Some reflections on Pakistan’s National Day

Shahid M Amin

THE highly impressive military parade held on our National Day, March 23, 2018 was not only a display of Pakistan’s military prowess but also reflected the spirit of deep patriotism that is our greatest asset. We can act like a fractious nation but underneath there is a passionate devotion to this country, especially among the masses, and determination to preserve its unique identity and heritage. This comes out in particular through patriotic songs in Urdu that stir our soul. “Ay watan, Pak watan, ay miray pyaray watan” is one of those memorable songs.
The same national spirit is reflected in our love for Quaid-i-Azam, founder of Pakistan, and for our green flag; in the upsurge of national unity whenever there is a challenge on our borders; in the pride that we have in our brave armed forces; and the celebrations that break out every time Pakistan wins a cricket match. Pakistan Day is also an occasion to recall the past. A great national struggle was launched on this day in 1940. At the time, it looked like an impossible dream but it came to fruition in just seven years. It was no doubt the matchless leadership of Quaid-i-Azam that turned the dream into reality. But no less, it was the spirit of Pakistan movement, inspired by his motto of ‘unity, faith and discipline’ that produced such dedication and sacrifice. “Lay kay rahengay Pakistan, ban kay rahega Pakistan” was the battle cry which secured Pakistan. Sadly, however, the truth is that we have strayed from the vision of Quaid-i-Azam, set out notably in his speech of August 11, 1947, given at the time of our independence. He visualized a Pakistan where there would be no distinction on the basis of colour, race or creed. Instead, over the years, we have allowed creeping religiosity to divide the nation, leading to intolerance, religious extremism and terrorism. As a result, our law and order has been gravely impaired, the image of Pakistan has been hurt, and strains have been created in our relations with several countries. Secondly, the Quaid had warned against provincial and parochial prejudices. Here again, the nation strayed from his advice and paid a heavy price, including the separation of our eastern wing. Thirdly, he had stressed that corruption and bribery were a poison which must be put down with an iron hand. But our ruling classes have mercilessly plundered Pakistan and the irony is that many of these corrupt figures continue to dominate the political landscape. Clearly, there is need for ruthless accountability. On our National Day, the nation must resolve to curb and eliminate this curse of corruption that has done incalculable harm to Pakistan.
Another area where we have erred since independence is the deterioration in standards of our bureaucracy. One good legacy of British colonial rule was an efficient bureaucracy, selected on merit, and operating with integrity. Many historians still wonder as to how Pakistan was able to survive its baptism of fire in 1947, despite genocidal killings and influx of millions of refugees to a State that was starting from scratch and was facing all kinds of hurdles created by a much larger, hostile neighbour. No doubt, the Quaid’s leadership and the Pakistan spirit had kept us going. But Pakistan’s survival at this critical time was also due to the role played by some 100 Muslim officers of elite ICS (Indian Civil Service) who had opted for Pakistan, plus about 50 British officers who were retained. Their services in steadying the ship have been all but forgotten. The high calibre of these officers is apparent when one compares them with today’s bureaucracy. The harm done to our bureaucracy in later years was mainly due to political interference and cronyism, which has led to misgovernance and rampant corruption. Of course, even more alarming has been the deterioration in the calibre of leadership —both political and military—that has ruled Pakistan over the years. With the exception perhaps of Ayub Khan, most of our rulers had small stature, and certainly did not have the integrity of the Quaid and his lieutenants like Liaquat Ali Khan.
In spite of these handicaps, Pakistan has come a long way since independence. It is one of the world’s leading military powers with nuclear capability. It has a strong industrial base and its agriculture has done well: production of food and other crops has been raised four times. The services sector has come up, IT is flourishing and per capita income is rising. The CPEC project with China’s help is transforming Pakistan’s economy and infrastructure. Pakistani women have entered all professions, including politics. Our media has grown significantly. Pakistan enjoys more freedom than most countries in Third World, and its people are rated as the happiest in South Asia. There has been a flowering of art and literature with great poets like Faiz and Faraz; and outstanding musicians like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Mehdi Hassan. Nobel Prize winners Abdus Salam and Malala Yousafzai, nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and public service icons like Abdul Sattar Edhi have won fame for Pakistan. It has been world champion in cricket, hockey and squash. All of this is due to the inherent genius of the Pakistani people. Our weak point has been politics, but a consensus now exists on democracy and an independent judiciary. The recipe for Pakistan’s greatness lies in reviving the spirit of the Pakistan movement. Once this country gets a dynamic dedicated political leadership, the sky will be the limit.
— The writer served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Soviet Union, France, Nigeria and Libya.

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