I am almost 84, but was 17 when Pakistan came into being. I took part in the Pakistan movement, saw, heard and even photographed Quaid-e-Azam (and Miss Fatima Jinnah), when the Quaid addressed the students of Edwards College Peshawar on 18 April 1948. I was a very proud Pakistani then. In 1950 I joined the army, I could have easily have become an engineer, a doctor or a Civil Servant, in a new born country with abundant opportunities in all fields, but I chose to serve my country. Fought three wars, became a POW, but still was very proud of being a Pakistani. Then things started to happen. On September 7, 1974, in order to appease and placate the Maulvis, Ulema and mushaikh, Bhutto got the Ahmadi’s declared non-Muslims through an act of parliament. Imagine a politician giving a purely religious edict on Islam, as to who could be a Muslim and who could not be a Muslim?

Friday was declared a close holiday, only to be annulled soon later. Alcohol, gambling and races were banned, but in reality all were and are still available aplenty. After Bhutto, Zia tried to ‘Islamise’ Pakistan even further, but did more harm than good. In the process, he sowed the seeds of venomous sectarianism that has divided the nation into Sunnis and Shias. If you ask me today what it is to be a Pakistani, I would say a very ‘confused person’. First of all, I am not so sure of my real heritage, identity and history anymore. On 14 August 1947, all my cultural heritage and ancestral roots were severed off.

We had an intertwined history, India and Pakistan, our language, poetry and singers were the same before 1947. We did not divest ourselves from the rich cultural and historic heritage of undivided India, we only refused to own the past. Now our acquired history, with gaps and yawns, is only 15 centuries old whereas the historians and the archeologists rate our region (Pakistan) as one of the most primeval historical lands.

I am not very sure of my religion, am I a Muslim or not? According to Justice Munir’s report of 1954 all 40 Ulema belonging to different sects, who appeared before the Inquiry Commission declared every other sect Kafir. Nothing much seems to have changed even after more than six decades. Enforcement of the Islamic Shariah is being demanded, not only by the Taliban, extremists and the terrorists but also by all mainstream Ulema, and it may be imposed, but which and whose Shariah?

I wish we had economic progress and literacy in Pakistan, for that would have given us a strong command over our destiny and made us better human beings, I wish we were still all proud of being Pakistani.

COL. RIAZ JAFRI (RETD),

Rawalpindi, August 2.