Basics of a Narrative

(Mehr Ispahani, Peshawar)

The true narrative of Pakistan was advocated by the Muslim League leadership and others associated with it in the first decade of independence. They acknowledged the relevance of Islam to nation and state building because they had advocated a new nationalism as alternate to the Congress-led, secular-one nation nationalism by invoking Islam as a mark of their national identity and an instrument of political mobilization. This narrative assigned the highest preference to representative governance, constitutionalism, the rule of law and equal citizenship. The true grand narrative placed the highest premium on monolithic and state-security dominated nationalism with the slogan of one religion, one Quran, one state, one nation and one national language.

We can identify various scenarios of the present and future of Pakistan in the statements of political leaders and writings of intellectuals and analysts.
1. The true grand narrative
2. The regionalist scenario
3. The Islamist vision
4. The Jihadi Pakistan
5. Islamic-sectarian Pakistan
6. New Pakistan
7. Jinnah’s Pakistan.

The original grand narrative of Pakistan was advocated by the Muslim League leadership and others associated with it in the first decade of independence. The grand narrative of monolithic top-directed state system was questioned by political elite with strong roots in provinces.

There is a common trend to interpret Quaid-i-Azam’s statements according to the need of the speaker, and his statements and words are given new meanings in order to support one’s point of view in the contemporary political discourse. If Jinnah has used the word “Islam” or the “Quranic principles” or the “Sharia”, no effort is made to understand the context of his comments and what he actually meant, given his intellectual and legal orientations. Rather, the person invoking Jinnah interprets his words or statements in a manner that strengthens his current political agenda.

Neither Jinnah nor the Muslim League resolutions in the pre-independence period argued that a separate state was needed because Islam was in danger in British India or Islam would be obliterated in united independent India. Jinnah talked of the concern and anxieties of the Muslims.

The narrative of the present and future of Pakistan and its attendant slogans were evolved by conservative and orthodox Islamic circles, especially Islamic parties and groups that wanted to assign a central role to Islamic teachings and principles in governance and societal affairs.

The notion of “Jinnah’s Pakistan” overlaps with the original grand narrative. The major focus is on the political discourse of Quaid-i-Azam and the resolutions of the Muslim League in the pre-independence period. Both projected the establishment of Pakistan as a homeland for the Muslims of British India in order to protect and advance their socio-cultural identity, rights and interests.

The advocated worldly political, social and economic demands of the Muslims in his famous “Fourteen Points”, his discourse on constitutional issues after his return to India in 1934 and the speeches made at the Lahore session of the Muslim League (March 1940). Subsequently he focused on protection and advancement of the political future of the Muslims of British India.

Pakistan’s conservation lies in implementing Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan in letter and spirit.

Suicide is un-Islamic, but this obscure extremist narrative has made it Islamic on the non-Islamic basis that since the suicide bombers die in the cause of Islam, they go straight to jannat. They the killing of innocent people in suicide bombings on the self-serving fatwa that good Muslims among the victims would go straight to jannat and the not-so-good Muslims, naturally, straight to hell.In order to roll back the gains made by the extremist narrative so far, and save Pakistan from imminent chaos, we need to develop an equally forceful counter-narrative. And this counter-narrative needs to be articulated from a political platform by politicians of known integrity and credibility.

One such method is to isolate the extremists by appealing directly to their supporters and potential supporters with a counter-narrative, offering them a life free from hunger, disease and ignorance; a life free from insecurity; and a corruption-free society where everyone is equal before law. It is, no doubt, a tall order.

‘Islam is a religion of peace. Therefore, the people who carry out terrorist acts, especially those targeting places of worship and academic institutions, can’t be Muslims. Such dastardly acts are the handiwork of foreign forces, which are inimical to Islam and Pakistan for being the sole Muslim nuclear power state.’

Besides, in a country where Islam is already the state religion and where the population is predominantly Muslim, what danger does Islam face to warrant such tactics as being employed by the Taliban. If such an assumption is conceded, state and society will have to condone any offence committed in the name of religion – be it the killing of non-Muslims and members of other sects, setting on fire places of worship or attacking education institutions for being nurseries of a liberal, progressive Pakistan.There is a need to go beyond slogans and adopt definite measures to improve the quality of life for the common people. Other visions and narratives of Pakistan will lose their attraction only if Pakistan is genuinely transformed on the basis of the principles enunciated by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

They are being treated as concrete subjects, but what about the existence of their ideology?

You need to step upon their ideology. This ideology not only abides in the remote dens of faraway hills, but exist everywhere all around us. One has only to make a round of a school, college, seminary or office, to come upon many who sympathize with their views.

This is ideological propaganda and some have been carried away by it. Producing a robust counter-narrative at the national and international levels, which unmasks this groundless ideology for what it is.

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