Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Was Pakistan’s creation a mistake?

Oct 27, 2009: I don’t know where I am going but I am on my way. The 2008 hit song by Murray Hammond fits Pakistan to the tee and each one of us, except the country itself, can tell which way.

A failed state, a nation still in the making, Taliban badland, a nation of zealots, jihad factory….One can give at least a hundred aliases to Pakistan and if it goes down the pages of history one will only remember it as one of these.

Pakistan has a number of assets – its size, its Islamic ties, nuclear capabilities and its strategic location and ever since its inception; the country has everything going right for it.

In the words of a British Commonwealth official post partition, “Pakistan “has a definite background, Islam, on which to build a nation and to unite the people…and has less to fear from internal disruptive forces than the government of India.

But what went wrong? People now only talk of Pakistan’s end. “In 10 years time…” says the CIA. Militancy has been on a rise despite a civilian government in place. Any discussion on the nation ends up in one question: “Why was it created?” Was the idea of Pakistan dead at its inception?

Origins of the idea and creation

Ideologues claim that Pakistan was born the day Muslims set foot on the Indian soil, but the first person to systematically set forth the argument for what eventually became Pakistan was educator Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-98).

n In 1875, Sir Syed laid the basis of Aligarh Muslim University, which produced scholars and professionals who staffed the Pakistan movement. Although Sir Syed was dedicated to Muslim modernization, Islam’s destiny and the idea of a pan-Islamic identity, he stopped short of advocating a separate state for India’s Muslims. (Stephen P Cohen: The Idea of Pakistan)

n It was the highly contentious demand for separate electorates that led to the birth of Pakistan. The Muslim League was formed in 1906 and in the same year, Muslims met the Viceroy of India for grant of separate electorate in legislative assemblies for Muslims, which was accepted.

The Muslim League still faced frustrating hurdles in negotiating the constitutional arrangement with Indian National Congress. This was the first time that a religious issue had been introduced into Indian politics.

Separate electorates and one-third representation in the Central Legislature, in accordance to the Muslims proportion in India's population, were the two main demands from the Muslims.

It was in 1933 that an Indian Muslim student living in Cambridge, Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, put forward the idea of a separate Muslim country. He and a group of Indian students outlined a plan for federation of 10 Muslim states, which they named Pakistan by drawing letters from the provinces that had Muslim majority: Punjab, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Balochistan.
Hence, in 1940 Lahore session, a formal demand for independent State for Muslim – Pakistan – was approved by the Muslim League.

n It is also argued that the Muslims feared the Hindu majority would treat them as badly as they treated the Hindus before the British came. So they insisted on a country of their own. The result was Pakistan, a mish mash of divergent groups who have nothing in common except their religion.

n The creation of Pakistan out of India can very well be seen as a result of British exhaustion from the war, the impatience of Congress leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel and the deft playing of their weak hand by the Muslim League under Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s direction. (Saleem M.M. Qureshi)

n According to eminent Sindhi writer Amar Jaleel, “Muslim League leaders refused to co-exist with other communities. Pakistan's creation was the result of the emergence of bourgeoisie amongst the Muslims of South Asia, which wanted to secure its economic and political future.

What went wrong?

The plight of Muslims who were opposed to partition could be summed up in the last words of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan that he conveyed to Mahatma Gandhi, “You have thrown us to the wolves.”

Ever since its creation, the average Pakistani on the street has only seen tempest. Since 1947 the country has tried about half a dozen different political systems and formal constitutions, promulgated in 1946, 1956, 1962 and 1973. Democracy is just a sham; no elected government has ever completed its term in the office.

n No conceptual clarity: The reason oft-cited that “we are Muslims, hence we should have an Islamic state”, is too simplistic to be meaningful. The Pakistan movement was more an ethnic movement, rather than a movement of ‘Islam’ i.e. a religious movement. According to Saleem M.M. Qureshi, “Its creation was shrouded in a total lack of conceptual clarity: would it be a secular state, a state of Muslims or an Islamic state. It is this lack of clarity that has bedeviled Pakistan all its life.

It is said that the largely secular Jinnah wanted a state in which Muslims would be guaranteed political power by their numbers. Hindus in Pakistan would be protected by the Constitution of a non-sectarian, secular democracy.

But, the first constitution of 1956 declared Pakistan as “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” and enforced that ‘no non-Muslim could become its president and added later that no non-Muslim can become its prime minister either’.

