December 25, 2009

Article "Drifting from, and to Quaid's Pakistan?" by Javed Jabbar



This article was published in the Dawn Special Report on Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah's birth anniversary on 25th December 2009. Dawn's website

Two events occurred in December 2009 that notably slow the rapid drift from Quaid's Pakistan. The National Finance Award of 11th December signals a new chapter in inter-provincial harmony during a period of inter-provincial discord. Then, on the darkest day of our history, 16th December, marking the disintegration in 1971 of the original Pakistan, the Supreme Court lessened the pain of memory when it rendered a landmark verdict to reject a crude attempt through the NRO to legitimize corruption, thus reinforcing one of the Quaid's fundamental values. Yet without detracting from the significance of these two constructive developments, there remains an aura of deep uncertainty as we celebrate the founder's birthday.


Through a prolonged, on-going catharsis that may go from 6 decades to over 10 decades, we are drifting from a Quaid's Pakistan which never actually existed towards a Quaid's Pakistan of the future that will, hopefully, be the practical expression of a part of his dream. The future Pakistan is likely to incorporate some elements which are good, and some not-so-good elements which emerged after the Quaid's demise and are likely to shape our tomorrow.


Quaid's Pakistan


In theory, the Quaid's Pakistan is the ideal Pakistan. A place where an overwhelming majority of Muslims ensures equity for a very small number of non-Muslims (about 3% of the population). Where there is approximately equal access of all people, of all the nationalities and sub-nationalities that constitute the totality of the nation: to the basic services and opportunities for health care, water, clean air, energy, qualitative education and gainful livelihoods.


Where the State ensures effective security, law and order, justice, governance and participation in democratic processes. Where the fundamental freedoms of thought, speech, expression, worship and other individual choices are enforced. Where citizens exercise their rights and citizens also fulfil their own responsibilities.


Where there is peaceful transfer of power from one elected government to the next. Where the civil, democratic principle determines the use of executive authority. Where the military works under the discipline of the political system. Where religion serves as a source for guidance and enables new knowledge to facilitate rationality in application of original principles without religious interpretations by some being imposed on others.


Where creativity, art, culture, scholarship, sports, science and technology enhance innovation, enjoyment and productivity. Where the name of Pakistan is respected around the world for its contribution to humanity's betterment and the health of the planet.


In the brief 13 months of the Quaid's actual Pakistan, traumatized by the caesarean section-type implementation of its creation at only 10 weeks' notice, (3rd June- 14th August 1947) it was not possible for the fledgling State or the Quaid - or even reasonable to expect - to achieve a single one of the above elements, in part or in whole. The sheer scale, variety and complexity of problems were too sudden and intense to be quickly resolved.


Some actions, including a few by the Quaid-i-Azam himself, as well-meant as they were, initiated divisive and authoritarian trends. As a human being, the Quaid was also capable of making decisions which, in retrospect, were not quite right. To name 3 : his statement in East Pakistan on 21st March 1948 that Urdu would be the sole State language. The dismissal of Provincial Governments in NWFP and Sindh. The tolerance of General Gracey's refusal to move troops to Kashmir


Political Miracle


The creation of Pakistan was a political miracle virtually single-handedly forged by Mr. Jinnah. His qualities of personal integrity, unshakeable determination and progressive modernity are a profound legacy of principles and actions worth emulation by each Pakistani. He has left behind him a large number of speeches and statements that powerfully express the rationale of a separate homeland for Muslim nationalism in British-occupied India.


