THE PAKISTAN INSTITUTE OF STRATEGIC STUDIES, Islamabad, Pakistan, 24 March 1997
In his presidential address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947, Quaid-i-Azam Mohamed Ali Jinnah described the formation of this country as "an unprecedented cyclonic revolution," one that carried with it "the gravest responsibility." He outlined the project of the new nation, affirming that "the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the state." More importantly, he identified the ills of society that the new nation state must heal. He said one of the biggest curses from which the subcontinent was suffering was bribery and corruption. "That really is a poison. We must put it down with an iron hand." He added:"The next thing that strikes me is this -- here again it is a legacy which has been passed on to us -- along with many other things, good and bad, has arrived this great evil: the evil of nepotism and jobbery. This evil must be crushed relentlessly."
Anyone who recalls these words of the Quaid-i-Azam should be convinced that he is as relevant today to the entire Muslim world and other societies as he was to his contemporary countrymen. Jinnah's vision went beyond the birth of a nation state. His dream was immensely larger -- what he saw in his mind's eye was a civil society, the flower of a new society imbued with ethical precepts. The disease that he diagnosed is suffered by all societies and in some cases it is more grave today then it was in Jinnah's time. Corruption and nepotism are major impediments to social progress and economic development. They compromise justice and alter democracy into a concert for the few, the rich and the powerful. As for the many, they are as they were. Or worse, they are manipulated for the specific ends of the few.
If freedom or independent is to have any meaning, it must first of all restore to the common man his God- given dignity -- karamah al-insaniah. "Indeed, we have conferred dignity on the children of Adam." But an individual will not realize his intrinsic worth until he is liberated from feudal repression and unless his society is no longer governed by mores that perpetuate his sense of inferiority by dividing people into masters and servants. Only the democratization of education -- education made accessible to men and women from all social classes -- would pave the way to a general liberation of the mind. From an economic point of view, education is nothing less than an investment in human capital. And when it comes to generating growth, nothing is more critical than human resources.
However any effort to reform society and nurture the sense of self worth among the people would inevitably have to confront economic issues; for neither freedom nor dignity has any relevance in a society that has stabilized in a state of mass poverty. Freedom and dignity are noble ideals but their realization in society rests upon solid economic foundations. All too often economic stagnation, high unemployment and spiralling inflation are the causes of indignity and suffering. Even in prosperous society of the North, the humiliation of the blacks is rooted in their economic deprivation perpetuated by endemic racism.
It is for this reason that Muslim societies must turn their attention to economic matters. The fundamental economic policies that have been proven to result in prosperity and well being to the population are: the stimulation of growth by encouraging investment and entrepreneurship, the formulation of prudent fiscal policy to avoid wastage and the establishment of a credible monetary authority to combat inflation and to maintain a stable currency. By growth, we mean good growth, that is growth with equity, growth that builds solidarity, growth that enhances cultural identity, growth that promotes democracy and civic consciousness, growth that keeps the environment intact and above all growth guided by ethical precepts.
In any country, especially developing country, it is crucial that the government plays a dominant role in economic matters. While ensuring that its policies stimulate growth, the government must direct its resources towards battling poverty and providing humane living condition. An economy can be truly said successful only when there is a general improvement in the quality of life of the people, for hard economic indices alone -- such as the rate of GDP growth, and the level of domestic investment -- do not provide the full picture of the health of the economy. In promoting growth, it is not unwise to release the private sector from bureaucratic encumbrances but nevertheless the government must also require that companies balanced their pursuit of profit with a firm commitment to discharge social responsibility. A government that goes all out to promote private businesses must ensure, through laws and regulations as well as informal incentives and disincentives, that these companies behave as responsible corporate citizens. Our experience in Malaysia has shown that the profitability of conglomerates is in no way undermined by spending on education, training and housing for employees. In the last few years several top notch Malaysian companies have been competing with one another to fund social projects -- with moral suasion of course. They have come to believe that unless businesses show a human face society's backlash against their greed is inevitable. And a government that gives unqualified support to selfish businesses will also have to face the anger of the ordinary citizen. It is for this reason that in our privatization programmes, preference is being given to companies with a tract record of social responsibility.
