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.


Anuj Dhar said...

Good piece this is. Given Pakistan's current turmoil it'd seem we are better off them as a separate country rather than a part of ours.

Shazneen said...

Ya khuda! Gives us a chance..don't expect us to perform miracles. After partition, India was supposed to help us, it didn't. Why? Rather on the pretext of helping, it divided Pakistan. I quite agree Iyer with the lacunae u have mentioned but just don't compare it with India... India has been existing since eons..but Pakistan it is just over 60. Nobody has helped Pakistan EVER. It has been only used cos of its geostrategy. We have been used and discarded, esp by these so called super powers. The GREAT GAME that these silly NY times reporter or LA reporters talk about, is actually the great game of super powers. Pakistan, Iyer please please understand, is just a pawn.

Nishant said...

Pakistan's creation was necessary; else India could have had all sorts of terror attacks on its soil, shared border with the troubled Afghanistan; and become US ally in war against terror!

South Asia Musings said...

Dear Anuj and Nishant, I don't agree fully. At present the border between Af-Pak (Durand Line) is very porous, which explains the reasons for terrorism. I am sure, if Pak had had been with India, the latter wdn't have ignored the tribal regions and done something about that imaginary border. All these tribes, esp the Balochis, always wanted to be a part of India..Sadly they stayed on wid Pak post partition cos of strategic reasons. The Khan of Kalat almost gifted Balochistan to India, but Nehru refused due to strategic reasons. Thanks for your feedback.

South Asia Musings said...

Shazneen...Many thanks for yr responses! The beauty of the article is that nowhere I have compared Pakistan with India. I have only analysed whether the creation was justified. The basis of Pakistan's foundation is very anti-India, so there was no question of helping. Was there a need to spoon feed yr leaders..They were from India only..Jinnah was from Congress and I suppose he studied the Westminster model of democracy. Why didn't they learn their lessons? Moreover, India has not achieved anything by helping its neighbours...Her good intentions have always been misunderstood. We have burnt our fingers with Sri Lanka and Nepal. As regards the carving of Bangladesh..it is a very debatable issue. Don't wish to say much, but you have to acknowledge that post partition, East Pakistan was left on its own.... Hukumat-e-Pakistan was only basking in the glory of Punjab and Sindh.
Pakistan is a pawn because it allowed itself to be used as one! why can't it assert itself? See it still can't stand up and tell US to stop using drones in civilian areas.

Kamran said...

Nishant: Why don't you see the brighter side of things... The so called Kashmir issue that you hold so close to your heart, wouldn't have been there. If India had stayed in one piece with Hindus and Muslims democratically competing in political parties, it would be a superpower today, larger and stronger than China.
Iyer: I agree with you that the foundations of Pakistan were wrong. The leaders and Mullahs here talk about Islam as if they were the real pioneers. They actually never understood Islam..neither the common muslim man, as u say, on the streets of Pindi, Peshawar or Karachi.
Shazneen: It is because people like you that Pakistan in a mess.
Existence of pakistan is nobody's fault. Allah kay marzi thi to payda ho gaya..Allah kay Marzi thi jo itny dur tak aa gaya..Inshallah Pakistan paindabad.

Shankara said...

I agree to a lot of people here and creation of Pakistan is a blessing at hind sight. I dont agree with Shazneen that India and the world was to help Pakistan. Pakistan is in the mess today because of the path it choose under various leaders especially Zia Ul Haq. Below is a link which delves on this subject a bit differently.


Vijay Lohitsa

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is just too big to fail.
In spite of all of the serious problems it faces today, I remain
optimistic that country will not only survive but thrive in the coming decades. With a fairly large educated urban middle class, vibrant media, active civil society, assertive judiciary, many philanthropic organizations, and a spirit of entrepreneurship,
the nation has the necessary ingredients to overcome its current
difficulties to build a democratic government accountable to its

Shankara said...

What Riaz has quoted is what he hears from the govt. owned media. But nothing wrong in hoping. Hope is everything.