The question which has been raised repeatedly since the creation of Pakistan has been whether Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted a homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent or to establish an Islamic state.
These two strands have been treated in a mutually exclusive manner and have been made a question of either/or especially by those who were opposed to the establishment of an independent state as envisaged by the Muslim League in the run up to 1947. These sections, or political parties or groups had their own version of what the Islamic State should be like, mostly culled from a model that was embedded in some kind of normative framework. It did not synch in with the historical forces that had unfolded over time and poised themselves for another decisive turnover with the imminent departure of the British from India. Those espousing the Islamic State had not believed or taken part in the democratic process, the defining path that called for the end of colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent.
The question of the establishment of a state that is a historical construct could only have been possible if it was the consequence of some kind of a revolutionary act, an outcome of a political entity that had come into being through violence. And there were many attempts of crafting political entities in that manner but they all seemed to have either failed or had fizzled out in the process of their galvanisation.
During the course of the twentieth century, besides politics that was being informed by religion, other forces as well drew their inspiration from socialism and communism in the fulfilment of the twin objectives of political freedom from foreign rule and freedom from exploitation of certain classes.
But both these movements or political manoeuvrings did not realise their logical shape as the democratic process laid down during the course of the twentieth century became the chosen path — in achieving independence by the two largest communities living across the length and breadth of the subcontinent. So it was divided or partitioned informed by the religious groupings but as realised through a democratic process. The democratic process itself was the ark that sailed people through the storm.
The abandonment of this path was the real failure as far as Pakistan was concerned. It saw the rise of those forces that were not enamoured by the democratic process but were as if possessed by the idea of an Islamic State as they had conceived it. And during the course of the history of the new country, these forces gathered strength and were placed as an option or an alternative. With every failure of the state of Pakistan, this option was entertained with renewed vigour and faith.
That this would not have happened if the democratic process had continued uninterrupted is a question that can be studied in its proper perspective if the example of India is taken into consideration.
India with its uninterrupted democratic process now has a government which is questioning the very foundation on which the edifice of an independent India rests. The majority of the people are for the first time poised to question and, in the next stage, to decide about the fundamental principles of the Indian state. What if they do that? Will it be considered the failure of the founding fathers who had laid down the principles and values on which the country had gained independence and then build its polity as an independent state among the comity of nations?
According to Farooq Ahmad Dar, Jinnah chose the path of democracy in setting up a homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent but other forces during the sixty odd years have gagged the assumptions on which he may have rested his arguments. The biggest challenge to those assumptions may have come from the Indian Republic itself. It is to be seen whether India keeps its democratic soul intact based on diversity and pluralism or that it cuts the branch on which this nest is built by opting through democracy for the enforcements of a more uniform system which drives others to the margins and be discriminated against.
Jinnah’s Pakistan has suffered due to lack of democracy and the people not choosing a system for themselves, and India may have failed due to democracy itself. The final outcome unfortunately rests on what India does for itself. As always it is India that will determine the right and wrong of Jinnah’s Pakistan.