Where has our Republic Day gone?

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By

Toheed Ahmad[*]

Abstract

(On March 23, 1956, Pakistan’s first constitution was promulgated. On that day we ended the status of a British Dominion and became fully sovereign. We got our first President, our very own Head of State, who signed all Ambassadorial commissions and state papers, which did not have to be sent anymore to London.  From then on, the British Queen was no more our Head of State.  And yet the official messages called this as the 73rd Pakistan Day, completely ignoring what happened on this day in 1956. How have we lost our Republic Day? Has the nation given up its republican spirit? Has our republic been diluted in the maelstrom of our nation-building effort, however feeble they were? How much harm is this national amnesia doing to our body politic and our political discourse? – Author)

The celebration of this year’s 23rd day of March was no different to that which we saw in 2002 and 1992 et al. The overwhelming emphasis in all official messages issued on this day, and media accounts,was that the nation was marking the 73rd anniversary of the Lahore Resolution. There was no reference to the Republic Day that we celebrated for a brief period between 1956-1958. The day is now called the Pakistan Day, and the term Republic Day has been altogether discarded. For several years now, there is no grand parade on the day where several arms of our defence forces showed their skills and equipment, and the provinces displayed their cultural wealth celebrating the theme of unity indiversity.On March 23, 1956, Pakistan’s first constitution was promulgated. On that day we ended the status of a British Dominion and became fully sovereign. We got our first President,our very own Head of State, who signed all Ambassadorial commissions and state papers, which did not have to be sent anymore to London. From then on, the British Queen was no more our Head of State.And yet the official messages called this as the 73rd Pakistan Day, completely ignoring what happened on this day in 1956. How have we lost our Republic Day?Has the nation given up its republican spirit? Has our republic been diluted in the maelstrom of our nation-building effort, however feeble they were?How much harm is this national amnesia doing to our body politic and ourpolitical discourse?

Before going further let’s read the texts of the messages put out by our President and the Prime Minister on this 23rd of March.

Message of Mr. Asif Ali Zardari

The Pakistan Day this year will go down in history of the country as a memorable day when the democratically elected Parliament and the government completed, for the first time, its constitutionally mandated term and the nation is poised for a democratic transition. It is indeed a watershed mark and a giant leap forward in the nation’s quest for democracy, federalism and constitutionalism for which Pakistan was created.On this auspicious occasion of Pakistan Day, today I wish to greet the entire Pakistani nation and also urge the people to rededicate themselves to upholding these principles.

Seventy three years ago on this day, the Muslims of the subcontinent resolved to achieve a separate homeland for themselves and then set out to actually achieve it within a short span of seven years. It is therefore an auspicious day as it symbolizes the expression of the collective will of the Muslims of the subcontinent and is a reminder of their unity of thought in search of their common destiny.Pakistan Day, each year, is an occasion to reiterate our commitment to the ideals for which Pakistan was created. It is also an occasion to pay tributes to the Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, as well as to all those who struggled, suffered and sacrificed for the cause.

Let us remind to ourselves on this day that Pakistan was created as a result of democratic struggle and its survival and well being also depends on democracy. It is a manifestation of the democratic ethos of our people that the elected Parliament first purged the Constitution of dictatorial clauses and then completed its full five year term. I wish to compliment the nation for this.Let us on this day resolve that we will not permit anyone to trample on democratic aspirations of the people. This requires that we work in the spirit of tolerance, mutual accommodation and respect for dissent. It also requires that the Parliament, the people and all institutions of the state will work in harmony.

May Allah bless us in our efforts to prove ourselves worthy inheritors of the homeland and heritage bequeathed to us by our forefathers.

Message of the Prime Minister

March 23 is a landmark day in Pakistan movement. On this very day, the Muslims of sub-continent adopted the Lahore Resolution which heralded the beginning of practical struggle for attainment of Pakistan. Lahore resolution, later named as the Pakistan Resolution, was a great demonstration of unity by the Indian Muslims. This Resolution implanted in them an extraordinary courage and zeal for a separate homeland. It also provided a meaningful direction to their struggle.

