Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the father of our nation, must be turning in his grave if angels were to carry the news and pictures of today’s Pakistan to him — targeted killings of Shias, persecution of Christians and public conversion of Hindus on live media. This is not the Pakistan he or other founders powered by a dream of an independent country envisioned. Were they around today, they would have launched another independent movement — this time, to liberate the country from three powerful influences that have taken the form of institutions and have, in many ways, established their control over the soul of the country. They are the mullahs, the military and the feudal elites.
The capacity they have acquired and the impact of their power over the state and society, run counter to the founding vision of Pakistan. This vision was about a real democracy, placing faith and power in people and working towards the common good of all citizens, regardless of one’s religion, sect or place of residence. The early founders believed in rule of law, supremacy of the constitution, pluralism and equality. Two themes that define the founders’ ideology or the ideology of Pakistan are constitutionalism and pluralism — nothing else. All other definitions of Pakistan or its ideology are only self-serving political tools that have subverted Pakistan’s true identity beyond recognition.
With the subversion of democracy four times, the mullah, military and feudal elites have emerged as dominant players. They have created a structural problem in the way of realising the vision of Jinnah. By character and self-interest, they cannot be democratic, respect rule of law, or allow the society to express itself. With their dominance, they have created a climate for anti-democratic forces.
Perhaps, we cannot imagine how much damage just one cleric in the capital has done to the entire nation by falsely accusing a child, Rimsha Masih, of blasphemy, an act he himself is accused of committing by adding false evidence to the accusation. The news struck the chord of world media, which is already so sceptical about our present and future. They are not wrong on this.
Can a society and state fall so low that a girl from a persecuted religious minority is hauled and locked up in prison for weeks without bail? It is not the first case of false implication of a minority person; it has happened hundreds of times before, for motives other than religion. The question is: Where is the state and where is the society? What has our sovereign parliament done in rectifying the wrongs against innocent persons?
Their inaction makes me angry and utterly disappointed in everyone associated with the system of power in this country. I have watched the electronic media and read a good amount of print media but to my dismay, I haven’t seen any youth organisation protesting, any political party marching out, or any political leader coming out strong in support of Rimsha Masih. Our silence against injustice, expediency and narrow self-interest promotes and strengthens the climate of fear in Pakistan. The mullahs, military and feudal elite thrive on our fear because it encourages them to rule the country the way they want — with impunity.
To prevent further decline in the ditch of darkness and to create some hope of coming out, we need to recapture the vision of our founder — of a democratic, tolerant and pluralistic Pakistan. For that to happen, we need the courage to speak up, protest and march. And, when we have the opportunity, we must vote them out.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2012.