September 3, 2011

Revisiting the ideology of Pakistan

If there is one national termite that has been eating up Pakistan’s physiology and neurology, it is its purported ‘ideology’. After more than six decades of existence, Pakistan is still defending its genesis and going to-and-fro on the cause-effect tree. Graduating a ‘community’ into a ‘nation’ has not been without consequences, and is now affecting affecting its own existence.

The origin of the idea of Pakistan stands as obliterated in the subcontinent, as is Pakistan’s identity. The most prominent narrative in both countries has been that Indian partition was based on a simplistic ‘Two-Nation Theory’ (that Muslims and Hindus are two essentially distinct ‘nations’ and thus cannot live together). In India, the narrative turns negative, interpreting communalism and Muslim separatism as the raison d’etre of Pakistan. In Pakistan, it becomes the root of jingoist patriotism, hatred of India and religious fundamentalism with a burgeoning political commitment to further theocratise the state. In India, in contrast, the birth of a country based on ‘communal’ considerations continues to be unacceptable to a more secular public. The two narratives remain unchallenged even by the peaceniks; peaceniks who otherwise bear the brunt of popular ridicule for denying harsh realities while trying to find solutions in hollow emotionalism.

Both the narratives seem to simplify the complex political power-play that shaped the events leading to the partition of India.

They also miss a tragic flow of events and ideas that started much earlier than the Lahore Resolution of 1940, which is thought to be the basis for creation of Pakistan.

Photo: International Rivers

Photo: International Rivers

The ‘ideology of Pakistan’ as scripted by the state, emphasises cultural and religious difference between Hindus and Muslims, and hence their inability to live together. The Indian discourse about the genesis of Pakistan doesn’t seem to be any different. The majority of notable authors, from Kishori Lal to M J Akbar, put the blame of Pakistan’s current problems on its communal origins. The narrative misses significant political developments post 1857 that pitched the two communities against each other to the point of no return by 1940s.

For many in Pakistan, their country was born the day Ibn-e-Qasim set his foot on Indian soil. This makes a religious hero out of any invader, aggressor, trespasser and intruder if he was a Muslim. Ghauri, Ghazni, Al-Afghani and various others fall in this category, thus undermining the motherland in favour of an apostolic cause—conquest of territories as divine right. The passion is too conspicuous to miss in today’s Pakistan where terrorist groups from every nook and corner of the world can seek shelter for the cause of Islamic conquest of the world.

There is no denying the fact that any differences of religion or civilisation, however big they might be, should not have been made the basis for tearing the ‘watan’ (homeland) apart. Equally noteworthy is the fact that from Mauryas to Mughals, Indian land had had varying delimitations of different territories, loosely forming the umbrella—India. Aitzaz Ahsan, in his The Indus Saga and the Making of Pakistan gives a new meaning to the separation of the Indus and the Ganges. His thesis snatches the space from the religious discourse while attempting to ground the idea in centuries of human experience rather than vagaries of holy mission of conquest of ‘Hind’. The view probably borrowed by earlier work of REM Wheeler, Five Thousand Years of Pakistan.

The crux of Mr Ahsan’s study was the inherent difference between the Indus valley and the Ganges civilisations, which he argues, bound all the people living northwest of the Gurdaspur-Kathiwar salient, as one, irrespective of their religion. The southern side of this cultural border constitutes Mr Ahsan’s Ganges man, who considers every intruder from the south or from the central Asia as an invader rather than a hero. He identifies his Indus man more with the Central Asian culture than the Ganges civilisation—a more ‘Indian’ civilization.

The political brokering since the early twentieth century which formed the basis on which India was partitioned, had combined the tagging of political survival based on parity and ego of the Muslim elite who used Islam as a motivational factor. During these years, no political roadmap, blueprint of the state or an ideology was presented for public purview that could determine the future state and its postulates.

Keeping the confusion and ambiguity about the nature of the state he demanded, Jinnah was able to not only mobilise mass support using a religious tag, but he also succeeded in having an edge over the Indian National Congress on the negotiating table, almost every significant time after 1940. The Congress’s acceptance of Cabinet Mission Plan was, however, a blow to the politics Jinnah was playing. Without being serious—K K Aziz quotes at least two instances where Jinnah confesses that he had used the demand for a hypothetical state just as a negotiation tool—about the Pakistan proposal and being mindful of the consequences of this kind of politics, Jinnah kept on treading wherever the flow of politics took him, with of course his hand firmly placed on the control panel, which the Congress seemed to misread.

Muslims of united India had by mid-1940s become extremely confused about the nature and justification of ‘Pakistan’. Those in the Muslim minority provinces had been main wielders of the idea of ‘save Muslims’ through resolving existential concerns like greater political rights, greater shares in power-sharing formulae and increased job quotas. The ever-evolving idea of Pakistan changed the locus of separatist politics from minority to Muslim-majority provinces. Those already in the majority became incomprehensibly confused about the need for a separate country when they were already enjoying political, social and economic rights as a majority.

The newborn nation obviously could not survive this scrambled egg of an ideology and soon succumbed to political Islam.

The phenomenon of jihad as state policy, though not documented as such, amply defined itself when Pakistan decided to invade Indian Kashmir through the tribal people called ‘mujahiddin’, right under Jinnah’s nose. The Two-Nation Theory became an explosive TNT for Pakistan with the advent of sectarianism in the 1950s and the perpetual subjugation of Bengalis by the state and led to the partition once again in 1971. The ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’, in which religious ‘oneness’ was trumpeted disproportionately, could not keep its predominantly Muslim East Pakistan wing intact.

The folly called ideology and political practice, designed by Jinnah, have put Pakistan at the brink of social and political collapse. It is high time to correct this historical blunder adopted as ideology and revise the genesis of Pakistan from the puerile haziness of Maududi’s terminology to Wheeler and Ahsan’s vocabulary. The difference, whatever little it might have been, was in the Indus man and the Ganges man, irrespective of their religion. Indus man should look towards Indus, not the deserts of Arabia for cultural refuge. Embracing heritage and rooting it firmly in the Indus soil rather than the air from the Arabian desert is the option that could put Pakistan on its way to international respect and progress. Destruction, otherwise, is impatiently waiting for us.

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