Dilemma of Pakistani intellectuals after 70 years
“ If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody’s personal concern! ”― Mahatma Gandhi
“The sovereignty of scriptures of all religions must come to an end if we want to have a united integrated modern India.”- B. R. Ambedkar
“ ..there was no civilization, nothing before we came to India, there was no architecture, the structure of dome, there was no calligraphic painting infact there was no biryani before we came to India. What they had? Triangular shaped temples and a very rudimentary civilization”. These were the words of a guest speaker in one of the discussions in a national Pakistani channel whose topic was how Indian culture through Bollywood is influencing ‘Pakistani culture’ as if there is some huge distinction between the two! By ‘we’ he meant Muslims and in whole discussion like majority of Pakistani speakers he wore a blanket of infinite cultural superiority (showing Indian culture inferior) as if Pakistanis are direct heirs of Turks or Arabs or Persians. This small statement sums up lot of aspects regarding Pakistani psyche, the dilemma of identity, the ongoing struggle inside Pakistan to invent false history (to murder history) so that it can be proved to young generations that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was inevitable. For me it expresses the hollowness of whole idea of any nation state whose basis is religion. Because the consciousness where biryani is considered as ultimate linchpin of cultural superiority can only be maintained in a medieval state based on religion.
The first pre-requisite, the most basic litmus test of a modern nation state is separation of state from religion. If a nation state has to be a modern nation state it essentially cannot and must not claim to belong to a race, religion or ideology. This is the first thing a student of 10th standard in India learns and I find it quiet peculiar that many so called intellectuals of Pakistan are not only reluctant to hit the bulls eye but sometimes altogether put the blame of all that has gone wrong in Pakistan on later military dictators. Whole of ire falls on poor Ayub Khan, Zulfikar Bhutto, America or perhaps Zionist-RAW conspiracy. I seriously have my sympathies with all those sophisticated Pakistani intellectuals who live in US or Australia or England. Perhaps like many, they are unable to question the whole rationale of their nation state’s birth. Pakistan born out of medieval sentiments of hatred, born out of the idea that two communities (Hindus and Muslims) cannot live together, that a nation has to be forged to safeguard a particular religion, that the very meaning of Pakistan is propagation of that particular religion. These and many more reasons of Pakistan’s existence today which essentially is quiet backward and undemocratic (not to forget the special blessings of British and west’s motive for creating a buffer state between India and Soviet Union’s frontier) are hard to accept by most ‘enlightened’ in Pakistan.
There may be exceptional scholarly works by many experts settled in foreign lands yet the core of the problem is not hit at. The fact is that Pakistan was to be a religious state, a medieval, feudal and 12th century idea upheld by a person who never had anything to do with religion-Mohammad Ali Jinnah the Jefferson Davis of South Asia. Consequently, today, Pakistan is nation of most blatant lies because it has to manufacture false history of Medieval India, it has to make claims of culture which essentially is Indian. To add to these problems all of these false histories and narratives are thrown at overwhelming population with overwhelming velocity and overwhelming hatred towards non-Muslims, especially against ‘foxy Hindus’ through media, print media and most effective have been the state owned and managed history and cultural curriculum taught to children in Pakistan. Consequently, one example today of the major difference in collective consciousness between the two nations born in 1947 can be measured through the fact that when a right wing government is formed in India under BJP in 2014, people of India after experiencing two years of attempted polarization reject RSS’s ideology through a shameful defeat of BJP in State Assembly elections in Delhi, Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala, Pondicherry and most probably in near future now in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and paradoxically in Gujrat as well. Whereas, Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of Governor of Pakistani Punjab- Salman Taseer, since Taseer was a liberal and wanted to reform the Blasphemy Laws, is when executed by State of Pakistan, after his execution, he i.e. Mumtaz Qadri becomes national hero of most in Pakistan. Under siege comes Islamabad stormed by his supporters, almost jammed in protest against this insane terrorist’s execution.
Then the question here is that how come almost the same people, the same society, with same levels of social and political consciousness in 1947, after partition behave in such opposite manners when confronted with same kind of situations? The answer lays in the difference in the nature of two nation states and resultant evolution of societies within those two frameworks of nation states i.e. a secular republic and a religious republic.
