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Pakistan must focus on internal front
By Muqtedar Khan

Fifty-four years ago, Pakistan the first premeditated Islamic state, was born with great hopes and promises; riding on the aspirations, sacrifices and the dedication of millions of Muslims from the Indian subcontinent. The idea behind Pakistan was not only to provide a homeland for Muslims free from the cultural and political domination of Hindus, but also to create an ideological agent that would advance the global interests of Islam and safeguard the lives and faith of Muslims in the region. Pakistan was designed to not only provide a safe haven for Muslims who became a part of Pakistan but also provide security to those unfortunate enough to stay back for various reasons. For the pragmatists behind the quest for a Muslim nation, Pakistan was supposed to be a haven of freedom and opportunity for prosperity. And for the idealists behind this noble idea, Pakistan was envisaged as that city on the hill that would be a beacon not only to the entire Ummah but also to all of humanity; spreading the message of Islam by example.

Today, Pakistan is so far from its intended purpose that, even to the most diehard idealist. It has failed in each and every objective that was advanced by its founding fathers as a raison d'etre for Pakistan. Twenty-five years after its formation, Pakistanis demonstrated that ethnicity was more important than Islamic solidarity and so the country was split into two nations, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The split was bloody and the process violated every relevant principle of Islam. While some may blame India, the Indians merely exploited an opening offered by the superficial commitment to Islam by the peoples of the two nations.

It is important for a nation and its people to have a purpose, even better, a divine and moral purpose.

Pakistan is still far from achieving any of its foundational objectives. Its economy is on a steep decline, its democracy is in retreat, its literacy levels still languish in the 20% range, and corruption is at its peak. Religious and sectarian fanaticism is at its zenith, political, religious and ethnic violence is the order of the day and men in uniform rule. Nobody, absolutely nobody considers Pakistan as a model nation worthy of emulation for its moral and material progress. Forget the rest of the world, even in the Muslim world, Pakistan is not considered as worthy of leadership. In its present condition, it can do nothing for Islam or Muslims, and the thousands of Muslims who suffered the loss of loved ones in the battle for this nation must be wondering if their sacrifices were in vain.

But, it is never too late. Pakistan still exists, its security threats are more internal than external and its economic and social challenges are not insurmountable. The nation can still step hard on the brakes and take a u-turn before there is complete collapse of order and Pakistan becomes a failed state like Somalia. But in order that good things may happen, it is time that Pakistani leaders, its political and religious elite and people who shape public opinion at national as well as local levels take stock and make a sincere attempt to return to the fundamental objective of nation building.

A state, at the minimum, must work for the welfare, security, and economic and moral well being of its citizens. Ideological goals and/or geopolitical ambitions cannot and must not be pursued at the cost of internal order and economic and political stability. For too long Pakistan has sacrificed its internal well-being in pursuit of external objectives. Its involvement in Kashmir, Afghanistan and its continued conflict with India have served no other purpose but to bleed Pakistan internally. A nation that suffers so much internal strife must give up quixotic pursuits of expansionism. Pakistanis must realize that Pakistan and its internal order come first.

Once the basics have been achieved and stabilized, then it can seek to pursue an ideological foreign agenda. Even when it comes to this, I wish Pakistan would seek to establish its Islamic credentials not by engendering armed conflicts but by creating an internal society that would make the world wishing to emulate it. Moral leadership is the Islamic way and it comes from enlightened living not through the barrel of a Kalashnikov.

The priorities for Pakistan are clear: return to democracy as soon as possible; disarm the civilian population; identify and prosecute those who pursue self-interest through sectarian conflict; concentrate on education and social development; strengthen the economy; and begin a serious but peaceful internal dialogue to understand and articulate Pakistan's Islamic mission.

It is important for a nation and its people to have a purpose, even better, a divine and moral purpose. But before one considers this, there must be peace and prosperity. Morality and ideology have no meaning when the stomach is empty and the heart is full of fear, anger or hate. As Pakistanis everywhere take a break from whatever they are currently pursuing/planning; liberation of Kashmir, the destruction of a Sunni/Shia mosque, or are just waiting for their immigration to the US, UK or Australia, they must reflect on this anniversary of their independence. Each should consider what they can do, in their own way, to help their nation make a u-turn and fulfill its promise.

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is the Director of International Studies at Adrian College in Michigan. He is on the boards of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists and the Center for the Study of, Islam and Democracy. q

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