“Who’s Listening?”

By Humayun Gauhar

Now we know the meaning of the word ‘ceasefire’. Terrorists announce it, a talks-obsessed government stops military operations against them hoping for a resumption of stalled bootless talks and two days later terrorists strike the capital, killing and maiming innocents. We have to find a new meaning for the word ‘treason’ too since our current government regards imposing emergency to save the country from judges on a political rampage as ‘high treason’ but not negotiating with murdering, marauding terrorists who don’t accept the state and its constitution, not even ‘low treason’.

That the TTP disowned the attack is neither here nor there. Terrorists operate under many labels but are all networked nationally and internationally like a multi-headed hydra. The imperative upon us is to eliminate all terrorists in our land regardless of what name they go by.

“Who’s listening?” is the inevitable response I get after every article. The writer doesn’t care. It’s a question asked by the hopeless, by chatterers who leave it to others to take risks. The writer writes for himself to analyze and clear his mind and then shares it with others. Whether somebody listens or not is not his concern. He knows that someone, somewhere out there is listening to him. One woman can start a revolution. One man can change the world. Together they can make history. A critical mass can change the course of history. That is how things happen, often with small beginnings that grow into a tidal wave of change. Write and be damned as far as the writer is concerned and let the few who listen get the benefit.

This is not arrogance, not if the writer is convinced that he speaks the truth as he best sees it provided he remains flexible and absorbs other views knowing that no writing is cast in stone. If he isn’t prepared to adjust and modify, he will not progress. This is how life goes along in our quest for knowledge and this is how one progresses and grows. The writer’s conviction comes from his motto given him by Allama Iqbal – Mujhay Hai Hukm-e-Azaan, La Illaha Il Allah: “I have been Commanded to speak the Truth: There is no God but God”.

After my last article, some said that designing the new order should come before the status quo is upturned. Absolutely. That is exactly what I am trying to do, to encourage people to think and contribute towards crafting a new order, a new constitution and new, relevant and workable political, economic and legal systems that deliver to the people starting from the poorest, meets their needs and aspirations and improve the human condition. By writing articles the writer can only offer signposts using the talent that God has given him. Detail requires a book. But the catalyst, the people rising, has to come before the agent of change, a revolutionary army or an organized military before the old status quo can be overthrown, a new one forged and a new constitution based on our social contract of August 11, 1947 made.

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To craft a new order, a new constitution and new systems requires consensus on certain things first. I request you to think about them before I try and answer these questions. Begin by reflecting on Iqbal: “Sabaq phir parh sadaqat ka, adalat ka, shujaat ka. Liya jayay ga tujh say kaam dunya ke immamat ka” – “Learn again the lessons of Truth and truthfulness, of Balance and justice, of courage and bravery, for one day you will be required to lead the world.” I would add Trust and trustworthiness to as the fourth lesson.

1.    What precisely is our ideology? Are we to be a secular state in the sense that we take organized religion run by clerics with their myriad interpretations out of statecraft? Or are we to be a theocratic state at the mercy of mullahs? If we are, please ask: is this why we made Pakistan and then determine which interpretation of Islam, whose sharia, is going to prevail, God’s Sharia in the Quran only or man-made? Or is it going to be a mish-mash of all the sharias and all the interpretations of God’s Word, and do tell how we are going to remain clear, not confused, and how we will not wander off the Correct Path as we have? Or are we going to be an Islamic Welfare State as Mr. Jinnah envisaged? Every state that makes welfare central to its constitution and implements it is Islamic as far as I am concerned. Sadly, not one of today’s 57 Muslim majority states is.

2.    What is going to be our social contract? If you do not accept Mr. Jinnah’s speech of August 11, 1947, then what is it? If you opt again for the Objectives Resolution of March 1949, how are you going to make it relevant historically, for objectives are determined before achieving goals, not two years later. It has only compounded confusion by letting the mullah-genie out of the bottle in which Allama Iqbal and our great Sufis had put him.


3.    The kind of state you opt for – secular, theocratic, welfare or whatever – requires you to decide what exactly are the duties of such a state towards its citizens?