Two Nation theory and reluctance of Pakistani intellectual:
State of denial is perhaps the biggest enemy of any society or nation and most serious hurdle to overcome in order to evolve out of hatred and euphoria of Middle Ages. But when this denial come from the hands of intellectuals of society, the sheer facts of history and truth are when denied or avoided by those who by the virtue of their placed position in society or nation were suppose to make efforts in lifting people out of the mess of false histories and faulted notions, when they keep dancing around the bushes but do not hit bulls eye, then it becomes very difficult for that particular society to evolve out of manufactured narrative and hence it is danger first of all to itself and then to rest of the world. Perhaps, there are many Pakistani intellectuals who avoid expressing their honest explication on the idea of a nation based on religion. I refuse to believe that many imminent Pakistani personalities are unaware of that fact that where the real fault is, that the whole idea of merging state with religion is Medieval. Many other progressive commentators in Pakistan may have realized that it is not Ayub Khan or some other Pakistani General who messed things along, it is the very idea of Pakistan (idea of state based on religion) which is nothing but a Medieval – Fascist state and that it is not a modern democracy if it can be identified as some Hindu-Republic or a Christian Republic or Islamic-Republic. A modern democracy essentially has to be a Secular Democratic Republic. Yet time and again we see that even after publication of immense literature on Pakistan the basic justification built is that perhaps Mohammad Ali Jinnah formed a ‘good Islamic Republic’ but military foiled it! That perhaps Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted a secular nation but something along the way went wrong!
For reference of this outrageous denial by influential Pakistani intellectuals I shall take an example of Farahnaz Ispahani, a very well known commentator, in 2013-2104 she served as Public Policy Scholar Woodrow Wilson International Centre of Scholars. In 2012 she was listed among Foreign Policy magazines top 100 Global Thinkers and she authored a book – Purifying the land of the pure: Pakistan’s Religious minorities. An International online journal called The Diplomat published an interview of Farahnaz Ispahani on March 10, 2016 regarding her above mentioned book. I will be discussing some interesting excerpts from her interview in order to illustrate this pathetic justification built by Pakistanis regarding a theocratic state –
“ Q- What do you mean by purifying the land of the pure?
A- Pakistan was originally conceived of as a homeland for South Asia’s Muslims. Pakistan’s purpose was to protect the subcontinent’s largest religious minorities. Overtime, however, religious and political leaders declared the objective of Pakistan’s creation to be the setting up of an Islamic state. Much of the prejudice against religious minorities can be traced to the effort by Islamists to make Pakistan ‘purer’ in what they conceive of as Islamic terms.”
Well, it is amazing the way they try to add sophistication to the idea of Pakistan/state based on religion and the way whole ‘progressive narrative’ is built against the extremist forces. The blame is laid again and again on army and on right wing for all the wrong that is done in Pakistan but the truth is these forces-Islamists as mentioned above in this case- in any nation state are only able to grasp unprecedented power in state machinery and unprecedented influence over society only and only when the nature of state allows it. She (as many other Pakistani intellectuals do) accepted in above statement that Pakistan was formed for one particular community. First of all, a modern nation state is never formed for one community (this infact is a pre-requisite of a medieval or fascist state), it always embraces plurality, encourages plurality and takes proud in it. And this capacity to accept and propagate plurality can only be inculcated in society if the nature of nation state is essentially a secular republic not religious republic. But this is not acknowledged by many Pakistani intellectuals. Further she declares that reason that Pakistan came into existence is ‘protection’ of Muslims in South Asia. Again in 1947 the idea of plural democracies was quiet 250 years old, the idea of constitutional protections, fundamental rights and all the tenets were discussed vehemently and in the end under the auspices of Dr. BR Ambedkar a miracle – constitution of India- was carved out and applied on equally challenging situations- Indian society. Jinnah as a much more successful lawyer than Ambedkar himself, I believe, was much more aware and well entrenched in these concepts of British common law and western constitutional principles yet instead of choosing a modern approach to deal with a religious divide in sub-continent, he on the contrary chose to push for a Medieval idea, an idea dividing a three thousand year old civilization and putting these two nations in a painful and perpetual bloody contest, an act whereby Jinnah stabbed in the back of the likes of Jefferson, Lincoln, Mandela and ofcourse Gandhi and stood in the lines of traitors trying to pull civilization and democracy two steps backward. And yet our Pakistani friends justify and claim that Pakistan was made by some secular people and then subsequently Islamists in order to make Pakistan pure made it an Islamic state! On the other hand these same Pakistani intellectuals, like many Indians (including me), will call those people who want to create a Hindu-Nation as Hindu-fascists but the people who created a Muslim-Nation (Pakistan) are declared so boldly by these same intellectuals as secular! I would argue vehemently that the idea of Pakistan is medieval and nature of Pakistani state is Fascist through and through.