On March 2, 1941, while addressing the Muslim Students Federation, Quaid-i-Azam said, “The only solution for the Muslims of India, which will stand the test of trial and time, is that India should be partitioned so that both the communities can develop freely and fully according to their own genius economically, socially, culturally and politically.”
The object of the Muslim struggle was to establish such an independent state where they could freely live their individual and collective life according to their traditions. With the blessings of Allah Almighty, we today have an independent, sovereign and democratic country, and it is now our duty to put the country on the trajectory of development and prosperity, to realize the dream of our forefathers in the pursuit of which they made untiring efforts and rendered exemplary sacrifices.
By the grace of Allah Almighty, a democratic government has achieved the milestone of completing its constitutional tenure, which represents a leap forward in our endeavors for promotion of democratic values and continuity of democracy.We are reviving the memory of Pakistan Resolution at a time when the country heads towards parliamentary elections and the people are eager and resolute for fair, free and transparent polls in the country.
This is exactly what the Father of the Nation had envisaged, i.e. democracy to flourish and its fruits delivered to the people. Allah Almighty be thanked that He enabled us to rise to the challenge on this count.

I am confident that people will elect the best leadership in forthcoming polls in the country by using their sound political acumen. Only a leadership that represents peoples’ aspirations and enjoys their confidence is worthy of realizing the dreams of Quaid-e-Azam and the leaders of freedom movement.

I would like to reiterate today the message of Quaid-i-Azam which he had delivered to the nation on 23 March 1944, “Let’s go forward, full of hope for the coming year(s), with faith in our heart, unity in our camp, discipline in ranks, and I am confident of our success…”

Not a word here about the Republic Day. The ubiquitous ‘Pakistan Day’, I believe, was meant only to be used abroad as our National Day, as is the diplomatic custom all over the world where each countryselects a day in the year which is marked by its embassies worldwide as the country’s ‘National Day’. I have come across messages issued by Quaid-e-Azam on ‘Pakistan Days’, observed by All India Muslim League, in the years between 1942 and 1946, to commemorate the passage of the Lahore Resolution and to rally Muslims to the cause of Pakistan.

I consulted some newspaper files and came up with this. 23rd of March 1999: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his message to the nation said, “59 years ago, under the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam, the Muslims of South Asia decided that the only way to ensure a self-respecting future for them within the subcontinent was to have a homeland of their own Thus the historic Pakistan Resolution passed in Lahore on 23 March 1940 became the charter of the Muslim”. The word ‘republic’ does not figure here. Mr. Rafiq Ahmad Tarar, President of the Republic, in his message said, “Today we are celebrating the 59th anniversary of Pakistan resolution. It is a day on which we should bow before Allah Almighty for his great bounty in crowning our struggle with success bestowing on us the gift of independence….Our real strength lies in our firm adherence to Islam”. No mention of the Republic. You can see the creeping shadow of false religiosity diluting our commitment to Republicanism. The Nation daily’s special supplement on the ‘Pakistan Day’, carries several articles all extolling the Lahore Resolution. I found only one mention of the Republic Day in the entire supplement, an advertisement of a charity hospital announced free dialysis for 15 days to mark the ‘Youm-e-Jamhooria’ (Republic Day).

I checked the Pakistan Times issue of 23 March 1960 i.e. two years after General Ayub’s military overthrow of the democratic system and abrogation of our first constitution. The military rulers and their civilian accomplices had seen to it that no mention was made to the Republic Day. The only mention I found was on the Young Readers League page of the newspaper, where a child Iris Tab had written a short piece which began, “On the 23d of March we celebrate Pakistan Day when the thought of a new republic began” – a sentence that escaped the censor’s scalpel.

