On this independence anniversary again, many of us who belong to the first generation that saw and experienced the formative phase of Pakistan and its creation as a dream of its founding fathers, are indeed agonized over the thought of what Quaid-i-Azam had envisioned this country to be and where we actually stand today as a nation and as a state.

Within the first year of our independence which woefully happened to be the last of his life, Quaid-i-Azam had presciently foreseen the coming events. He was disillusioned with the scarcity of calibre and character in the country’s political hierarchy which was no more than a bunch of self-serving, feudalist and opportunistic politicians who were to manage the newly independent Pakistan. Political ineptitude was writ large on the country’s horizon. Quaid’s worries were not unwarranted.

How many of us would remember or know that the Father of our Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, spent the last hours of his life on that fateful day of 11 September, 1947 lying helplessly in an ill-fated army ambulance which broke down due to “engine trouble” at a lonely stretch of the road while bringing him from the Mauripur Air Force Base to Karachi? Earlier on arrival from Quetta, no one from the government except his military secretary, Colonel Knowles, was present at the airport to receive him.

In her book, My Brother, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah recalled those agonizing moments: “Nearby stood hundreds of huts belonging to the refugees, who went about their business, not knowing that their Quaid, who had given them a homeland, was in their midst, lying helpless. Cars honked their way past, buses and trucks rumbled by, and we stood there immobilized in an ambulance that refused to move an inch…We waited for over one hour, and no hour, in my life has been so long and full of anguish.”

Does this painful recollection give us any food for thought or lead us to a feeling of regret and remorse? The answer lies in the barefaced contempt that we as a nation have shown to the Quaid’s vision of a “strong, stable and democratic” Pakistan. Sixty-six years after our independence, where do we stand as a nation and as a member of the comity of nations?

During the last year of his life, Quaid-i-Azam addressed almost every segment of our society, including legislators, armed forces, civil servants, educationists, students, business community, workers, lawyers, and the public, providing guidelines on every aspect of national life for building up Pakistan into a modern and democratic state, while drawing their attention to what the nation expected of them.  In his address to Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly on 11 August, 1947, the Quaid reminded the legislators of their “onerous responsibility” of framing the future constitution of Pakistan.

It took our politicians nine years and several governments to frame our first constitution in 1956 which was abrogated in less than three years. Since then, we have had two constitutions, one promulgated by a field marshal president in 1962, and the other adopted by an “elected” group of people who had no constitution-making mandate and were in fact responsible for creating a parliamentary gridlock leading to the breakup of the country in 1971. The flawed 1973 constitution they authored has since been amended by politicians twenty times for self-serving reasons.  It is a different constitution altogether.

Our problem is that the overbearing feudal, tribal and elitist power structure in Pakistan has been too deeply entrenched to let any systemic change take place. It doesn’t suit the politicians. They make amendments in the constitution for self-serving reasons only. The main casualties have been the state institutions and the process of national integration. The country has still not been able to evolve a political system that responds to the needs of an ethnically and linguistically diverse population.

Instead of removing our systemic weaknesses and reinforcing the unifying elements of our nationhood, politicians have always succumbed to narrowly-based self-serving temptations. They rejected the popular will freely expressed in the December 1970 elections, and instead of exploring political remedies to the resultant crisis, went along with a military solution. The real Pakistan disappeared with its tragic dismemberment. And yet, we learnt no lesson from our mistakes. We are repeating the same mistakes.

Quaid-i-Azam had a special place in his heart for Balochistan. He not only chose to spend the last days of his life in this province but was also mindful of the injustices of the colonial period that the people of Balochistan had suffered and inherited. He pledged to them equal position and political status within the polity of Pakistan. Unfortunately, a deep-rooted sense of deprivation and frustration has made its people highly suspicious of the policymakers in Islamabad. There is a strong underlying resentment in Balochistan against inequitable distribution of power and resources.

The Quaid believed in religious freedom and communal harmony. He urged the nation to shun sectarianism. We, however, had a different approach. Intolerance and fanaticism led us to violence with no parallel anywhere in the world. Pakistan became the hotbed of religious extremism and obscurantism. Sectarianism has ripped our society apart. We have made our country a killing field. No wonder, the world now calls us the ‘most dangerous nation’ on earth. How painful it would have been for the Quaid to see his Pakistan burning from within.

Quaid-i-Azam, on many occasions, reminded the people of Pakistan the importance of their responsibilities as citizens of Pakistan. He gave us a roadmap of what he believed were the biggest challenges for the country’s government and lawmakers. The foremost duty of a government, according to him, was “to maintain law and order and to protect the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects”. He warned against the "evils" of bribery, corruption, black-marketing, nepotism and jobbery which he wanted to be eradicated with an “iron hand."

As a nation, we not only failed to grapple with these challenges but are in fact living remorselessly with these “evils” as an "integral" part of our society. There is no law and order in the country, nor any concept of public safety. Aversion to the rule of law is endemic. Crime and corruption are rampant both in scope and scale. No other country is familiar with the practice of forgiving as a matter of rule the elite loan-defaulters and the known highly placed plunderers of the national exchequer. The looters, profiteers, murderers and killers could not have a safer haven anywhere else in the world. 

We found the Quaid’s principles of unity, faith and discipline of little relevance in our daily lives and have been flouting them gleefully. Alas! Quaid-i-Azam did not get to know us well. Had he lived longer, he would have only been embarrassed to see how miserably we and our successive leaders have failed to live up to his vision of Pakistan, and to protect and preserve our national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Alas, on our part, we are not even ashamed of what we have done to his Pakistan.

 The writer is a former foreign secretary.