By Obaidullah Khan
You might see an illiterate man with a name Ilm Din or a poor lady with a name Dolat bibi. But you would not hear a right wing political party named as Communist Party or a left wing party with a name Islamic party. Name of a political party is to be suggested thoughtfully. It reflects its manifesto and popular tide it is planning to go with.
Our political arena is demanding a new political party. We need a party that not only can fill in the space our present parties have created due to their undemocratic, incompetent and one-man or one-family show approach, but also provide a new roadmap for the peace, progress and prosperity of our country. PPP is on its deathbed. PMLN too is old fashioned and unable to make this country a land of milk and honey. Imran Khan did come to the stage with a leading role to play but failed to do justice with the requirement of the character. It did try to occupy the gaps PMLN and PPP had created though. His whole success is an outcome of the failures of his opponents. He has been enjoying a place behind a bully pulpit and pointing at the faults and misdeeds of others without doing anything formidable himself. But at least he named his party sensibly. A name of secular nature that reflects the upholding of justice; the true and blind justice what Pakistan is aching for. Like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto he opted for a good name for his party indeed.
We are reaping a harvest of an extreme right wing politics that has been nurturing the extremist mindset. Bhutto introduced some socialist ideas into our national politics. At that time when there was a dire need to confront the right wing political parties whose manifesto was nothing but converting Pakistan into a theocracy. Despite the fact that Bhutto failed to keep balance afterwards and fell into the lap of the very same mullahs he stood against initially, PPP kept its identity as a central left party till the demise of Benazir Bhutto.
Pervez Musharraf is another potential candidate. After all he ruled this country for eight years when the country was going through trying times. Whether he can play a significant role in politics now is a debatable issue. Without going into that debate, I just want to discuss him for launching yet another party. But to my utter disappointment he named his new political party as APML (All Pakistan Muslim League). I did not expect him to make such a blunder in these days when communal politics is the least that Pakistan needs. Enlightened moderation has been Pervez Musharraf’s popular mantra. A progressive and inclusive approach in politics is the part of his manifesto he always speaks of. Then why did he think of a name that has no use of in the upcoming days. Does he also want to represent Muslims only? Do Muslims in Pakistan have any political or social concerns? No it is in fact the minorities that are suffering at the hand of the majority Muslims. Even Imran Khan and Bhutto had proven themselves nmore sensible in suggesting the names of their parties. He might have his reasons and logic to name his party after Muslim League. Or he might want to unite the already existing multiple Muslim Leagues. But I have some serious reservations against this name. The concept of a party named as Muslim League is an outdated idea. Why? Let me explain.
Pakistan was the outcome of a fruitful political struggle of a political party All India Muslims League. This party was purely a political party with all the ingredients of a progressive political party with a moderate agenda of representing a certain faction of society. That faction happened to be the Muslims. It was about the social and economic wellbeing of the Muslims of the subcontinent. The Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent were, as a matter of fact, comprised of a substantial political orientation. Although the diversity in the subcontinent had multiple ethnicities and cultures but the sole binding factor that constituted a common political orientation was their religion Islam. The subcontinent was and still is perhaps the most fertile ground for religion. Not only Islam, Hinduism was also the basis of the political orientation of the majority Hindus, except some low caste Hindus which were in a minority. Christian had their representation as well. So religion played a pivotal role in defining the political orientations at that time. As Ayesha Jalal has phrased it that religion was not used as a religion but as a mark of identification. Had Congress not limited itself to the communal politics and not become a spokesperson of the Hindus alone Pakistan perhaps would never have come into existence at all.
The pioneers of AIML named the party after Muslims and not after Islam. That is the fine line that must not be overlooked to understand the true manifesto of AIML. It was all about the political interests of the Muslims of the Subcontinent only. It had nothing to do with Islam or the Muslims all over the world. Therefore, the accomplishment of the goal of getting a separate country with majority of Muslims left us with no such issue that involved the vulnerability of the political rights of the Muslims. For that very reason Quaid e Azam delivered the remarkable speech before the Constituent Assembly on 11th August 1947 in which he told us that all such issues of Muslim or non Muslim identity had ceased to exist anymore. Muslims League, as a political party was a legacy we inherited. After the creation of Pakistan the name Muslim League was brutally exploited for political gains because it carried a revered legacy. The reason was to exploit the achievements of AIML for further political interests. Just as we have seen recently the addition of the name Bhutto in the names of the offspring of Mr. Zardari, merely for political gains.
But after the early demise of Quaid the true spirit behind the creation of Pakistan was faded away by the opportunist politicians and some simpleton ones who were not at the forefront of the movement. Thus they were unable to differentiate between the true motive of the creation of Pakistan and the role of religion in it. Vested interests did play their part as well. The Mullahs and other religious parties who were opponents of the Pakistan movement found their way in to exploit the naïve approach of many politicians and general public that was already unable to compete with Hindus socially, literarily and economically. The word Muslim in the name of the political party paved the way to turn a political issue into a religious one to be exploited politically. This resulted in a gradual decay of secular but moderate party into a right wing party. Eventually Pakistan and democracy suffered.
It is evident that the time of religion based politics which is responsible for creating rifts and sectarianism in our society is gone now. We need a new narrative. A narrative that should be based on Nationalism. Religion has no threat in our majority Muslim country; it is rather our nationalism that needs to be revived. Religion transcends the geographical boundaries. So addressing such an issue will provide strength to already dying religious based politics. So Mr. Musharraf, please refrain from giving us another Muslim League and do come up with some new, progressive and secular name for your party.