On March 23, 1940, the Muslims of the subcontinent decided that, despite having coexisted with Hindus for a thousand years, they were a distinct nation. On that day, the Pakistan Resolution was passed at the historic All-India Muslim League session in Lahore. The resolution, proposed by then-Bengal Chief Minister A. K. Fazlul Haq and seconded by Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman and others, outlined the geographical contours of a separate homeland for India’s Muslims. However, it was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, President of the All-India Muslim League, who put the resolution’s basic concept into words.
How tragic that the Pakistan Resolution was moved by someone from what became ‘East Pakistan,’ and then came the leaders whose lust for power drove that part of Pakistan away! What we have now created in Pakistan is not the Pakistan that the movers and adopters of the Pakistan Resolution could have imagined. Of course, democracies are essentially rowdy playgrounds, and it is nothing new for fantastic promises made on the campaign trail to go unfulfilled. However, the level of animosity that has developed between losers and winners in Pakistan since the last general election is unacceptable to the average supporter of democracy. As we observe Pakistan Day, we are concerned about the future of democracy in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, it is astonishing that nowadays, the tinkling of cash registers, rather than the waning of the moon, appears to herald the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan. For days, we’ve seen the pre-Ramadan rush in action in markets and supermarkets, with people walking away with sacks of rice, cases of cooking oil, and enough pastry, vegetables, and meat to feed an army. Try going shopping today and tomorrow; it will be a nightmare. It is best to avoid the last-minute rush to stock up before the new moon. Ramadan, which is supposed to be a time of fasting, has turned into a time of feasting. It’s the same every year. People stuff themselves with sambusas and other delicacies after the sun goes down and then moan about how much weight they have gained.
The souks and stores are packed with shoppers by the family load at night. Businesses have been preparing for weeks to meet increased consumer demand and profit expectations. Many people spend more money during Ramadan, particularly the last two weeks of Ramadan, than they do the rest of the year. Is there anyone who complains? Yes, but the complaint is that storekeepers are taking advantage of the shopping spree to raise their prices and that they are too tired from spending the night eating, visiting family and friends, shopping malls, and watching videos to work normally the next day. The few genuine complaints about Ramadan’s commercialization are drowned out by the din of money-making, fun, excess, and everything else that the holy month should not be.
People do not spend the entire night partying in other parts of the Muslim world. They break fast and then go to bed at a reasonable hour, wake up for sahoor and prayer, sleep a little longer, then get up and go to work as usual. Ramadan is supposed to be a time of giving and giving up, a time to feel closer — physically closer by fasting — to the trials and hunger that the poor face throughout the year. It is time to deny oneself for the sake of oneself and others. It is a time for more in-depth prayer and reflection. This is not the time to get fat and sleep all day. That is a travesty of the holy month’s spirit. May this Ramadan be a time of true fasting, deeper prayer, and genuine identification with the poor, whose plight will not improve once Eid arrives.