Senator Sirajul Haq is the Ameer of the Jamaat-e-Islami. He recently appeared in Bol News’ talk show Real Politics and shared his views on Pakistan’s current issues
We don’t need a new Pakistan. Neither do we need to look left or right or take dictation from anyone outside the country. We have the country we need – the Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. We have to create a Pakistan in which a man isn’t a slave to another man, where the poor are not suppressed, where everyone is entitled to spend their life according to their religion or belief, and in which the minorities feel completely safe. Simply put, Pakistan means an Islamic welfare country in which everyone is free and prosperous.
Pakistan is essentially the name of an ideology. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah spoke about the vision of Pakistan so many times that we don’t need any new constitution or a new manifesto.
About 1400 years ago, Allah gave humanity a system of guidance for living a perfect life, in the form of the Holy Quran and the way of life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). If we say that Pakistan was created on the basis of the economy, then people would not have travelled all the way to Pakistan leaving their businesses, factories, and homes behind. If we say that Pakistan came into being on the basis of nationality, then people would not have travelled to Pakistan leaving their tribes and families behind. People rendered this whole sacrifice and struggle based on an ideology.
On ‘Quaid’s Pakistan’
The country we live in is no longer the Quaid’s Pakistan. His Pakistan got divided into two parts because of our rulers’ erroneous strategies and a limited and biased mindset. The remainder of a truncated Pakistan was also named a ‘new Pakistan’ in 1971. We don’t have the concept of a unified nation for which Pakistan was created. We will complete 70 years of independence this year but unfortunately we have failed to preserve our geography, and that is a dark spot on the politicians of that era. As far as the ideology of Pakistan is concerned, that is no more there as well.
The Quaid’s Pakistan was one where there was rule of law, but now we have dynasties and families ruling the country. We will celebrate the real 14th of August when we have rule of law and equal rights for every citizen of Pakistan, which was the Quaid’s dream. The Quaid-e-Azam built a house for us, but it’s our responsibility to secure it and make it beautiful, as well as making it a model country – economically and socially – for the entire Islamic world. The Quaid’s Pakistan has been eclipsed by a lot of fear, chaos and uncertainty, but we need not be disappointed.
The Quaid-e-Azam built a house for us, but it’s our responsibility to secure it and make it beautiful, as well as making it a model country
Capitalising on geography
When we talk about the geography of Pakistan, then naturally South Asia comes to mind. When we speak of Pakistan’s capacity within South Asia, then in terms of population, geography and military and economic might, India ranks number one.
But we need to think beyond that. We are flanked by East Asia with which we have relations. And we are also connected to West Asia. We will have to look in all four directions if we talk about geography with Pakistan emerging as a leader of the Islamic world. So strategically, geographically, and in every conceivable way, Pakistan is a highly significant country, and we should be cognisant of this fact.
We should not link ourselves with a specific geography. And I would say we should strengthen relations with East Asia – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan are so close to us. When you move further afield, a wider world opens up to us.
When we connect with China, as well as 64 countries through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, it will add to our strength and significance. We need to look beyond strengthening our relations with a few American and European countries. For instance, Africa has 54 countries but we have no relations with them.
According to a survey conducted by Transparency International in 2006, there was 65 percent corruption in Balochistan’s Works and Service Department, while Sindh had 42 percent corruption, Punjab 32 percent, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) 32 percent, in the same department. With such high levels of corruption, how can the allotted budget benefit us? This is why all major federal and provincial projects hang in limbo for months and years on end.
On delayed development
We should come up with at least 25-year plans. This is how successful nations work. All the big nations of the world have 25 or 50-year plans, but we have no such thing. I have prepared a list of 500 PhD scholars and I intend to call them next month. I will divide them in groups based on their specialisation. I will ask them to give me a 25-year development plan covering agriculture, environment, education, health and infrastructure. I will then tell the government to convert these into a national project and make it a part of the curricula.
On checks and balances
Ours is not the only country to suffer from corruption in institutions. Many countries of the world have faced similar issues. To counter them, they have developed their skills and devised mechanisms to encourage and applaud those who perform well while penalising delinquents. A nation cannot progress in an environment where the concept of reward and punishment doesn’t exist.
In this country, the most secure officer is the one who does nothing. If you make a mistake, nothing will happen to you and if you do something exceptionally well, you don’t get any appreciation. Even the system that Allah has given us has the concept of reward and punishment.
