Pakistan: A dream gone awry

Akrita Reyar & Ipsita Baishya It was the infamous two-nation theory that brought about the existence of Pakistan. The justification was that it would be a land of opportunity for all the Muslims of the subcontinent. The secularism that India would espouse, some thought, would never give Muslims an equal platform.

By Akrita Reyar | Last Updated: Sep 24, 2014, 16:19 PM IST

Akrita Reyar & Ipsita Baishya It was the infamous two-nation theory that brought about the existence of Pakistan. The justification was that it would be a land of opportunity for all the Muslims of the subcontinent. The secularism that India would espouse, some thought, would never give Muslims an equal platform. Under this arrangement, the various princely states could freely join either India or Pakistan. Consequently, a bifurcated Muslim nation of Pakistan came about on August 14, 1947. West Pakistan comprised the contiguous Muslim-majority districts of present-day Pakistan; East Pakistan consisted of a single province, which is now Bangladesh. Laying the foundation of the new nation, Jinnah on August 11, 1947 while justifying the reason for carving out a new nation said:

“I know there are people who do not quite agree with the division of India and the partition of the Punjab and Bengal. Much has been said against it, but now that it has been accepted, it is the duty of every one of us to loyally abide by it and honourably act according to the agreement which is now final and binding on all…. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vaishnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish..… 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... We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another.” Ironically, the prime architect of Pakistan ended up endorsing the same principles that India would stand by in years to come.

In the speech Jinnah actually was voicing Pakistan’s internal quest for an identity, which many will suspect, the country is yet to find. A homeland for Muslims, it was for sure. But religion was not quite enough a reason for being together. Muslims lived and prospered in India as well. The creation of Bangladesh was therefore the last nail in the coffin of the two-nation theory. The fact that Pakistan has had to create, recreate and revise its constitution several times itself speaks about Pakistan’s struggle to come to terms with itself.

The very idea of Pakistan has always been mired by controversies. Right from the controversial voting pattern for its formation to it being a geographically unmanageable landscape(with its east and west wings being separated by the vast Indian territory), Pakistan has been far from a dream realized. Millions of Muslims went to Pakistan seeking a homeland of opportunities and better prospects but it would not be incorrect to assume that they have been let down in more ways than one by their own polity and crop of leaders. Democracy has eluded Pakistan in most years of its existence. Though it has had brief interregnums of civilian governments, military dictatorships have been a key feature of Pakistan’s governance, hijacking the democratic machinery each time. It is for this reason that all other institutions that flourish in free society have not been able to take root. Post-independence Pakistan evokes a picture of domestic political overthrowings, dictatorships, assassinations, regime changes and confrontations between various institutions from time to time in what has turned out to be a largely chequered history lacking a stable core. At this point though the courage of Pakistani journalists must be lauded. They have toiled over the years to keep alive a vibrant and free media. The judiciary too, that has been long oppressed, has recently shown great steel in opposing the current military leader Pervez Musharraf. The entire judicial fraternity recently took to the streets rallying around the dismissed Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry forcing his reinstatement. Lately, the apex court of Pakistan has also come out with a few scathing verdicts, pulling up the current military regime and thereby proving its independence. The bravery of all those who have stood up against might in favour of the rule of law and the power of the people must be saluted. In terms of provincial dynamics, Pakistan, though not a very large nation, has not been able to fulfill regional aspirations. The Bengalis chose to part ways a long time back. Sindhis and Balochis have always been restive. The meticulous military operation to eliminate Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti is a case in point. His killing sparked off widespread riots in the state that had to be clamped down by the Army. The Pushtos remain law unto themselves. Ironically it is the Muhajirs, who had migrated to Pakistan in search of greener pastures, who are the worst off. Not accepted by the locals, they are neither this way nor the other. For example, lakhs still remain trapped in Bangladesh languishing in refugee camps with Pakistan doughtily refusing to take them in. In that sense, it is only the Punjabi who rules the roost. When the aspiration of only a single community finds utterance, a thousand mutinies will also raise a voice. As far as Pakistan’s relations with neighbours go….it has been the one of open hostility with India. Bilateral relations with India have been always marked by deep suspicion and rivalry. The status of Kashmir has been one such flashpoint resulting in strained relations. The Islamic nation’s open declaration of the policy of thousand cuts to bleed India, to its readiness to eat grass to match India’s nuclear capabilities or its more recent training of militants and abetment of infiltration and ready shelter to India’s most wanted, all indicate an attitude of belligerence. Several attempts at dialogues have yet to bear the fruit of long lasting friendship. On the western side, Pakistan has been long meddling with the internal affairs of Afghanistan. So much so that it once virtually ran its government, putting its madrassa pupils in power in the form of Taliban, a genie that has come back to haunt it. Ever since Afghanistan has been in a state of vortex. With the US raising the heat against these armed Muslim radicals, scores of erstwhile seminary students have come back to seek shelter in the ungovernable terrains of the North West Frontier Province, Balochistan and Waziristan. 9/11 has added to Pakistan’s dilemma. It can no longer, as an ally of US on the war on terror, afford to be seen as giving sanctuary to radical elements. In fact the sovereignty of Pakistan is in question more than ever before with statements emanating out of US that advocate using the country’s territory to go after terrorists. It is therefore now struggling to strike a balance. Being seen as flushing out Islamists on the one hand while appearing a sympathizer at home. Pakistan has over the years, due to these exploits earned a “reputation” of being untrustworthy. It is considered an unstable state with no institutionalized system of exercising power. There is no single authority in the country today that can challenge or control the all-powerful Army. Pakistan is a nuclear power, but dangerously so. There is no laid down command and control structure for handling such sensitive material. A Q Khan, the father of the nuclear programme, has been reckless in sharing nuke secrets with countries like Libya, Iran and North Korea. It is obvious that this could not have been possible without the tacit or overt support of the country’s top brass. The only long-standing close relation the Islamic nation has managed to maintain is with China, which has extensive security and economic interests in the Persian Gulf and also sees Pakistan as a tool to keep India in check.

On the economic front, World Bank considers Pakistan a low-income country. Weak world demand for its exports and domestic political uncertainty have contributed to Pakistan`s high trade deficit. Its high security threat perception is keeping away foreign investors who consider the country too dangerous to work in. It is a sad reflection that 60 years hence, the US Foreign Policy magazine and the US-based Fund for Peace think-tank of “failed states index” moved Pakistan from 34th to ninth in the report - one of the sharpest changes in the overall score of any country on the list.

Clearly then, Pakistan has not become what its founding fathers set out to make it. Stability and democracy are the urgent need of the hour. Pakistan needs to cleanse its system of fundamentalism, reinstate the rule of law and put power in the hands of its people. It may be a painful process, but must be done. Otherwise there is a real danger of the country sliding into even greater chaos and anarchy.