Apathy and abandonment - Nosheen Saeed - Friday, March 11, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=35614&Cat=9

This article is dedicated to Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer and my dear colleague Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti who became victims of government “apathy and abandonment” but stood tall in the eyes of their countrymen as “men of substance” and raised the bar for all of us, to uphold the voice of reason and sanity in the country.

Pakistanis were visibly shaken and upset over the horrific assassinations of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti and it was expected of President Zardari that he would address the nation, condemn the brutal killings explicitly, pay homage to the deceased for their services and urge the people to show fortitude but lo and behold! The president purportedly wrote an article in the Washington Post seeking the “trust and confidence of our international allies” asking them not to lose patience.

It was shocking to read the president blaming Bhatti’s murder on extremists tied to al-Qaeda and the Taliban without any substantial proof. It seems to have become fashionable nowadays to blame security lapses and one’s own “slip-ups and incompetence” on al-Qaeda, the Taliban and religious intolerance. The million dollar question is what steps has the government taken to bring to justice the handful of extremists; which the president calls a small but increasingly belligerent minority?

Saying that extremists’ acts will not deter the government from its calibrated efforts to eliminate extremism, is nothing but a “performer playing” to the gallery. The buzz in the streets is that successive governments have raised the bogey of Muslim extremists just to stay in power. And if one is so concerned about the “future of Pakistan” then one needs to end unbridled crime, callous corruption, and damaging cronyism that have become existentialist threats for Pakistan.

For Pakistanis, life now seems like a never-ending curse and wherever one goes and whoever one meets, the topic seems to be the same; the Zardari-Gilani led government has failed on all counts and Pakistan needs a saviour to rescue it from further damage, preferably a man like the Quaid-e-Azam; and I find myself thinking how naïve can they be? If a man with Jinnah’s secular, progressive, moderate vision, espousing values such as religious freedom, equality of citizenship, social justice, human rights and women’s empowerment walked the country today, someone would surely take his life.

The Pakistani “ruling clique” possesses such an insatiable appetite for power-quests, and greed that it would trample under its feet anyone challenging the status quo and the ulema having obtained a firm grip in the affairs of the state would consider “reversal or fine-tuning” profanity. Having no distinguishing character or quality they have unfortunately crossed the line from sanity to madness and Pakistan has become the victim of their psychosis.

History bears witness that the capture of Jinnah’s Pakistan by those whom Jinnah reportedly described as “khottey sikay” was achieved during his lifetime. While thousands had thronged to greet Quaid-e-Azam at the Mauripur Airport in 1947, including cabinet ministers and members of the diplomatic corps, on his arrival at the same airport a year later from Ziarat, there was no one at the airport but Colonel Geoferry Knowles, his Military Secretary.

The ambulance taking the critically unwell governor general from the Mauripur airport to his house mysteriously stalled after covering just four miles and ran short of petrol. In the unbearable heat, Pakistan’s founding father lay on a stretcher in the broken-down ambulance, parked on a deserted railway level-crossing, waiting helplessly for help to arrive. While two hours from Quetta to Karachi were tiring enough for someone in poor health, the delay, neglect and two hours from Mauripur airport to the governor-general’s house unquestionably hastened his end.

After reaching the governor general’s residence Quaid-e-Azam died within a few hours. In the words of Akbar S. Ahmed, “I thought of Jinnah old, sick and dying, so vulnerable in the capital of his own state. The broken-down ambulance was a pathetic reflection on those who had benefitted the most – the Pakistanis in power.”

Three days before Pakistan came into being, Quaid-e-Azam’s speech, phenomenally secular, talked of his dream of Pakistan, “all citizens are equal citizens... Hindus will cease to be Hindus... Muslims will cease to be Muslims... any religion, caste, creed would have nothing to do with the business of the state.” His address to the nation on August 11, 1947 to the members of the first Pakistan Constituent Assembly which held the status of a national covenant was not only distorted in print but vanished and later surfaced after nearly five decades. The press was prohibited to report it for three days because Jinnah’s deputy Liaquat Ali Khan ordered its censorship considering it fearfully secular.

And to this day our rulers who claim to be “liberal and progressive” don’t have the courage and political will to make the Quaid’s speech part of the Constitution of Pakistan, and are bent on appeasing the religious lobbies who have time and again desecrated our founding father’s political thoughts. The very ulemas who had openly opposed Quaid-e-Azam and denounced Pakistan have claimed time and again that the whole fight for Pakistan was on religious grounds and that they alone should be entrusted with the task of shaping its polity.

A study of the Pakistan movement clearly indicates that the Islamic state did not figure prominently during the period of struggle. The propelling slogan during the struggle for Pakistan was to establish a homeland that safeguards Muslim interests, rights, economic opportunities, equality and social justice. Islam was the unifying and motivating force no doubt but the method to achieve the goal was not a religious movement but political agitation. The struggle for Pakistan was led by men of politics rather than religion. The Muslim League leadership came entirely from the Western educated, secularised Muslim professionals of Cambridge and the Inns of Court who had studied not theology and Islamic law but politics and common law.

Tragically, the forces that had already chalked out their post-Jinnah agenda, those hostile to Jinnah and the Muslim League, the Pakistan movement and the two-nation theory vowed to establish an Islamic state based on traditional Shariah law and waged an incessant struggle “without interruption” and every successive government willingly surrendered to gain political advantages or legitimacy.

The writer is an MNA. Email: nosheensaeed58@hotmail.com

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