By MV Kamath
Pakistan: Identity and Destiny, Javed Jabbar, Har-Anand Publications, Pp 196 (HB), Rs 495.00
Javed Jabbar is a remarkable personality. In the first place he is a scholar of distinction. He lectures at leading universities, research centres and Think Tanks in Pakistan as well as overseas. In the second place he has been in politics, though one hesitates to call him a politician, despite the fact that he has served as Minister in three Federal Cabinets of Pakistan, including tenures with Benazir Bhutto, Meraj Khalid and Gen. Musharraf and as a Senator for a 6-year term.
This book he has written was first published in Pakistan and, truth to say, it was primarily intended for fellow Pakistanis, with three clear aims: One, to make the people of Pakistan, specially the younger generations, more aware of certain aspects of their nation’s origins; two, to make the world at large more aware of these very same facts and three, to explore the possibility of there being a relationship between unique origings and the making of a unique destiny.
In his introduction to the book Jabbar clearly lays down his vision. Says he: “In 2011 and in the years ahead, all three states – Pakistan, Bangladesh and India – and other states in South Asia need to strengthen their commitment to building stable friendship and peace between themselves, within the region and in the world at large. Each nation and nation-state deserves respect and, in turn owes respect to all other nation and nation-states, as part of a larger shared humanity”. What a beautiful, heart-warming thought! Let it be straight – away, said: Jabbar is obviously not one of those who have a professional and ideological hatred towards India – and Hindus. In part he is critical of his own country’s politics and policies.
His total frankness is not only admirable, but deeply touching. It is not that he is self-condemnatory, as many Indian intellectuals are, for the fun of it. Even when he is critical of his country he takes pain to say that “the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the country respect all non-Muslim faiths”, which may raise some eyebrows in India and the world at large. Only recently six Hindus were killed in Karachi for no clear reason. So is Jabbar trying to pull a fast one on his readers? Jabbar does say that Pakistan suffers from a severely flawed public education sector at the primary, secondary and college level and that curriculum content, quality of text books etc call for examination.
Could he possibly have had in mind a statement made by an American think tank about the manner in which India and Hindus are rubbished in Pakistani text books? He admits that “during the 11-year tenure of General Zia-ul-Huq (1977-1988)” a crude attempt was made to misuse religion in order to provide a cover for sheer personal freed for power” and “the violent, divisive and obscurantist effects of that era continue to spawn destructive ferment in present-day Pakistan”. Will Pakistan ever change? Let this be said: Unquestionably the best part of the book is Chapter VIII dealing with Pakistan’s possible unique destiny in which Jabbar lays down what needs to be done by each Pakistani citizen to build “a rational, compassionate society, guided by knowledge and the values of humanism inherited through history” to move closer to the ideal Pakistan. To attain this, he says this “can only be taken if Pakistan resolutely remains a democratic nation-state, governed by a civil, elected political system”. Poor Jabbar. He is living in a dreamland.
Fancy the Pakistan Armed Forces willing to retire to their barracks and their leaders bending down to take orders from an elected government! Just because there were some rumours of late of a possible army take-over of the government, the army bosses reportedly summoned both the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan to give an explanation. Surprisingly, Jabbar has little or nothing to say about how to improve Indo-Pak relations. His book, for all we know, will remain a cry in the wilderness. But for all that it is heartening to know that there still exist – if only in the minutest numbers in Pakistan persons who are not tainted with hatred of India and cry, as Musharraf often does, that unless “the core issue” of Kashmir is settled no peace is possible between Pakistan and India. Sure, Jabbar is understandably a little critical of India on the Kashmir issue or how can he claim to be a Pakistani? Only, he does not seem to have a workable plan to improve Indo-Pak relations, which is a pity. In a rapidly changing world it should be able to put the Kashmir issue on the back-burner and get on with trade and commerce at a faster pace. There, may one aver, lies the way to peace and resolving all outstanding differences between the two countries. Think over it, friend!
(Har-Anand Publications, E-49/3, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase_II, New Delhi-110 020)