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Debating Quaid's vision.

Byline: Atif Hussain

The problem with being objective in Pakistan is the same. Prejudices, more often than not, take precedence over things like common sense and objectivity. Resultantly, happening to be a Pakistani, concerning most matters, you are, in all likelihood, either zealously bigot or utterly bewildered (I am usually the latter, by the way). That holds true in all matters of little, moderate or vital importance; in individual as well as collective lives of Pakistanis.

A classic example is the most heatedly debated question for well over half a century now of Quaid-e-Azam's vision for the country he founded. There exist two such drastically different opinions that one is at a total loss to comprehend how is it even possible to have such opposite interpretations of something which is supposed to be inherently unambiguous. Where one school of thought asserts that he wanted it to be a theocratic state of sorts, the other avers that he had a vision for a secularly democratic one. Both have got their arguments which anyone would find plausible should one study them separately disregarding the opposite.

But the same two sets of arguments in juxtaposition would appear half-truths at best and drivels at worst.

One would naturally expect that opinion about Quaid's vision for Pakistan would be based on an objective study of his entire life and philosophy. But even a superficial examination would reveal that both the opinions are based on a few truths and a lot of wishes. Suppressing every sense of academic fidelity, prigs and prima donnas from both extremes find a few words from Quaid's speeches and embellish them to suite their own interests.

True that a lot of allusions to Islam, its history, its principles, its teachings and the need to rediscover its true spirit can be found in Quaid's speeches but to think of him as a religious leader in the popular sense committed to creating the sort of the religious state idealized by our present day far-right-wingers will require a complete disregard for the way he lived his personal life, the reasons he abstained from taking part in the Khilafat Movement for, the way he showed an unending practical belief in and support for constitutional and democratic ways for change and, of course, the speech he made on August 11, 1947.

Similarly, to say that he supported absolutely no role for religion in affairs of the state, the idea favored by our secularists, one will need either to turn a complete blind eye to whatever - and that is not in a small amount - he said about Islam or admit that he was a hypocrite like any other politician who kept mentioning Islam for political gains -which, obviously, he was not. Even the worst of his enemies would not say he was.

Truth here, it seems, is somewhere in-between the two extremes, like it almost always is. He most probably had a vision of a truly democratic state where, instead of pre-imposing non-religiosity, religious ideals of the majority of the population would be allowed to get reflected in their legal structure and social order.

Having said all of that, for all practical purposes, one wonders, why should this question be debated as a matter of life and death on prime time TV shows and editorial pages of newspapers in harsh tones and not as a mere academic question in history journals and dissertations with some scholarly soberness? At a public level, should we not engage ourselves in a more constructive debate about what we should do from hereon instead of wasting our energies in debating what Quaid wanted and thereby not only adding to the confusions of the public but also making Quaid himself controversial in the process?
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Publication:Frontier Post (Peshawar, Pakistan)
Date:Feb 24, 2014
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