Pakistan of 2007: What Would Have Mr. Jinnah Wanted?

Posted on September 11, 2007
Filed Under >Athar Osama, History, People, Politics
27 Comments
Total Views: 39972

Athar Osama

I am taking on the challenge of writing this piece with great trepidition, but utmost sincerity, and would like to state upfront that I truely believe that all of us, Pakistanis, including myself, owe a mountain of debt and gratitude to Qauid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah for giving us our freedoms in this country we call our homeland. Having said that, though, I would also beg to venture a bit further to say that while it was our solemn duty to establish the Pakistan of Quaid’s dreams in 1947–for that was the Pakistan for which hundreds of millions rallied behind him and over a million of us died, it is perhaps time now to dispassionately re-evalute that aspiration and take a more realistic view of our circumstances.

In the intervening 60 years, the reality of Pakistan’s politics and society has turned out to be everything but Quaid’s dream. We, as a nation and as people, have wandered around aimlessly looking for an identity and a raison detre for our existence and our quest to find our destiny has often been hijacked by unscruplous politicians, religious leaders, and miltiary dictators luring us with their own versions of Quaid’s dream. All political leaders–from the extreme right to the extreme left, from the theocrats to the democrats, from Islamists to the secularists–claim to be the custodians of Quaid’s Pakistan.
While nobody really knows what Quaid’s vision for Pakistan actually was for he said many things, on many occasions, and for many different audiences and it is easy to distort what he said to support one’s own version, we know one thing for sure. Quaid’s vision could not be all of what it is claimed to be at the same time. The struggle to interpret and re-interpret what Quaid may have said continues to this day…

This year, the 60th Independence day of Pakistan as well, it has been fashionable to refer back to the Quaid’s vision, the Quaid’s dream, or the Quaid’s Pakistan. But is it time that we lay the Quaid’s vision of 1940s–whatever it may have been–aside for a minute and take a more realistic view of it? Shouldn’t we take off the glasses that our forefathers should have worn sixty years ago, but didn’t, and look at the reality of Pakistan as it stands today?

In foreign policy, for instance, there are two main schools of thought–the idealists who see the world through an ideal, often moral, prism and the realists for whom the realpolitik determines the course of one’s decisions. I believe that when in comes to Pakistan, we have been too much of an idealist but not enough of the activists. We also, to this day, fail to look at Pakistan from a realistic standpoint.

Is it feasible today, for instance, to develop an ideal theocracy or an ideal secular democracy in Pakistan without really rupturing the social fabric of the country and alienting and disenfranschising a vast majority of its population? Far too often in the past, we have let the best become the enemy of the good with the result that in our desire to create the ideal Pakistan–Quaid’s Pakistan–we have ended up losing an opportunity to create a “good enough” Pakistan–a Pakistan that works for most of us.

I don’t claim to know what Quaid’s vision of Pakistan really was. I read his statements being used by the proponents of both Islamic and a Secular states. But I do know this. I know that above everything else, Quaid would have wanted us, all Pakistanis, to live in peace, harmony, and prosperity and would have been happy if we could decide for ourselves, today, how we want to live our lives. Does it really matter what Pakistan was supposed to be 60 years ago? That Pakistan never materialized in the first place. But it does certainly matter what we can make of it today, and it is our greatest duty to make the best of what we have. Learning about Pakistan’s history and what Quaid thought and did, and why he did it, is an important input into the process but the ultimate choice of what Pakistan needs to be rests with all of us, the people of Pakistan.

The problem with those who argue in the favor of both extremes–a Theocratic Islamic State or a Modern Secular Democracy–is that each of these groups has its own hidden agenda and neither of them is willing give the people of Pakistan the true choice and control of their own destiny. In an online poll carried out through the Understanding Pakistan Project, we found a virtual tie between those who want to establish an Islamic Democracy (46%) and those who would like to see a Modern Secular Democracy (44%) in Pakistan.

While neither of these groups are even in a simple numerical majority, it is safe to say, however, that the people of Pakistan (as represented by those who responded to this poll) choose democracy over any other form of government by an overwhelming majority. They also probably want it to be moderated and enshrined with the values of Islam–perhaps a brand of democracy unique to the Pakistani people? Whether Islamic Democracy is an oxymoron or whether, as argued by many notable Muslim scholars, democracy is an inherently Islamic concept is a debate beyond the scope of this post but the writing is clear on the wall!

What this system of governance would look like and what role would Islam play in Pakistan’s democracy is a decision best taken by the people of Pakistan in an open, comprehensive, and transparent manner. This is also perhaps the most important conversation that we Pakistanis need to have today.

Ultimately, Pakistan should be what its people want it to be and would be most comfortable living with, and not what an opportunististic religious or political leader would like us to believe what it must be. I have complete faith in the wisdom of the Pakistani people, for no matter how uneducated they may be, they know what is best for them and are willing to vote for it in an open and fair contest.

Let the poor people of Pakistan, for once in their lives, decide their own fates and not impose it upon them. All power to the people, not only in letter (like Pakistan Peoples Party) but also in spirit. I am sure Quaid would definitely wanted that to happen.

May this 58th anniversary of Quaid’s death bring us nearer to that goal…

Pakistan Zindabad !

About the Author: Dr. Athar Osama is a public policy analyst and an amateur historian of Pakistan’s political and constitutional history. He also the Founder of the Understanding Pakistan Project.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

27 responses to “Pakistan of 2007: What Would Have Mr. Jinnah Wanted?”

  1. YLH says:

    Mantra…

    Well said. What you say is especially true for a country that was founded on the principle that a permanent majority should by sheer numerical strength dictate to a permanent minority.

    That is the long and short of the matter. Fundamental rights must be supreme and minorities must be given ample opportunity to be empowered and politically mainstreamed without any cultural compulsions.

  2. Mantra says:

    Athar,

    I think I understand what you’re trying to do (work around the “toxic” islam vs. secularism debate) but I highly doubt people will abandon their principles in order to to come to a middle ground.

    Furthermore, I disagree with your contention that Islam’s role in democracy should be decided by the people. Democracy is not the tyranny of a majority. People have fundamental rights. The role of the religion should be constrained so as not to be able to easily infringe Pakistanis’ fundamental rights (which would be doing something different from what has happened in the past 60 years).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*