The Godfather of Pakistan

Ayub Khan and the military brass, still steeped in Sandhurst culture, made clear their dislike of Maududi and his sociopolitical agenda.  He dismissed the mullah as an enemy of modern education, and for him the success of Pakistan lay in its ability to modernize. In a famous speech to a gathering of Deoband Ulema who had migrated to Pakistan, he said that Islam had started as a dynamic and progressive movement, but now suffered from dogmatism: “Those who looked forward to progress and advancement came to be regarded as disbelievers and those who looked backward were considered devout Muslims. It is great injustice to both life and religion to impose on twentieth century man the condition that he must go back several centuries in order to prove his bona fides as a true Muslim.” The speech was included in an anthology of Ayub speeches published by the Pakistan government in 1961.

Ayub Khan tried to dilute theocratic elements in his 1962 Constitution, even going to the extent of removing ‘Islamic’ before the “Republic of Pakistan”. More significantly, he dropped the direct reference to the Quran and the Sunnah in the Repugnancy Clause and altered the phrase to an assertion that no law should be repugnant to Islam. His intentions were evident when the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance was promulgated on 15 July 1961. It created a referral body for arbitrary divorce through instant talaaq: anyone who remarried without permission from the Arbitration Council faced a years’ imprisonment plus a fine of Rs. 5000. Ayub Khan wrote in his autobiography that polygamy had caused “immense misery to innumerable tongue-tied women and innocent children” and ruined thousands of families by “the degenerate manner in which men have misused this permission,”to marry more than once.

Ayub Khan did not, or could not afford to, argue with the principle that the “ideology of Islam” was crucial to the survival of Pakistan, but Ayub Khan’s Islam was a mechanism for a social revolution, not tired dogma. When he proposed a six-point programme for his party, the Muslim League, in 1966, the purpose of Islam was defined thus: “Inculcate it and make it play a positive role in attaining unity, and higher spiritual and moral values. Also make it the prime mover in attaining our objective of progress, prosperity and social justice. Help the needy and poor personnel, organizations on government basis.”

Just two days later, on 6 September, he comments bitterly on the Jamaat-e-Islami’s campaign against him, centered on “the family law which has brought so much relief to the poor women, orphans and helpless people, and the family planning scheme. The idiots or rascals are calling these things anti-Islamic . . . they are the deadliest enemy of the educated Muslim. They cannot bear such people being the leaders and have the responsibility of running the country. In the name of Islam, they are dead against progress and society having the right to think for it. Their religion and philosophy has not the slightest affinity with the true spirit of Islam.”

On 5 September 1968, Ayub Khan notes, with regret, the resignation of the director of the Islamic Research Institute, Dr. Fazlur Rehman, whose scholarly work, Islam, published by the Oxford University Press, and written for an European audience, provoked Pakistan’s mullahs into calling him an enemy of the faith. Dr. Rehman held two press conferences to explain. Ayub Khan writes: “These clarifications would have satisfied any honest critic, but the mullah, who regards any original and objective thinking on Islam as his deadly enemy, was not going to be pacified. This sort of argument is just the grist he wants for his mill. Meanwhile, the administrators at the centre and the provinces got cold feet. Some of them must have persuaded the doctor to resign. He must have also got frightened. After all, it is not easy to stand up to criticism based on ignorance and prejudice. So I had to accept his resignation with great reluctance in the belief that he will be freer to attack the citadel of ignorance and fanaticism from outside the government sphere. Meanwhile, it is quite clear that any form of research on Islam which inevitably leads to new interpretations has no chance of acceptance in this priest ridden and ignorant society. These people will not allow Islam to become a vehicle of progress. What will be the future of such an Islam in the age of reason and science is not difficult to predict.”

Perhaps, in the context of what happened to Pakistan in the next three decades, the last few sentences need to be heavily underlined.

Maulana Maududi declared war against Ayub Khan’s Constitution the moment it was made public. He summoned the Markazi Majlis-e-Shura (Central Council) in the first week of august 1962 and passed resolutions against the government’s Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology, the family laws ordinance, the Pakistan Arts Council, the Girl Guides, cinema halls and the import of books deemed to be critical of Islam. Maududi’s anger against Ayub Khan persuaded him to join the National Democratic Front created by Suhrawardy on 4 October, merging the pro-democracy and pro-Islamic platforms. Ayub Khan retreated. ‘Islamic’ was restored to the name of the nation in 1963, and political parties permitted to function again.

The military regime soon discovered that ‘Islamic’ had one invaluable use, in the confrontation with ‘Hindu’ India. ‘Islamic Pakistan’ had an array of virtues, including true faith and martial prowess; India’s secularism was concocted by ‘Brahmins’ who used cunning to compensate for innate cowardice. India’s defeat in the 1962 war against China confirmed such timeless prejudice, and Ayub Khan could never resist asking any Indian he met after the war, with barely disguised pleasure, ‘What happened to the great Indian army?’

Courtesy: Tinderbox by M.J. Akbar, Harper Collins Publishers India, 2011

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