The Mirage Of Jinnah’s Pakistan
The mirage of Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah’s progressive and egalitarian Pakistan drifts away with every passing day, as his vision has been forgotten by those who are at the helm of affairs in the country, writes Sheraz Ahmed.
Since its inception in the year of 1947, Pakistan has been, in the context of sub-continent, a hotbed of politics. There have been heroes on the lines of the ‘Greek Tragedies’, ‘Dynastic Politics’ resembling the Mughal Era, and ‘Military Dictatorships’ on the likes of Third Reich in Nazi Germany.
During the past 72 years of Pakistan’s brief life as a ‘nation’, it has seen many tragic incidents. Four full-scale wars with its eastern neighbour i.e. India, the breaking away of the largest part of the original country i.e. East Pakistan, militant insurgency and terrorism on multiple fronts, and separatist movements in most provinces.
The land hasn’t turned out as a ‘peaceful paradise’ that was promised, or as the Muslims of United India under the despotic rule of British Crown had dreamed of. In the following lines the reader would find a short recap of what has unfolded during all these unfortunate years. The hopes that have been marooned, the dreams that have been shattered, and the promises that haven’t been kept.
The Year is 1947, people from all walks of life have joined hands and consolidated power to fight against the yoke of British colonialism, and to gain freedom to build a laboratory where people of different hues and colors—Shias, Sunnis, Bohras, Parsis, Sikhs, and to some extent, Hindus — could live together like comrades-in-arms to lead a dignified life, and have an earnest going in the world.
It is 1948, the fateful year, when Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah of Lincoln’s Inn, the established Barrister of India, and who would be later dubbed as the ‘Quaid-e-Azam of Pakistan’ has left this world and relayed the powers to run this country into the hands of some of the most bigoted politicians. Not only have they murdered his dream of a progressive Pakistan, but are also often blamed to have been the real reason behind the untimely death of MA Jinnah.
The Constituent Assembly had made it its personal business to reverse all the prudent precedents that were set by Jinnah himself during his lifetime. It damaged the nation by dividing the citizenry along religious lines. The frenzy of hate followed and numerous riots ensued, people got murdered, and the nation lay defeated.
Now fast forward to the Year 1971, the largest province of Pakistan, Bengal, is up against the ‘Western Pakistan’ in revolt; the Bengali language and its suppression by the incumbent military regime being the apparent cause. But the disavowment of the human, political, social, and economic rights of Bengali population is at the root of it. The largest tract of the population felt betrayed. Egalitarianism was dragged on the streets of Bengal to bleed and die of its own wounds.
Reports from West Pakistan during that particular epoch are horrendous; the citizens were murdered, castrated and raped by the country’s own force, whom the establishment had dubbed as the nation’s defence force. Socio-political mayhem was the order of the day.
People like Siddiq Salik have explicitly written at length on the issue as to how Bengalis were discriminated against, tortured, humiliated, and usually murdered at the whims of the very people who were deployed to crush the unrest.
The country stood divided, first politically, socially and economically, and then post 1971 episode, in the real sense. Bangladesh declared its independence; India was blamed by the people in power at out part of the country for the breakup, whereas the people of Bengal declared the then incumbent regime of [West] Pakistan for all their miseries that ultimately resulted in the breaking up of Pakistan.
It is said that this was the first time in the history of mankind that a majority population had declared unilateral independence from a minority owing to the minority’s arbitrary use of power.
In the aftermath of, figuratively speaking, ‘Fall of Dhaka,’ Zulifkar Ali Bhutto is risen to the power with the support from the masses as well as from the real bastions of power i.e. Military. Some army generals and bureaucrats are fired; the men in charge vow to return Pakistan and its forces, which had caused the breakup of the country, the status and respect that it commanded before the fall of Dhaka.
People, with dreams in their eyes, follow Bhutto everywhere. He declares that the power to rule must be derived from the masses. Tall promises are made in the meantime.
