Every morning before I start my day, I glance over the prestigious ‘Tehreek-e-Pakistan’ Gold Medal awarded to my father on August 14, 1990, for his contribution to the freedom struggle. Then I step out of my home to face the hardships typically faced by serfs and slaves of a colonized people. As the first-born free generation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan we were given daily sermons about the importance of freedom and to stand tall with our chin up as equal citizens of a sovereign country. Though we studied in English medium schools yet we were reminded at home to speak Urdu the national language. As children we played on the green patches on the Mall, my late mother before she went for her daily afternoon siesta requested the traffic constable on duty to keep an eye on us.
Every morning I walked to school opposite the Lahore High Court (LHC), the city was always cleaned and ready before dawn. My old man who was a loyal Muslim Leaguer took pride in his struggle and upright existence. He frequently talked about his armed encounter in Ludhiana at the time of partition after which he was tried for murder, he had to flee to save his life. Though the initial years were tough yet hope was alive. By and large, honesty prevailed, and even the bureaucrats were helpful. The first blow came with the death of the father of the nation in 1948 followed by the assassination of the founding Prime Minister (PM) Nawab Zada Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951. The establishment then teamed up to recapture our freedom which had been earned through the sweat and blood of the founders.
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Understanding the matter better
At the tender age of five years, I stood on the Mall with my father in October 1958 holding his finger waiting for the Long March of the most popular leader of his times Khan Qayyum Khan to reach Lahore. He never made it, instead, he was arrested at the Ravi bridge and taken to the dungeons of the Lahore Fort. The republic had been captured by its first Desi Army Chief General Ayub Khan who later elevated himself to the rank of Field Marshal (FM). He then surrendered the sovereignty of the new nation to seek the benevolence of his foreign masters. Under him, Pakistan remained a Satellite State for over a decade (1958 to 1969). Finally, he was made to step down in March 1969 after massive street protests but the damage had been done. The country was dismembered. The Eastern Wing became Bangladesh while Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) took control of what remained.
The journey of freedom started again under an elected leader. The Police force was the first to react. In Punjab and KPK (NWFP then), there was a complete strike. It was perhaps first time in the history of the Sub-continent that the law enforcers defied their own rules of appointment.
The two young Governors (Mustafa Khar and Hayat Sherpao) went on the front foot
The protest was declared illegal and an ultimatum was served to the strikers to return to work within 24 hours or face dismissal. Their bluff failed, the strike fizzled out within hours. It was called ‘Awami Hukamat’ (People’s Government). Right to travel was recognized with streamlining of the Passport procedures. Several countrymen left the country in search of greener pastures abroad. Today they are the biggest source of foreign exchange remittances.
To protect freedom, the Nuclear Programme was revamped under Engr Munir Ahmed Khan who was working with the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) at that time. Basic industrialization together with Defense Production industries were focused upon. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan emerged under the unanimously agreed 1973 constitution. But it proved to be a short sojourn. The elected government was toppled and Martial Law clamped on July 05, 1977.
The slide down continues till today
The brutal crackdown by Police to stop the Long March on May 25, 2022, brought back the memories of the Draconian ‘Ayub Era’ when dissent and peaceful protests were crushed with the force of the state. In addition, the private ‘Gullu Butt Malatia’ was let loose on unarmed protestors. In the evening, a totally peaceful gathering of civil society was attacked at the Liberty Roundabout, Tear Gas was used to disperse the crowd while private cars were vandalized to scare away the owners. Such acts of state sponsored terrorism in the 21st century clearly indicated that our freedom has been seriously compromised.
Imran Khan is right in saying that as a generation we are under obligation to the founding fathers to pass on a sovereign country to the next generation. Comrade Aitzaz Ahsan believes that we the first-born free citizens are a hinge between founders and the future generations of the republic. We cannot fail them, it’s our debt that we must honorably dwell with otherwise history will not be kind to us. After ‘Awami Hukumat’ of the seventies, the ‘Azadi March’ of 2022 is a major effort towards gaining freedom which has been repeatedly usurped by both military dictators and civilian dummies they left behind to torment the nation. The colonial setup has to be dismantled, and Islamabad has to be brought under the rule of law and constitution.
The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.