Pakistan Ideology: Sources & Features


Ideology of Pakistan is one of the most intellectually misunderstood and politically misused concepts in Pakistan. Some persons equate it with Two Nations Theory which was the basis of creation of Pakistan while others bracket it with Islamic Ideology. Both are not true.

This essay attempts to dispel the above myth by explaining the historical context of Pakistan Ideology with particular reference to its sources such as Islamic moorings, founding fathers’ vision and people’s preferences as embodied in the constitution. It then highlights the main features of Pakistan ideology that is bedrock of the statecraft as well as the way of life of the citizens of Pakistan

Historical Background

Pakistan came into existence as an independent state on 14th of August 1947 as a result of dissolution of British Indian Empire. Main reason for the emergence of Pakistan was the failure of the dominant Muslim elite of British India in extracting sufficient constitutional guarantees from their counterparts, namely dominant Hindu elite for a substantial share in the political decision making once the British left India.

They rightly or wrongly, depending on which side of the political fence you are, feared that in the absence of these safeguards, the Muslim minority would gradually lose its cultural identity and would become a politically and economically marginalized underclass, another subservient caste, a second-class citizens in a predominantly Hindu India. These perceptions had been reinforced by the step motherly treatment Muslim masses got during the brief Congress rule in the provincial governments which it formed after the 1937 elections-a foretaste of things to come.

In order to succeed, every movement of this magnitude needs some sort of emotional underpinning to arouse the passions of the general public for ensuring their maximum participation. Religion, race and language have been common battle cries throughout history in this respect. However, use of Islam as a battle cry for Pakistan Movement was more to do with objective realities than a deliberate choice of the leaders of the movement.

That’s why the Pakistan Movement, though couched in religious terminology, was basically a movement by the downtrodden Muslim community of India to safeguard their socioeconomic interests and fulfil their dreams of improving the quality of life in a country where they could live according to their cherished dreams.

In order to press for their demands, they used the term Two Nations Theory which provided them a moral narrative and political justification for the geographical division of India on the basis of the claims of the Muslims of India of being a separate nation, not a community, and hence entitled to have a separate state.

Interestingly, it was their last option, not the first choice as is evident from the acceptance of Cabinet Mission Plan by the Muslim League when a last-ditch effort was made by the British to leave a united India as their legacy,

Need for Pakistan Ideology?

After the creation of Pakistan this battle cry lost its relevance as there were no two nations now in Pakistan as everyone, whether a Hindu or a Christian or a Muslim, was a Pakistani. This was very eloquently explained by the founder of Pakistan in his famous 11tyh August speech in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. There was, thus, a need for a new political narrative for two reasons.

Firstly, continuing with the Two Nations Theory as the cornerstone of Pakistan’s existence created problems at conceptual and practical levels. If the purpose of the Two Nations Theory was to achieve a separate homeland for the Indian Muslims, insistence on continuing with this Theory as the cornerstone of new country’s ideology meant that the creation of Pakistan had failed to achieve its objective. Secondly, it would leave an open ended option for any minority within Pakistan to demand for separation, citing cultural, religious or ethnic persecution as justification.

Consequently, a need was felt for a new political narrative to serve as a gelling bond for the millions of people living in a state geographically divided in two wings, both of which were separated by 1000 miles of hostile country. At the same time, it should be an ideal which could unite a nation, providing its citizens a world view and a vision along with a set of rules for leading their lives. Accordingly, the First National Educational Conference held in November 1947 recommended the propagation of Pakistan ideology which over the period of time has evolved and is the national narrative of the country.

Sources of Pakistan Ideology

Michael Hunt defines ideology as, “an interrelated set of convictions or assumptions that reduces the complexities of a particular slice of reality to easily comprehensible terms and suggests appropriate ways of dealing with that reality.”  It is a neutral term, meaning any idea which unites a nation, providing its citizens a world view and a vision along with a set of rules for leading their lives. In that sense, Pakistan like every country has an ideology, set of ideas about its reason to be, its dreams, the way it likes its society, polity and economy to work. It has four sources of inspiration.

  1. Islamic Moorings

Islam, which was used as a battle cry for the creation of Pakistan, is obviously the bedrock of Pakistan Ideology. As Islam prescribes a complete code of life for Muslims including their personal life, guidance for social relations, economic ethics and political conduct, Pakistan ideology draws heavily from this source. It also provides them a world view and norms of behaviour toward other countries.

However, Pakistan ideology, though heavily borrowing from this eternal concept, is relevant only to the extent of Pakistan in relation to its internal conduct and external relations. We should not equate it with Islamic ideology which has a universal relevance in terms of time and space. Pakistan is a nation-state, a country with definite geographical boundaries containing a nation within those territorial limits.

