Updated Apr 12, 2018 08:52am

‘Fundamental, social, economic issues can only be worked out through political means’

Shazia Hasan

KARACHI: “On television and in books we are given a very negative view of our country. It is not that we don’t have problems, but still it is not so bad,” said former director of the Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed.

He was delivering a lecture on the subject of ‘70 years of Pakistan — achievements and challenges’ at the Abul Hasan Jafray Auditorium of the Ziauddin University on Wednesday.

“Seventy years is not too long a period in the life of a nation but it is a significant amount of time in the life of an individual,” he said.

Scholar throws light on Pakistan’s optimism, resilience

“Every March 23 and August 14 brings up an opportunity for us to look back, and we should do this in an objective and balanced manner.

“There is vast literature on the state of affairs available such as Ethan Casey’s Alive and Well in Pakistan, Owen Bennett Jones’s Pakistan: Eye of the Storm, Ahmed Rashid’s Descent into Chaos, Christophe Jaffrelot’s Nation­alism with a Nation, Khaled Ahmed’s Sleepwalking to Surrender, etc.

“I have seen only one positive book in the last 15 years titled Pakistan: a Hard Country by Anatol Lieven. It talks of all the wrongdoing, malaise despite which Pakistan is still surviving. The author says that it is a hard country to break down,” he said.

“Territory, population, government and sovereignty play a big part in the survival of a country but Pakistan didn’t quite have it all in place at the start.

“If you talk about territory, there were some 10 states such as Bahawalpur, Kalat, etc, which were to accede to Pakistan but they took time to do that.

“If you talk about population, there was the constant flow of migrants for years, which is why it is called the ‘biggest migration’ so there was no way of estimating Pakistan’s population in 1947 and ’48.

“If you talk about sovereignty, Pakistan in its initial years had no constitution as the Government of India Act of 1935 was adopted here. So we were a dominion. Governments here were made with the approval of Buckingham Palace until 1956,” he added.

“So the Congress leaders in India were not wrong in their thinking that Pakistan was an ‘adventure’ of Jinnah, which wouldn’t last for more than six months. But this didn’t happen of course because there was this sense of ownership among our politicians and bureaucrats which saw us through no matter what,” he said giving the example of Zahid Husain, governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, who used to be in his office for 24 hours.

“Then after losing East Pakistan, there was the 1973 Constitution, which acted as a cementing force between the federation and provinces,” he said, adding that the 18th Amendment was also an achievement giving power to our institutions to resolve issues.

“In democracy, we are provided with a toolbox. So whenever something goes wrong, we bring the toolbox out and fix things,” he said.

Dr Jaffar Ahmed also pointed out during his lecture that we often talk about the failure of politicians but never ask if military is the solution.

‘Unity in diversity’

“If military rule was that good then why after all four military regimes here we reverted back to democracy?” He asked while pointing out that the military has its own ethos, philosophy, etc. “They like uniformity. But civilians like diversity, and they look for unity in diversity,” he said.

It was explained that there are fundamental, social and economic issues, which can only be worked out through political means.

“Our economy has now integrated with the global economy. Go to any town or village and you’ll find imported goods, rent-a-car services, beauty salons and what not?

“If you look at Pakistan from the education point of view, we have some 180 universities here as opposed to only two universities in 1947. These are big achievements.

“And if you study deeper, these universities have more female students than male students. The University of Karachi has 72 per cent female students as does the University of Gujrat. The University of Sargodha, meanwhile, has 74pc female students. The dominance of females in education is telling us about social change and change in the mindset of our society. Today, parents in middle-class homes give preference to educating their family than acquiring property,” he said.

He also spoke about the internal migration taking place in Pakistan as a positive thing.

“People travelling from one province to another shows integration of society and a major change in population,” he said, adding that Karachi today has more Pakhtuns than Kabul or Jalalabad.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018

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