Dilemma of an “Islamic” Republic


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Every year while celebrating National Day or Independence Day, many Pakistanis express bafflement as to how a State purportedly created in the name of ‘Islam’ is juxtaposed with the term ‘Republic’. They wonder how a Parliament, where the majority is not that of theologians, enacts laws on Western model, and yet claims that Shariah Is supreme. In the Western world, ‘republic’ is considered a State that precludes monarchy and clergy. In our context, the predominant view (though totally misconceived) is that divorced from religion, politics is “changezee” (chaos, anarchy and disorder). 

جلالِ بادشاہی ہو کہ جمہوری تماشا ہو
جدا ہو دیں سیاست سے تو رہ جاتی ہے چنگیزی 

What Allma Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, a great poet and philosopher who also presented the idea of separate homeland for the Muslims of the Sub-continent, in fact, has emphasised in above couplet, is that ethics (here deen is misconstrued as religion) contained in the holy Quran should be part and parcel of governance, but clergy interprets it that politics should only be in the name of religion. They conveniently ignore the first stanza of the couplet. If both stanzas are read together, the idea that emerges clearly is that whether it is monarchy or democracy, governance sans ethics is “changezee”. 

The contentious issue since the adoption of ObjectivesResolution of 1949 has been what Shariah is. In a fragmented society marred by sectarian divisions, even to the extent of hatred (not merely genuine differences over interpretation of Islamic laws), this has become a permanent source of conflicts with claims and counterclaims on how to run the State.  

Ziauddin Sardar (born in Lahore and left Pakistan in 1960 at the age of nine, now author of not less than fifty books with world-wide acclaim of a public intellectual specialising in Muslim thought) says that “if you equate Islam with state, then religion becomes a reason of the state and that state becomes the power of religion. Basically you produce a totalitarian system”. 

Ziauddin Sardar further elaborates that the very idea that “Islam is equal to state is a totalitarian equation. We don’t have to go very far; we just have to see recent history. Wherever Islam has been equated with state, we have produced totalitarian systems, like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Afghanistan, you name it”. Of course, Saudi Arabia is now moving fast to come out of this syndrome—though it will take some time to totally exclude clergy from State affairs. 

According to critics of Objectives Resolution, it was a departure from the ideals of Quaid-e-Azam of equality for all citizens and his principles of fair governance. Using it as a ploy, they say that all governments managed to convert Pakistan into an exploitative State where ultimately the Shariat Court held land reforms against religion. According to them, Quaid-e-Azam did not want to make Pakistan a theocratic state.

Objectives Resolution, was passed by the first Constituent Assembly on March 12, 1949 under the leadership of Liaquat Ali Khan. It is, undoubtedly, one of the most important documents in our constitutional history. It served as preamble for the constitutions of 1956, 1962 and 1973,and eventually became part of the 1973 Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan [“the Constitution”], through the Constitution (Eighth Amendment) Act, 1985

The proponents of Objectives Resolution claim that it confirms the true genesis of Pakistan by reiterating,“Sovereignty of the entire Universe belongs to Allah alone and authority should be delegated to the State through its people under the rules set by Allah”.Therefore, it has become a blend of Islam and Western democracy.  

Liaquat Ali Khan explained the context of the Objectives Resolution in his speech delivered in the Constituent Assembly on March 7, 1949 claiming it to be “the most important occasion in the life of this country, next in importance only to the achievement of independence”.He said that we as Muslims believed that authority vested in Allah Almighty and it should be exercised in accordance with the standards laid down in Islam.  

Objectives Resolution, as a preamble, according to Liaquat Ali Khan, made it clear that “the authority would be exercised by the chosen persons; which is the essence of democracy and it eliminates the dangers of theocracy”. The events that followed proved him wrong as clergy started asserting its own authority instead of that of Allah by saying “religion is what we interpret as”.  

The logical outcomes of the Objectives Resolution were: (a) movement against Ahmadis, (b) clergy’s campaign against Ayub Khan’s regime in the name of Islam, (c) support of religious parties and right wing to military crackdown in East Pakistan culminating into dismemberment of the country and (d) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s compromises with the religious leaders. The matter did not end there. It paved the way for an 11-year dictatorial rule of General Ziaul Haq, with his legacy reflecting in Nawaz and Musharraf and which is still haunting us—the militants and terrorists derive their ideological strength from the notion that real authority rests with Allah and they are waging jihad to make Pakistan a true Islamic polity.  

Objectives Resolution, being part of 1973 Constitution, though emphasises existence of a Muslim State based on the principles of justice and equity for all, yet it contradicts the concept of a State having no sectarian connotations. 

Shariah cannot be free of sectarian biases, thus, we cannot reconcile the two conflicting ideas. For example in Indonesia, the debate whether you can have an Islamic state was a long drawn one with much depth, and they finally came to the conclusion that Islam and politics are linked, not through the state but through a civic society. It means that if you are a socially-conscious Muslim, you ought to bring your own moral and ethical outlook, express it openly in a civic context,debate and discuss it. Obviously, this has nothing to do with declaring Islam as State religion. The idea of Islamic state has to be construed innovatively to create a civic society and not a state religion through constitutional command as done by us through Objectives Resolution. 

