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Journey to prosperity

Nowadays elders of Rawalpindi and Islamabad are asking each other impatiently when “our long train will reach the destination and when we shall get rid of poverty and exploitation, and stand firmly on our own.”Many of them tell their young boys that millions listened to a radio broadcast and thousands of them boarded a special Lahore-Rawalpindi-Peshawar-bound train in New Delhi where they had gathered from different parts of India to say goodbye to the British Raj.

Some elders in their early eighties say hundreds of thousands had dreamt an independent homeland of their own where they could breathe and feel as citizens free from any foreign influence. Everyone in the special train talked about future happiness and prosperity and thought of the man who had advised the freedom lovers to concentrate, wholly and solely, on the well-being of compatriots, especially of the poor.

The man was Mohammad Ali Jinnah from a class of leaders who had inspired countrymen to join the struggle. He had pursued legal studies in Englandand returned home to plead the cause of the oppressed. He succeeded in bringing the majority of people on one platform who believed in one God, one Book and one final Prophet. The train passengers had self-confidence and thought they were final arbiters of their destiny as asserted by Mr. Jinnah. What inspired the common people were words of the man who had spoken loudly to the world long before one could think of an end to the foreign rule. For instance, he said again and again “Islam stands for justice, equality, free-play, toleration, and even generosity to non-Muslims who may be under our protection like brothers.”

The man, also called Quaid-i-Azam, shared and voiced the sentiments of the people, hinting that the special train would be on track of peace, democracy, social justice and Islamic socialism, equal opportunities for all, welfare, happiness and prosperity. Physically weak but mentally strong, he was shocked over bloody attacks on the train, killing and kidnapping of men, women and children, and rape by non-Muslim extremists. The sacrifice of the passengers for independence was unprecedented.

The train stopped at Lahore for a while and then resumed journey to Karachi and from there to Rawalpindi where the Quaid’s lieutenant Liquat Ali Khan was shot dead when he stood up to address masses as first Prime Minister of Pakistan. The democratic march to prosperity was disturbed. Profiteers and hoarders played their game and the common man found it hard to deal with the situation created by food price hike. In fact, citizens, including the ordinary salaried class, faced social and economic problems. All this happened to the surprise of families who had boarded the special train. The so-called journey-to-prosperity train moved fast and slow, up and down and didn’t stop. The train passengers recall the determination of their first driver Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the last words of the second driver Liaquat Ali Khan and another assassinated driver Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who, despite feudal background, looked like a revolutionary.

The frequent change of drivers and occupation of seats at gun-point by misguided adventurers eventually led to loss of direction of the train and severe damage to its track—earthquakes and floods apart. Three generations have boarded the train since it left for new destination on August14 in 1947. Surprisingly, the passengers by way of joke say they are not satisfied with the pace at which the train is moving—common people’s socio-economic problems remaining unsolved because of soaring food, fuel and electricity prices.

Zafar Alam Sarwar