Malik Muhammad Ashraf  - Quaid-i-Azam not only won us freedom but also gave the vision about the path that Pakistan had to traverse as a state and earn its rightful place as a nation. He epitomized his vision in a Broadcast talk on Pakistan to the people of United States in February 1948 in these words “The constitution of Pakistan is yet to be framed. I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type embodying the essential principles of Islam. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of men, justice and fair play to everybody. In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state, to be ruled by priests with divine mission. We have many non-Muslims, Hindus, Christians and others but they all are Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizen and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan”. In an interview with a foreign correspondent in 1945 he envisioned federal form of government and said, “The theory of Pakistan guarantees that federating units of the national government would have all the autonomy that you will find in the constitutions of USA, Canada and Australia.” 

His slogan of “Unity, Faith and Discipline” and the famous words uttered by him “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” are the pillars on which he wanted to erect the edifice that he envisioned. He was intensely aware of the fact that in a country with distinct cultural entities and regions, the only way Pakistan could move on the path towards its destiny successfully, was an impregnable unity amongst its people. He was conscious of the fact that building a nation into a vibrant and sustainable entity was much more arduous than the struggle to win freedom. He wanted to build Pakistan as a progressive democratic country, deriving strength and inspiration from the lofty Islamic principles of brotherhood, equality and fraternity of man where the federating unit enjoyed autonomy and the minorities had equal rights as citizens. 

But regrettably the treatise and the testament bequeathed by him and the leaders of the Pakistan movement failed to find expression in the scheme of things that followed independence. It took almost nine years to frame a constitution that was abrogated by a military dictator only after two years. Another most devastating blow to the national unity was his unimaginable abolition of the provinces and the formation of one unit that sounded the death knell for the national unity and the provincial autonomy. The step precipitated the sense of deprivation and non-participation among the people of the small provinces and led to the emergence of nationalist movements in Baluchistan, Sindh and former East Pakistan besides fanning sectarianism and provincialism. Although the one unit was undone on 1st July 1970 in view of the intense political upheaval in the country, but it was too late in the day as the damage had already been done and the dismemberment of the country could not be stopped.

The unanimously adopted constitution of 1973 constitution embodied almost all the basic elements of Quaid’s vision. But unfortunately the country’s march on the road to democracy was disrupted again by a military dictator who for a decade played with the destiny of the people by disfiguring the constitution and destroying the state institutions. His death paved the way for restoration of democracy in the country but unfortunately the country failed to witness the birth of true democracy due to the crass politics steeped into self-aggrandizement and vendetta. As a consequence the country yet again drifted into a dark alley with the overthrow of elected government by General Musharraf, who again mutilated the constitution, disfigured the state institutions and gifted the country with the menace of terrorism which now poses an existentialist threat to Pakistan. The country is also in the grip of the worst sectarianism and the minorities are suffering due to some unimaginable legislative measures put in place by a military dictator.

The diabolical challenges confronting the country, specially terrorism, extremism, sectarianism, armed insurgency in Baluchistan and other fissiparous tendencies, are a sequel to the disruption of the democratic process and the denial of provincial autonomy to the federating units; a criminal digression from the constitution and the vision bequeathed by our founding father.

Celebrating Independence Day is not merely a ritualistic exercise. It is in fact a day to reflect and introspect on the events of the past to see where we have faltered and taken a detour from the objectives of the independence and the vision of the founding father; it is day of learning from the past mistakes and reiteration of the pledge by all the stakeholders to build Pakistan in conformity with the principles enunciated by Quaid-e-Azam and the constitution.

It is indeed gratifying to note that the country is back on the democratic path and for the first time in the history of the country we have witnessed a smooth transition of power through ballot. The constitution has been restored to its original form and the thorny issues like provincial autonomy and distribution of resources from the federal divisible pool to the provinces have been settled amicably. These developments were made possible by a cooperative effort of all the political entities, reflecting the fact that our politicians have finally started learning from their past mistakes. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s pledge to keep this cooperative spirit alive is also an encouraging portent.

We still have a long way to go in achieving our cherished goals. The country has to be winched out of the clutches of terrorism, religious extremism, sectarianism and prejudice against minorities, which have scuttled the process of national integration. They are indeed formidable issues. There is also a dire need to consolidate the gains of democracy. Fixing these behemoth problems requires collective wisdom and cooperation among all the political forces, military leaders and the civil society. While celebrating Independence Day this year, all of them need to express commitment to turning the country into Quaid’s Pakistan and win it an honorable place in the comity of nations that he cherished and aspired for.  n