Sep 23, 2023
Sep 23, 2023
On a discursive note; 25 December happens to be the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), the Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader) of Pakistan. And the present Zardari-Gilani government had the onus of exhibiting his birthplace to the public on that very day. Amusingly, the funds required to renovate his residence did not reach the project officials and the work that was stopped since July 2008 could not be resumed. Thus Wazir Mansion at Karachi, Jinnah’s birthplace, remained closed to the public on his birth anniversary.
Bludgeoning Jinnah’s vision of a pure pan-Islamic Pakistan (Land of the Pure), the Shia religious processions on the eve of Ashura (a mourning to commemorate the death of Prophet’s grandson Imam Hussein at the hands of the Caliph Yazid at Karbala in present Iraq in c 680 AD) were repeatedly attacked by terror groups in the comparatively calm city of Karachi between 26 to 28 December.
Security has nosedived over the last two and a half years in Pakistan, where militant attacks have consumed more than 2,700 people since July 2007. Moreover, the country is being pulverized under Washington’s peremptory writs to engage in the frontline war against Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
Pakistan Needs a Tracheotomy
In the following sections, this article would attempt to find an interconnection between Pakistan’s present predicaments and its roots of historical formation: examine the causality between the two events, or rather ‘series of events’.
When Baba-e-Qaum (Father of the Nation) Muhammad Ali Jinnah asserted his demand for a separate nation on 23 March 1940 at the Lahore session of the Muslim League, did he have an iota of cognition what the future nation-state would be like? In fact, he did not even mention the word “Pakistan” in the Lahore resolution though the word had already been coined by another ‘stalwart’ Rahmat Ali almost seven years ago when he published a 4-page pamphlet at Cambridge in January 1933, bearing the appellation: “Now or Never: Are we to live or perish forever?”. But achieving a separate nation for the sub-continent’s Muslims was indeed Jinnah’s political tour de force.
Actually, the then Muslim intelligentsia wanted to break the psychological yoke of Hindu domination and consequent extermination. Hence, they encouraged the paroxysms of the ordinary Muslims who were co-habiting with their Hindu counterparts for centuries in a more-or-less conducive socio-political atmosphere. One obvious reason for this healthy situation was the very fact that the rulers of most part of the sub-continent were Muslims. But the bonhomie between the two religious groups could not be totally undermined keeping in view the manner in which they joined hands to uproot the British Raj in the First War of India’s Independence in 1857.
Actually after the death of Aurangzeb (the last Mughal emperor), the decline of the Mughal empire set in 1707 which slowly but surely fostered the growth of local kingdoms. The sub-continent, after a period of five centuries of Turko-Mongol rule, was offering an opportunity to the Marathas, Sikhs and Jats (non-Muslim sects), not to mention the European infiltration. The consequent loss of prestige of the Muslim theocracy and nobility led the religious elite to search for political boulevards in expressing their anguish. The 1857 revolt was one: quite secular in nature, whereas the other had communal undertones.
Marring the beautiful socio-religious landscape of the mid nineteenth century was the emergence, in the background, of the dark clouds of ‘Wahabism’. It was a concept originally propounded by Abdul Wahab of Arabia (1703-92). He desired to rejuvenate Islam and to restore the socio-political order to the days of the Prophet. The idea was generated in the sub-continent by the Delhi saint Shah Waliullah (1704-63) who wanted to create ‘dar-ul-Islam’ (Land of Islam), even with the help of marauding invaders like Ahmad Shah Abdali of Afghanistan.
Though the Wahabis were well-organized and carried on their struggle for almost four decades under the able leaderships of Waliullah and later Syed Ahmad Brelvi (1786-1831), first against the Sikhs and thereafter against the Imperial Raj, they finally capitulated under the iron hand of the Raj in the 1870s. Interestingly, the Wahabis physically ensconced themselves in today’s North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) region of Pakistan with their headquarters near Peshawar (capital of NWFP).
But the flavor of Wahabism transcended territorial and temporal limits and re-emerged with the Goebbelsian demagogy of the later-day so-called elite Muslim ‘nationalist’ leaders like Sir (Dr.) Muhammad Iqbal, Z.A. Suleri and F.M. Durrani. It might be that Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of the Aligarh University (in present India), engaged in verbal duels with the Wahabis or received ‘fatwas’ (decrees by the Theocrats), but at the end of the day wanted a Islamic state after the British withdrawal from the sub-continent.
Thus, just after assuming power as Pakistan’s Governor-General, Jinnah’s plea to regard religion as a personal matter, not a state matter, was utterly disregarded by the rowdy ruffians as it made no sense to their logic and understanding since the call defied Jinnah’s ‘diabolical diatribe’ once heaped against the other nationality, i.e. the Hindus.
Naturally, the nascent nation-state of Pakistan was submerged under the influx of refugees from India and had to muster infrastructural strength; establishing political institutions was a sine-qua-non for the realization of those.
The most immediate problem was the continued presence of a Congress government in the NWFP, a government effective at the grassroots level and popular. As a matter of fact, the NWFP Congress boycotted the referendum for partition which helped the Muslim League win a marginal majority to join Pakistan. Led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his Khudai-i-Khitmatgars (Servants of God), this group was often referred to as the Red Shirts after the attire of its members.
