What an amazing evening it was, attended by prominent personalities from all walks of life including diplomats from the friendly countries! We had gathered to pay tributes to the father of our nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, whose dynamic and visionary leadership was central to shaping the history of the sub-continent and who created Pakistan single-handedly.

The freedom struggle under the Quaid’s leadership remains an unparalleled event of modern history. 70 years ago, the Muslims of sub-continent came together to carve out this great land in the midst of challenges to their survival. They were inspired by the resolve to secure their economic rights, social justice and lead a life with honour and dignity.

Their journey towards freedom was powered by the Idea of Pakistan; the idea of tolerant, peaceful and egalitarian society. They drew from each other’s hearts the strength of glorious hope, driven by the belief that a life of humiliation and indignity would be finally behind them and a new era of hope will dawn.

History records that the millions of the people made great sacrifices to achieve independence from the British Raj. Our founding fathers added a glorious chapter of sacrifice to the annals of history.

Some abandoned wealth and landholdings, east of the border; others lived through the tragic horrors of the partition, witnessing the demise of their loved ones, relatives and friends. They paid the heavy price to divide India in the hope of a united and a prosperous Pakistan.

If we happen to look at the photographs commemorating the men and women who gathered in Lahore on the 23rd of March, 1940, we see Sindhis standing by Pathans, Baloch and Punjabis and Shias and Sunnis standing shoulder to shoulder with one another. Alongside them are Muslims from elsewhere in India, from provinces that could never be part of Pakistan, yet who made their decision to be Pakistani.

Our forefathers pledged, with blood and sweat, not to hesitate from offering any sacrifice for the cause of Pakistan but, alas we, who came after them, conveniently forgot their sufferings and sacrifice, dipped the standard, dropped the baton and often abandoned the pursuit of nationhood.

Today, though we stand in the shadow of their legacy , we do not uphold it. Though we wave the flag of their high hopes aloft, we do not comprehend it. Though we chant the slogan of unity but actually we don’t practise it.

How shall we face the Quaid-e-Azam for the 70 years of our indifference and apathy? How shall we explain to Allama Iqbal as to why we failed to practise the inspiring message of his poetry?

Above all, how shall we explain to our God that the teeming millions, whose elders struggled for Pakistan and were meant to be pivot of its life, are convinced that they have opened their eyes in abject poverty and will die in poverty?

Seven decades later, our past is characterised by wasted and broken promises; the promises we failed to keep and honour. We face, once more, the most daunting challenges of our history, struggling to negotiate them and stare down the belligerence of our foes.

Terrorism and crippling power shortages have played havoc with our economy and our life for the last 15 years.

Terrorism has affected our polity very deeply. The terrorists are a reason why many Pakistanis have been deprived of their fathers, mothers and children. They are responsible for missing or maimed limbs of the thousands of Pakistanis.

In securing this country and its people from the evil forces, our brave armed forces, police and intelligence community are fighting against these terrorists valiantly. While inflicting fatal blows and breaking the back of terrorism, our brave officers and soldiers have written contemporary history with their blood and unmatched sacrifices.

This country has a cancer: a cartel of elite whose corruption and greed threaten to erode any principle of merit, and who never fail to compromise the needs of the people. As a consequence, thousands have grown fat on nepotism and corruption, at the cost of millions who have suffered due to their selfish interests.

As a consequence, we have held the weight of our begging bowl for too long. We have carried it from country to country, borrowing where we could not beg, and begging where we could not borrow. A policy, that has neither fed nor clothed the people of Pakistan; it has neither kept their lights on nor their fires burning.

While all these years the nation has watched with anger and anguish the piecemeal sale and squander of Pakistan’s scarce resources, no effort was spared by vested interest to hinder or halt our journey to progress on the altar of vested political interests.

In this process of introspection, many questions come to mind. What were the objectives for which this country was established?Why did we have to face the twin monsters of sectarianism and terrorism? Why are our institutions weak? Why is there no rule of law? Why is corruption so rampant? Why does the system throw up the people with questionable character to high offices, including those stigmatised by corruption and involved in huge loan write offs?

In short, why have things gone awry and why have we drifted away from our original path, the one determined by the Quaid-i-Azam, the father of the nation?

The million-dollar question is: was it possible to chart a different course? Was it possible to have avoided the pitfalls?

The answer is loud and clear. Had the Quaid lived longer, things would have been differently different. His towering personality would have kept the country on track. It’s a pity this nation could not produce any leader of substance after him.

But, I urge you all, my fellow Pakistanis, never to submit to that sickness known as despair. For, it is a trait that is not in sync with the character of our people, as we are a nation of great strivers.

