HOPE constitutes a vital factor in mobilising people for a cause. It becomes all the more relevant when there is despair and darkness all around. Capable leaders use their acumen to evolve a perception of hope to bring people on a single platform for struggling towards the defined political objectives. Once convinced about the sincerity of the leader and his ability to deliver, people follow the edicts against all odds. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as a political leader, was in a class of his own.

He succeeded in mobilising the people to achieve an uphill political goal in the form of a sovereign nation-state carved out on the basis of a political ideology. Jinnah continued to radiate the hope that this new-nation state would become an ideal place for all who opted for it.

Once he was gone, people stayed hopeful and believed that his successors would help shape Jinnah’s Pakistan within a tangible timeframe. Unfortunately, this legitimate expectation has remained an elusive dream.

A perspective on what constitutes Jinnah’s dream of a nation-state shall be useful. Jinnah’s speeches delivered on various occasions illustrate the complexion of Pakistan he wished to see. But the political and social discourse to interpret these views for evolving a consensus could not be accomplished. Divergent groups stand on their hardened and uncompromising positions.

The liberals construe that this country was founded for all to live in peace and away from the exigencies of an impending majority rule. They define Pakistanis as a pluralistic and essentially diverse community with the liberty to frame the objectives, statutes, rules, codes, customs and norms of life in accordance with their consensus, or at least collective wisdom. In support of this position, they quote Jinnah’s speeches delivered from time to time.

In contrast, the right-wingers assert the notion that this country was made in the name of Islam, and nothing else matters. Since Islam is not merely a set of rituals, but a complete system of life, including statecraft, it is only logical to create a society founded on those very principles.

These streams of arguments have been continuing ever since the country came into being without there ever being any conciliation or accommodation. With the possibility of settling this issue in an intellectually valid and peaceful manner becoming remote, the citizens become entirely confused.

Various power-wielding stakeholders take advantage of this conceptual confusion. The political class views the nation as an adaptable entity in situations where it can have access to power and gainful returns from various power-sharing deals. The whole edifice of nation seems to fall apart during the rivals’ rule. The establishment perceives the nation-state as an object that must be kept shackled all the time. Any attempt to let it move freely could prove too dangerous for its interests and existence.

Businessmen and traders consider the nation-state as a market space. Till such time the profits rise, the taxes remain evaded and the labour is squeezed to the hilt without government interference, this remains the best state in the world. Otherwise, the situation is termed dangerous, dollars are packed and the folks fly abroad quietly.

Elite remain worried that the nation is too backward and has too many encumbrances. The poor keep lamenting the fact that the state is too unjust, and has given them nothing. Every class perceives the nation-state differently.

Today, the state prefers to act as a contract manager. Whether healthcare, disaster management, development works in housing or infrastructure, the state units allocate funds to be spent through high-value contractual packages. Departmental abilities to maintain, repair and fix infrastructure and services are eroding fast. Under the tutelage of very powerful agents of globalisation, the whole set of performance indicators have changed. ‘Honesty’ seems to have been replaced by ‘efficiency’; ‘justice’ by ‘fair share-holding’; ‘subsistence’ by ‘purchasing power’; ‘human rights’ by ‘stakeholders’ satisfaction’; and ‘democracy’ by ‘market performance’. The act of balancing the economic input with the output reigns supreme above all gradients of morality, justice and fair play.

The way forward is to adopt a realistic approach. For reaching consensus on ideological basis, sustenance of democratic institutions is the foremost. Jinnah had categorically referred to the wisdom of the elected assemblies to deliberate and settle such matters. Thus, if they function independently, they will develop the capacity to formulate a viable interpretation of the ideology of the nation. Lateral inputs by the intelligentsia, academia and media can help streamline and enrich this discourse. It cannot be denied that as a nation state, Pakistan has to overcome numerous hurdles.

The writer is Dean, Faculty of Architecture and Management Sciences, NED University, Karachi.

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