These efforts of Pakistani intellectuals in complicating the whole idea of Two Nation Theory (Pakistan a Muslim country and India a ‘Hindu’ country) in order to make the division of subcontinent on basis of religion appear as modern and progressive and somehow inevitable is in itself a great disillusionment. The idea of dividing civilizations, peoples and nations on the basis of religion or race is and can never be termed as modern or democratic no matter what the historical conditions were. This attempt of sophisticating otherwise a very rudimentary sentiment of religious division in South Asia and then justifying it reminds me of Lincoln-Douglas debates in the year of 1858, where if any prudent person observes this debate closely she(or he) will observe that Mr. Douglas who under the garb of people’s rights as ‘popular sovereignty’ advocated for Kansas-Nebraska Act whereby if Act was to be passed then it would allow people to decide whether the newly formed states of Kansas and Nebraska will have slavery or not. During this famous debate no matter in how sophisticated manner Douglas in order to justify his argument invoked democracy or Rousseau, Abraham Lincoln came back every time with simple myth busting speeches explaining that how this very statute-Kansas Nebraska Act- is nothing but a sinister scheme of southern slave holders in order to transform whole of United States of America as a slave state, a Nation not for liberty and plurality but a nation only for one race. And how easily it will become apparent that perhaps arguments made by Muslim League leaders in 1940’s in favour of making Pakistan- a nation for one community which they put as Nation in order to ‘safeguard’ Muslims and arguments of Pakistani Intellectuals as mentioned above are similar to the arguments made in the favor of America being the country of only one race (White race). These two episodes in History, American Civil War and partition of India represent the soul of plural democracies fighting against the idea that two communities (whites- blacks or Hindus- Muslims) can never live together in perpetual peace as equals, that whether America/India was going to be a nation of one race/religion or nation of all races and religions. Hence, Pakistani intellectuals today can make all sorts of sophisticated arguments in favour of a nation state based on one ideology/religion/community but the fact of the matter remains that a modern nation state is conceived in liberty and perpetuates plurality as understood by likes Lincolns, Sewards, Gandhis and Ambedkars and founding fathers of Indian secular democratic republic and this principle cannot be diluted at any cost. There is no justification of building a medieval fascist state and then producing arguments that something went wrong subsequently. No, no, from the seeds of a cactus you cannot expect a mango tree.
Further in the interview Farahnaz Ispahani says- “When Pakistan was founded in 1947, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, clearly stated that non-Muslims would be equal citizens in the new country…………. Unfortunately, as part of the gradual Islamisation of Pakistan, the average Pakistani is not taught Jinnah’s true version of a pluralistic and inclusive society.”
So if Jinnah’s version was pluralistic and inclusive then why the need of separate nation on the basis of religion (idea absolutely hostile to any notion of secularism) in order to save a minority which was quiet possible through rule of law and constitutional means? How many outrageous contradictions can be found in this statement? According to the speaker above first of all, Jinnah made a nation because he was sure that minority will not be safe in India but then he was sure that the country he will make on the basis of irreconcilability between Hindus and Muslims will be able to provide dignity and safety to minorities! This is an amazing and a shameful self contradiction. If Hindus and Muslims cannot live in India peacefully, according to Muslim league and Jinnah, then how could they live peacefully in Pakistan? Why all the local languages were murdered and trampled upon and a one exclusive language- Urdu was superimposed on otherwise linguistically plural population in newly born Pakistan under Jinnah? Was this plural and inclusive vision of Jinnah? The truth is once you have dwelt and acted on the idea that communities cannot co-exist peacefully, that you will have to divide a civilization or a nation but not press for better rule of law and constitutional means for protection of minorities, that once you are convinced and formed a nation where you will have to murder all the local languages and cultures and impose one foreign language violently (the act which ultimately caused liberation of Bangladesh) then you are not a democratic secular person and you certainly do not have ‘version of pluralistic and inclusive society’, but you are basically fascist or perhaps opportunist at the most. May I ask that can you divide an ancient and essentially plural civilization on the basis of race or religion and then be termed as pluralistic and inclusive? Perhaps for many of them Jinnah was a secular and modern person because he loved Shakespeare, guess what, Hitler loved French paintings and allegedly Stalin loved American movies, does that make one of them not a fascist and another a compassionate dictator?
