Are you ‘free’?

All we can hope for is that the machinations of the monsters will ultimately lead to their devouring themselves.

Amina Jilani August 16, 2014

The 67th b’day has come and gone! For all the wrong reasons, it will not be eminently forgettable as have most previous birthday celebrations when highly hypocritical lip service has been paid to Founder-Maker MAJ. This year, he is largely forgotten — lost in the mists of time.

That mythical entity, Jinnah’s Pakistan, remains the infrequent subject of a handful of our media commentators, who plug on regardless of the futility, but none so persistently and consistently than a member of the minority community (recognised on the national flag by the white stripe adjacent to the flagpole, but largely non-existent unless they are being slaughtered). In 1987, in the midst of the dark age of Ziaul Haq, on the 40th anniversary of the birth of this most unfortunate of countries — unfortunate in its consistent lack of leadership — Ardeshir Cowasjee first wrote on the much-quoted, but ignored by the powers that were and be, MAJ address of August 11 1947 to his Constituent Assembly, stressing the “You are free … ” aspect, and that religion is “not the business of the state.” He continued, year after year, until his final try on August 14, 2012, just three months before his death. By that time, he had given up, and with sadness admitted, after championing Jinnah’s cause for 25 years, that to the leadership and the youth of Pakistan, Jinnah and all he stood for has become irrelevant.

“That when writing on Jinnah’s Pakistan, there is naught but a long line of lament, dismay and disgust — it is but a castle in the air — is a dismal fact. The corrupt, the inept and the gutless who have been in charge of this country for far too many decades and surrendered themselves and their policies to false deities have tailored the state to their fit, throwing all pretence, and certainly intent, to curb lawlessness, instill tolerance, keep within acceptable bounds ‘one of the biggest curses … bribery and corruption … [and] the evil of nepotism and jobbery’.”

What obsesses the nation now? The ‘threat to the system’, a rotten system if ever there was one, sanctified in a Constitution that with great intent has relegated the ‘minorities’ to a place of their own, lawfully discriminated against, murdered by the ‘majority’ with impunity, almost given the nod by leaderships in thrall to the manic religiosity of the Zia regime. Democracy is another obsession, though it has been eminently made clear to us in this third coming of Zia’s protege, and by his predecessors, that democracy stops at the ballot box and the messy contentious elections to which the country has been subjected.

If Pakistan’s democracy is ‘threatened’, well it should be, as it is but a sham. That the present system, upheld by the controlling powers, the US and Britain from whom ‘help’ is constantly sought to ‘save’ the system, can be reformed is a moot point. It alternates with the greatest of ease between presidential (Asif Ali Zardari) and prime ministerial (Nawaz Sharif) autocracy. We might be better off if it is undone and sewn anew.

Obsessive, too, is the fraught civil-military relationship. People forget, it goes back a long, long time, back to 1954 when prime minister Muhammad Ali Bogra appointed General Ayub Khan, the army chief, as the defence minister of Pakistan. Since then, the military has been directly involved in politics, as it continues to be. Ayub’s role in national politics grew and grew. He served in the governments of Suhrawardy, Feroz Khan Noon and Chundrigar. He manipulated President Iskandar Mirza and was endorsed as the chief martial law administrator on October 7, 1958. For 60 years of 67 years of life, the military has held the upper hand. That is a fact that is hard to admit in this age of what we term ‘democracy’.

All we can hope for is that the machinations of the monsters will ultimately lead to their devouring themselves so that light may be shed upon the darkness that envelops this blighted country.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2014.

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