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Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Different World Part III : Statesmen or Pygmies

(Continued from A Different World Part I : A Travelogue of Sorts)
and A Different World Part II: Zina ul Haq's Debauchery)

On March 23, 1940 at the Minto Park (now Iqbal Park) the Pakistan Resolution was presented before the annual session of All India Muslim League. (The emphasis added are mine).

No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary. That the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign. That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards shall be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in the units and in the regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights of the minorities, with their consultation. Arrangements thus should be made for the security of Muslims where they were in a minority. I H Qureshi, (1992), A Short History of Pakistan. University of Karachi, Reprint of 1967 edition. ISBN 969-404-008-6
The Working Committee of the Muslim League in Lahore (1940)

This was a clear call for confederation or union. As a declaration of intent it was sufficiently clear and yet vague enough for the political leadership to negotiate with the Raj. After the failure of the Cabinet Mission, Lord Louis Mountbatten was sent to preside over the dissolution of the Raj. He was given enough time but Atlee also dangled the carrot of the First Lord of Admiralty. (The vacancy was to be created upon the retirement of the naval chief - but that is another story.)

In his haste to return, aided by Congress leadership's retreat from a stance of no division to an acceptance of division (first Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, next Jawahar Lal Nehru and finally Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi succumbed) Mountbatten called in the bluff and offered Jinnah a truncated Pakistan.

credit: Shahid Siddiqui

The sprawling Quaid e Azam Masoleum Complex in Karachi also houses a small museum. Inside there are his suits, sherwanis, shoes, cars , furniture, monocle and various other items displayed. One realises the larger than life figure was rather diminutive. In a display case we saw a personal diary. In the open pages one can read in Jinnah's handwriting notes he made on a certain day in 1940. This entry as I recall named a chowkidar who was going "home" on vacation. It mentioned the date he was hired and the vacations days due him. He wrote in a clear flowing writing the number of days his leave was "paid leave" and the extra weeks of "time off without pay".

A meticulous and organised barrister whose brilliance was admitted by his detractors also, could not have been so disorganised about Pakistan. You can read more about this in Ayesha Jalal's books and papers. Jinnah wanted to max the guarantees offered to his constituents in a confederated Indian Union. The "independence" was the calculated bluff called in by Mountbatten when he had Congress behind him.

Mountbatten saw another equal in aristocratic Jinnah. He knew how hard it would be for Jinnah to agree to a truncated Pakistan. He told Jinnah, "Tomorrow morning, with the Congress leaders present I will say that you have agreed to the partition, and I expect you to nod."

Movietone newsreels showed a grim Jinnah barely nod the next morning. Intrigue, intransigence, ego and miscalculation carried the day. Jinnah had his truncated Pakistan, Congress had its divided India, hoping the nascent state would soon fold, and Mountbatten had a fixed retreat to return and lobby for the Admiralship.

Nobody gave a thought to the looming holocaust in which 2 million would die, millions would be uprooted and millions upon millions would grow up on both sides of the divide in hate, distrust and intolerance.

On August 11, 1947, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, with permission from the Speaker off the Constituent Assembly, Shri Mandal said:
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.
Zina had the temerity to have this expunged from all official transcripts. He tried to steer Pakistan towards an abyss from which it would be difficult to turn back.

Part I was written in 2002. The civilian government that took over after the February 18, 2008 elections is feebly trying to undo the damage inflicted on the country by the occupying army. There are too many hurdles in way of this nascent democracy. It does not have strong leaders. The dominant parties - PPP, Muslim League (Z), MQM are led by autocratic leaders the former two by billionaires with vast foreign assets.

Wily Asif Zardari has outwitted the veteran Nawaz Sharif a few times already. If ever there was a time to strengthen democratic roots in Pakistan it is fast disappearing. The Army under Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani is stretched and bogged down fighting the Pakistani Talebans and participating in the US proxy wars. This rare opportunity is being squandered away.

The army's role in politics cannot be counted out for long. The militants have become a power to reckon with. Generations have been brainwashed not to question. Generations are being raised on intolerance and hatred, not compassion and understanding. Each group hates the others - the totem pole includes Deobandis, Barelvis, Ahle Hadith, Sipah e Sahaba, Lashkar Jhangvi, Sunnis, Shias, Ahmedis, Christians, Hindus. The one group that flies below the radar is the influential and powerful Ismailis.

Like India, the electronic media in Pakistan is mostly passing through teething troubles. It is enamored of its own power. The sane voices there seldom rise above the cacophony of mediocrity and blandness.

If there were statesmen in Pakistan (and not wily politicians) in the aftermath of Mumbai Mayhem, they should have said to Manmohan Singh, "Let's join forces to fight this plague." Instead, media fed bellicosity and belligerency from both countries widened the gulf.

Media likes drama and there is no better developing story than war. They salivate at the thought of surgical strikes. It can only happen when the receiver is impotent...Gaza, West Bank, Iraq...or with the receiver's in the case of FATA and Nato/US drones.

The other Pervez...Ashfaq Pervez Kayani is the wild card here should Manmohan Singh succumbs to the war cry and order surgical strikes.

GoI has shown restraint and political acumen. Can Zardari be trusted to reciprocate it? The choice is stark - survival or conflagration and instability.

Instability will breed further instability in the region.


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