Nations that were colonised by the European powers during the 18th century have been interpreted in colonial history as uncivilised and backward.
After independence, it was their task to reconstruct the nation with a fresh perspective and retrieve what was lost during the colonial period.
Considering this background, we can study whether such attempts have ever been made in Pakistan or have we truly neglected the task of rewriting history? Sadly, the early historians of Pakistan were too busy justifying partition of the subcontinent, instead of presenting an analysis and a critical examination of the colonial past.
One of the reasons for not being able to understand the recent past is the continuation of colonial institutions and traditions suited to the ruling classes. This hampered our understanding of history. It was believed that once the system was accepted there was no need to criticise it. Maintaining the colonial system and not changing it shows the political and intellectual bankruptcy of the ruling classes. Later on, if changes were made, the same structure was followed which further deteriorated the system.
How has Pakistan contributed to the civilisation of mankind? Nations are recognised by their history which gives them an identity and character. If their history is full of creativity and innovation, it distinguishes the nation and gives them respect and honour among other nations. But if there is no creative contribution by a nation to the civilisation of the world, these nations are ignored and their dignity is lost.
It should also be remembered that history records only events which have a social, political and economic significance and impact on the society. Routine events do not play a part in historical accounts.
Since 1947 to the present day, Pakistan has hardly contributed a significant event to the development of the society. Politically, there is a cyclical version of history when power shifted from the army to politicians or from one party to another without any momentous change in society. Nothing important happened during these periodical changes. Intellectuals, artists, architects, sculptors and musicians produced no creative work. Instead, they emulated western traditions which only depicted their mental shallowness. Economically, our nation is not independent and heavily relies on IMF and World Bank loans.
It is imperative to analyse the contents of the Pakistani history — what have we achieved during the short span of time? Have we ever produced talented leadership? Has our nation advanced in different aspects of society? There are many such questions which the people of Pakistan would like to understand. Everybody recognises the backwardness and decline of society while each successive government accused the past one for deterioration. Army rulers criticised the civilians who in turn condemned the army rule. Neither army rulers nor politicians are ready to accept any guilt or responsibility for the mistakes that have been made in the past.
There were some resistance movements which sadly ended without creating any moral values. Nationalist movements in our backward culture took an extremist turn. There was a lawyers’ movement for the restoration of judiciary. But it too failed to create any moral values in the lawyers community. Individually, those who are successful in the society, acquire high status as a result of fraud, deception and intrigue. Those who are involved in corruption are not ashamed at all, on the contrary they proclaim their honesty and assert that truth and justice are on their side. They have to change the meaning of moral values. To justify their corruption and their accumulation of wealth and possession of properties, they invoke the blessings of God. With this kind of history, the young generation is inspired by these gangsters who have become a model for success in life. When society accepts them as honourable men, the whole concept of honesty and nobility becomes irrelevant.
Leaders who want to secure a dignified place in history must realise that history brutally judges the record of individuals and nations. It does not spare the corrupt demagogues who adopt immoral means to come into power. Nero, Caligula and Tiberius were great emperors of the Roman Empire but now regarded as mere monsters in history.
Corrupt and powerful individuals improve their image with time but cannot retain the same status in history. In case of Pakistan there is a poverty of history which reduces the Pakistani nation as insignificant and backward.