14th August, 2017. The nation celebrates 70 years of independence. The streets are being decorated with national flags. Stalls containing national items including badges, flags, t-shirts, bangles, etc can be seen everywhere. People are buying these items with even more zeal than usual, as this is, after all, no ordinary independence day, but the 70th birthday celebrations of our beloved homeland. The zeal, the enthusiasm, the pride behind these preparations is understandable as well as laudable.
Yet, taking a long, hard look at our nation, I sometimes get the feeling that we do not even qualify to be called a nation. A mere crowd of 200 million with individual interests and opinions, but no collective consciousness. On individual levels we can all be extremely patriotic, we can hold flags, wear badges, paint our faces green and white, support our cricket team against India, but when it comes to respecting, facilitating, and caring for our fellow countrymen and compatriots, we show anything but a collective mindset.
From cutting, pushing and trying to get ahead of each other in queues to our extremely impatient and discourteous behaviour on the roads, from dumping our garbage on the streets or in front of our neighbours’ houses to stealing our neighbours’ electricity, from breaking traffic signals and disrespecting other rules and regulations, to cheating and all forms of corruption that exists within our society, whereby we are ever ready and willing to hurt our compatriots, do we still have the audacity to call ourselves a nation?
Add to it this newly found hatred created within our hearts and souls, and division within our ranks, by our political gods, whom we appear to worship more than God Himself, or His Word – more than Pakistan, or the Pakistani nation – more than our founding fathers or our constitution. We are not Pakistanis anymore, but ‘Insafians’ or ‘Noon League supporters’. Whoever dares speak a word against our leader, we will strip them bare with our vile and abusive tongues, not only them but also their mothers, sisters and daughters. Of course, you are always welcome to malign Pakistan or the ideology of Pakistan in whichever way you like; as long as you are not speaking against our political leaders, it’s none of our business.
Then there is the issue of Kashmir. The burning issue, the burden on our collective national conscience; a tale of endless suffering, which we have most criminally neglected over the past 70 years. We have not bothered raising our voices for it, and neither have our political idols. They will hold rallies and processions and dharnas for their political interests but never utter a sincere word of concern about Kashmir, nor make any serious efforts on to resolve the issue, on any national or international forum…
In 1929, Allama Iqbal wrote his famous Persian work Javednama, in which he mentioned an ideal world called Marghdeen, literally meaning the Pasture of deen. Marghdeen was in fact an allusion to the actual free piece of land Iqbal was going to suggest for the Muslims of India in his Allahabad address of 1930. The idea of Pakistan was therefore based on the parable of Marghdeen.
Marghdeen was a place where no man was wronged; which was free from poverty and suffering, there were no beggars. There was no fear of war, people loved and respected each other. But most importantly, in Marghdeen there were no law enforcing agencies or police, because people respected the law.
Since the days of the Pakistan movement we have been carrying and chanting the slogan “Pakistan ka mutlub kia? La Ilaha Illa Allah!,” yet we are completely unaware that the practical implementation of this slogan first and foremost would be to respect the law of the state. No one is above the law; no one is above the constitution. Isn’t this what a true Islamic state would be all about? Yet we break the law every day, in each and every moment of our lives, and in fact, encourage others and are encouraged by our self proclaimed Gods to do the same.
It is due to this ingrained disrespect of all law, worldly or Godly, that we have failed to make Pakistan the ideal state envisioned by our founding fathers. It is our disrespect for the law that causes us to break rules. It is our disrespect for the law that compels us to glorify law breakers like Mumtaz Qadri as martyrs. It is our disrespect for the law that leads us to indulge and welcome a disqualified leader – claiming to be a Messiah and a deliverer – and watch complacently as he is given millions of rupees worth of security, while the common man is deprived of that very security to which he is more entitled to as a citizen of this country. For a nation in a state of war against terrorism, it is indeed the height of absurdity to indulge such political drama and insanity, which puts the security of thousands at risk, including the unnecessary Dharna/concerts/dance parties regularly staged in the capital of my country by another self-proclaimed Messiah and his deluded followers.
The good news, however, is that we might not be too late. We are still a young nation. 70 years are nothing in the lives of nations. It takes centuries for nations to be formed, for states to be established. It took the Indian Muslim nation almost a century to come together collectively in the form of the Pakistan movement. We might be somewhat misaligned or scattered, yet our collective consciousness exists within our unconscious, waiting to be re-discovered.
History, according to Iqbal, is one of the signs of God. The reason the Quran mentions stories from antiquity is that it means to teach us lessons from history, so that we do not repeat the same mistakes made by nations of the past, who were eventually wiped out from the face of the Earth as a result of those collective errors. We, as a nation, need to look into our past, and figure out where we went wrong, where we detracted from our collective goals. We need to develop the same love and bonding for each other, that led us to emerge as a nation which fought for the realisation of a collective dream.
So long as we learn from our past mistakes and carry out what Iqbal calls Reflective Criticism of our national history, and vow not to repeat those mistakes, we might soon, God Willing, find ourselves back on track, marching towards a glorious future that awaits us!