Let us suppose it was possible to talk today to the people, including Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who gathered in Lahore at the spot where the Minar-e-Pakistan now stands on March 23, 1940 to pass the Pakistan Resolution. The Resolution, of course, sets in place the foundation on which Pakistan was built, and hope rang through the air as leaders planned a new future for the subcontinent’s Muslims. Today, that hope has dissipated; seven and a half decades on, many of the eminent figures involved in the drafting and passing of the Resolution would undoubtedly be alarmed by the problems Pakistan faces and as we mark the day, these issues deserve serious consideration. Our future rests on our ability to resolve these issues.
Pakistan today finds itself in turmoil. The security nightmare which has grown steadily since 2001 haunts us, and determines much about the lives we lead. In cities across the country, children go to school in buildings lined with barbed wire and barricaded with sandbags. This is the aftermath of the attack by militants on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014, in which at least 141 people, including 132 children, died. Despite the anti-terrorism measures agreed on by all mainstream political parties following this, militancy lives on, with 15 killed and more than 70 injured in blasts at two Lahore churches just over a week ago. Lawlessness was further highlighted by the burning of two men by a mob after this.
Elsewhere too, terrorist attacks take place, extremism lives on and the military operation continues in the tribal areas. As a result, tens of thousands of displaced persons remain away from their homes or return to an uncertain situation in areas torn apart by conflict. We do not know when this conflict will end and meanwhile, the still darker shadow of groups such as the Islamic State hangs over us.
There is uncertainty and fear in other forms, too. As civilian and military leaders continue meetings to discuss the volatile situation, in Karachi events continue to evolve rapidly. The unrest in the commercial heart of the country further damages a struggling economy. Other realities affect it too, including the energy shortfall which has already inflicted huge losses on industry. As summer looms, there is a danger that it will worsen. The years of poor planning then cripple us and there appears to be no easy way to overcome these difficulties.
The problems with offering people education, healthcare and other basic rights also means the quality of life for the majority of the country’s people is not good. The reports released periodically by international organisations highlight this, the figures on literacy, maternal and infant mortality and nutritional status staring out at us bleakly. Polio continues to cripple our children, and attacks on polio vaccination teams have not abated either. This is definitely not the vision that had been put forward all those years ago in 1940.
As we mark March 23, with the traditional parade held on the day revived after a seven-year gap, our focus must be on planning how to overcome the problems we face. We must overcome these problems and unravel the knots which tie them together, with extremism linked in to the illiteracy and poverty, inflation to the failures of governance and our institutional crises as a state to the instabilities in our democratic system. The nation needs to come together to achieve this and perhaps, put a new resolution in place. This, after all, is what we require to place our country on the road which leads to success. The dream of the dedicated thinkers and leaders behind the plan laid out for a new nation in 1940 must not be allowed to fade away. This is something we owe them and also owe to the generations yet to come who will constitute the future of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2015.