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Chasing a dream called Independence

Guest Post by Maham Ali: Initially shared on Facebook

On August 14th, the Pakistani nation celebrated Pakistan’s 61st birthday. Just like any other Independence day, green and white flags were fluttering everywhere, young children- mercifully oblivious to the worst ever crisis Pakistan is going through-were seen running and waving the flags of Pakistan, shouting slogans and singing national songs.

As I sat watching the news about this young Pakistani woman, Dr Afia Siddiqui, who is one of the many people sold to the Americans by our very own Government (refer to page 237 of Pervez Musharraf’s book, ‘In the Line of Fire’), I wondered what Independence means to an individual and a nation.

Independence! To me, this word means freedom: freedom of speech, freedom to think freely, a safe place, free from the tyranny of dictators and corrupt politicians. The Declaration of Independence means that such a nation could form and be prosperous.

However, even after sixty one years, inspite of the sacrifices made by our great leaders to create an independent nation, I am forced to ask these questions: Are we truly independent? Do our leaders have a vision for our country? Are we heading in the right direction? How can we call ourselves independent when one of the main pillers of democracy, the judiciary is not free and fair?

In my twenty years long life, the last eight have spent under the rule of a military dictator who came with the sham mission of putting democracy on the tracks. How ludicrous! I often wonder why a lot of people consider dictatorship a system parallel to democracy. It is high time that we accept that democracy is not an option, it is a necessity. My question is, if a dictator or military rule is a system in its own right, why do the dictators hide behind the façade of democracy? Why did our dictator president had to create his own political party and sully his hands in a dirty game called politics.

Dictatorship in my view is a palliative. Since all powers rest with one person, its easy to create an illusion of peace and order; whereas democracy is inherently noisy and disorderly.

Let me explain this with an example. Suppose there are two teachers. One teacher only believes in giving lectures to the class and doesn’t allow any student to speak his mind or ask questions. Naturally, there would be silence in her class. Whereas another teacher in the same school holds interactive sessions with her students and the students are allowed to give their opinions and can have healthy arguments with each other. This class would have a certain level of noise and excitement.

I leave it to the reader to decide which teacher is promoting creative thinking and tolerance.

I have been supporting as a young Pakistani, the Movement for an independent judiciary for the past one year very strongly. During this period, I was asked by a lot of people why I consider the Chief Justice my role model. Some of my friends tried to discourage me by saying that the very judges who’s restoration I’m demanding may be lacking integrity and don’t exactly have impeccable professional records. My sole reason to put my trust in these judges is that in a world where everyone has a price tag, they chose to stand up and be counted (unlike the group of our ex-servicemen who decided to speak the truth only after having filled their coffers). Besides, its better to have your dreams broken than have no dreams at all.

As Albert Schweitzer said, “Civilisation can only receive when there shall come into being in a number of individuals a new tone of mind, independent of the prevalent one among the crowd, and in opposition to it- a tone of mind which will gradually win influence over the collective one, and in the end determine its character”.


4 Comments

  • Nayyar Hashmey |

    Well done Maham!
    I think no one else could have expressed in such an explicit way the difference between democracy and the dictatorship.

    Unfortunately, we here in Pakistan get myopic so soon and so sudden. When there is democracy we start yearning for dictatorship and when its dictatorship, we start craving for democracy. The fact stays: there is no other alternative, absolutely no alternative, no replacement, no substitute for democracy. Agreed, democracy has lot of flaws, lot of handicaps but still, there is no other alternative. The remedy for all ailments that afflict democracy is not dictatorship but democracy and more of democracy.

    Your viewpoint on restoration of judiciary is perfectly correct. We are all human beings and no body is perfect amongst us. Our national dilemma is that while eulogizing our role models we just start chiseling idols (not ideals) out of them. And when our idols start wavering, we shout for change of government even though it is of a military general; and generals however brilliant, sharp, articulate they may be, they are just generals, groomed, tailored and patterned to fight wars on battle fronts and not to run the statecraft which is neither their arena nor do they have knack or ingenuity to sit on conference tables, negotiate, barter or strike deals in subtle manners which is the forte of a politician who does go through a certain milling process to achieve what he or she may want as a representative of certain number of people.

    Given that politicians do indulge in corruption but believe me the quantum and magnitude of corruption by civilian politicians is just a small chunk of what the dictators do it during their absolutely dictatorial regimes.

    We only need to compare ourselves with India. We inherited same mentality towards worldly affairs, same style of governance, same style of corruption, same type of bureaucracy, yet under democratic set ups (even through their democracy is subject to many questions, and many a people raise their eyebrows including the writer of these words) they are far better then us. I do not mean to say that we as a nation have failed, no, no, we have not failed. The toughness, the resilience, the sagacity shown by our people is no less exemplary than the Indians or any other nation in the world, but when it comes to the art of governance, we definitely have had poor showing and this has been primarily because one-man-shows we have had, whether it was Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-u-lHaq or the ex Generalissimo who day and night has been singing the song ‘Sab Se Pehle Pakistan’.

  • Maham Ali |

    Nayyar,thankyou so much for giving such a detailed analysis on my article.I Really appreciate it.This is my first article and i know i need to improve a lot.

    I totally agree with you especially on comparing ourselves with India.I got into an argument with my friend the other day who is a diehard supporter of Pervez Musharraf and whos weak argument was that theres corruption everywhere in the world then why do people only point their fingers at Pakistan.Agreed.There is corruption everywhere but noone compromises when it comes to national interest unlike in Pakistan where our government sells its own citizens in the name of the so called ‘War on Terror’.India has progressed so much in the last 10 years thats its amazing and we unfortunately are regressing with severe food crisis,energy crisis,inflation and god knows what.

    However,having said that, I have a lot of faith in the people of my country.The way each and everyone has come out on the streets to support the deposed judges,i know that the people wont give up until we are on the right track.

    We have a long struggle ahead of us.All we can do is pray and keep on fighting.

    Best Wishes,
    Maham

  • Zahra Arshad |

    ladies
    i have just one point to raise

    india at their independence denounced and almost eliminated thier feudals
    this one point and one point alone makes it impossible for us to draw any sort of comparisons between the two nations

    our nation is in shambles as long as the feudals control the masses,our politics, our industry,our agricultural produce(the whole country is shared by the elite and the army)
    u know what the army is our only source of balance

    and now more and more so we see our youth taking interest in politics-prepared for action
    hopefully one of us will turn this country’s future around
    coz i can only see an overhaul of our system and a political party that is made of the educated youngsters who have no alliances and nothing to lose and everything to gain as our way out of this vicious circle.

  • Zahra Arshad |

    i think under musharrafs regime we have seen the best of diplomacy
    never in our history have we actually practiced diplomacy-atleast not under our democratic phases(thats just us practicing kissing ass and perfecting the art)

    this statement of urs,Nayyar
    ‘generals however brilliant, sharp, articulate they may be, they are just generals, groomed, tailored and patterned to fight wars on battle fronts and not to run the statecraft which is neither their arena nor do they have knack or ingenuity to sit on conference tables, negotiate, barter or strike deals in subtle manners which is the forte of a politician who does go through a certain milling process to achieve what he or she may want as a representative of certain number of people.’

    is surely an over-simplification and an unfair one
    also you hold our politicians in too high a stature when you expect such grandeur from them

    I might be over-simplifying things as well but i stand for educated,mature and classy politics rather than our sell-out ,string-pulling , ‘bully-into-submission’ politics