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Opinion

August 14, 2015
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The story of Pakistan

Opinion

August 14, 2015

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The writer is a former foreign secretary.
It was indeed with a sense of supreme satisfaction at the fulfilment of his mission that Quaid-e-Azam told the nation in his last message on August 14, 1948: “The foundations of your state have been laid and it is now for you to build and build as quickly and as well as you can”.
The Quaid did not live long to personally steer Pakistan to be what he thought and aspired would be “one of the greatest nations of the world.” Unfortunately, Quaid-e-Azam did not get to know us well.
Those of us who belong to the first generation that saw and experienced the formative phase of Pakistan and its creation as a dream of its founding fathers are indeed discomfited at the thought of what Quaid-e-Azam had envisioned this country to be and where we actually stand today as a nation and as a state. The story of Quaid’s Pakistan is the story of a society that has been going round and round in aimless circles for the last 68 years. Absence of genuine democracy, rule of law and good governance is its continuing hallmark.
Had the Father of the Nation lived longer, he would have only been embarrassed to see how miserably we as a nation and our successive leaders, both civilian and non-civilian, have failed to live up to his vision of Pakistan, and to protect and preserve our national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. On our part, we are not even ashamed of what we have done to his Pakistan. On this independence anniversary, we surely need to look back and do some soul-searching.
Pakistan’s creation was, no doubt, the finest hour of our history. Our people saw in it the promise of long-cherished freedom, democracy and prosperity. The vision of a democratic and progressive Pakistan was unambiguously articulated in a resolution adopted at the first meeting of the Council of the Pakistan Muslim League in December 1947, when it pledged “to work for an ideal democratic state based on social justice, as an

upholder of human freedom and world peace, in which all citizens will enjoy equal rights and be free from fear, want and ignorance.”
Within the first year of our independence, which woefully happened to be the last of his life, Quaid-e-Azam had presciently foreseen the coming events. He was disillusioned with the scarcity of calibre and character in the country’s political hierarchy which was no more than a bunch of self-serving, feudalist and opportunistic elitist politicians who were to manage the newly independent Pakistan. Political ineptitude was writ large on the country’s horizon. Quaid’s worries were not unwarranted.
With the Quaid’s early demise, Pakistan was orphaned in its infancy and lost the promise of a healthy youth with acute systemic deficiencies and normative perversities restricting its orderly natural growth. After the Quaid, it was left without any sense of direction and in a state of political chaos and confusion. In his address to Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly on 11 August, 1947, the Quaid reminded the legislators of their “onerous responsibility” of framing the future constitution of Pakistan and functioning as a full and complete sovereign body like a federal legislature in any parliamentary system.
It took our politicians nine years and several governments to frame our first constitution in 1956 which was abrogated in less than three years. Since then, we have had two constitutions, one promulgated by a field marshal president in 1962, and the other adopted by an ‘elected’ group of people who had no constitution-making mandate and were in fact responsible for creating a parliamentary gridlock leading to the breakup of the country in 1971. The flawed 1973 constitution they authored has since been amended twenty times, leaving very little of the original text in its essence. It is a different constitution altogether.
Instead of removing our systemic weaknesses and reinforcing the unifying elements of our nationhood, politicians have always succumbed to narrow self-serving temptations. They rejected the popular will freely expressed in the December 1970 elections, and instead of exploring political remedies to the resultant crisis, went along with a military solution. The real Pakistan disappeared with its tragic dismemberment. And yet, we learnt no lesson from our mistakes. We are repeating the same mistakes.
Our problem is that the overbearing feudal, tribal and now moneyed elitist power structure in Pakistan has been too deeply entrenched to let any systemic change take place. Change doesn’t suit the politicians. They make amendments in the constitution for self-serving reasons only. The main casualties of this have been the state institutions and the process of national integration. The country has still not been able to evolve a political system that responds to the needs of an ethnically and linguistically diverse population.
On many occasions Quaid-e-Azam reminded the people of Pakistan of the importance of their responsibilities as citizens of Pakistan. He regarded the ideals of democracy, equality, fraternity and brotherhood of man, rule of law, and human rights as the essence of a country’s inner strength. The Quaid also gave us a roadmap of what he believed were the biggest challenges for the country’s government and lawmakers.
The foremost duty of a government, according to him, was “to maintain law and order and to protect the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects”. Alas, this roadmap remains an illusion to our incompetent rulers who could neither enforce law and order in the country nor protect the life, property and religious beliefs of its people.
There is no concept of public safety in the state other than the VIP culture that provides protection and safety to the privileged class only. Ignoring the Quaid’s vision for religious freedom and communal harmony, we opted for intolerance and fanaticism that led us into sectarian violence. Pakistan has also become the hotbed of religious extremism and obscurantism. The Quaid also warned us against the ‘evils’ of bribery, corruption, black-marketing, nepotism and jobbery which he wanted to be eradicated with an ‘iron hand’. We not only ignored his advice but are in fact living remorselessly with these ‘evils’ as an integral part of our society.
Unsure of our future, we are still groping in the dark with one crisis after another and have yet to figure out a sense of purpose and direction for ourselves. To an extent the rulers but, in larger part, we as a nation are to blame for tolerating – if not bolstering – incompetent, opportunistic, and corrupt rulers.
Our complacency reminds me of T S Eliot’s famous poem ‘The Hollow Men’ that he wrote in 1925 as an indictment of the modern man and the failure of his values. He didn’t know then how allegorically his verses “We are the hollow men/We are the stuffed men/Leaning together/Headpieces filled with straw” would one day depict the ‘hollowness and emptiness’ of a society that was still in the making at that time.
In the 1950s and 60s, we as young students looked at this poem only as a piece of English literature but today this poem is a mirror image of our own socio-political and moral bankruptcy. Our leaders never inspired hope for a democratic state that could provide socio-economic justice and fair administration to all Pakistani citizens. But as people, haven’t we left ourselves at the mercy of the same old usurpers of the country’s power and politics, some of whom are even known fugitives?
Email: [email protected]

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