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  Opinion   Columnists  07 Apr 2018  Why Pakistan is still disowning its finest

Why Pakistan is still disowning its finest

The writer is former lieutenant-governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry
Published : Apr 7, 2018, 5:15 am IST
Updated : Apr 7, 2018, 5:15 am IST

Some private schools even dishonoured Malala’s short trip by declaring Friday as “I am not Malala Day”, reflecting her polarising reality.

Malala Yousafzai (Photo: AP)
 Malala Yousafzai (Photo: AP)

Pakistan routinely blames the West, especially the US, for creating terrorism, double-dealing, economic deceit, societal morass and all other ills that befall the modern Pakistani narrative. This ostrich-like attitude has shades of simplistic truth in the Pakistani grouse. However, it belies the collective failure of the Pakistani leadership of all hues, parties and uniforms, post the convenient “dollar-rush” of the US-Gen. Zia dalliance of the 1980s. The deliberate inability to dismantle, recalibrate and replace the vestiges, infrastructure and outlook of the Cold War era has dangerously veered the operating instincts towards tactical survival that invariably haunts Pakistan and its polity in the long run. The democratic foundations are weakening with discredited political classes who lack the vision and gumption to make corrective amends in the face of an assertive military set-up, burgeoning religiosity and irreconcileable sectarianism. This environmental-societal slide has failed Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s hoary exhortation of: “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…”

The fact is, the predominant spirit of inclusivity and tolerance that was sought at Independence, has given way to a rejectionist, supremacist and intolerant strain that makes Pakistan a restive, angry and revivalist society that seeks to undo the future potentialities and possibilities.

Besides its neighbours, Pakistan is at war with itself — from the looming portents of Pashtunistan, insurgencies in Balochistan, religious implosions with the phenomenon of Talibanisation and the increasing ghettoisation and disenfranchisement of minorities. The concept of “minority” extends its contours beyond the religious denominations like Christians, Hindus and Parsis to even include Shias and their multiple offshoots like the Ahmediyas and Ismailis. The regression and hatred is so strong that it manifests in crippling sit-ins that can coerce the governments (latest one in Faizabad by a fringe group called Tehreek-e-Labaik), dilute the protection of the blasphemy laws and encourage active exclusivism of the various “non-complying” elements, for example, minorities, polio drive, education activists, women’s right activists, music, entertainment industry, etc. This self-institutionalised hatred has debarred Pakistan from acknowledging and celebrating its very own who have earned international plaudits for their domain excellence, amidst such trying situations and unhelpful societal trajectory. Amongst the prominent unsung domestic heroes are the two Pakistani Nobel laureates, physicist Dr Mohammad Abdus Salam and the precocious genius and education activist Malala Yousafzai. Both were virtually shunned and disowned by a large populace that was driven by puritanical thinking; even the tags of the “first Muslim to win Nobel for science” and the “youngest Nobel laureate” respectively, were considered insignificant achievements. Unlike neighbouring India that takes pride in hosting Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama as virtually one of its own along with Rabindranath Tagore, C.V. Raman, Mother Teresa, Amartya Sen and Kailash Satyarthi, Pakistan affords no such moral appropriation or sentimentality to either Har Gobind Khorana or Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (both US citizens) who were born on the Pakistani side of the pre-Independence, British India.

It took Malala six years before she could touch-feet in Pakistan, albeit, under complete secrecy of her short visit and with a posse of heavy military cover to defend her physical security. The popular perception on her is still divided, especially in her native district of Swat, where as recently as February 18, a deadly attack by the Pakistan Taliban (the same organisation that had attacked a 14-year-old Malala in 2012), claimed the lives of 11 soldiers in a suicide attack. Even mainstream politicians like Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman (president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam) had ridiculed the attack on Malala as a “drama” and had gone on to state that there were no signs of injury on Malala after her bandages were removed — this from a leader whose party was a coalition partner of the Benazir Bhutto, Yousaf Raza Gillani and the Nawaz Sharif governments. Some private schools even dishonoured Malala’s short trip by declaring Friday as “I am not Malala Day”, reflecting her polarising reality.

Similar fate awaited the other Nobel laureate Abdus Salam who had spoken in Urdu and quoted from the Quran during his acceptance speech: “Thou seest not, in the creation of the all-merciful any imperfection, return thy gaze, seest thou any fissure. Then return thy gaze, again and again. Thy gaze, comes back to thee dazzled, aweary.” This in effect is, the faith of all physicists. His mute official recognition and honours notwithstanding, Salam faced the ignominy of having the his epitaph on the tomb reading “First Muslim Nobel Laureate”, obscured by the Pakistani government who removed the word “Muslim”, to read just as “First Nobel Laureate” in an ode to the sectarian fault lines and societal regressions in the Pakistani narrative. The same incongruity befell Pakistani military heroes like Maj. Gen. Iftikhar Janjua, Lt. Gen. Abdul Ali Malik and Lt. Gen. Akhtar Hussain Malik, who like Salam were fellow Qadianis or Ahmediyas.

Institutionally, the Pakistani establishment is perpetuating intolerance — from the military deliberately kowtowing with militant terror groups, the judiciary condoning acts of minority-hatred, foundational educational system breeding supremacist instincts, to the civilian politicians collaborating with the revivalist organisations. The public spectre of the former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, who had to seek physical sanctuary in the official house of the then Pakistani Prime Minister because he felt, “If I leave my house, I fear I will be killed” was telling of the curse of getting branded as a “traitor”. Today, citing continued threats to his life, the intellectual critic who swears by the original ideas of Pakistan, has been disowned by his country and lives in exile. The systematic quashing of contrarian, progressive and independent thinking in preference for encouraging a false narrative of history and facts, has led to a nation state which impulsively and unfortunately disowns its finest, in exchange for the tactical promotion of retrograde ideas and individuals.

Tags: malala yousafzai, dalai lama, mother teresa