Understanding Pakistan: Looking Behind to See Ahead

Posted on June 26, 2007
Filed Under >iFaqeer, History
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Over the last month or so I have been involved in a project that has been very edifying. But that is not the surprising part.

I could go on and on about the project and I will provide further information about the project in a minute. But here’s an excerpt form a recent post that there’s very little chance will not startle you. Read it and then decide whether the site Understanding Pakistan is worth a visit:

“At the time of their independence, with resources and destinies so interlinked with each other ( i.e. Pakistan’s dependence on India’s for its water, and India’s dependence on Pakistan’s raw material for its factories), much was dependent upon the goodwill between the two countries. Leaders on both sides made public statements that suggested that they expected nothing short of that. Some had, in the past, even suggested the possibility of a joint-defense pact between the two countries. However, in reality the relationship that emerged, as the ashes of the partition settled, was everything but cordial. This took leaders on both sides by surprise…”.

They had been colleagues in a heartfelt movement, if representing different threads in it, for decades up till that point. This something, I believe, that both Pakistanis and Indians (and, if you ask me, Bangladeshis) should sit down and think about.

“Most of us Pakistanis today”, says Dr. Athar Osama, the Coordinator and Editor of the Understanding Pakistan project, “are not only criminally apathetic to our present and future but also shamefully ignorant of our own past. The Understanding Pakistan Project aims to correct that by providing an online platform for systematic collective exploration, learning, and dissemination of the country’s history. Through the collective reading and writing of Pakistan’s history–and present–it is an attempt by us–the third generation of Pakistanis after the founders (our fore-fathers) and the second generation (our parents) and–to collectively try to find meaning and perspective on Pakistan.”

Each week, from June 4, until October 13, 2007, Understanding Pakistan will feature a series of historical and contemporary thought pieces aimed at exploring a particular period in Pakistan’s history. These will include an anchor piece to set the context of the week’s interaction, commentaries and critiques by a panel of regular contributors, and guest pieces featuring diverse perspectives of people who have been at the center of various events in the country’s history. In doing so, we hope to gradually build a comprehensive catalogue and archive of events and documents pertaining to Pakistan’s history and attract a civilized debate on issues that have confronted our country and have escaped resolution for over five decades now. It is only by deconstructing our past that we can hope to construct the future.

Understanding Pakistan also provides a great opportunity for those in the West to learn about a country that has been an enigma for the international community in recent times, and in a manner that is both substantive (or academic) and interactive (or personal)”, says Syed Asif Alam, the President of Association of Pakistani Professionals (AOPP) that supports the Understanding Pakistan Project.

Understanding Pakistan hopes that by learning about the challenges, successes, and misfortunes that have been a part of Pakistan’s history, both Pakistanis and others will learn to appreciate the complexity of the country’s past, acknowledge and build upon its diversity, and learn to navigate the future.

The most important objective, however, is to create an informed citizenry that looks at the multifarious issues confronting its own country and the world with an open and analytical mind and plays its own little part in dealing with these. Understanding Pakistan is an investigation into the life and times of a nation that has demonstrated a remarkable ability to not learn from its own past and has, therefore, often found itself on the wrong side of history and going against the currents of time. Pakistan’s accomplishments aside, political stability, democracy and good governance, law-and-order and internal security, international respectability, and human development are not ideas Pakistanis can be particularly proud about.

Only by better understanding our own past and avoiding the mistakes that we have made before, can we make a new beginning to build a more tolerant, just, and prosperous Pakistan. A Pakistan that really works for everybody not just a few of us.

This is precisely the kind of conversation–an honest and open conversation about our country’s history–that Pakistani establishment and the vested interests–the bureaucrats, the army, the politicians, and even the judiciary–does not want all of us to have. Over several decades these forces have attempted to not only restrict our access to this history (in the creation of the text book boards and the standardization of curriculum) but have also attempted to (and quite successfully so) re-engineered history. This makes it all the more important that we have this conversation now rather than later.

Understanding Pakistan invites all Pakistanis and interested international audiences to visit the website and experience the story of Pakistan’s roller coaster history spanning over 60 years. We promise you would be surprised, once in a while, and thrilled, most of the time. Find out for yourself by visiting Understanding Pakistan where the conversation is just getting started.

16 responses to “Understanding Pakistan: Looking Behind to See Ahead”

  1. axiomatic says:

    Btw, Khwaja Nazimuddin is just one example, there are others as well. Do you, in your right mind, think that ‘all’ of these people (listed among founding fathers) worked ‘selflessly’, without a vested interest for creation of Pakistan?

    Moreover, the content and language is very docile to say the least. It appears yet another piece of daydreaming by patriots.

    Dont focus on what was, focus of what ought to have been.

  2. axiomatic says:

    Well, I have seen the website and it pretty much looks like an extension of Matric level Pak Studies textbook, with naming Khwaja Nazimuddin among ‘founding fathers’, (the term itself is american inspired).

    Soory to whoever is launching this project…not impressed. In its present form, wont fly!

  3. faraz says:

    Well, the greatest stage of a good leadership is to turn followers into leaders. Quaid-e-Azam though a great leader himself not created other great leaders which could took his place.

    I don’t want to tun into specific but this weakness is very eminent in throughout muslim history.

    India is a great democracy because forefathers of India had a vision which our forefathers lacked. Quaid had not given last vice-roy governership of Pakistan, but Pakistan took 9 years to make its constitution and British Queen remained constitutional head of Pakistan.

  4. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:

    Understanding Pakistan Project (UPP) appears to be an interesting exercise. One hopes that this project accommodates ALL points of view originating from various Pakistani scholarships and is not used to promote just some particular views of choice. Also since there is no shortage of apposition to the ‘Idea of Pakistan’, is this project going to accommodate those points of view as well? If so then this project will end up as a debate on the ‘Idea of Pakistan’ and not on the strengths and short comings of Pakistan as a state and as a nation. So for Mr. Athar Osama appears to be the main person behind this project. Perhaps readers of ATP could be informed about the backgrounds and affiliations of Mr. Osama and other personalities involved with this project.

  5. axiomatic says:

    Why is it so that all our history/Pak Studies text books stop at 1947? What happened after that? Why doesnt someone tell us how corrupt, incompetent rulers sold out the future generations of this country, along with most of its wealth? Is that a part of Understanding Pakistan? I hope it would be.

    Along with honoring heroes (unsung, most of them), Understanding Pakistan should also expose the traitors.

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