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Returning to a “people-centred” ideology

Cross post from PakTea House

By Saad Hafiz:

It can be argued that Pakistan in its early years pursued Mr. Jinnah’s pragmatic approach to cope with its survival as a newly-formed state. Mr. Jinnah advocated an inclusive society based on shared values such as equality, justice and fair play. This common sense approach built on the broad principles of pragmatism served to stabilize a young nation. Many of Pakistan’s problems stem from the inability to sustain a shared socio-political vision of what ‘the nation’ stands for, as various leaders after Mr. Jinnah used all means of political and social engineering to emphasize a narrow partisan Islamic ideology and orientation for the country.

Generally speaking, different nations’ ideologies are influenced mainly by the standard of materialism and the intrinsic attitude of worldliness of man. Money and power that denote economic and political magnifications are main concerns of governance and in the same vein, of man. Hence, economics and politics are subjects of primeval consideration in ideology’s conceptualization and its normal decentralization. A successful ideology is the moving factor in cohering national values and outlining shared goals and can become one of the most essential elements that constitute the aspiration of a nation. It is the basic foundation of doctrine and sets direction and defines the desired behavior, emotion beliefs, attitude and opinion of a people. Consequently therefore, a successful ideological indoctrination could really positively develop people into practicing a way of life that presupposes an ideal political, economic and social reformation.

Deng Xiaoping, the pragmatic Chinese leader and a primary architect of China’s modernization and dramatic economic development, whose economic policies were at odds with the political ideologies of Chairman Mao Zedong famously said: “I don’t care if it’s a white cat or a black cat. It’s a good cat as long as it catches mice.” Deng argued for a pragmatic break with the near sacrosanct People’s Commune system—boosting peasant incentives by leasing land to them. This was the contract responsibility system that triumphed only 16 years later after the Cultural Revolution. Pakistan can certainly learn a lesson in pragmatism from their “all-weather friend” China and its wise leaders.

While Pakistan cannot afford a long debilitating ideological conflict it is becoming clear that a national consensus on a broader, more inclusive ideology is probably warranted to address the multifarious problems facing the nation. As one of the central questions facing Pakistan — and, indeed, the developing world as a whole — is why some people, or countries, move ahead, while others fall behind perhaps the starting point towards returning to a pragmatic national ideology is to ensure the primacy of free enterprise, democracy and equality of opportunity over a fundamental ideological orientation. The nation can then focus on progress in science, technology, politics, and economic organisation, to emulate the developed world. Some scholars — notably Benjamin Friedman, in “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth” — have suggested that economic development is often accompanied by greater tolerance, and a heightened commitment to democracy and social mobility.

For many an ideological discussion is not needed; in fact, it is treason to suggest that Pakistan is anything other than an Islamic state. This group will in fact argue that most of the nation’s problems are due to its rulers and society at large being not committed to Islam enough. This group also firmly believes that the ideology of Pakistan has its roots deep in history, stemming from the instinct of the Muslim community of South Asia to maintain their individuality in the Hindu society. Thus, Pakistan was created to become a fortress of Islam wherein the Muslims were enabled to order their lives in their individual and collective spheres in accordance to the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah. The country’s ruling elite has long sought to equate loyalty to Pakistan with fealty to Islam, labeling most serious expressions of dissent as un-Islamic.

The protectors of Pakistan’s religious ideology have often used “false flag” or covert tactics to discredit or implicate largely secular and progressive nationalist forces, create the appearance of enemies when none exist, or create the illusion of organized and directed opposition when in truth, the ideology is simply unpopular with society. Such processes grew starker under the regime of General Zia ul-Haq, as both juridical and other forms of state and social coercion multiplied so as to disseminate the official, Islamic viewpoint and silence all opposing stances. But General Zia and his policies are not an anomaly within Pakistan’s political development. They are a natural outcropping of the government’s use of political Islam as state ideology.

Be that as it may but most observers would agree that the crisis in Pakistan is not simply political or military. It involves ideas and identity. Pakistan has been plagued by an unresolved search for national identity. Is it to be a heterogeneous and pluralistic Muslim country or a doctrinal Islamic state? The country should allow a debate on the replacement of its so far unsuccessful centralized religion underpinned ideology with a decentralized inclusive ideology revolving around economic and social progress. This may require an alliance of sorts between democrats and ‘moderate’ Islamists based on democracy, freedom, human rights, equality, tolerance and diversity.

Hopefully, a wiser ideology focused on poverty alleviation could soothe the burning effects of military adventurism, violent insurgencies and other civil strife that has brought about death, destruction, national disintegration, economic depredation, social injustice, and human rights violations. It may also strengthen a Pakistani polity that is increasingly fragmented along political, class, ethnic, sectarian, religious, and urban/rural lines.

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Vision 21 is Pakistan based non-profit, non- party Socio-Political organisation. We work through research and advocacy for developing and improving Human Capital, by focusing on Poverty and Misery Alleviation, Rights Awareness, Human Dignity, Women empowerment and Justice as a right and obligation. We act to promote and actively seek Human well-being and happiness by working side by side with the deprived and have-nots.

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