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Pakistan Crisis and what it means for Indian Secularism

Let the Pakistan crisis be a lesson for all who call themselves secularists.

The term failed state is explained by Wikipedia as a case where the state has been rendered ineffective.  Importantly, it must be unable to enforce its laws or provide basic goods and services to its citizens. Existence of factors (or combination thereof) high crime rates, extreme political corruption, an ineffective bureaucracy, judicial ineffectiveness, military interference in politics and cultural situations in which traditional leaders wield more power than the state etc. would broadly characterise a failed state.

Nevertheless, there is no real consensus on the precise definition of a “failed-State.” Various Government agencies and think-tanks often use their own indicators leading to a nebulous understanding of the term. Whatever be it, for most international observers, the fact remains Pakistan is by definition a failed State using any or all of these parameters.

Adnan Qaiser in a lecture delivered in December 2013 to the Montreal Branch of the Canadian International Council rightly maps the inherent risk posed by Pakistan. According to him “The international community is increasingly worried that if this national security state of 180 million people continues down a path defined by insecurity and extremism, it will eventually implode, not only destabilising the region but also undermining global security.”

Quoting various sources Qaiser goes on to explain, “The Institute for Economics and Peace has ranked Pakistan as the 5th most violent nation in the world” and adds, “Authorities on the country, such as the Brooking Institute’s Stephen Cohen, believe Pakistan to be “in a terminal decline.” Foreseeing its “failure in five or six years,” Cohen considers Pakistan to be “a deeply troubled state.”

To understand the basis for such paranoia when it concerns Pakistan one must realise that it is a country with seventh largest army and fifth largest nuclear arsenal. What makes Pakistan dangerously exceptional is that it has an undefined political hierarchy where every state player has a symbiotic link with the Taliban, Al Qaeda or some other global terror groups.

Further, a recent PEW research survey claims 84 per cent of Pakistanis to favour governance by Sharia law – which according to Qaiser is a telling indicator of the increasing radicalisation of Pakistani society even as over its 20,000 madarsas continue to fuel internal unrest, which in turn is exacerbated by the global fault lines between Sunnis and Shias.

But why did Pakistan fail?
Pakistan, let us not forget, is a product of two-nation theory. More to the point, the basis of Pakistan’s identity transcends territorial, racial, linguistic and ethnic bonds through the common bond of Islam, which according to them, makes them superior to followers of all other religions.

This belief is buttressed by the writings of Al-Beruni who, as early as in the beginning of the 11th century, observed that Hindus differed from Muslims in all matters and habits. He further elaborated his argument dissuading Muslims from having any connection with Hindus, not only through marriage but any other bond of relationship – an advice that is taken seriously by some Muslims even today.

Jinnah, it may be noted, was only putting the views of Al-Beruni in the middle of the twentieth century through the façade of the sophistry of an English-educated lawyer. According to him, Hinduism and Islam are two distinct religions with antagonistic approaches and therefore cannot coexist within a nation.

That is not all. Jinnah rationalised that Hindus and Muslims belong to two different civilisations whose very foundations are based on conflicting ideas and concepts. To maintain the purity of this religious identity, a separate land was necessary and hence he propounded the two-nation theory. Remember, Pakistan literally means the Land of the Pure.

Simultaneously, it was inconceivable to Jinnah and his cohorts, rooted to his Islamic idea of a state, to conceive even theoretically of a secular or a non-interventionist religiously neutral state. Put pithily, according to him, a state could be anything but religiously neutral.

That meant a Hindu majority India would in their assumption necessarily constitute a Hindu theocratic state and he feared the consequence – misuse of temporal power arising out of spiritual authority. What an Islamic state would do to its religious minorities, it was apprehended, the Hindu state would do to them. Hence to protect Muslims from a theocratic Hindu state formed out of a Hindu majority, they rationalised the necessity and hence the inevitability of Pakistan.

Explaining this idea, in his presidential address delivered to the all India Muslim League on March 22, 1940, Jinnah observed, “It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. It is quite clear that Hindus and Mussalmans derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes, and different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other and, likewise, their victories and defeats overlap. To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built for the government of such a state.”

So there were two separate but closely intertwined arguments by Jinnah and others – one the impossibility of co-existing together with the Hindus on the basis of religion and culture on one hand and the near probable physical threat to Muslims arising out of the Indian state becoming post-independence the Islamic version of a Hindu state on the other.

But will our seculars draw the right lessons?
Yet, despite bifurcation of India into a secular India and an Islamic Pakistan – it is an Islamic Pakistan, as we see now, is on the verge of an implosion where Muslims, not Hindus, are eliminating fellow Muslims. Did Pakistan fail its god or did god fail Pakistan?

Commenting on the issue of separation of spiritual and temporal authority, Samuel Huntington in his celebrated work ‘The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order’ comments: “Throughout Western history, first the Church and then many churches existed apart from the state. God and Caeser, Church and state, spiritual authority and temporal authority have been a prevailing dualism in Western culture.”

Now comes the part most relevant to our seculars: “Only in Hindu civilisation were religion and politics also distinctly separated. In Islam God is Caeser, in China and Japan, Caeser is God, in orthodoxy, God is Caeser’s junior partner. The separation and recurring clashes between Church and state that typify Western civilisation have existed in no other civilisation.”

In short, if at all there was a secular Government across civilisations – where temporal authority was completely delinked from religious underpinning – it was only in India throughout her history. More importantly, as pointed by Huntington it is only in the West there has been a clash between the Church and the state – and the bifurcation of the authority between the two is called secularism.

Strangely, this secularism, which is a medieval bifurcation mechanism of authority between Church and state is now sought to be the ultimate arbitral mechanism between the Indian state, majority Hindus and minority Muslims in post independent India!

Thus, while the world over civilisations arranged their temporal power through their religious moorings, Hinduism did not allow such a scenario to flourish in India. To this extent, traditional [and even post independent] India, thanks to Hinduism, has been secular – a fact denied by our secularists – even while swearing by secularism post-independence! So while secularism in the West is contrived, secularism in India, thanks to Hinduism, is genetic.

There is yet another dimension to this debate. While Pakistan’s national identity was Islamic, Islamic identity was increasingly becoming global. Yet in 1971 when Pakistan was bifurcated and Bangladesh formed, it was clear that Islamic nations have neither a national nor global identity. At best, partition of Pakistan and the current unrest within illustrates that Islam cannot forge any sustainable identity.

There are serious lessons for our secularists in all this. One, that an Islamic nation by itself is no guarantee for any peace to followers of Islam. An Islamic state is intolerant not only towards followers of other religions but also with followers of Islam too.

Second, one is not sure whether Islam allows for a restricted national identity or compels a trans-national global identity. If it is global, it dynamites the very idea of nation states. If it is national, it is incomplete. So Islamic Pakistan remains a vague idea – neither a nation nor a state. Consequently, Pakistan has to deny its history to define itself and sustains only through a hatred for everything that is India. And unfortunately that is its Achilles heel.

Third, India has been a secular country historically and would continue to be so not because of the Constitution but because of Hinduism.

Finally, by pleading to preserve the identity of minorities – read Muslims – our secularists are only rehashing the two-nation theory from Al-Beruni to Jinnah. India cannot afford such reckless adventurism on part of our secularists in her nation-building process. The time to integrate Muslims into a national identity is right now. And for that, the implosion of Pakistan provides a perfect setting.

http://www.niticentral.com/2014/09/04/pakistan-crisis-and-what-it-means-for-indian-secularism-237210.html

Last modified on Friday, 31 October 2014 12:19

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