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The sole statesman

June 18, 2000

"The government of the United States invariably does the right thing after having exhausted all other possibilities." So said Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, the premier statesman of last century.

Had Churchill been alive today, and still ruminating over the loss of the Empire ("I have not become the King's first minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire" ) he would have said of Pakistan of the year 2000 that the government of General Pervez Musharraf makes the right noises but too often swiftly retracts its words when one or more of the unrepresentative obscurantists of the country voices an objection.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a proud man, proud for good reason; by the overriding force of his indomitable will, and that alone, he carved out a country for us. Not following the form of his day, Jinnah did not go to jail for a single day, never embarked on a hunger strike, did not encourage rowdy protest marches, he abhorred any form of violence. Liberal-minded and self-confident he did what he liked, ate and drank what he liked, dressed as he liked, encouraged others to do the same, held his head high - and kept to his faith.

"Do your duty and have faith in God. There is no power on earth that can undo Pakistan." This conviction was soon to be proved wrong. His buoyant optimism and his firm certitude in the future of this country clouded his perception of the calibre and character of the leaders who would immediately and later follow him. He failed to conceive that through their lack of ability, lack of integrity, their avarice, their unquenchable greed, their hunger for power, pomp, pelf and position, they would be the undoing of Pakistan.

He was the sole statesman this country has had. Those who followed were small men, narrow of thought, fearful of others, who grabbed at today and ignored the morrow. Within a quarter of a century half of Jinnah's Pakistan was lost. What was left slid swiftly down the slithery hill. It is now an overpopulated, illiterate, bankrupt country, the principal aim of its leadership being to fight to acquire a disputed territory. Its main claim to fame, of which it rarely ceases to remind the world at large, is its nuclear prowess.

To repeat (and it bears repetition ad nauseam), when Jinnah addressed the first constituent assembly of the country on August 11 1947 he embodied in his speech the core of his philosophy, his ideas, and his vision for the state he had founded. It was a fine piece of rhetoric; too fine, too moral, too democratic, too liberal, too full of justice, too idealistic for the Philistines. This speech has been interpreted in many different ways, it has been subject to distortion, it has inspired fear in successive governments, which would have been far happier had it never been delivered. It is to the misfortune of the people of this country that their so-called leaders have refused to live with, or up to, the principles by which Jinnah wished them to be guided.

It is a matter of national shame that, from top to bottom, the citizens of this country live in dread of contamination by the truth - such is the measure of self-deception, insecurity, disunity, indiscipline, and faithlessness.

On August 11, 1947, before the flag of Pakistan had even been unfurled, Jinnah told his people and their future legislators:

"You are free, free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England conditions some time ago were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some states in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the nation. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal.....".

[This particular passage has been subject to deliberate distortion and misinterpretation, inspiring the dishonest dogmatists who misappropriated the country after his death with such fear and unease that in the official biography of Jinnah commissioned by the Government of Pakistan, written by Hector Bolitho, published in 1954, it was censored to falsely read: ".....You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State..... Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal....". (Most of the above passages were ommitted).]

That same August day, he made it clear to the future legislators and administrators that "the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the state." He told them he would not tolerate the evils of bribery, corruption, blackmarketeering and "this great evil, the evil of nepotism and jobbery," the daily bread of powermongers. Little did he know that day that these prime evils were to become prerequisites for the survival of the politicians in and out of uniform and of the administrators of all ranks and grades for the maintenance of their power.

In a way, it was fortunate that Jinnah did not live long enough to see the negation of his principles, the perversion of his vision. A man of high ideals, of impeccable moral and material honesty, tolerant, open-minded, liberal to the core, a consummate statesman - his disillusion would have been too great to bear.

This newspaper of record founded by Jinnah carried an editorial on December 25 1989, his 113th official birthday, headed 'Back to Quaid's ideals', from which I quote :

"At this juncture, a true appreciation and understanding of the precepts and practices of the Quaid-i-Azam is crucially important. His visionary concepts of statecraft could provide the basic guidelines in charting an unfaltering democratic course for the nation. What is needed is a revivification of the basic postulates that the Father of the Nation enunciated in various speeches and policy statements he made during the struggle for, and immediately after, the creation of Pakistan. A serious effort must be made to rediscover the essence of his message and vision from the plethora of twisted interpretation of his acts and utterances. We have been guilty of passivity in the face of deliberate misrepresentations and selective distortions of the Quaid's precepts by a whole tribe of charlatans, pretenders and crafty autocrats to serve their selfish ends . .. . It was neither theocracy nor feudalism nor exploitative capitalism that the Quaid ever approved of. What he basically desired was a sovereign state for the Muslims of the subcontinent based on the principles of constitutionalism, democracy, federalism and Islamic social justice in which the civil liberties and human rights of all citizens would be guaranteed without any discrimination on any ground whatsoever.. . . . "

Oxford University Press in its Millenium Series has just published a book of Jinnah's speeches and statements made in 1947-48, with an introduction by S M Burke, historian and writer, successively an ICS judge, a diplomat of Pakistan, and Professor and Consultant on South Asian studies at the University of Minnesota. It is essential reading for the generals and the others who rule over us from Islamabad.