August 14, 2009 – What was there to Celebrate?

by Roedad Khan

[Note for WoP readers: Last month the Pakistani nation celebrated its independence, on the august day of 14th August from the yoke of the British Raj and from the machinations of All India Congress to exercise its hegemony over the politics of an undivided subcontinent, because the AIC then considered itself as the sole successor to the British colonizers; without a just inclusion of the second largest community in undivided India.
We had a great dream at that time to shape our new country as a model Islamic state, a state that would prove the world why we as a nation demanded the partition of the subcontinent then called British India.
Once I was reading a small piece of conversation reported in an Urdu magazine. It was a dialogue between a Muslim and a Sikh before partition. The Sikh asked his Musalman friend, Yar (buddy) why do you demand a separate land and the Muslim guy replies. “We demand for a separate homeland because we are going to create a nation where there will be justice, where there will be an egalitarian state which will look after its citizens like mother nurtures its children. Nobody will sleep hungry in our Pakistan; none will be jobless, and there will be no difference between the rich and the poor because in Islam a poor Bedouin of Arabia could ask the mighty Caliph Omar why he had two shawls with him? As an individual even though a Caliph, he had no right to get an extra shawl, says the Bedouin. “Haven’t you usurped upon the state treasury and indulged into a sin committed against the nation of Islam?
And the mighty Caliph humbly says, the second shawl belongs to my son (as the son too got his due shawl from the Baitul-Maal or the state treasury) like any other citizen of the state. This is the model we are going to adopt, and implement in our polity, in our governance and you will see what we will have after we get our Pakistan.
The man who narrates this incident, then many years after Pakistan’s creation, asks himself. Why my dreams have been shattered. If I see my Sikh friend now, my head will go down in shame for what we have now is not what we thought and fought for!
Dear readers: it’s in this context that I put up the following post from Roedad Khan. RK is the man who saw the birth of Pakistan when he was quite young. He is a Pashtun and a Pakistani like all of us. Every single word he utters is a word which comes out of the heart of a patriot. And what he says finally is a message to all Pakistanis: To ponder over the question once again why did we fail in our mission and can’t we as a nation expose those very players who did their sinister parts in this game of shattering our dreams? Nayyar]
On August 14, 1947, over a century and a half of British rule in India came to an end. The Union Jack was lowered for the last time. I saw the sun set on the British Empire in the sub-continent. I witnessed its dissolution and emergence of two independent sovereign countries.
I was born in slavery. On August 14, thanks to the iron will and determination of Mr. Jinnah, I was proud citizen of a sovereign, independent country – a country I could live for and die for. It was a wondrous moment. Cheers rang out and many wept. But where are the words to convey the intoxication of that triumphal moment. It is not just that we had a great leader who seemed to embody all our hopes, all our aspirations. We had entered a new era, blissfully unaware how the pendulum of history will swing. Mr. Jinnah could not have foreseen what would happen when he passed his flaming torch into the hands of his successors or how venal those hands could be.
Many nations in the past have attempted to develop democratic institutions, only to lose them when they took their liberties and political institutions for granted, and failed to comprehend the threat posed by a powerful military establishment. Pakistan is a classic example. Born at midnight as a sovereign, independent, democratic country, today it is neither sovereign, nor independent, nor even democratic. Today it is not just a “rentier state”, not just a client state. It is a slave state, ill-led, ill-governed by a power-hungry junta and a puppet government set up by Washington.
62 years after independence, are we really free? Are the people masters in their own house? The kind of Pakistan we have today has lost its manhood and is a ghost of its former self. Our entire political system has been pulled into a black hole caused by periodic army intervention and prolonged army rule. Today if Pakistan were to look into a mirror, it won’t recognize itself. The contrast between Pakistan in 1947 – idealistic, democratic, progressive, optimistic, and Pakistan today – leaderless, rudderless, violent, besieged, corrupt, uncertain about its future – could not be sharper or more disheartening. If you want to know how a people can survive despite their government, well, visit Pakistan.
What was there to celebrate? There was absolutely no reason to celebrate! But there are myriad reasons to reflect. We lost half the country in a suicidal civil war in 1971. Like the Bourbons of France we have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Today Pakistan is dangerously at war with itself once again. The Federation is united only by a ‘rope of sand’. 62 years after independence, we have a disjointed, dysfunctional, lopsided, hybrid, artificial, political system – a non-sovereign rubber stamp parliament, a weak and ineffective Prime Minister, appointed by a powerful accidental President.
As we look back at all the squandered decades, it is sad to think that for Pakistan it has been a period of unrelieved decline and the dream has turned sour. Once we were the envy of the developing world. That is now the stuff of nostalgia. The corrupt, especially those occupying the commanding heights of power, are doing breathtakingly well, while the large mass of people is struggling hard just to keep its head above water.