Wherever he went, he promised land to the landless, and other socialist reforms of the same nature. It was only after a short time into the power that Mr. Bhutto did actually realise that to remain in power, he must have to make some compromises, not only on the ways he did his politics, but even on the very principles that he had rallied through across entire country during the time of his elections.
Left-leaning progressives were jailed in large numbers, nationalist leaders and their party members were incarcerated. In an interview, Rasool Bux Palijo, a veteran lawyer and left-leaning politician, sarcastically remarked, “Who wasn’t in jail during his time? Every man with a conscience was put behind the bars!” Mr. Bhutto’s project failed, economy doomed, religious fanaticism rose, Ahmadis—a minority sect based mainly in Punjab—were declared Kafirs by an Act of Parliament.
But even these compromises couldn’t save Bhutto’s government. He was toppled by the right-wing fanatic General Zia ul Haq, who assumed the position of Chief Martial Law administrator, until he exploded in the skies above Bahawalpur, Pakistan in 1988.
The country went back on the democratic track, power was returned to people’s representatives, elections were held, and the era of Daughter of the East dawned.
Post the death of Zia, Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of slain leader, Zulfkar Bhutto, assumed the power after successfully winning the elections, but her government was, after a very short term, toppled on the charges of corruption and abuse of power. She was replaced with Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, ex-chief minister of Punjab, and a favourite of late Military dictator Zia ul Haq.
He, too, was thrown out of power by the establishment, and once again Benazir Bhutto was made the Prime Minister. She couldn’t hold power for too long and was once again sent packing by the incumbent President, which caused the return of Mian Nawaz Sharif to power.
This time, like the old times, he was ousted out of power, but not by a civilian president or the parliament, but dictator General Pervez Musharraf.
When General Pervez Musharraf took over, the country was once again in shambles. Political opponents of the regime were either imprisoned and tortured or forced to exile and live an apolitical life.
Promises were made, and as time went by, the dust of unrest settled. Democratic forces were retaliating, popular leaders were revolting, and it was in this power struggle that the tragedy of Sardar Akbar Bugti’s martyrdom happened.
It is in itself a Shakespearean tragedy as to how a minor issue of power abuse from a low tier military officer resulted in a full-scale revolt from a whole province of the federation. After a short time of the revolt in Balochistan, a lawyer’s movement from all over the country erupted.
Leaders from Bar Councils of the nation took to the streets to fight against the despotic rule of General Musharraf. They ultimately forced him, with support from majority parties, to step down and hand over the power to elected representatives.
Benazir Bhutto returned, so did Mian Nawaz Sharif, and with their return came back the promise of a democratic united front that could lead the country and its population of the turmoil of the past. A Charter of Democracy was signed between the parties, new vows were made, and with this came new aspirations.
The populace once again dreamed of a nation built upon democratic lines which, a nation where policy and programme were put at a premium whereas the egoistic charisma of people in power, that had ruled the past decades, would be placed at a discount.
A new generation of people was expected to be born who could defend their civil and political rights against the rising power of ‘Uniformed Men’. Dynastic politics was said to be gone, as PPP, as well as the leaders of Muslim League Nawaz, pledged to move forward on the way towards progress and prosperity.
The first transition of power from one elected government to the other elected government went smoothly, although there were some minor impediments in the middle of it all. Some good changes were brought to the laws of the country to strengthen the political scenario, 18th Amendment was made to the Constitution, provinces were empowered to barricade the ascendancy of separatist groups to the national scenario.
But with good things came bad eggs too. Memogate scandal weakened political alliances, Mr. Husain Haqqani, the then Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, was left out in the dark, abandoned by civil leadership. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, in his famous black-tie, arrived on the premises of the Supreme Court as the Petitioner against the PPP led government. Once again, the civilian leaders were busy in their petty skirmishes, democracy weakened, rights tarnished and nation enfeebled.
After the ending of PPP’s tenure in 2013 General Elections, Nawaz Sharif got another chance. With his arrival in the government frame, surfaced his old school assurances of progress in economic and infrastructure sectors.
