Nawaz Sharif kicked off what could have been a useful debate when he spoke at a meeting of the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), in Lahore, a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the debate was not carried forward, and, barring one or two channels, the electronic media ignored it.
Essentially, what he said was :
(a) Since Pakistan is now an independent country, accepted and recognized by India, the Two-Nation Theory, or TNT for short, which had been used as a tool to achieve Pakistan, has now become irrelevant.
(b) India and Pakistan cannot afford to live perpetually in a state of war, engaged in an arms race. Both countries need to open their borders for trade.
One of the TV channels that discussed the subject showed a heated exchange between Marvi Sirmed, a political commentator and activist, and Zaid Hamid, popularly known as Red-Cap because of the peculiar red cap he always wears, which has become his trademark. While Marvi Sirmed chose her words carefully and argued calmly, Zaid Hamid, known for belligerent speech dripping with religious rhetoric, sounded like he was going to explode.
Talking of red caps, Ghazi Abdul Rashid of the Lal Masjid fame also wore a red cap before he died fighting the ‘forces of evil’, and so do his followers today. And, by the way, since when did the red color become the color of Islam? Historically, wasn’t it white, black, or green? And, didn’t we, during the ‘great jihad’ in Afghanistan, fight anyone or anything that was red?
The debate between Marvi Sirmed and Zaid Hamid did allow viewers a peek into what was underneath the red cap. The mindset that makes people like Zaid Hamid spew hateful speech.
Zaid Hamid wanted two things to happen in Pakistan. One, a system modeled after Khilafat-e-Rashida, the same objective that was propagated by people like Sufi Mohammad of Swat, Mullah Omar of Kandhar, Ghazi brothers of Lal Masjid, and Bin Laden of Tora Bora. We know the results. Obviously, the irony is lost on the red caps — and black turbans — that the actual Khilafat-e-Rashida did not last for more than 30 years, ending in insurgencies, murders, and mayhem giving way to dynastic monarchies.
The other point Zaid Hamid fiercely argued was that we cannot let go of the two-nation theory (TNT) because it was the raison d’etre of Pakistan.
This argument about the TNT reminds me of a couple of interesting analogies an eminent professor of political science explained to us, some years ago, at the Administrative Staff College, Lahore. He said the TNT could best be compared to a scaffolding that is used to raise a building. Once the building is erected, you dismantle the scaffolding and start taking care of the building, its maintenance, and repairs.
Using another analogy, he said, the TNT could also be compared to a midwife whose services are required to deliver a baby. Once the baby is delivered, you thank the midwife, give her a gift or two, say goodbye to her, and start looking after the newborn.
In our case, the professor said, we are neither prepared to dismantle the scaffolding nor say goodbye to the midwife, damn the building or the baby.
To the above, I may add yet another analogy: TNT, as you may know, is also an acronym for a highly explosive chemical substance — Trinitrotoluene — which is used in explosive devices. Once the device has accomplished its purpose, it is always advisable to safely dispose of the empty shell and not to play with it. It may still contain traces of TNT that could explode in your face.
A slightly different version of this was article was published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2011.