Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
The minute I entered the elegant book-lined club in central London where Pervez Musharraf was about to launch his political career, it was clear who was to dominate the proceedings – Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Quaid-e-Azam, Founder of the Nation, Father of Pakistan. In his trademark peaked Jinnah cap, it was his photo alone which was hanging prominently on the platform where the former military ruler was to speak; and his photo on the little entrance ticket they gave you to get past security.
It was his spirit which was invoked even in the name of Musharraf’s political party — his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) was a deliberate echo of the pre-independence All India Muslim League, through which Jinnah created the state of Pakistan in 1947.
It was Jinnah’s speech of August 11, 1947 that Musharraf cited as one of the guiding principles of the APML, with its most famous lines: ”You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
Musharraf quoted a verse too from Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the poet-philosopher who imagined Pakistan as a place where what he saw as the true spirit of Islam – equality, peace and justice — would flourish. And it was to that idealistic vision that Musharraf appealed when he promised to fight poverty and corruption, end the domination of the feudal elite, and bring true freedom and economic well-being to the poor masses of Pakistan.
In a country which has suffered many bombings, the killing of more than 80 people in two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore last week has unleashed a particularly anguished bout of soul-searching in Pakistan, going right to the heart of its identity as an Islamic nation.
When he heard the news, wrote Kamran Shafi in Dawn, “I ran home and put on the TV and burst into tears, first of rage and a seething anger; and then of complete and utter helplessness and sadness. Shame on us.”
Was it necessary to divide India and Pakistan ? Was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, really the obdurate Muslim leader who forced Partition along religious lines in 1947 or was he pushed into it by leaders of India’s Congress party, especially first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
A new book by former Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh re-opens that painful, blood-soaked chapter whose price the region is still paying more than 60 years on.