Pakistan At 70: India Continues To Remain The Islamic Republic’s Reason For Existence

by Ananda Dutta Gupta - Sep 7, 2017 10:24 AM +05:30 IST
Pakistan At 70: India Continues To Remain The Islamic Republic’s Reason For ExistencePakistani supporters of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organisation burn Indian and US flags Islamabad. (AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Against all reason, India continues to remain Pakistan’s reason for existence.

If proof was ever needed that the two-nation theory is a load of horse manure, one can only point to Pakistan.

Because 70 years after it was formed on the basis of that theory, Pakistan still suffers from a massive identity crisis, which constantly undermines and erodes its very existence as a nation.

For a long time after 1947, the only identity Pakistanis had was “non-Indian”. To that end, Pakistan aggressively disavowed and disowned huge chunks of its South Asian heritage, and even tried to pretend that Pakistanis were closer to Arabs. Or Persians. When all that failed, it became a nation built on lies.

Let’s start with the Qaid-e-Azam, or great leader. The man who demanded, and got, Pakistan in 1947, as a land for Muslims, the land of the pure. Yet the Baba-e-Qaum, or father of the nation, as he is also fondly known, was known to relish his evening scotch (and some reports say he even enjoyed the occasional pork sausage), and is famous for his supposedly secular outlook.

“You are free. You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state,” Mohammad Ali Jinnah declared in his oft-quoted address to the Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947, three days before the official birth of Pakistan. Reports suggest that the hardliners in the nation ensured that the official version of his speech in the next day’s papers glossed over his “tolerant, inclusive and secular” remarks.

The question obviously arises that if he was indeed secular, why on earth did he want a separate Muslim nation in the first place? But we’ll let that pass.

More importantly, Jinnah was also a Shia, a Muslim sect, which has been marked as apostate and is constantly targeted by the Sunni extremists, who apparently have carte blanche in the country today. Attempts to show that he had converted to Sunni Islam shortly after taking over as Pakistan’s first governor general have met with limited success.

As Khaled Ahmed says in a Friday Times report, “Yet when he (Jinnah) died in 1948, it was necessary for his sister Miss Fatima Jinnah to declare him a Shia in order to inherit his property as per Jinnah’s will. (Sunni law partially rejects the will while Shia law does not.) She filed an affidavit, jointly signed with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, at the Sindh High Court, describing Jinnah as ‘Shia Khoja Mohamedan’ and praying that his will may be disposed of under Shia inheritance law. The court accepted the petition.” Ahmed goes on to add that “Fatima Jinnah’s own funeral became something of a theatre of the absurd after her friends had given her a Shia funeral before the state could give her a Sunni one.”

Pakistan quickly moved away from Jinnah’s supposedly secular outlook to a hard-line Islamic state. General Zia-ul-Haq, who declared martial law in 1977 and appointed himself as the sixth president of Pakistan from 1978 until his death in 1988, (making him Pakistan’s longest serving unelected head of state) is credited with officially turning Pakistan into a Sharia-compliant state. But the rot had set in long before that. Jinnah should have known that you cannot have a state born in the name of a religion, and then demand that it remain secular.

As far as distancing itself from India went, the umbilical cord tying Pakistan to India was painfully knotted over a region called Kashmir.

Within days of Independence, Pakistani “irregulars” attacked the then princely state, on the ground that it was a Muslim majority state and hence ought to be a part of the Islamic nation of Pakistan. A rattled Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of Kashmir, agreed to accede to India (with certain conditions) when these raiders were on the verge of entering Srinagar. Indian troops were subsequently rushed in to repulse the Pakistani marauders, who had already over-run large swathes of the state. In a United Nations-brokered ceasefire that followed, Pakistan retained control over almost a quarter of the state, which it ironically describes as “Azad (free) Kashmir”. As one wag put it, “Azadi (freedom) and that part of Kashmir don’t even meet by accident.”

But coming back to the lies. The most blatant one taught in Pakistani schools and textbooks is that Pakistan had to be formed because of a fundamental civilisational divide between the Hindu and Muslim communities in the subcontinent. Nothing could be further from the truth. If that indeed had been the case, India would not have more Muslim citizens than the entire Pakistani population. These are Muslims who rejected the two-nation theory, believing that a secular state offered them a much better deal than a theocratic one.

As Raza Rumi says in a column in the Express Tribune, a Pakistani paper, “Pakistani textbooks have preached falsehoods, hatred and bigotry. They have constructed most non-Muslims, especially Hindus, as evil and primordial enemies, glorified military dictatorships and omitted references to our great betrayal of the Bengali brothers and sisters who were the founders and owners of the Pakistan movement. It is time to correct these wrongs…. Similarly, generations of pseudo-historians, inspired by state narratives, exist who are willing to perpetuate the culture of weaving lies.” While the fact that a Pakistani journalist can write this and still live is encouraging, his cry for a correction is a cry in the wild.

Here are some gems in Pakistani social studies textbooks for classes IV to VI, which are still used widely across the nation:

“The Muslims of Pakistan provided all the facilities to the Hindus and Sikhs who left for India. But the Hindus and Sikhs looted the Muslims in India with both hands and they attacked their caravans, buses and railway trains. Therefore about one million Muslims were martyred on their way to Pakistan.”

