Wednesday 31 August 2016
facebook.com/Outlookindia twitter.com/outlookindia digimag.outlookindia.com instagram.com/outlookindia youtube.com/user/OutlookMagazine

Still Afester

Partition has been exposed as a bad idea, since ’47
AP

Jinnah’s two-nation theory was always a logically weak construct. The notion that people who had lived close together for centuries suddenly constituted two different nations because of their faith ignored the many different strands that make up the fabric of national identity. Since Pakistan came into being, the idea of a Muslim majority being a sufficient basis for nationhood has been exposed as a thoroughly bad one. Nevertheless, to advance his demand for Pakistan, Jinnah pushed his theory. The reality is, having governed much of the subcontinent for centuries until the British seized control, the Muslim upper class never reconci­led to the idea of becoming a minority under Hindu rule.

But even at Partition in 1947, the two-nation theory stood exposed as a feeble justification for Pakistan’s creation when millions of Muslims were left behind in India. There is some evidence to indicate that Jinnah was appalled by the sight of traumatised refugees trekking into Pakistan in their hundreds of thousands, carrying their few possessi­ons. He might have demanded the creation of Pakistan, but he had not bargained for the horrors of Partition. Luckily for him, he died long before the second setback to his two-nation theory came in 1971. As Pakistan’s most populous wing became Bangladesh follo­wing a bloody civil war, it became clear that religion was too thin a glue to hold the country together. Since then, Sindhi and Baloch nationali­sts have demanded their own states. The Moha­jirs, descendants of Indian Mus­lims who migrated to Pakis­tan, have asserted their ethnic identity.

Advertisement

When you create a state in the name of an ideology, it comes to rule public discourse. Hence, the growing terror in Pakistan.

The whole notion of exclusiveness at the heart of the two-nation theory has opened a Pandora’s box. As somebody put it: “It began by saying that Muslims could not live with Hindus; then they said we could not live with Bengalis; now they are saying Sunnis can’t live with Shias. Where will it end?” Where indeed? As I survey the ongoing chaos in Pakistan, I become more and more convinced that many of our most knotty problems stem from Partition. When you create a state in the name of an ideology, then that ideology is bound to dominate the public discourse sooner or later. So the growing extremism and intolerance in Pakistan should not surprise us.

Secular Pakistanis draw comfort from Jinnah’s speech of August 11, 1947, made to the Constituent Assembly in which he clearly indicated the direction he wanted the new state to take—a ringing declaration of secularism. However, if one quotes the speech to most young Pakistanis today—specially those who have been through the state education system—they will be baffled. They will ask: “But if Jinnah wanted a secular state, why did he demand the partition of India?”

Advertisement

The reality is that Jinnah, although personally thoroughly liberal and secular, was a politician, and sent different messa­ges to different audiences. So to his August 11 speech, mullahs can produce many others made to conservative crowds in which he spoke of an Islamic state. This ambiguity has manifested itself throughout Pakistan’s troubled history. But the rousing slogan of ‘Pakistan ka matlab kya? La Ilahah Illilah!’ still resonates louder than ever. Over time—and specially since Zia-ul-Haq’s rule in the ’80s—the outward expressions of religiosity have come to dominate every aspect of Pakis­tan’s existence. Ind­eed, Pakistani generals soon saw the eff­ectiveness of using zealots as armed auxiliaries, first in Afghanistan, then in Kashmir. But the chickens are coming home to roost in the form of the Taliban and its offshoots.

But if the cost of Partition has been high for Pakistan, India has not escaped unsc­athed. I often get e-mails from Indian readers expressing satisfaction over Partition. “Just think,” they write, “how much worse our situation would have been had Paki­stani and Ban­gladeshi Muslims been a part of India.” To my Pakistani readers, I say that had Partition not taken place, there would have been around 450 million Muslims in undivi­ded India, hardly a small minority. And I tell my Indian readers that in a united India, we wouldn’t be spending the ins­ane amounts on defence we do today.


(Irfan Husain is a columnist for the Dawn group, Pakistan.)

READ MORE IN:
AUTHORS: Irfan Hussain
PLACES: PakistanIndia
SECTION: National
SUBSECTION: Opinion
OUTLOOK: 25 August, 2014
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store

Post a Comment

You are not logged in, please Log in or Register
  • Daily Mail
THE LATEST ISSUE
CLICK IMAGE FOR CONTENTS
OUTLOOK ON TWITTER
POLLS

In 1999, India and France entered into a $3.5 billion deal for the supply of these submarines. The first of the 6 subs is out on sea trials for the last three months and is to be commissioned later this year. At this stage, a newspaper in Australia has revealed secret data on the submarines, plausibly stolen from India. Indian Defence authorities have ruled out any pilferage of data from India.

POLL STARTED ON: Aug 26, 2016
Quiz
Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 31st Olympic Games from August 5 to 21. This is the first Olympics being held in South America and is going on even as a majority Brazilians are unhappy with their rulers. Here’s a quiz on some random Olympic facts and related trivia.
QUIZ STARTED ON: Aug 11, 2016
Advertisement