By Roedad Khan
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Every year, we commemorate March 23 in remembrance of “The Pakistan Resolution” passed in the historic city of Lahore. The Idea of Pakistan was about to be born.
On that day, the Muslim League led by Mr Jinnah declared its support for the Idea of Pakistan. That is why generations of Pakistanis will always remember March 23 with profound reverence and respect. Seven years later, thanks to the iron will and determination of Mr Jinnah, we became proud citizens of a sovereign, independent country-a country we could live for and die for. As he left the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked by an admirer, “Dr. Franklin what have you given us”. Franklin turned to the questioner and replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Not too long ago, we possessed a great country. But where giants walked, midgets pose now. The talk today is of a vanished dignity, of a nation diminished in ways not previously imaginable. It is almost as if no one wants to acknowledge a sad end to what once was a beautiful dream. Our rulers squandered Jinnah’s legacy and turned his dream into a nightmare.
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 foreign threats to their sovereignty and independent. Pakistan is a classic example. Born at midnight as a sovereign, independent, democratic country, today it is neither sovereign, nor independent, nor 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 corrupt, power-hungry junta running a puppet government set up by Washington.
Sixty-three years after independence, are we really free? Are the people masters in their own house? From the kind of country we have today, Pakistan has lost its manhood and is a ghost of its former self. If Pakistan were to look into a mirror now, it wouldn’t recognise 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 corrupt government, or corrupt leaders, well, visit Pakistan.
The independence of Pakistan is a myth. By succumbing to American pressure, we managed to secure a temporary reprieve. But at what price? Twenty-four hours after CIA spy Raymond Davis – charged with killing two Pakistani citizens in broad daylight in Lahore – was allowed to leave the country with the full support of the government, American drones attacked Data Khel in North Waziristan, killing 25 innocent Pakistanis – men, women and children. No protest. No regrets. No word of sympathy. No remorse.
Today Pakistan is dotted with American fortresses, which seriously comprises our internal and external sovereignty. American security personnel stationed on our soil, like Raymond Davis, 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 someone 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.
With all her shortcomings, Benazir Bhutto had undoubted leadership qualities – charisma, courage, political acumen and articulation. After her tragic assassination, Mrs Zardari’s sudden ascension to the Presidency caused panic among the people. Zardari reminds one of the American black leader J Raymond Jones. President Truman once asked a New York news paper reporter whether Mr Jones could be trusted. The reporter replied: “Well, Mr President, I can tell you one thing. If Ray Jones stole the Brooklyn Bridge, no would ever find it.”
The present leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. The course they are on leads downhill. How meaningful is our twisted, stunted, pallid democracy, replete with parliament, cabinet, political parties, when crucial decisions are made elsewhere. How can authentic democracy take roots in this country when it has been stripped of all its core values – sovereignty of the people, Inviolability of the Constitution, rule of law, supremacy of civilian rule, independence of the Election Commission, sanctity of the ballot box, and a neutral, honest civil service? How can democracy flourish in the absence of ruthless accountability of corrupt rulers, past and present?
One of the lessons of history is that when people lose faith in their rulers when they lose faith in the sanctity of the ballot box; when elections are rigged and votes are purchased; when the gap between the rulers and the ruled widens; when there are no ways for people to express political preferences from time to time in an atmosphere free from fear, coercion, or intimidation; when known corrupt people, tax evaders and smugglers are foisted upon a poor, illiterate electorate unable to make an informed political choice, and sworn in as ministers; when elections throw up not the best, not the noblest, not the fittest, not the most deserving, but the scum of the community, and a legion of scoundrels; when hunger and anger come together, people, sooner or later, come out on to the streets and demonstrate Lenin’s maxim that in such situations voting with citizen’s feet is more effective than voting in elections.
Too long have we been passive spectators of events. Today our fate is in our hands, but soon it may pass beyond control. A shout in the mountains has been known to start an avalanche. We must call things by their names and shout louder. Let Pakistan be Pakistan again. Let it be the dream it used to be – a dream that is almost dead today. From “those who live like leeches on the people’s lives” – who have robbed us of everything, our past, our present, our future and all our beautiful dreams-we must take back our land again.
Pakistan shares many of Egypt’s problems: rampant corruption, social injustice, a growing wealth gap, inflation, total subservience to United States of America. One reason for the rebellions in Egypt and elsewhere was the in-your-face corruption that everyone knew about. We in Pakistan inhale corruption in the very air we breathe. How can any of our hopes emerge from this quagmire?
This is one of those moments in history when all that is needed is for someone to push open the door. The present corrupt political system would, I have no doubt, disappear in a violent upheaval since it carries within it the seed of its own destruction. At this moment, when the nation is standing on the escalator of corruption and anarchy, right-minded citizens cannot afford to stand frozen in disgust and dismay. We cannot merely look upon the political developments in sorrow and upon our politicians in anger.