After 62 years of independence, Pakistan’s raison d’etre and the role of Islam in government are still debated. The crucial question that divides liberals and conservatives in Pakistan is whether Pakistan was founded to be an Islamic state or a secular state for the Muslims of India.

I recently ran into a report commissioned by the Government of Punjab in 1953 concerning the riots against the minority Ahmadi sect. It is probably the most thoughtful and eloquent document ever published in Pakistan about the role of religion in the Pakistani state. It also discusses the dangers of martial law, which the Government of Punjab had easily declared during the riots; the habit of reverting to martial law would, in subsequent decades, unravel democracy in Pakistan.

On defining a Muslim, a requisite for defining an Islamic State:

Therefore the question immediately arises : What is Islam and who is a momin or a Muslim ? We put this question to the ulama and we shall presently refer to their answers to this question. But we cannot refrain from saying here that it was a matter of infinite regret to us that the ulama whose first duty should be to have settled views on this subject, were hopelessly disagreed among themselves.

And on the two irreconcilable visions of the country:

It is this lack of bold and clear thinking, the inability to understand and take decisions which has brought about in Pakistan a confusion which will persist and repeatedly create situations of the kind we have been inquiring into until our leaders have a clear conception of the goal and of the means to reach it. It requires no imagination to realise that irreconcilables remain irreconcilable even if you believe or wish to the contrary.

The report also delves into the purpose of the state and the meaning of life.

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