What Independence Means After 70 Years

Source: BBC

Well, here is the 70th anniversary of the independence and we are supposed to be ecstatic.

Just imagine how it would be like on the 75th anniversary, or on the centennial, for that matter.

Well, I wish.

Because in my entire life, I have never felt more suffocated by Pakistan than on the 70th anniversary. I have never known Pakistan like I have on the 70th anniversary.

Never more disillusioned, nor more disappointed. It is like living in a prison with walls closing in that you would want to escape. But forget me. I feel for the 200 million others, most of who don’t even feel the suffocation that they are being subjected to.

It has been 70 years and still, there is no respect for a citizen of Pakistan.

It has been 70 years and still, there are people who are being harmed and abused by the state.

It has been 70 years and still, an elected leader has not completed their term, and one just got dismissed in a judicial coup.

It has been 70 years and still, Pakistan remains to be a theocracy.

The fact of the matter is that the minority religious groups are constantly jeopardized and marginalized by a hypocritical and morally

There are people in this country who will deny the rights to other communities for which they have claimed to win a separate country.

And in the same breath, they would complain about corruption and justice and transparency.

It is disappointing, to say the least.

The very root of this country is infected with a moral corruption that seems incurable at worst.

It is unfortunate that we still have people in this country who are not willing to give marginalized communities a chance in this country.

It is unfortunate that we still have people who would not agree to a fair social contract in this country.

Then there are people who say that freedom would remain to be an abstract, relative concept for every individual and group anyway?

So why celebrate the independence of a political regime after all?

But so much for being a contrarian.

So they tell us to celebrate 70 years.

70 years of independence from the British colonists? Yes.

70 years of independence from ignorance, tribalism, obscurantism, tyranny, and theocracy?

70 years of freedom of speech or freedom of political association?

NO.

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Bureaucratic Excesses and the National Language Question

Today is Pakistan’s 68th independence day and we still have a lot of unresolved issues in our backyard.

Recently, Marvi Memon, a PML-N MP from a Punjab reserved seat, introduced a Constitutional Amendment bill into the National Assembly. The bill was about proposing to declare Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Hindko, Shina and Barahvi among others to be national languages as opposed to their current regional status.

It was rejected by the multipartisan National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice, 4-1. The bill sought to amend the Article 251 which declares Urdu the only national language.

A lot of people have a problem with this, but since it was voted out under due process, I do not. However, I do think such underdog bills deserve a chance for a broader voting in the House instead of the scrutiny from the Standing Committee.

Another disturbing aspect here was the interference from the bureaucracy during the debate on the bill. The Special Secretary of the Law Ministry, Justice (R) Muhammad Raza Khan, opposed the bill because as per him the bill was pointless under the light of Article 28, which guarantees the fundamental right of preserving a language and a script.

But perhaps, this bill is not about preserving these languages as Marvi Memon explained. Her point is to honor the languages by declaring their status as national. 

Source: Express Tribune

Marvi Memon – Source: Express Tribune

It just sounds like another piece of political correctness, unnecessary to some, but our constitution gets so much wrong in the textbook after all. So maybe it is important. Article 1 anyone?

He also opposed it because declaring another language, Bangla, as the national language, apparently caused the separation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Well, first of all, people should get their 1971 history right. But let’s not get into that.

What the honorable Secretary forgot is that the UN International Mother Language Day is inspired by killings in a protest against neglecting Bangla as the national language. And he also seems to ignore other constitutional and political differences that led to the 1971 war.

The argument about more than one national language threatening the union of the federation is also beyond me, since English and Urdu will remain to be the official languages and those who use Urdu to communicate to those with a different mother tongue would still continue to do so.

Not sure if there is any evidence to suggest that more than one languages weaken a federation. South Africa seems to have 11 official languages.

However, since the purpose is symbolism for people on both sides of the debate, the arguments from other side may or may not make any sense.

In any case, underdog bills should be given a chance of voting in the House and bureaucracy should stay away from the process of legislation and leave it to elected MPs. That’s the only way to see where the representatives of the people stand on this issue and to overcome federal authoritarianism. 

Some of the arguments against more than one national languages are really strange. But as long as the proposals are voted out democratically, I have no problems at all.

 Happy Independence Day.

 

The Ramadan Independence Day Post 2012

Source: The Citizens Archive of Pakistan/DAWN

There is something special about the independence day of 2012. It falls in the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Actually, it is one of the rare occasions that the anniversary of independence falls on the same day both in Gregorian and Islamic calendars.

Patriotic and religious people in Pakistan will tell you that Pakistan gained its independence from the British Raj on the 27th of Ramadan, 1366 Hijri, which was on August 14, 1947. A Holy Night in the Islamic tradition. The night when the Koran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad.