Dr. Iqbal Hussain Qureshi, known as. I.H. Qureshi, the chief author of the Objectives Resolution, a well-known academic historian, admitted “Resolution was quickly prepared and passed ‘in a snap’ at a meeting of the Muslim League Party”. At the time of presentation of Objectives Resolution, Pakistan was not Islamic Republic. Its structure was republican, fully in line with the Indian Independence Act of 1947. After becoming “Islamic Republic”, we have miserably failed to reconcile these two conflicting objectives. The concept of an “Islamic State”logically calls for decision-making in the hands of ‘pious ones’ certified so by the clergy!

We must learn from Bangladesh where the Supreme Court,while reconfirming the State as secular pluralistic constitutional democracy, barred use of religion in politics. We have yet not admitted the fact that dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 exploded the myth that the “real” purpose behind creation of Pakistan was the establishment of an Islamic State. The two-nation theory, based on the foundation of religious divide of Hindus and Muslims, received irrecoverable setback when the Bengalis were maltreated by the ruling elite of West Pakistan that ultimately led to the division of the so-called Muslim state—proving that socio-economic factors, and not religion, play decisive role in politics.  

It is well-documented by Dr. Ajeet Jawed in her well-researched book Secular and Nationalist Jinnah that Quaid-i-Azam wanted a secular Pakistan. Throughout his political career, he struggled against both Hindu and Muslim extremists. After independence, the feudal class with the help of its cronies—bureaucrats, clergymen and men in khaki—soon managed to hijack the new state and converted it into Islamic Republic (sic)—a mere nomenclature whereas the system remains quite un-Islamic.Islam does not permit feudalism and concentration of wealth and its main stress is on the empowerment of the have-nots.

Even in the very beginning, these classes tried to tamper with the famous speech of the Quaid, but failed to do so as Dr. Ajeet revealed in his book: “it was allowed to be published in full only after Dawn’s editor, Altaf Hussain, threatened those who were trying to tamper with it to go to Jinnah himself if the press advice was not withdrawn”.

For building a secular Pakistan, Dr. Ajeet writes, Quaid sought the help of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, because, as he said in his letter to Badshah Khan, he was “surrounded by thieves and scoundrels” through whom he could do nothing. With a mass of evidence, Dr. Ajeet has established that Quaid remained a secularist and nationalist up to the last moment of his life. Thus attempts to make Pakistan an ‘Islamic Republic’ is a great betrayal.

Late I. A. Rehman, outstanding journalist and intellectual, summed up the entire debate aptly in an article, Jinnah’s new Pakistan is possible, as:Those who wish to save or reconstruct Jinnah’s Pakistan will do well to avoid following the Quaid’s actions that were determined by time and circumstance… in order to progress Pakistan must continue to be defined by a firm commitment to constitutionalism and the model of a welfare state, sovereignty of the people, and equal rights for women and members of minority communities…it is necessary to retain Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan, subject, of course, to changes in details demanded by contemporary realities…. All those interested in building this Pakistan must realise that they will not be successful without going beyond the August 11 speech and that state-building cannot be done by think tanks alone”.


Dr. Ikramul Haq
Dr. Ikramul Haqhttp://www.thescoop.pk
Dr. Ikramul Haq, Advocate Supreme Court, specialises in constitutional, corporate, media and cyber laws, ML/CFT, IT, intellectual property, arbitration and international taxation. He holds LLD in tax laws with specialisation in transfer pricing. He was full-time journalist from 1979 to 1984 with Viewpoint and Dawn. He served in the Civil Services of Pakistan from 1984 to 1996. He established Huzaima & Ikram in 1996 and is presently its chief partner as well as partner in Huzaima Ikram & Ijaz. He studied journalism, English literature and law. He is Chief Editor of Taxation. He is country editor and correspondent of International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD) and member of International Fiscal Association (IFA). He is Visiting Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and member of Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). He has co authored with Huzaima Bukhari many books that include Tax Reforms in Pakistan: Historic & Critical Review, Towards Flat, Low-rate, Broad and Predictable Taxes (revised & Expanded Edition, Pakistan: Enigma of Taxation, Towards Flat, Low-rate, Broad and Predictable Taxes (revised/enlarged edition of December 2020), Law & Practice of Income Tax, Law , Practice of Sales Tax, Law and Practice of Corporate Law, Law & Practice of Federal Excise, Law & Practice of Sales Tax on Services, Federal Tax Laws of Pakistan, Provincial Tax Laws, Practical Handbook of Income Tax, Tax Laws of Pakistan, Principles of Income Tax with Glossary and Master Tax Guide, Income Tax Digest 1886-2011 (with judicial analysis). The recent publication, coauthored with Abdul Rauf Shakoori and Huzaima Bukhari is Pakistan Tackling FATF: Challenges & Solutions available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RXH8W46 and https://aacp.com.pk/product/pakistan-tackling-fatf-challenges-solutions/ He is author of Commentary on Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements, Pakistan: From Hash to Heroin, its sequel Pakistan: Drug-trap to Debt-trap and Practical Handbook of Income Tax. Two books of poetry are Phull Kikkaran De (Punjabi poetry 2023) and Nai Ufaq (Urdu 1979 with Siraj Munir and Shahid Jamal). He regularly writes columns for many Pakistani newspapers and international journals and has contributed over 2500 articles on a variety of issues of public interest, printed in various journals, magazines and newspapers at home and abroad. X: (formerly Twitter): DrIkramulHaq


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