KARACHI: Former senator and federal minister Javed Jabbar dismissed foreign reports that call Pakistan ‘a failing state’. For him, “it is not failing, [it is] merely ailing.”
The noted author was speaking as the 26th speaker at the Aga Khan University’s Sixth Sense Forum on Tuesday. With characteristic self-deprecating humour and sarcasm, Jabbar delivered his speech on Pakistan as an ailing state and evolving nation. The discussion was attended by hospital staff, students and other residents keen to hear Jabbar’s discourse.
He spoke about the ambiguity of the word ‘nation’ and the different type of states, classifying Pakistan as a “religion-based state different from all other religion-based states”. He termed Pakistan an “overnight state” that only had 10 weeks to prepare itself before it had independence thrust upon it.
“Pakistan is a spiritual, cerebral nation and we want to be a nation,” he said, explaining that Pakistanis are not tied together by a shared ethnicity, language or religion yet chose to be a nation.
After discussing India after Partition, with regards to its democracy, expansion and flexibility, Jabbar went on to examine the idea of people cheating the state. “There are 47 million households in Pakistan, accounting for poverty,” he pointed out, adding that there are at least 17 million who are able to pay taxes. “Yet only one million do. We are not only cheating our state, but also ourselves.”
Jabbar explained the concept of ‘Pakistaniat’ as a reflection of Pakistani nationalism. Described in its simplest form, it is “when you root for Pakistan during a cricket match”.
Discussing both positive as well as negative aspects of Pakistaniat, he spoke of democracy with governance and continuous refinement of institutions.
There was a ‘knowledge deficit’ in Arabised Islam, according to Jabbar. “In the past few decades, 10,000 books have been translated into Arabic, that’s the number of Spanish books translated in a year.” Jabbar felt that, “we have suffered from the lack of philosophy in Islam over the past 800 years.”
How can we fix our problems? “Initially I had calculated that we would need 100 Ataturks, who are men and women of steel, to turn this nation around,” he said, referring to the need for strong-willed leaders in Pakistan to lead it forward. “Now I have had to revise this to 1,000 Ataturks.” To find a good leader, Jabbar explained that leadership comes from good citizenship. “And to go towards a strong stable state, we need to do it together.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2014.