Many of these Pakistani intellectuals dwell upon the idea of gradual Islamisation of Pakistan as root cause of all problems. I believe they need some basic lessons in secular and plural nation state constitutionalism. They can blame Liaqat Ali Khan or Ayub Khan or try to find fault in formation of making of constitution of Pakistan, but the truth is that a nation state is built on the very basis of set of ideas that it was conceived with in the first place and in this case the premise on which Pakistan was born and built upon is Nation for one community with poisonous narratives of historical supremacy. The Muslim league was nothing but a band of aristocratic, feudal leaders with fascist leanings or as Javed Akhtar will put it aptly RSS is but mirror image of Muslim League, fundamentalist and fascist to the very core. Can we expect a nation made by RSS leaders a secular Hindu republic? It is just like stating – Oh sorry, Lenin died early and power came in hands of Stalin that is why such a mess, in case it was Trotsky then it would have been something different. Oh sorry, power came in hands of Hitler and he killed all the internal resistance in his party and gradually in whole of Germany if it was someone else, say Goering, then things would have been different. Oh sorry Jinnah died early and power came in hands of military dictators like Ayub Khan or Islamists and things went wrong otherwise the story would have been different! It is never about Stalins or Hitlers or Jinnahs or any individual, nation states take the shape of what they are eventually according to the most basic intentions and set of ideas, principles and narratives they are conceived with in the first place. It was the bolshevism which killed millions in purges not merely one individual- Stalin, it was NAZI ideology of Aryan myth that lead to such slaughter not just Hitler, it was the very idea of Pakistan that has lead to inevitable Islamisation of Pakistan not just the military or Islamists. The Pakistani intellectuals have just got it all wrong, gradual radicalization as root cause of all problems in Pakistan is merely effect of the cause – nature of Pakistan’s nation state.
Opposite evolution of two nations and consequential Pakistani narrative:
Logically, then from Liaqat Ali Khan onwards the idea of what kind of state Pakistan is or what version of Islamic faith it must adopt started as the major discussion in Pakistan. On the contrary, in India, where founding fathers were clear that what kind of state India will be, constituted a committee headed by Dr. BR Ambedkar in order to write this huge, unique, inherently secular and democratic constitution which in essence was to be inclusive of all the unfathomable variety and infinite diversity of remaining Indian nation. One of the major pre-occupation of national legal debates in India in its early decades was how to assert constitutional supremacy over all the wings of state machinery and nature of constitution of Indian union in a very plural society. Right from Golakhnath Vs. Union of India to Keshavnanda Bharti, the evolution of Indian establishment towards a sturdier democratic secular republic has been unprecedented. Especially the debates regarding basic structure of constitution and ever present prevalence of fundamental rights, the idea of social justice for the oppressed sections in Indian society through Article 16 and its intensive application. Whereas, as mentioned above, one of the first acts of newly formed Pakistani state was to debate who Muslims are and who are not, consequently in 1974 constitution of Pakistan is amended whereby Ahmadiyyas legally are considered to be non-Muslims. Ironically, at the same time a country in neighbourhood is busy in embracing all castes, creeds, religions as one plural ancient civilisation, it boldly adopted number of languages as national languages, effectively defeating the Two Nation theory in theory and practice. The assertion of Pakistani leaders, especially Jinnah before anybody else, that Pakistan is for Muslims and India for Hindus was a farce from day one, Pakistan may be was made for one community but India was from beginning a secular, plural and inclusive of all that there is. So how could Pakistani establishment maintain the lie of century that India is for ‘only Hindu’? The only trick was systematic propagation of manufactured versions of history of subcontinent. Again, this was not problem in itself but a natural outcome of state of Pakistan trying to provide any sane rationale and justification for idea of Pakistan in 20th century.
