The evasive Azadi

Some reflections, some candid commentary, with malice to none and Azadi Mubarak to all

The evasive Azadi

Azadi Notes-1

Yaum-e Āzādī Mubarak is the popular phrase that starts popping up in public sphere with the beginning of the month of August. The Independence Day of any country is an important occasion on which independent people celebrate and reflect. On this day we in Pakistan indulge more in celebration, less in reflection. This piece -- along with the four that follow on these pages -- seeks some reflections through candid commentary, with malice to none and Āzādī Mubarak to all.

Our Independence Day and cricket became huge some 30 years ago, particularly after General Ziaul Haq’s referendum of 1984. In the referendum when over 98 per cent people supported Zia’s Islamisation, and by extension his rule for five years, a popular joke made the rounds, according to which it did not matter who voted; what mattered was who counted those votes!

Just like a huge gap between the counted and the cast votes of Zia’s referendum, there is a huge gap in our understanding and the associated celebration of our freedom, and the freedom and independence that we know, have and live. Again, it seems, it does not matter what is the reality of Azadi we have; what matters is what we are told by those who counted those votes.

Our understanding of self and imagination of the collective are functions of our knowledge of our history and identity. In the case of Pakistan, both history and identity have been randomly crafted in the last 68 years. Our celebration is the result of what we (are made to) associate with independence, which too is fabricated. Thus, through a crafted falsehood and strategically-induced denial at mass level, we are revelling in false celebrations. That does not mean we should not celebrate freedom -- one is only and gently poking that we must reflect as well.

Our selectively-crafted falsehood of our long history is a recent and post-partition phenomenon. I would not go into the pre-partition fabrication that starts with the legend of Muhammad Bin Qasim and culminates at Allama Iqbal’s legendary dream. I would only highlight the elements of this crafting job post-1947.

The first clause of the Indian Independence Act 1947 reads, "As from the fifteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, two independent Dominions shall be set up in India, to be known respectively as India and Pakistan." Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his first broadcast to the nation stated, "August 15 is the birthday of the independent and sovereign state of Pakistan." Then, the first commemorative postage stamp of the country that was released in July 1948 also gave August 15, 1947 as the ‘Independence Day’.

Pakistan is the only nuclear power that does not have electric power. This denotes that a symbol of perceived power is not as valuable as the substance of (literal and metaphoric) power. A real Azadi would have to have more stock of bread and butter than bombs and boots.

However, somehow somewhere someone decided to craft a new birthday for Pakistan, and the country was ex post facto made to be reborn a day earlier than the actual caesarean section took place. The only and small benefit of this insignificant falsehood is that Pakistan appears a day older than India. Perhaps, this in some corner of our intricate perception and collective outlook makes us feel a bit compensated vis-à-vis India’s multifaceted bigness.

Therefore, on this independence day, after cutting the cake on the 14th, do save a piece for having it on the actual birthday as well.

The two other cases of this revisionist craft are inclusion of Objectives Resolution and muffling of the Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech. It would have made more sense if our crafters had declared August 11 as the Independence Day -- if it was imperative to mark it on a different day than August 15.

On Objectives Resolution, although most of its 12 clauses read like a joke when we look at the gap between the aspiration of the authors of the resolution and the reality of today’s Pakistan, clauses 1, 4 and 5 opened the floodgates of theological perversion and centralist rule into the statecraft that was meant to be democratic and federal.

Looking at Pakistan as it is in August 2015, we must reflect over the following five points.

Pakistan is the only state that is deemed to have failed due to low provision of justice and security. But, its judiciary and security establishments are projected as successful and thus saviours in the crafted discourse. How can an organ be functional and saviour in a body that it caused a dysfunction to? Thus, either the ‘state failure’ is a fabrication, or the ‘saviour institution’ projection is a falsehood.

We excel in renaming a thing, a city, a phenomenon and then believe it is the real thing which is superior to the thing it was before. Partition of India is renamed independence of Pakistan. Just like Dharampura and Krishan Nagar in Lahore are renamed Mustafabad and Islampura, and are considered more pure and pious.

Maybe it has something to do with our genetic recall of conversion to Islam. By converting to a new faith, our DNA did not change; only our outlook did, and that too partially and selectively. We are the invaded who internalised the pretentions of invaders; but that does not make us what we were and are not. Real Azadi is to be comfortable with one’s intrinsic identity, however ‘impure’ that might be.

Pakistan is the only nuclear power that does not have electric power. This denotes that a symbol of perceived power is not as valuable as the substance of (literal and metaphoric) power. A real Azadi would have to have more stock of bread and butter than bombs and boots.

There is nothing ‘Pakistani’ in the state of Pakistan. The key institutions and organs that embody the state are all continuations of the colonial state. The Viceroy may have been dead a long ago, but his team is still playing and plundering in Pakistan. If the independence was a result of decolonisation, we don’t have it yet.

When I say the word ‘nation’, discrimi-nation, domi-nation, stag-nation, alie-nation, elimi-nation, contami-nation, subordi-nation and halluci-nation pop up in my mind. For me Azadi celebration is to be able to see around me practice of imagi-nation and a sense of desti-nation as well.

Our view and sense of independence and consequent celebrations are replete with many distortions. Let us reflect over them the next week.

Read Azadi Notes-2: Distortions in design

The evasive Azadi