The ability of a country to focus on economic development also depends on regional stability. Instability has a direct impact on economic policy, drying up precious funds for development. A large proportion of resources which could have gone into building infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and roads have to be diverted to military procurement to boost defence capability. Regional peace and development are inseparable. Our experience in Asean has demonstrated in the last three decades that before there can be development there must be peace with our neighbours. Asean came to existence out of our collective desire to have a stable region so that each country can pursue its domestic agenda of economic development. Bilateral problems must be settled through dialogue and we have not allowed our territorial disputes to interfere with the primary task of developing our societies. Occasional hiccups in our relations have not affected overall Asean solidarity and we continue to cooperate towards the improvement of the social and economic conditions of our people.
Pakistan was founded on the idea of Islam as a basis of nationhood. Islam indeed was the raison d'etre for the creation of Pakistan. When secularism was the reigning ideology of the educated classes, the courage of the people of Pakistan went against the spirit of the time, and was a source of inspiration to the rest of the Muslim world. But fifty years after the creation of Pakistan the rest of the world has become more sympathetic to religious expression and the appeal of secularism has been very much reduced. Even in Asian societies which proclaim themselves as secular there have been genuine manifestations of religious revival. In the West itself, where the so-called Enlightenment project gave birth to the idea that religion should be excluded from the public sphere, secularism has been deconstructed. Western societies are now more receptive to the moral voice, emphasizing personal responsibility, the family institution and other values which can issue only from the cultivation of a life of spirituality. However, while renewal of faith will induce our world to rediscover its transcendent dimension and embrace an integral moral vision, we must not be inattentive to some of its menacing manifestations. Fanaticism and extremism threaten societal stability. But violent sectarianism is a time bomb that will cause the disintegration of society.
In this regard, the challenge before Islam is indeed enormous for it is the one religion that has been consciously promoting renewal on a global scale in recent decades. It has to tame the wild beasts of sectarianism and tribalism in its midst. Together with authoritarianism, these are the greatest impediments to the formation of civil society within the ummah. Muslim societies must draw on Islam's universal character to tame these forces. We have to drive home the moral message of Islam, its message of justice and compassion, and strive for the realization of these values in our society. Islam must not be debased into an ideology to excuse injustices, to deny basic rights of the people, to perpetuate discrimination in society, whether against women or minorities, or to commit atrocities and violence on human lives and property. Nor should adherence to Islam justify anachronistic practices totally unsuited to making Islam and Muslims relevant in the contemporary world. This is one of the great insight of Allama Iqbal as expounded in the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam: "The ultimate spiritual basis of all life, as conceived by Islam, is eternal and reveals itself in variety and change. A society based on such a conception of Reality must reconcile, in its life, the categories of permanence and change. It must possess eternal principles to regulate its collective life;for the eternal gives us a foothold in the world of perpetual change. But eternal principles when they understood to exclude all possibilities of change which according to the Quran, is one of the greatest 'signs' of God, tend to immobilize what is essentially mobile in its nature. The failure of Europe in political and social science illustrates the former principle, the immobility of Islam during the last 500 years illustrates the latter."
The moral teachings of Islam, its vision of justice and compassion -- al-adl wal ihsan, are sworn enemy of feudalism, for feudalism keeps the landless and the dependant poor under a state of perpetual submission. But the beneficiaries of feudalism, the privilege classes, are no less harmed by this system. It subvert their moral sensibilities and corrupts man's natural goodness, thus leading them becoming into tyrannical masters. Entrenched feudalism will subvert democracy. It will become the reign of demagoguery, where the so- called the voice of the people, or rather the voice of the street, is nothing but the projection of the interests of the feudal elite. If there is any lesson we can learn from the social and economic history of Europe it is that it was the industrial revolution which brought about the final collapse feudalism. There were many ugly features of the industrial revolution, but it had liberated millions of men and women who otherwise would have continued to languish under the state of subjugation. Likewise it will be an economic revolution from agriculture to commerce and then industry that will transform the social structure of Muslim societies, the kind of transformation that will undermine tribal consciousness and regional rivalry and promote greater equality and growth of civil society. If Muslim societies desire such a transformation they must therefore shift their attention to the economic sphere, eradicating poverty and promoting growth and sustainable development. These are not secular endeavour. On the contrary they are the necessary vehicles for the realization Islamic ideals. Surely the moral vision of Islam presupposes the enlightenment of the Muslim mind, which would not be possible without universal education, eliminating illiteracy, ignorance and superstition. These happen also to be the social aims of economic development when it is guided by ethical considerations. Indeed the hope for the renewal and genuine renaissance of our nations and societies sigularly rest upon the convergence of aims and ideals, between the aims of the individual and the ideals of society, the aims of economic development and the ideals of ethical life, between the objectives of politics and the hopes and aspirations of the people.