Nawaz Sharif kicked off what could have been potentially an interesting and educative debate when he spoke at a meeting of the South Asia Free Media Association (safma) in Lahore a few weeks ago. But unfortunately, the debate was not carried forward and, barring one or two exceptions, was largely ignored by the electronic media.
Essentially what Nawaz Sharif had said was: (a) Since Pakistan is now an independent country, accepted and recognised by India, the Two-Nation Theory or TNT for short, which was used as a tool to achieve Pakistan, has now become irrelevant; (b) India and Pakistan cannot afford to live perpetually in a state of war, engaged in an arms race; (c) Both countries need to open their borders for trade.
Of the few exceptions, Express News carried an interesting discussion on the subject between Marvi Sirmed, a journalist and political commentator, and Zaid Hamid who has become known for his red cap and his speech that drips profusely with rhetoric and religiosity. In fact, it drips so profusely that if one shows a match to it, it would catch fire. In fact, it would be helpful if Zaid Hamid wore the danger symbol of skull and crossbones on his cap. At least people who debate him will be forewarned.
Incidentally, talking of red caps, Ghazi Abdul Rashid of the Lal Masjid also wore a red cap before he died fighting the ‘forces of evil’, and so do his followers today. One wonders since when did the color of Islam change from white or black or green to red? Didn’t we, during the ‘great jihad’, fight anyone or anything that wore red?
Anyway, the debate between Marvi and Zaid Hamid did allow viewers a peek into what was actually underneath the red cap — the mindset. There were two things, basically. One, we need a system modelled after Khilafat-e-Rashida, and not democracy. It is the same objective that was pursued by people like Sufi Mohammad of Swat, Mullah Omar of Kandhar, the Ghazi brothers of Lal Masjid and Bin Laden, and we all know with what results. Obviously, the irony is lost on the red caps and black turbans that the actual Khilafat-e-Rashida did not last for more than 30 years, ending in insurgencies, murder and mayhem, and giving way to dynastic monarchies. The other point Zaid Hamid fiercely argued was that the Two-Nation Theory or TNT was the raison d’etre of Pakistan — it’s foundation. We simply cannot let it go.
This argument on TNT reminds me of an interesting and reasonable explanation of the theory given by an eminent professor of political science, some years ago at the Administrative Staff College, Lahore. He said the TNT could best be compared to scaffolding that is used to raise a building. Once the building is complete, you dismantle the scaffolding and start taking care of the building. Using another analogy, he said that the TNT could also be compared to a midwife whose services are required to deliver a baby. Once the baby is born, you thank the midwife, pay her, give her a gift or two, say goodbye to her and start looking after the newborn. In our case, the professor said we are neither prepared to dismantle the scaffolding or say goodbye to the midwife.
To the above, I may add another analogy. TNT, as you may know, is also an acronym for a highly explosive chemical substance — trinitrotoluene — which is used in explosive devices. Once the device has accomplished its purpose, it is always advisable to safely dispose off the empty shell or canister and not to play with it. It may still contain traces of TNT that could explode in your face.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2011.