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On August 14th, we as a nation celebrated the diamond jubilee or 75th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence from the British Empire. And today, December 25th, we’re paying homage to the founder of this country and so, this is a good opportunity to do some introspection and see if we have done justice to Pakistan in fulfilling the vision of the Father of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
I don’t want to do a balance sheet of what we gained and lost during the last 75 years as a country, but I want to re-examine Quaid’s vision for Pakistan, as a reminder to all of us of what his vision embodied.
Being a practicing lawyer, the Quaid believed in the rule of law and justice. His major ideals were, “Equality, justice and fair play to everybody”. But in today’s Pakistan, we have strayed far from these principles as our institutions remain weak to enforce the rule of law for various reasons. The ruling elite and wealthy classes continue to operate above the law while the rest of the society becomes victims of unequal justice, which is contrary to both Western and Islamic legal principles.
The Father of the Nation strongly believed in democracy and constitutionalism. He envisioned Pakistan as an Islamic democracy based on equality, brotherhood and social justice principles. However, Quaid like Allama Iqbal didn’t advocate rule by the clergy or mullahs, but by the people through their elected representatives. Jinnah expressed his thoughts on a Muslim democracy during the Sibi Darbar, on February 14, 1948: “I have had one underlying principle in mind, the principle of Muslim democracy. It is my belief that our salvation lies in following the golden rules of conduct set for us by our great lawgiver, the Prophet of Islam Muhammad. Let us lay the foundations of our democracy on the basis of truly Islamic ideals and principles. Our Almighty has taught us that “Our decision in the affairs of the State shall be guided by discussions and consultations”.
Sadly, the state of our democracy in present-day Pakistan is far from the above principles articulated by the Father of the Nation. From the bottom to the top, we all have contributed to the destruction of democracy in Pakistan due to various military interventions, poor governance regardless of civilian or military rulers, and corruption.
Along with democracy and constitutionalism, Jinnah was a supporter of civilian supremacy of the armed forces and civil bureaucracy. In an address to civil servants on August 14, 1947, the Quaid talked about civilian supremacy over the armed forces, “Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people and you do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted”. We all know that this also hasn’t been achieved over the past 75 years.
Regarding civilian supremacy over the bureaucracy, Jinnah believed that the civil service must be non-political and serve the government of the day and ultimately the citizens of Pakistan. In a speech to Gazetted Officers at Chittagong on March 25, 1948, the Quaid stated, “You have to do your duty as servants; you are not concerned with this or that political party that is not your business. It is the business of politicians to fight out their case under the present constitution or the future constitution that may be ultimately framed, you, therefore, have nothing to do with this party or that party. You are civil servants. Whichever gets the majority will form the Government and your duty is to serve that Government for the time being as servants not as politicians… it is up to you now to act as true servants of the People even at the risk of any Minister or Ministry trying to interfere with you in the discharge of your duties as civil servants”. Woefully, our bureaucracy at every level of government has been politicized, starting from the regime of Field Marshal General Ayub Khan to the present. The politicization of the bureaucracy has adversely impacted governance in this country.
Furthermore, we know that Quaid was against corruption and warned us about it in his Presidential address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, “One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering – I do not say that other countries are free from it, but, I think our condition is much worse – is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put that down with an iron hand and I hope that you will take adequate measures as soon as it is possible for this Assembly to do so”. In the same address, he mentions other corrupt practices like black marketeering, nepotism and jobbery and warned the nation to stay clear of them on all counts.
Unfortunately, we have ignored Jinnah’s warning on corruption at our peril as the vast majority of Pakistan’s ruling elite and establishment don’t believe that corruption is a menace that requires to be combatted.
Finally, I want to mention that Quaid’s Pakistan is also a welfare state. In Calcutta on March 1, 1946, while addressing Muslim League workers, Jinnah stated his commitment to the downtrodden of society, “I am an old man, God has given me enough to live comfortably at this age. Why would I turn my blood into water, run about and take so much trouble? Not for the capitalists surely, but for you, the poor people. In 1936, I have seen abject poverty of the people. Some of them did not get food, even once a day. I have not seen them recently, but my heart goes out for them. I feel it and, in Pakistan, we will do all in our power to see that everybody can get decent living.”
Days before independence, at the Karachi Club on August 9, 1947, the Quaid reaffirmed his stance on helping the poor, “It is our sacred duty to look after the poor and to help them. I would never have gone through toil and suffering of the last ten years had I not felt our sacred duty towards them. We must secure them with better living conditions. It should not be our policy to make the rich richer but that does not mean that we want to uproot things. We can consistently give all their due share.”
The above is not an exhaustive list of the characteristics of Quaid’s Pakistan, but it is a starting point for a debate on reforming state institutions and governance. We need a serious discussion on the social contract between the state and its citizens in light of Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan. Pakistan cannot thrive and progress with a state machinery that continues to be dilapidated and corrupt.