Now comes the Pakistan Times issue of 23 March 1956. The paper’s Chief Editor then was Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Its editorial titled ‘Birth of the Republic’ began thus, “the birth of the Republic of Pakistan will generally be greeted with joyful relief. It is indeed gratifying that after almost nine years of self-imposed delay, Pakistan has been able to acquire a constitutional law of its own making, thus bringing to an end the long period of humiliating subservience when this country’s pattern of governance was determined by decisions taken in a far off land.” Referring to it as ‘Pakistan’s First Republic Day’, the editorial termed it ”the formal culmination of the people’s movement for full freedom”, and added, “we cannot possibly ignore the fact that in many respects we still stand at a distance from the main objectives of the demand for Pakistan. Among other things, it is an unhappy fact that despite its republican status, Pakistan remains – in accordance with the ingenious formula devised by India – a member of the British Commonwealth and offers fealty to the Queen of England as its head of state and that Pakistan’s association with certain imperialist Powers is of a nature which burdens us with unwelcome obligations and cripples our freedom of action in the conduct of international relations. This is not all. The domestic field also provides cause for anxiety. It is obvious that the enforcement of the constitution does no more than to proclaim the intention to establish a democratic polity. The actual realization of full democracy is yet only a promise…If Pakistan’s republican status is to have any real meaning, the present set up must be replaced as soon as possible which in the common reckoning means within the next six months by a genuinely democratic structure subservient to the uninhibited will of the people expressed in fair and free elections”. (Please note there is no mention here of the Lahore Resolution).

The newspaper’s ‘Republic Day Supplement’ carried a long article by A.B.S. Jafri, the hoarse-throated leader writer at the paper, who was later a kind senior colleague when I joined the paper. I can never forget his dapper disposition, his well-gelled grey hair, and his near total recall of Ghalib’s entire Urdu Divan. In defining a republic, ABS wrote, “Man’s hatred for chains and hunger for freedom has been the basic undercurrent of the history of mankind. The idea of the Republic is just as old as this human craving for freedom. Even in periods of subjugation, the Republic has remained a living force – an ideal – and made for the progress towards freedom. Literally, however, a republic means ‘public thing’ – of the people. But like all terms which are indissolubly linked with the very being of man, republic has meant different things to different people in different times and at different places, just as freedom has meant differently from time to time and place to place. It is clear, therefore, why as a political entity, human beings have more often run after republic (than) any other single ideal.

“Most of the historic attempt to draw up the blue print of good society and political orders were produced quite naturally during periods of great social unrest. That explains why after Plato there followed a dark barren night. The middle ages which intervened represent an era of fixed institutions, blind faith and acceptance of authority. But when the middle ages had run out their span, the fixed institutions began to crumble. Unrest grew and a whole crop of suggestions as to how to build a good state burst upon mankind groping for deliverance. All these attempts represent a striving to uproot a bad social order and to usher in a just and order one. Divorced from this ideal conception of a republic, as an ideal, the term republic just means nothing of any importance”. (Curiously, ABS does not locate discussion of a republic/republicanism in our South Asian context).

“What is a republic then? What does it mean? Or more particularly, what does it mean to us? In my opinion, it means just what it meant to Plato or to all those who have followed him. It means a release from a bad, oppressive, corrupt, tyrannical order. More than that, it means a good order, a just order, a noble order. Short of that, republic means a sham, beyond that, it is nothing. Republic is an ideal to be achieved. Let us understand that clearly and inscribe on our hearts this first thing (about) the republic”.

For the year 1957, I saw the Dawn’s issue of 23 March, whose headline reads, “Nation asked to uphold Democracy/PM’s Republic Day Message/World Leaders greet Pakistan”. The lead story said, Prime Minister Suharwardi has asked the nation to resolve on the first anniversary of the Republic Day ‘to uphold the principles of liberty, democracy and justice’. In a brief Republic Day message, the paper added, the Prime Minister said, ‘Let us reaffirm our faith in the sanctity of our constitution and resolve anew to uphold the principles embedded in it, which are in consonance with the basic principles of Islam. Let us today rededicate ourselves to those abiding values which ensure greater glory to out beloved nation’. (Note the absence of any reference to the Lahore Resolution).

