Muslim League’s rout in the 1937 elections: “All India Muslim League was literally routed in Muslim majority provinces of India, the League just getting only 321,772 Muslim votes out of a total Muslim vote of 7,319,445, a mere 4.4 percent. In Punjab the League won just two seats out of 84, in Bengal 39 out of 117, in NWFP none. Even in Muslim minority provinces, the Muslim League was not Muslims’ first choice except Bombay where it won 20 out of 29 seats.” Without the ‘Islam in danger’ slogan, it was curtains for the Muslim League; unfortunately it also became the state’s officially approved psychology and enduring policy after independence.

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