4.    Based on your decisions, what is Pakistan’s constitution going to be and what will be its legitimacy?

5.    What is Pakistan’s state structure going to be: federal, confederation or something else? Remember that the Lahore Resolution of March 1940 asked for Muslim majority states in the plural, not one single state. The name ‘Pakistan’ wasn’t even in it. Only when the day after the Hindu-owned press declared, “Jinnah demands his Pakistan” did it eventually come to be known as the Pakistan Resolution. ‘Pakistan’ is a name plagiarized from a small former Russian state called ‘Nogorno Pakistan’.

6.    Should we have more provinces? If we should, then should we make them along linguistic or administrative and revenue collection lines as the British did or along economic viability lines keeping strategic concerns in view? While thinking about it, keep in mind that the demented 18th Amendment and the National Finance Commission Award have turned Pakistan into a veritable confederation and handed money and power over to the unqualified and incapacitated. This is how Yugoslavia disintegrated, by devolving financial, revenue receipt and administrative authority to its province while the central government was bankrupted. Meantime, ethnic armies came up that did the deed. Pakistan has its own terrorist armies, financial and administrative devolution has taken place and the federal government is financially bankrupt, which leads to intellectual and moral bankruptcy as you are witnessing.

7.    Our current political system is one of the many root causes of our problems. Should it remain parliamentary along Westminster lines based on the British India Act of 1935, should it be presidential with separation of legislature-parliament and executive, or should it be a hybrid between parliamentary and presidential, like the French, or, for those who still hanker after it, should we go the whole hog and reestablish the Caliphate? If the last, how, and please spell it out in the minutest detail.

8.    Depending on your answers to these questions, what should Pakistan’s laws be and how are they to be implemented? Should we have parallel judiciaries as we do now? We should also determine the qualifications of judges and how they are to be selected and promoted. Judges alone cannot select, appoint and promote judges nor can they judge in their own cause, as is being done now.

I said that the Lahore Resolution of 1940 asked for many independent and sovereign states and the name ‘Pakistan wasn’t even mentioned’. I say this to make you wonder: are historical forces taking Pakistan towards the implementation of the Lahore Resolution? The time for niceties is over.

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Just to conceive all this is a tall order indeed, leave alone implement it. But anything worth doing is worth trying. I believe it is worth trying to save Pakistan. Don’t you?

When you finally come to selecting a group of wise men and women, people with a sense of history and an understanding of historical and social forces, be careful. For God’s sake don’t fall back on clapped out generals and civil bureaucrats, journalists with their own agendas, jobless judges, lawyers who flout the law and mere technicians. Allow me to hark back to an advertisement that appeared in DAWN on Thursday November 15, 2007 against the imposition of emergency to check unbalanced judges. Its headline read: “Give us back our country.” It was signed by clapped out judges, bureaucrats, generals, a few journalists, B-grade actors and suchlike. They quoted Dante, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in the time of crisis choose to maintain neutrality.” If these ignoramuses had known that Dante placed Muhammad the Messenger of God (pbuh) at the lowest level of hell in his ‘Inferno’ they wouldn’t have proudly quoted him. It is true: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I would like to ask these Wise Men of Gotham: “Is this the country you wanted back? Is this the democracy you hankered after? All because the ‘dictator’ didn’t give you jobs or wouldn’t reemploy you when you retired? Is this the judiciary that you think is independent? Why didn’t you hanker after this when you were working for inept, corrupt rulers? You played havoc with the country and now you have the temerity to pontificate? Key mairay qatal kay baad uss nay jaffa say taubah – “After murdering me he offered penitence”. My advice to you, my dear compatriots, is to steer clear of such technicians, file pushers, wordsmiths, gunslingers and jobseekers. They want jobs even as the grave beckons.

I will wait to be enlightened by you. Every opinion matters, every piece of advice helps, including telling me to stop writing and take a hike. Only then will I get down to trying to answer these questions. It will be a quest, not a destination. The only destination is God, the drop falling into the river and becoming the river.