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The Pakistan Ideology: A Brief History

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By: Nadeem F. Paracha

The term ‘Pakistan Ideology’ (or Nazriya-e-Pakistan) was never once used by the founders of the country. Yet, this term has been present in Pakistani school textbooks and echoing in parliaments, political rallies and in the media for decades now – as though it were first coined and conceived by Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, 70 years ago.


The term ‘Pakistan Ideology’ was for the first time alluded to in a book by nationalist historian, I H. Qureshi in 1957. Qureshi explained the term as an extension of the ‘Two Nation Theory’ constructed by Jinnah to explain the Muslims of India as a separate political and cultural polity.



A year after taking over power in a coup in 1958, Field Marshal Ayub Khan (front right) sent a lengthy questionnaire to some leading intellectuals, asking them to define the ideology of Pakistan.


In a 1960 speech, Ayub claimed: “Pakistan was not achieved to create a priest-ridden culture. Instead, it was created to evolve an enlightened society. It is a great injustice to both life and religion to impose on 20th century man the condition that he must go back several centuries in order to prove his credentials as a true Muslim.” Ayub said his regime will follow the “modernist” ideals of Islam held by the likes of Jinnah and Muhammad Iqbal. This was to become the first clear explanation of the ‘Pakistan Ideology.’



It was during a debate on the 1962 Constitution that the term ‘Pakistan Ideology’ was for the first time heard in a Pakistani parliament.


In 1967 Islamic scholar and founder of the Jamat Islami (JI), Abul Ala Maududi (left), openly rejected the Ayub regime’s idea of ‘Pakistan Ideology.’ Maududi claimed it was too ‘westernized’ and ‘secular.’ Maududi formulated his party’s own idea of Pakistan Ideology to mean an Islamic Republic which was to evolve into becoming an “Islamic State” run on Sharia laws.


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The same year (1967), scholar and an ideologue of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Hanif Ramay (right), explained Pakistan Ideology to mean a country driven by popular democracy and a socialist interpretation of Islam.



Interestingly, across the 1960s, never once did the term ‘Pakistan Ideology’ appear in local school textbooks.


During the civil war in East Pakistan in 1971, jurist and scholar Javed Iqbal published a book called The Ideology of Pakistan. He had first begun to write this book in 1959 while filling the questionnaire sent to him by Ayub. In his book Justice Iqbal lamented that both Ayub’s as well as JI’s versions of Pakistan Ideology were self-serving and did not take into account the more complex ideas of faith and statehood held by Muhammad Iqbal and Mr Jinnah. Ironically, the foreword of the book was written by Ayub Khan who had been forced to resign in 1969 by a movement led by students and workers.


It was in 1972-73 that the term ‘Pakistan Ideology’ appeared for the first time in textbooks. This was also when the government (now being run by ZA Bhutto’s PPP) introduced a whole new subject called, ‘Pakistan Studies.’ The subject was introduced as a way to re-strengthen the raison d’etre of Pakistan after its eastern-wing broke away in 1971.



During the PPP/ZA Bhutto regime (1972-77), the term ‘Pakistan Ideology’ began to appear frequently in textbooks and was more than often used in National Assembly debates. The term now meant a staunch belief in Jinnah’s Two-Nation Theory and a socialist interpretation of Islam.



It was during the Gen Zia’s dictatorship (1977-1988) that the whole idea of ‘Pakistan Ideology’ was turned into a more detailed doctrine. Due to the reactionary disposition of the regime, the “modernist” dimensions of the idea were eschewed in favour of a narrower and more theological dimension. This version stuck for over two decades.


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Many have criticised Zia’s version of Pakistan Ideology for being isolationist and non-inclusive, and hence not in tune with Pakistan’s ethnic, religious and sectarian diversity. They have also described it as being a departure from Mr Jinnah’s ‘modernist’ idea of Islam and statehood.



But defenders of Zia’s version claim that it is a natural and evolutionary culmination of the idea of the “Islamic Republic” which Jinnah created.



In 2013 the new military chief, Gen Raheel Sharif (promoted by PM Nawaz Sharif) initiated an ideological reorientation of the Pakistan military in the face of rising religious militancy in Pakistan. Gen Raheel began to slowly but gradually reorient the ideological dimension of the Pakistan armed forces by making it more pragmatic. The process is continuing under the current military chief, Gen Bajwa.



Gen Raheel’s initiative triggered a more ‘moderate’ and ‘modernist’ outlook in the federal government as well …



… Even though some sections of the government are still holding on to the ideological rhetoric of the 1980s.



The strongest step to reorient textbooks was made by Sindh’s provincial government.



Due to such developments, those segments of the society and politics that have benefited from the 1980s’ ideological narrative have become active to roll back the gradual change.


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