Ardeshir Cowasjee writing in Dawn:
There has to be something seriously wrong with a country in which many of its citizens are still arguing as to whether it should or should not have been made, or debating as to whether it came into being by accident, intent, design or even intrigue. All possible accusations have been levied against the logic of Pakistan’s making.
The fact is that Pakistan exists and has existed for 62 years — in what shape is quite another matter. Arguments on that score will never cease, and they should not as it failed initially to take off in the right direction.
A valid argument has been made by a few of the many who responded to last week’s column against the exhortation ‘bring back Jinnah’s Pakistan’ — that we should be looking and moving forwards rather than retreating.
A counter argument to this is that from shortly after its birth the nation retreated 300 years placing itself in mindset and religious-political intent back in the age of the Emperor Aurangzeb. (Had it chosen to retreat 400 years to the age of Akbar the Great it would have been on the correct and proper path.)
With the relatively recent advent of the Taliban we have retreated even further in time, back to the 11th century and the Hashishi who considered murder a religious duty and who dreamed up ecstatic visions of paradise before setting out to face martyrdom.
Having retreated and firmly embedded itself, if the country is put at the take-off point of Jinnah’s Pakistan we will have in fact advanced. There is no latter day Mohammad Ali Jinnah to lead us but we do have his words and his example to look to. The fact is that, for whatever reasons and through whatever circumstances, Mr Jinnah managed to do what few men have done — he created a country and in doing so changed the course of history. Professor Stanley Wolpert’s opens the preface to his book Jinnah of Pakistan with this reminder.
All great men are controversial, so Jinnah, is highly controversial both in his own land and particularly in the country out of which Pakistan was carved (some 940,000 sq.km.). He learnt his politics from Dadabhoy Naoroji, Phirozshaw Mehta, Motilal Nehru, Gopal Gokhale and other men of substance. His alleged motives for having done what he did vary from the simple accusation of a grab for power to the suggestion that he was caught in a vice of his own making and against his inner will the creation of Pakistan was forced upon him. My belief and that shared by many is, knowing what we all know, that the Muslims of undivided India were a subjugated minority, Jinnah’s feeling was that in an independent India they would become even more downtrodden and face even more discrimination and thus have difficulty as a community in making much of themselves.
Jinnah’s intent was to create a homeland turning the minority into a majority, not subject to discrimination and challenges. He expected the Muslims of his country to rise above themselves, to join the modern world, work and prosper, in a land free from bigotry, imbued with tolerance for their fellow human beings of no matter what creed or race. Such was his intent, of this I have no doubt. What he subsequently had to work with after the birth of Pakistan caused him grief. His motive and intent being honourable, no blame can attach to him for where Pakistan find’s itself today.
He may have failed, as all others did, to anticipate the horrors of partition, and the mass migration and slaying that took place, but three days prior to the birth of his country he was still optimistic, he still had hopes that he could sway the hearts and minds of the men who would be the future law makers.
Apart from that most famous of quotations from his Aug 11, 1947 speech to the constituent assembly, when he made it abundantly clear that religion, caste or creed have nothing to do with the business of the state, a passage that most fortuitously is quoted with frequency in our press and media and in all books written about Jinnah, we must also remember the words he spoke back in February 1935 to the Central Legislative Assembly when he told the members that “religion should not be allowed to come into politics … religion is merely a matter between man and God”.
A year later, he announced at a Muslim League session that the question of constitutional safeguards for Muslims “was not a religious question, but purely a political problem”. All this was put paid to in March 1949 by the men who followed him.
What else did he tell these men to whom he was bequeathing a country? He told them that the first duty of a government is to impose and maintain law and order to protect the lives, properties and religious beliefs of the citizens. Not an impossible task, but one which successive governments have failed to achieve. We are today paying heavily for their corruption and incompetence.
Jinnah came down hard on bribery and corruption — he called them “a poison”. Again he was thwarted. In his very lifetime the men who would lead the country were scheming and stealing, falsely declaring properties owned in India so that they could grab what was left abandoned by the Hindus who had fled. Dishonesty, graft and robbery were part of Pakistan’s birth pangs and with the years they have blossomed exponentially.
The rot and ruin can only be retrieved if we have the will and ability to heed the words of the man who made us.