Friday, December 3, 2010

The Prevailing Western View On Pakistan Part 1 of 2

by Nayyar Hashmey

In the upcoming post, Michael Hughes, a virulent Islamophobe, discusses the prospect of fragmenting Pakistan by an international force. For obvious reasons he avoids defining contours of such a force. The subject as writer himself says has been from its very outset, on the agenda of powers that helped create it.

This agenda has been very much a part of the overall schematics which a disintegrating British Empire then decided to meet her future imperialistic goals, but with a different cast.   

Before I put up this essay by Hughes, here now are some aspects of this so called balkanization, [presently being theoretised yet definitely programmed to cast the area in a new shape].

The author starts his essay with a thesis that Pakistan was created by world powers to meet their own hegemonic interests. Though partly correct, for the British did not want a huge Indian subcontinent with its vast human and natural resources, a huge land mass and geographically the most strategically placed region in Asia and thus had all the potentials to become a super power, the British had from the very beginning sensed the prospects of such a power and had endeavored as their futuristic goal, to keep the two major religious communities at daggers drawn. In this regard, the several hundred years rule of Muslim Mughal emperors was cited as the tyrannical rule of Muslims against the majority Hindus in the Indian subcontinent which was then called Hindostan.

Some time true but many times concocted excesses by Muslim rulers against their Hindu subjects were exploited to poison the minds of Hindu masses. Thus by design a big gulf was created between the two principal communities when the British preferred Hindus over Muslims in respect of employment, education and industrial development. Unfortunately the Muslim intelligentsia as well as the clergy strongly despised the western education and took it as a sin as it was from the frangi kafirs [the infidels from the west]. This created a big gap between Muslims and the Hindus resulting in Muslims’ backwardness in almost every sphere of life.

The power struggles between the Mughal rulers of Delhi versus the local Hindu Rajas both of whom fought wars to retain supremacy, further exacerbated such differences. The story of a Muslim Chieftain Afzal Khan versus Shiva Ji Rao which according to history books was stabbed by the latter when he had invited Afzal Khan to a dinner turned a story of wresting power from each other into a story of enmity between the Hindus and the Muslims.

The traditional attitude of Hindu clergy also played its own role to amplify these differences. The strong caste ridden character of Hinduism and its interpretation by Hindu priests especially against the low caste indigenous communities as well as the Muslims [whether they were converts from Hinduism or were the settled Indians who had come from neighboring countries like Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, and central Asia] as the shoodras or the untouchables.

The Hindu clergy exercised a policy of apartheid against Muslims particularly during the post Muhghal British India thus widening the gulf between Muslims and Hindus - resulting in outbreak of communal riots in different parts of India. One of this kind took place after the publication of the book Rangeela Rasool by its Hindu publisher Raj Pal who was sentenced [on 18th Jan. 1927] to eighteen months imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 1000/- for provoking enmity between the Hindus and Muslims. The book was found to be a scurrilous satire on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). On 6th April 1929, a Muslim youth Ilam Din stabbed Pal to death. The Lahore High Court found him guilty and sentenced him to death on 1 July, 1929. Three months later the sentence was carried out in
Mianwali jail.
Persistent processions and demonstrations on the one hand and assurances by notables of the Muslim community on the other that peace and order will not be disturbed if his body was returned to his family and buried in Lahore, the authorities were convinced to comply with that demand. Ilam Din received a hero’s burial and was given the honorific title of Ghazi Ilam Din Shaheed by the Muslims. During this period Hindu and Muslim relations were very hostile.