Qureshi argues that Jinnah himself was confused. In one of his speeches, he disputes that Hindus and Muslims are totally different and then goes on to say in another that the difference of religion has nothing to do with the business of the State!

n Misuse of Islam: Those Islamic organisations, which were inherently intolerant and extremist, gained strength and became a threat to all the political parties and Pakistan. Over the 1970s and 1980s, Pakistan’s marginalized people also learned how to put Islam to political use. Islam has been made into just a political slogan, a mask that the leaders feel must wear when facing the public.

Pakistan’s politics and nation both were divided into two parts; one being secular and other being extremists. And with the passage of time, the secular Pakistan lost its voice, power and influence.

“It is not unreasonable for Islam to be the country’s official religion, but making it the state religion in a truly heterogeneous and heterodox religious milieu was a mistake,” says Ali Eteraz, author of Children of Dust.

n The society: Until the election of 1946, the only solid support base for the Muslim league came from India’s Muslim minority provinces (which primarily comprised upon middle class, educated & professionals). Ironically, the real beneficiaries of the partition were only the Muslims in the majority provinces, who had entertained no fears of Hindu domination and hence hadn’t supported Muslim League.

The creation of Pakistan didn’t ameliorate the condition of minority Muslims. The Muhajirs, a derogatory term used for Indian Muslims in Pakistan, became the second rung citizens, which led to the rise of Muhajir Quami Movement (MQM).

After more than three decades of struggle, the movement refuses to die own. Their feelings can be best summed up in words of their leader Altaaf Hussain: “The division of the subcontinent was the biggest blunder...it was not the division of land, it was the division of blood… I appeal to the politicians here to forgive the people who left and let them return."

n Poor leadership: Jinnah was appointed Pakistan’s governor-General, and his close associate Liaquat Ali Khan became the prime Minister, but neither of them had deep roots in the new state. Jnnah was from Bombay and Liaquat spent much of his career in Northern India (Cohen). They had no real idea of democracy. Jinnah’s views on democracy were confined to his experience as a legislator in the assembly of British India. He was not really influenced by the actual working of the Westminster model.

He became the Governor-General, president of the Constituent Assembly, minister of Kashmir Affairs, in addition to the president of Pakistan Muslim League, thus laying foundation of amassing offices and power. (Qureshi)

Jinnah never behaved democratically. According to Owen Bennett Jones, “Jinnah had such massive personal authority that few dared to challenge him and even if the did, a momentary scowl was enough to silence his most determined opponents.”

All the successive rulers of Pakistan emulated Jinnah, thus leaving no room for democracy. Pakistan's politicians have put the acquisition of personal wealth ahead of any other consideration, making theirs the most corrupt democracy in the world.

n Focus India: Post partition, Pakistan central aim was to destabilize India. More than focusing on good governance and common man, Pakistan wanted to avenge itself. The only way it saw was via terrorism. First in the name of Kashmir, and later, by widening the gulf between India and minority Muslims. Most of the policies of Pakistan are India-centric. For the Pakistan Army, India still remains the biggest enemy and for Pakistan, the biggest threat. So consequently all the US aid that poured into Pakistan during cold war was used in acquiring weapons and setting up nuclear arsenal. India alleges that the aid is still used in promoting cross border terror. Pakistan denies the charge.

n It has been argued time and again that Pakistan was born out of intolerance and hatred towards Hindus and this didn’t change even after the creation of a separate Muslim homeland. After breaking ranks with Hindus, they targeted the Ahmadiyas and branded them ‘Kaafirs’. In the 1970s the Balochis were subjected to genocide merely because they wanted to preserve their rights, and identity.

The Sunnis and the Shias hate each other and murder is the common currency between them. In Karachi, the clash between the locals and the Muhajirs is well known.

So was the creation a mistake?

From the above discussion, one can safely conclude so. The creation of Pakistan is an irony. It proclaims to be the upholder of Islam, but it is the only country where Islam has been “misused” most to remain in power. Pakistan’s quest for an Islamic Constitution was nothing but a farce.

It was created to protect the interests of Muslims but it ended up only aggravating their problems. The common man on the streets remains dissatisfied. What has the leadership offered them? Poverty, lawlessness, anarchy, years of military rule. And worst of all, post 9/11, almost all Muslims are seen as terrorists. Thanks to Pakistan!

It can take pride in the fact, if not anything else, that it has become a constant source of headache for even superpowers like US. Their gift of terrorism remains unique.
The tribal lands joined Pakistan rather than India after partition, but Islamabad neither tried nor had the will to control the Pashtuns of the NWFP or Balochis with the result that the tribal areas “became a melting pot for jihadis from all over the world” (Ahmed Rashid) in successive years.