The Dawn issue of 23 March 1958 carries the text of the broadcast of the first President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Sikandar Mirza, who in a frank and candid message (which rings doubly true today) said, “It is customary to say nice words of felicitations and rejoicing on a day like this. But all round circumstance under which we are entering our third year as a Republic do not leave much room for rejoicing alone. The problems with which we had started our career as a Republic have not come any nearer the solution. The vital issue of Kashmir remains unresolved. The problem of food continues to stare us bleakly in the face. Economic strain in the common man has steadily increased. The cost of living has mounted further. Law and Order has deteriorated. General administration has weakened. The onslaught of corruption has not been halted though recently reduced. Provincialism is working its venom unabated. Party politics is riddled with insincerities. Self is universally above service. All that matters is the craze to make money or gain power.

“I am not recounting these things only to depress you. I am pointing them out to ask you all one single question, what have you, in your own big or small way, done to mitigate these evils? Remember that in our country there are great opportunities and freedom for public service than in many other countries of the world. Politics here is free and unfettered – almost to a fault. I say almost to a fault because there is no curb even on the flouting of solemn pledges or an hourly shifting of party labels. Services are open to the best competitive talent. The Press and the platform enjoy a freedom which sometimes goes to the extreme license. There is no regimentation of thought. There is no indoctrination of any kind. There is no restriction on any cultural, social, or intellectual activities. No limit is placed on the nature and scope of private enterprise. The courts are independent. The judiciary is strong. Even the highest in the land cannot escape the eye of law. I ask you: Does this not make Pakistan a country of true and real freedoms?

“Whose fault is it if in a country like this, people are content with sitting in their parlours and just criticizing. The common man is too ignorant and too illiterate to look beyond the struggle for his own existence. But the intelligentsia is the hard core of our society. What has our intelligentsia done beyond being critical, apathetic or frustrated? You have magnificent opportunities of education in this country. There a re limitless possibilities of any and every enterprise. The entire field for national reconstruction is lying open. If you cannot make something out of these unlimited opportunities then you alone are to blame. Permit me to say that this apathy, inactivity and frustration displayed by our intelligentsia during all these years is unpardonable. But the game is not over yet. Another great opportunity is coming to them very soon in the shape of general elections. Do not let the general elections go by default. If you do not wish to mortgage the future of your country to continual instability and insecurity, then see to it that only good, honest, and patriotic elements are returned in the elections. I give you my full guarantee that the elections shall be completely free and fair. It is now for you to give a proper lead to the country”.

The same newspaper headlined the Republic Day message of Miss Fatima Jinnah which waned that, “there is some hidden hand which hinders your progress towards realization of your democratic destiny; it is for you to detect it and remove it from your path”. She advised the nation to remember the, “great lesson taught by Quaid-e-Azam, namely to create our own inherent strength, depend on ourselves” and thus win an honourable place in the comity of nations. “Sinister forces inimical to the ideology of which Pakistan is the visible manifestation have been constantly at work, obstructing the people’s march to their goal of freedom,”  she concluded.

To our east, India wriggled early out of its semi-independent status of a British Dominion (like that of Canada which continues as a Dominion because this gives it a cushion against its gigantic American neighbour; and so with Australia because its location makes it feel lonely down in the back of beyond; and New Zealand, because of its multiple insecurities vis-à-vis its much larger neighbour, Australia. Perish the thought but should we too have persisted with this status to keep the juggernaut to our east in check?) when it adopted its constitution on 26 January 1950 – a day India marks every year as its Republic Day or India Day. The date was chosen to commemorate the Declaration of Independence adopted by the Indian National Congress, in its Lahore session, on   26 January 1930. We too chose 23rd March as our Republic Day, although the constitution was ready in February, so that it could coincide with the day the Lahore Resolution was adopted by the All-India Muslim League. March 23 was also notified to the world as the Pakistan Day, when our Embassies/High Commissions the world over arrange what are called National Day receptions.

