Pakistan – a State that should never have been
In a couple of weeks’ time, India and Pakistan will celebrate their independence from the British Raj three scores and ten years back. In some paradoxical way, Bangladesh may also join in that celebration as that was also the precursor to its own independence some 24 years later on 26 March 1971.
A Two-Nation Theory (TNT) which Muhammad Ali Jinnah adopted and promoted in the late 1930s and 1940s with so much hullabaloo that not only Indian National Congress (INC) but also the British Raj, shaken and grievously harmed and weakened by the WWII, had to cave in. The strident call for a separate state for the minority Muslims comprising some 24 per cent of Indian population in the 1941 census was nothing but Jinnah’s Machiavellian ploy to achieve his political ambition. After spending the formative part of his political career in the Congress, Jinnah realised that his ambition to reach the highest rung of political hierarchy in the talent-strewn Congress cannot possibly be achieved. So, he had to find other avenues to achieve his aims.
For centuries Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Zoroastrians and all other religious mixes had been living together sometimes under Muslim rulers, sometimes under Hindu rulers, sometimes under Christian rulers and many a times under an admixture of rulers. But never before the subjects had to be segregated under the pretext that minorities would not receive justice under the unified government. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the INC president for a number of terms, Mahatma Gandhi and many others tried to persuade Jinnah offering various options such as federated state for India with all administrative powers except foreign and defence being vested in states, Jinnah’s choice of first cabinet etc. But Jinnah would have none of it.
The subcontinent was forked out into two States – one for the Muslims and the other for all religious denominations in India. Pakistan was formed by putting together two Muslim majority areas – West Pakistan on the west and East Pakistan on the east – separated by nearly 2000 km. There was no common ground between these two peoples, except the tenuous link of Islam. If Islam could be the glue between various peoples, then the whole of Middle East would have been a unified state, which it is not!
However, Jinnah won the day, not so much by the strength of his political argument but by sheer communal barbarity. When sectarianism is stoked up by politicians to gain currency, race riots follow. More than one million people – men, women and children – died in race riots immediately pre- and post- independence and 10 million people had been displaced.
That the new state would look after the interests of the Muslims sounds totally hollow. More than 30% of Muslims remained in India despite most horrendous race riots triggered by politicians to polarise the country. Jinnah used Islam for his political purpose, but he was not a practising Muslim at all. He belonged to Ismaili sect (also known as Aga Khani) – a subset of Shia sect in Islam. He was a thorough-bred western educated lawyer with western lifestyle. When he formed the first government in Pakistan, his first foreign minister, Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, was an Ahmadi (also known as Qadiani), another sect of Shia, now regarded by Sunnis as heretical. His law minister was a Hindu. Jinnah’s second wife was a Zoroastrian, an ancient religion predating all monotheistic religions. So, religion was definitely not the deciding factor, although the state was created on this basis.
However, within a few short months of creation of Pakistan, Islamists led by Jamaat-e-Islam saw the opportunity. The first step to transform Pakistan into an Islamic state was taken by Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister, by “Objective Resolution” which declared that the sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to God Almighty! All non-religious activities were gradually discouraged in both wings of the country. Within a few years, Pakistan was declared an Islamic Republic.
Religious fanaticism had completely taken over Pakistan. If such fanaticism would have existed in Pakistan when it was created, then Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, would have been declared non-Muslim and expelled from the country. Mohammad Zafarullah Khan would have been relieved of his duties as UN representative and imprisoned as being heretic. Prof. Abdus Salam, the first and only Muslim Nobel Laureate in Physics from Pakistan, had actually been stripped of his nationality and declared non-Muslim as he was an Ahmadi. His tombstone had been desecrated by removing the word “Muslim”.
The very ideology of two-nation theory is now totally discredited. Those two nations have now spawned into three nations, Bangladesh being the latest one. As it stands now Baloch, Sindh and border regions in Pakistan are asserting their rights based on their ethnicity, cultural identity etc., as Pakistan asserted its right on religiosity. If you open a can of worms, it is very difficult to put them back again.
The vile communal ideology of one state for one religion is not only heinous but positively dangerous also. Pakistan as well as most, if not all, Muslim countries started driving away non-Muslims from the country. The more fanatic the country is, the more ethnic cleansing the country carries out. In 1950 (shortly after independence), West Pakistan (now Pakistan) had 85.5% Muslims, whereas in 2010, the percentage had gone up to 96.5%. In 1947, the minorities (mostly Hindus, but also including Sikhs, Christians, Parsis) were 23% of the population of West Pakistan, with Hindus themselves being almost 20%, whereas in 2011, the Hindus were reduced to less than 2%. In 1947, East Pakistan (Bangladesh) had 29% Hindus, as against 34% Hindus in 1901, but the % of Hindus in Bangladesh in 2011 was only 8.6%. Contrast that with India, a non-Muslim country, where the Muslim population between these two dates had gone up from 10% to 14.23%. In most of the Middle East Muslim countries, Muslim population is 98% to 99%, all non-Muslims had been driven away or eliminated!
Intolerance is the hall mark of Pakistani politicians. In 1971 when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto thundered that he would never play a second fiddle to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (although Mujib had the largest number of elected representatives in the proposed assembly), one cannot miss the echo of Jinnah’s strident call in 1940 Lahore Resolution to have a Muslim homeland for Muslims (with him as the leader). Compromise, goodwill, national unity etc are not within the bloodstream of Pakistani Muslims. Self-interests, personal ambitions, political supremacy etc are driving forces for them.
These streaks of personal ambition are self-evident in Pakistani politics. In Pakistan, not a single elected prime minister since independence had managed to serve his or her full term. The latest prime minister, Nawaz Sharif had been removed by the court order on suspicion of corruption, only a couple of days ago, about a year before the end of his term. The hands of military authorities are present all over the place. Democracy had never been allowed to flourish in Pakistan even after 70 years of independence. Chaos and confusion reign everywhere, law and order is blatantly absent. If this is not the sign of a failed state, I do not know what a failed state is. As the Indian politician Shashi Tharoor once said, “The state of India has an army, the army in Pakistan has a state”.
Bangladesh is fortunate enough to have parted company with Pakistan within 24 years of most unhappy relationship. How dreadful it would be if Bangladesh had been with Pakistan now! I am not trying to scare Bangladeshis, nor am I thinking of giving them undue nightmares. Unless Bangladeshi people wipe out entirely that dreadful association and vouch never to entertain any thought of association with Pakistani Islamists, the nightmare may come back. Pakistan is not going to go away. But Bangladesh must steer a distinct secular path and be vigilant forever.