Pakistan, from pestilence to chariots of fire

63 years ago we made a covenant with God and had a tryst with destiny. Serried like tidal waves under the proud banner of Islam, led majestically from the front by an indomitable great leader, imbued and buoyed by the stirring lessons imparted by the poet of the east, swept over by a frission of unwonted unity and unheard of camaraderie, the multitude fell into a paroxysm of collective greatness and by defying and re-writing the known laws of human conduct altered the course of history forever. The man met his situation with legendary aplomb and fate descended from the heavens to have a rendezvous with those who stood behind him like a rock, animated with the singular desire of making the greatest and most significant experiment in the entire human history. Pakistan was the result of that monumental and epoch changing experiment; a corollary of the man’s meeting with the situation; a testament of the rendezvous between the fate and a nation! Muhammad Ali Jinnah did what hardly any other man can be credited with doing

The laws of nature and human conduct treat individuals and nations on the same footing; no exceptions admitted! In order to experience a smooth, measured and phased evolution, to acquire all the requisite facets of a complete personality, to equip oneself with all the tools and the weapons to wage the war of life successfully, a child needs a conducive environment and benevolent lady luck. If any spanner gets thrown in the works leading to the vitiation of the environment the growth of the child shall get stunted. The life and times of a man are a mere reflection of the events surrounding his birth and rearing up. Same is exactly true for the birth, growth and evolution of a nation or a country.

When the conception and gestation was such history defying, the birth was expectedly cataclysmic. A cataclysmic birth means an unstable childhood, precocious adolescence, and a riotous youth preceding a robust and dynamic maturity. When the creation of the country entails massive destruction, to cut the umbilical cord from the rancor and hostility of the past becomes an arduous task. A nation flowing through the womb of violence has to fight against the nature and surrounding circumstances to find its feet and clamber out of the dark valley of disunity and divide. A country witnessing such gore and bloodshed at the time of its inception is bound to remain engaged in a life and death struggle to merely stay afloat and keep itself intact. Much of the instability and acrimony characterizing the accident ridden history of Pakistan is attributable to a cataclysmic birth, precocious adolescence and a riotous youth. We survived the partition holocaust; started literally from the scratch and went about building our Rome with renewed vigor and unending zeal and braving all the odds heavily stacked against us steered our way into a precocious adolescence. The nation began to decipher the contours of a viable and robust state; began to get used to a new socio-cultural identity; began to write a future tinged with the acrimony of the past but laced with scented leaves of the tree of freedom. This was the time when economists and pundits around the world were churning out rosy and promising forecasts for the future of Pakistan; when we were in throes of a green revolution; when we were being imitated by the would be Asian Tigers; when we were the great people to fly with; when royalties of various hues and colors were making a beeline for our prestigious educational institutions. Those were the times when we stared at nothing but the peak, when we saw nothing but the sun, we did nothing but what was fruitful.

But to defy history is to earn its ire; the blowback struck, the inertial forces managed to grab an upper hand and induced a downward slide, which soon got converted into one steep fall from grace for us. We have had our share of follies, blunders and faux paus;  we obfuscated the memories and the message of that glorious tryst with destiny which gave us Pakistan; we fell from the high pedestal of sacrifice and unity and slithered into the slimy waters of divisiveness and self seeking. We constructed a glorious nation state, envisioned democracy as a way of life for it only to wreck the chariot by becoming indifferent. We glossed over the cardinal lesson of history that the tyranny of a prince in an autocracy is less disastrous for the future of the nation than the indifference of a common man in a democracy. It were us, who had clothed the skeleton of Pakistan with our flesh and blood; adorned it with the hem of our love and sacrifice. It were us who staged the biggest migration in recorded history; who suffered unheard of brutality and untold misery on the road to Pakistan; it were us who packed the locomotive mortuaries; it were we who were uprooted from our homes, separated and lost from our own kith and kin and yet did not allow the flame of freedom to extinguish No gust of adversarial wind was strong enough to blow out our lamp of Pakistan. It were us who paved the road of progress and prosperity of Pakistan by putting our limbs on the line; it were us who sublimated and synergized our intellectual and creative faculties to script an inimitable and ingenious blueprint for a viable, robust and impregnable Pakistan. It were us again, tragically, who allowed the chariot to get wrecked; who allowed the blanket of our fortunes get blackened by the vile deeds of humbugs whom our indifference had catapulted to power.

