Though ideologues claim that Pakistan was born on the day that Muslims first set foot on Indian soil, the first person to systematically set forth the argument for what eventually became Pakistan was the jurist, author, and educator Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817–98).
Although Sir Syed was dedicated to Muslim modernization, Islam’s destiny, and the idea of a pan-Islamic identity, he stopped short of advocating a separate state for India’s Muslims.
Nevertheless, a separate status for India’s Muslims was in the works and became an important milestone on the road leading to Pakistan.
In the late nineteenth century the British began to examine more carefully the population they now ruled. Aware of the vast social differences in Indian society, they felt an obligation to protect its vulnerable segments and adopted the principle of separate electorates and quota systems, first for deprived Hindu castes—notably the “untouchables” and non-Hindu tribals. Then they acceded to Muslim demands for separate electorates.
The predominantly Hindu Congress did not oppose these seats for so called Mohammedans and in 1916 came to an agreement with the Muslim League on the issue. (Lucknow Pact)
Separate electorates soon became a highly contentious issue, one that remains politically significant today.
India’s Muslims, some reasoned, were descendants of peoples who had migrated to the subcontinent several centuries earlier and thus might be considered quite different from indigenous Indians—a separate “nation”—and as such deserving of protection and a separate electoral status.
In the view of others, they were largely converts, their underlying culture, moral values, and social order not unlike those of the “sons of the soil,” which meant both groups could share an “Indian” political nationality in a common electoral arrangement.
Swayed by the latter argument, the Congress reversed its position on separate electorates for Muslims—although it continued to support them for disadvantaged Hindus and tribals.
As for the concept of a separate Indian Muslim political entity, it was first put forth in the 1930s by Choudhary Rahmat Ali, an Indian Muslim living in Cambridge, England.
They named Pakistan by drawing letters from the provinces that had a Muslim majority or close to it: Punjab, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Baluchistan.
However, the name did not come into common use until 1945. Even the 1940 resolution of the Muslim League calling for a separate state for India’s Muslims did not mention it.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a Bombay lawyer, was the second great advocate of a distinctive Muslim Indian identity.
He summarized his life’s struggle in a historic address at a mass meeting in Lahore on March 23, 1940, that set forth the logic of Pakistan, echoing Alberuni’s observation 900
“The Hindus and the Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, and literatures. They neither intermarry, nor inter-dine together and, indeed, they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspects on life and of life are different. It is quite clear that Hindus and Musalmans derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, their heroes are different, and they have different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other, and likewise, their victories and defeats overlap.28”
Jinnah turned the “two-nation” theory (the idea that India’s Muslims and Hindus constituted two “nations,” each deserving their own state) into an effective political movement.
The third towering figure of this group was Allama Iqbal, who in his own way propelled the idea of Pakistan forward as effectively as Jinnah or Sir Syed.
Allama Iqbal, too, began as an advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity, and one of his poems, Tarana-e-Hind (“Indian Anthem”) is still a popular song in India (it begins: “Our Hindustan is the best place in the world . . .”).
Iqbal turned the idea of a separate homeland for India’s Muslims into a mass movement, drawing intellectuals, professionals, and community leaders into the fold.
At first Iqbal did not advocate a separate country, but one or more distinct components in a federated India; if that was not possible, he declared in his 1930 presidential address to the Muslim League, then Indian Muslims should seek a completely separate state via “concerted political action.”
Iqbal’s idea of Pakistan was not based on a European model of a nation-state, but on “an acute understanding that political power was essential to the higher ends of establishing God’s law.”
As far as Jinnah was concerned, “a thousand years of close contact, nationalities which are as divergent today as ever cannot at any time be expected to transform themselves into one nation merely by means of subjecting them to a democratic constitution.”
It was Jinnah who wove these attributes together, arguing that without a separate Muslim homeland, South Asia would be mired in conflict and vulnerable to outside pressure. For him, the past pointed to the future. Pakistan would be a democratic, liberal, and just state. It would live peaceably with its minority Hindu population, and relations with India would be normal, possibly encompassing regional cooperation.
The following quotation from the 1938 work of Madhav Sadashiv Golwalker, the second RSS supreme leader, would suffice to drive home the point: “The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no ideas but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture….In a word, they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—-not even citizens’ rights.” The demand for Pakistan was the logical outcome of such bigotry. After all, RSS was established by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in 1925 much before the Muslims voiced the demand for Pakistan.
Idea of Pakistan and Separation of East Pakistan:
The leadership of the Pakistan movement had difficulty accepting the democratic norm of one man, one vote. Jinnah and others tirelessly argued that without some restraint on majority power, Muslims would always be outvoted.
Sarcastically, Jinnah threw back Gandhi’s claim that the two men were brothers, that Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Harijans are all alike: “The only difference is this, that brother Gandhi has three votes and I have only one vote.”44
Majoritarian democracy had no attractions for a minority divided by language and sect, and with many coreligionists in the Congress Party itself.
This fundamental structural objection to democratic politics explains why many Pakistanis of an older generation have strong reservations about democracy and democratic politics as an end in itself.
Democracy threatened the minority Muslim community, forcing it to establish its own political order, Pakistan.
But proponents of the idea of Pakistan had not looked too closely at the contradiction between the educated, Westernized leadership of the Pakistan movement (many of whom claimed descent from the original Muslim invaders) and the much larger numbers of the poor and the converted.
Pakistan’s leadership eventually split on the question of democracy—guided, basic, and otherwise—when the poorer (but more populous) half of Pakistan claimed its right to rule the whole state.
Of all the schemes that had been discussed over the years, the plan to create a single Muslim state with two wings, separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory, was perhaps the most problematic to implement and certainly unprecedented. This kind of geography required perfect Indian cooperation to make the idea work, but many Indian leaders were all too eager to ensure that the new state of Pakistan would have a short life.
Ayub Khan’s dismissal of the defense of East Pakistan became a major Bengali grievance after the 1965 war with India. If Pakistani generals thought that East Pakistan could be sacrificed to India to save West Pakistan, why should Bengalis stay in the Pakistani federation? It was a question ultimately answered by the creation of Bangladesh.
The rapid economic growth under Ayub was responsible for the regional imbalance between the eastern and western wings of the country, which in turn contributed to the breakup of 1971.
Consequences of fall of East Pakistan:
First, the political balance shifted within Pakistan, leaving Punjab the overwhelmingly dominant province (see chapter 6). From 1972 onward, the most populous province in Pakistan was also its economically strongest and the major contributor of manpower to the politically important army.
Second, the loss of East Pakistan dramatically narrowed Pakistan’s cultural and social diversity, to its ultimate disadvantage. They were especially important in parliamentary debate, where they were among the “most bold, outspoken and non-conformist”. One of Pakistan’s early qualities was its cultural diversity, which had strengthened the country, not weakened it.
Third, the balance of power subtly shifted away from secular, “mainstream” forces toward the Islamists. The Islam of East Pakistan was on balance far more moderate than that of the Northwest Frontier Province or Baluchistan. The breakup of the country merely empowered the most regressive and conservative Islamists in the West.
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