M. A. Jinnah, re-born.

25th December 2016
by Javed Jabbar

Just as we sit inside a darkened cinema theatre to willingly suspend our dis-belief and become part of a two-hour dream, so too today , on the 140th birth anniversary of the Quaid-i-Azam let us use a thoroughly unreasonable premise to speculate on what M.A. Jinnah would do when faced with the harsh realities of Pakistan in 2016.

If he --- by a re-ordering of time , space and logic –– was re-born in 1986 and decides to enter the political realm in 2016 at the age of 30 , would he be able to ultimately rejuvenate and re-construct Pakistan ? Would his qualities of character , capability and courage be relevant and effective in the next 42 years ? Would the fundamental difference in adversaries then –– the colonial British , a hostile Congress –– and potentially now –– two dominant political parties widely perceived to be led by corrupt leaders, other power-monopolizing elites –– permit a new formidable challenger to displace them ?

Mixed, mixed-up Pakistan :

Fortunately, the one who puts such unreasonable questions is neither obliged nor able to answer them. But, with impunity , one is determined to venture briefly into the speculative dimension.

M.A. Jinnah is part of a mixed –– and mixed-up –– Pakistan in 2016. Where there are sources of pleasure and pride, there is also sharp pain. Founded on the basis of religious identity, there is now rampant religiosity. Yet, religious political parties have little electoral support. In response to the laudable adoption in November 2016 by the Sindh Assembly of an Act which rightly prohibits the forced religious conversion of any person aged below 18 years, all religious political parties threaten to besiege the Assembly –– in which they do not have a single seat. Religiosity has also bred murderous extremism , gravely damaging the nation internally, and totally distorting its image overseas .

The country is in the global middle-income category. While in human development, it is ranked among the " least developed " . In past decades, and in the present, the country demonstrates extra-ordinary technological capacity which often meets global standards. Over two decades ago, the Heavy Mechanical Complex, Taxila wins the international competition to fabricate the casing for the path-breaking , highly sophisticated Hadron Space Collider in Cern, Switzerland. The Pakistan Air Force is the only air force in the world with its own, in-house manufacturing capacity to produce a well-rated multi-role jet aircraft, the JF17, with Chinese collaboration. The aircraft is also being purchased by other friendly countries.

In response to India's needless introduction of nuclear weapons into South Asia, Pakistan quickly reciprocates with its own ability to produce deterrent equalizers .Sialkot remains a prime, globally-known production hub for items as varied as World Cup quality footballs to the largest volume of inimitable Scottish bagpipes. Yet, large-scale manufacturing in 2016 is in comparative decline.

While being the first Asian country to launch a population-planning programme in the 1960s, Pakistan in 2016 lags far behind all other major Muslim countries in fertility rates and in contraceptive-usage. Millions of children remain out of school while local private school networks of excellence flourish in several overseas countries. There is low growth in the official economy even as the sales of fast-moving consumer goods reaches 20 per cent to 30 percent increases per annum.

Perhaps in reflection of the view that, whereas the official GDP is only about $285 billion, the size of the actual economy, inclusive of the parallel part, is estimated to be at least three to four times larger. Perhaps also in reflection of the rapidly-expanding middle-classes, informally estimated to be at least 10 to 12 million families (comprising about 60 to 70 million people) in a total of about 28 million households.

An essential step in this respect is to have a full-time, full-fledged Minister for Foreign Affairs. The present Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz possesses vast experience in economics, finance, development and foreign affairs. He has previously served both as Foreign Minister and Finance Minister. He richly deserved to be the President of Pakistan. But, far from electing him as President , and purely to accommodate petty, party-related considerations of patronage, the PML(N) denied him a party ticket for election to the Senate --- so as to enable some other favourite to become a Member of the Upper House. Which meant that Mr. Sartaj Aziz would remain an appointed, not elected Advisor. He has the status, rank and privileges of a Federal Minister and a Cabinet Member and is thus entitled to represent the Government in both the Senate and the National Assembly. But the Prime Minister retains the portfolio of Foreign Affairs as the Minister-in-charge.

Several mis-performing State institutions which require enormous subsidies co-exist with islands of excellence such as the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, NADRA, IBA and others.

A grim view :

The outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali with great sadness observes on 15th December 2016 :

‘‘Not only foreign powers but our follies too are responsible for the deteriorating law and order and terrorism in the country. The people had not learnt any lesson from their past mistakes which resulted in the dismemberment of the country. Today anarchy, sectarianism, bigotry, hatred, nepotism, favouritism, maladministration and social injustice are rampant and have become the order of the day thus promoting despondency and helplessness among the people — a situation that may, God forbid, lead to a bigger tragedy.”

Ten challenges :

Drawing confidence from the country’s strengths, M.A. Jinnah is also convinced that the blights identified by the Chief Justice require to be urgently addressed. He identifies ten fundamental challenges. Political, ethical, educational, women's emancipation , health care, the civil-military imbalance , religious extremism, illicit arms and weapons, environmental degradation/climate change, and the regional, global geo-political context .

He is conscious that only a new holistic political approach can be effective. The two major political parties are well-entrenched electoral power-machines. But they are also dynastic . Despite their presence in all four Provinces, one has become Punjab-dependent, the other has become Sindh-centric. The third new challenger has admirably developed as a possible alternative. But, in turn, is erratic and unpredictable while being a potential future ally. M.A. Jinnah is unable to join any of these three options. Reluctantly he decides that only a new, fourth option will meet the people’s needs.

