The national independence days are usually celebrated with fervour and are supposed to be joyous occasions. But this Independence Day has a different significance for the state, the government and the people of Pakistan. It has left us dejected as we see the scars that the Partition had left on the body and soul of the people of the Subcontinent turning into open wounds and bleeding again. The state terrorism unleashed by the Indian forces in Kashmir and its other actions to subjugate and enslave its Muslim population do not leave much for the mirth and merriment that is associated with these national occasions.
But how and where have we failed, on national and international front, to enable India to do what it wanted to achieve, especially in case of Kashmir? History tells us that the successes of the enemies or the rivals are most of the time due to our own shortcomings or failures in the conduct and management of our own external and internal affairs.
How do we come to this impasse? The occasion demands some serious introspection. Where do we stand today as a state and as a society? Have we managed to evolve ourselves into a nation or do we continue to be a crowd divided along ethnic, linguistic, communal and sectarian lines? How bad or good have we performed in the past and do we have a clear idea about the goals and directions we intend to pursue in the future?
What is the direction of our foreign policy that has mostly been determined by our security concerns and compulsions? Our national ideology, however difficult to define, is another factor that continues to define state’s priorities and interests. There is no harm in having varying approaches towards patriotism to define and articulate our idea of nation and our commitment to the country. But the tendency to monopolise approaches about meaning and definition of patriotism in any given context is always fraught with danger while deepening the dividing lines in the society.
Have these policies paid well on external front? Look at the lukewarm response, if any, of our international allies, especially the brother Muslim countries. It could be that their national interests would not allow them to come out openly in support of Pakistan’s stance, but how to explain their silence on the Indian atrocities in Kashmir? Why don’t we understand that there are no friends or foes among countries; these are the economic, political, military interests or geographical proximities that give directions to relations between two states.
On the domestic front, we have definitely failed to live up to the ideals that formed the basis of Muslim separatism and subsequent freedom movement that led to the creation of Pakistan. We have failed to appreciate the idea of Pakistan as a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society; we have failed to rise above sectarian differences; we have failed to respect the religion and faith of other people and communities; and above all, we continue to lack a commitment to the greater good of the people and their welfare.
Presiding over the affairs of government, the civilian and military rulers are often seen exploiting public sentiments while equating their personal or group interests with misleading calls for patriotism, national ideology or religion. Poor governance, coupled with the bane of corruption, has left the social services delivery system in tatters. Unfortunately, the issues of public importance are those which could be identified with the interests of elitists.
These internal factors must have added to the negative image of the country on the external front. And that could be one reason that Islamabad has failed to garner as much sympathy and support of the international community on the latest happenings in Kashmir as it deserved. But it is never too late to revisit the mistakes or judgmental errors of the past and correct the course of internal and external policies for a promising future.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2019.