While the military in Pakistan may have once believed that they could use jihadis for their own ends, the Islamists have followed their own agendas. As a result the struggle has spilled onto Pakistani streets and into the heart of the country’s politics.

Almost all the problems that Pakistan faces today, including the biggest menace of terror, are the result of its own creation. Clearly, the creation is a faux pas but it cannot be undone.
Pakistan has to transform the “Islamic component of its identity and bring the idea of Pakistan into alignment with 21st century realities,” says Cohen. But before taking up issues like democracy, development and economy, Pakistan has to counter the immediate danger that threatens its existence – Terrorism.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Musharraf | The second coming

Branches and leaves will keep growing unless we uproot the tree.

– Pervez Musharraf comparing terrorists to a tree, with terror outfits being its branches.

Pervez Musharraf may not have been a perfect leader, but ever since he was forced out of office, the country’s democracy is still a far cry, internal security has been on a wane and relations with India have taken a nosedive.

The former president’s departure is not the sole cause of the deterioration but one year on, Pakistan is a country on the brink.

Roughly a year back, President Asif Zardari entered office vowing to take more effective action against the Taliban and other Islamic insurgents and clearly that has not happened. Terrorist attacks are at an all time high, with at least one attack per week.

Taliban militants have made six major strikes in Pakistan in the past two weeks, with the major ones targeting three security establishments in Lahore killing at least 14 people.

Even as the land of pure tries to stamp out the Taliban in South Waziristan, militants have unleashed a wave of commando-style raids and suicide bomb attacks in Islamabad, the eastern city of Lahore and Peshawar in the country's northwest.

In a latest strike, two suicide bombers attacked an Islamic university in Islamabad, killing five people and wounding several others, adding to the string of attacks throughout the country that have claimed the lives of over 80 people in October alone.

All this leads to one pertinent question: Was Pakistan safer under Musharraf? Was Musharraf a better leader than Zardari?

Musharraf’s rule of Pakistan was marked by civil unrest and an uneasy alliance with the United States and he survived more than one attempt on his life. But the deluge of terror Pakistan is facing today was unheard of during his tenure.

Musharraf said he himself tried to eradicate terrorism from Pakistan even before 9/11, when the United States sought his help to capture Al Qaeda operatives and their leader, Osama bin Laden.

In a Stanford University appearance early this year, the former Pakistan President claimed that during his regime, the army managed to “eliminate 700 Al Qaeda operatives, including 45 key figures.”

Recent polls show that the Zardari government's approval ratings have fallen to levels comparable to the lowest recorded by Musharraf while in power.

The government is under fire not only for the faltering economy, but also for bowing to Taliban demands for the imposition of Islamic law in the Swat Valley.

Analysts agree that Musharraf did a fine job of keeping the Islamic tinderbox together. Former CIA official Michael Scheuer, who headed the agency’s counter-terror unit dedicated to tracking Osama bin Laden, believes that Pakistan was safer under Musharraf.

In an interview to BBC early this year, Scheuer had stated that the Lahore terrorist attack on Sri Lankan cricketers was a direct result of the West's insistence on replacing Musharraf with a democratically-elected president in Pakistan.

India’s National Security Advisor MK Narayanan is of the opinion that Musharraf was a better deal for India compared to the present government in Islamabad.

"I think as far as India was concerned, with regard to the questions we had on Kashmir, etc, it was possible to do business with him (Musharraf). And I think our Prime Minister's now very well worn statement, namely that 'I can do business with president Musharraf' is now widely recognised as being part of the truth," Narayanan had told a private news channel.

When asked whether Pakistan has become a more difficult or more complicated country, after General Musharraf resigned, Narayanan replied in the positive.

Musharraf's popularity has grown all the more after his resignation and several pro-Musharraf websites and groups on social networking sites have emerged.

In the most recent interview with Musharraf, Daphne Barak admits that she receives mails and people have started missing Musharraf: "Many emails are relatively flattering to you. I even have emails from PPP members who say that they never thought they will miss you, but they do. Especially young people!"

“I support Musharraf policies which were directed towards controlling and exterminating extremism, strengthening relationships with neighbouring states including India and starting development process in the backward areas of Pakistan. Being a Democrat I cannot support military government yet I cannot withhold my support for anyone who does right things…,” says Naveed Awan, a resident of Rawalpindi, Pakistan.


But there is a school of thought that blames Musharraf for today’s Pakistan.