65 years ago, a massive communal migration took place across the borders of the then East Pakistan, West Pakistan and the modern Indian Republic. Everybody knows about probably the greatest migration in human history.

It was spectacular to some, hard to believe. A matter of faith and hope for others. Not a choice for the rest.

To me it was insane, brutal and tragic. With due respect to the immigrants and the cause of migration. They are certainly the bravest souls of the Indian independence movement. Not Jinnah or Nehru or Azad or Gandhi.

After 65 years, Ramadan coincides with the independence day again, almost the same date, the 26th maybe, and it seems that the communal migration has still not come to a halt.

Only days ago, there was news of Hindu families visiting India saying that they were unwilling to return to Pakistan as they feared for their lives. Furthermore, there has been pretty consistent migration of Sindhi Hindus from Pakistan to India, who have been a regular victim of abduction, abuse and forced conversion to Islam, particularly their women.

This seems to be a dream come true for the Muslim religious purist. After all, this country was made for Muslims.

The other day I overheard a child in a public transport van that I was sharing with a family. She was surprised on learning that Hindus and Christians lived in Pakistan too, just an innocent little child. The word Pakistani was synonymous to Muslim to her. Her mother had to explain to her how and why non-Muslims were Pakistani too.

I don’t blame her. That’s the way most fervent religious parents bring up their children in Pakistan.

I grew up hearing this slogan, like millions of other Pakistanis.

Pakistan ka matlab kya. La Ilaha Il-Allah.

What’s the meaning of Pakistan? No God except Allah.

Teach a child this and don’t expect them to consider any non-Muslim a Pakistani anymore.

My word, recalling this slogan just sent shivers down my spine. It always horrified me, if my memory serves me well.

I am shocked it never occurred to the able leaders of All-India Muslim League.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam, was supposedly a secular politician. But apparently even he did not bother setting the record straight with that kind of slogans.

But his actions spoke much louder than his words or whatever principles he supposedly followed.

Some are worrying about the Hindu migration. Outraging. Complaining what the state is doing to protect them. I’d rather like to see them safe anyway they possibly can be.

But why worry?

So if Muslims were migrating to Pakistan from India in 1947 and Hindus were migrating from Pakistan to India, why be surprised that they are still at it in 2012?

Why even bother with the white band in the flag?

This was what we wanted and we are achieving the goal.

Slowly, but surely.

Source: Wikipedia

To a Hindu-free Pakistan.

The Real Pakistan.

The Pakistan of Allah.

The Pakistan of Ramadan.

The Pakistan of Layla-tul-Qadr.

The Pure Pakistan.

Happy Independence Day.

And

Allah-o-Akbar.

Courtesy/Artist: Sabir Nazar © 2012

The Independence Day Post

So, we have completed 63 years, and what have we done?

Was this the dream? What have we become?

Although things may not look good, for we’ve lost a lot on the way.

But we must not give up, to rise and fight another day.

We had gained independence from the Imperial rule in 1947, but the question to ask ourselves is whether we are still independent or not? As in the lives of individuals, the independence of states comes with their financial power and freedom, and unfortunately, this has been an area in which we have been doing poorly. Currently, Pakistan is in a gross external debt of more than $42 billion offered by institutions such as the World Bank & the IMF. No wonder why Pakistan has largely been an instrument in the hands of the world powers.

This means that not only Pakistan needs to follow the instructions of the international financial body, but also is unable to maintain its assertiveness as a state due to its financial weakness. While Pakistan struggles to repay the IMF debt and debt to many other donor countries, we need to ask ourselves what are we doing to improve financially. Unless, Pakistan becomes economically strong, it will not be able to make a meaningful impact diplomatically as well.

The events in the recent years have been nothing short of a disaster. Probably the worst power crisis in the history of the country has paralyzed the remnants of manufacturing industry in Pakistan. One of my friends and ex-colleagues, Umer Farooq, had once pointed out to me how Pakistanis are neglecting the importance of manufacturing industries, and how the recent economic policies have only been focused on developing the service sector, that too, under foreign investment.

It is nothing else but the power of manufacturing industries, which has made China a global economic power, and which is why it is dominating international markets, including the Pakistani consumer market. Unfortunately, Pakistan is even losing grip on its existing strengths in the manufacturing industry, such as textile. Unless we are able to produce things we are able to sell, we will never be able to add to our income as a nation.

At the same time, we also need to check our lifestyle as a country under debt, under a financial crisis and as a nation struggling to maintain its position among the international community. While the war against terrorists  have been a hindrance to progress for Pakistan, our attitude has been an even greater one. We need to check the way we our running statecraft and ask questions of our priorities.

