Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Jinnah was not a Jihadi writes Mohsin Hafeez

'From a vantage point'
Mohsin Hafeez

The mundane activities of the day- and night- in this vast land of increasingly diminished means and seemingly infinite ends have been the only encumbrance in vocalizing what has been, and is still being, internalized for a long time. Otherwise, there is a lot to say. After all, this is the post 9/11 era, not only in America but also across the globe, and what affects the sole superpower has its ripples floating way beyond one's imagination. And we have seen this. This world is a 'global village,' as opposed to being somebody's 'oyster,' as we are beginning to see; it is not even the greatest superpower's oyster, as we shall shortly and rightly see. It is a complex web of redundant resources, yet insatiable desires, on the one hand, and stark nothingness on the other. Such are the vagaries of nature. It surely does take us all back to the basic necessity of international trade, as propounded by David Ricardo, the 19th century neo-classical economist, in his Theory of Comparative Advantage. What has really jolted me out of the inertia and stirred me to put pen to paper this evening is a series of readings in this newspaper and others where there are no bones made in casting aspersions on some of the more objective writers. Such balanced contributors have the ability to see the forest for the trees and articulate a viewpoint that, to the most part, is free from any undue influence. Much to our dismay, the criticism of such visionary writers comes from some of us representing a cross-section of the population that believes their country is infallible. While this sense of patriotism is appreciated, however misplaced it may be, let us not forget to underscore the significance of introspection. It's all very well and convenient to paint with too broad a brush the lack of fair-play displayed by the ‘wannabes' of this increasingly crafty world, just as it affords us a comfort level to condone all of our own actions and polemics. Such a cross-section tends to live in a tunnel, insulated from the geo-politics of today. For them, life is in black and white, as opposed to being open to wider interpretations. This leads them to follow a more simplistic model, as opposed to a path of incisive analyses and consequent inferences! Being still in Pakistan at the time of the nuclear detonation in May, 1998, let me, at the risk of sounding unpatriotic and an infidel to the 'simplistic' some, assert my disappointment at the decision to actuallydemonstrate the nuclear 'capability.' While the possession of nukes involuntarily may serve as a deterrent, it does not necessarily follow that it be flaunted so ceremoniously. A little situational analysis at the time, done with an inclination toward objectivity and dispassionate thinking, should have yielded a different set of recommendations. This, indeed, was an opportunity to win world acclaim, in addition to being able to leverage our balance sheet. Alas, it was an opportunity lost to the perpetuation of what our country has been plagued with over a period of decades: 'ad hocism and lack of vision.' Religion has wrongly been brought in to the affairs of the state. Fundamentalism has crept in and become inextricably interwoven in each and every fabric of our society. The need for public display of religiosity has mushroomed at a galloping pace. The choice of consumption, or otherwise, of the edibles- specifically discernible when one lives abroad- has overtaken the need to restrain the conspicuous gluttony of what blatantly, almost crudely, represents social evil. A cause of this malaise has been what is known in economics as the 'demonstration-effect,’ or simply ‘keeping up with the Joneses!’ 'Rituals' have surpassed 'spirit' by far. Paranoia reigns supreme in our psyche when this ‘global village’ calls upon us to integrate with the rest of the world. We choose to isolate, instead, under the garb of maintaining our identity. Little do we realize that the line between integration and retention of one’s identity is quite well demarcated. All it takes is being a little forward thinking. One’s faith need not be in any sort of jeopardy. Indubitably, a good part of the reason for our current inadequacies stems from this particular tendency. Now, it is not difficult to see that the retrogessiveness of the above kind is prevalent all over the Muslim community. What has it resulted in? Well, with the Muslims accounting for about 20% of the global population, is it any surprise then that they are instrumental in only about 4% of international trade? To add insult to injury, of the preceding 4%, Malaysia’s contribution is about 3/4th! Unfortunately, Pakistan’s effort to figure on the map has been undermined by vested interests of the kind described above. While we are long on being conspicuously demonstrative of patriotism, with all the public statements galore, we are painfully short on promoting the spirit of that emotion. To bring the point a little closer to home, the Pakistanis are inexcusably underrepresented in some of the more prominent professions in the US. These professions help define public policy and influence public opinion. We have doctors and engineers in abundance; however, there is a serious dearth of attorneys, journalists, business and media professionals. The result: “lack of effective Pakistani lobby in the power