Imagining How Jinnah Would Have Felt about Today's Pakistan
By A.H. Cemendtaur
Pictures above: Glimpses of Founder’s Day celebrations at the Chandni Restaurant organized by the Pakistan American Cultural Center
Delectable food, two eloquent speakers, a short video presentation imbued in good old nationalism, and a scintillating performance by renowned singer Munni Begum marked this year's well-attended Founder's Day celebrations, held at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark, California.
The tradition of celebrating the Founder's Day program on December 25 was started by Bay Area attorney Javed Ellahie (under the umbrella of the Pakistan Founders Celebration Committee) and was taken over by the PACC ( Pakistan American Cultural Center) after the latter's inception. The program that has been annually held without an interruption gives Pakistanis, especially non-Christian Pakistanis, living in the San Francisco Bay Area something to do on the Christmas day.
Founder's Day 2010 program, moderated by Bay Area Urdu connoisseur Annie Akhter, started with guitar renditions of the US and Pakistani anthems artfully played by young Ayaz Latif. Next in line was PACC President-elect Noreen Tariq's brief speech. A short video presentation with Junoon's Junoon-say-aur-ishq-say-milti-hai-azadi playing in the background -- video put together by Farrukh Shah Khan -- was then showed to set up the stage for the speeches to follow.
The theme of this year's Founder's Day program was Jinnah in 2010: how Mohammad Ali Jinnah would feel if he were to come out of his grave and visit today's Pakistan. Countries are expected to survive much beyond the lives of their founding fathers. So this rhetorical question about Jinnah can be asked about all the people who fought for independence and finally got a piece of land liberated. How would George Washington feel visiting today's US? [Probably pleasantly surprised to see the size of the country grown tremendously, but a little alarmed by the growth of the federal government.] How would Simon Bolivar feel visiting today's Gran Colombia (Spanish South America)? [Probably a bit dismayed on seeing the land he liberated fractured into separate countries and sometimes not getting along with each other.] How would Lenin feel seeing the Soviet Union no more? How would Mao Tse-Tung feel seeing the economic system of the country changing direction? And near us, how would Gandhi feel, if he were to be brought back to life?
In his speech on Jinnah in 2010 Brigadier General (Retired) Feroz Hasan Khan, lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, said that if Jinnah were to visit Pakistan today he would not be very happy because when he would take his expired passport for renewal, he would be asked to fill out a form that uses abusive language for the religious leader of a significantly large minority of Pakistan.
Feroz Khan said that people have been painting Jinnah in the light they themselves want to see Jinnah in. In Feroz Khan's opinion Jinnah was a secular person -- not an atheist, but a person ready to live with others (of opposing views).
Khan said Jinnah wanted to see Pakistan a modern Muslim state. He added that if Jinnah were to come back he would be disappointed by Pakistan's economic conditions. Khan said that nations develop using tangible resources such as their territorial size, the quality of their population, their military strength, and their economic potential; four intangible things that make a nation include national cohesion, domestic stability, international prestige, and the supporters of allies and friends.
Feroz Khan said if Jinnah were to come back he would be surprised by the resilience of the people of Pakistan. And he would be pleased by the optimism and valor of the Pakistani youth. Khan said he did not have an answer for how Jinnah would feel about Pakistan being a nuclear state today.
The next speaker on the topic of 'Jinnah in 2010' was Sabahat Rafiq (also known as Sabahat Rafiq Sherwani). Sabahat Rafiq said that (even when he demanded a separate homeland for the Muslims) Jinnah cannot be called a fundamentalist. Plain and simple, Jinnah could see the ground realities. Jinnah was initially a Congress leader but when he saw the prevailing mindset and realized how democracy in the independent India would in fact be a form of the largest religious group's domination over other minorities Jinnah parted ways with the Congress.
Sabahat Rafiq said if Jinnah were to come back today he would ask the majority of Muslims in Pakistan not to impose their values on others [for this was the very fear Muslims had when they demanded a separate homeland].
She said Jinnah would ask the expatriate Pakistanis to help the people of Pakistan who work in very unfavorable conditions and still make the country work. Rafiq thought the nuclear capability of Pakistan was a good deterrence and "that is why we are safe today." She asked Pakistanis not to renew the debate on the ideology of Pakistan and instead work with what they had and make it better.
A short Q&A session, in which the uneasy questions were apparently sanitized, followed the two 'Jinnah in 2010' speeches.
In response to 'Who is a modern Muslim?' Feroz Khan said a modern Muslim is one who blends well in the 21st Century atmosphere and who does not want to pull the society back to some bygone era.
Responding to the question 'What needs to be done at the grassroots and what needs to be done at the higher level, to improve things in Pakistan?' Sabahat Rafiq said the democratic process should be allowed to continue without interruption.
In response to 'Is nuclear power a liability or an asset?' Feroz Khan said the nuclear capability is never a solution for the domestic problems. He said that it has been twelve years since Pakistan acquired nuclear capability, but that prowess has not given the country any internal security.
Answering 'What would Quaid think of Pakistan military's extraordinary strength (in comparison to the other institutions) today, Feroz Khan said if Jinnah were to come back to life he would be mad both at the politicians and the military leadership. Defending his former employer Khan said if the institution of the Pakistan army is stronger than other national institutions then efforts should be put in making other institutions stronger instead of making the army weaker.
Next in line was Farrukh Shah Khan, PACC's current president, who thanked the audience for their attendance and announced PACC community service awards for Dr. Khalid Siddiqui (Bay Area Islamic scholar) and Tashie Zaheer (Urdu poet and organizer of monthly Urdu literary meetings under the banner of the Urdu Academy of North America). These awards were given for the outstanding community services of the awardees.
PACC regularly hosts a karaoke night on the last Sunday of the month. Two karaoke artists of the PACC music nights, Yasmeen Haq and Asghar Aboobaker (PACC founder and financial wizard), sang songs to give the audience a taste of how the karaoke nights go. Much more than their singing abilities the performers were applauded for their courage to stand in front of the one-hundred plus strong audience and sing. An alluring flute performance by Amjad Noorani followed the karaoke.
And then came the part of the program which for many was the main attraction of the event: a performance by Munni Begum. To an enthralled audience Munni Begum played harmonium and gracefully gyrated her shoulders in rhythm singing poetry of love and hedonism; her performance continuing till late at night proved the point that if you earn your living through work that you really enjoy you can keep doing it for a very long time and till a very old age.