By Yasser Latif Hamdani
While the powers that be and politicians fight for the control of the state, there are festering wounds in our body politic that remain unaddressed. Real issues are persistently ignored and swept under the carpet with devastating results.
On Friday yet another Ahmadi “place of worship” was desecrated by the state in Bahawalpur. Countless individuals remain behind bars on blasphemy charges including the young professor Junaid Hafeez. Countless young women from minority communities will continue to converted forcibly to Islam in Sindh. The Federal Capital will see yet another Dharna where inevitably religion will be misused. Fundamental rights such as freedom of religion and freedom of expression will continue be trampled for political expediency and freedom of press will continue to be denied. Meanwhile the economy continues to nosedive. By February 2020, we may even be on the FATF blacklist. Our brightest minds continue to flee the country. Such is the state of affairs in Pakistan in the closing months of 2019.
The tragedy is that this country has everything that can make it one of the leading economies of the world. It is blessed with geography, climate and a rich cultural heritage that should make it the destination of choice for tourists. It has mega cities like Karachi and Lahore and a capital city that ought to be the envy of the world. The Government tells us that Pakistan has jumped 28 places on the Ease of Doing Business index. Yet the tourists by and large do not want to come to Pakistan and hardly anyone wants to do business with us. This is because of the festering wounds. We have an image problem and all of it is our own doing. The powers that be have always tried to be clever by half and in the process ruined the country. They lost us half the country in 1971 and since then we have slipped deeper into the abyss. We have dug ourselves into a hole we cannot dig out of. It is important to take stock of it.
Consider the so-called religion card. We could learn much from history. When Gandhi invoked Ram Rajya, he did not have Modi in mind. He was warned against it but he did not listen. When the framers of Objectives’ Resolution in Pakistan tried to strike the balance between religion and modern democracy in 1949, they probably could not imagine General Zia ulHaq and his 11 years in power. They too were warned but did not listen. Today the PTI government speaks about Maulana Fazlur Rahman using the religion card but they fail to realize that their own rhetoric has opened the door. What the Prime Minister does not realize is that while he might interpret Riyasat-e-Medina as a progressive and humane democracy, there may be others who might have a very different idea of what that means. Then there is the obvious misuse of religion that PTI engaged in with their unthinking support of TLP in 2017. Who would want to visit such a country or invest in it? No number of Royal Visits will change the perception that the world has.
So what do we do? The old man had it right when he spoke on 11 August 1947, but it was too fine for philistines. Yet it really is the only panacea for our ills. Hence one harps about it. Nothing less than a faithful implementation will do. That is easier said than done. We have gone too far into the deep end to do it though. Hence we have a decaying and rusting state that creaks more than it works. Instead of concentrating wholly and solely on the well being of the poor in the country and delivering them from illiteracy and poverty, we are more interested in point scoring. Corruption is a symptom of the disease not its cause. Cause is the cynical manner in which the powers that be have run it. Consequently we have not been able to foster a genuine spirit of selflessness and public service. Everyone is in it for themselves.
The ruling party had come on the promise of change but what change do we see in this government. The people who were the aiders and abettors of General Musharraf are in power yet again. While civilian politicians continue to be punished for crimes real and imagined, the military dictator who did much harm not just to the country but to his own institution continues to live a happy life abroad. The last minute de-notification of the prosecution team in the case against him is just another example of his friends taking care of him. Musharraf had spoken a great game on some of these key issues but eventually the unconstitutional and illegal nature of his regime forced him to make compromises that meant that his much-vaunted idea of enlightened moderation turned out to be a farce. When he left power in 2008, he had virtually rolled back all that he had attempted to bring about in the beginning. In the final analysis though he had promised to be Pakistan’s Ataturk, Musharraf was no better than General Zia. This should have been a cautionary tale for those who think anything good can come out of unconstitutional regimes and really the fruits of a poisonous tree can never be wholesome. Yet powers that be went back to the drawing board. Today Pakistan is something less than a hybrid. Since August 2018, Pakistan has ceased to be a democratic state all but in name.
The only way this country can progress is through an unwavering and uncompromising stand on civilian rule, liberal democracy and a practical separation of religion from state. If these three things are achieved, Pakistan will rise and these are sine qua non for its progress. Unless this happens we are bound to go in circles that we have been stuck in ever since independence.
Yasser Latif Hamdani is an Advocate of the High Courts of Pakistan
Source: The Daily Times, Pakistan