Pakistan also had to establish its legitimacy against a possible challenge from Afghanistan. Kabul made the emotional claim of “Pakhtunistan”, based on the ethnic unity of tribes straddling the Durand Line. However, Pakistan upheld the treaties Britain had signed with Afghanistan and refused to discuss the validity of the Durand Line as the international border with Afghanistan. This resulted in a diplomatic and commercial fracas.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Jinnah passed away in September 1948, barely thirteen months after independence and the mantle passed on to Liaqat Ali Khan, who tried to frame a Constitutional Government based on the British system. But the bottlenecks were manifold. First, he had to deal with the question of the autonomy of the provinces. Second, the aspect of the Bengali-dominated East Pakistan had to be dealt with; which was separated by about 1,600 km of Indian landmass. And finally, the issue of the role of Islam had to be resolved.
The ‘continuity of a series of discontinuous catastrophic events’ commenced with the assassination of Liaqat Ali Khan at Rawalpindi in October 1951. And this was the period when a plethora of political parties started surfacing in both East and West Pakistan with the Muslim League gradually loosing relevance. Furthermore, this was the time when the military started to intervene in politics when in March 1951, Major General Mohammad Akbar Khan, chief of the general staff, was arrested along with fourteen other officers on charges of plotting a coup d’etat. This was termed the Rawalpindi Conspiracy. The connivers were tried and sentenced to incarceration.
Amidst the usurpation of state power by bureaucratic-elites and the lawyer-turned politicos, Pakistan was bestowed with a Constitution in 1956. Nevertheless, it failed to hold its forte against the onslaught of the military-ulema (theologian) nexus that developed over the years: the foremost manifestation of which came through the regime of General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88).
Among other things, two issues maintained (or jeopardized?) the vitality of Pakistan in the last 60 years or at least provided oxygen for its survival. One, the irredentist claims pertaining to the Kashmir of its ‘childhood enemy’ India; and two, the Military-Jihadi connection and the overarching influence of the secret services wing Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). In the process, Pakistan vacillated in a tortuous dilemma between the two extremities of being the “Land of the Pure” viz. Land of Islam and a “modern nation-state”.
Be it Ayub Khan of the 1950s or Pervez Musharraf of the 1990s or even the present military dispensation within the cloak of the ‘petticoat government’, Pakistan remained and still remains a mosaic of corruption punctuated by Madrasa-based theocratic dogmas; invariably placing the country in an anachronistic mode. Moreover, even a numbskull can fathom that the possibility of Pakistan being a ‘failed state’ is fraught with imminent dangers for the world community at large.
Perennial enmity with India forced Pakistan to embark on the peregrinations of Western Block during the Cold War era (1945-91). The acrimony with India was the paramount reason behind its active role in propping up the Madrasa-based Talibans (students).
History kept on evolving, but Pakistan clung to it.
With more than two-thirds of the population living under the poverty line, with the majority of the women still ‘un-emancipated’ and with large swathes of the landmass under the active sway of the Islamic fundamentalists who have created ‘state within a state’, Pakistan is definitely tottering to its fall.
Are we envisaging another dismemberment of Pakistan on the same lines of the 1971 formation of present-day Bangladesh? Ideologue Rahmat Ali spoke of “Bangistan” (United Bengal comprising today’s Bangladesh and the province of West Bengal in India), “Haidersitan” (the then princely state of Hyderabad before its accession to India) on a promising note, but they appeared to be ‘chimera’ at that period. Are we to see Balochistan, Punjab and ‘Pakhtunistan’ as independent nation-states or Pakistan as a truly federal state with the residuary powers with the provinces? Or do we envisage the more deadly scenario of the fundamentalists taking over a nuclear-Pakistan?
Can the military live to see another day? Whatever be it, presently the military is trying to prove its mettle, not only to Washington, but also to Pakistan’s citizenry so as to bring back the law and order situation on track. Vivisection of the country shall be avoided till USA is present in neighboring Afghanistan, but what happens after its withdrawal? Shall there be a Mahdi (redeemer) or a re-incarnated Jinnah to act as a saviour?
A necropsy is not completely unwarranted in this context.
Categorized by Mountbatten as ‘a psychopathic case’ and by Gandhi as ‘a maniac’, Jinnah proclaimed Pakistan in 1947 with the apparent declaration of “L’etat c’est moi” (I am the State).
Therein lay the seeds of the ‘botched situation’ which Pakistan faces today.
Jinnah’s Muslim League was so top heavy and so engrossed in inflaming passions to garner authority and territorial assignments that it failed to incorporate institutionalization and concomitant democratization. The indelible imprint of the Bangladeshi scar ‘coerced’ the military to search for a ‘paramour’ in the Jihadi network.
Jinnah’s political base was never in today’s Pakistan; rather it was in today’s India! He used to control the League through commands. The Muslim League did not fare well in elections till 1946. The lackadaisical approach of the regional Muslim parties contributed to its success to a definite degree. Nonetheless, the League’s malicious harangue against the Congress and the cry of ‘Islam in danger’ worked wonders,albeit for the time being. When the enemy was no more, the goal was obscure. The obduracy and intransigence of Jinnah and other League leaders was good enough to form Pakistan but not to keep the country embonpoint.
The offshoots of such a policy are glaringly obvious today.
Unless the Pakistani State apparatus assumes the configuration of the “Leviathan” and separates itself from the ecclesiastical; unless the civil society stands upright and unless the common man asserts himself, Hobbesian state of nature looms large on the Pakistani horizon.
The then leadership of the Congress also cannot deny the burden of opprobrium. Probably, a séance has to be organized.
More by : Dr. Uddipan Mukherjee