By S. M. Hali
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder instilled his message of Unity, faith and discipline through personal example. When he arrived at Karachi’s Mauripur (now Masroor) airfield to take up his mantle as the Governor General of independent Pakistan in August 1947, people from all walks of life thronged to catch a glimpse of their “Messiah of the promised land”. As the Quaid alighted from the aircraft, overwhelmed by adoration, chanting Pakistan Zindabad, Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad, the people broke the cordons put up by the police and rushed towards the aircraft bearing him. The Quaid stopped on the last step of the aircraft’s gangway and with a wave of his hand, beckoned the crowd, to go back behind the barriers. They retreated instantly as if they had been pushed by a magic wand. The first lesson of discipline had been driven home. With his indomitable will, the Quaid had moulded the inchoate mass of downtrodden Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent into a nation and carved Pakistan; his teachings should have served us to surmount all trials and tribulations.
Unfortunately, subsequent leaders, both politicians and military dictators, have paid lip service to the Quaid’s slogan of “Unity, Faith and Discipline”, but failed to put pedal to the metal. “Unity” has been sacrificed at the altar of bigotry; “Faith” has been shattered through sectarian, ethnic and religious intolerance. Challenging the writ of the government, expressing complete disregard to law and order by creating chaos, disorder, plundering public and private property during protest rallies and even in seemingly peaceful political gatherings not only demonstrates lack of “Discipline” but has brought disrepute to Pakistan. People retaliate emotionally to any provocation, forgetting the basic lessons of Islam preaching tolerance and the Quaid’s call for discipline; rush to wreak havoc, venting their anger upon diplomatic missions, international organizations in particular and public property in general.
With such a bleak and grim reputation, the “Long March” organized by the Politico-Cleric Allama Tahir ul Qadri (TUQ) was a pleasant surprise. Whatever his real agenda, since analysts opine that there is more than what meets the eye, the extremely well-organized, orderly and peaceful manner in which it was conducted, and dispersed after five days of being entrenched in the Nation’s Capital, opposite the highly sensitive Parliament Building, is something of a marvel. Quaid’s slogans of unity, faith and discipline were practiced and preached in full public and media glare. Perhaps for the first time since the demise of the Quaid, such a peaceful political rally was witnessed. This was not a motley rent-a-crowd but educated, cultured, motivated and thousands, whose faith in its leadership, unity amongst its ranks despite harsh weather, rumours of ruthless action to disperse them and strict discipline in adhering to the injunctions of its leader is something other political parties need to emulate.
Amidst the trying circumstances, the military’s patience and fortitude merits mention. Thirty-two of the sixty-six years of Pakistan’s brief history has been intersperse by military rule. With such a chequered track record, where each military regime leaves behind a legacy of destruction—the scars of which are carried by the 180 million Pakistanis to this day—is certainly notable. Sometimes, the Army has usurped power at the invitation of politicians, while at others; it has succumbed to the temptation of filling political vacuum. Conversely, the political tug of war between the politicians had much to do with what Pakistan is facing today. With this track record, Army’s conduct during the last five years can be regarded as positive and constructive by ensuring that the current government completed its constitutional terms, despite the issues of governance and pressure from various sections of the society, beckoning its intervention. The current Army Chief did use his “clout” to urge the government to restore judicial freedom and the Chief Justice (unceremoniously booted out by General Musharraf), to avert the danger of a clash when opposition political parties were converging towards Islamabad. During TUQ’s long march, instead of acting as spoilers, the Army maintained strict neutrality, to enable the aspirations of the people to be fulfilled. Whether the politicians hijacked the public aspirations again, is another matter.
With prescience, the Quaid bequeath his visionary message: …“We must sink individualism and petty jealousies and make up our minds to serve the people with honesty and faithfulness. We are passing through a period of fear, danger and menace. We must have faith, unity and discipline.” The tribulations still persist, if only our politicians pay heed to the Quaid’s teaching.