Yet we are without the benefit of learning from him at sustained, reflective length an in-depth examination of how to prevent Muslim nationalism from degenerating into a creeping religiosity. This latter ailment, on the one hand, deters full-blooded intellectual development in Islam through "ijtehaad". Books and interpretations of the Holy Quran and the Prophet's life (peace be upon him) written in the pre-medieval and medieval times hundreds of years ago are still used by the religious establishment as the exclusive aids to interpretation. Whereas knowledge has achieved phenomenal growth in the past 100 years in particular. So instead of encouraging a humane spirituality that is inclusive and respectful of all humanity and all knowledge, we are increasingly subject to self-appointed "priests" who promote a showy, shallow piety. They exclude even other co-religionist Muslim sects from being acknowledged as human, or Muslim. Fortunately, Parliament, Government, the Council of Islamic Ideology and some other elements sometimes conduct a counter-vailing "ijtehaad" which partially arrests the primitive tendencies of the "priests".


Muslim Nationalism


On the other hand, the Muslim nationalism of Mr Jinnah has, for a variety of reasons, regressed into narrow provincialism. Neither before the birth of the country nor in the 13 months he lived after its birth did Mr. Jinnah develop a comprehensive and detailed structure for how Muslim nationalism could grow into a stable system of political governance. He rightly asked the Constituent Assembly to do so. And it was not able to do that during his life-time. Neither was he able to write a book and present his grand design in depth. He was critically ill and weakened yet courageously faced formidable odds that would have defeated a healthy young person.


Leaders are not obligated to write books. But Pakistan is the only country other than the Vatican (a ceremonial micro- state) and Israel (a territorially small but militarily strong power fully supported by the USA and allies) which were created on the basis of religious identity. The Vatican and Israel both had rich patrons. They also had centuries of written history potentially usable for the context of independent Statehood. The prior separation of State and Church led directly to the Roman Catholic retreat into the Vatican. In Israel, though some sects of Judaism oppose the creation of Israel, the Jewish faith and Zionism together use a vigorous democracy to deflect the religious bias of the State.


Short Genesis


Pakistan had a very short genesis both as a name and as the concept for an independent State. K.K. Aziz, the late great Pakistani historian who passed away in July 2009 in his book: "A history of the idea of Pakistan" (Vanguard Books, Lahore, 1987 & 1997) identified as many as 170 landmarks in the history of the idea. Ironically, they start on 24th June 1858 with a speech made in the House of Commons in London by MP John Bright who called for "..5 or 6 large (Muslim) presidencies with complete autonomy ultimately becoming independent.." And the landmarks end with the Lahore Resolution of 1940. In which the word "Pakistan" did not appear even though the word, spelt without the "i", as "Pakstan" had already been invented and launched by Chaudhry Rehmat Ali on 28 January 1933.


Allama Iqbal, the poet-philosopher of Pakistan never used the word "Pakistan" in his writings even though he lived for over 5 years after it was introduced into public discourse. Nor did Mr. Jinnah and the Muslim League use the word "Pakistan" regularly till some time after the Lahore Resolution. These 2 giants were visionary individuals responsible for promoting Muslim identity in South Asia but there was a very short, uncertain run-up to an independent entity with the same name.


Though the idea that eventually became the idea of Pakistan evolved over a period of 89 years, the actual formation of Pakistan comprising East and West Pakistan posed unprecedented conceptual and operational challenges for creating a stable political order.


The exact territorial composition of the new country remained uncertain up to just 8 months before Independence. Pakistan's territory was not even fully demarcated at the time of its birth. For example, the Radcliffe Award precisely marking the partition of Punjab came after 14th August 1947 ! And if we take account of Kashmir, neither at birth nor even now, 62 years later, have the original physical features of Mr. Jinnah's Pakistan been fully delineated. The Line of Control remains, for Pakistan, a temporary arrangement reluctantly accepted. No wonder Mr. Jinnah himself called its form: "a moth-eaten" Pakistan.


It was like a baby being born with incomplete facial and physical features. As regards the flesh inside the outline, just more than half the body left us in 1971 when East Pakistan became Bangladesh. And since then, over the past 38 years, the remaining flesh is growing in directions quite different from the features the original flesh tried to portray. Some bizarre new anatomical parts have evolved that threaten to disfigure the soul and body of Pakistan.