What has become of the nation? Its core institutions? The militarized state has destroyed the foundations of all our political institutions. The army has been enthroned as the new elite. The level of fawning and jockeying to be merely noticed and smiled upon by any pretender in uniform speaks of a nation that is loudly pleading to be crushed underfoot. Today we feel ourselves unable to look our children in the eye, for the shame of what we did, and didn’t do during the last 62 years. For the shame of what we allowed to happen? This is an eerie period, the heart of the nation appears to stop beating, while its body remains suspended in a void. Today the Supreme Court, the Guardian of the Constitution, is the only ray of hope in the darkness that surrounds us. After years of subservience, it is on its feet and holding its head high. Sadly, inspite of a strong and independent judiciary, the present corrupt order may survive because both the Presidency and the parliament are dysfunctional and out of sync with the spirit of the times.
The sovereignty of the people is a myth. To apply the adjective Sovereign to the people in Pakistan is a tragic farce. Whatever the constitutional position, in the final analysis, de facto sovereignty in Pakistan resides neither in the electorate, nor the Parliament, nor the judiciary, nor even the constitution which has superiority over all the institutions it creates. It resides, where the coercive power resides. It is ‘pouvoir occulte’ which is the ultimate authority in the decision making process in Pakistan. Even when an elected government is in power, as is the case today, it is the army which is the ultimate authority in decision-making. It decides when to abrogate the constitution, when it should be held in abeyance, when an elected government should be sacked and when democracy should be given a chance.
The independence of Pakistan is a myth. By succumbing to American pressure, we managed to secure a temporary reprieve. But at what price? Today Pakistan is splattered with American fortresses, seriously compromising our internal and external sovereignty. American security personnel stationed on our soil move in and out of the country without any let or hindrance. Pakistan has become a launching pad for military operations against neighbouring Muslim countries. We have been drawn into somebody else’s war without understanding its true dimension or ultimate objectives. Nuclear Pakistan has been turned into an ‘American lackey’, currently engaged in a proxy war against its own people.
Parliament is one of the chief instruments of our democracy. Today, it is cowed, timid, a virtual paralytic, over-paid and under-employed. Parliamentary membership is the key to material success, a passport and a license to loot and plunder. No wonder, it is not a check on the arbitrariness of the executive and nobody takes it seriously. Today it is the weakest of the three pillars of state. It has suffered a steady diminution of power and prestige. Its image is tarnished and has been turned into a fig-leaf for unconstitutional and illegal practices.
To no nation has fate been more malignant than to Pakistan. With few exceptions, Pakistan has long been saddled with poor, even malevolent, leadership: predatory kleptocrats, military dictators, political illiterates and carpet-baggers. With all her shortcomings, Benazir Bhutto had undoubted leadership qualities – charisma, courage, political acumen and articulation. After her tragic assassination, Mr. Zardari’s sudden ascension to the Presidency caused panic among the people. God help us all! “In a President character is everything”, Peggy Noonan wrote in her assessment of Ronald Reagan. “A President does not have to be brilliant. Harry Truman was not brilliant and he helped save Western Europe from Stalin. He does not have to be clever, you can hire clever… but you cannot rent a strong moral sense. You can’t acquire it in the presidency. You carry it with you”. If a President has credibility, if he is believable, if he has integrity, nothing else matters. If he has no integrity, if he has no credibility, if there is a gap between what he says and what he does, nothing else matters and he cannot govern.
Today we need a leader who has the vision, the skill, and the courage to pull Pakistan together as one nation and inspire the people. We need a President whose hands are clean and has the capability to steer the ship of state through the rockiest shoals our country has ever known. Our nation has the heart of a lion. But who is there to give it the roar? Pakistan is not a case of failed state. It is a case of failed leadership.
Today failure is the most often heard expression in Pakistan. Some say we are at the last quarter of an hour. “These are times that try men’s souls. The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of his country, but he who serves it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman”. It is not enough to sit back and let history slowly evolve. To settle back into your cold-hearted acceptance of the status quo is not an option.
The present leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. The course they are on leads downhill. This is a delicate time, full of hope and trepidation in equal measure. Today it is a political and moral imperative for all patriotic Pakistanis to fight for our core values, to resist foreign intervention in our internal affairs and to destroy the roots of evil that afflicts Pakistan. That would be the best way to celebrate our independence.
Source: The News International
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.



2 replies to “August 14, 2009 – What was there to Celebrate?

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