On the development budget
Twice the development budget is spent on the payment of interest. I don’t think any nation can prosper as long as the system of interest exists. Therefore, I believe that even if there’s little space, the only way out is that both the federal and provincial governments should reduce their non-development budget. I want to divide the budget into three parts: administrative, development, and welfare. The administrative budget should have the least funds, while development and welfare budget should have the lion’s share. But unfortunately, we have just the opposite, with more money being spent on security.
Poverty is not just the dearth of money, although that’s a very important component. Poverty is also about an impoverished mindset. I went to Saudi Arabia recently and I commented over there that if Allah has bestowed some countries with the wealth of oil, he has blessed us with a wealth of capacity and intelligence. Oil wells might run dry but the wealth of wisdom never peters out.
There are a few rudimentary reasons why poverty exists in Pakistan. Firstly, Islam has its own economic system, which we have not been able to enforce in this country. Secondly, just as we borrow money from outsiders, we borrow their systems as well. We tend to be dictated to by outsiders, which is not correct.
Allah does not change the conditions of a nation until it’s ready to change itself. We should not be given the fish; we should be taught how to catch it. Rather than borrowing money, we need to create an environment where our people can earn money themselves. Due to the interest system that prevails here, there’s an inequitable distribution of wealth.
Our economic policies have invariably favoured the rich and no one has ever seriously thought about the impoverished, marginalised segments of the population. Let me give you an example here. I was the finance minister of KPK when Shaukat Aziz was the country’s prime minister. He would glorify his government’s progress by telling me to go to the Pearl Continental hotel and see the number of people staying the night there. I would argue with him by asking him to go to the markets and see how many people sleep on the pavements!
Every year, more than 7.3 million people are becoming unemployed in our country. The ranks of the jobless include both degree holders as well as the illiterate. Simultaneously, almost 9 million overseas Pakistanis have begun returning to Pakistan. Therefore, I think unemployment is Pakistan’s biggest problem.
A few weeks ago, the Sindh police caught some youths in the act of mugging and looting. It was later revealed that one of them had a master’s degree and the other was a bachelor degree holder. They said they were compelled to do so because they were jobless. This shows what an enormous challenge unemployment is in Pakistan.
We should allow our banks to give educated people interest-free loans. I want our print and electronic media, as well as our political leadership and the clergy, to teach the youth about how to earn money through legitimate means. They should be taught how they can improve their skills. The government will have to take revolutionary steps to eliminate poverty. The government should minimise the non-development budget and, instead, focus on creating jobs. Our youth can be used negatively if they are not engaged and given jobs.
JI’s political future
The voter is not independent in our country. Politics is held hostage here, or, should I say, democracy is held hostage. However, I think political awareness is now becoming common and hopefully, in the next elections, people will vote for Jamaat-e-Islami. The youth want an honest party and JI is that party. We have delivered and none of the JI leaders have been accused of corruption.
The voter is not independent in our country. Politics is held hostage here, or, should I say, democracy is held hostage
If the nation wants to make Pakistan a corruption-free country, the only option is the JI. I hope in the next elections people realise our capability and honesty and vote for us but for that, electoral reforms will have to be instituted.
On Occupied Kashmir
India always wanted the freedom movement of Kashmir to be declared a terrorist movement. However, you know that the movement in Kashmir is an indigenous freedom movement, and Syed Salahuddin is a symbol of this movement. He himself was part of the democratic process in Kashmir, including elections. But when it became clear that the elections there were just a farce and part of Indian propaganda, he stepped away from that.
For a long time now Salahuddin is in Pakistan and has done nothing inside India. His struggle is only for the freedom of Kashmir. So it’s a great success for India that it has managed to convince Trump and got him banned through an executive order. Salahuddin is of the view that he will support any step that will throw out the Indian forces from Kashmir, and even now if the United Nations implements its resolution for the right of self-determination of Kashmiris, Salahuddin will support it.
As for Pakistan, we don’t even have a foreign minister. A foreign minister is the lynchpin of the government, so this government is without a key minister. To add to that, the focus of the current government is trade with India and not the freedom of Kashmir. So obviously when you are moving towards trade and friendship, how can you demand freedom for Kashmir.
Pakistan is no doubt an advocate for the Kashmiris, but the tongue of this advocate is now tied. The government is a mere spectator in the issue of Kashmir. They do come up with occasional statements on the issue, but that is only under the pressure of the Pakistani people, and not as genuine support for the Kashmir cause.