Motorways were sanctioned, Metro Bus services were started, the economy seemed to be blooming, but the poor became poorer, whereas a handful of industrialists soared.
During the summer of Nawaz Sharif’s ‘Laptops for the Young’, entered PTI’s much advertised ‘Tsunami’. PTI had, in the post-2008 scenario, emerged as the third-largest political force of the country.
Made up mainly of flip flops, the party made the same clichéd promises that every party before them had been making to dupe the voters, with the sole exception of ending nepotism and dynastic politics from Pakistan.
A persistent protest against the party in power for alleged rigging in the year of 2013 General Elections took place at the area surrounding Parliament’s building in Islamabad. Ballot boxes were opened, but to the disappointment of Imran Khan, the PTI’s leader, nothing came out. An unenthusiastic defeat was accepted, everyone went home without producing many results. The country was back on track. When everything seemed smooth to the party leaders of Pakistan Muslim League—Nawaz, came the deluge of ‘Panama Papers’.
11.5 million Panama Papers that shook most corridors of power around the world, had its impact on the dynasty of Mian Nawaz Sharif too. Imran Khan’s party once again had the content to restart their political agitation, but this time the war was fought in the halls of Court.
Nawaz Sharif was disqualified as PM, and with his disqualification came the jolt that plucked out the long-established roots of his party. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a former minister of the Nawaz League, took over as the country’s premier, without much to offer. Attacks from all sides were forwarded in the direction of Mian Nawaz Sharif and his family. His terminally ill wife, daughter, sons, and even the people associated with him in any way, were hounded out of power and harassed at every corner.
What the PTI leadership called a revolution against the corrupt, came out as nothing but a pantomime of persecution and coercion.
Imran Khan’s party rose to power in the 2018 General Elections, and he was sworn in as the 22nd premier of the nation. Sides were switched, horse-trading became order of the day.
The people he had formerly called out as the products of ‘dynastic politics’, were refurbished into a product called ‘electables’. Like the era of Third Reich in Germany, a new science was carved out to support the regime’s own agenda—the Science of Electables—that justified the stance of Mr. Khan on accepting previously intolerable personalities of Pakistan’s political scene.
A 90-day program was promised that would result in the ending of all ills of the nation. The countrymen were assured of an elixir within these 90 days that would make them the long-promised ‘Superpower’.
An extended cabinet was formed, special advisers were imported from abroad, and an end to nepotism and corruption was guaranteed. Mian Atif, the world-renowned Economist, was named as an adviser to the Prime Minister on a task force aimed at ending the country’s economic issues. Within a day, a famous U-Turn was taken, abandoning the established economist over a whipping from right-wing corners of the country.
The gentleman was condemned because of his Ahmadi faith. Religious innuendos were thrown here and there on the line to safeguard the government from any attack coming out of the religious establishment of the country. The hounding of political opponents, reminiscent of Zia ul Haq and Musharraf’s era, started and took over the whole nation like a storm.
At present, a former President, two former Prime Ministers, as well as several former ministers and incumbent parliamentarians are behind the gallows for alleged corruption and misuse of authority. The government keeps using its powers in the most arbitrary way possible.
Press freedom has been curtailed, human rights activists have been jailed, attacks of independence of the judiciary have been made, and it is so expected of the government to make matters worse in the days that follow. Apart from the Good Taliban/Bad Taliban binary, another dichotomy has been placed into the minds of common men—Good Disqualified, Bad Disqualified.
Media coverage of all political opponents under trial, including Nawaz Sharif, has been barred whereas Mr. Jahangir Tareen, a financier of the PTI, who was disqualified from holding any official title in a very similar manner, is seen on media and in parliamentary meetings every now and then.
The political war has resulted in Imran Khan forgetting all of his covenants made to the nation, and heading in the way of disaster. The economy has crashed, security has failed, people are at unrest, and the whole nation once again awaits the promised lost paradise. The mirage of Mr. Jinnah’s progressive and egalitarian Pakistan drifts away with every passing day.
The author is a lawyer based in Islamabad. He tweets @sheraza29