August 14, 1947: Quaid-i-Azam’s vision of democracy in Pakistan

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by Muhammad Imran Ali

The Indian Independence Act, 1947 gave birth to two countries, Pakistan and India. Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day on 14 August 1947. Quaid-I-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the architect of Pakistan led the freedom movement for the socio-economic development of the Muslims in South Asia. At the thirtieth annual meeting of the Muslim League, held in Delhi in 1943, he declared that the goal of the Pakistani movement was to establish a “popular government” which would not allow feudal and capitalists to prosper at the expense of the people. Only such a government could create a society in which the well-being of the people is consciously sought as the main objective of social policy. He said that the State of Pakistan would be a State where every citizen has the same privileges and also shares all the obligations that a Pakistani citizen is entitled to.

Quaid-i-Azam made it clear in a Broadcast Talk to the People of the United States of America in February 1948, that:

“The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type embodying the essential principles of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in cultural life as they were 1300 years ago. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of man, justice and fair play to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan. In any case, Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Parsis but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizen will do and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”

Quaid-i-Azam firmly believed in his commitment to democratic governance. Democracy was the kind of government he believed in, with everything democracy involving: elections, fundamental rights, government and opposition, adult franchise and the State’s responsibility to its citizens. On May 21, 1947, in an interview with Reuter’s correspondent, Quaid said:

“The Government of Pakistan can only be a popular representative and democratic form of Government. Its Parliament and Cabinet will both be finally responsible to the electorate and the people in general without any distinction of caste, creed or sect, which will be the final deciding factor with regard to the policy and program of the Government that may be adopted from time to time.”

Quaid explained his concept of democracy in his speech made at Sibi Durbar on February 14, 1948 in the following words:

“I have had one underlying principle in mind, the principle of Muslim democracy. It is my belief that our salvation lies in following the golden rules of conduct set for us by our great lawgiver, the Prophet of Islam Muhammad (Peace be upon Him). Let us lay the foundations of our democracy on the basis of truly Islamic ideals and principles. Our Almighty has taught us that “Our decision in the affairs of the State shall be guided by discussions and consultations.”

In his address to Gazetted Officers at Chittagong on March 25, 1948 he said:

“You have to do your duty as servants; you are not concerned with this or that political party; that is not your business. It is a business of politicians to fight out their case under the present constitution or the future constitution that may be ultimately framed, you therefore, have nothing to do with this party or that party. You are civil servants. Whichever gets the majority will form the government and your duty is to serve that government for the time being as servants not as politicians. It is up to you now to act as true servants of the people even at the risk of any minister or ministry trying to interfere with you in the discharge of your duties as civil servants.”

In an Interview with a representative of the Associated Press of America, Quaid said:

“The theory of Pakistan guarantees that federated units of the national government would have all the autonomy that you will find in the constitution of the United States of America, Canada and Australia. But certain vital powers will remain vested in the central government such as the monetary system, national defence and other federal responsibilities. Each federal state or province would have its own legislative executive and judicial system, each of the three branches of government being constitutionally separate.”

The basic and most important principle of Quaid’s good governance was that the country’s political institutions should be democratic. Democracy has a number of important features, such as free and fair elections, media, education, an independent judiciary, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and tolerance. Free and fair elections are a precondition for a successful democracy. Free and fair elections mean that all citizens have equal access to the electoral process and to secret and free elections. The role of the mass media is critical to the success of democracy and good governance. The role of the media, newspapers and television is very important in raising public awareness as free media encourage citizens to participate in politics. Education is at the heart of democracy and is vital for its survival in human society. Independent judiciary is considered a fundamental requirement of democracy. It guarantees timely and fair justice for all citizens of society, regardless of their status or privileges. The independence of the judiciary is characterized by the rule of law with equity and justice. A democratic government should not restrict the differing voices, views and opinions on public and political issues. In a democratic state, every citizen must be free to practice its chosen religion. It also means that every citizen has the right to worship in public or in private.

Democracy is seen as the backbone of the government system, as an essential part of the economic, political and social development of the state. It is impossible to govern without good governance, rule of law, independence of judiciary, equal citizenship and without any religion-based discrimination. Democracy is a broken promise in Pakistan that has been questioned since its inception.

Quaid’s principles on all essential vital issues are available to the Pakistani leadership for a secure future. But even the basic national motto “Unity, Faith and Discipline” has always been ignored and Pakistan has become a fragmented society, a fragile politics and a system which crumbles over the years. Therefore, the future of Pakistan should be shaped by the principles and aspirations put forward by its founder. It is a vision of a moderate, modern, tolerant, progressive and democratic Pakistan.

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