Some Anand, originally from Lahore, a journalist and author of ‘Lahore, Portrait of a Lost City’ provides some further clues. He remarks: the Hindu and Muslim communities lived like two streams, flowing side by side but never meeting at any point. To keep away from the Muslims’ “polluting touch” the Hindus had set up many barriers in their daily life. My mother for example, would never allow any Muslim to enter her kitchen. No cooked food was accepted from them. I remember how, if any of our Muslim neighbors even sent any special dish for my father, it never went beyond the dining table, a place where she did not take her own food. While eating she would never allow any of her Muslim friends or neighbors to touch her. During my childhood such inhibitions were generally not observed by male members of educated Hindu families. [Women have always been more conservative in these matters]. Some decades earlier these rules formed a strict code of conduct for all, no matter how educated or enlightened a person might be.
The Hindus had always complained of Muslim fanaticism but they never understood that the walls they raised themselves could have not resulted in any other attitude…
Some Anand continues: It took many centuries for the Hindus to realize how absurd and harmful their anti Muslim prejudices were. In this respect the first current of change was felt during the Khilafat movement in the early twenties. Though the spirit of Hindu-Muslim amity received many reverses in later years, at the social level the urban elite had changed its code of conduct for the better. This was due in part, to Western education. What this change meant was evident in my father’s attitude. When he was young, my mother used to recall, he would come back to change his clothes if a Muslim touched him while walking in the bazaar, but during my childhood in Model Town Lahore, father had several Muslim friends and he considered my mother’s inhibitions a sign of backwardness.
It was in these environments during different stages of history that the British exploited differences between British India’s two major communities.

Jaswant Singh’s Book, Jinnah, India-Partition, independence, gives further insight to Hindu-Muslim politics in pre-partition India.
The British exploited these differences to an extent that in 1940 the Muslim community felt compelled to move the 1940 Lahore resolution for an independent homeland for Muslims of British India.

The British imperialist designs and the stubbornness of All India Congress not to accommodate Muslim League in United India’s political and administrative structure did contribute to formation of Pakistan, this by no mean justifies, however, the writer’s contention that the creation of Pakistan as an independent homeland for Muslims was solely a British project. Though the British in the beginning did support the idea of a separate homeland for India’s Muslims, in fact they never wanted an independent, sovereign and powerful Pakistan. The real objective was to use Pakistan as a lever to extract concessions from All India Congress, which is why they tried their utmost to make Pakistan a weakling — to serve the imperial interests of Great Britannia. 

Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins have in their book ‘Freedom at Midnight’ elaborated how far the British viceroy Lord Mountbatten went to woo the All India Congress and all that at the expense of Pakistan and the Muslims. Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had always demonstrated his yearnings for a united India but the gulf that had already emerged from thousands years of living together but living in two different streams made the Muslims of India to seek some sort of identity. Now if the western writers including Hughes think that Pakistan is merely a product of religious frenzy fanned up by British to augment their own imperial interests in the post WWII scenario and now it is again in the interest of the same imperial forces to balkanize it, is entirely a wrong thesis, a thesis that might serve the interests of neo-imperialists but in no way suits the people of Pakistan.

The mess to which Pakistan has been thrown in to – by the same imperialists forces [but in collusion with the Pakistani politicians and the military playing a subservient role to the wishes of their masters in London and Washington, no doubt supports Hughes hypothesis but Hughes and those of his ilk should not forget, similar hypotheses were proferred, projected and propagated as words of eternal wisdom when the former Shah was in such a firm saddle. That Khomeini and his followers will be defeated in the same manner and style as they had been able to during Dr. Mosaddeg’s premiership proved those last words of wisdom were nothing but a figment of imagination that in a nu blew up in the air.

The Shah had to leave his imperial throne seeking asylum from one place to another. So things might appear as very bad, very sad and very depressing in Pakistan but we Pakistanis, the people of this country do see light after this night of darkness for the elites, the feudal lords and the privileged classes of Pakistan did not care for us then as they do it now BUT the people who throughout history have demonstrated a resilience to bear all bumps and jumps will definitely stand up to save their homeland. Light is bound to appear one day.
 If Hughes tries to recommend fragmentation of Pakistan through an international force, it is in fulfillment of the same old agenda which was set in 1947, i.e. fragment first India, then Pakistan and finally fragment the whole of South Asia so that it remains a tattering group of small states [and this includes Indian Union too for even in its present geography the state is too big to be acceptable to the Am-Brits’ ultimate imperial interests.

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