Press Ctrl-Alt-Del to transform from the Zia generation to the Jinnah generation – by Gulmina Bilal Ahmad


The Zia generation can best be described as the confused generation. They have seen public flogging, but were told that it is best to forgive. They have experienced newspapers being censored but were told that it is best to speak the truth. They have experienced and are still experiencing militancy in the guise of Islam, but are told that Islam is a peaceful religion

History is ruthless. It cannot be undone or, in the language of Microsoft Windows, you cannot ‘undo typing’. If it could be ‘undone’, all of us would have loved to undo the fact that over 5,000 lives have been lost in the 388 terrorist hits in Pakistan since 9/11. If, by some miracle, we manage to figure out how to undo it, the tragedy is that it repeats itself. Such is the case of Pakistan’s political history, particularly its flirtations with military rule. Or perhaps, one should say ‘long affairs’ since flirtations are short and harmless. Military rules are neither.

The proposal of deleting the horrendous presidential rule of General Ziaul Haq from Pakistan’s history is based on wishful thinking. Whether we like or not, Zia was the president of this country. For 11 long years, he exercised the authority of the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and represented this office both within the country and abroad. The proposal of referring to him as only General Ziaul Haq rather than as President Ziaul Haq is wishful semantics. By one stroke of the legislative will and executive authority, we cannot delete this. Even if we do it, what about the effects of Ziaul Haq’s regime? Every bomb that shatters our peace, be it in Rawalpindi, Lahore or Michni, has its links with the Zia regime. Every insensitive remark, such as “the Hindus are responsible for the destruction of Pakistan”, reflects a mindset that originated in the Zia era. The present extremism and radicalisation manifested in various ways in our lives today lead us to the Zia era. Our today is certainly a legacy of Ziaul Haq.

Who was General Ziaul Haq and what is his legacy? This question has a number of answers, depending on who you ask. The anti-Zia camp would of course declare him a despot whose first crime was to bite the hand who picked him. His second crime in their eyes would be the vicious political victimisation that he indulged in, forcing political workers to either go underground or into exile. His third crime is the regressive legislation that he introduced, such as the Hudood Ordinances and the Blasphemy Law. Ziaul Haq is also accused of bringing in the heroin and Kalashnikov culture, not to mention the Taliban. The nurseries of the present-day Taliban — the madrassas — flourished in his time, which muddled and distorted the understanding of jihad. Citizens were also flogged publicly during his regime, regional political parties that had dubious origins were propped up, newspapers reduced to only papers devoid of news, censorship was at its peak, and the arts and culture went to the dogs. His actions have direct bearings on today — the Taliban, militant jihad and a culture of intolerance are but some examples.

If we want to undo his legacy and do away with the bigoted, extremist mindset that was manifested in the 1980s, we must tackle the curriculum. During his time, according to social researchers Dr A H Nayyar and Ahmad Salim who studied the Pakistani textbooks in their report The Subtle Subversion, “The ideology of Pakistan has been an essential component of hate against India and the Hindus. For the upholders of the ideology of Pakistan, the existence of Pakistan is defined only in relation to Hindus, and hence the Hindus have to be painted as negatively as possible. The Pakistani establishment taught their children right from the beginning that this state was built on the basis of religion — that is why they do not have tolerance for other religions and want to wipe out all of them.”

This is what the Zia generation was taught and this is what they practice today. The Zia generation can best be described as the confused generation. They have seen public flogging, but were told that it is best to forgive. They have experienced newspapers being censored but were told that it is best to speak the truth. They have witnessed Pakistani women in February being lathi-charged for protesting against draconian laws, but were told that Islam gave women rights. They have seen Islam being used and abused for money and personal interests but were told that petty selfishness should not be indulged in. They have experienced and are still experiencing militancy in the guise of Islam, but are told that Islam is a peaceful religion. They have experienced and been taught how to hate — hate Hindus, Jews, and fellow Muslims of different sects but have been told to love.

The father of the nation in his maiden address to the First Constituent Assembly said, “The Roman Catholics and the Protestants in England persecuted each other. Even now there are some states in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one caste and creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.” The father of the nation in this very speech on August 11, 1947, which was intended to be the articulation of the vision of the country also said, “If we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we shall wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people. If we work together in a spirit that every one of us, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed is first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.” He further went on to say, “I cannot emphasise it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities — the Hindu community and the Muslim community — would vanish.”

If we are serious about moving forward as a liberal, moderate, state at peace with itself and its neighbours, we need to remember these words of Jinnah rather than the actions of Zia.

The writer is an Islamabad-based consultant. She can be reached at contact@individualland.com

Source: Daily Times


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