Maulana Aziz is not the first one to ask for ‘shariah system’ in Pakistan. It all started when the rulers of our country ceded space to the right-wing forces. After the creation of Pakistan, the politico-religious parties that had opposed the very idea of a new Muslim state then started projecting themselves as the rightful custodians of the infant state. The induction of the Objectives Resolution in 1949 in the constitution laid the foundation for religious forces to intervene in state affairs.
“The ulema (religious scholars), many of whom had opposed the Pakistan Movement tooth and nail (and some who had supported it), were nevertheless united in trying to give the constitution an Islamic character…The divergent views of the ulema and other members of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan (CAP) about the definition of an Islamic state created much confusion in this regard. ‘Prolonged and futile discussions on non-issues, such as shura-based Khilafat [caliphate], trans-territorial pan-Islamic remedies and democracy versus Islam, all blurred the real issue of framing a constitution for establishing an efficient and accountable government’” (Iftikhar H Malik, State and Civil Society in Pakistan: Politics of Authority, Ideology and Ethnicity, p.35).
The rising strength of the mullahs was quite perturbing for the progressive forces in Pakistan, especially the Left. Renowned leftist Mian Iftikharuddin’s newspaper, Imroze, voiced a dissenting note against this and asked if it was not time that a democratic system should be established in Pakistan.
It was argued in the same newspaper that since Islam does not allow the exploitation of the peasantry, should capitalism’s and feudalism’s undemocratic values not be reformed. The Pakistani elite and extremist forces were not happy with such ‘difficult’ questions. No wonder the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) was banned in 1954.
As I had argued in my last column, Pakistan needs a strong Left to counter the military establishment, the ruling elite and the religious extremists because the word ‘nationalism’ is frequently equated with religion. For many, the ideology of Pakistan and Islamic ideology are interchangeable phrases. Indeed, there is a powerful clique of religious parties and their supporters within the military establishment as well who are sympathetic to the jihadist cause. This culture of jihad is deeply woven into the national fabric — cleansing the country of terrorist nurseries is not an easy task, but we have to do it if we are to save our country from falling into darkness.
Pakistan needs to join the rest of the world by secularising its society and strengthening its political structure. Such an effort would suffer a great setback if the extremist factions continue to flourish. Pakistan has to choose clearly and unequivocally between wiping out the terrorist organisations or face serious repercussions in the long run. These organisations are not only harmful to the country’s image internationally but have done colossal damage inside the country.
We do not need fanatics like Maulana Abdul Aziz to tell us how to set things right. What we need is a strong, progressive democratic system. It is time that we change our parlance and speak the universal language of peace and prosperity.