There is not much debate or even concern about what was the vision of the founders of Pakistan. What type of state they had in mind when they struggled of an independent country that we call our homeland, Pakistan? In answering this question, we will assess whether or not we have been driven by that vision and how we have shaped our system of governance. The Muslim intellectuals, thinkers and social reformers that contributed to the idea of Muslims being a separate political category in India were essentially modernist, rationalist Muslims.
They wanted the Muslims to acquire knowledge of new sciences and empower themselves economically and politically. Their central objective was rights of the Muslims and their share in power under the British colonial system. They understood how the world had changed, and accordingly they thought the best tools for Muslim empowerment were modernity, education, politics of rights and peaceful struggle for accommodation of their interests. Jinnah and many other leaders of the Muslim communities in the subcontinent were products of post-reissuance modern world.
Unlike European modernists all varieties of nationalists in the colonial world had more difficult task of building a modern nation in a traditional, Islamic cultural climate. The question then and now for modernists is how to reconcile modernity with religion and social structures. Muslim modernists from Sir Syed Ahmad Khan to Jinnah wanted modem education, science and technology and political forms and institutions without offending religion. Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan in this respect has four salient points.
We can judge where does Pakistan stand today in the light of these four ideas. 1: Constitutionalism First and foremost, Jinnah was quintessential a constitutionalist. The term and its underlying philosophy is so foreign to our rulers that they have really disabled themselves intellectually to seek guidance from him. What it really means in modern political theory is that a civilized system of governance must function within the boundaries of laws. There must be limits on the exercise of power which is primarily meant to serve national and public interest.
This is one of the central themes of philosophical debates that have defined the system of state and the relations between political authority and the society during the past three hundred years or so. Jinnah had thoroughly and profoundly internalized constitutionalism at a very young age and this defined all his politics in his long career. Actually constitutionalism is what separates the pre-modern and the modern world system. It gives dignity to human beings in rooting the ideas of freedom, civil rights and social capacity to force the government to stay within the limits of laws.
2: Supremacy of law and independence of judiciary. Philosophically as well as in practical politics these are basic norms of good society and good politics. Jinnah’s political orientation and practical life were perfect reflection of these two ideas of the modern world. Let us not forget that Jinnah was one the most distinguished, outstanding and powerful defender of rule of law and independence of judiciary. These two institutions are intertwined.
It would be absurd to think of rule of law without the independence of judiciary, Building one of these institutions independently is not possible. They grow together; the development of one strengthens the other. 3: Personal liberties and freedoms These constitute third important flank of Jinnah’s political ideology. His political struggle first at the platform of the Indian National Congress for home rule, independence and rights of minorities, and later on throughout the Pakistan movement was based on universal human instincts of freedoms and civil rights.
It would be unconceivable in any situation that the battle for national independence could be fought without the recognizing individuals’ right to make their own choices. This is an important notion that transforms them from subjects of a colonial administration to a citizen of a modern nation state. 4: Representative Democratic Government. The ideas we have briefly mentioned above give rise to the representative government, another facet of Jinnah’s political philosophy. Such a government is in our view a defining characteristic of the modem form of authority.
It answers some fundamental questions about how political power in a society like Pakistan is to be organized, and for what purposes to be exercised in modern times. Jinnah couldn’t think of any other system for Pakistan except a constitutional, democratic government. Have we succeeded in realization of Jinnah’s Vision? How do we measure up to some of these basic political principles of Jinnah today? We have mixed record at best on shaping Pakistan according to Jinnah’s ideas. We have elected governments at the moment and we had had them before.
But many a times we disrupted growth of democracy. For that reason, the checks and balance system among the institutions of the state remains troubled and respect for constitutionalism weak. We have not sufficiently debated the reasons for repeated deviation from the constitutionalist principles and ‘rule of law’ tradition of our founders. We know they are too many, as no single factor can explain it sufficiently. They are essentially rooted in stubborn feudalistic culture, class character of the ruling classes and an alliance between the electoral elites and the rulers in the past.
Contrarily, people at large and the rising middle classes of Pakistan and even a large section of political groups have struggled for democracy, which as a political system is manifestation of the political vision of Jinnah. Against all the problems we have today, they want democracy in substantive terms because the procedural or electoral democracy has turned the system into personalized, autocratic form. It is why it is not fully alive to the problems of the people or responsive enough to the needs of the society.
In my view, we face multiple challenges of bad governance, political confrontations and terrorism because we have not shaped our state and political institutions, including the political parties, according to the modernist, liberal vision of Jinnah. In these times of rising despair and despondency, we can set Pakistan on the course of stability and development by embracing ideas and vision of Jinnah, which in nutshell are; liberal democratic state of Pakistan.