Zardari returning Pakistan back to Quaid's vision
This year too, as has been in the past many, founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's death anniversary comes at a time when the country he established to be a moderate, liberal, progressive and secular democratic state stands at a critical juncture. He wanted Pakistan to be an egalitarian society based on the foundations of Islamic social justice and welfare of the people irrespective of their caste, creed or gender.
Mr Jinnah's ideological vision as enshrined in Pakistan's raison d'être envisaged by him to serve as a role model for other Muslim countries is being challenged by obscurantist forces that had opposed the establishment of a separate Muslim homeland. These retrogressive forces have found powerful bed-mates in those elements that believe in the sustenance of status quo and are opposed to empowerment of people.
President Asif Ali Zardari, who has completed successfully four years of his presidency in the most difficult times, deserves to be given credit for his painstaking efforts to revert the country back to Mr Jinnah's, PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's and martyred leader Benazir Bhutto's vision of democracy, empowerment of the people and social justice in the country.
Quaid had spelled out categorically that Pakistan was to be a state in which all its citizens were to be equal. In his address to Pakistan's mother parliament (Aug 11, 1947), he had declared clearly with no caveats: "You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of 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."
The Pakistan resolution of 1940 had committed itself to maximum provincial autonomy to its federating units - a promise that was shred to pieces by the conglomerate of civil, judicial and Praetorian bureaucracy in cahoots with the forces of status quo - only to be redeemed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in his Constitution of 1973. However, the country was reverted back to square one by military dictator General Zia ul Haq and after him those of his uniformed kin through extra-constitutional interventions with the backing of judiciary.
President Zardari has successfully brought the country back to Quaid's and Bhutto's commitment with the 18th amendment in the constitution by resolving the issue of provincial autonomy that had led to India's partition, break up of Pakistan in 1971 and ushering in of fissiparous forces threatening the country's territorial integrity and its very existence.
The Constitution of Pakistan-- as of today--guarantees fundamental rights and equality to all its citizens. It also guarantees for inter-faith harmony among all religions and sects. Despite retrogressive clauses added in the Constitution by General Zia in the name of religion for their abuse for perpetuating his illegal rule, the present government is following the footsteps of martyred Benazir Bhutto to eliminate abuse of such laws.
Bhutto was able to make Zia-introduced laws more moderate but those changes were reversed by the government of Nawaz Sharif later on.
President Zardari's government is now being credited internationally for softening up such laws and defanging them since those laws were used for terrorising minorities. Had it been any other government, Rimsha Masih would not have got her release. Under the most intimidating environment when Pakistan's most popular leader Benazir, stalwarts like Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were done to death by religious terrorists, handling of Rimsha Masih's case is the best homage to the Quaid.
Democracy was a passion for Quaid. So was the supremacy of Parliament as the sole arbiter of power and an elected government as its executive hand. The fact that the elected government is almost completing its tenure unlike previous ever, is an astounding achievement of President Zardari and yet another tribute to legacy of the Quaid, the Bhuttos and the people of Pakistan who have stood by him notwithstanding insurmountable problems.
Quaid wanted Pakistan's foreign policy to aim at peaceful and honourable co-existence within and abroad. President Zardari has been exceptionally successful at that. He has been steering the country out of morass of inherited chaos, retrieving its lost image and respect in the comity of nations. His government's spearheading of war on terror is for protecting and preserving Quaid's Pakistan from slipping into the hands of the blood thirsty heirs of religious extremists who had opposed Quaid and establishment of Pakistan.
Quaid wanted friendship with all, including Indi, with respect and honour. Zardari government is on its way to achieving it. Our relations with United Kingdom are "excellent" and "matchless". So are our ties with China "higher than Himalayas and deeper than seven seas". We have achieved much ingress into EU and its markets. We are back in the Commonwealth and playing a positive role. With our Muslim brothers we have no dispute. We want peace and stability in Afghanistan and Afghan-specific resolution of all its problems. With the US, we are back to building bridges.
Zardari's most outstanding achievement - which Quaid would have liked to see - is the gradual shift in the relationship between India and Pakistan on the basis of trust and profound commitment towards resolution of issues that had kept the two neighbours at loggerheads. The opening of trade, relaxation in visas, mutual exchanges, sincere deliberations and the so far achievements are credit to the leadership of the two countries.
Like a true statesman, President Zardari has been successful in underscoring the fact that permanent decisions cannot be subservient to incident-related outbursts of temporary emotions - a cardinal principle in the life of the Quaid who never allowed emotions to play havoc with his decisions and policies.
More about Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Wajid Shamsul Hasan
- + Elections in Pakistan: a lesson to learn
- + Pakistan is on the verge of making history
- + Zardari's mission to Paris: "Stand up for Malala"
- + Zardari's finest hour at the UN
- + 66th Independence Day of Pakistan: Challenges
- + Let reconciliation be the tribute to Benazir's memory
- + Lest the Pakistanis forget
- + The reasons behind Karachi's troubles
- + On Gilani's landmark visit to UK