I see crimson confusion in all the Pakistan Day messages issued by our Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Governors. None of them mention the Republic Day. Don’t they feel democratic enough to celebrate our republichood, or is there aconspiracy afoot to unhinge the nation of its republican mooring, and thus pave the way for a holy caliphate or some earthly monarchy, or simply sow confusion in the Pakistani mind. I feel that there are two segments of our society – both of whom acquired power as the republic weakened – who have worked hard to deprive us of ourdemocratic ethos. One being the Army. We have groaned long periods under repeated martial lawswhen the constitution was suspended, or abrogated, or even held in abeyance.Assemblies were dismissed as the mullah applauded because he despised these ‘talk shops’ to which people would not elect them in any significant number. We remember General Ziaul Haq deriding the constitution as a worthless book, and his successor general tossing it into the dust bin twice during his occupation of the country. What use is a Republic Day to a CMLA, a MLA, a DMLA or an SMLA? Can you imagine any of them eulogizing their Republican principles in their proclamations? Sham democracy is what General Pervaiz Musharraf loved to excoriate. Could he have made a fool of himself by reminding the nation under his boots that it once was a Republic. Nor would his lackeys think of spoiling the mood of their patron by reminding him of any such inconvenient fact.

I went over Ayub Khan’s memoir ‘Friends not Masters’ to look for any justification he may have given to banish the Republican idea from Pakistan. It may carry some frank admissions, but what terrified mewas the soldier’s pompous philosophizing on democracy and republicanism. In chapter 11, Ayub Khan reproduces a note he claims to have written in his hotel room on a restless night of 4 October 1954 during a stop over in London on his way to US. Calling Pakistan ‘the greatest mixture of races found anywhere in the world’, he wrote, ’our people are mostly uneducated and our politicians not so scrupulous. Unfettered democracy can, therefore, be more dangerous, especially nowadays when Communism from within and without is so quick to make use of its weakness. We therefore, have to have a controlled form of democracy with checks and counter-checks. This indicates that a legislature finds the Cabinet, whose actions are controlled by a Governor, who, in turn, is controlled by the Head of the State.

‘But more than anything else, it was the irreconcilable nature of forces of science and reason and the forces of dogmatism and revivalism which was operating against the unification of the people. A sharp cleavage had been created between the State and Religion and all the old controversies – the temporal versus the spiritual, the secular and the religious – were revived. In more precise terms, the essential conflict was between the ulema and the educated classes’. Ayub Khan has also this advice for the nation: ‘We have a weakness for the dramatic and the sensational which I try to avoid. Too often we mistake the emotional for the ideal. For us, the ideal should be to develop a rational approach to life. We cannot allow our vision to be clouded by memories of past glory.  It is the present, with all its complexities, on which we must concentrate, for which we must work’. A Field Marshal gone too far, you could say.

Justifying his reasons for abrogating the 1956 constitution, he notes, ‘To examine the progressive failure of parliamentary government in Pakistan leading to the abrogation of the constitution of 1956 and to recommend how a recurrence of similar cases be prevented. The constitution I have given is not an imported herb; it is a genuine home-grown plant. It suits the conditions, the requirements and the genius of the people’. Again in his 23 March 1959 broadcast message, Ayub Khan thundered, ‘It is our privilege to liquidate the dangerous legacies of that chaos (resulting from the enforcement of the 1956 constitution). A situation like that was indeed inevitable when we tried to transplant other people’s constitutional concepts and practices into the temperament, talent and environment of our people. We are not going to make the same mistake again. What we must have is a constitution which is sensible, workable and suits the genius of our people and the climate of the country’. So the Republican ideal was an imported one, was against our climate, and had to be thrown out the window.

