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Winding down

Published Dec 25, 2011 03:54am

TODAY, we in Pakistan observe the birthday of the man who founded and made Pakistan just over 64 years ago. It is the official 135th anniversary of the birth of Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

For much of the rest of the world, celebrations are afoot for the assumed 2011th birthday of Jesus of Nazareth, the second in Trinity. And in the ranks of the PML-N no doubt congratulations are being bandied about on the declared birthday of the Mian of Raiwind, two-time prime minister of this 'hard' country, who never manages to cease being politically controversial.

As for Jinnah, what it was he decreed for the country he made was laid out in his seminal speech of Aug 11, 1947, too well known and quoted to bear repetition by us few who wish to abide by his creed.

For those who wish to interpret it their own way, it conforms merely to narrow expedient government vision; and to the bigots and the intolerant who sadly make up the majority of the 180 million it has been discarded or distorted into wishing what they wish it to mean.

His creed is nationally long gone. 'Secular' is almost a treasonous word, tolerance an equally treasonous practice as bigotry is largely the order of the day. Jinnah's Pakistan became virtually moribund on his death and received the final fatal blow in 1949 when his trusted lieutenants brought in the Objectives Resolution.

From then on, it was a steady downhill dive to where this truncated country now finds itself — isolated and distrusted by much of the world which is concerned about its erratic policies and practices.

The tragedy is that Jinnah, over the tumultuous years, has become more and more irrelevant to the youth of the country, and the elders tend to relegate him to whatever brand of history is convenient.

In February 2010, a columnist writing on this page made a remark directed at me. She informed me that while I search in vain for Jinnah's Pakistan we are threatened with losing Pakistan's Jinnah. “We shouldn't be surprised,” she wrote, “if in a few years time we come across a doctored photograph of the founding father in a turban and beard...”

Jinnah's person and his narrative are being “tinkered with”. A liberal Jinnah is unpalatable. In short, too many Pakistanis have denied and are denying that the man is his own person, that he was what he actually was. A false piety has been forced upon him by the leaderships we have suffered.

He has been kidnapped by those who under no circumstances wish to live in a pluralistic state with a multi-polar polity where religion, in the words of Mr Jinnah, “has nothing to do with the business of the state”.

The columnist ended with a plea that I “do something about getting the founding father back”. Well, it seems to be, at least in my lifetime, an impossible task. All our politicians, in and out of khaki, have blithely and meaninglessly trotted out their intent to restore Jinnah's Pakistan and then done and accepted the exact opposite in the interests of expediency and their shaky chairs.

Now to the tie up with the title of this column. For 22 years I have written for this publication. I started off in 1989 with letters to the editor after Ziaul Haq was taken away by his mangoes, when my old friend Ilahi Bakhsh Soomro was appointed caretaker information minister and removed the stringent Zia press laws.Then at the urging of a couple of Dawn staffers, I started submitting columns to that fine editor, Ahmad Ali Khan. He and his team gave me full cooperation and we had an amicable relationship, as I have had with all subsequent editors, down to young Zaffar Abbas who continues to maintain Dawn as the premier newspaper of the land. I must thank them all.

Thanks also must be extended to those who have helped me in my research and in providing input — to Roland deSouza's involvement with all environmental subjects and issues, and to Amina Jilani who has for the 22 years seen to it that I have made no major blunders as far as the English language is concerned.

On this last Sunday of this year, this is my final column in this space. Now, old at 85, tired, and disillusioned with a country that just cannot pull itself together in any way and get on with life in this day and age, I have decided to call it a day.

To quote Winston Churchill (without at all making any even vague comparison) “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter”. The weekly writing has been a long and rewarding haul, and the column can record a few incidents where it has made a difference. I must also thank all those readers who have responded, generally favourably and with common sense.

Bernard Levin who wrote columns with wit and erudition in The Times (London) from 1970 to 1997 once likened columnists to bakers. Bakers bake bread every morning, it is consumed, digested and forgotten. So is it with our daily columns, they are read, maybe digested, and the newspaper discarded.

This may not be a final farewell as Editor Abbas has most generously told me that in the future should any issue crop up on which I feel I would care to comment, Dawn will carry my column — though few and far between.

So, to all my readers, my best for the festive season and to you all, to Pakistan and Karachi, city of my birth, my wishes that the coming year will be more peaceful, more tranquil and that those that pretend to lead may at least be imbued with a modicum of common sense.

arfc@cyber.net.pk