From the Desk of the Publisher
and Managing Editor

Dear Readers,

A lot has happened in the month of August, not the least being the introduction of Constitutional Amendment Number 15 (CA-15) in the National Assembly. Already reeling under the racial divide because of the announcement of the Kalabagh Dam without building conscnsus we may now suffer sectarian and social divide because of CA-15. The content of the propositions are not under question, the motivation and the timing are. I wrote an article for THE NATION on Sept 12, 1998. I am taking the liberty of re-producing ‘WHY IS PAKISTAN’S UNITY ALWAYS UNDER THREAT ?’

The one day in Pakistan’s history that symbolizes unity equal to or more than any Aug 14, 1947 is Sept 6, 1965. On that day the whole nation, from Khyber Pass in the North West to Cox’s Bazar in the South East, rose as one person when threatened by Indian invasion, determined to preserve the country’s independence. And yet, little more than six years later, the finest experiment in nationhood in its time was torn apart. Today we are acutely aware that no lessons were learnt from this catastrophe, that anyone who tried to reason was vilified as a prophet of doom and worse, a traitor, no account being taken of the factors (or the people)) who destroyed a beautiful country.

In the context of Pakistan, chauvinism can be described in one form ‘as exaggerated or aggressive patriotism’ or ‘prejudicial support’ or ‘loyalty for something’, it continues to cause us deep anguish. There is a very false perception rampant among a section of the populace about being a ‘superior race’ when in fact Islam, the raison d’etre for our existence, enjoins us that all men and women are created equal. However group behaviour or individual attitude sidelines objectivity totally. Chauvinism is also directly related to a concept of manhood and martial races, in this day and age a totally false premise. Except for a proforma ‘battle’ for a few hours given by Porus to Alexander the Great on the banks of river Jhelum, history does not record even a mild protest, what to talk about giving resistance to any invader before the fields of Panipat. Imperial adventurers from Alexander onwards entering India usually found their ranks swell 3-4 times by mercenaries who joined them en route from regions they passed through, their driving urge being a craving for booty and plunder, their motivation having no bearing with any ideology or belief. In today’s modern world, anyone who can bear weapons, from the smallest Vietnamese to the tallest Pathan can overcome any odds, size and bearing having no influence on so-called ‘martial qualities’. Racial superiority is therefore a divisive myth that should be buried for the good of the nation. Pathans, Punjabis, Sindhis, Baloch and Mohajir are all equal under the sun, they should not only be listened to but heard. Similarly while male chauvinism is rather more marked in certain regions, Islam teaches us that all beings are equal. It is upto us to forcefully ensure that females have equal opportunities as men without discrimination - and that they are treated equally under the law so that they become useful members of the body politic and economic. Until the female of the species contributes positively, the nation’s growth will be stunted. From chauvinism comes class considerations and divisions as per racial communities that by itself creates an unfair environment for existence for the smaller communities, whether ethnic or religious.

Because of chauvinism, nepotism is deeply embedded in the soul of the nation. This was somewhat contained in the 60s and 70s but the advent of martial law and non-party democracy ushered in by late Zia polarised society deeply, mainly for economic reasons. Each community started to look after its own, within these parameters individuals started looking after their friends and families with merit given no consideration whatsoever. Nepotism became very pronounced along ethnic and sectarian lines, merit has become of hardly any consequence. Entrenched individuals and communities kept on strengthening their hold by inducting their own kith and kin on the basis of anything but merit, the smaller communities as well as individuals hoping for job opportunities (and advancement) on merit have become immersed in deep frustration, the qualitative edge fading away because of mediocrity. With merit compromised the end result will be non-effective and less productive. In many cases merit has become a disqualifier, those having merit being subject to virtual witch-hunting of the worst kind, particularly if they belong to the smaller races and have beliefs not in keeping with those held by the majority. The fact of the ‘quota system’ is a slur on the name of both Islam and democracy. When any individual from any community has merit, why should that person be denied his/her place under the Pakistani sun? A sense of insecurity among the privileged ruling class who are threatened by the hardworking poor and middle class is responsible for creating this unfair environment.

