Saturday, January 23, 2016

The predominance of clergy in Pakistan

It’s always been argued that there is no clergy among the Muslims. Is it so? Not the least! In fact, there is all the ‘required’ evidence available to defy this claim. Regardless of the positions and interpretations the Muslim scholars advocate in this respect, there always existed and still exists such a body of religiously ordained persons who use their authority in worldly as well as other-worldly affairs of the Muslims. Even if there is no Muslim Church like the Christian Church, the Principle of Clergy for all the practical purposes is the same in Muslims. It may also be added that unlike the Christian Church, where a uniformly organized clergy or popery exists, in Muslims though the same institution does not exist in the same manner, the principle of clergy does exist religiously in an un-organized and politically in an organized manner. Hence, what’s important is not the institution, but the principle of clergy that’s predominant in Pakistan!

In Europe especially, the clergy used to exert unflinching influence on political as well as public life. It’s the same sway which gave rise to the historically well-know tussle between the state and the church. As the institution of the state could not make any headway under the burden of the clergy which had its own axe to grind, it tried to extend its writ by freeing itself from the clutches of the clergy. In fact, it was gradually that the clergy ceded its control to the state represented by kings. To see how fierce the struggle was and how the kings brought things under their control, one may look into the details of the murder of Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury.

As Ian Jarvie, a philosopher, dubs Reason as a jealous God, which tolerates no other authority questioning its authority, in the same manner in political philosophy, state is termed as the association of associations, which tolerates no other association up and above its position. Actually it’s in the nature of the concept of the state that it allows for no other authority, whatsoever it is, to question its writ. In that sense, and logically too, it represents the ultimate authority, and if it’s an ultimate authority, by implication no other authority can override its control. In other words, it means the state monopolizes the process of law-making and its implementation which indispensably involves violence. That’s the essence of the conflict between the state and the church which Europe witnessed during the middle ages. It was only after it got freedom from the clergy’s clout that the state started moving towards evolving just rules and laws.

Let me venture to say that the same conflict is being waged in Pakistan (and in other Muslim countries also). In this case, it’s a conflict between the principle of (Pakistani) state and the principle of (Muslim) clergy. Even during the days of Sultanate and Mughal Empire, Muslim clergy tried to direct the state represented by kings. Under the British, its influence waned, and it went into a state of recoil. With time, it reacted, resented, and then exhorted Muslims to wage Jehad against the British. More to it, it was as frantic in snubbing the individuals and groups whose efforts focused on liberalizing the rigid regime of clergy and weakening its clout. When the prospects of one constitution to be agreed upon between the Muslim League and Congress dwindled, the Muslim clergy found sufficient room to exercise its influence upon Muslim political and public life once again. That’s how what’s known as the Movement for the attainment of Pakistan got baptized; the clergy tried hard to sort of hijack it. However, the real act of hijacking the state ensued when the real state of Pakistan emerged in 1947.

It’s this background that eclipsed the process of the making of the constitution in early Pakistan. The two crucial issues which constantly proved to be a stumbling block were the political and religious character of the constitution. The former manifested the pre-partition dynamics of Muslim League’s politics in Sindh, Punjab, and NWFP, i.e. how it got them to support its cause. Now in Pakistan, the Muslim League failed in offering them a viable political bonding. The latter issue, the religious character of the constitution reflects the clout of the Muslim clergy immeasurably exercised by it though it had no matching representation in the legislative body. See the details of the debates both inside and outside the various legislative organs regarding the religious character of the constitution: Whether it was a ploy of the politicians and political parties that they made use of the clergy to secure their interests and appeased it or the clergy was so potent and enjoyed so popular a base in Pakistan that in the end it succeeded in obtaining a place for the principle of clergy in the constitution; and thus it defied the principle of the state.

So far as the 1973 constitution is concerned, nothing changed with it either. The principle of clergy in Pakistan remained as forcefully effective as it was earlier. In contrast, and consequently, the principle of state proved as ineffective as it had always been. With time, instead of weakening, the principle of clergy became stronger, and resultantly the state went weaker and weaker so that what we have today is a limping state creaking under the burden of the Muslim clergy’s agenda. It’s no place to visit how the principle of clergy strengthened in Pakistan; and as for who is responsible (politicians or military) for its rise by way of, for instance, unduly appeasing it. Two things stand un-denied. In spite of deriving its support from a devoutly religious Muslim population, the Muslim clergy completely failed in converting its religious following into its political following, i.e. its politics failed it miserably. That means it’s politicians and political parties which allowed it to have a field day in Pakistan.

In the end, it may be concluded that for the state of Pakistan the fateful moment will come only when it decides to free itself from the ravages of the principle of clergy, and set itself to evolve just rules and laws in order to protect life, property, and freedoms of its each and every citizen!

Note: This article was completed on January 26, 2015.

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