KARACHI: “We are an ailing state, not a failing state,” observed writer and intellectual, former senator and information minister Javed Jabbar during his lecture on ‘Ailing state — evolving nation’ a part of the Aga Khan University’s Sixth Sense Forum lecture series on Tuesday.
“There are religion-based states like Saudi Arabia, the Vatican, Israel, Nepal and Maldives but Pakistan is different,” he said while elaborating that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was actually the country that evolved from a tribe, we don’t have a religious leader in Pakistan like the Pope in the Vatican, Pakistan is not a sacred or promised land like Israel, and we don’t have to be Hindu to be citizens of Nepal or just Sunni Muslims to belong to the Maldives.
“So we are a very peculiar breed. Pakistan was an original thought with acronyms in its name representing the regions meant to be a part of it as well as ‘Land of the pure’ being its meaning. So the idea of Pakistan was original, brilliant,” he paused for a moment, “but flawed,” he completed his sentence. “Some would say that with two portions of the country on either side of a hostile land even Pakistan’s structure was flawed. But the way you could share the ideas and philosophy despite this huge distance in between was fascinating. Pity it didn’t work out,” he regretted.
Going back into the making of the state, Mr Jabbar reminded that Pakistan was an overnight state coming about at 10 weeks’ notice. As history goes, the British were looking to pull out of the region after WWII so they brought in Lord Mountbatten to take care of their little problem with a mandate to do it within 18 months. But Mountbatten had an even quicker fix in the form of independence, take it or leave it.
He said the British and Indians were fine with the division of India but Jinnah is held responsible for it as he was the first one to agree to it. His predicament was his doctor having given him one year to live. Jinnah had himself said that Pakistan without Calcutta would be like a man without a heart but when the map came he agreed to whatever he was getting as he didn’t have time to argue. Aug 14 and 15, 1947 happened to be the independence dates for Pakistan and India also because they happened to be the second anniversary of the Japanese surrendering to Mountbatten. He brought in his ego into the whole matter, Mr Jabbar added.
“So this is how the overnight state emerged. Suddenly you had millions of refugees on your hands and it was big of Punjab, Sindh and the Frontier to have absorbed the refugees. Still one million were slaughtered due to Mountbatten’s ego. Years later, he himself admitted to this, he said.
“We are neither ethnically nor linguistically a nation. We are a nation in the spiritual sense. It takes a few hundred years to develop ethnically but we have dreams for tomorrow. So Pakistan’s future will be Pakistan’s history,” he philosophised.
“They say India has a history but reality is that the history belongs to the region. As for India, starting from 1947, it also is as new as Pakistan. But our neighbours have gone ahead through expansion, flexibility and democracy. India took over Hyderabad in 1948 and also swallowed the 548 principalities. We also took Kalat, Bahawalpur, etc. But India, after taking over the states and principalities, exercised flexibility by recognising people’s ethnicity and giving them more provinces. On the other hand, Pakistan at one time forcibly made Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan into one unit. The actual Pakistan state began in 1972,” he said.
Coming to our failings as a nation, Mr Jabbar said that there are some 47 million households in Pakistan. “Even if we considered 30 million of them as poor and unable to pay their taxes, why are there only one million taxpayers?” he asked.
The population growth also needed to be controlled here. Currently there are just 3,000 family planning units in Pakistan due to which only around three of 10 married couples who want to use contraceptives don’t have access to them.
Becoming optimistic he brought up the good things going for Pakistan such as institutions like the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, the National Database and Registration Authority, the Supreme Court, the corporate and financial sector and the Daewoo bus service that leaves on the dot and reaches its destination on time and the evolution of ‘Pakistaniat’ or rooting for our country. “When you say you are Baloch or Sindhi, it doesn’t really matter as you know that you are all part of a bigger identity. If we played the national anthem just now, you will all get up. You have started to relate to an identity.
“There are thousands of women and men of integrity and capability who need to come into politics to turn this country around. Time for one Ataturk is past now. We need 1,000 Ataturks to bring Pakistan back on track so it has to be ‘you’, ‘me’ and ‘us’ and not ‘they’ who will make Pakistan a stable state. We have to do it together,” he concluded.