Pakistan’s only Field Marshal went on to narrate a tale of the 1956 Constitution’s doom: ‘Ironically enough the author of the Constitution (Prime Minister Chaudhry Muhammad Ali) became its first victim. During those days I saw him once in an almost helpless state in his office. He said to me, “My party has deserted me. It is all over”. I uttered some words of encouragement but he would not be comforted. “No, no, this is far too serious. Why don’t you take over and save me from this business?” I said, Look don’t talk about these things to me. Talk to your President and try and find some sensible way out of this mess.’

The other Big Brother of our streets, the Ulema, too would not want the nation to be reminded of their Republic status. Their objective is to keep us chained to our minority mindset, and thus generate hatred for the democratic thought and culture. In their hearts, these holy fathers dream of a theocratic society where they will rule the roost and thus preside over a kingdom of darkness.

With the loss of East Pakistan in a military debacle in 1971, and the accession to power of a massively popular Chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, perhaps this ideological wrong should have been right. In his broadcast to the nation on his first 23 March, in 1973, he declared, “For 26 years, a power structure dominated by bureaucracy and a military junta, bolstered by self-seeking politicians thwarted the establishment of democratic institutions and denied to the people an ordered political life. The nation remained in the grip of a deadly virus forged by the egoism of one group and the obscurantism of another. The result was the complacency, the confusion, the incoherence and the loss of pride and confidence which brought us untold sorrow and splintered the nation founded in 1947”. Dawn daily’s editorial on that day began thus,  “As the nation observes the thirty-second anniversary of the adoption of the historic Lahore Resolution today…”.

In the same newspaper I came across an insightful article by a Prof. Qamaruddin Khan titled “Failure of Democracy in Muslim countries” who noted that ‘The Greek idea of a city-state did occur to several Muslim thinkers like Al-Farabi and Waliullah Shah, but they remained involved with the idea and did not progress further to consider the theory of popular representation and republican institutions. The state of the Orthodox Caliphs was republican only in spirit not in form. The Muslim community outside Medina was neither consulted nor represented in the election of the Caliph. In the city itself no general election was ever held. In later Muslim history, no democratic movement was ever initiated because there did not exist a philosophic literary background for it. The idea of democracy was not abroad; people did not know it and therefore did not endeavour to realize it. As a result, Muslim society was until very lately not conscious of democratic traditions. Hence its recent rendezvous with democracy has created serious mental and moral problems for it”.

This loss in collective memory has deeper undercurrents. Going back to Allama Iqbal; he stayed away from the Khilafat Movement as well as the Noncooperation and the Hijrat Movements, all of which were enthusiastically championed by large segments of Indian ulema. He admired the Kemalist Revolution and is quoted by S.A. Vahid to have once said that “In excluding him [the myth-making mullah] from the religious life of the people, the Ataturk has done what would have delighted the heart of an Ibn Taymiyyah or a Shah Waliullah”. In his public controversy with Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, writes Dr. S. M. Ikram, Iqbal warmly contested the charge that Turkey had ceased to be an Islamic country, and tried to justify many of the measures which Kamal Ataturk had taken. Iqbal believed that in modern times the third source of Islamic Law, Ijma, should be exercised by a ‘Muslim Legislative Assembly’. Iqbal wrote:

“The growth of republican spirit and the gradual formation of legislative assemblies in Muslim lands constitutes a great step in advance. The transfer of Ijtihad from individual representatives of schools to a Muslim legislative assembly, which, in view of the growth of opposing sects, is the only possible form Ijma can take in modern times, will secure contributions to legal discussion from laymen who happen to possess a keen insight into affairs. In this way alone we can stir into activity the dormant spirit of life in our legal system, and give it an evolutionary outlook”.

