Pakistan’s history has been an eventful one. Coming into existence after the partition of British India, the young nation barely had the resources every state ought to start out with. The division of assets and the drawing of boundaries between Pakistan and India still remain a conflict. Plagued by the delayed transfer and unfair share of resources, Pakistanis didn’t know that a bigger catastrophe was approaching: their founding father, Jinnah, was dying. About a year after partition, Muhammad Ali Jinnah died. This was a crucial blow to the country, their leader hadn’t been able to set them on track and outline a vision for them to pursue. However, neighboring India, had found this support in Jawaharlal Nehru. Pakistan was shortly governed by some of Jinnah’s supporters . In less than two years, government was taken over by bureaucrats, who were keen to invite the military to help them rule the country. In 1958, about a decade after independence, General Ayub Khan sent the government home and came to power. Pakistan saw the first of what was to be a recurring trend of military co-ups, the declaration of the state of emergency and the imposition of martial law.
Recently I was listening to Tariq Ali, a renowned commentator, and what he said, precisely explains what I consider Pakistan’s dilemma. He said that democracy and political parties takes at least about fifty years to nurture, and what Pakistan’s misfortune is that we never got those fifty years. Our sixty-four years of existence went something like this: ten years consisting of five democratic governments and then ten years of dictatorship, then some scattered democratic governments, and then another dictatorship for ten years, and the show goes on. In this juggling of power between the politicians, the bureaucracy and the army (the last two being one and the same) what became of Pakistan seems like something taken out of a horror movie.
We lost half of our country, former East Pakistan, when our military government oppressed them and later when civil war broke out, we killed our own people and our soldiers went and raped their women. This later became the country of Bangladesh. In the late 70s the ‘pious’ general, Zia, led the Afghan Jihad. This was one of the biggest mistakes Pakistan had ever made. Once we got involved in Afghanistan, there was no coming back. To date, the ‘Afghan miracle’ haunts us. Interestingly the Jihadi mindset that the war on terror is fighting now, was created by the United States themselves. Zia was just their tool, a dictator desperate to stay in power and the USA supported him. The curriculum that is said to have taught jeem se jihad (J for Jihad) was prepared at none other than the University of Nebraska. The dubious stance of the USA, is another story, best left for another article. Zia’s Afghan Jihad was accompanied by radicalization, and militarization, of the society. Religious intolerance, sectarian differences, and a twisted version of Islam that was brought in by Zia’s cronies, were the general’s gift to the nation. In 1988 Zia died in what was a highly suspicious air crash, killing not only the general but also some of his key men, his army subordinates and America’s ambassador to Pakistan. In 1999, General Pervez Musharraf made the democratic government pack their bags and put himself in power. This was preceded by the Kargil war, another military blunder, costing us the lives of thousands of Pakistani soldiers, whom Pakistan later disowned. Musharraf tried to pose as the opposite of what Zia posed as, the new general in power called himself the ‘enlightened moderate’. Ironically his number one ally was the same one that had supported Zia, the United States. Musharraf dragged us into the war on terror, a war that was never ours. His claim to being a liberal was false: a simple example of the mindset the man had is proven by his own statement:
Women in Pakistan get themselves raped to become millionaires.
I wouldn’t claim that the democratic governments were miraculous, but they did not make blunders the size of those that the military dictatorships did. Besides, were they even given the chance to govern? Almost no government in this country has completed its five-year tenure. Our budget isn’t our budget, it’s practically the army’s budget. They have fooled us into thinking that we need a large army to protect us from India, when peace seems like the solution to me. Despite them losing every war they fought, and eating up all of our budget, most Pakistanis still place the generals above the politicians, who have not governed as well as they should have either, and are seen by the public as the axis of evil, but not as much as the ‘anti-Pakistan trio, that is the US, India and Israel.
Things seem to be changing though; Pakistan’s masses seem increasingly aware of the truth about their army, the justice system has witnessed a revolutionary movement(which is credited for the return of democracy to the country), and the democratic government is in its third year. The pace of change seems too slow, the democracy seems handicapped and inadequate, the fight against the radical mindset continues, the crisis persist, but do we really have a choice? I don’t know if we have fifty more years for our democracy to develop, I don’t know if it’s too late for us, but I do know that we have no choice but this, this is our last shot at survival, and if not this, then there is nothing left. So I hope, and I fight, for Jinnah’s Pakistan: the one where democracy thrives, the one where religion has nothing to do with the state, the one where we are known as Pakistani and not by identities that refer to our ethnicity or our religion or our gender, the one in which every citizen of Pakistan has the right to health, education and safety, the one which will fulfill Jinnah’s prophecy:
My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your support and co-operation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest Nations of the world.