In a recent interview to this author, Shaun Gregory, director of the Pakistan Security Research Unit, University of Bradford said that “the seeds of all that is happening now were sown during the Musharraf era. It was Musharraf that supported extremist religious-political groups like the MMA; Musharraf who continued the army's support of militant groups like the LeT; Musharraf who tolerated or supported [depending on what you believe] the return of the Taliban Afghanistan between 2002-2007, and it was Musharraf who diverted so many of Pakistan's scarce resources to the Army when this money should have been invested in raising the living conditions and education and employment opportunities of ordinary Pakistanis”.

An editorial in the leading Pakistani newspaper, The Daily Times, also blames former President for the Taliban terror in the country.

“The rise of the Taliban terror happened on Musharraf’s watch. He kept the army on a tight leash as the population went under the control of Baitullah Mehsud in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Fazlullah in Swat,” the editorial said.

“It is clear that Musharraf had no clue about the Frankenstein created by his procrastination. He looked the other way while the Taliban attacked across the Durand Line into Afghanistan,” it added.

Muhammad Asad, a common man from Islamabad, who dreams of peace returning to Pakistan, has hard feelings for Bush’s ‘poodle’ but he doesn’t spare Zardari either.

“Musharraf was not catering the interests of Pakistan, from the day he took over… Under the present situation everything is right apart from President Zardari and some of his cronies. Zardari has gone two steps forward in doing what Musharraf was doing – catering to America’s interests.”

The resurrection

From the sweeping presidential palace of Islamabad to an unassuming three-bedroom flat behind the shisha bars and kebab joints of London’s Arabic quarter – the return seems tough but Musharraf’s not the one to give up.

Speaking to the media after a dinner hosted in his honor by the Pakistani-American Community of New York recently, the General said that he will “make a decision based on the wishes of the people of Pakistan.”

Some observers say that this meant Musharraf’s entry in politics is almost a done deal. Others call his statement ‘delusional’.

Also this Eid, the former president ruled out the possibility of another coup and said that he will return home under pleasant conditions.

In May 2009, he hinted to CNN that he would “do something for” Pakistan if it was “in trouble”; and on August 24 Musharraf’s counsel, Fawad Chaudhury, told the Pakistani newspaper Dawn that Musharraf was “mulling all options to play a direct or indirect role in the country’s politics”.

Chaudhury also revealed that Musharraf was urging PML-Q to reunite after it split into two blocs earlier this year.

On September 8, Dawn quoted Musharraf loyalists as saying he was in “constant touch” with the PML-Q’s breakaway faction, which could provide the former president with a way back into Pakistani politics.

According to a media report, former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf’s recent admission that he misused American aid money while in office appears to be part of a strategy aimed at paving a way for his eventual return to power.

His remarks appear to have been designed to position him as a patriot – an attempt to rehabilitate his image and increase support for him among the Pakistani public after being widely perceived as an American puppet during his nine-year rule, says a report in the International Relations and Security Network.

Musharraf’s chance will come at the next scheduled elections in 2013 and his loyalists insist that he still has lot more to offer Pakistan than do his squabbling successors.

Critics insist that the military despot’s return to power will tough considering the number of court cases against him. He is accused of treason – among other things – for suspending the constitution and sacking chief justice Chaudhry in November 2007.

"It seems that the former President is trying to embarrass the government…He will not succeed because of the baggage he is carrying. The damage he has done to civil society and government institutions is too great. He will not be rehabilitated,” President Asif Ali Zardari spokesman Farhatullah Babar, was quoted as saying in Time magazine.

In the same report, Aftab Sherpao, who had been a member of Musharraf's Cabinet, said that his former boss mistakenly nurtures political ambitions. "I think he's interested," says the former Interior Minister. "He's been in the power game for so long that now he's lost it. He feels there's a vacuum. He feels that there are people who still look up to him. I'm sure that people around him are suggesting that these politicians who are running the country are not capable."


Anything is possible in politics and Musharraf’s second coming won’t be a moment of shock and awe.

The Musharraf era demonstrated that civilian governments and military regimes can be equally bad at governance. He may or may not be a good leader, but has left a deep imprint on Pakistani politics.

The military dictator definitely stands tall and stands apart when compared with crop of leaders like Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif and the late Benazir Bhutto. One of Musharraf’s few talents was his ability to assure people, which his predecessors and successors lacked.

Take it or leave it, but to make thinks work in Pakistan, one has to aptly balance the ISI, the Army as well as the Mullahs. Musharraf at least gave that hope.

His intentions were never bad for Pakistan, but his policies backfired. He was responsible for his own doom and hope he learns his lessons before staging a comeback.

As for Pakistan, with or without Musharraf, the Islamic nation’s well-being now depends on countering internal terror that is carving out autonomous zones in the tribal belt along the Afghan border and slowly making it to major cities of Pakistan.

Pakistan Paindabad!