Mar 24 - 30, 2008

They always say that time changes things, but you eventually have to change them yourself,

- Andy Warhol

In his presidential address at the Madras session of the All India Muslim League in April 1941, Quaid-e-Azam gave the following advice to the Muslims of India: "you must remember," he said, "that we are now at the most critical time. No people can succeed in anything that they desire unless they work for it and work for it Ö. We can not always succeed in settling vital and grave problems by merely making speeches. The only weapon that you have to forge ń and the sooner you forge the better - is to create your own strength, your own power and make your organisation so complete that you can face any danger, any power, any opponent, any enemy singly or combined together."

1940 was the most critical year in the history of the Muslim of South Asia. 2008 likewise is unmistakbly the most critical year in the post indenpendance history of Pakistan. The nation seems to have come full circle after a lapse of sixty years. This year Pakistan Day has come in the wake of a landmark election. Once again the people have risen to the occasion, are olive and politically conscious, animated with a new zeal to create their own strength and over come the challenges that confront them, kept outside the main stream by an all pervasive autocratic oligarchy; the masses have borne the ordeal of passivity, helplessness and alienation with heroic stoicism. They have awakened from their enforced slumber and look forward with confidence and expectation to the social, economic and political regeneration of their land. The signs of the time are hopeful. The new leadership has declared its intent. It is determined to grapple with the issues, overcome daunting odds and turn over a new page.

The elections of February 18, 2008 have cleared the air for the moment and lessened the degree of apprehension created by a host of disturbing problems including suicide bombings, broder turmoil, massive inflation and energy shortage. These are intractable problems and will surely test the mettle of the best who have been elevated to the seats of power.

The most promising upshot of the elections has been the restoration of democracy. The anti-democratic pro-establishment forces have suffered a crushing defeat. The oppositions, in the recent past, had stepped up its efforts for the restoration of democracy. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, who arrived on October 18, 2007 after an absence of eight years, plunged right away into the crusade but did not live to see her dream fulfilled. She was assassinated and died a martyr for the cause of democracy. It is reassuring to see that the new political leadership believes in democracy, supremacy of the constitution, role of law, social justice and political autonmy. If the leaders succeed in accomplishing their goals, they will have redeemed, in a large measure, those ideals of Muslim nationhood which the heroes of the freedom movement had enunciated in the crucial years leading to the establishment of Pakistan.

The manifestos and agenda of the new captains remind one of the Quaid-e-Azamís historic presidential address of March 1940 in which he spelt out his vision of a free and independent Pakistan. "We wish to live," he declared, "in peace and harmony with our neighbours as a free and independent people. We wish our people to develop to the fullest our spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political life in a way that we think best and in consoance with our own ideals and according to the genius of our own people." The Quaid visualised a modern, democratic, welfare state where non-Muslim would be treated on a basis of equality and "enjoy the fullest security of life, property and honour." The Islamic principles of which the Quaid talked about were spelled out in different speeches as "democracy", "social justice" and "Islamic socialism." The Quaid also warned the nation against the danger of provincialism and stressed the need of welding themselves into a unified nation. Our problems multiplied and grew inense because we turned our backs on the teaching of the Quaid. These very problems now pose a serious threat to our honour, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The Muslim nation, nonetheless, has an uncanny talent of coming together whenever its integrity and well-being on survival are threatened. It gave striking proof of this remarkable gift in the decade and half prior to partition. Before 1936 the Muslims of India were almost dead: they had no policy, no programme, no press and no platform. They were, as it were, living in no man's land. "Hitherto," said the Quaid in December 1940, "we had been considered as a mere minority scattered and unorganised but now we have proved that we are united as a nation. We have now to prove to the world that we are fit to govern and achieve our goal as laid down by the Lahore Resolution."

The people of Pakistan have once again come together. They are united as a nation. They have given their verdict in an unequivocal manner. They have spoken in favour of democracy, peace, law and order and given a strong and stinging rebuke to the forces of extremism and obscurantism in the country and beyond. The caravan of democracy is happily on the move. Unfettered democracy is what Pakistan desperately needs. It is the only way in which we can cut down half our ills at one stroke and free ourselves from trouble some situations. The victors now have new ground realities and new challenges to face. They are confronted with Hydra-headed mousters. They also have specific issue to resolve like those relating to the deposed judges, the 1973 constitution and the independence of the media.

Faced with such complex challenges, all the sides have to think hard about the best options available to them, keep the doors of communication open and formulate a national consenses to move forward. The nation has reposed its trust in its elected representatives and the latter must rise to the occasion. "Pakistan's political leadership" says Ayaz Amir, a noted columist, "is on trial and the next few days will show whether it has learned from its experiences and mistakes at all or, as a nation, we are destined to keep repeating the follies of the past."

At this crucial juncture when we need to think clearly and stear cautiously, let us seek inspiration from the imperishable words of the Quaid. "We have weathered the worst storms," he said, "and the safety of the shore though distant is in sight. We can look to the future with robust confidence provided we do not relax and fritter away our energies in internal dissensions. There never was greater need for discipline and unity in our ranks. It is only with united effort and faith in our destiny that we shall be able to translate the Pakistan of our dreams into reality." These words, spoken 60 years ago, are as timely and relevant today as they were in 1948. If we take heed, we can turn the tide.

The writer is Chairman, Jinnah-Rafi Foundation.