Monday June 17, 2024

Survival in the face of great odds

By Zafar Alam Sarwar
January 31, 2020

Democracy is once again the talk of the town but not over a cup of tea and a piece of biscuit because milk, tea leaf and sugar also have gone sky-high. Clean drinking water is the substitute as in the past when dictators claimed they were sowing the seeds of basic democracy for all times to come.

This scribe during the regime of Field Marshal Ayub Khan and General Zia-ul-Haq got distributed copies of ‘Pakistani Jamhuriat: Islami Virsa Ya Maghribi Tohfa’ among the MNAs. The effort was appreciated by both the presidents of the state but most of the parliamentarians preferred ‘silence’, saying “we are helpless in this respect”.

Citizens very often ask one another while discussing democracy: Has hypocrisy gone into our blood? Answer is multiple, but what the father of the nation said during and after the struggle for Pakistan provides a plausible food for thought.

Speaking in the Legislature Council, the man said he didn’t wish for a single moment that any culprit who is guilty of sedition, who is guilty of causing disaffection, who is guilty of causing race-hatred, should escape. “But, at the same time, I say, protect the innocent, protect those journalists who are doing their duty and who are serving both the public and the government by criticizing the government freely, independently, honestly — which is an education of any government.” The man, who came to be known as Quaid-i-Azam, was about 42 years then.

The Press is a great power, it can do good as well as harm to people; if rightly conducted, it can guide and instruct public opinion, he told the journalists of Kashmir.

The Quaid, in his message to an English newspaper on its first anniversary, emphasized “the Press is a vital necessity for the progress and welfare of the nation because it’s through the Press that a nation can be guided and its opinion moulded for furthering of activities in all departments of life.”

Frankly speaking, most of politicians, tycoons and bureaucrats forgot the architect of Pakistan and his struggle for freedom of Muslims from a colonial power. After his death and murder of the first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, political groups started a free-for-all type of fighting in assemblies in which no holds were barred. They waged a bitter war against each other, regardless of bad socio-economic effects on the country. They used provincial feelings, sectarian, religious and racial differences to set a Pakistani against a Pakistani. All that mattered was self-interest.

There were a few honourable exceptions but what became common was changing of party affiliations from day to day.

That’s happening today also. The Quaid’s vision of Pakistan, for which more than a million men, women and children sacrificed their lives and millions were uprooted, remains sidelined by self-seekers. The common man has not recovered from the shock by fuel and electricity tariff.

The elders recall the Government Transport Service which had been introduced following the advice of the Quaid soon after the achievement of Pakistan. The buses plied between the two cities regularly, but the poor-friendly service was wound up in 1990s by the then government, sidelining the directive of the father of the nation and dumping the new well-built buses somewhere in Islamabad. The rulers didn’t pay heed to the protest of the masses.

How dear was the cause of the poor to the founding father of Pakistan? That can be gauged from his speech at the State Bank wherein he hinted at the abnormal rise in the cost of living hitting the poorer section of the society, including those with fixed incomes. According to him, the policy of the government was, and should be today, to stabilize prices at a level that would be fair to the consumer.

The common people like direct democracy in shape of presidential system, and yearn for selfless leadership like that of the Quaid-i-Azam and his comrades who disliked corruption, bribery and nepotism. It’s the belief in unity, faith and discipline—-the motto of the Quaid who had great regard for the armed forces of Pakistan—-that has put the masses at the back of the soldiers fighting militants for the integrity and security of the country.

The other day, people prayed to God for salvation from hypocrisy which they think has gone into our blood. Is it really so?