INDIAN military misadventures in February 2019 and after created a premise for Pakistani polity, state apparatus and government machinery to display a renewed shade of nationhood. Just a few weeks before the Indian incursions, the country was entangled in tense political battles between various parties. The arrest of speaker Sindh Assembly, alleged denial of certain relief to Mian Nawaz Sharif on medical grounds, continued hurling of allegations and counter allegations by members of treasury and opposition benches, souring debates on the 18th constitutional amendment, fruitless deliberations on NFC awards were some of the episodes that marked the turf of Pakistani politics. The government seemed keen on bringing the corrupt to face the music, while the opposition parties were labelling the whole affair as political victimisation.
But the Indian attempt to show military muscle not only exposed its own unpreparedness and shortcomings, but provided a unique opportunity to this bickering nation to galvanise beyond political divides and fissures. Some critics of the Pakistan scheme argue that the people and state only come together in situations of crisis. And this is not a standard pattern of any nation state to display its maturity and being as a well-rounded entity. It is also commented that the two nation theory had a role to play in the mobilisation of Indian Muslim peoples for a political purpose. Once the desired geo-political change in the form of India and Pakistan became a reality, the relevance of two-nation theory seemingly dwindled. However, the fault lines in our past and present performance notwithstanding, the reading of the contextual realities of the time and space where the path to pursue the Pakistan scheme was determined, affirm the fact that this was the best formulated political equation.
The Muslims of the Indian subcontinent reached to the option of two-nation theory after a long sequence of tribulations. Unilateral decision of Viceroy Lord Linlithgow to force India into Second World War, tense relations between Muslims and Hindu communities, attempt of political domination by Indian National Congress in provinces under its rule during 1930s and the shrinking possibilities of political survival for Muslims in a future nationalist state structure were some of the anchor bolts of the Pakistan Resolution. Lahore Resolution of 1940, popularly termed as Pakistan Resolution, enunciated the arguments for a separate national status of the Muslims of subcontinent. It was a distinct paradigm shift that took place under the influence of changing strategic, political and inter-communal relations. It was the foundation of the political manifesto developed by the All India Muslims League (AIML) leadership to design and manage the struggle towards Pakistan. Mr. Jinnah and his colleagues had appraised the situation and options available to the Muslim polity. It became clear that fresh arrangements were required for ensuring constitutional safeguard. Lesson learned from this backdrop informs that changing circumstances may deem re-defining legal and constitutional provisions. Political process and governing institutional framework delineates the necessary space to make it happen. When denied to function according to norms of constitutional inter play, the various political parties and their followers groups fall into disarray and chaos. In other words, open political path is overtaken by clandestine manoeuvrings that harm the state and its constituent elements. One can apply the same analogy on the crucial questions of the South Punjab province proposal, the threshold conditions for carving more provinces and the resource distribution matrix between the centre and provinces.
It is vital to remember that the nation states that chalk out the path of taking decisions through the habit of dialogue and deliberation remained connected. Opportunities for the same have been very scarce for our people till the recent past. The feeling of nationhood and association with it by the polity is feeble at best. Litmus tests across the country can verify this state of affairs which is worth a serious review. Impulsive reaction of coming together during crisis is the only act that shows some semblance of nationhood. Other than those isolated instances, the proletariat is divided by the powerful interest groups across cross-cutting contentions of resource sharing, provincialist tendencies and religious dichotomies. The wedge has been driven deep nearing limits where after mending works do not appear to be effective. Rapid dilution of sovereignty, dismantling of governance structure and spreading schism amongst people in general are some of the core ailments that have eclipsed the possibilities of nationhood to evolve and bloom. It may be noted that the propounders of Pakistan Resolution and AIML leadership were very realistic in addressing tough challenges and arguments without sweeping them under the carpet. In a statement on March 31, 1944, to articulate the AIML position vis-à-vis the Unionist Party, Mr. Jinnah argued that one cannot owe allegiance to two parties at the same time. The vulnerable status of the league did not prevent him from boldly elucidating the truth. Unless the same spirit is revived and lingering national issues are addressed with objective approach and fair play, the chances of consolidation of the federation are very bleak.
Defining the role of Islam in the state craft is a core issue. No constitutional arrangement can be satisfactorily implemented until and unless the various anomalies and lacunae are dealt with. And the anomalies are glaringly visible. Ambiguities, unpreparedness and lack of direction have led the monsters of sectarianism and orthodoxy to hold hostage common people without restraint.
Society is being pulled in various directions of militant, puritanical, festive, temporal and saintly versions of the religion. The state does not have an alternative model incorporating the tenets of Islam, acceptable to all stakeholders, and to lobby for its acceptance. The government cut a sorry figure during the sit-ins in Faizabad, when an obscure group of zealots — belonging to a religious outfit — unleashed havoc on the life and property of ordinary citizens some time ago. Whereas the external powers do exercise their influence in pulling Pakistan towards pseudo – secular club of client states, it is up to the Pakistani political leadership to get over with this constitutional impediment towards an arrangement that is subscribed and agreed by all. The existing constitutional bodies such as Council of Islamic Ideology — after necessary internal overhauling to suit the task — may be entrusted to begin work in this direction.
After the secession of East Pakistan in 1971, our country has become a federation with unequal federating units. The relationship of Punjab with the rest of provinces is the lynchpin of governance edifice. This matter is addressed in a half-hearted manner. Federations generally do not perform well when such physical and social inequality persists and become a rallying point for centrifugal forces. The least resistance path is to re-negotiate the resource sharing and allocation formulae within the same provincial jurisdictions. Dimensions of past, present and future must be integrally addressed and resolved. The sharing of natural resources such as Indus waters must be done on progressive, scientific and accurate grounds. The loss of one province must not become the gain of the other. As mentioned earlier, revisiting the conflicting matters such as NFC awards, royalties of minerals, and energy as well as re-syphoning of development finance are some core matters in need of government’s attention without any wastage of time.
Experiences of prevailing laissez faire capitalism guide us that national economic development cannot be achieved without opportunities of personal progress at a large scale. The young generation which will be the custodian of nation state in the near future, has very pragmatic approach to life. Comparative incentives to live and work in Pakistan are a foremost requirement, especially for the highest quality of human resource. A state which can offer sustained chances of decent personal survival shall make the most attractive destination for our youth. Their social, cultural, economic and emotional needs have to be fulfilled. Creation of spaces for progress in all of these dimensions is what they want. The youth cannot be enticed with hollow promises and false claims of nationalism. They deem a pragmatic and clear vision of the nation of which they can become an active component. Leadership has always used youth for fulfilling short term political designs and dumped them in a lurch after the need of the moment was over. Due to the ongoing financial crisis, whispers are abounding that the government will curtail funding towards higher education and related activities in the next budget. This option must be re-visited! If the menace of obscurantism and terrorism has to be controlled, unabated investment in education is the only path. An enlightened and capable young generation is the best thing that can happen to Pakistan. One can draw examples from neighbouring India and China which now reap the benefits of educational attainment acquired by their younger generations.
The present band of politicos who control the federal government echelons claimed to do so due to overwhelming support of our young people. Some stated that the ‘charismatic’ leadership that mans the government in Islamabad has all the solutions to the quagmire of problems this nation state faces. But solutions only evolve from clear understanding of problems, analysis and articulation of options. Knee jerk and uninformed responses move to erode the credibility of leadership and the political process. It is hoped that the new political leadership — which seems to have firmed itself in the saddle — shall display the competence that it boasted to possess when it was one the other side of the line!
The writer is Professor and Dean, Faculty of Architecture and Management Sciences, NED University, Karachi.