Ashish Shukla for BeyondHeadlines
Pakistan started its journey as an independent state in 1947 when Mohmmad Ali Jinnah and his associates successfully persuaded, on the basis of a communal Two Nation Theory, the British to partition India and help them achieve a separate homeland for the Muslims of Indian subcontinent. British did it for an obvious reason—having a foothold in the Indian subcontinent in order to pursue their interests in the region. It is an established fact that in order to gain support and to sell the very idea of Pakistan, Jinnah, a non-practicing Muslim, agreed to conflicting demands of various sections of Indian society. Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed in his recent study The Punjab Bloodied: Partitioned and Cleansed claim that Jinnah even tried to woo Sikhs of undivided Punjab with an open offer of anything they wanted. When Sikhs questioned the legitimacy of any such agreement in Pakistan, he responded by saying that his words, in Pakistan, would be the words of Allah. However, Sikhs didn’t believe him and the agreement never happened.
Jinnah, having British by his side, with not so much difficulty achieved the goal of a separate state of Pakistan and surprisingly many of his associates called it a moth-eaten entity. Pakistani establishment refused to acknowledge the common cultural heritage of the Indian subcontinent, popularly known as Ganga-Jamuni Tahjeeb, and emphasised on the point of being different from India which they defined as “Hindu India”. Due to this very attitude, Pakistan soon acquired a negative identity which can be best described as—Non-Indian, Un-Indian and Anti-Indian. There were many learned Muslims in undivided India including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who unsuccessfully tried to avert the partition. Later when partition appeared inevitable, Maulana Azad proclaimed that with the cooling down of creative warmth the inherent contradictions would emerge in the newly established state. This happened sooner, rather than later, when the enthusiastic leaders of Pakistan movement failed to meet the modest expectations and aspirations of their fellow Muslim citizens, let alone satisfying religious minorities who stayed back because of the promise Jinnah had made to them. The condition of religious minorities in the country finds a reflection in a couplet by a young Pakistani poet which says “Jane kab kaun kisko maar de kafir kahkar, Shahar ka shahar muslman bana firta hai”.
Pakistan was the first state of its kind which was created in the name of Islam, as Javed Jabbar claims in his work Pakistan: Identity and Destiny, on a land which is neither homeland nor headquarter of Islam. The forefathers of Pakistan had thought of Islam as a unifying force with an ability of uniting all the people having faith in Islam. This proved to be a blunder when various sects started questioning authenticity of each other’s interpretation of Islam. These debates intensified after the departure of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan from the scene.
The wisest men of Pakistan took nine years to deliver a constitution in 1956 which was unfortunately abrogated within two years after coming into existence. The complete failure of political leadership inadvertently led to the strengthening of the institution of military in the country. Military, while being in power, appointed itself the guardian of the state and in that capacity claimed to defend both the territorial and ideological frontiers of Pakistan. Since then onwards, Islam was repeatedly used by both civilian and military rulers to gain legitimacy in the eyes of general public. General Zia-ul-Haq, the third military ruler and a devout Sunni Muslim, after overthrowing the civilian government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto embarked upon the Islamisation or better to say Sunniasation programme. In his first public appearance, after the military coup, he proclaimed that since Pakistan came into being in the name of Islam, it would survive only if it sticks to Islam.
Zia’s Islamisation programme coincided with the call of jihad against the Soviet Union in neighbouring Afghanistan. United States saw Soviet invasion in Afghanistan as an expansion of communism in South Asia. Washington sought Pakistan’s help to counter the communist threat in the region. Pakistan, with some conditions, agreed to become the frontline state against the Soviet Union. Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) took the responsibility of recruiting, training, and arming of holy warriors for Afghan jihad. This became possible because of the close cooperation between American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Saudi General Intelligence Directorate (GID) and Pakistani ISI. Afghan jihad ended with the departure of Soviet troops from Afghan soil but only after radicalising Pakistani society to a great extent.
Soon after accomplishing the holy war project, Americans left the region and so the Pakistan without making appropriate arrangement of power-sharing among various Afghan war lords which resulted in complete anarchy and chaos in Afghanistan. This chaos gave birth to Taliban movement. Under the leadership of Mullah Omar and with substantial help from Pakistan, Taliban emerged victorious and established a repressive regime in Afghanistan. Pakistani establishment used their connection with Taliban to create trouble for India in Kashmir and other parts of the country as well. It is no surprise that the hijacking of Indian airliner took place during the Taliban regime and terrorists, languishing in Indian prison, had to be freed in exchange of passengers on board.
The repressive Taliban regime and Pakistani establishment came under fire from international community when 9/11 attacks on United State was traced back to Afghanistan based terrorist organisation—al-Qaeda. Due to intense pressure and fear of being punished, Pakistan, under Musharraf, agreed to become a frontline state and cooperate with the US on its retaliatory project—War on Terrorism. This cooperation proved to be counter-productive for Pakistan. The terrorist outfits, earlier used as proxy by Pakistan army, turned their anger towards their mentors because of Pakistan’s role in west-led war on terrorism. It is reported that since the commencement of war on terror, Pakistan has lost 40,000 to 50,000 citizens, around 5,000 military personnel including top ranked military officers, properties worth billions of dollars and a significant amount of national income. Suicide bombing and sectarian killings have become daily norm in Pakistan. Pakistan of today is now being described as the “epicenter of global terrorism” and the “most dangerous spot on the world map”.
This is not to suggest that everything in Pakistan is bad and there is no hope. A lot of positive changes have occurred in the country that needs to be appreciated. Pakistan witnessed the rise of judiciary which refused to bow down against a military dictator. There is a realisation in Pakistan that terrorism and extremism are the biggest threat to peace in the country. The recent war doctrine of Pakistan army has declared terrorism, instead of India, as the biggest threat for Pakistan. Civilian leadership has learned a lesson that cooperation, on the basic rules of the game, is the key to success of democracy in the country. The present civilian regime, despite all odds, has survived and is most certainly going to make history by completing a full five year term. A peaceful transition from one civilian regime to another would certainly strengthen the democratic process in Pakistan and will have a long term impact on peace and stability in the region.
(Author is Ph.D. Candidate, South Asian Studies, School of International Studies in JNU, New Delhi.)