THE ordinary citizens of Pakistan may perhaps be the most gullible darlings that nature ever suffered to crawl under the heavy boots of dictatorship; ever willing to live in the dreams of a rosy world conjured up for them by their rulers — civil or military, both equally despotic.
They are supposed to bear the pain of the present under an anaesthetic of promises for the future. They are desensitised to their surroundings under claustrophobic clouds of want and need; fed on slogans, while the rulers contrive, compete and survive only to enhance and secure their personal wealth and power.
Pakistan was created through an ardent struggle of the Indian Muslims’ civil society under the leadership of a lawyer of indomitable will and unflinching faith in constitutionalism. For the founding fathers, the first and foremost objective and obligation of the state was the greatest good of all the peoples of Pakistan. Pakistan was its people, nothing more and nothing less.
The goal of the government had to be the social, economic, cultural and material welfare of the people by providing them ample opportunity to realise their potential as a great civilisation — without let or hindrance, and without bar or prejudice. But soon it was forgotten that the state was for citizens and governments for the people. Governments found other agendas more fascinating and politically productive.
The Pakistan movement was inspired by and revolved around the enlightened civil society; free from dogma, petty biases and bigotry. For them Muslim separatism was a political demand. The obscurantist mullah was, therefore, never in consort with this movement and kept a safe distance from it. But come the creation of Pakistan, these ill-read bigots (with vast influence over the illiterate masses) pounced upon the booty. They hijacked the ideological import of the movement and soon the Aug 11, 1947 speech of the Quaid-i-Azam was buried under the overwhelming weight of the Objectives Resolution, as a declaration of intent by the new state. Islam, and not the Muslims of the subcontinent, became the purpose of Pakistan; and people lulled into a stupor to forget the pains of poor governance and corruption inflicted upon them by the rulers.
The stalwarts of the Pakistan movement were soon hounded out by the first military dictator in the name of stability, and later economic development. National security and national integration (institutionalising the rule of the minority) were now the purposes of the government, replacing the people of Pakistan — en masse — as the primary objective of the state. The government helped making the rich richer by design; creating a new class of entrepreneurs prospering on privilege and protection. The people were expected to survive with fond hopes of redeeming the promised trickle-down effect. That it never came about has been of no concern to successive governments. For them Pakistan — its people really — are irrelevant to their myopic designs of survival.
A continuum of military governments and several civil governments under their tutelage, have sanctified national security as a purpose of the state in itself; distinguishable from security as an attendant good of the welfare of the people. It has opened vast vistas for the armed forces to demand, acquire and arrogate to themselves a major chunk of national resources — domestic or borrowed. That as a by-product it also enables senior commanders to enrich themselves personally, through hefty service and retirement benefits for merely doing their duty — at best honestly — is perfectly acceptable for governments with no moral compunction. For keeping everyone focused on national security, bogeys may have to be created and sustained to instil the fear of our masters in the minds of the masses with mouths gaping with need.
In the decade of the sixties national integration was also a major concern of the state; essentially cosmetic, and insensitive to the real good of people at large. There may have been many political motives behind this assertion of national purpose, particularly ensuring the subordination of the majority by a minority of elite. It shifted the focus from the needs of the people and Pakistan first was actually West Pakistan first.
The eighties recognised ideology as the only purpose of the government and the state. Pakistan and its people could be mortgaged for ever in the hands of obscurantist dogma, articulated by men learning by rote, without research, a curriculum more than 350 years old. Their interpretation of Islam is archaic; with ‘ijtihad’ unnecessary for their political objectives.
The 21st century ushered in new actors in the political power play, making enlightened moderation the theme of their soliloquies. The script dictated by the powerful playwrights — World Bank et al, at a cost — now had the slogan of governance as the mantra of the state, its real purpose; with masses shrouded somewhere in an envelope of ambiguity created by this new buzzword. Mr Shaukat Aziz would tire no end in emphasising good governance as his sole goal. In practice he may have been the worst culprit in violating basic tenets of governance. He was a deft practitioner of tools of ill governance — introducing state largesse for a pliable senior bureaucracy for obtaining unquestioning subservience. His new paradigm was not concerned with Pakistan and its people — other than stock brokers and brokers turned bankers.
Recent years saw a new spin on the slogan ‘Pakistan first’ by President Musharraf. It seems that to him Pakistan was synonymous with his own person and the people of Pakistan had no place in his scheme of things.
The political protégés of Ziaul Haq now display a warped concept of patriotism where personal material enrichment through manipulation of state policy precedes an autocratic public service. People again are a secondary consideration in a political agenda which is a queer mix of hearsay ideology and business. The amoral descendants of socialist populism, on the other hand, are content with cronyism and underhand deals in pursuit of perpetuation of political power.
Where are the people of Pakistan then? The lawyers’ movement, under the brilliant stewardship of Aitzaz Ahsan and his tribe, has reignited the hopes of civil society. Equity and justice through a moral and constitutional judiciary may compel governments to focus on the real purpose of this country —its people.
Source: Daily dawn, 13/6/2008