Lost in the mists of time
Having persistently written on that mythical entity, ‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’ (the first time was on Aug 14, 1987 in a letter to the editor of this publication), on this 65th anniversary of the country’s birth I — and many others — need to recall once again, though in vain, that great man’s vision for the nation he founded.
With equal consistency each regime since 1949 has paid nauseatingly hypocritical lip service to Jinnah, distorting both his image and his creed, without making the slightest effort to make of Pakistan what he wished it to be. As for the “you are free” aspect of his most famous address of Aug 11, 1947, it has been quoted on thousands of occasions. Yet apart from a brief period following the birth of Pakistan, “you”, the minorities, have not been free to pursue the religions in which you were raised.
The first nail in the coffin of religious freedom came in 1949 — yes, so early in this country’s life — with the objectionable Objectives Resolution that put paid to any tolerance of minorities. Not that there should be such a thing as minorities in Jinnah’s Pakistan, for as he said that far gone day, if the people of Pakistan work in the spirit of the equality of all, “in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities … will vanish.” What has happened? They have multiplied.
Since then, in complete disregard of his exhortation that “religion is not the business of the state”, a string of rulers has brought this state of Pakistan to where it is today, to men and women being killed or tormented in the name of one of the great religions of the world, in the name of the law as it exists here, and even in the name of the constitution. The atrocities we have witnessed, and witness to an even greater extent today, are in large part due to the fact that religion is very much the business of the state. But it is an adopted religion that masquerades in the name of Islam, distorted and made to measure for those whose purposes it serves.
Tolerance, freedom? As I write I have before me a photograph of MAJ, sitting on a London lawn, a cigarette in his mouth, in the company of his two dogs. Now there is a goodly horde out there that would swear I am hallucinating. Such a thing is intolerable, as was proven only as far back as 1999 when Pervez Musharraf was censored by — and sadly surrendered to — the forces of darkness for daring to allow himself to be photographed with one dog tucked under each arm. And this is but a trite example of the bigotry and intolerance that pervade our lives.
Equally important — if not more so, as all things flow from it — was Jinnah’s insistence that the foremost duty of any government is to impose and maintain law and order. Well, that has been a non-starter, as the leaderships we have suffered have been the foremost violators of the laws as they stand and have been efficient perpetrators of a state of disorder.
That when writing on Jinnah’s Pakistan there is nothing but a long line of lament, dismay and disgust is a dismal fact. The corrupt, the inept and the gutless who have been in charge of this country for far too many decades and surrendered themselves and their policies to false deities have tailored the state to their fit, throwing out all pretence, and certainly intent, to curb lawlessness, instil tolerance and keep within acceptable bounds “the biggest curses … bribery and corruption…. the evil of nepotism and jobbery.”
As with their predecessors, the present incumbents of power seats, federal and provincial, have no interest in attempting to emulate the creed set forth by our founder-maker. Nothing new. But what is sad in all this deliberate ignorance is that to the youth of Pakistan, Jinnah and all he stood for have become largely irrelevant — he is lost to the young, the majority of our exploded population.
Perhaps, in times to come, when, as our democratic pundits predict, a series of elections will hopefully wash out the rot, a leadership will emerge that realises the wisdom imparted by the man who made this country. It is a far cry, but not impossible. We must hope, and hope on, that the mists of time will clear and dissipate.
Until then — and I shall not be around — it is difficult to disagree with the suggestion made by the last dismissed prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Let those who wish to leave the country for greener pastures, leave. In the present era, even under the supposedly liberal present dispensation, there is nothing and no one here that can offer them tolerance, freedom of worship, law and order.
Oh yes, coincidentally but not presciently, Jinnah ended his Aug, 11 1947 speech to his constituent assembly by reading out a message received from the United States of America. It conveyed “the best wishes of the government and the people of the United States for the successful conclusion of the great work you are about to undertake.”
The writer is a former Dawn columnist.