Aakar Patel

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Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist. He is a former newspaper editor, having worked with the Bhaskar Group and Mid Day Multimedia Ltd.

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Why Imran Khan will fail

Jan 15, 2012

In his short but magnificent speech of 11 August 1947, Muhammad Ali Jinnah begins by instructing his government to settle the chaos of Partition. He ends by revealing his beautiful, humane side, telling us he sees people without noticing their religion.

In the middle, he lists Pakistan's problems. According to him there are three: corruption, black marketing and nepotism (Jinnah uses the quaint term 'jobbery’).

Was he correct in assuming these were Pakistan's problems?

Pakistani cricket hero turned politician Imran Khan attends a ceremony to launch the Urdu translation of his book "Pakistan: A Personal History" in Islamabad on January 8, 2012. AFP

This question is important because Imran Khan also believes that Pakistan's problems are the same. Corruption is his primary theme, and he ended his giant Karachi rally by promising his supporters never to succumb to chamchagiri. If he were asked to name a third problem, he would likely say loss of Pakistan's sovereignty. As a Pathan, he feels loss of honour in fighting America's war, and in asking for aid.

To return to Jinnah's list, were these Pakistan's real problems? No. Pakistan's breaking-up, 25 years after being formed was not because of corruption. The decades of military rule and the rise of the jihadis are not because of nepotism. Pakistan's economic condition is not the doing of blackmarketeers.

What are the problems then? To the outsider, it appears there is only one. The orientation of the Pakistani state is wrong. And it isn't aligned correctly because of its ideology, whose prenatal trait is more pronounced each passing decade. This flaw produced the state's resolve to defy India at all costs and the subsequent dominance of the army, which has led to the emasculation of its political parties and made politics irrelevant. The successful penetration of this ideology has resulted in the population's rejection of its own ancient culture.

Indians are as corrupt as Pakistanis, as nepotistic and as poor. Most Indians don't like their politicians. However they don't have a crisis of the state, and no need for a saviour like Imran. Why? Simple. India's secular constitution is accepted by all its parties, right, centre and left. Even the BJP insists on secularism.

India has one of the world’s most bigoted societies, true. But it has outstanding laws and a constitution as good as if not better than any in Europe. The state is aligned correctly, the orientation is right. In such conditions progress is possible, and despair is held at bay.

The equality of human beings is not something we should waste time debating in 2012. Pakistan's constitution is in violation of the universal declaration of human rights. Specifically, the second amendment (which apostatizes Ahmadis and bans them from practicing Islam), article 41-2 (which insists only Muslims can be president) and article 91-3 (under which only Muslims can be prime minister). Article 227 permanently keeps Pakistan unstable because its power to strike down anything interpreted as un-Islamic is open-ended.

As an example we have before us the Supreme Court's opinion a few days ago that prime minister Gilani is not good enough Muslim to hold office.

These are not matters that other nations concern themselves with. Absolute purity of their faith is something exclusively concerning Pakistanis.

Imran defines a welfare state as one that gives free medical treatment, free education, free justice and unemployment benefits, as in Europe. And one that gives cheap electricity, subsidized fertilizer and free seeds to farmers, as in India.

Imran says if all Britons and Scandinavians repeated the Kalima ("La ilaha il Allah..."), they would instantly become better Muslims than Pakistanis.

He doesn't seem to understand that Europe's progress is the result of its secularism. The individual's religion is irrelevant. This equality is the basis of their welfare state.

Change cannot come to Pakistan without a change in its founding ideology, reorienting its state, its army and its culture.
This is Pakistan’s only real problem. Its settling down can come only from a change in ideology, not a change of governments.

Building an "Islamic welfare state" even by well-meaning saviours, is likely to cause more mischief.

In that sense, Zardari is a better leader than Imran because he understands the problem. He wants to normalise the state, soften its ideology.

Unfortunately, Pakistan's army and media vetoed his no-first use and open trade policies with India. Now its courts are working on getting him out.

It’s possible that Imran Khan will take power in Pakistan. At his Karachi rally, held at Jinnah's tomb, he promised to finish Jinnah's work.

So long as he tilts at the old windmills of corruption and nepotism, not understanding that the problem really lies elsewhere, his messianic fervour will come to nothing.

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