A Day for Reflection
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari
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
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)