President Musharraf has now under taken the Herculean task of transforming Pakistan into a civil society.


Sep 26 - Oct 02, 2005


This year's Independence Day was celebrated with a new zest and enthusiasm. President Pervez Musharraf inaugurated the Bab-e- Pakistan at Walton to commemorate the largest human migration in history.

With his casual style, familiar warmth and splendid candour, President Musharraf infused a new spirit in the festivities on, the occasion and won the hearts of the people. He also attended a grand musical soiree at Islamabad the same day.

The president comes from an educated and enlightened family and has inherited a progressive and modernistic outlook. His mother has long been associated with education which has bred in her the attitude of a teacher. When mother and teacher get fused in one, the children receive the best possible training. President Musharraf is a living example of this truth.

Nations, like human beings, are a product of their environment. Our nation is strong and resilient. It has weathered many a storm in the past but despite that is resolute and optimistic. The point I want to stress, however, is that our Pakistan is not a normal or typical nation-state and has been so since its very inception. There are only three nations that fall into this peculiar category: One, Pakistan; two, Israel and three, North Korea. The first and third have been openly branded as 'Rogue' states in the past and the Israel has only been spared this debilitating title due to its strategic alliance with the United States. Pakistan became the primary US military outpost against the Soviet Union for decades and was the primary staging area for the war against the USSR in Afghanistan for more than a decade. Israel found itself in a similar situation, Israel became the US's military outpost in the Middle East destabilizing the balance of power and watching over US oil interests. North Korea on the other hand became a military outpost for the communists, primarily the Chinese. History remembers these nations as struggling against vastly more powerful foes and winning their independence. Their erstwhile enemies are now their neighbours. The defence establishments of the three are, therefore, inordinately strong. This situation rendered all other state institutions weak and powerless. It is no wonder that these countries have the expertise and resources for creating large stockpiles of nuclear weapons but still have trouble producing basic civil amenities such as indigenous transport or infrastructure. These countries thus fall far short of the definition of civil society.

In my personal experience many have asked me about how economically successful countries, such as in Europe or the Far East as compared to Pakistan and how can we emulate them. I have always found myself replying that one cannot hope to accurately compare Pakistan to a nation that has been allowed to run its own, more or less 'natural' course. Pakistan has been a key political playground during and after the Cold War for the US, virtually since its initial existence, due to this interest by the US our political and business environments are wrought with uncertainty, thinking long term has been impossible.

The Pakistani psyche was further terrorised when we lost half the country in 1971 with the transformation of East Pakistan into Bangladesh and the military defeat along with the capture of 90,000 soldiers our insecurities were reinforced immensely. This followed by US supported military regimes and the elimination of an extremely popular elected leader which caused further fracturing of our already crumbling national psyche. How can such a nation or such a people be normal after experiencing events like these. This is the environment in which Pakistan has to develop its identity, as I have stated earlier that nations and human beings are a product of their environment. What many do not realize is that the Pakistani people are also the product of this uncertain environment. We as a nation, and as individuals are insecure, always looking over our shoulder for danger and untrusting of others, this attitude is unique to the three countries I mentioned (Pakistan, Israel and North Korea). Our primary objective should before all else be to become a normal country with a people that is surrounded by a secure and normal environment so we can explore our own 'natural' course.

President Musharraf has now under taken the Herculean task of transforming Pakistan into a civil society. He sincerely desires that Pakistan emerge as a normal, liberal and enlightened country. It is precisely with this objective in view that he is keen to set up democratic institutions and extend maximum freedom to the people. He is engaged these days in projecting a 'softer image' of Pakistan to the world. It is, no doubt, an excellent idea and is greatly needed, unfortunately media tactics can not undo an image that took decades of political chaos to forge. Advertisements and the media alone will not transform the image. Democratic and liberal polices will first have to be set in motion and religious extremism curbed. The positive results of these measures would then carry weight.

It is being said that the new image would give a tremendous boost to the tourism industry. There is an inherent flaw in this argument. Where suicide bombing and bomb blasts are rife, no media would succeed in transmitting a soft image and no tourism would make any headway. The pith and kernel really lies in the liberal and enlightened Pakistan that President Musharraf is striving to fashion. Like many political problems there is no 'quick fix', and this policy should be followed by all our leaders for the sake of the country, this is a long and arduous task. The present and future leaders of Pakistan should focus all their attention on this subject so that the country gains normalcy and the people learn moderation and tolerance.

The President touched upon many a thought-provoking questions in his Bab-e-Pakistan inaugural address. One of these points deserves special mention. He stated that one of the biggest mistakes the nation made was not to restrict the clerics to the domain of prayers. Clerics were given power in the late 70's in order to distract the population's mind away from what was going on with the popular leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. As the much celebrated, and equally dreaded revolutionary turned emperor; Napoleon Bonaparte remarked as religion being a fantastic form of "social Cement". We even handed over to them the task of expounding and interpreting the Holy Quran, work that legitimately belonged to religious scholars and intellectuals. Many clerics abused this power and misled believers of the faith into violence. Consequently, sectarianism gained momentum and Muslim society became sectarian-ridden.

I may mention here that the Jinnah-Rafi Foundation established by me in 1989 has ever since utilised every national occasion to highlight the thoughts, words and deeds of the Quaid-e-Azam. It invites leading authorities on the Pakistan Movement to enlighten the people on the raison d'etre of Pakistan. The ideals and principles of the Quaid thus reach the younger generation through the press and the electronic media. May Allah Almighty grant our leadership the courage and resoluteness to rid Pakistan of terrorism and extremism and transform it into a liberal, democratic and enlightened country as was visualised by the Quaid-e-Azam. It is, indeed, an indomitable task considering that the late Zia-ul-Haq during his tenure authorised military training to students of religious schools and religious-minded elements and infused into them the spirit of 'Jihad'. These warriors against communism where encouraged by the US and 'Jihad' was aimed at the USSR. These men later acquired practical experience in Afghanistan and even claimed credit for the defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union. This injected tremendous courage and self-confidence in them. Now with the USSR gone, these elements of extremism which were first nurtured by Pakistan and the US found themselves unwanted and turned on their former masters. We have to realize that when we fight terrorism and extremism we wage war on ideas. Ideas, however, cannot be overwhelmed by force, force might disturb the infrastructure through which that idea manifests itself but force always fails to conquer ideology. History teaches us that the only way to fight ideology is with another ideology, we need to offer a superior calling, we need to take the task of interpreting the Holy Quran out of the hands of the clergy and give it back to the religious scholars, those who have spent decades studying the context of the holy book.

At the inauguration ceremony of the Bab-e-Pakistan, I was happy to see photographs of old Pakistan Movement veterans adorning the venue. It was, however, sad to note that the photograph of M. Rafi Butt was missing. Rafi Butt was a close associate of the Quaid-e-Azam. Rafi's contributions were both financial and personal, his correspondence with the Quaid clearly shows how essential the father of the nation thought Rafi to be. He worked day and night in the refugee camp and contributed all he could to fulfil the dream of the Quaid. Due to his untimely death and the fact that he perished almost immediately after the Quaid, his name failed to be recorded by historians and has not found a befitting place in the history of Pakistan. Had he died earlier than the Quaid, I am certain that the Quaid would have secured Rafi's place in the history for all time. The photograph of Rafi Butt, a man who dedicated his life for the cause of Pakistan, like those of other leaders, should have been displayed but tragically it was not so.

(The writer is Chairman, Jinnah-Rafi Foundation)