Shahid M Amin
PAKISTAN has come to stay, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah said in 1947 at the time of our independence. The Indian Hindu leadership was sure that Pakistan was an impractical idea. Sardar Patel did not expect Pakistan to last more than six months. The Congress leadership was dead set against creation of Pakistan. Gandhi had said that Pakistan could only be created over his dead body. So, how was it that on May 1, 1947, Congress leaders including Gandhi accepted the partition of India? There were several reasons that led to this decision. Firstly, had the Congress-Muslim League deadlock continued, the British departure from India would have been delayed. Secondly, the Great Calcutta Killings of August 1946, following Muslim League’s call for Direct Action, had brought closer the spectre of civil war breaking out all over India, whose outcome was unpredictable. Thirdly, the Congress leaders were convinced that Pakistan could not last and would collapse in a matter of months. It was with such ill-will that Congress accepted the demand for partition, expecting it to be a short-lived experiment.
The June 03 plan was an agreement between London and Indian political parties that British rule would end with the creation of two Dominions –India and Pakistan. On behalf of Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru accepted the Plan in a radio address in which he said: “It may be that in this way we shall reach united India sooner than otherwise.” The intention was clear: let there be Pakistan: it is not going to last anyway. To make sure that Pakistan could not last long, Indian leaders created every conceivable problem for Pakistan. With Mountbatten having been bought with the promise that he would continue as first Governor General of India, just 72 days were given to Muslim League to set up government of a newly born state. The Radcliffe boundary award was patently unfair and handed over several Muslim-majority areas to India. Financial assets of Pakistan were blocked: the canal water was stopped. Worst of all, a genocide began in East Punjab. Within three months, Muslims who constituted over 40 percent of its population, were massacred or forced out as refugees to Pakistan. That Pakistan survived this baptism of fire was nothing less than a miracle. It was the innate patriotism of its people and the matchless leadership of Quaid-i-Azam that had kept Pakistan going. In fact, the patriotism of the Pakistani people and their love for their Islamic identity have preserved Pakistan and remain the best guarantee for its existence in the foreseeable future. Moreover, we are fortunate that Pakistanis are inherently a talented people (as also one of the best-looking in the world!). One of our treasures is great poetry and its heart-warming national songs.
Anytime one hears some of these songs, tears well up in one’s eyes. “Ay watan, Pak watan, ay miray piaray watan” (O motherland, pure motherland, O my beloved motherland) is just one among so many. We have also produced some of the best singers in the world. There have been immense challenges and grave threats, but we have survived. We have made many mistakes; we have erred from the path laid out by the Quaid-i-Azam; we have not been fortunate with the leaders we have had; some of them have plundered the country. It is right that we should make honest appraisals, provided we do not dwell only on the negative. Yes, we should learn from our mistakes and always seek to improve ourselves. But there has been an unfortunate trend to be overly critical of Pakistan. Our media tends to play up the negative —the bomb explosions and target killings— as if this is the way of life in Pakistan. A comparison of crime figures suggests that many big cities in the West have greater mortality rates due to crime and terrorism than Pakistani cities like Karachi. Our poor image abroad is partially due to our own negativity. Some of us suffer from an inferiority complex and some have a political axe to grind. Our enemies are, of course, always out to tar Pakistan’s image.
Let us look at some positives. Pakistan today is one of the strongest military powers in the world and the only Muslim state with nuclear weapons and delivery system. Our agricultural production since independence has quadrupled. We had little industry in 1947 and today have a large industrial base. Per capita income has gone up significantly. Literacy has increased and the number of universities has risen from one to over seventy. Pakistani women are working in all sectors, including the armed forces. The media has advanced beyond comparison. We have more political freedom than so many countries. I spent forty years in the diplomatic service and visited countries all over the world and can say in all honesty that we in Pakistan are so much better off than people in many of those states.
On this 70th anniversary of our freedom, let us pledge to serve Pakistan to the best of our ability, firstly, by maintaining unity in our ranks. We must be fair to all our citizens and build a tolerant society. Everything should be done to eradicate extremism and terrorism, illiteracy and disease, corruption and nepotism. Population control must be given high priority. There must be respect for rule of the law. This is the recipe for making Pakistan the great nation predicted by Quaid-i-Azam.
— The writer served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Soviet Union, France, Nigeria and Libya.
Shahid M Amin