All sorts of fears and apprehensions shroud Pakistan’s future on the birth anniversary of its founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Dec 25). As we move on from one phase to another, it seems all the same—an ongoing tug-of-war between military establishment and democratic forces. With the dawn of electoral democracy in 2008 following the supreme sacrifice in blood given by martyred Benazir Bhutto, it seemed to be a positive turn around. However, ten years down the road, it does not seem to be so.
Tug-of-war continues in its various manifestations. With the sword of uncertainty hanging on the head -- whether the second elected government would complete its tenure or not — is a question being openly debated by the quarters that matter. No doubt Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has once again come out with categorical assurance that no harm would come to democracy from the army, there is wisdom in the advice that democracy is not only game of getting elected but also dispensation of good governance within the parameters of the Constitution, rule of law and exercise of sovereignty through Parliament.
It is regretfully noted that whatever its founding fathers wanted Pakistan to be — it has been further waylaid. Instead of moving on the agenda of establishing egalitarian, liberal, progressive and secular Pakistan, there seems to be a deliberate design to unleash myopic forces of bigotry as clearly reflected in the NA-120 by-election and recent 3-week long dharna laying siege to federal capital by representatives of dark forces. Main streaming of terrorists is the sinister name of the game -- a multi-faceted exercise in deception and there would be more of confusion in the run up to the elections.
This article in its entirety should have been confined to remembering the Quaid on his birth anniversary (Dec 25) and in showering on him routine of ritualistic tributes overloaded with rhetoric sans substance. However, the situation is more alarmist and threat to MAJ’s stature is expanding in a very dangerous magnitude. In India there seems to be change of heart among academics who now feel convinced that MAJ was a secular leader — a real ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity as he was once popularly called, it was Indian National Congress’ communal politics that led to the partition of India.
However, in Pakistan there is a conspiracy to baptise a secular, liberal and progressive Jinnah into a theocrat. Short of claiming that he was one of the alleged founding fathers of Jamaat-e-Islami, its current leadership and the Ahraris mischievously do not hesitate to brand him as a fellow band-wagoner on their gravy train. Due to confusion created by the religious parties about the national identity, his categorical assertion that religion would be a private affair of its citizens and that Pakistan shall never be a theocratic state—whatever he stood for is target of an ongoing process of demolition.
Religious halfwits crusading against MAJ’s two-nation theory are hell bent in Talibanisation retired bureaucrat who claims to have done doctorate and masquerades himself as the champion of Punjabi-brand of Nazaria-e-Pakistan that the Quaid originally a Shia Khoja—became Deobandi later in his life. On the other hand Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, a Deobandi religious scholar of unparalleled repute had advised the Quaid not to let religion creep in politics. He had rightly said it would be more divisive than a unifier of people. What has added religious over tones to Pakistan’s post partition politics is the guilt complex of the Punjabi elite who are aware of the despicable role of their pro-British forefathers in helping the British with troops to quash Revolt of 1857 and to oppose creation of Pakistan until the last minute. The heirs to this mindset have been doing their utmost to establish that Jinnah was not what he actually was. They are trying to implant in our history MAJ as a Niseem Hijazi created swashbuckling general on a white horse in an Arab headgear swinging a sword instead of a Saville Row suited Barrister.
Two-nation theory — what it was and what it meant for us, would need a profound discussion later, what is the need of the hour is to save the enormous democratic gains nurtured and nourished by the noble blood of Benazir Bhutto. It must be noted that the struggle is becoming intense between democratic forces that want to save Quaid’s Pakistan and those powers/elements who have their own agendas such as main streaming of terrorists in order to strengthen its continued existence as a security state.
The conspiracy to subvert Quaid’s Pakistan started as early as 11th of August 1947. In his inaugural address as President to the mother Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, he had laid bare his ideals of Pakistan in these words: It shall be a liberal democratic state; In it religion shall have nothing to do with the business of the state; All its citizens—irrespective of their caste, creed, colour or gender—shall be equal; Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is a personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.
No soon the Quaid left the Assembly Chambers for the Governor General's House, the conspiracy to subvert his dream was put in action. His historic speech was subjected to first ever censorship in Pakistan at the behest of Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, the Principal Secretary to the Government who secretly issued instructions to the chief PRO of the government, Col. Majeed Malik to ensure that the fundamentals of his speech as stated above were deleted from the text.
Since there was still freedom and there were very few draconian laws, the conspiracy got exposed. In later times especially under General Zia real hatchet was used on it. During Zia’s martial law when even to report truth was an offence, if newspapers quoted from August 11, 1947 speech, it would be censored. Not only that, all government publications deleted it from their record.
However, thanks to Benazir Bhutto who as prime minister in 1989 ordered its recovery from the archives and assigned Attorney General Yahya Bakhtiar to have a complete book of post-partition speeches of the Quaid printed and have it widely distributed both internally and externally. She had also ordered necessary work for introducing legislation for making the speech as an essential part of the Preamble of the 1973 Constitution. Alas, before she could do that President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed her government.
Besides seeking incorporation of Quaid’s speech as inviolable part of the constitution to ensure permanency and equal rights to the minorities, it was mooted to bring about a change in the official title of Pakistan, from merely Islamic Republic of Pakistan, to Democratic Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Although it seems far-fetched, try we must. It would be the most valuable service to Pakistan and towards preserving Quaid’s original ideals. Besides, the legislators must seek deletion of religious columns in passport books.
If one were to go by the foul language of the religious leaders used in their speeches 24/7 during the Faizabad dharna, the future of Pakistan would no doubt look bleak, unless there is a collective national effort to revive Quaid’s concept of nation-state emphasising tolerance, accommodation and peaceful co-existence. This should reflect in the plural realities of the Pakistani society, rather than monolithic visions of religious community that are allied to a conception of a unitary garrison state.
Author is the former high commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.