Despite 9 decades of evolution as an idea, Pakistan as a State and nation was almost an "overnight" State and "overnight" nation. Under the Cabinet Mission Plan which survived up to January 1947, Mr. Jinnah was willing to accept a confederated Indian Union.


Jinnah Addressed


As late as May 1947, Mr. Jinnah addressed a strongly-worded letter to the British Cabinet urging it to prevent the proposed partition of Punjab and Bengal. If the 2 Muslim-majority provinces in their undivided form had retained large non-Muslim populations within Pakistan, small religious Muslim political parties could not have gradually and incrementally blackmailed the timid leadership that succeeded the Quaid into distorting the State's secular orientation. These religious parties used the one-sided composition of the population to promote religious chauvinism. A pre-dominantly Sufi and secular-minded Muslim majority was betrayed at the hands of obscurantist and retrogressive elements. We could have become a truly secular republic in the best Muslim sense of being secular. i.e. respectful of all religions, with the State using the principles of Islam for guidance in law-making without excluding the lessons to be learnt from new knowledge, from new conditions and experience, from other religions and sources for the benefit of all citizens. After all, it is Allama Iqbal who said in his lectures on "Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam" in about 1920: "All that is secular is deeply sacred at the roots of its being".


As recently as 9th December 2009, during a joint sitting of Parliament to discuss the Balochistan package, this writer heard and saw a serving Muslim Minister of State from Balochistan call for the replacement of the title of the State from being an "Islamic Republic" to becoming an authentic "Peoples' Republic of Pakistan". The Minister of State did not refer to Mr. Jinnah but was closer to the founder's vision than he may have imagined.


So we are drifting from an ideal version of Pakistan that was never fully spelt out to another version shaped by the hard realities of life and actual experience. We are adrift because, in any case, Mr. Jinnah's Pakistan was only a vision. And when one says "only" it is by no means to devalue the nobility of the vision. It is to say that Mr. Jinnah's Pakistan was an outline, not defined and described in detail.


What we fondly call "Quaid's Pakistan" existed in the mind of one man, and in the hearts of millions. It did not exist in external, objective reality. But now the eventual destination of our drift is somewhat, but not wholly closer to the Pakistan that the Quaid visualised.


For better or for worse, some themes of duality are already shaping the emerging Pakistan. These can only be stated briefly in the space of a newspaper article. There are several other determinant themes at work, better stated on another occasion.


One is a new assertion of the nexus between territoriality and nationality. At its most basic level, this is evident in the stridency of the Baloch and Sindh nationalist parties. At a secondary level, it is visible in the ostentatious participation of post-1947 migrants in the celebration of Sindhi culture on 6th December 2009. At a formal level, the State itself has ended the nebulous status of the Northern Areas and introduced self-governance to Gilgit-Baltistan, thereby "adding" this territory to Pakistan. At a national level, there is a composite identity of " Pakistaniyat" that binds territory and nationality which is best celebrated when a Pakistani cricket team wins against an Indian team.


A second theme of the new Pakistan is: co-existence with corruption, almost as an undeniable, unavoidable fact of life. The Supreme Court and the Federal and the Provincial Governments in the NRO case and the Bank of Punjab scam took a commendable stand to oppose the sanctification of corruption. But on a de facto basis, far from castigating corruption with the relentless passion of Mr. Jinnah, the present democratic system attempts to merely contain the fall-out from corruption.


One Sense


In one sense, there is a sublimation of corruption by the people themselves and their elected representatives when they elect to some of the highest public offices, individuals unable to credibly explain the accumulation of vast wealth.


The third theme of the emerging Pakistan is the duality of a functioning system and a partly dysfunctional State. The functioning system is evident in the "other" Pakistan, "other" than the country in which there are food shortages, suicide bombings, mis-governance, poor public health, illiteracy, poverty and acrimony.


This "other" Pakistan is a throbbing, working, vibrant country, in the streets of large cities and in the lush, rolling fields of the rural areas, continuing to produce goods and services despite the paucity of water, the de-gradation of the environment, the load-shedding and the congestion of traffic.


