Wednesday November 29, 2023

Pakistan at 75

By Editorial Board
August 14, 2022

Before Pakistan was a country, it was an idea. A product as much of thinkers as it is of political leaders, in Muhammad Ali Jinnah Pakistan had the one person who could combine both. Ever since, we have been trying to find a similar Great Leader, sometimes turning to military dictators who would inevitably disappoint and sometimes to self-styled messiahs that flattered to deceive. And while the country may now be 75 years old, it has always suffered from a case of arrested development. The unexpected death of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, followed soon after by the as-yet unsolved assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan cost us the opportunity to become a functioning republic with a working constitution. Here too, history kept repeating itself. Whatever progress we made would be interrupted. To say that Pakistan is 75 years old may be literally true but as a democracy we are only half that age. Until the 21st century, not a single elected government had served out its term.

The India question has constantly loomed large in Pakistani imagination – and not without reason. In keeping with its politics, India’s BJP government has initiated a mischievous move to observe today as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’. This is a blatant attempt to play with the sentiments of the people. The BJP is peddling its own distorted interpretation of history that is one-sided and manipulates tragic events to its own advantage – all the more ironic as the Indian state plunges ever more depths in targeting its large Muslim population. Unfortunately, a mix of reasons – many of them internal – have led Pakistan to a place where it lags behind in almost all human development indicators. Not all is lost though. As ever, hope lies in the people of Pakistan who have continued to fight for a better tomorrow despite the challenges. From those who stand for democracy, to the women who persevere despite the many hurdles in the way, to the thousands who continue to demand a better tomorrow, the hope for Pakistan’s future is in the hands of the everyday Pakistani. And people like Dr Salam and Malala Yousafzai, and Arshad Nadeem and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Aroof Aftab – who provide us a Pakistaniat to be proud of.

Politically speaking, when we turned 25 in 1972, it was time to celebrate our silver jubilee but Pakistan had just been dismembered. When we were supposed to celebrate our golden jubilee in 1997, the second Benazir government had been dismissed and the country was once again going through a political crisis. Now we are celebrating 75 years, and the year has seen one of the worst acrimonies internally. It is once again time to reflect. The country’s very survival has been in peril and we are not sure what is in store for us in the next 25 years before we plan to celebrate the centenary of Pakistan’s independence. Perhaps the time for bickering is over. If economic strength is the foundation of any stable country, we need to spring into action at once. Human development is the basis for financial stability, meaning more focus on education and health is the need of the hour. We have a youthful population that needs direction in positive pursuits; they need education and skills development to prosper and thrive. The country has tremendous potential in human and natural resources that we can tap to our advantage. Yes, Pakistan has survived in the face of impossible odds – but perhaps it's time to decide that survival alone is not enough. The next 75 years should be a time for this country that is loved by so many to thrive.