Pakistan and the urgent need to revive Islamic governance

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Blogger Najm Al-Din says Imran Khan’s ousting as Pakistani PM must be an impetus for the Muslim world to pursue a union of Muslim states, independent of the West, Russia or China.

The recent ousting of PM Imran Khan has brought many of Pakistan’s historic problems to the surface.

Beset with corrupt governance and fragile civic institutions, an unaccountable bureaucracy has been an enduring hallmark of almost every administration which assumed power ever since the nation’s founding 75 years ago.

Amidst a rotten two-party system that has dominated Pakistan’s politics for decades, for many Khan symbolised a refreshing departure from the cronyism which typified much of the political establishment.

When sworn into office in 2018, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader was perceived by much of the country’s young population as an empowering alternative to the traditional political dynasties represented by Pakistan People’s Party leaders like Bilawal Zardari Bhutto and Pakistan Muslim League’s Maryam and Hamza Sharif.

Promising to upend the militarised state and undo the endemic corruption which plagued Pakistan for generations, the image of Khan as a trailblazing politician who would restore the welfare state and bring an embezzling elite to book persists today.

Despite inheriting a massive trade deficit, depleted foreign currency reserves and a broken taxation system, Khan’s brand of representative politics struck a chord with millions of Pakistanis who have protested the Supreme Court’s ruling which judged Khan’s move to dissolve parliament to be unconstitutional, thus spelling the end of his premiership.

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Old Guard

The latest saga in the country’s murky politics sees the ascension of previously indicted Shehbaz Sharif to office.

The brother of exiled three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his appointment as PM marks the ignoble return of the criminal syndicate which has erected structural barriers preventing the nation from any meaningful social and economic reforms.

In 2017, the Sharifs came under the spotlight after the Panana Papers leak implicated many family members in shady business dealings and offshore tax-havens, eventually resulting in PM Nawaz Sharif’s dismissal by the Pakistani Supreme Court.

The event was a humiliating reminder of the skulduggery which has haunted the nation and much of Imran Khan’s rise to prominence was based on these corruption allegations which allowed him and his party aides to consolidate their position.

Now that the family with a notorious history for misappropriating state funds is back in the fray, events of the past two weeks highlighted how Khan was very much handicapped by a system that is inherently rotten at the core. A system which is fundamentally unsuited to transparent governance and which rewards any politician with an iota of integrity with a vote of no confidence.


Systemic corruption aside, the shifting geopolitical sands in South Asia have likely contributed to Khan’s unceremonious departure from office.

His recent visit to Moscow amid escalating Russia-West tensions over Ukraine and commitment to strengthening Sino-Pak relations was lauded by many supporters as a catalyst for the nation’s economic recovery.

But in a region undergirded by great power rivalry, Khan’s stubborn refusal to kowtow to U.S. foreign policy and pledge to convert the nation into a central plank for China’s aspirations for global connectivity by integrating Pakistan with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) undoubtedly earned the ire of Washington, whom many have implicated in Khan’s dismissal in an attempt to stymie Chinese regional ambitions.

Shehbaz Sharif. Editorial credit: Habibullah Qureshi /

While previous governments burdened Pakistan with loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Khan was adamant that strategic relations with Moscow and Beijing would chart a fresh path to an independent and sovereign Pakistan, no longer under the yoke of predatory lending institutions.

Yet opinions of Khan as the pioneering politician who would extricate Pakistan from dollar dependency are disingenuous.

As much as he railed against Pakistan’s inglorious status as Washington’s economic pawn, the PTI’s promise of economic liberation left much to be desired with Khan presiding over a series of belt-tightening austerity measures which placed the nation firmly back into the clutches of American debt trap diplomacy.

Furthermore, the suggestion that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was a game changer which would reshape the economic geography of the region and lead to macroeconomic stability remains highly contested.

Being indirectly liable for CPEC expenditures has ensnared the country into circular debt owing to unforeseen contingent liabilities, while high interest loans collateralised against local resources calls into serious question the extent to which Pakistan’s relations with China can help drive sustained, rapid, and equitable economic growth in the future.

Now with Sharif at the helm and General Qamar Javed Bajwa reaffirming Pakistan’s important ties with the U.S., another wave of structural reforms dictated by Washington will simply prolong the economic subservience and boom-and-bust cycles that has left the nation encumbered with raging inflation and scurrying with a begging bowl for IMF bailouts.

The Khilafah

Amidst this quagmire, what can Pakistan do to restore its sovereignty?

It is true that Pakistan’s birth was conditioned by several factors and reducing it to a single cause would be an oversimplification.

However, the raison d’etre for its emergence was the desire among the Muslims of pre-partition India to preserve and foster Islamic values.

The Muslims of that region feared that their religious culture would become submerged in an India where Hindus could exercise the power of a numerical majority. This led them to demand an independent Muslim state consisting of those areas of undivided India where they constituted a majority.

Therefore, the Muslims of Pakistan should return to their primordial state by realigning the sentiments of the populace with Islam and restoring a functioning leadership via a Khilafah which is devoted to the comprehensive implementation of Islam as a deen.

It is important for the public to see through Imran Khan’s hollow invocation of Islam and acknowledge the chicanery of slogans like Riyasat-i-Medina which will never translate to sovereign control and administration of the country’s affairs.

The reality is that every single leader of Pakistan including Khan has been inextricably tied to nation-building projects which are largely premised on political philosophies that are antithetical to Islam such as socialism, neo-liberalism and pan-nationalism. This precludes any possibility for Pakistan to become a nucleus for the Ummah’s political aspirations.

Imran Khan. Editorial credit: Awais khan /

Operating from within the contours of the U.S.-led international rules based order, Pakistan has not been insulated from the intellectual underpinnings of western modernity which made deep inroads in the Muslim world to shape the history of the region since the beginning of the 20th century.

The net effect of this imposition of alien values and ideologies was the disintegration of the Islamic faith as an organic system, which sadly became a distant memory of a romantic past. What followed was the fracturing of Muslim unity, caused by a dissolution of spiritual bonds which historically connected Muslims in far flung corners of the earth to a Khalifah, eventually subverting the Ummah’s political allegiance.

It is therefore urgent for the traditional vanguards of the faith-the ulema-to impress upon the Pakistani public the sheer urgency of implementing the deen in its entirety, comprising its many and varied dimensions. Simply, the legislative, executive, judicial and military authority as determined by Islam can only be exercised under the institution of a Caliphate and any authority which is derived from outside of this framework is invalid from a Shari’ perspective.

Discussions on the political future of Pakistan which marginalise the concept of Khilafah to the fringes of the discourse will ultimately impede the country’s independence from colonial machinations and must be rejected from the outset.

Ultimately, the only Pakistan which Muslims should take an interest in building is one which functions as a springboard for the eventual reunification of the Hind region under a Caliphate.

Khan’s ousting must be an impetus for the Muslim world to develop a revived and reformed concept of the old non-aligned movement of the Cold War era, and pursue a union of Muslim states to create trade corridors across the Muslim world, independent of the West or global North, including the facilitation of travel, capital flows, and preferential investment agreements.

Otherwise, a return to the dynastic kleptocracies with a penchant for state-sponsored corruption will become an indelible feature of Pakistani politics for the indefinite future and the nation will continue to be saddled with debt and reduced to permanent vassalage.

Unless the Muslims of Pakistan can recognise the imperative for reviving a system of Islamic governance to organise its collective temporal affairs and serve as a bulwark against the aggressive posturing of imperial nations, the question of leadership and representation will dog forthcoming generations for whom independence and sovereignty has been elusive.

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