A new political party :

Over the next two decades, by dint of his rock-solid integrity, his universalist human values, his abhorrence of rhetoric that stokes ethnicity, sectarianism, parochialism and exclusion, his singularist, all-inclusive vision, his refusal to make and break alliances for short-term electoral gains, his willingness to face transient reduction in popular support, his decision to establish a Pakistan National League as an all-embracing, unifying platform proves to be correct . His traits and actions steadily generate enormous credibility and respect, from Gwadar to Gawalmandi, from Kharadar to Qissa Khwani, from Chakwal to Chakiwara. He is able to engage diverse communities and identities because his actions embody values idealized by all, yet virtually wholly missing in the other political options.

An ethical reform movement :

Simultaneous to the inception and expansion of a new political party, M.A. Jinnah believes it is equally vital to build a social reform movement. This movement for ethical renewal must be owned by every citizen .Every organization has to take responsibility. So extensive is the decline in ethical standards that even the Pakistani people’s generous, unrivalled giving of charity cannot compensate for the plunge . The fact that almost all countries around the world also suffer from varying degrees of corruption does not detract from the need to address it in Pakistan on an intensive , full-scale basis.

M.A. Jinnah’s unshakable integrity become the sustaining , and eventually decisive force for ethical transformation. He surrenders all his assets and income to a public trust over which neither he nor any of his relations or friends have control. All senior PNL office-bearers take identical steps. As long as they are in politics , they cannot own or acquire any financial assets whatsoever .

Primary sources of support come from the newly-activated silent majority, the many millions of people comprising those who had either never voted, or those who had lost hope in the political process. But who were now irresistibly drawn to a credible magnet . There are also cross-overs from other parties but none with questionable backgrounds. PNL is entirely funded by people’s donations with accounts reported on the internet.

Single, integrated education system :

Numerous priorities in development await pursuit. M.A. Jinnah believes education at all levels must receive the highest attention. Both during his political struggle and soonest after achieving elected office, he advocates and then ends the apartheid of young Pakistanis being schooled in isolated silos i.e. Government Matric schools , private Cambridge system schools , madrassas , and in multiple languages . Formulated after wide consultation inside and outside the country, the new unified school system integrates all children into a singular educative experience even while recognizing the importance of multiple mother tongues across provinces and regions .This basic change stimulated reform at the college and university levels as also spurring a know-how higher education system to empower a knowledge-driven economy .

Civil-military relations :

M.A. Jinnah recognizes the indispensable role of the military in the 21st century to protect territorial frontiers, combat internal threats, support State stability. At the same time he firmly believes the military must serve as a disciplined institution subject to civil, political authority and direction. While being aware that the political sector often fails to develop the conceptual, strategic capacity to adequately prepare for the subtle as also the visible challenges on the geo-strategic, geo-political levels, he believes the military should contribute its valued, specialized inputs as a contributory element but not the decisive one. In turn, the new maturation and restraint exercised by the military leadership onward of 2008 are strengthened by the unrivalled honesty and impeccable financial transparency of Mr. Jinnah. The few notable exceptions are also respected by the military but Mr. Jinnah alone combines in his personality qualities that set him in a class of his own. Some elements of the military leadership chafe at being subject to civil, political authority. But the principle of civil supremacy is accepted. The 21st century is also a time when Pakistan's own intelligence agencies operate without Parliamentary oversight. As part of his unyielding assertion of civil, political authority, Mr. Jinnah defines the parameters within which a country's own intelligence agencies should operate while directing an effective strategy to counter and significantly reduce the setbacks instigated by foreign agencies.

Foreign relations :

In foreign relations, be it India or USA he asserts a new self-reliant dignity and determination. He is neither awed nor intimidated by any country. Carefully calibrating policy, he ends the subversion of national interests committed in the past by militants, in and outside the country. Limitations of space do not enable further elaboration at this time.

An inner fatigue :

After about 30 years of tireless work he develops an inner fatigue compounded by the loneliness that also affects many exceptional leaders. Coping with invidious internal and external threats, he is sometimes seized by despair , a condition of self-doubt he never shares with another person. He summons up new energy. He delegates work to colleagues and conducts study tours of overseas countries to learn from their experiences. But he is soon overwhelmed by demands for his return. By the time that Pakistan celebrates the centenary of its Independence on 14th August 2047, he is able to demonstrate visible, measureable re-direction for the country.

Yet adversaries at home and overseas persist with their attempts to undermine his progressive vision by pandering to xenophobia and paranoia among those who are still dispossessed, or are conditioned by morose news media to focus only on grievances. However, he is confident that the momentum may slow down but the progressive direction cannot be changed. He has nurtured and encouraged a second and third line of leadership, collective, committed and clear-headed about sustaining his mission.

While retaining his core democratic practices over four decades, M.A. Jinnah also believes elected institutions require continuous improvement. He is sometimes tempted to be authoritarian if only to quell poisonous partisanship. Local Governments become the lynch-pins of his radical changes. But does his re-birth and success indicate that only a brook-no-nonsense messiah can replace our flaws with strengths ? Further reflection is required.

He passes away peacefully in 2058. Pakistan enters a new era marked by both stability and new uncertainties.