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Pakistan: Paradise Lost
Fifty-four years ago, Pakistan the first premeditated Islamic state was born with great hopes and promises; riding on the aspirations, sacrifices and the dedication of millions of Muslims from the Indian subcontinent. The idea behind Pakistan was not only to provide a homeland for Muslims free from the cultural and political domination of Hindus, but also to create an ideological agent that would advance the global interests of Islam and safeguard the lives and faith of Muslims in the region. Pakistan was designed to not only provide a safe haven for Muslims who became a part of Pakistan but also provide security to those unfortunate enough to stay back for various reasons. For the pragmatists behind the quest for a Muslim nation, Pakistan was supposed to be a haven of freedom and opportunity to prosper for Muslims alone. And for the idealists behind this noble idea, Pakistan was envisaged as that city on the hill that would be a beacon not only to the entire Ummah but also to the entire humanity; spreading the message of Islam and by example showing Muslims and other nations the straight path.
Today, Pakistan is so far from its intended purpose that, even to a diehard idealist like me, the noble ideas behind its existence seem like the innocent pronouncements of a child; When I grow up, I wanna be a pilot, or Pele. It has failed on each and every objective that was advanced by its founding fathers as a raison detere for Pakistan. Twenty-five years after its formation Pakistanis demonstrated that ethnicity was more important than Islamic solidarity and split into two nations, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The split was bloody and the process violated every relevant principle of Islam. While some may blame India, I believe that India merely exploited an opening offered by the superficial commitment to Islam manifest by the peoples of the two nations.
Pakistan after escaping Hindus and Bengalis is still far from achieving any of its foundational objectives. Its economy is on a steep decline, its democracy is in retreat, its literacy levels still languish in the 20% range, and corruption is at its peak, religious and sectarian fanaticism is at its zenith, political, religious and ethnic violence is the order of the day and men in uniform rule. Nobody, absolutely nobody considers Pakistan as a model nation worthy of emulation for its moral and material progress. Forget the rest of the world, even in the Muslim world Pakistan is not considered as worthy of leadership. In its present condition it can do nothing for Islam or Muslims, and the thousands of Muslims who died for Pakistan must be wondering if their sacrifices were in vain. Pakistan is also not a source of security to the Muslim in the region. Bangladeshis have suffered from its military and Indian Muslims, on a daily basis, suffer the consequences of its UnIslamic foreign policy and materialist/nationalistic geopolitics.
But, it is never too late. Pakistan still exists, its security threats are more internal than external and its economic and social challenges are not insurmountable. The nation can still step hard on the brakes and take a U-turn before there is complete collapse of order and Pakistan becomes a failed state like Somalia. But in order that good things may happen, it is time that Pakistani leaders, its political and religious elite and people who shape public opinion at national as well as local levels take stock and make a sincere attempt to return to the fundamental objective of nation building.
A state at the minimum must work for the welfare, security, and economic and moral well being of its citizens. Ideological goals and/or geopolitical ambitions cannot and must not be pursued at the cost of internal order and economic and political stability. For too long Pakistan has sacrificed its internal well-being in pursuit of external objectives. Its involvement in Kashmir, Afghanistan and its continued conflict with India have served no other purpose but to bleed Pakistan internally. A nation that could not keep itself intact and has lost half of itself must give up quixotic pursuits of expansionism. Pakistanis must realize that Pakistan and its internal order come first and they must pursue them.
Once the basics have been achieved and stabilized then it can seek to pursue and ideological foreign agenda. Even when it comes to this, I wish Pakistan would seek to establish its Islamic credentials not by engendering armed conflicts and but by creating an internal society that would make the world envious of it and seek to emulate it. Moral leadership is the Islamic way and it comes from enlightened living not through the barrel of a Kalashnikov. The Kalashnikov did nothing for the Soviet Union; it will do nothing for Pakistan.
The priorities for Pakistan are clear, at least in my mind. 1. Return to democracy as soon as possible. 2. Disarm civilian population. 3. Identify and prosecute those who purse self-interest through sectarian conflict. 4. Concentrate on education and social development. 5. Strengthen the economy. 6. Begin a serious but peaceful internal dialogue to understand and articulate Pakistans Islamic mission. It is important for a nation and its people to have a purpose, even better a divine and moral purpose.
What is Pakistans purpose? Before we can even begin to debate this, there must be peace and prosperity. Morality and ideology have no meaning when the stomach is empty and the heart is full of fear or anger or hate. As Pakistanis everywhere take a break from whatever they are currently pursuing/planning; liberation of Kashmir or blowing of a Sunni/Shii mosque, killing a scholar or a leader, or are just waiting for their immigration to the US, UK or Australia, to celebrate their independence day, I hope that they will also reflect on what each one of them can do, in their own way, to help their nation make its u-turn and fulfill its promise. Yes, kids do grow up to become pilots, and yes Peles, Jordans, Woods, and Imran Khans are happening all the time.