Undoubtedly, Pakistan is now a “democracy”, that is, the Western style democracy where the elections are held, people vote, and the people losing power accepts it without much fuss.
One corrupt leader and party is being replaced by another corrupt leader and party. But there is a difference. The incoming party had the blessings of the Taliban, that is, they refrained from hurting their candidates. The same treatment was not accorded to the outgoing party-it was openly threated with violence. Due to this, the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) suffered a loss of seats and candidates. The Karachi based MQM (Muttahida Quomi Movement), and ANP (Awami National Party) were the other parties who suffered because of Taliban.
All the three parties are secular.
The term “secularism” was coined by George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906). Secular politics means that politicians don’t use religion in politics. Secularism can be applied to other things too, including our daily life-that is, not invoking God, gods, and goddesses, or scriptures, and other religious things during our interactions.
Mohamamad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), the creator of Pakistan, started his political career as a secularist and a moderate who wanted to be a “Muslim Gokhale”. Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866-1915), one of the senior leaders of the Indian National Congress Party, was considered a mentor by Jinnah. Gokhale praised Jinnah thus: “He has true stuff in him and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity.”
But Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) was not so kind to Jinnah during their first encounter. Jinnah welcomed M. K. Gandhi wholeheartedly in 1915 in a welcoming ceremony arranged by the Gujar Sabha. How did Gandhi thanked him? By reminding Jinnah and all those present over there about Jinnah’s religion, “glad to find a Mahomedan not only belonging to his own region’s Sabha, but chairing it“.
Jinnah was born in a Muslim family but was not a practicing Muslim. From his lifestyle, his dressing, his looks, his name (he preferred and used his name as “M. A. Jinnah”), his consumption of alcohol, and his language (that is, he preferred to use English language), he could be mistaken for either a South Asian, an Arab, a Latin American, or a Southern European.
Jinnah was absolutely against mixing politics with religion and he tried his best to do that for a long time; but then he failed to do so against Gandhi’s mixing of religion with politics. Then he himself used religion and created Pakistan in the name of Islam but he remained a secularist till his death. Later in his political life, he used Islamic vocabulary, Indian Muslim clothing, and tried to attend prayers, but he never turned a communalist. In 1943, he had asked the reporters not to bring up the issue of Sunni, Shia, or Ahmadi Muslims. He emphasized that his party, the Indian Muslim League, was open to all , including the Ahmadis.
Contrary to popular presentation of Jinnah as a soldier of Islam, he remained a secularist who had just used Islam as a tool. If he was a soldier of Islam he wouldn’t have tried till the mid 1940′s for the unity of India. He would have grabbed, as soon as possible, whatever little territory he would have been able to get from the British to create Pakistan to spread Islam and jihad.
The Indian Subcontinent is made up of many nations. The outcome of the recent election in Pakistan has made that too obvious. Each nation for itself and God for herself. The Punjabis in the province of Punjab voted for a Punjabi Nawaz Sharif. Sindhi Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP is now restricted to the province of Sindh. Pashtun Imran Khan’s PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) party won in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. (Dawn for details.)
Relations with India
Sharif’s victory has gotten a good response in India. Sharif, who wants improved relations with India, has asked the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to attend his inauguration.
In the Province of Sindh, the two major parties (PPP and MQM) who wants better relations with India should try to pursue on their own to do so by increasing trade and other such initiatives.
Right now, obviously Sharif, who has been prime minister twice before, is the winner. But then the Taliban and the other Islamic militants who who were careful with his and Imran Khan’s parties are the winners too. And it can stay that way, provided, Sharif introduces more Islamic laws making the Taliban and Islamists happy but making people’s life more miserable. The chances are that it will be like that, unless Sharif has the courage and the power to go after the Taliban and the Islamists.
B. R. Gowani can be reached at email@example.com