Tuesday, May 26, 2009

14th August; Time to celebrate and reflect

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank. 12-08-07

14th August; Time to celebrate and reflect

Muslims of subcontinent achieved their independence this day sixty years back after a long and arduous struggle. Their independence came after 200 years of subjugation at the hands of the colonial powers in the form of independent Pakistan, the biggest Muslim country in the world. The first nation state created specifically for people of a particular religion. For this marvelous achievement Pakistanis, deserve tremendous congratulations and have all rights to celebrate their Independence Day enthusiastically. Along with celebrations, like all birthdays or anniversaries, it is also time for reflection and introspection. To rationally analyze the achievements, failures and basically the direction in which we are heading as a nation.

Sixty years is a long time in a human life and with the recent fast pace of history, in the life of nations too. During this time many backward nations gained independence and developed to equal the most advanced nations. Many fought civil and external wars before stabilizing themselves. Many faced natural disasters and foreign invasions. Pakistan also faced many problems and dealt with them in its own way. We must periodically asses our actions and direction to stay on track so that we can progress towards our goals for which we struggled so hard and sacrificed so much.

No political entity or state has ever been created for the sake of it and it is always a means of achieving certain objectives. In Pakistan’s case many reasons for its creation were common with the rest of the world with the difference that we had additional reasons concerning our religion which also played part in Pakistan movement. Let us see why we sought freedom; from what and how did we perform?

There are certain types of freedoms which are considered universal. Freedom from foreign subjugation, poverty, disease, inequality and tyranny are the reasons common to all nations but we sought freedom for 3 more reasons specific for the Muslims of south Asia. Let us explore some of them.

Protection of life, property and dignity.
Muslims in the subcontinent felt unprotected and vulnerable in the united India living as a minority. They needed protection of their dignity, life and property. The majority religions were hostile harboring a historical bias and hatred against them. Bloody Riots of 1947 and the regular communal violence in India confirms these fears. Indira Gandhi’s speech after the creation of Bangladesh further confirmed the fear of historic revenge beyond all doubts, she bragged of avenging a thousand years of history.

Economic and other Opportunities
The modern understanding of economic rights of citizens of independent sovereign nations were well enumerated by President Roosevelt of USA in his twelfth State of the Union address in 1944. The modern concept of citizenship must include social well being and security against economic injustices, “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence”. Later he describes them,
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industry, or shops or farms or mines of the nation.
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.
The right of every family to a decent home.
The right to adequate medical care and opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.
The right to a good education.

The Muslims were humiliated in united India and denied opportunities. This resulted in their poor socioeconomic conditions. Muslims did not get their fair share in the government jobs. Their involvement in the industry and economy was negligible and so was their representation in professional schools and colleges. Even the latest Sachar report confirms these fears as Muslims in India are today more downtrodden and backward than even the most oppressed Dalits.

Religious considerations
This would give the Muslims of subcontinent an opportunity to show the world how good a Muslim state could be. They could prove beyond doubt that Islam has the best form of government and solutions to today’s problems. It is for ever without any limitations of time and geography. They were to create a welfare state that would take care of all its citizens, even its weak and infirm. We were to show the world that only Islam could create such a state that takes care of its people and even animals like the legendary Omar Khattab’s comments about a stray dog. As Islam has historically spread by example, we would be able to create a society the rest of the world would like to study and copy. This way we could show and convince the world of the eternal wisdom and nobility of our great religion.

We planned to exercise democracy and treat our minorities well. Our great ways of running the country were to embarrass others to emulate us. Our people were to be sovereign and we were to prove that the democracy the west recently adopted was deeply ingrained in Islam. Islamic state exercised democracy when it was unheard of in the rest of the world. Democracy was to strengthen Pakistan making it a source of inspiration and vigor for Muslims everywhere.

We were to create a society conducive to bring out the best of abilities of our children. As we are the followers of the only religion in the world that categorically and repeatedly stresses on education, we were to work the hardest and spend the most to educate ourselves. We are the believers of the only religion in the world which appreciated the need and importance of human rights (haqooqulibad) centuries before the west did, our society was to be an example for the rest of the world.

How far we achieved our objectives needs a very close, realistic and rational scrutiny as some very painful realizations may be on their way. The writer does not wish to comment about it and leave it for the readers to decide. How much security or economic independence and equality we gave to our people is too obvious. Did we fulfill our obligations towards our people needs no genius to ascertain. It is certainly time for our introspection and soul searching. One thing is for sure, socio economically and in the human developmental indices in 1947 we stood next to only Europe and Americas whereas now we are in league with the sub-Saharan Africa. Economically, politically, socially, diplomatically we have become a symbol of things undesirable. We have the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world where illiteracy is on the rise. For years we have only generated negative news. Whether it is terrorism, intolerance, autocracy or nuclear proliferation Pakistan is indicted, rightly or wrongly. We have nearly become a failed pariah state. International travel with a Pakistani passport has become a nightmare. We are among the lowest in illiteracy, diseases, infant mortality and the entire well being indicators known to the mankind. We are the poorest and most backward nuclear power the world has ever known.

The reasons of failure might be many but the main factor is our inability to have democracy. We are one of the only 3 nations being ruled by generals. We ourselves universally propagate the message that we are not fit for democracy. Ayub Khan openly said that Muslims want to be ruled by “Danda” suggesting that there is something inherently wrong with Muslims and they are unfit for the more civilized forms of government. Certainly not a very flattering picture of our achievements. Before correcting the problems first we must identify them and then ascertain the causes. Only then we can try addressing them.

Political science is the mother of all sciences. History tells us that economic and other indicators of development are always proportional to political development and stability of a nation state. While rejoicing our achievement 60 years back we must keep this in mind and arrange to correct it. For this we have to take matters in our hands. On 14th August 1947 we won a battle. The war is yet to be won.

“Yeh daagh daagh ujala, yeh shabgazida seher
Woh intizar tha jiska, yeh woh seher to nahin”

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