Pakistan today is in search of its identity, its national character. Torn between ideological ends throughout history with State policy radically flipping as quickly as the government, there needs to be an answer to the questions: What does it mean to be a Pakistani? What do we as a nation stand for? And how close or far are we from the vision of the founding fathers and the Muslims, who scarified so much to attain this homeland for their descendants?

The fact is that soon after the Quaid’s demise, the rulers set aside his precious legacy and embarked on a reckless career that brought the country time and again on the verge of disaster. They forgot the great sacrifices that the Quaid and his breed of heroic followers had made for a separate homeland from a xenophobic Hindu majority and an arrogant British regime. “The tragedy of Pakistan,” writes Dr Saad Khairi, “is that while surviving all the problems of Himalayan dimensions,” it was then hijacked by a set of people that neither represented the people, nor shared the spirit of the Pakistan Movement. Ghulam Muhammad, Iskander Mirza, Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq, who would have normally retired as government pensioners, captured power and ruled the country as a colony as the British did. They had never fought even a single municipal election and lived in their own world totally cut off from the common man. They neither understood, nor cared for popular sentiments. They had no idea of and sympathy with the factors that made the ‘Pakistan demand’ a mass movement. They mentioned Mr Jinnah’s name merely as a cover for their destructive policies to trample underfoot every principle that he held dear. However, in truth, external factors such as the interests of great powers allowed this dynamic to stay and flourish within Pakistan. Democracy and the Quaid’s principles lost priority in the face of one international incident after another.

While the world at large may be excused for its downright prejudice or lack of knowledge, there is nothing to justify the calculated indifference of some of our countrymen to the founding father of the nation. The Quaid created history, but it is sad to see that the dimension of his victory and the extent of his greatness have been systematically undermined. Every successive government has either pushed the Quaid in the background or altered his image in one way or another to suit its own questionable ends. Every year, on national days, cliché-ridden tributes are paid to his revered memory, but the real spark of enthusiasm is missing; the true meaning and propose of his mission is glossed over.

Dust-coated portraits of the Quaid hang slopping from the walls of many public and private establishments that speak eloquently of the degree of respect and regard we have for the great leader and his ideals. Had our leadership been sincere, it would not have, over the years, demolished one by one the principles that the Quaid had stood for. The Quaid was a man of phenomenal integrity. Even his enemies could not fault him on this account. Dr Ambedkar, by no means a friendly critic, writes: “It is doubtful if there is a politician in India to whom the adjective incorruptible can be more fittingly applied. No one can buy him. For it must be said to his credit that he has never been a soldier of fortune.” Is it not a shocking paradox of our times that the country whose founder was renowned for its integrity, is now among the most corrupt countries in the world?

The Quaid had a clear conception of the lines on which he wished to build Pakistan. But, sad to say, he died early - i.e. in 1948 - barely a year after its creation. But within those 12 hectic months, he compressed the energies of a lifetime and left behind a comprehensive blueprint for the future guidance of the nation. Had 10 more years been vouchsafed to him, he would have transformed and institutionalised the spirit of the Pakistan Movement and given a proper start to the democratic process. What sort of a socio-political framework did the Quaid visualise for the new State of Pakistan? But before we broach this subject, there are two essential features of his political outlook and approach that must be kept in view:

i    His thoroughly democratic temper, and

i    His genuine concern for the underprivileged and the unfortunately placed.

The Quaid was of the view that Pakistan’s social system should be built on civilised values, democratic culture, time-honoured judicial tradition, and on a modern industrial non-feudal agricultural base. A social system that would lead to harmony, discipline, self-reliance, freedom from exploitation and enable Pakistan to find its due place in the fraternity of nations.

The Quaid’s respect for fundamental rights and tolerance was integral to his firm belief in the principles of democracy and representative government. “I have one underlying principle in mind,” he told the Sibi Darbar in 1948, “the principles of Muslim democracy. It is my belief that our salvation lies in following the golden rules of conduct set for us by our great lawgiver, the Prophet of Islam. Let us lay the foundations of our democracy on the basis of truly Islamic ideals and principles.” As a great constitutionalist and civil libertarian, he always spoke out in defence of individual rights and equal justice. “Sir,” he insisted, on behalf of the editor of The Bombay Chronicle, B.G. Horniman: “I do maintain that I have drunk deep at the fountain of constitutional law that the liberty of man is the dearest thing in the law of any constitution and it should not be taken away in this fashion.”

“It would be a tragedy of the first magnitude,” says Jamiluddin Ahmed, “if the people of Pakistan fail to take inspiration from his life example and allow themselves to be deflected from the path he has shown.” Self-seeking and foolhardy as we are, we have failed to seek inspiration from his life example and are today reaping the bitter harvest. We jettisoned the course chalked out by the Quaid and forgot the ordeals he went through for our sake. Our thoughts and deeds over the last 60 years provide ample evidence of our rank ingratitude to our great benefactor.

During his brief stewardship of the State, the Quaid-i-Azam set up some exceedingly sound and healthy precedents - precedents that could have, in the course of time, developed into strong traditions. Had the lead given by the Quaid been followed, many of the ills and frustrations that have afflicted the country after his demise would have been avoided. It is now up to the people, the elected representatives and the leaders of public opinion to seize the initiative and redress the wrongs that have perished for the last 60 years.

    The writer is chairman, Jinnah-Rafi Foundation and honorary consul of Malaysia, Lahore.

    Email: rafi.group@gmail.com