The beginning awaits us, again!!!
17 October, 2006
By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu
Fifty-nine years ago, we became a nation through the Independence Act of India, jointly prepared by the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League and the British. It clearly spelled out our identity. The people — whether Muslims or Hindus or Sikhs or Christians or Bengalis or Punjabis or Sindhis or Pukhtoons or Baloch or whatever—living within an area separated from mainland India were to be called Pakistanis. It was our zero hour, our beginning, fulfilling the Quaids’s dream.
Two years later, we began anew. It was our second zero hour. The Objectives Resolution came and changed our identity from ‘all are Pakistanis’ to ‘only Muslims are Pakistanis’. On the surface, this is what it meant; deep below, it was a way to establish constituencies by strengthening regionalism, feudalism, tribalism, spiritualism and regimental and administrative control. That it will eventually divide the Quaid’s dream into pieces, no one cared. Nine years later came the third zero hour: we were no more Muslim Pakistanis. The One Unit and Constitution of 1956 made us Muslim East Pakistanis and Muslim West Pakistanis. It was the beginning of the making of two permanent pieces of Pakistan.
Our fourth zero hour came in 1958, when the army stepped in and told us that only the men in uniform were the real Pakistanis. When General Ayub Khan left, it dawned on us that not only the uniformed men, but also the 22 families that had put all of national and American wealth in their wallets were the real Pakistanis. The real Pakistanis led us first into the ditch of poverty and eventually to the fifth zero hour. It came 24 years after the beginning. The two pieces, West Pakistan and East Pakistan, became two countries.
The fifth zero hour was Bhutto’s hour. It was a new beginning, a new Pakistan and a new zero hour. Bhutto gave a new constitution, a new hope, and a new identity. We were no longer Muslims only. Gone were the days when zero plus zero was equal to zero. Oil, monarchy and autocracy gave birth to a new political mathematics and a new nationalism. It was the Ummah now. We too changed from Muslims to Islamists.
Six years later, Bhutto was ousted. It was another beginning. It was the second new zero hour. Now we were no more a nation, Islamic or Muslim. We were a people with a new identity, ready to fight for others and ready to prepare others to fight against others, provided we were paid dollars and not peanuts. General Zia left by accident. He left behind a people divided in sects and united in killing each other and others also. Besides, he left behind many militants and warlords brought from the world over and many thousands more who made the Muslim League and a corporate army. All are still around and sitting at the helm.
Ten years from Zia’s departure were quantitatively a time pass. Qualitatively our identity and deeds remained the same. In 1994, with the help of the Arabs and Americans we exploded the Taliban bomb. It helped us to send the Afghans into the Stone Age. In 1998, we exploded enriched uranium or whatever. It led us to scale the Kargil heights and accept shame afterwards.
The shame, an ambition-driven army and the sixth sense of the Americans ousted Nawaz Sharif. Not much changed under the corporate generals. Neither they nor the bank managers were able to move or stop anything. The seven-point agenda was waiting for a burial. But before that, the Twin Towers came down and the US came out to rescue our economy.
It was not a new beginning but a continuity of our second zero hour. In Zia’s orthodox era, we nourished militants for the US war on communism. In Musharraf’s enlightened era, we started catching the same militants to be sent to the US prison in Cuba. It was part of our contribution in the US war on terrorism. What identity have we established other than that? We sell and sacrifice human beings. Agreed, after 9/11 no one among us could dare disobey the US. They would not have bombarded us into the Stone Age. A simple economic twist with a bit of tinkering with our communication system was enough to cripple us. Have our policymakers, particularly the generals, ever thought that there are honourable means also for a nation to live with. Before the Afghan crisis, the Soviets had come with the idea of regional cooperation. We opposed it.
Seven years have passed since the General came. The national economy is apparently growing. But it is growing for the rich and bankers only, and that too not through any sustainable method. That is why nothing is trickling down. The ordinary people have rather lost whatever they had when the General came. Property, stock and banking mafias have done their job efficiently. The rest of the job was done by the state. It is encouraging the private sector to intervene in education, healthcare and housing. Manufacturers too are moving out. Chinese goods are pouring in. Jobs, the most relevant indicator, are non-existent. A prick, whether it comes through imbalances in trade or crash of stocks or the US twist, would be enough to burst the bubble.
Revival of national confidence, strengthening of the federation, ensuring law and order and speedy justice, de-politicization of state institutions, devolution and accountability are the remaining six points of Musharraf’s agenda. They are a dead dream. Nations that deviate from the reason for their being wander in the wilderness. They do not act. They are work-shy, knowledge-shy and world-shy. They simply talk, and talk and talk. They only wait for miracles or alms or aid. In the ruthless global age, it is likely that they will be left out to live on their own.
Sixty years are not that long a period on a time scale for nations. The question, however, is from where to start. Is it not the time for the real Pakistanis to return to their abodes (cantonments)? Is it not the time for all of us to return to our origin, namely the Independence Act of India? There is only one way to do it. Implement the speech of the Quaid that he delivered before the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947. It is the only wise political document that is entirely ours, and we should feel proud to own it.