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Can we afford to bypass Jinnah’s Pakistan?

By Raza Rumi

Published today by Jinnah Institute, Islamabad:

Notwithstanding the contradictions inherent to pre-1947 Muslim politics, Jinnah was clear about certain fundamentals. Pakistan was to be a secular, democratic state. It was not destined to be a national-security obsessed and a paranoid military-intelligence complex.
Pakistan was to be a federation and Jinnah’s advocacy in the 1930s and 1940s was majorly focused on achieving a de-centralized governance paradigm. Finally, the new state was envisioned as a peaceful country, which would interact and establish relations with its neighbour India following the US-Canada model. Jinnah indicated that he would not mind settling down in his native city Bombay after his retirement. All of these facts are on public record and not fantastic or imagined tenets of his vision. What was so alarming about Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan that had to be virtually undone by the custodians of a Praetorian state? Not unlike Pakistan’s history, Jinnah’s legacy is a contested and fractured narrative.

After successive victories, the right wing of Pakistan won a significant battle under General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988) when it officially established the “ideology of Pakistan”. However this victory was not limited to official pronouncements but significant institutional changes were also effected to achieve a colonial archetype from South Asian history i.e. a “permanent settlement” of ideological contours. Lord Cornwallis may have undertaken such a settlement for Bengal’s fertile land but Pakistan’s education system, the media and the public discourse finally declared such a settlement as the sacred “truth”.

This sacred “truth” nullified Jinnah’s vision and historic struggles to achieve a fair deal for the Muslims of India, which had culminated in the creation of a truncated and “moth-eaten” Pakistan.

In terms of domestic governance of the new polity, Jinnah’s speeches to civil servants, firm advice to military officers and even to some of his errant politician colleagues were clear. The bureaucracy and the Army had to operate within the legal boundaries and a new direction for the post-colonial state had to be negotiated without undermining the rule of law and the imperative of creating a citizen-responsive state. To the military men Jinnah said the following in June 1948:“…I should like you to study the constitution which is in force in Pakistan at present and understand its true constitutional and legal implications.” And, to the civil service, […]

August 14th, 2011|History, India-Pakistan History, Pakistan, SouthAsia|20 Comments

Pakistan Floods: Making the same mistakes?

Rarely have countries been so incapable of responding to challenges, as is the case with Pakistan. Last year, the worst flood in our historyhit millions of poor Pakistanis, wiping away their livelihoods and depriving them of their dwellings and, in many cases, land entitlement. It was due to the resilience of the Pakistani people thatsome post-flood rehabilitation took place. Like much else in the country, people took their lives into their own hands and the state, at best, was a secondary player. Media focus remained on the politicisation of the response to the natural disaster and making heroes out of army battalions which, at least on paper, are subordinate to the elected executive.

What has happened since then? I was intrigued to note an advert a month ago in the national newspapers wherein a multilateral agency was hiring a programme manager for ‘early recovery’ after floods! Multilaterals reflect the speed and bureaucratic labyrinths of the government and, therefore, this little notice seemed farcical at best. Forget early recovery, we are now back in the monsoon season. And the federal and provincial governments appear to be as ill-equippedas before.

I was part of a team that undertook post-flood assessment and had a chance to interact with key stakeholders last year. The attitudes of some high level public officials are a subject of a satirical book rather than this short piece. In summary, their assumption was that the poor were resilient and knew how to deal with disasters and that life goes on. Several of the recommendations that we offered remain unimplemented, chiefly those relating to local governments. […]

July 9th, 2011|Pakistan, Published in the Express Tribune|2 Comments

Is America really our Enemy No 1?

By Raza Rumi :

Six months ago, an extraordinary news report was published by Dawn, which recounted the contents of a military briefing given to journalists on November 30, 2010. A top Pakistani military official stated that Pakistan “has transited from the ‘most sanctioned ally’ to the ‘most bullied ally’” of the US. Essentially an off-the-record briefing, the contents were leaked to the public wherein the army leadership declared that the US had a “transactional” relationship with Pakistan. That the US was “interested in perpetuating a state of ‘controlled chaos’ in Pakistan”; and the “real aim of US strategy is to denuclearise Pakistan.”
Paranoia about the US runs deep into the Pakistani psyche now. Other than the reticent generals, it is the vocal media men who have now made anti-Americanism an article of faith of Pakistani patriotism. […]

June 6th, 2011|Published in the Express Tribune|7 Comments

Abject surrender

My piece published in The Friday Times
How can I remain unaffected and quiet after seeing that my country might be disfigured and my roots pulled out, to be replaced by an ideology alien to my thousand-year old consciousness?

April 13 will be remembered as a black day in Pakistan’s history. This is the day, future historian will write, when its pampered and stuffed-up political elites opted for a grand surrender. We have to live with the pain, infamy and ignominy of the December 1971 surrender at Ramna Park, Dhaka. That black moment was faced by a General who shall remain the face of Pakistan’s atrocities against its own citizens, the interference of an irresponsible, vengeful neighbour and the bravado of Bengalis who had been excluded from the privileged ‘martial race’ category by none other than Field Marshal Ayub Khan and his junta. This exclusionary act by the Field Marshal, later recorded in his memoirs, set the tone for an agenda of discrimination that was subsequently responsible for the second amputation of South Asia in less than 25 years. […]

April 26th, 2009|Islam, Personal, Published in The Friday Times|4 Comments

Why I love Pakistan? Top 5 reasons

The Civilization

Pakistan is not a recent figment but a continuation of 5000 years of history: quite sheepishly, I admit, that I am an adherent of the view held by many historians that the Indus valley and the Indus man were always somewhat distinct from their brethren across the Indus. I do not wish to venture into this debate but I am proud as an inheritor of Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Mehrgarh (not strictly in this order) and this makes me feel rooted and connected to my soil as well as ancient human civilizations and cultures.

It also makes me happy that no matter how much the present-day media hysteria about Pakistan (and natives in general) diminishes my country and region, nothing can take away this heritage and high points of my ancestral culture. Pakistan is not just Indus civilization it is a hybrid cultural ethos: the Greek, Gandhara, the central Asian, Persian, Aryan and the Islamic influences merge into this river and define my soul how can I not be proud of this? […]

May 10th, 2007|Pakistan, Personal|0 Comments