Connect with us


Significance of ‘La Ilaha Illallah’ in Pakistan’s Socio-Political Landscape?



Pakistan's Political Landscape

“La Ilaha Illalah insaan ko azaad kar deta hai.” (La Ilaha Illalah insaan sets a man free).”

This statement has been recurrently used by Imran Khan in his addresses, speeches, and interviews for over 26 years. While his adversaries & critics regard this as an attempt to “use religion” for political clout, there is indeed a strong significance that this statement holds in Pakistan’s political landscape. So how can Imran Khan’s constant ‘reminder’ of La ilaha illalah influence & fundamentally alter the political system, bringing about a political revolution in Pakistan?

A glaring fact about Pakistan is that the State is weak, but the society in its various forms is immensely strong. Anyone or group with the slightest power uses it to plunder the State for patronage & favours. This notion is reinforced by an informed description of Pakistan’s legal system which says, “…below the level of High Courts is all corruption. Neither the facts nor the law in the case have real bearings on the outcome. It all depends on who you know, who has influence and where you put your money.”

It is (partially) because of the State’s weakness that kinship networks have become the most important foci of people’s loyalty. The language of kinship permeates most of Pakistan, whether it is a matter of affection, responsibility, asking for favours or asking for protection.

In his book, ‘Pakistan – A Hard Country‘, Anatol Lieven writes that the weakness of the State goes far beyond the dependence on patronage for the survival of the governments. The State does not necessarily affect many people’s lives very much and the presence of policemen, judges & officials may make it look like the State is present, but much of the time these people are actually working – and sometimes killing – at the behest of whoever has the most power, influence & money.

Lieven further narrates what a Sindhi land-owning politician stated to him during his visit: “This is a hard country. You need family or tribal links to protect you, so that there are people who will stick with you and sacrifice for you whatever happens. That way you will not be abandoned even when out of government. The tribal people [give] even ordinary tribesmen some strength and protection against attack, whether by dacoits, the police, the courts – your tribesmen will get you out of jail, lie for you to the court, [and] avenge you if necessary.”

Consequently, Pakistan’s political landscape has been dominated by the politics of patronage and protection. The leaders of clans, with power and influence, can provide both patronage & protection against predators. Furthermore, they have formed alliances with the political parties and help them elevate to power. Once in power, they plunder State resources through rampant corruption to maintain the status quo. This marriage between the kinship groups and the Pakistani State has, over the years, become essential to the nature of each party.

In this context, Imran Khan’s constant reminder of La ilaha illalah holds immense value. He explains that through it, a man testifies that there is no God but One and that He alone holds the true command over everything: life & death, honour & humiliation; sustenance & livelihood.

And therefore, when a human grasps this concept in its entirety, he (or she) shall not be enslaved (mentally) to any worldly power, force, or authority. And therefore, the human shall be free from the mental chains that bound and restrict him from reaching his true potential.

This belief is of great significance. The prevailing system exploits the inherent weaknesses in humans; of fear & fright. If these emotions are overcome, and if decisions, especially voting, are not influenced by such fears, it can fundamentally change the dynamics of Pakistan’s political landscape.

Therefore, ‘La ilaha illalah’ isn’t just a platitude or a political slogan. It is an attempt to inspire a strong belief among people to overcome their fears. It is an effort to help them break out of the chains of (mental) slavery and become ‘truly free‘.