In contrast, Islam is a religion which is above these human constructs and brings into its fold a universal following. Islamic Ideology is immutable; Pakistan ideology is subject to change, capable of reinterpretation in the light of objective realities.

  • Founding Fathers’ Vision

The vision given by the founding fathers during the freedom struggle and after its successful completion is the second source of Pakistan Ideology. They certainly wanted the country to be guided by Islamic principles but never wanted it to be a theocracy to be run by some mullahs asserting their right to rule under divine authority. In this connection the views expressed by the founder of Pakistan in his interview to Reuters in 1946 serve as the guiding principles of Pakistan Ideology;

“The new state would be a modern democratic state with sovereignty resting in the people and the members of the new nation having equal rights of citizenship regardless of their religion, caste or creed.”

  • Constitutional Obligations

Constitution of Pakistan is the third source of Pakistan Ideology. In fact, its Principles of Policy such as Islamic way of life, democratic form of government, full participation of women, protection of family, protection of minorities, promotion of social justice and economic wellbeing of the people, and strengthening of bonds with the Muslim world and promoting international peace are the basic pillars of Pakistan Ideology.

  • Global Commitments

Last source of Pakistan’s Ideology stems from its being a responsible member of international community in general and being one of the founding members of the United Nations in particular. It is a signatory to large number of global and regional conventions and treaties which have been ratified by the Parliament and implanted through proper legislation.

Features of Pakistan Ideology

Based on the above sources we can discern the following elements as the prominent features of the Pakistan Ideology

  1. Islamic Identity

Pakistan is a Muslim state on account of her overwhelmingly Muslim population; as such Islam will remain the fundamental source of her statecraft, social relations, business dealings and foreign affairs. Islam will occupy the central place of polity, economy and the society like Christianity is the bedrock of European countries despite all their pretensions to be secular states. Good governance as enshrined in the holy Quran and exemplified by the pious caliphs as the guiding principle of state but in no way it will be a theocracy

  • Respect for Fundamental Human Rights

Being a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations, state respects the dignity of a common man by giving him voice, empowering him and providing him social justice. Principles of Policy of Pakistan’s Constitution incorporate all the clauses of this Declaration. In this connection the role of the women is of utmost importance as emphasised by the founder of the country;

“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless their women are side by side with them…It is crime against humanity that our women are shut up with in the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.”

  • Quality of Life

Throughout the history, the overriding objective of every state has been to improve the quality of life of the common citizens by meeting their basic needs at affordable cost. Pakistan tries to ensure the constant improvement in the quality of life of its citizens through sustainable and inclusive growth whose gains are distributed equitably among all the regions of the country and all the sections of the society

  • National Cohesion

Pakistan Ideology gives a vision of a just and prosperous Pakistan to all the various nationalities, communities, sections and regions to create stakes for everyone to feel satisfied in a united, federal Pakistan.

“Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be as Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of the individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

It strives to mainstream the marginalized sections and disgruntled elements of society by ensuring good governance at different levels of interaction and taking affirmative action on selective basis where needed

  • Peaceful Coexistence

Peaceful coexistence is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s Ideology as far as conduct of its foreign policy is concerned. While reserving its right to defend its territorial integrity and national sovereignty, Pakistan is a peace loving nation-state, acting responsibly in global and regional affairs. In this connection, we follow the advice of the Quid-e -Azam in letter and spirit

“Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation. We believe in the principle of honesty and fair play in national and international dealings and are prepared to make our utmost contribution to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world. Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed peoples of the world, and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

  • Democratic Governance

Pakistan owes it creation to a democratic struggle and as such liberal democracy as envisioned by its founding fathers is the one of the most important pillars of Pakistan Ideology. It strengthens the democratic dividends by promoting true political culture (of tolerance and accommodation), strengthening its democratic structures (of parliaments, election commissions,) and letting the various democratic processes (of holding elections at federal, provincial and local levels) continue uninterruptedly


It has become fashionable among a section of our intellectual elite to make fun of Pakistan Ideology without realising that every country has an ideology that defines the parameters for its statecraft. There is nothing wrong with using the word Pakistan Ideology nor there need any to be apologetic in believing in it which basically provides a set of world view for the citizens of Pakistan-Muslims and non-Muslims alike in the light of its special historical context, geographical location and contemporary socio-political compulsions, internal and external.

From the ebook “Pakistan Studies: 20 Essays” by Shahid Hussain Raja

Published by Amazon

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