According to Dr. S. M. Ikram, Iqbal was the first to oppose the general tendency amongst Indian Muslims to run down the Kemalist reforms in Turkey. He was amused by the efforts to force hats on people –“the brain remains the same, whether you wear a hat or a turban” – and other attempts to imbibe the superficial rather than the inner causes of Western progress, but in general he watched the Turkish experiment with interest, even with sympathy.

So here we can see who all are up against the republican spirit.The republican idea is intimately connected with the idea of political modernization and religious reform. The principle of Ijtihad is intimately connected with the discussion of republicanism. Iqbal’s conception of Islam was ‘dynamic’ rather than ‘static’. According to him, it would not be Islam if the truths it enunciated were not ‘living’ enough to be capable of adjustment to varying circumstances. “As a cultural movement”, he writes, “Islam rejects the old static view of the universe and reaches a dynamic view”.

In a letter written in 1925, Iqbal wrote, “The influence of the professional Maulvis had greatly decreased owing to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s movement, but the Khilafat Committee, for the sake of political fatwas, has restored their influence amongst Indian Muslims. This was a very big mistake, [the effect of] which has, probably, not yet been realized by anyone. I have had an experience of this recently. I had written an English essay on Ijtihad, which was read in a meeting, and God willing, will be published, but some people called me a Kafir…In these days in India, one must move with very great circumspection”.

The essay was published in Iqbal’s book Reconstruction of Religious thought in Islam, where it was titled “The Principal of Movement in the Structure of Islam”. In it Iqbal gives a brief account of the conflict in Turkey between the Religious Reform Party of Said Halim Pasha and Mustafa Kamal’s Turkish Nationalists. Iqbal’s sympathies seem to lie with Said Halim, but are at pains to point out that Said Halim “reaches practically the same conclusions as the Nationalist Party”. After giving a summary of Said Halim’s views, he says, “Such are the views of the Grand Vizier of Turkey. You will see that following a line of thought more in tune with the spirit of Islam, he reaches practically the same conclusion as the Nationalist Party, that is to say, the freedom of Ijtihad with a view to rebuild the law of Shar’iat in the light of modern thought and experience”.

Democracy does not mean turning back the clock; here there is no back to basics, but republicanism is a recipe for going forward. If the ‘layman who happen to possess a keen insight into affairs’ was allowed in, these self-appointed guardians of ideology and its frontiers would have to give way. So in order to keep their hold over our souls, these centres of power do not want that we should be reminded of our republican ideals. We are told that democratic pluralism and popular democracy are alien concepts that were foisted on us, and that the only way forward for us is to dismantle, intellectually at first, the pledge to popular democracy enshrined our constitution. To believe the celebrated historian, Dr. K. K. Aziz, our body politic is suffering from many such mnemonic wounds, willfully inflicted by courtiers and government employees passing off as historians.  His famous book ‘The Murder of History’ is a catalogue of many such ‘wounds’. But the government of the day is directly responsible for this loss of our Republic Day. And so is the civil society which has practically abandoned this concept.

In the humdrum of our daily lives and the wounds inflicted by mal governance and episodes of ‘bonapartism’, we seem to have given up on our nation-building duties. Energy shortages have sapped our strength. Law and order issues have pushed us to the wall. All varieties of extremism darken our minds. Our education values have been reduced to gurglingslogans of Islam and the Two Nation Theory. Probably the last serious programmes of national integration were seen in the decade of the sixties. Once East Pakistan was hived off, we seem to have abandoned national integration as a national duty.  Now all that we know of nation building is fly overs, underpasses, motorways, and metro bus routes, fuzzy housing and student schemes. There is no talk of the vital cultural layer of a nation, the elements which binds people and provinces tighter together.

The hope is that once our energy shortages are controlled and trains start to run on time, the high scribes of Islamabad will wake up to their duty of telling the truth, the whole truth, and, nothing but the clarifying truth.


[*] The author is a former Ambassador of Pakistan.