Among the many things that will be celebrated during this year’s 70th anniversary of the founding of The People’s Republic of China (PRC), recovery, renewal and a restoration of dignity after a century of humiliation will be among the most important. Whilst China has evolved greatly since 1949 and continues to develop with a renewed drive towards further reform and opening up in accordance with Xi Jinping Thought, one constant for China has been a clear and steadfast resolve to never again be forced into a humiliating position by foreign regimes and alien cultures.
Today, it is helpful to remember that one of the motivating factors behind the PRC’s founding leadership was to end the century of humiliation which began with the First Opium War and to restore China’s status as a dignified, independent and productive nation. As China was a great civilisation long before European societies developed any form of cultural enlightenment, China quickly re-familiarised itself with strength and dignity whilst the Reform and Opening Up of 1978 helped China to become the world’s most dynamic economy. This is why it should not be surprising that in 2014, China overtook the United States to become the strongest economy when measured in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP).
China today is a model of global connectivity based on win-win trade deals, multilateral cooperation against the three evils of separatism, terrorism and religious extremism and the epoch making Belt and Road initiative. But China is also a model of a state that never compromises its sovereign cultural characteristics, but will instead defend its integrity whilst always respecting the national integrity and cultural characteristics of global partners.
As China is Pakistan’s all-weather friend, Prime Minister Imran Khan has spoken eloquently about the need for Pakistan to learn from China’s success in lifting more people out of poverty in the shortest period in time that has ever been witnessed in human history. And yet, there is another aspect of China’s success that Pakistan must learn from. Pakistan must learn to never apologise for being Pakistan.
Pakistan was born out of a need to secure a south Asian sovereign state that was free from both colonial exploitation and inter-communal violence. In this sense, Pakistan was the first post-colonial nation explicitly designed to be a safe and peaceful place for south Asian Muslims to live and to prosper in accordance with their unique historic cultural characteristics.
Pakistan’s history of resilience against tremendous odds is a success of which today’s generation of Pakistanis can be immensely proud, just as Chinese can be and in fact are immensely proud of the great success that China once again is.
But far too often, the Pakistan media, self-proclaimed intelligentsia and those with a neo-colonial inferiority complex see fit to constantly apologise for Pakistan’s innate collective character. Why should Pakistanis go breathless explaining that Pakistan’s minorities retain total equality in society, at a time when neighbouring India, despite its secular constitution, is becoming a sectarian nightmare for occupied Kashmiris, Muslims, Dalits, Sikhs seeking a peaceful referendum in Indian Punjab and even the political opposition? Why should Pakistan apologise for the fact that after over a decade of a heroic fight against terrorism in which the Army secured Pakistan’s survival, a few small groups of extremists continue to linger in the periphery, in the same way that pockets of extremists exist in Europe, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, The Philippines, India, Russia, the United States and just about any large or medium sized country in the world? Why also should Pakistanis parrot Indian propaganda in a vain attempt to criticise the status quo when one can do so without repeating the words of Pakistan’s self-identified adversaries?
The answer lies in a self-evident denial of Pakistan’s true resilience among those whose very lives have been secured by Pakistan’s state institutions, including the Army. If Pakistan were the nest of terrorism that Indian propagandists say that it is, it would be run by a feudal cult leader and not a long time political reformist who happens to be a retired international cricket champion. If Pakistan were as grim and as horrid as Indian media says that it is, why would the economic powerhouse that is China be investing billions into Pakistan? Had the extremists won, the flag of terror would be flying over Islamabad today whilst instead, the flag hoisted by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah continues to wave proudly thanks to the professionalism of the Pakistani Army and ISI that have crushed terrorist groups that once threatened the territorial integrity and furthermore, the very existence of the state.
Like all countries classed as developing nations, Pakistan is a work in progress. This contrasts favourably vis-a-vis nations like Japan, most EU members and in many ways, also the United States. These first world nations are currently struggling to cope with stagnation and decline, whilst Pakistan, like China, continues to plan for a better future. As such, criticism of Pakistan is a very healthy thing. But healthy criticism does not mean apologising for that which makes Pakistan, Pakistan.
This week and next, leaders of the business community, technology sector, the worlds of science, medicine, the arts, sport and finance will gather alongside political leaders from multiple parties in Beijing as part of China’s Two Sessions. During the Two Sessions, the leading achievers throughout China will discuss and debate how they can improve their nation. This is the apotheosis of constructive criticism for the benefit of the people.
By contrast, Pakistani newspapers, websites and television remains filled with those who think that the solution to the questions of Pakistan’s development resides in denying Pakistan’s cultural characteristics or otherwise watering them down or apologising for them before Pakistan’s enemies. This is not how to properly develop one’s nation and it certainly is not genuine freedom – it is slavery. It is furthermore the worst kind of slavery because it is not achieved at the hands of a conqueror, but is accomplished by a feat of self-enslavement. This is not only the opposite of true freedom, but it is the antithesis of enlightenment.
So-called Pakistani liberalism is little more than a desire to create a country that is called Pakistan, but one that in reality attempts to be nothing more than a half-way house – an ancillary of India and of Pakistan’s former European conquerors. It is no wonder that it was while such people were in power that the Army was all that stood between Pakistan actually becoming a terrorist state and national dignity.
How ironic then that whilst Pakistani liberals claim that there is too much extremism in Pakistan, it was in fact when they held political power that extremism rose exponentially? This is why the message of PTI continues to resonate among millions of Pakistanis. PTI is both modern in its outlook and traditional in its spirit. PTI seeks to renew Pakistan but to do so by getting back in touch with both the enlightened principles of Jinnah and the values of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Today, the government and military are working side by side to seek a better peace but to always be prepared to fight any aggression against the state, whether in the form of terrorism or traditional foreign military aggression.
Those who sought peace by opening the floodgates to extremism whilst then wondering why the situation became so dire, are in no place to point figures at Pakistan. Sadly, even at a time when Pakistan has defended itself in a spirit of peace through strength, too many Pakistani liberals are apologising for Pakistan’s success and in so doing, they are dishonestly making Pakistan appear as though it has failed in its moment of justifiable glory.