“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State… We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State… I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in due course Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”
– Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, August 11th, 1947
This is what was envisioned for Pakistan 64 years ago. This is not where we are today.
As we celebrated our 65th Independence Day and stepped into our 65th year of freedom I cannot help but reflect on two things that I have read in various opinions/blogs/articles. Firstly, the patriotism which drives the spirit of celebration is rooted mostly within the elite, the privileged, the upper class and mostly urban citizens belonging to the majority sects is a luxury of these few, perhaps the 5-7% of the population and maybe even less. It would be criminal to expect the majority of the population which bears the brunt of the inflation rate and finding increasingly difficult to make ends meet let alone save any money to feel anything for this country which has time and again had governments who have promised much but delivered nothing. They have time and again seen these ‘elected’ parties come with the national mandates only ultimately look after their own long term interests and invest only in their main electoral base. The disparity between the ‘privileged’ class and the lower classes has increased so much that I would not expect them to feel anything for a country which hasn’t done anything for them.
Pakistan when compared to other economies in Asia is at less than half the average GDP growth per annum and more than twice the average inflation. In extremely simple terms, the mass of our population is not able to keep up with the rising prices. And economy is just one thing. Then there is the issue of security as well. They will mostly feel victimised by all i.e. ‘Terrorists’, corroborators of ethnic and sectarian violence and the justice system which hasn’t really been able to give them justice. And let us not forget the rapes, honour killings, abductions etc that continue to take place in the rural parts of the nation. In a sense I am glad that the PPP is looking like it will somehow manage to complete its 5 years in office. That way its ‘die hard’ followers and the unfortunately easily mislead masses will tire of the party and its false promises once and for all. I think the same is required for all these PMLs , JUI F, MMA’s etc etc. I really think we need to be at the absolute rock bottom to realize who we need not vote for. Why? For the simple reason that the masses are not aware and the ‘privileged’ class i.e. idiots like you and me who don’t do anything other than write blogs and read them, does not start playing a more constructive and responsible role in trying to be good citizens.
This gives light to another problem. The people with the resources who can start doing something for awareness and if not on large scale then at least in minor packets and start making some sort of a difference are not going to either because it is not convenient or because they fear security and long term life planning issues for their family. Or simply because they haven’t really ever signed off to being Pakistanis. They are first and foremost ‘Punjabi’ , ‘Sindhi’, ‘Mohajirs’ , ‘Balochi’ or ‘Pashto speaking’. We as a nation are from being a single nation. We are divided into our subcultures and are on a priority first from our region and then from Pakistan. And then this is so conveninently used by the political brass of our country to play their cards and keep the nation as a whole distracted from the worrying economic problems. The recent events in Karachi with a certain ‘Sher-e- Sindh’ as he has been shown on some billboards did with his ludicrous and insensitive statements towards the urdu speaking populous. Mind you the latter isn’t exactly innocent either. The response to such things doesn’t lie in burning, firing and general anarchy and there is absolutely nothing peaceful about that. (Point to ponder at this time: For all my friends who so amusingly and gleefully kept various statuses aimed towards the protests and violence in London about how it’s the same as Karachi etc. When shit happens in Karachi it is followed by our Interior Minister visiting the city, condemning the violence, making some other comedic statements and then in a couple of days the violence is subdued because of the ‘Law Enforcement Agencies’ being asked to take action. Why was the law enforcement agency not strong enough to control the situation on its own? Because of political divides and stakes perhaps? In London, Manchester, Norwich etc after the 3-4 days of violent protests and looting and disorder the Law enforcement i.e. the Police used the CCTV cameras in the various parts of the city to identify the offenders, make arrests and take them to trial all in a matter of 1 week. And it wasn’t a just for the heck of it arrest and trial like here of let’s say ’10 men’. They arrested over 1600 people and have tried and found guilty 900 of them and also announced their sentences. That is a startling difference and one that shows that we are nowhere near able to make wise cracks about their situation.)
This country has lasted 64 years and as Mr. Cowasjee noted in his article on Sunday that this in itself is an achievement. That after 64 years of battering and bruising at the hands of all of us, the country still survives. But the lifeline is not going to hold very long unless we can start seeing and being the change that we want to. Relying on the ‘right’ leader to come along and dragging us out of our pit hole is just another excuse for not wanting to be inconvenienced. We all need to start taking some sort of responsibility along with the ‘patriotism’ that we so eagerly claim to have. Breaking Guinness book of world records for the most number of people singing our national anthem is great, but ultimately useless unless we are doing something to make a difference. 5400 people gathering together to sing the national anthem isn’t making a difference. It does not matter to the 14 year old boy who was killed by his uncle in a village because of some misunderstanding or the 40 year old man who is desperately in need to make his ends meet and feed his family and get his children a good education and is just stopped by a corrupt cop. We all need to be Pakistan first and foremost. We need to shed away with being Mohajirs, Sindhis, Punjabis etc. Be Pakistan. Think for Pakistan. And the whole of Pakistan. Not just your own electoral vote bank / community. God made us all equal. We are all born equal and we all die equal. The ultimate reality for all humans white, black, male, female, rich, poor, Sunni, Shia, Punjabi, Balochi etc etc etc is the same: death.
Please note that I am not excluding myself from being held accountable. We all need to do something. It doesn’t need to be some grand economic idea. It doesn’t have to be participation in politics and becoming that 1 leader to solve all problems. There are a lot of good things that can be done which can ultimately make a difference in this country. We can be actively involved in humanitarian causes or outreach for the development of the under privileged.
Happy Independence Day to everyone. May we see the turning of a new leaf for this nation soon and be on our way towards prosperity, peace and progress.
P.S. The one good news for Pakistan which came a couple of days prior to the 14th was the launch of Pakistan’s first Communications Satellite. Kudos for this achievement. I think it is just these kind of things that will start uplifting the morale and overall spirit (actual spirit) of this entire nation because developments like these lead to good gains within the economy. It eventually leads to new opportunities to explore, new skill demands, new resource requirements and thus new job opportunities.