Trains Run


The trains run, the planes fly, the sea-ports operate, the highways hum, the media proliferate, the banks and most businesses make profit every day. Though an under- performing economy, it is just about able to support the rate of population growth, without descending into famine and mass starvation. Yet this is also a State unable to enforce the law equitably and efficiently, in which crime and violence erupt regularly in several parts, which has only belatedly woken up to the threats from religious extremism and terrorism.


The fourth theme is a wishful new integrative ethnicity of Pakistani identity. Historically, this has partly in existed in the nexus between, say, many Baloch tribes who have throughout history settled in different parts of Sindh and Punjab. Or the mingling of the Seraiki-speaking people, originally from southern Punjab, but also settled in parts of Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan. As inter-marriages in urban areas between different ethnicities increase in the years ahead, we will evolve, for the first time, probably in a few generations to come, a truly composite new Pakistani ethnic identity, a fitting way to erode the provincialism abhorred by Mr. Jinnah.


The fifth theme is that Pakistani people are capable of producing islands of excellence and individuals of brilliance in the midst of decay, despair or mediocrity.


Youngest Person


One of the youngest persons in the world to become a certified Microsoft IT specialist is a school boy from Pakistan educated without a rich family' s privileges. Some institutions both in the public and the private sectors operate high technology systems with superb efficiency. Others offer free public health services of international standard. When disasters like the 2005 earthquake occur or when hospitals need blood for the victims of bomb attacks, spontaneous public response overwhelms with generosity and compassion that would do Mr. Jinnah proud. And this, side by side with a degraded standard of public behaviour and crude traffic manners. Overseas Pakistanis excel in a wide range of professions. From within and outside Pakistan, tens of thousands of its original citizens place deposits of billions of dollars in overseas banks.


The sixth theme is how we reform all segments of our education system. The madrassahs which indoctrinate and robotize millions of minds. The government schools in most of which millions are deprived of qualitative education and facilities. (There are some remarkable exceptions eg., both civil and Armed Forces schools). The 3 kinds of private schools: one, deficient and profiteering; another, Pakistani in idiom and of a high standard; the third, cosmopolitan but Anglicized and alienated from immediate surroundings.


Armed Forces


Pakistan's state in 2009 epitomises our dualities. The Armed Forces engaged in bloody, over-due combat with barbarians and subversives. An intense relationship with the USA that walks the fine line between mutual dependence and mutual distrust. Festering dangers from a large neighbour with a small heart. Unpredictable eruptions of suicide bombings and blasts that kill and maim hundreds of innocents. A validly elected system in which the majority of members do not attend legislatures regularly. A uniquely twice-restored Supreme Court at the apex of a judicial system in which justice at the grass-roots is delayed and often denied. Governance and bureaucracy partly mired in bribe-taking and red tape yet placing the country far higher than India in the global "ease of doing business" index. The enormous disparity between the feudal and the peasant, the urban business baron and the young unemployed. Unresolved issues of local government, provincial autonomy and a bloated centre. There is plenty to do on the way to the Quaid's Pakistan.


We cannot reach back into the past and expect to find a ready-made, original, pure, "Quaid's Pakistan" that can be recovered and, after intense struggle and effort, implanted into a new century. We can only recover some principles and pointers as we pick our way through a future likely to be turbulent and unstable, yet challenging and irresistible. A future that may well see the fulfilment in flesh and bone, in body and soul, of the original ideal vision of Mr. Jinnah's Pakistan.


Though it never existed in the past, this ideal Pakistan could be created in the future: by the actions each of us takes today and tomorrow. On a collective level, the realization of the Quaid's dream will inevitably include elements which he did not tolerate. Even to get anywhere close to that vision will require a Great Revolution in every negative aspect of our society and state. Perhaps we are already on the way.... !


(the writer has served as Minister in three Federal Cabinets and as Senator)