“India invaded Lahore on the 6th of September, 1965 without any ultimatum. After 17 days, the Indian authorities laid down arms acknowledging the bravery and gallantry of the Pakistan Army and civilians.”

“When India was defeated in the war of 1965, she excited the Muslims of East Pakistan against the Muslims of West Pakistan. For this prupose (sic), India sought the help of those Hindus who lived in East Pakistan. Ultimately, India attacked East Pakistan in December 1971 and helped the East Pakistanis to sever their relations with West Pakistan. Thus East Pakistan was separated from West Pakistan. The East Pakistanis renamed their country Bangladesh. India immediately recognised Bangladesh as an independent soverign (sic) state.”

“The religion has deep impact on the children in Bharat. The Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian children have their own separate identiy (sic).” (This book’s inside cover has a message from former dictator and military strongman Pervez Musharraf, which states: “It is a historical fact that the Muslims ruled the world for hundreds of years on the basis of the knowledge acquired by their intellectuals, philosophers and scientitsts (sic).” )

“Before the Arab conquest the people were fed up with the teachings of Buddhists and Hindus. The main cause was the benign treatment of Muslims with the Hindus. Due to this attitude Hindus began to love Muslims and they became nearer and nearer to the Muslims.”

“Before Islam, people lived in untold misery all over the world.”

“During the Crusades, the Christians came in contact with the Muslims and learnt that the Muslim culture was far superior to their own.”

The lies and calls for jihad against the “rapacious, ugly and deformed people of Hindustan” are even more bizarre in the madrassas, which the children of the poor attend mainly because they get a mid-day meal.

Tallest national flag of Pakistan at Wagah border near Amritsar, India. (Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Tallest national flag of Pakistan at Wagah border near Amritsar, India. (Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

As Pakistan evolved, its obsession to garner a non-Indian identity quietly turned into an attempt at parity with its much larger neighbour. This obsession sometimes takes ridiculous turns, as evinced by the recent hoo-haa about a Pakistani flag near the Wagah border checkpost being taller than the one on the Indian side. But aware that real parity is impossible given the disparity in size, economy and political dispensations, Pakistan’s rulers formulated the theory of a thousand cuts, and using terror as a state policy. The objective was to constantly chip away at India, in the hope that something, somewhere, might give.

And at times it did, like when India was forced to trade three dangerous terrorists (including Masood Azhar, the head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, responsible for the attack on the Pathankot airbase in January 2016, among others) in return for the passengers of an Indian Airlines plane that was hijacked and taken to Kandahar, Afghanistan, which at the time was ruled by Pakistan’s proxy, the Taliban.

Using cutouts like the Jaish and Lashkar-e-Taiba allowed Pakistan some element of deniability, which of course had to be backed up by lie after lie.

These lies are not limited to India alone. The Americans too have had to deal with and at times call out the endless lies about how the establishment in Pakistan was actually a victim, rather than a perpetrator, of terror. And about how the military was trying its best to crack down on terror both within and without the country. And how Osama bin Laden was anywhere but in Pakistan.

When push comes to shove, as it did in the case of the siege of Mumbai in 2008 by Pakistan-trained terrorists, there is the usual denial, followed by the plaintive assertions that external actors were to blame. And when even that doesn’t wash in the face of hard evidence, it is usually turned over to the judiciary, which sits on it, knowing that acting on it could paint a target on their backs for bloodthirsty jihadis. Meanwhile, terrorists like Hafiz Saeed are allowed to address rallies across the country, even as the government insists that he is under “house arrest”.

The other major lie about the country is that it is a democracy.

Apart from the fact that no civilian prime minister has ever been able to complete his or her full term in office, it is important to remember that the military has spread its tentacles deep into civilian domains, like factories, supplies, foodstocks, etc. and is thus inextricably interwoven into the civilian structure, just like in the case of Pakistan’s sugar daddy, the People’s Republic of China. Officially, the military runs the country’s foreign and Kashmir policy, but in real terms, it runs the nation.

Any civilian government that dares defy the military meets a tragic end.

Various authors, including C Christine Fair, associate professor at the Centre for Peace and Security Studies of Georgetown University, and Hussain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, have written about the military’s unending and almost obscene obsession with India. Some even believe that India is Pakistan’s raison d’être. (And they are not talking about how Pakistan was carved out of India, but about this post-Partition obsession). Many argue that this is because diluting this national obsession would also dilute the Pakistani army’s grip on the country, which is purely derived from the “India threat” bogey.

Which brings up the other major lie, that India is just waiting for a chance to take over Pakistan to revive a dream of “akhand” or unbroken Bharat. This despite several Indian prime ministers and other leaders’ public assurances that India recognises Pakistan as an independent nation, and has no intentions of violating Pakistan’s sovereignty.

But that is only part of the reason. The main reason is that owing to lies that their state is built on, most Pakistanis see a secular neighbour in which Muslims are treated equally as an abomination and an affront to the two-nation theory.

And as long as that belief holds, India will remain Pakistan’s reason for existence.

The author is a foreign policy analyst with a keen interest in South Asian affairs.

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