“What we must look for is, first, religious and moral principles; secondly gentlemanly conduct; thirdly intellectual ability.” – Thomas Arnold.

By General Mirza Aslam Beg

The national resilience of the Pakistani people is to be judged by the degree of their consciousness and commitment to guard their values, traditions and honour, called the National Purpose, or the raison-d’etre, as the French call it. National Purpose, is sacrosanct and sublime. Quaid-e-Azam first of all preferred to affirm his own faith, belief and commitment to the cause of Pakistan. On October 22, 1939, while addressing All India Muslim Council, he said:

“I have seen enough in my life, experienced the pleasures of wealth, fame and life of repose and comfort. Now I have one single ambition, to see Muslims gaining freedom and rise to the pinnacle of glory. It is my very ultimate wish that when I die, my conscience and my Allah may testify that, Jinnah never betrayed Islam and that he relentlessly struggled for the freedom of Muslims, to forge institutional discipline among them and strengthen their resolve. I do not wish to get acclamation or reward from you. I only nourish the desire that, my heart, my faith and my conscience, all bear testimony till my death that Jinnah, ‘You contributed your share for the resistance against Islam and my Allah proclaim that “Jinnah you were a born Muslim, lived as such and died, quite steadfastly, holding the banner of Islam against the evil forces.”  

After Pakistan was created, Quaid-e-Azam provided the guidance and defined the parameters of our National Purpose, on following occasions:

  • First Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, August 1947. You may belong to any religion or cast or creed – that has nothing to do with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state …. Now keep this as your ideal and you will find that in course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because, that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense, of the citizens of the state of Pakistan.
  • February 1948 at Malir Cantt. You have to safeguard our ‘Islamic Democracy’, based on social justice and for the furtherance of the principles of Islamic equality and brotherhood; social equality and unity are the cardinal principles of our ‘Deen’ and our civilizational and cultural values.
  • 23 March 1948, at Chittagong. I can say with conviction that our system of governance shall be based on the foundation of basic principles of Islam, which shall be democratic. These principles are applicable in our lives now as these were thirteen hundred years ago.
  • 14 February 1948  at Sibbi Darbar. Adherence to the golden principles of life is the only source of our viability and strength, which has been enunciated as laws, by our prophet Hazrat Mohammad Mustafa (Peace be upon him).
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His guidance was explicit, and directional, embodying the vision of Pakistan, yet the nation took almost a quarter of a century to frame a Constitution, that identified our true vision of life, based on a democratic system of governance. The Constitution defined the National Purpose: “To strive for a democratic order based on the principles of Quran and Sunnah.” Thus its, main ingredients were: “Democracy” and “Islamic Ideology”, as the fountain-head, but unfortunately, we failed to serve the cause of both, democracy and the Islamic Ideology. and, till today no system has really emerged which could reflect our hopes and aspirations. The recurrent intrusions by the Army and short interlude of weak civil administrations, have led to a feeling of antipathy towards democracy.

The present democratic system, however, is fortunate that those, who trampled democracy in the past, are now reconciled to taking a back-seat. For instance USA is now in no position to install a government of it choice, as the military leadership is not prepared to play their game. The opposition, which in the past always relished a change, is now committed to the continuance of the democratic order, under the Charter of Democracy. Our higher judiciary has attained its legitimate position and has discarded the notion of “Law of Necessity”. Thus, never before, a government has had such a favourable opportunity to deliver a clean governance based on justice. But it is indeed unfortunate, that corruption, incompetence and lawlessness have weakened the very roots of societal order. If this malaise is not removed, people’s faith in democracy would erode and they would be justified in demanding a different system of governance.

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‘Islamic faith’ is an integral element of our Vision of Life, but we paid no heed to it. Allegiance to faith can be built through moral principles, knowledge and action, but the tragedy is that, over 70% population of Pakistan is devoid of the knowledge of the ‘Deen’. This is so on account of the fact that 42% population is illiterate and of the remaining, only 30% possess both, the knowledge of the ‘Deen’, as well as the ‘worldly affairs’, and truly represent the Pakistani sensibility. These statistics were based on the survey conducted during 1990 by the Army, of the officers and men inducted in the Army, whose knowledge of Islamic faith was similar to what was in the general national context. It is but natural that the majority, the 70% will rightly be demanding a ‘secular’ system of governance.

In fact, we ourselves are responsible for this state of affairs. We don’t impart knowledge of Deen to our children. Our schools are also reluctant to impart religious education. And the 5-6%, who get the requisite religious education, in the ‘madrassas’ are kept out of the main-stream, suffering from a sense of deprivation and frustration, and on very trivial issues they raise big agitation, to gain a sense of ‘identity.’ The situation, therefore is greatly obscuring the real issues of Pakistan.

People with belief and commitment to their National Purpose, know how to protect the ‘values’ and ‘traditions’ that lend resilience to the nation. The living example is that of Afghans, who during the last thirty years have made great sacrifices protecting their way of life. In 2001, when USA had occupied Afghanistan, we sent the message to Mullah Umer that, “should they engage in another war of liberation, it could entail much of bloodshed and destruction. It was therefore expedient that they follow the American Plan and their promise for democracy for Afghanistan.” Few months later, we received a firm reply:

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“We have resolved to fight back the occupation forces till they are routed. When we gain freedom, we would take decisions under a free environment. It is unthinkable for the Afghan nation to follow the American plans, as it was not in harmony with their religious values and traditions. We shall engage in war and Insha Allah we will triumph over the enemy and we will win our freedom.”

For the last thirty years, the Afghans have waged a grim struggle for freedom, reaching a point of victory, as ordained by Allah:

“You shall prevail, No doubt, you have suffered, but so have they” (Al-Imran, 138-139). Very soon the invaders will be forced to run away, turning their back on you (Al-Qamar, 45)

General Mirza Aslam Beg is former Chief Of Army Staff, Pakistan. After his retirement, he formed FRIENDS, a ThinkTank based in Rawalpindi. Since then he has been writing for several news papers and magazines. His articles have also appeared in International papers of repute.

Now he is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.

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