White and blue collar workers in the Middle East in the 70s sending in remittances and arriving laden with electronic goods, etc. started a new polarisation in society, many times pitting brother against brother as one entity became awash with the symbols of luxury and the other remained mired in abject poverty. Materialism became the order of the day, a crude display of it a social necessity. Stumped by attempts at obtaining luxury by honest means, affected individuals turned to corruption as the only means for catching up. The pervasive spreading of unabated corruption became endemic in the social fabric so that every strata of society is deeply affected, remedial measures being confined to theory only. Those who initiate contra-measures are themselves so corrupt that with malafide intention they leave many loopholes, firstly that the accused cannot be brought to justice and if they are the legal aspects are made non-convincing and friendly in the name of justice and fairplay, leaving enough reason for the corrupt to retaliate against his (their) accuser, swiftly and violently enough to act as a deterrent and warning to others not to cross their path ever again.

That which cannot be endured is called intolerance. Thinking and contemplation is an end product of experience in life, or one’s thinking is so affected by unreasonable and illogical behaviour so steered by prejudicial logic. Intolerance in this country plays havoc with individual behaviour escalating to irrational behaviour and responses. Since the level of education is at the lowest ebb, intolerance grows fast, encompassing the broad spectrum of society. The worst effect is on ecclesiastical approaches to life, preventing any logical assessment of universal goodness and positively because the mind is shut and sealed to any other religion (most of the time it is unfair to give it the religious connotation). Any other idea is repelled violently and firmly.

Whatever hope there is in democracy is lost in electoral fraud. It has achieved the status of ‘industry’ and has entered the realm of ‘high tech’. The catalyst for this trait are intolerance, chauvinism, bigotry, corruption and other failures described earlier. It is practiced to achieve:- (a) ill deserved position in political arena (b) amassing of wealth and other material gains (c) denying deserving people their rightful share, thus nursing in society hate and frustration (d) wasteful expenditures which leads to national bankruptcy and by seeing, the poor and the deprived the feeling of further frustration, leading to upheaval in the society to attain a reasonable share for self betterment through violent means.

Frustrated and virtually helpless at the deterioration the quality of morals and institutions around them, bitter at the widening gap separating the rich from the poor and looking for solace in their search for all-encompassing solutions, a vast majority of Pakistani citizens are turning to religion as the refuge of last resort. Increasingly the most glib and believable muslim preachers have become the interpreters for God and his last Prophet (PBUH). Educated only sometimes at par with modern society, a vast majority still live virtually in the dark ages, their impartation of knowledge suspect and sometimes unbelievable. The lack of educated religious teachers is compounded by the different viewpoints that have complicated what is basically a simple religion. Instead of uniting the populace which was the essence of Islam, many of the modern versions are divisive on ridiculous issues. However the loss affluent are turning to Islam because the modern judicial process is beyond the reach of the common man, with both a yearning and a need for the availability of inexpensive justice. The Qazi courts provide just that, however there is a requirement to compromise the modern aspirations to that need. Those who can afford the judicial process not only have an advantage but are comfortable with the arrangement as compared to the less privileged. The only antidote to the nation’s ill is a return to basic Islam - they could well be right - but again looking at the standard of the interlocutors (the religious preachers) they could well be wrong. One can only comment that extremism in any form is bad.

History is replete with the effects which could engulf our society so strongly that the perpetuators will suffer. There is also a lesson from history about those who took violent means and overthrew above traits, ultimately themselves joined the ‘evil empire’. What is needed is widespread education, welfare measures for all members of the society irrespective of colour, creed, religion, strata in the society and people’s participation in local government at the grassroots level with the basic premise that deserving persons must get what he or she deserves, irrespective of his/her background.