corridors of the Congress.” The Israel lobby is by far the strongest in the country. Let’s face it. It has not happened per chance. It has happened by design. There is hardly any meaningful area in the nomenclature of the US that has no effective representation and contribution of the Jews. The fields of banking/finance, science and technology, medicine, law, media, and entertainment are but a few examples along the line. The diversity thus makes for an easier seeping in of the Jewish viewpoint among the masses of the population and the consequent entrenchment of their value system. It is not difficult to see this viz a viz the Palestine/Israel issue at hand. By some reliable information, India is a relatively close second to Israel with respect to her support lobby in the US. Again, nothing happens by accident, especially success, and this is no exception. To their credit, the Indians have been slowly and surely making their mark in just about every field in the country. Technology is on the forefront. Knowing the growing relevance of this science, they went to work on developing this resource years ago by opening some excellent training centers and producing the human potential that has today become the envy of most of us. Playing to diversity, they have also ventured out into media, entertainment, education, banking/finance and business. This has helped them sell their beliefs in the congressional sphere, hence their strong lobby. Let there be no doubt that had our founding father stayed alive a little longer, our country would have been set a direction. Let it also be reiterated here that Quaid-e-Azam M A Jinnah himself believed in secularism. He believed in Pakistan being a modern, liberal state. Mr. Jinnah worked diligently to carve out a piece of land for us out of the geography of India. This, by all means, was an achievement of immense proportions, especially since he was thus instrumental in changing the physical contours of the planet. The rationale was to create a 'homeland for the minority Muslims' of the then India, not necessarily an 'Islamic nation.' A ‘separate country for the Muslims’ in which they can exercise their rights as emancipated nationals and an ‘Islamic nation’ are two distinct and mutually exclusive concepts. Sadly, we are missing the point. Furthermore, he gave us three principles to build our nation on: ‘unity,’ ‘faith,’ and ‘discipline.’ Unfortunately, just like everything else about this great leader, he has been interpreted out of context here as well. When he mentioned 'faith,' he referred to faith in ourselves as a nation, and faith in our destiny, not necessarily faith in a religious sense. Of course, this has been distorted to hide the real meaning. And, just so there is no room for doubt about his preference for the style of government, let me quote him from his speech to the Constituent Assembly members: "You are free; you are free to go to your temples; you are free to go your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed...that has nothing to do with thebusiness of the State." Perception building plays a huge role in contemporary politics...more so because we have the tools to propagate an intended message: the media. Some of the channels in the US have taken this exercise to another level altogether. We have seen this in recent history. The SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) of the Foxes (Fox News) of the world are but an almost unsightly example of how sterile minds are rendered even more useless, and how marketing plays into everything these days, not just corporate business. Unfortunately, we, as a nation, have failed miserably in our own projection in the world, thus marketability. Some of it does have to do with deeds, or lack thereof, but most of it is attributed to the inadequacy of words, or the words that the world wants to hear from us: the right rhetoric! After all, marketing is a warfare wherein battles are won with ideas, words, and actions. Ostracism may well be in store for me in light of the views expressed, especially since I do live abroad and possibly deemed to have no prerogative over my homeland; however, by way of clarification, I chose to return to Pakistan after having attended university in the US and served the country for a good twelve years or so prior to emigrating to America in 1998. Even now, if and when the opportunity presents itself, I do not lag behind in speaking up for my country, be it a casual affair or an arranged talk by a sponsor. That said, I try not being tainted in my views, as all it does is literally kill credibility. The fact that such tone has been clearly demonstrated here should bear testimony to the high level of commitment in this regard. As a Parthian shaft, let me quote Mr. Jinnah again: "The story of Pakistan, its struggle and its achievement, is the very story of great human ideals struggling to survive in the face of odds and difficulties..." 'Jihad,' do we hear him say?? After all, as opposed to kamikaze missions and public execution of hatred (especially, among ourselves), isn't this what the term really stands for? Or ought to??

(This piece was first published in Dawn. The author of this piece is a banker in the San Francisco Bay Area, USA. In addition, he is an adjunct professor of marketing at his alma mater, Golden Gate University, San Francisco, and serves on its Alumni Board of Directors)

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