Sunday, March 23, 2014

Daily Times Editorial March 24, 2014

Ritual and substance Important landmark days in Pakistan have for many years been reduced more to rhetoric and formal ritual rather than substance. One such example is March 23, Pakistan Day, on which in the historic Lahore session of the Muslim League, the Lahore Resolution, later renamed the Pakistan Resolution, was adopted. Given the context of the time, the Resolution attempted to address the problem of the Muslim community’s rights in an undivided India on the eve of independence. Although the Resolution’s wording envisaged a grouping of Muslim majority areas in the northwest and northeast of the country to constitute “independent states”, the thinking of the Muslim League at that time had not completely shut the door on a solution within the fold of a united India with adequate autonomy and constitutional safeguards for the Muslim minority in what would emerge as a Hindu majoritarian independent country. However, subsequent developments, especially the sabotage by Congress of the Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946 that Mr Jinnah had accepted, hardened positions in the direction of Muslim separation and the constitution of one independent state of Pakistan. This is reflected in the Muslim League’s 1946 Delhi Resolution, which replaced the word “states” in the original Lahore Resolution with “state”. Given the demographic of non-Muslim minorities within the territories envisaged as Pakistan, the rights of these minorities in the new state was central to the Muslim League’s vision. That vision, reflected later in the design of the Pakistan flag with a white stripe representing the minorities, owed much, if not everything, to Mr Jinnah’s enlightened philosophy. On August 11, 1947, three days before independence, in his address to the Constituent Assembly, the Quaid-e-Azam outlined his understanding of the contours of state and society in Pakistan, including his famous formulation that religion had “nothing to do with the business of the state”. In other words, Mr Jinnah’s advice to his countrymen was to render unto Caesar what belonged to Caesar and render unto God what belonged to Him. This was clearly a liberal, democratic, secular Pakistan envisaged by Mr Jinnah in which citizens, particularly non-Muslim minorities, would have equal rights. Looking back over our history, it is difficult to recognize in today’s Pakistan the country the Quaid had envisaged. Every March 23, stale and predictable statements, programmes and articles appear, bemoaning the ‘early’ demise of Mr Jinnah and the inability of his successors to adhere to his laid down blueprint. The rituals of statehood, military parades, 21-gun salutes and ritual celebrations (sometimes verging on yahooism), cannot hide the hollowness that Pakistani nationalism has been reduced to at its heart. The failures of the political class to lead the country after Mr Jinnah’s demise need no elaboration. Nor does the damage wrought by military interventions. To add to our accumulated woes, internal democracy and an acceptable democratic federal structure of the state were denied for long years, fuelling sub-nationalism and even separation. East Pakistan’s alienation and eventual separation to re-emerge as Bangladesh after a bloody civil war and Indian intervention is one of the sorry results of these trends. Post-1971, attempts to correct course, both at the level of democracy and a federal structure that respects the rights of the constituent units has had, to put it mildly, mixed success. Although the democratic and federal structure project has seen relative stability of late, our discontents received from the past are far from a settled issue. Tragically, the ‘new’ Pakistan we attempted to reconstruct after 1971 has seen, amongst other setbacks, the pummelling into fear and subjection of the minorities, including non-Muslim faiths, Ahmedis declared non-Muslims, and even Muslim denominations considered infidels and worthy of being eliminated by the extremist Wahabi/Salafi theology that owes its spread and domination to our foreign proxy adventures in the neighborhood. If Pakistan is not at peace with itself internally, nor is it at peace and enjoying good relations with any of its neighbours, with the exception of China. Course correction in the interests of a better future of the country includes the consolidation of democracy, turning the purposes of the state in the direction of upholding and ensuring the political, economic, social and religious rights of all citizens, especially the poor, abjuring foreign adventures in the neighbourhood and further abroad, ushering in peace and cooperation with all neighbouring countries and the larger world, and paying tribute to the Quaid-e-Azam by returning to his progressive vision. Let us, from the bottom of our collective heart, vow to replace ritual lip service to these goals by a sincere and effective movement towards the Pakistan Mr Jinnah wanted.

No comments:

Post a Comment