One of the seminal events of the 20th century that had impact on Muslims and their relationship with the West was the creation of Pakistan 65 years ago. It will continue to have an impact on the future of Muslim engagement in the Western world. Pakistan today is commonly misperceived as the hatchery of radical Islam. And it is what has replaced communism as America’s key ideological foe.

Decades of mistrust on dealing with the leadership of the majority community in undivided India convinced the Quaid-i-Azam to choose the path of separation. The Quaid had many daunting obstacles to overcome, including opposition from formidable figures within the Muslim community. His own health was quite frail, but he made up for that through his iron will and unshakeable belief in the unstoppable march of destiny.

It was the Quaid who gave practical shape to the idea of Pakistan. Without his helmsmanship, it would have remained a distant vision. Motivating and mobilising a dormant community was by itself an act of exemplary leadership.

Those seeking the most persuasive logic behind Pakistan’s creation would be well-advised to read the chapter “Dialogue with a giant”, which gives a detailed interview of the Quaid, from Beverley Nichols’ 1944 book, Verdict on India.

The crux of the Quaid-i-Azam’s leadership qualities lay in the fact that he could anticipate the moves of his opponents, look at the “big picture”, and remain steadfast despite huge hurdles. He had no army to back him, no superpower support, no financial resources to speak of. Not even good health. And yet, he prevailed amidst scepticism within his own Muslim community.

His biggest forte was his upright character and his incorruptibility, which even his opponents acknowledged.

So, with such precedent, why is Pakistan lurching from crisis to crisis?

Among many reasons, there are two that stand out.

Number one is the low priority given to an equitable rule of law and a first-class educational infrastructure, with little reward given to hard work and merit. The second key reason is the low priority given to integrity in public life. Too many are in it not for public service, but to amass wealth.

Predictably then, the openly undeserving and the blatantly dishonest rule the roost, with devastating effect. When avarice becomes the coin of the realm, then the results are self-explanatory.

It is easy to blame praetorian rule, but the fact of the matter is that the civilian rule has been equally despotic and even more dynastic, mired as it is in pelf, plunder, and patronage.

So what next? The choice basically boils down to: to cry about it, or to do something about it.

Simply put, the present system is not only anti-people, but also anti-Pakistan. It is of the few, and for the few.

No manmade situation is as hopeless as it appears to be. Out of despair emerged the dream and reality of Pakistan.

Neighbouring China offers a vivid example. On December 13, 1937, the invading Japanese troops captured the Chinese city of Nanking, setting in motion a calamity whose scale and scope is hard to grasp, commonly known as the Rape of Nanking. Yet today, China is considered as an economic powerhouse, arousing considerable envy and unease in Western capitals.

With little resources, Pakistan was able to become world champion in hockey, squash, cricket, snooker, and, before Independence, wrestling, through the Great Gama. Now, since 1992, Pakistan has not won a single Olympic medal. It may be a record for a country of 180 million with a sporting pedigree not to win even a single medal. It speaks volumes about the direction in which the country is heading.

Here, one of the culprits is undeniably the media, which has made the public addicted to sordid talk shows, empty chatter, and uncouth behaviour. The public, too, shares some blame for swallowing it.

Decorum and decency are being hit for a six. It is a recipe for passively living in darkness and in ignorance when the need is to light the lamp for corrective action. It is also depriving the nation of developing the tools of self-empowerment and self-esteem. It cannot be accomplished, unless the youth step up to the plate and question wrongdoing. Wrong-doing doesn’t become legitimate when done under the hijab of democracy. Its long-term effect is even more corrosive.

The dilemma is that the educated people, who have the equipment to deliver, are too timid to deliver and the less educated, who have the courage to deliver, are too unskilled to deliver.

One of the barriers to break is the prison of fear, hate, and ignorance. The true tribute to the Quaid’s efforts would be to constantly strive to break out from this self-imposed prison.

One could start by pursuit of the Islamic ethic of learning and integrity. There is a flood of words and a paucity of thought. In the age of instant texting, non-stop gossip, and Twitter, there has been a decline in newspaper reading and reflection.

It seems that those who matter in the Muslim world have yet to discover what is truly important because only then can they prioritise. To suggest that the community should support activities of ideas and learning is merely to articulate the historic view of Islamic culture in fortifying a knowledge-based society.

Take a look at how few within Pakistan, for example, can be presented abroad to give an upright opinion on the world stage with persuasive skill and finesse.

The battle of the 21st century is inherently a battle of ideas. It is a battle in which, to date, Muslim voices are muted.

To celebrate the independence of Pakistan, the simplest step would be to celebrate the values of honesty, hard work, and fairness, which animated the Pakistan Movement. Lest it be forgotten, this is a much easier task now than what was accomplished by the Quaid-i-Azam through the creation of Pakistan, on a summer day in Ramazan, 65 years ago.

The writer is an attorney-at-law and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar.

Email: mowahid@aol.com