Pakistan at the cross roads of History
5 September 2001
Aamir Hussain Sheikh
QAID-E-AZAM Muhammad Ali Ali Jinnah, the architect of Pakistan, was never an Islamic fundamentalist, though he believed
in seperate political identity of Muslims to safeguard their righted in Hindu majority India. To a question (August, 1919) whether
he wanted to do away with any distinction between Muslims and Hindus in political life. Jinnah had replied , "Yes, nothing will
please me more than (sic) when that day comes".
Twenty eight years later, while addressing the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947. Jinnah had stated, " You
are free to go to your temple, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan.... I
think we should keep that in front of us our ideal and you will find that in course of time 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 ." Thus the man who was instrumental in the division of India on the basis of two nation
theory advocated a secular agenda once he succeeded getting a nation state for Muslims of the sub-continent. Jinnah was a
constitutional flag bearer, a great parliamentarian but he never got the chance to get down to nation building. Being sick and
aged, he died soon after the partition of India. From there starts the tragedy of Pakistan. It took nine years just to fame its
constitution and by that time it had lost the will and direction to follow that 'book'. Secularism and democracy, the two
hallmarks of a modern nation state, fell victims to the directionship of the elites. This nexus between the army, bureaucracy and
the landed aristocracy of the elites. This nexus between the army, bureaucracy and the indeed aristocracy has ruled or misruled
Pakistan even sine. To tighten their grip over the nerves of the masses, Pakistani politicians used religious sloganeering as a tool.
Whether it was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto or general Zia ul Haq or Mian Nawaz Sharief, every one resorted to Islamisation of the state
in the pursuit of their political ambitions and designs. "No other Muslim nation has used Islam with such impurity and in such
crass manner, as Pakistan, says Iqbal Ahmed, a well known commentator of Pakistan. He further adds, "Pakistan is still passing
through a crisis of legitimacy, 50 years after independence, the moral basis on which that country was formed having died with
the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. As regards Islamic religion, I have not meet a single politician in Pakistan who really
understands Islam. They even lack a political ideology."
Religion, and for that matter any religion, is like an African elephant. If you follow it undisturbed, it may lead you to a lake of
cool and pure waters, but if you ride it to reach your political destination, it will sure swing you down in the dehydrated bush
jungle to the eaten up by the ants. The Islamisation of Pakistan, which was adopted as tool to gain or retain political power, has
since swallowed the entire polity, transform the whole state into an ideological hostage and rendered the poor hapless masses
of Pakistan as bonded labour and gun-fodder. In the land of Jinnah, who had felt felicitated to attend the special thanks giving
services in the Holy Trinity Church in Karachi on August 17, 1947, the religious intolerance has reached its ugliest limit. A
14-year-old Salamat Masih was sentenced to death along with the uncle, Rehmat Masih, for allegedly scrawling anti Islamic
words on the wall. When the Lahore High Court late acquitted them on the ground that Salamet Masih was illiterate, the two
had to flee Pakistan to save their lives from the frenzied mob. The High Court was also lewdly abused for sparing the two
hapless Christians. Justice M Munir of Lahore High Court while probing into the 1953 communal riots in Punjab asked every
learned Mullah to define who a Muslim was. And he recorded in his report. "No two Ulema have agreed before us as to the
definition of a Muslim". Makhdoom Ali Khan, an eminent constitutional lawyer, aptly summed up Pakistan's passage to religious
extremism. "The rot did it start when we declared the Qadianis non-Muslims. It started when we demanded a state based on
On economic front, Pakistan has been touching the end pole of bankruptcy over and over. During the cold war era, it was
always bailed out by IMF, World Bank etc. courtesy the Western Block. Now when the cold war is over and Russians are no
more sitting in Afghanistan, no ladder seems available with Pakistan to come out of the economic pit. The problem was rooted
not in the paucity of resources but with the mindset of the political and military elite of Pakistan. The root cause of Pakistan's
economic backwardness lies in its defence oriented approach. Every successive regime in Pakistan, whether military or civilian,
have been spending major part of its budgets on the defence and of late on its nuclear build up. The industrial infra structure, the
agricultural modernisation, the communication and commercial linkups, modern and scientific education to the youth, the
forward looking people's participating administration etc. suffered as a casualty to the excessive militarization of the polity.
There are around 4200 sick industrial units in Pakistan and the government is completely paralysed in its task to revive them.
90% of Pakistan's revenue earnings go to meet international debts. The government has to sign on the dotted line each time to
get loans from the IMF to service its debts. A cash strapped dependent economy does not have the room for manoeuvre.
Rashed Rehman, an economic analyst summed up the problem thus: The problem Pakistan's ruling elite has never fully
comprehended, much less appeared to have any clue how to resolve, is that of making the long overdue transition from a state
dependent on the west's large, available during the cold war for extra reasons, to a self-respecting country able to stand on its
feet in a global free market environment.
A state ideology bereft of social and economic justice is bound to fail sooner or later Pakistan, carved out on principal of
two-nation theory, has failed to secure its unity and integrity on the strength of that principle. Bangladesh separated in 1971.
The remaining four nationalities in the truncated Pakistan Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluchis and Pakhtoons are pitted against each
other and the religious commonality has failed to surpress their ethnic, cultural and lingual aspirations, and prejudices. Another
ultra nationality, the Urdu speaking Mohajirs are a most disillusioned lot and a constant cause to bloody riots in Sindh. In May
1995 Benazir Bhutto the then Prime Minister had called the Mohajirs 'traitors' who had nothing in common with the people of
Pakistan. The religious ideology of the state has failed even to check the sectarian riots between Shias and Sunnis in Punjab and
elsewhere. The problem of internal security in Pakistan has grown so big that it is threatening the advent of civil war. Pakistan
fought the war for America in Afghanistan under the banner of Jihad. After the Jihadi's became free from Afghanistan they
turned homeward and started spreading their tentacles across the country. They have now become the extra-constitutional
force daring the regime to touch them. What suffered in the process is the aspirations of the people of Pakistan for economic
and social justice, political democracy, and cultural freedom. The council on Foreign Relations, an influential US lobby, in its
report, " A new United States policy towards India and Pakistan" had, in February 1997 termed Pakistan as a failed state. In
view of the above, that report can not be brushed aside as motivated.
Pakistan, today, stands on the crossroads of history. The threat of Talibanisation of Pakistan worries commoners the most. If
these worries come true, this will lead to complete crumbling of economy and a possible civil war. Such a scenario will be
strategic nightmare for the entire democratic world, especially when a failed state would be sitting on nuclear arsenal. To quote
again Rashed Rehman: The only way left with the dispirited, exhausted, alienated, suffering masses of Pakistan would be to
organize, mobilize and wrest power from the moribund ruling elite.
Pakistani people are longing for a stable and liberal democracy, demilitarization of the state, social justice and upliftment of the
poor masses, fair development and equal opportunities to all the ethnic regions and subnationalities. They desire modern and
secular approach to the polity and religious matters and disbanding of all groups that spread violence and hatred. Pakistanis
want a peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue to cut drastically the defence budget. Of late, Pakistani trade class has made is very
clear that they favour commerce and trade with neighbouring India. If this is done, that may augur a golden era not only for
Pakistan but for the entire of South Asian region. This daunting task need seasoned statesman to fulfill. General Pervez
Musharraf, who is likely to call the shots for an indefinite period, even after installing a subdued civilian hotch potch of a
government, is neither trained nor inclined for such a course. Whatever little steps he is taking like modernising the Madrasssas,
seizing the illegal arms, admonishing the Mullahs etc. are simply window dressing for the consumption of western democracies
who control the International funds.