What was Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan and have we succeeded in realizing it? Have we as a nation achieved the objectives underlying the Pakistan movement?
These are relevant questions to ask as the nation celebrated its 76th Independence Day anniversary. The building of a welfare state was the goal of the Quaid as he struggled to carve an independent state for the Muslims of India. The intention was to enable the Muslims of India to live freely and in accordance with the tenets of their faith in a society built on the basis of the teachings of Islam which emphasizes justice, peace and equity.
In his numerous speeches, the Quaid referred to the Islamic principles of inclusiveness, justice, rule of law, religious liberty and social equality. He envisioned an egalitarian state that thrived in harmony and justice with absolute civil supremacy. Explaining his idea of a welfare state the Quaid said, “… If we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor.”
On representative government he said: “With the removal of foreign domination, the people are now the final arbiters of their destiny. They have perfect liberty to have by constitutional means any government that they may choose. This cannot, however, mean that any group may now attempt by any unlawful methods to impose its will on the popularly elected government of the day. The government and its policy may be changed by the votes of the elected representatives.”
Regarding the citizens’ rights and duties, the Quaid stated, “I want you to keep your heads up as citizens of a free and independent sovereign state. Praise your government when it deserves it. Criticize your government fearlessly when it deserves, but do not go on all the time attacking, indulging in destructive criticism, taking delight in running down the ministry or the officials. Representative governments and representative institutions are no doubt good and desirable, but when people want to reduce them merely to channels of personal aggrandisement, they not only lose their value, but also earn a bad name. We must subject our actions to perpetual scrutiny and test them with the touchstone, not of personal or sectional interest, but of the good of the state.”
As for the responsibilities of the government, the Quaid explained his ideas in these words: “The government can only have for its aim one objective — how to serve the people, how to devise ways and means for their welfare, for their betterment. What other object can the government have …?”
Expressing his firm belief in democracy, he spoke: “Democracy is in the blood of Musalmans, who look upon complete equality of mankind … [and] believe in fraternity, equality and liberty. Brotherhood, equality and fraternity of man – these are all the basic points of our religion, culture and civilization, and we fought for Pakistan because there was a danger of the denial of these rights in the subcontinent.”
Regarding the cancer of corruption which has eaten into the vitals of our state, the Quaid warned: “Corruption is a curse … amongst Muslims, especially the so-called educated and intelligentsia. Unfortunately, it is this class that is selfish and morally and intellectually corrupt. No doubt this disease is common, but amongst this particular class of Muslims it is rampant.”
He also showed the way forward for the people of Pakistan: “I have no doubt that with unity, faith and discipline we will not only remain the fifth largest state in the world, but will compare with any nation of the world … You must make up your mind now. We must sink individualism and petty jealousies and make up our minds to serve the people with honesty and faithfulness. We are passing through a period of fear, danger and menace. We must have faith, unity and discipline.”
There is no doubt that we love and revere the Father of the Nation. We have printed his image on currency notes and have put up his portrait at all official buildings. Political leaders don’t tire of referring to the Quaid’s vision of Pakistan.
But the question is: Have we as a nation succeeded in implementing his words and translating his principles, ideals and vision and making them a part of our lives at the individual and national levels? The answer is a clear no.
Today’s Pakistan is not the country of Jinnah’s vision. We have forgotten about egalitarianism and created an unequal society where there is a big and growing gap between the rich and the poor, where the institutions are weak and the rule of law is violated with impunity by the rulers of the day. Over the last 60 years, democracy has had a precarious existence with frequent imposition of martial laws. Corruption and cronyism are rampant in our society. The elite classes live a life of opulent luxury, while the poor are deprived of the basic needs of life.
Surely, this is not the Pakistan of Jinnah’s vision. It is time to reflect where we erred. It is not yet too late to change course. We need to create an egalitarian and truly welfare state
But we can do so only by adhering to the Islamic principles of equity, justice and rule of law and Constitution as repeatedly emphasised by the Father of the Nation.