When Pakistan was dismembered in 1971, we were sorrowful and deeply grieved but did not submit ourselves to defeatism. We pledged to rise from ashes, re-energise our batteries and dream again in an effort to regain our lost glory.

When a neighbouring country tested its nuclear missile, we resolved that we would bear any burden, pay any cost but will not let anyone subjugate us. Whenever floods hit our country, washing away large swathes of land, eliminating lives and destroying infrastructure, we vowed to build back better.

In short, we have shown to the world beyond any doubt that when faced with adversity and crises, we come together as a nation bound by unity of thought and action to achieve larger national goals.

Time has come that we break the chains that have kept us shackled for a long time. Time has come to throw away the yoke that has paralysed our thought and action. Time has come to unleash our creative forces for soft revolution to avert a bloody revolution.

However, this calls for instilling and renewing a sense of purpose for a new social order. The struggle for a better and prosperous Pakistan has to be wholesome and comprehensive. It has to be multi-pronged. We have to fight in the realms of energy, education, health, security, and socio-economic justice.

All human beings have their failings, and I have mine too. But I’ve never lost sight of the needs of the people and the country I love with the depth of my heart and soul. Pakistan has every potential to become a land where our future generations lead an honourable and productive life.

In the midst of these testing times come 100 million tiny rays of hope. They are the young people of this country, talented and energetic who are not yet corrupted by the system nor yet disappointed or dejected by the voices of naysayers.

The countries that lead global innovation and development today were powered by young hands and young minds. We need to follow their path. We need to equip our youth with right kind of education and skill set required by market and industry. We need to awaken in them the urge to think out of box and be dynamic and innovative. Above all, we need to give them reasons to be inspired to make a difference to the lives of masses.

This is the path I have chosen to bring about real and lasting change. I believe that investment in youth is investment in the glorious future of this nation. My faith in the potential of our youth is unwavering. They have what it takes to dream big and then realise these dreams.

In all humility, I have this to say that we have tirelessly worked on projects during the last few years. In breaking new grounds by dint of commitment and hard work, we have completed projects that were the kind of firsts in Pakistan.

Punjab is the first province to install the largest solar, coal and gas power plants in the country and that too in a mind-boggling time-span of 18 to 22 months. Be it power plants, infrastructure development or modern transport system, they are modern Pakistan’s identity as shining examples of progress. These great success stories are the result of untiring efforts of the government.

Some people may say that building power projects and modern transport system is not a big deal. Can they imagine that it is something that Pakistan has never done before– not in this way, not in 18 months and 22 months, not free of serious delays and not free of corruption?

I promise with you that we will weigh each hour and each minute against the lost years since 1947. We shall realise the dream of the Quaid-i-Azam and never again will our people have to live under the thick shadow of sufferings, humiliation and indignity.

This is, no doubt, a tall order but it is the one that has been overdue for many years. I give you my word of honour that these goals will be my own Resolution. But it will take more than the words and promises of Shahbaz Sharif to win us back Quaid’s Pakistan. It will take the hearts, the minds and the spirits of 210 million Pakistanis who have far too long been deprived of happiness and prosperity.

So this is what I ask of you, my countrymen; that you commit to the virtue of hard work with the deepest commitment; that you espouse, once again, the spirit of Pakistan; that you shun any path that claims to bring progress, but does not rely on the principle of honesty of purpose, dignity and honour. If we want to move away from being a client state, we must ensure that we develop into a sovereign state by winning back our socio-economic freedom and making people empowered.

This will not happen by looking outside but looking inwardly. There is only one path that will take us there: the path of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. If we walk it together, as one nation – united in a manner that we have perhaps never been since the days when we first heard with bated breath and pounding hearts the proclamation of Pakistan’s independence, I am confident that we will return this country to the vision of the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

No doubt, this gigantic task will entail much sweat and many tears. But this is the only way forward, and at least we know that our blood, sweat and tears will be expended to fortify our nation, and to make it strong and self-reliant.

Granted that these are lofty ambitions and high hopes, but remember, history is replete with glorious examples of nations who rose from the ashes of defeat to the zenith of glory by following this course alone.

By adopting those golden ideals of the Quaid , our beloved country Pakistan, at the moment sweltering under the heat of socio-economic injustice, will be transformed into an oasis of progress and will become an egalitarian society soon one day.

So let us resolve today to awaken our slumbering passion. Let the beautiful lines of our national anthem be the wind in our sails. Let the Idea of Pakistan as a welfare state serve as a clarion call. Let us revive the spirit of our freedom struggle, and let it inspire us once more. Let us wave our great green and white flag up high, and let it guide us towards the stars.

 

The above is the text of the keynote address that the Chief Minister delivered at the mega Quaid Day ceremony organised by the Punjab government in Lahore on December 23.

@CMShehbaz