As Pakistan approaches its 75th birthday, the future seems uncertain. Generally, this ought to be a time for celebration. A nation approaching its 75th birthday may be regarded as a nation on the cusp of greatness, a seasoned nation: experienced, its institutions settled and working efficiently.
However, there are always exceptions to the general rule. And unfortunately for us, we find ourselves to be that exception.
There is always room for passion and there is no doubt that Pakistanis are passionate people. But passion and emotion must be tempered with logic and a focus on reality. What are we celebrating? Will we allow ourselves to settle on the fact that the 14th of August is a day for crowding the streets, disrupting traffic, blowing horns and causing mayhem? Are unruly processions the best we can do to celebrate our independence?
We must, instead, face our reality: as recognition and acceptance are the first steps in reaching a solution. This Independence Day, let us finally accept that there is a problem. Pakistan was created out of necessity. The Muslim League leaders were confident that the Pakistan that they were fighting for would be an independent, progressive and inclusive Pakistan. This goal was severely hindered due to the way India was partitioned, both geographically and economically.
Geographically, Pakistan was split into two parts, and economically Pakistan received 20% of British India’s resources. 20% was not enough to run a new country. The only solution was external finance, and that is how the unfortunate trend began. At that time, perhaps, this was acceptable as the only solution to save our country from destitution. It was justified. However, was it justified to continue borrowing for the next seven decades?
History would suggest that all those who had the opportunity of leading our country did so with varying agendas. These agendas were based on how they felt the Pakistani people could be best manipulated. From Bhutto’s “roti, kapra, makaan” to Imran Khan’s ‘anti-corruption’ stance, the leaders based their politics on what they perceived would sway the public towards them. One may argue that such indeed is the job of a politician, that politics is dictated by the status quo, and that the issues that are apparent at that time are the most important ones.
But when and how will things change? Why is the common Pakistani deprived from basic healthcare, education and justice? Why is it that people hesitate to approach basic institutions such as the police and the courts? These institutions intimidate the common people instead of facilitating them. What is the reason for this? It suits those in power. The idea that an individual from a lower segment of society could stand at par with those born into good fortune and wealth is intimidating. Many blame the feudal mindset and way of life, and it may indeed be one of the reasons. But it is not the sole reason.
The acceptance of a ‘master’ is a phenomenon all too well entrenched in our history. The most recent example is the British Raj. We follow the master, and the master takes advantage.
But we don’t live in 1858 anymore. As tempestuous as it may be, we live in a democracy within a sovereign country. The basic principle of democracy is that the people choose – or rather elect – an individual who represents them and legislates for the benefit of the people. Essentially, an elected leader within a democracy is meant to work for the people and thus be answerable to the people. The elected leader is accountable, he or she is not a god. He or she is not to be followed, but is instead assigned the responsibility of ensuring that the country runs smoothly.
However, in Pakistan’s case, the leader is seen as a demigod – an individual to whom in certain circumstances we assign blind faith. Sometimes, even though we are aware that the leader is corrupt and incompetent, we still choose to support them. What are we really celebrating? The reality is we are yet to achieve true independence. Pakistan’s future is – or ought to be – dependent on what the people of Pakistan want it to be. Politicians and dictators have had their run: 75 years have elapsed and progress is still pending.
The need of the hour is to choose wisely. As we celebrate our 75th Independence Day, let us celebrate as one nation with one primary objective: that of achieving a status of genuine dignity for our country. Pakistan Zindabad!