This night-bitten dawn —Aisha Sarwari

Published in The Daily Times on August 15th 2011

The reliance on a saviour mentality where Pakistan will be rescued by God will be the cause of an ultimate out-of-control Pakistan. The opposite was the philosophy given to us by Mohammed Ali Jinnah

This year’s Pakistan Independence Day should be dedicated to the remembrance of Salmaan Taseer, whose broad daylight murder separated those who understand the founding father’s vision for the country from those who do not. His murder, tragic though it was, restored Pakistan’s dwindling dignity — someone was willing to die for the principled cause of justice for the oppressed, marginalised and mistreated religious minority of the country. For, his murder was not really a murder; Mr Taseer knew what his open stance on the Aasia Bibi case would mean in a country of 180 million marred with illiteracy and hunger. He tweeted, “Phir hum hi qatl ho aayein yaaro chalo” [Then let us go to be executed].

There was not much else to make a bearing point this August 14th except Taseer. There is widespread mismanagement and it seems a short fused Pakistan’s problems of overpopulation, disease control, water scarcity, limited fiscal space and a burgeoning population, with not enough education to go around, are enough to need an emergency declared.

The fear is not from the problem itself, but from the inadequacy of the general populace to rely on scientific and logical thinking to resolve them. From provincial governments to the federal government, institutions are unfortunately not the central focus, rather events and photo-ops are.

The reliance on a saviour mentality where Pakistan will be rescued by God will be the cause of an ultimate out-of-control Pakistan. The opposite was the philosophy given to us by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. He led by example of self-reliance, and championed through much of his life the cause of equality of all religions, castes and creeds and of a united India through direct involvement in the political process.

Revisionists, by rewriting this part of his life with less emphasis, tilt the story toward a religiously motivated crusade in the creation of the country. Pakistan was simply the result of a just demand for safeguards of a minority community through a democratic and legal process.

Jinnah’s address to the Constituent Assembly remains the mantra of those who believe in Pakistan still, and yet gets so easily forgotten: “You are free. You are free to go to your mosques, you are free to go to your temples or any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

Advocating a completely secular state, he clarified over and over again that the path for Pakistan is not one where it is “ruled by priests with a divine mission”. Yet like a stubborn child, what Pakistan did was just what it was cautioned against, while India emerged free of those shackles where the state discriminates through law and its practice against a minority community or race.

As the establishment tries to make moves to create closer ties to India, forge a more healthy and less dependent relationship with the US, we can also hope it will remember that real freedom cannot be won until the children of this land are all equal in the eyes of the law. Minority communities must strengthen their vote bank and leaders must have the kind of mantle that Mr Taseer did.


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