Millions of rupees are spent every month on the expenses incurred for the maintenance of the Prime Minister House and the President House. Similarly, millions have been incurred on the expenses of the serving ministers and parliamentarians, who whine all the time and demand for more raises in benefits. How much of this money could have been spent on other areas, which desperately need the attention of the government.

The ruling elite lives in comfort in Islamabad, while their supposed “employers”, which are the People of Pakistan, are suffering every day of their lives. A person in a rural area may face a power outage of 18 hours straight and may not even have access to clean drinking water, education and medical facilities, while the rulers of the country roam around in the most sophisticated and expensive motorcades.

The purpose of this post is not to bring a bad image to the name of Pakistan, but is just to point out that we need a reality check on the completion of yet another year of the country’s independence. That we need to realize what problems are we encountering and how can we work towards a solution. Even if we are able to change our approach in a matter such as curbing expense, which is totally in our control, we can make significant progress.

Even if we compare ourselves to India, despite the fact that India is a continent of a country, with far greater resources, their leaders have not resorted to the kind of lavishness that has been enjoyed by the rulers of Pakistan in its 63 year history, probably with the exception of  Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Khawaja Nazim-ud-din and a few others who were in office in the early days. At least, they are not as ostentatious.

All the three ruling elements, the bureaucracy, the military and the politicians, including the feudals, have been responsible for the development of this culture of extravagance. When an organization is not able to generate additional sources of income, they consider cutting down expenses to maximize their profitability under given resources. This is what Pakistan needs to do.

However, in the case of Pakistan, we are asking for more IMF debt to maintain the lavish expenditure incurred on the ruling class. It is an ironical situation really. The servants of the people of Pakistan are enjoying a lavish lifestyle bought by the tax Rupees of the Pakistani people, who themselves are deprived of even the basic necessities at some places. How can such a nation ever achieve financial independence?

This elitist culture needs to be changed. We need to change the mindset that the bureaucrats, the military and the politicians are superior to the people of Pakistan. They were chosen from the masses themselves. Anyone who thinks in such a manner does not deserve a position in any of the state institutions. The way the civil servants are trained needs to be changed.

Anyone acquiring a position as a civil servant assumes that he or she has transcended the level of being an ordinary Pakistani citizen and  has entered an elite club. Of course, it is true that they work hard for getting their positions, but they must not forget that they are nothing more than paid servants of the Pakistani people.

To me, a tax-paying vendor is the employer of even the highest-level serving bureaucrat or Army officer. Unless this approach is developed, Pakistan may never achieve what its people aspire for. Unless we work to eliminate the moral corruption plaguing us as a nation, we can never attain the discipline necessary to achieve true independence.

Pakistan must work to rely on its own resources to progress. Unless this approach is adopted, it can never escape the vicious cycle of debt servicing. We need to cut down our military expenditure and stop the race of arms with India. We need to concentrate on strengthening the people by offering them easy access to education, so that manpower, which is one of the most important and abundant resource at our disposal, does not go to waste.

On August 14, 2010, Pakistan probably faces the most asking of all the challenges that it has ever encountered. Pakistan is fighting the worst natural disaster in a century, and right now apparently lacks the resources  to build the lost infrastructure as a result of the monstrous flooding that has currently brought a fifth of the country’s area under water.

With about 1,600 deaths and 20 million people left homeless, Pakistan needs to fight this disaster and must work harder than ever before to restore the lost infrastructure and to help out the affected people. While the international community is helping us out to overcome the challenge, for which we should be grateful to them, we need to develop our own resources as a nation as well.

This independence day is not a time for celebration at all, but one of contemplation and self-evaluation.

But the bottom line is clear. The bottom line is that we must work hard, especially even harder on this hour of crisis, to raise to the level of true independence and glory which is worthy of great nations, before thinking about celebrations and making false claims of pride. Pakistan is a nuclear power with one of the strongest military forces in the world, but none of that is helping us right now.

It is true that Pakistan needs to spend on its security to ensure its existence, but we need to shift our focus from military expenditure to improving the living standards of the people and to offer them education and medical facilities in a better way. We should also develop our focus to strengthen the manufacturing sector of the economy, even if we have to resort to drastic measures for doing so.

Why cannot we produce things as trivial as locks and umbrellas in the country, and why each and every single object we use needs to be “Made in China”? Are we so incompetent and resourceless as a nation? Or have we descended to a state of decadence in which we cannot differentiate wrong from right? But I am aware that a lot of other nations are facing this situation as well.

Never expect change unless you act for the change.

I’m concluding the post with the quotes of two of the fathers of the struggle for freedom for the Indian subcontinent from the Raj, and God knows we need to act on this advice more than ever before.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve. Work, work and work harder.” – Muhammad Ali Jinnah

If you want independence, you have to earn it.