A Day for Reflection
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

Sixty-five years after the Lahore Resolution of March 23rd, 1940, and nearing the completion of 58 years of existence, where do we Pakistanis stand today? Having battled adversities far and near, and challenges to our very existence, and having lost half our territory to our own political machinations and Indian military might, we should be proud of the spirit and resolve of the ordinary Pakistani to her/his homeland.
But what of our elite? At every critical juncture the elite, which seeks escape with kith and kin to foreign climes at the least hint of adversity, is found wanting in terms of national commitment.
Take the present times, as we witness a major political crisis in Balochistan. Of course, crises are part of any heterogeneous nation as the dialectics of national and sub-national forces interact, but we cannot afford to simply look the other way and go about our business as if nothing were amiss. Yet that is what some segments of our political elite seem to be doing. Cricket fever seems to be casting a shadow over everything else, and even the crisis situation in Balochistan cannot douse it. Only a general India fever poses a challenge to the cricket fever -- but, then, both are interconnected.
So we witness the absurdity of learning that our parliamentarians want to go to India, at state expense through the PCB, to watch Pakistan play! What possible political purpose will a free cricketing jaunt to India serve -- except perhaps to save the PCB’s own hide from probing legislators? Surely, if the PCB is so full of excess cash and other resources, it should allow the ordinary Pakistani a treat and sponsor a cricket trip for 20 schoolchildren from government schools in the interior of the country, instead of 20 affluent legislators. Apart from being a gesture that pays back to the nation, it will be an investment in furthering the future goodwill between the next generation of Pakistanis and Indians. Or, why not take some young cricketers from disadvantaged areas of Pakistan so that they can have a truly extensive learning experience? Why can’t the Parliamentarians go on their own expense if they wish to see cricket in India?
Nor is it just the absurdity of this new cricketing issue that is galling, especially at this particular time. For the last few weeks, as Balochistan continued to smoulder and acts of terrorism widened their scope to include sectarian terrorism, our political elite was busy feting Indian provincial political leaders ad nauseam. Detente is all very well and is certainly needed for our economic development, but at what cost? Have the Indians moved at all on Kashmir? Has there been any give from the Indian side at all on the Baglihar Dam or the Kishanganga issues -- where they are clearly in breach of the Indus Waters Treaty?
Worse still, despite all the detente, India continues to raise objections to the possibility of the US selling F-16s to Pakistan. So where is all this dialogue and detente moving us? So far, only along the path India wishes us to move on -- that is, to forget about the core conflictual issues and give India all the access it wants in terms of markets. India, at best, wants to manage conflicts, but we, as President Musharraf himself has consistently pointed out, want to resolve conflicts, not simply manage them.
So, let us use this March 23rd to seriously examine where we are heading with India. Even more critical, we need to once again focus our attention homewards to our domestic polity -- this nation which is rich in cultural and ethnic diversities and traditions and which should be enjoying the fruits of this diversity, but is still unable to do so.
Let us also remember again and remind the younger generations that March 23rd commemorates the passage of the Lahore Resolution of 1940 by the All-India Muslim League, which embodied the notion of separate homelands for the Muslims of India and eventually led to the idea of Pakistan. In fact, the 1940 Resolution enunciated the Two-Nation Theory by declaring, inter alia, “that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority, as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India, should be grouped to constitute ‘Independent States’ in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.”
The idea of one state of Pakistan for the Muslims of the Subcontinent was given clear enunciation in the April 1946 Muslim League Legislators Convention. That is why the creation of Bangladesh was a reassertion of the Two-Nation Theory and today the Two-Nation Theory lives on in the reality that is Pakistan and the reality that is Bangladesh.
Nor is Pakistan a weak or failing state, despite many who would wish it to be so. We may be facing a political crisis in Balochistan and waging a war against terrorism, but that is no reflection on the viability of the Pakistani nation or state. India today faces 16 insurgencies, along with a freedom struggle in occupied Kashmir. And if we are afflicted with problems of disease, poverty and illiteracy, so are many other states. These are normal problems in the course of nation building and development. Yet we have national assets also. Ours is a richly endowed state, especially the agricultural sector. We have a rising professional class and a technologically skilled segment. We also should have a greater sense of confidence and security in terms of economic and military environments.
So what do we lack? A national will in our elite. We have allowed our priorities to become distorted, leading to the ruination of our agricultural sector. Instead of enjoying our diversity, over the years our ruling elites have succeeded in making us increasingly intolerant. This has prevented the spirit of democracy from gaining ground. Even in democratic times, intolerance of dissent prevented the substantive functioning of the democratic systems. Along the way we have lost the Quaid’s vision for the nation. Institutional processes have been sacrificed to personalized decision-making and bureaucracy has become a major bane of the ordinary Pakistani’s life. Worse still, the political elite, in its internecine squabbling, has lost the distinction between state and government.
But the most debilitating trait that seems to have taken firm root now is our lack of self-confidence, allowing others to ride roughshod over us. Even when we want to be counted among the haves, we land up in the other direction. Most recently we rightly asked to join the Nuclear Supplier’s Group -- a suppliers’ cartel comprising 44 states -- since we are now in a position to supply nuclear know-how and want to show our commitment to non-proliferation of this capability. But what happened? Experts from the NSG will visit Pakistan but not to judge our competency to join the group, since the chairman of the NSG, Ekwell, has stated that it is impossible for Pakistan to join the NSG.
Instead, the NSG is coming to examine and scrutinise Pakistan’s export control systems. Why? If they are not prepared to have us as part of the NSG, why should we give them any access, since theirs is a suppliers’ cartel, not an international treaty organization. But we have not rejected their stance and will host them. This is where we do ourselves great injustice. We are a regional nuclear power. Let us acquire the confidence to behave as such. We are a great nation, but will our elite allow us to become a great state also?
(The writer is Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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