Manik Aftab and Sana Eqbal  -  “For 70 years we have been trying to figure out our identity as two opposing forces fight for what’s best for Pakistan,” stated Nadeem Farrukh Paracha. The contest between Left and Right is decades old, argued the cultural critic, as he reflected upon the circumstances that led to him penning The Pakistan Antihero. Referring to his recent publication, Smokers’ Corner: The Order of Words, the writer said Quaid’s three-word motto became a contested issue when Zia’s regime changed the word order.

“Until 1977, it was Unity, Faith and Discipline. But Zia regime slowly reversed the word order in 1978. Faith now preceded, Unity and Discipline. The emphasis on faith reflected a change in the mindset,” he added.

Paracha argued that the founding fathers had their roots in Islamic modernism which further stemmed into more branches. “Islamic modernism was an (important) aspect of Pakistan’s identity and was based on Sir Syed’s theory of reason,” he added. Jinnah, he said, represented one aspect of that modernism. “Ayub represented another. Bhutto came up with Islamic socialism. By Zia’s time, Muslim modernism had died,” he added.

The critic said to this day citizens question their identity. One of the reasons, he said, is that the country’s educational institutions treat history as a one-dimensional subject. “You talk about Iqbal but you do not look into the complexity of his work. Iqbal was diverse. He evolved as a writer, as a poet,” he added.

Paracha said the answer to the identity question perhaps lies in our understanding of history. “You cannot understand the present without understanding your history, you just cannot.” About The Pakistan Antihero, he said, it is very difficult to write objectively in Pakistan. “You teach about heroes . But that is one dimensional and there are some who cross the line and, to me, they are antiheroes ,” he added.

“Seventy years into our existence and we are still living in a state of paranoia. We are uneasy and unwilling to accept what’s here for us. Replacing colonialism with Saudi imperialism won’t do the job.” Jinnah, said Paracha was a pragmatic politician. “Jinnah wanted the best people to run this country. He had talked about a Muslim-majority nation. There is a difference between a Muslim-majority and an Islamic state,” he added. Had Jinnah lived for five to 10 years, he said, Pakistan would have been in a much better position than it is today. “The state has nothing to do with religion. That was what he said and he meant what he said. He just didn't live long enough to materialise his dream.” Paracha ended the discussion on a lighter-note by saying that Pakistan is not “the center of the universe” and everyone is not Pakistan’s enemies. “We live under a false sense of superiority which makes us think that the whole world is against Pakistan. That isn’t true at all. We have to make things better. You people, the young ones have to make things together.”