NEWS & VIEWS
MONTH of August has great significance for Pakistan in two respects. For one Pakistan emerged on the map of the world on August 14, 1947as an independent and a sovereign state. Secondly, Quaid-i-Azam declared that all citizens of the state including minorities would have equal rights and opportunities. Quaid-i-Azam’s speech of August 11, 1947 before the Constituent Assembly had clearly laid down the outlines of the type of state he visualized Pakistan to become. He said “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” Almost all governments in the past took steps to implement Quaid’s commitment and vision.
In 2011, the government of Pakistan declared August 11, as “National Minorities Day” after former minister of Pakistan minorities’ affairs Shehbaz Clement Bhatti was killed on March 02, 2011 by militants of banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. Terrorists have killed thousands of Muslims as they did not differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims; however state of Pakistan held minorities in high esteem, as people from the minority communities held high positions in armed forces as well as in civil administration. Justice A R Cornelious, a Christian, was the fourth Chief Justice of Pakistan. Then we had Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Bhagwan Das — a Hindu. He had been a Supreme Court Judge since February 2000 for over a decade. He also worked as the chairman of Federal Public Service Commission of Pakistan. Many Christians have rendered meritorious services in Pakistan Air Force.
Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry (Sitara-i-Jurat) was a Pakistani academic, human rights activist, and veteran air force fighter pilot. He fought in the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, and later as a Squadron Leader in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. A part of Lawrence Road Lahore has been renamed as Cecil Chaudhry Road to honour him. He was amongst the distinguished breed of air warriors to whom we are all indebted. He was a legendry pilot and a true patriot, who displayed unflinching courage, exemplary devotion and professionalism throughout his service in the PAF. His services significantly contributed to achieving air superiority by PAF during the Indo-Pak war of 1965. Another Christian, Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat (Sitara-i-Jurat) was a Pakistan Air Force fighter pilot who proved his mettle in a number of aerial battles during the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistani wars, before being shot down on December 12, 1971.
As envisioned by the Quaid, Pakistan was to be a modern Islamic welfare state where a free and independent people would enjoy equal rights without discrimination on the basis of religion, sect, ethnicity or gender. The day August 14 is indeed the day to rejoice, as we got freedom from the British Raj. It is also the day for introspection, self-accountability and evaluation as to how far we have been able to live up to the ideals set by the founding fathers. Quaid-i-Azam had envisaged a free, progressive, humane, and modern Pakistan, ruled by just laws, rooted in the eternal values of Islam, and at the same time responsive to the imperatives of constant change. Unfortunately, inept leaders have brought the country to the present pass, and it is facing economic challenges and spectre of extremism and terrorism. However, Pakistan’s armed forces would completely destroy their infrastructure and network.
Pakistan is now an atomic power, and its people and armed forces have the ability to meet any challenge posed by internal and external enemies of Pakistan. And they have the capability and the will to defend the integrity of Pakistan. Allama Iqbal had given the clue as to how to move forward, and find a respectable place in the comity of nations. He had underscored the need to reinterpret Islamic thought and assimilate its eternal principles to overcome centuries-old stagnation with a view to launching the nation on the path to revival and build a future worthy of its glorious past. Pakistan, indeed, has industrious people, vast areas of land, variegated seasons suitable for various crops and fruits, rivers, large coastline and abundant natural resources. Its mountains and valleys are the most scenic in the world. Its strategic position, which is confluence and meeting point between Sinkiang of China, Iran and Central Asian republics, cannot be over-emphasized.
Its principle city-port Karachi is a convenient route for Central Asian States for trade with the western and other countries. With the completion of Gwadar deep-sea port, it has the potential to become a hub of international trade. Last but not the least; the people of Pakistan are proud inheritors of traditions of great sufis, saints and poets who fostered the message of peace and brotherhood over the centuries. Inspired by their exhortations, the people of Pakistan are determined to establish socio-economic justice in the society with a view to uniting the nation. And Pakistan would one day find a respectable place in the comity of nations. It is hoped that one day our nation-state of Pakistan will assume the actual meanings of its configuration as envisioned by the founding fathers and will not be identified with one of the most corrupt, but with civilized nations of the world.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.
NEWS & VIEWS