March 23 next week, within two days at the time of publication of this piece, will also be soon after we mark our festival of Nauroz. On this very day, 80 years ago, we had dreamt the dream of a new life. We fixed a new path for progress and the permanence of our national personality. It is a day when we offer flowers of devotion to those pure spirits who sacrificed their all in the path of freedom and made that wish a reality which emerged in our hearts on 23 March 1940.
Springtime arrives and passes spreading beauty and fragrance. But the echo of the message which our ears heard 80 years ago in this same spring season has still not been forgotten. The vow of loyalty which we had taken this day before the nation and the promise of making the future bright and luminous which we had made with ourselves, are still here. The agitated waves of the Ravi remind us even today of that covenant.
But we should not think that some individual or party suddenly moved a magic wand one day and Pakistan was created. Pakistan, indeed, is the fruit of years of struggle by the children of the soil. They fought for freedom for two hundred years. The religious ulema, writers, preachers, soldiers, politicians, news reporters, traders, lawyers – all participated in this effort. So did millions of those nameless humans whose sacrifice and humility did not permit them to even reveal their name.
Pakistan was created upon the foundation of the right of self-determination for the inhabitants of this region. It is our collective official responsibility to protect its security and unity, but the Quaid-e-Azam had said repeatedly that Pakistan will be a democratic and welfare state in which all inhabitants will possess equal rights of citizenship irrespective of faith, nation, race and language – the right of freedom of expression and speech, the right of freedom of conscience and organization; and the right to livelihood and education. It is true that some selfish and opportunist elements misused these opportunities, but ordinary Pakistanis were not to blame for this. In fact, they never attained these rights in the first place.
When elections for provincial assemblies were held, they were done in an illegal way. The constituent assemblies, too, were made in an undemocratic manner. The result was that the parliamentary system and democratic traditions were not allowed to flourish. Neither was an attempt made to make the democratic experiment successful with any sincerity. The best method of knowing the will and opinion of the masses is to give them an opportunity to express their thoughts.
A constitution which is both democratic and workable has always been the biggest need for Pakistan. Righteous lawmaking can only be done by those who the people have chosen with their will and who represent the desires of the people. It is neither necessary to be very educated or to be propertied. If we look closely, those who took the country towards destruction and ruin were the same gentlemen who were proud of being educated and it was indeed the wealthy gentlemen under whose watch black markets, the buying and selling of licenses and the business of smuggling progressed.
There is great difference between politics and politicking, and sincere political workers and pure opportunists are two separate things. After all, it was the politicians who had made the struggle for the attainment of Pakistan successful.
Meanwhile in the Naya Pakistan of the 21st century, circumstances remain indescribable. In almost two years since the inauguration of Naya Pakistan, it is difficult to review the progress, gains, losses and what we have learned in various sectors of life. But most people will admit that within this duration, democratic values have not flourished. The State of Madinah is an unfulfilled promise.
As far as the members of the Assembly are concerned, the lights of their conscience appear dimmed greatly. The bazaars of conspiracies and bargains of the political parties have prospered anew. There has been a further increase in authoritarianisms and mismanagements, and the economic difficulties of the people have increased further.
If the Children of this Land celebrate the festival of Pakistan Day despite these trying circumstances, it indicates their patriotic passions and one can guess from this how dear democracy is to them. One wishes that those sitting atop the heights of power could respect this sacred feeling of the Pakistani people. Would that they feel for their duties and responsibilities witnessing the enthusiasm of the common people.
Perhaps what is beyond them is even a mild sympathy for the people, in whose praise Ghalib had written:
(The gift of surgery, a present of a diamond, a scar of the heart as offering
Congratulations, Asad! a sympathizer of the life of the friend has arrived!)
Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and award-winning translator and dramatic reader currently based in Lahore, where he is also the President of the Progressive Writers Association. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and award-winning translator and dramatic reader based in Lahore, where he is also the president of the Progressive Writers Association. He is currently working on a book, Sahir Ludhianvi’s Lahore, Lahore’s Sahir Ludhianvi, forthcoming in 2022. He can be reached via email at email@example.com