The old & new Pakistan

In the past decade, it has been an honour through the pages of Nation to write on Pakistan; a sort of compiled critical non-revisionist history. Commenting on my Thesis, an Indian wrote, “I had read that Jinnah started alienating Bengalis in 1948 but this writer says it started in 1906 itself”. Yes, I maintain that the seeds of discord were laid in in 1906.  

As Pakistanis, we have to collectively accept the reality that Pakistan that was, is no more the Pakistan that is; and the Pakistan that is, is not the one created by Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It is this acknowledgement of facts that can lay a new framework for an egalitarian Pakistan ruled by the people and for the people.  Amidst the crises, there is a window only for those who know history and have vision for futures. 

Pakistan like a dysfunctional family has been through its share of intrigues, expediencies, narrow politics and attrition. Because the power structure was never devolved, there are no lessons learnt. Exclusive power sharing means that national memory is short lived. Men of letters acting as ‘conscience of the nation’ are frisked as too bookish and non-pragmatic. The people who love the country have always ended at the receiving end. Dreams and dreamers are shattered on daily basis. But the positive is that dreams live on and the single reason why Pakistan continues to wade through swamps. 

As West Pakistan nears the end of its 46th year of separation, lessons if any are ignored by the elastic conscience and political opportunism of leaders. Post 1971, there was no debriefing and therefore blunders repeated. The latest blunders were NRO1 and 2 guaranteed by the Army Chief.  The manipulation of 2013 elections handed over decisive political power to PMLN that is hell bent on creating anarchy in the country. (Nation: Anarchy and Law, November 25, 2017)

Woefully, Pakistan’s corrupt political and socio-economic systems continue to trample the aspirations of the people. Majority is either too lethargic or disconnected from nationhood to exercise the power of ballot. The realisation and national urge for a way forward is amiss. With time and endemic crises, the style of politics adopted by politicians has worsened. Despite such political culture and insensitivity, survival owes much to the hardy people held together by geographical contiguity, disconnect between people and rulers, military acting as a cementing agent and very recently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan.  The good future of Pakistan hinges on the window of last three.

West Pakistanis cannot eclipse historical facts by considering themselves as custodians of an ideology that never existed. The Creed of Muslim League was replaced by the Objective Resolution in 1949.  ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ was created by a military dictator to strengthen grip on political power. 

Conversely, after the partition of Bengal, the idea of separation came predominantly from the Muslims of East Bengal. Muhammadan Education Conference of the Aligarh modernity school changed to All India Muslim League at Dacca in 1906. The first convener was Nawab Sir Khawaja Salimullah of Dacca who mentored two stalwarts; A. K. Fazlul Haq who wrote the first Creed of the League and Choudhury Khaliquzzaman. 

From 1906 till 1947, the east and west were part of the same struggle. East provided the platform, intellectual inputs and direction. Much of what became the Lahore Resolution of 23 March 1940 was written in Dacca.

The thesis of separation mostly advocated by Bengali leaders with the obvious experience of history was ignored till Allama Iqbal as President of Punjab Muslim League reflected the concept in his famous Allahabad address that referred only to India’s North West Muslim provinces and not East Bengal. The fact that Pakistan’s inventive history credits Allama Iqbal more than the founders of this idea is a historical distortion. These frustrations are reflected in the many dissenting notes and speeches of A. K. Fazlul Haq. Bengalis provided the impetus for the freedom struggle when NWFP and Punjab were dominated by pro Congress Unionists and sympathizers (Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan).

Punjab’s centrism with a shadow of the UP lobby caused irreparable damage to the federation of Pakistan and built divisive lines along which the West Pakistani narrative was built.

To say that politics is pragmatic realism is a smokescreen for cantankerous mechanisms. World over, the ‘Paradigm of Realism’ is placed in check by questions of conscience, ethics, honesty and loyalty. In Pakistan, all rulers and state functionaries are bound by an oath to the constitution of the country that places moral, ethical and legal limitations. Yet since 1947, every bound has been blatantly violated for self-serving interests. 

Pakistan is a case of unsettled inheritance. At the top, it represents a typical dysfunctional family fighting over booty. It is still a question as to who inherited Pakistan after the death of the founding father. Because the succeeding families of politicians, clergy, bureaucrats and military all had their individual perspective on inheritance, the gulfs widened and closure never took place. Each one of them is responsible of decapitating the body that stubbornly survives. Populism came very briefly in 1970-71 when the results were too discouraging for the West led by Bhutto to accept.

Consequently, twenty four years of collectiveness overridden by the alienation of the East, failed politics, a non-ethical political economy and refusal to accept the power of the ballot was dumped into the lap of military for the last rites. East Pakistan was not lost because of military operations from March 1971 to December 1971. It was lost because from 1906 onwards, role of Bengali leaders was always undermined. The collective West Pakistan syndrome treated the East like a colony. 

Ever since, not much has changed but there is hope.

Unlike 1971, the military for the past ten years is supporting democratic institutions. It plays the role of keeping the country and majority of people together like a big family,  aptly summarised by Anatol Lieven in his Opinion, ‘Battered, but Still Afloat’.

The army continues to make sacrifices for the wrong policies of the past. It has successfully fought militants and secessionists. It has brought normalcy to Karachi. But its biggest test will come in support of the Supreme Court of Pakistan grappling against a perverted dispensation put in place by a former COAS. 

What was the old Pakistan is known. What will be the course of a new Pakistan? It depends on rule of law prevailing over political perversion.


The writer is a political economist and a television anchor person.

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