14th August

The streets of Karachi light up with jubilation as a people are bound together. Flags mark each street corner , road and car whilst banners uphold the 60th anniversary of the nation. It is that special day of the year where people from different segments of society and walks of life are united with the zeal of patriotism. And perhaps just for one special moment , we are one people , one nation with one leader.

The Celebrations of August 14th mean a great deal to me. It reminds me of Jinnahs ever ambitious plan to create a secular state. However the thing we all must realize is that we do have a long way to go before fulfilling this dream. The one reason why muslims were compelled to demand a separate state was because of religious intolerance. The 1930’s Congress rule was a testimony to the oppression felt by many muslims from their Hindu counterparts in the government; an oppression they would continue to experience unless there would be drastic change in the system of government. 60 years on , our “secular” Pakistan still suffers from this kind of intolerance. Pakistan remains to be one of the only nations in the world where an individuals religion is branded on a passport. It is also the only nation that requires you to denounce a religious sect to obtain a passport. We are a nation plagued by religious fundamentalists who press for radical demands. Religion is really Opium for the masses and serves as the best vote-catcher in elections. Pakistan has deviated a long way from the course initially set out by the Qaid in 1947. In many ways we still await to liberate ourselves from this hopeless episode of theocracy. We can never taste the true freedoms of independence until this happens.

Perhaps a more significant independence in this context is the liberation of the subcontinent from the British Raj. The origins of this liberation date back to the revolt of 1857 after which the British stronghold over India began to crumble. The subsequent Independence 90 years later went a long way to show that the people of the subcontinent are a strong and worthy people who deserve their own space in the world. As both India and Pakistan continue to weather the odds , their economies develop and progress – the people of the subcontinent continue to prove their worth to the world. India and Pakistan not only exist as two independent nations , but they are key players in today’s political scenario. We have come a long way from our past history of subservience to the Western world and the white man. The nations of the subcontinent with their giant strides in the spheres of economics , world affairs and science have marked their place on the globe. We only await to emulate the glorious state of our Mughal past.

Behind the grandeur of those fluttering green flags , there is an underlying tone of a much needed reconciliation. It is important to remember that both nations worked tirelessly to secure their mutual independence from the British. Both Gandhi and Jinnah put tremendous effort into obtaining liberation from the British Raj which had gripped the subcontinent for over a century. The people of both nations must identify with this common goal that was once shared between the two nations. We must look back and remember that their was indeed a united struggle. It is vital that India and Pakistan put behind the Kashmir issue and develop better relations. Too many lives have been wasted settling old scores. The Jammu Kashmir issue must be dismissed from any further diplomatic negotiations between the two nations. The people of the subcontinent are one independent people

With events such as the Lal Masjid fiasco casting a dark shadow in the background , Pakistans future hangs in the balance. A nation torn apart between liberals and fundamentalists , democrats and dictators can only be described as chaotic at best. As the celebrations fizzle out and excitement dies down a glowing nation degenerates into its former self. Corruption , greed and indifference begin to slowly grip the darkening roads of Karachi once again. The time for thinking ahead and patriotism slowly evaporates. Religion and ignorance envelope the country like two sinister clouds. A storm awaits.

Shahryar Kamal Malik

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