Therefore, understandably, the ancient history of Indian subcontinent, the Nandas, Mauryas, Guptas or the Kushans and other pre-Islamic cultures and histories of Indian sub-continent were last seen in the year of 1961 in the text books of Pakistan neither Pakistani kids are taught story of India after the independence. The only part they are taught effectively is those 800 years of Islamic invaders from Turkey, Arabia and Iran and all of them being the national heroes of Pakistan. For example, there is not a single mention of a medieval Afgani invader Ghazni in official Afghanistan’s narrative or even in Afghanistan’s text books but he is hero in Pakistani narrative because Ghazni defeated his Hindu counterpart and broke a lot more temples especially historical temple of Somnath. Usually in a 21st century such an act is taught to children as shameful and medieval but in Pakistan he is a hero for doing these heinous crimes and children learn of him and many others as part of their national culture and identity, to take this further Pakistani ballistic missiles are named after Ghazni and Abdali. Consequently today, the Pakistani narrative essentially is anti- India or to be precise and unfortunately anti- democratic. This development of a false and equally stupid narrative which, just like NAZIs, draw inspiration from some imagined past is not just a coincidence, it is but a natural outgrowth of all those nations which were (or will be) inherently conceived as a fortress of a particular race/faith/ideology. These kinds of narratives are always the result when a nation state is built out of some kind of revenge sentiment and superiority complex. Soviet Union could have never produced Abraham Lincoln but Stalin, Pakistan could have never produced Nelson Mandela but Zia Ul Haq and jokers like Musharraff.
In lieu of conclusion:
General Akbar khan, the one who invaded Kashmir in 1948, after when he retired, in his autobiography claimed that they are the real warriors, Pakistanis are sons of Mohammad Bin Qasim and Ahmed Shah Abdali, they are descendants of great Abbasids and as they conquered half of the world in medieval times so will they do now, that as was Alexander The Great so was Mohammad Ghori! Infact every that invader and barbaric who has been successful in plundering and looting India is made hero in Pakistan, irrespective that whether that invader came from Mongolia or Turkey, Persia or Arabia, fuelling anti-India sentiment has become the centre point of whole Pakistani Narrative, its reason of existence, its foreign policy and perhaps now we see Pakistani intellectuals trying subvert the obvious truths. The hawkish in Pakistan have set lofty goals of waging war against India for thousand years and unfortunately this mentality and people carrying this mentality are in majority and are well entrenched in all the braches of Pakistani establishments which again is not some Zionist conspiracy but natural outcome of idea of Pakistan.
And on 70th anniversary of our independence I would like to ask our dear Orphans of Jinnah –that you have wasted all these decades in manufacturing not schools and hospitals but false narratives of inferiority of Indian civilization and urgency of its annihilation through Jihad, then tell me, where are your heroic Macedonians now? Where is your Greek civillisation? Where is your Rome? Where is Mighty Egyptian Civillisation? Where are Akkadians, Sumerians, where are great Aztecs and Incas? Where have gone Persia? ALL LAY BUT IN DUST. We, the humble Indians were there centuries before these civilizations were even born and we are still here centuries after those civillisations have gone. It mattered nothing to this civilization, Hinduism came India absorbed it, Jainism came India absorbed it, Buddhism came India absorbed, Islam came we absorbed it, Christianity and Sikhism came India absorbed them, didn’t even burped. Then came the modern Isms, the so called Socialism and Communism and Maoism, the Capitalism and Imperialism none could destroy, or even change India! Not because people are better warriors or bigger tyrants or had better horses, stronger swords or a crossbow! No, they all couldn’t do it because of India’s acceptance of plurality, its inherent secular nature, its unconditional acceptance of all faiths and ideologies. And the bad news is that this nation is here to stay from ETERNITY to ETERNITY.
We are not sons of Taimurs and Babars, but of Maharaj Bharat and Vikramaditya. If we won’t allow desecration of Babri Masjid at the hands of Hindu fascists, then we won’t allow Jehadis/Fascists to be our heroes. Maqbool Bhat or Burhan Wani can be heroes in Islamabad but not in Delhi and neither in any democratic nation or culture embracing plurality.
Therefore, I will argue that Pakistani intellectuals maybe are the voice of sanity in an insane environment of Pakistan yet we need to have courage to call spade a spade i.e. idea of Pakistan was never a modern idea and Pakistan does not need another military dictator or a general elections but, as M.J. Akbar would put, it needs a Constituent Assembly to re-imagine and manifest a Modern Secular Democratic Republic of Pakistan.
On the other hand, I understand Pakistani paranoia that India and Indians never accepted the partition and perhaps want to usurp Pakistan again. A very common notion perpetuated in Pakistan by its establishment. Perhaps it is true that Pakistan is a reality and what is done cannot be undone and of course Pakistan cannot be asked to commit suicide. But in order to shake off shackles of separation, hatred and fundamentalism, it is a long journey for Pakistan’s civil society, intellectuals and youth starting from the resolve which will get themselves rid of the proxy militant groups they have created till re-inventing the idea and ideology of Pakistan, the ideology which is more in adept to 21st century because clearly a 12th century idea will not work in 21st century.
– Sawinder Singh