A man with a mission knows no rest; greatness countenances no complacency; heroes cannot afford indifference! Indifference breeds mediocrity; once perpetuated mediocrity invites ruin and ruination is a guest which knows not how to bid farewell. When ruination settles in, the machinery of the universe shifts a gear and everything begins to run to seed; all fabrics begin to come apart at seams and vivisection of an entire nation begins. This vivisection is met with supine indifference coupled with simmering self pity. It may be some bodily malfunction which paralyzes a man; but its criminal indifference and simmering self pity which cripples an entire nation. To be hemmed in by its own fears and flattened by the weight of circumstances are the hallmarks of a nation paralyzed by a piteous inaction. Same is happening to us. We rush in where angels would fear to tread, only to get cold feet where angels would scamper ahead. Another characteristic trait of a paralyzed and supine nation is to blame the leadership or the lack of it for its miserable lot. An unhappy and dejected man loves to clutch at straws and heap opprobrium on most extraneous of circumstances. Like a rudderless ship, it keeps tossing about the vagarious waves of time and space and ends up chasing its own tail when time for a mandatory transition strikes the hour. It loses its capacity to learn from the past; hence, gets condemned to keep repeating it. The cognizance, the consciousness, the ability to distinguish good from bad; hero from villain, crisis from opportunity, opportunity from crisis and gold from dust is lost and battle lines in the war of survival get blurred. Same is happening to us. We denigrate and run down our heroes while ascribe divinity to humbugs and charlatans.

Ours is not an ideological crisis; nor is there any identity deficit roiling our self image. The ideological foundations were helped laid very firmly in the sands of time by the Almighty itself; without an ineffaceable ideology underpinning the caravan of freedom, the dream destination could never have been arrived at. We have not lost our way because of want of ideology or some historic infirmity of ours; there is nothing wrong neither with the ship nor with its rudder or the anchor; just that the hands behind the helm are too venal, too ineffectual and too plangent to induce it to a smooth sail. It’s not that our guns have been spiked or our pitch has been queered; just that the hands behind the gun and the players on the pitch have faltered big time. The ideological foundation once laid can resist and withstand all tremors and jolts, but a covenant once betrayed through sheer apathy and delinquency saps all the moral vigor and ethical spirit of the nation. We are faced with a critical moral crunch; a telling paucity of ethical power ails us; hence our delinquency, hence our self pity, hence the unbreakable stranglehold of lassitude and inaction. Self infliction and incessant lamentation have not got us anywhere, nor is it going to take us anywhere In future.

It is us who face a momentous war of self renewal not Pakistan. The war is very much on, the bugle of the decisive battle has sounded, and lines remain clearly drawn. Piteous fence sitting and self lamentation have become passé, time to stand up and be counted, to choose a side. Those on the side of courage, cognizance and honesty have already been assured of a splendid victory while the rest shall find themselves on the wrong side of history. Pakistan is a prodigally resourceful, mightily gifted, impregnably secure and remarkably resilient country; it is here and it is here to stay, it shall remain firmly planted on the map of the world, in its definite shape, for all times to come! I’ll end quoting Sir Allama Iqbal: Nahin Hai Na-Umeed Iqbal Apni Kisht-e-Weeran Se, Zara Nam Ho To Ye Mitti Bohat Zarkhaiz Hai Saqi ( But of his barren acres Iqbal will not despair: A little rain, and harvests shall wave at last, oh Saki)

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