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Imran Khan’s ‘Welfare State’ Is A Cruel Joke

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Does Pakistan have so many resources at its disposal to allocate a large sum for defense purposes while at the same time spend a large sum on welfare of the people? Umer Farooq discusses the welfare state promised by PM Imran Khan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is so persistent in advocating “Raiasat-e-Medina” as his desired objective that the cause has become his trademark-political slogan that has come to define his political philosophy.

Ironically, there has been no attempt on the part of Prime Minister Khan to explain his understanding of the concept of “Raiasat-e-Medina” and as to how the concept or idea would be implemented in a complex and increasingly urbanized and modern society of Pakistan.

“Raiasat-e-Medina” has remained a mere phraseology in the political world of Prime Minister Khan, who occasionally adds the words of welfare state to the existing phrase of Raiasat-e-Medina” in his public assertions—an act that only vaguely explains that Khan means his “Raiasat-e-Medina” to be different from the sharia state of traditional religious scholars who have been advocating strict “Islamic State”, which prescribes a strict moral code for its citizens.

Initially, the traditional Ulema in Pakistan never used the phrase ‘welfare state’ for their political project of “Islamic State”. They only came to attach this term to their project after coming face to face with Pakistan’s Marxist left in the initial years after Pakistan’s creation.

After coming to power in July 2018, many a times in his public assertions, Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed that the country under him has entered the final phase to build Pakistan on the principles of Riyasat-i-Madina. He defines this as “a society based on justice, compassion and the dignity of our human beings”.

In all these assertions, Prime Minister Khan hardly attempted to explain the concept or idea at the political level. What is common between his assertions and the claims of traditional ulema in the initial years of Pakistan was the high sounding adjectives both used to propound the concept and the idea, without making any attempt to explain the political philosophy behind the concept of an Islamic state.

The vague definition that could be found in Imran Khan’s assertions point towards some kind system of morality that in his words would ensure a society based on justice. How will political power be managed in such a society? How resources will be distributed in such a society? Both Imran Khan and the traditional Ulema in Pakistan are silent on these questions.

Explaining the concept of “Raiasat-e-Medina” as propounded by Prime Minister Imran Khan is essential for the purpose of clarity for two reasons, a) The original Raiasat-e-Media of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s time was completely different in structure and shape from the complex and highly bureaucratized modern state that is Pakistan—in so far as Pakistan state, like all modern states, is not only highly bureaucratized, it has codified laws which governor the society and state as well as clearly defined territory, while original Raiasat-e-Medina was not at all bureaucratized in this sense and had no clearly defined territory.

Therefore, it is absolutely necessary for anyone who wants to implement the principles, values and ideas from original Raiasat-e-Medina in any modern society, to come up with a detailed implementation plans.

  1. b) Secondly, the concept of a welfare state in its modern form, as mentioned by Imran Khan in his statements related to “Raiasat-e-Medina” is purely a western political concept with a well-defined history. Anyone who is propounding the concept of “Raiasat-e-Medina” will have to explain the link of welfare state with the strict moralism of an Islamic state as traditionally defined by Ulema in Pakistani society.

The project to define the contours of an Islamic state started right after the downfall of Mughal Empire in the Indian sub-continent. During British period this intellectual project took a definite shape as the Islamic scholars started to define the concept of Islamic state in the light of their interpretations of Quran, Sunna and Figh.

These interpretations were taking place in a colonial environment and under the influence of Western education and philosophies.

By the time of independence, religious scholars started to define two principles as the key features of an Islamic state—one is that Quran and Sunna and complex network of Fiqhs are to be the only source of law in the Islamic state. And second that some kind of consultations with those who are being ruled is an essential requirement of governance in an Islamic state. Quran and Sunna as a sole source of law have been conservatively adhered to in Islamic literature since the creation of Pakistan. However, Pakistani ulemas have changed their position with regards to the kind of political system an Islamic state should have according to changing directions of winds at the time. Sometimes they supported parliamentary system while at other times they advocated highly centralized presidential system.

Imran Khan’s discourse on Raiasat-e-Medina is totally devoid of any such debate on the type of system this state will have. The fact that Imran Khan right now is presiding over a parliamentary system could not be taken as an indicator of his preference as he played no part in choosing this system.

On the other hand, there have been strong voices from within his party to shift Pakistan towards a presidential system.

The fact that Prime Minister Khan has made no attempt to explain the concept and idea of Raiasat-e-Medina at the political and philosophical level could be taken as an indicator that he only wants to use this as a popular political slogan. Otherwise nobody can think about propounding a concept of a “State” without answering two central questions,

  1. a) how the political power will be managed in such an idealist state,
  2. b) how resources will be distributed among different sections of the society in such an idealist state.

Any serious political analysts will question Imran Khan whether he wants to introduce a new system of distribution of resources in the society under “Raiasat-e-Medina”. And whether he is not satisfied with the way political power is managed in present day Pakistan and whether he wants to introduce new rules and laws to manage political power in a totally different way?

Since independence, Pakistani ulemas have been campaigning to take control of Pakistan state, which, in their view, will enforce Islamic laws after they have taken control of the state and thus in the process they will make this state an Islamic state.

I think the biggest mistake, religious leaders made in the process, was that they didn’t realize the true nature and structures of post-colonial state that Pakistan was. This sate was not only oppressive it was callous and the Ulema wanted to use this same callous state machinery to implement the high moral standards that they claimed their interpretations of Islamic scriptures represented. The result was not the Islamization of the state but the process added to the callousness and oppressive nature of Islamic movements in Pakistani society.

Imran Khan is making somewhat similar mistake—he is presiding over one of the most callous, oppressive and exploitative state machinery in the region, yet he thinks that somehow he will transform this state machinery into a welfare state.

In western welfare states, the size of the subsidy given to the weaker segments of the society is larger than many of the central expenditures of the state. Unlike Pakistan—where state has always watched the interests of dominant social classes and institutions—in West the welfare of the population is the central function of the state.

Can Imran Khan arrange the re-distribution of resources in such a way that welfare funds exceed the 19-25 percent Defense budget allocations in Pakistan’s national budget? Does Pakistan have so many resources at its disposal to allocate a large sum for defense purposes while at the same time spend a large sum on welfare of the people?

At present, a little analysis will clarify that Imran Khan’s slogan of Raiasat-e-Medina or a welfare state is not even a good joke—it’s a cruel joke.

The question is if Prime Minister Khan cannot change the way power is managed in Pakistani society and resources are distributed in the society, then why is he raising this slogan of “Raiasat-e-Medina” or a welfare state?

The answers is Prime Minister Imran Khan belongs to that generation of Islamists and politicians in Pakistani society who has been completely depoliticized to the extent that this generation doesn’t think it is necessary to conceptualize the political problems of the society. For them, political problems don’t require a philosophical-political thinking for resolution. For them, politics is simply sloganeering.


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