Shame on me, shame on you

‘In a way it was fortunate that Jinnah did not live long enough to see the negation of his principles, the perversion of his vision…his disillusionment would have been too great to bear’, thus wrote Ardeshir Cowasjee in the first part of his The Sole statesman series published on 18th June, 2000. 5 years after the death of Cowasjee, I too sigh in relief. Had he survived and seen what we continue to do with what he vehemently argued was ‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’, he too would have been anguished beyond comprehension.

In his last column he confessed that he had given up all hope for the country. He wrote: ‘Now, old at 85, tired, and disillusioned with a country that just cannot pull itself together in any way and get on with life in this day and age, I have decided to call it a day’. One can only guess what he would have felt had he seen the state surrender to the bearded hooligans at Faizabad this week.

Cowasjee spent 22 years of his life trying to remind Pakistan what Jinnah had envisioned for his country. His articles are neatly collected in a dense book that each one of us should be obliged to read and digest. If there is a better record of Jinnah’s Pakistan, I am yet to read it.

He never minced words. A man of such intellect rarely can. Jinnah, Cowasjee reiterated countless times, wanted a ‘democratic, forward thinking, modern, secular state’. The case for such a Pakistan was not built on hyperbole. In his articles, he copiously quoted Jinnah’s words, leaving the reader little doubt on what the founder had envisioned for his country. In his often quoted but rarely understood 11th August speech in the Constituent Assembly, Jinnah was aggressively insistent that the nation was not to replicate the skirmishes between the Catholics and the Protestants in Great Britain. Instead, he was sure that the country he spent his life building would be different: ‘we are starting in days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one caste or creed and another.

We are starting with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one’s state.’ Earlier, speaking at the Central Legislative Assembly on 7th February, 1935, he’d produced his vision of politics which was blatantly secular: ‘religion should not be allowed to come into politics…Religion is merely a matter between man and God’. 15th July, 1947, in a press conference, when Jinnah was asked about his vision for minorities in Pakistan, he’d stated: ‘Every time I spoke about the minorities, I meant what I said and what I said, I meant. Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion or faith or belief will be secure’, and to reiterate his vision of a secular nation, he further added that ‘there will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship’.

Unfortunately, as Cowasjee often wrote, Jinnah’s Pakistan and his vision died with him. Today we live in a boundary as a crowd of barbarians, addicted to self-annihilation and our own destruction.

The second amendment in the constitution and subsequent additions in the formation and evolution of the Blasphemy Laws, are a trademark of our deviation from Jinnah’s vision. The State was never supposed to intervene in the debate of religion. It was never supposed to set parameters on faith. It was never supposed to give in to the demands of the ulemas who, as per the incredibly important Munir-Kayani report, cannot even agree on the definition of who a Muslim is.

Pakistan was never supposed to be an Islamic republic. It was supposed to be a country where Muslims, like all other religious individuals, could practice their faith in full freedom. It was supposed to be a country where the minority was not harassed and discriminated as was seen during the Hindu rule in the Congress Ministries of 1937-39. It was never supposed to be a country which would bend it’s knee in favour of an intolerant, extremist mindset. Pakistan was always supposed to be something else.

Jami has left Pakistan, dejected at the deal signed after the Faizabad debacle. He is not alone. Many people of my generation, officially gave up on Pakistan that day. I am one of them.

The deal made between a weak State, an imposing band of firebrand hooligans and an anarchic military has set precedents which will create havoc for this country. What we witnessed this week must not be understated for the impact it will have on the generations of Pakistanis to come. This week was a reenactment of what Bhutto did when he gave in to the demand of the Mullahs to amend the constitution. It was a precise reflection of what Zia did. We, this generation, have been burning due to their misdeeds. This week, we doused petrol on the future generations that come after us.

Let’s now, you and me, watch them ignite and howl in pain as we tend to our own burns. Let’s now, you and me, drown in guilt and never forgive ourselves.

The writer is a Dissertation Researcher based in Finland. He conducts research on political, regional and societal changes with special focus on religious minorities in Europe.

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