COMMENT: Nationalism, patriots and traitors – By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu
Those who differed with the rulers’ methods of running the state were declared traitors. No wonder within months after its inception Pakistan stood divided between the ‘patriots’ and the ‘traitors’. This divide still continues
The low and high mountainous north and west, the deep blue Indian Ocean in the south and the reach of the monsoon rising from the Bay of Bengal made up the boundaries of the subcontinent, and also of Indian nationalism that remained loosely knitted for most of its history due to thousands of invasions. But the last big invasion proved to be different.
The British needed comfort, food, cheap labour, communication systems, security and fulfilment of the basic purpose of their conquest of India — resources and markets. To achieve all this, a functioning oneness among the Indians was needed. The socio-economic developments leading to connecting people and evolving markets thus started. Besides raising a standing army and establishing bureaucratic and judicial systems, schools, colleges and universities were built, ports were made, railway tracks were laid, roads and irrigation system were constructed and industries were introduced.
The oneness meant strengthening Indian nationalism. With the passage of time, political parties were formed. Politics strengthened Indian nationalism to such a degree that from Balochistan to Bengal and Khyber to Ras Kumari, every soul became Hindustani.
Despite its strength the revitalised Indian nationalism was not flawless. The British knew that it could also become a threat. They had to keep some safety valves. So two strategies were used; first, the Hindu-Muslim divide, second, variation in the quantum of development. Although less development was the main reason in the hatred for modern knowledge among the Muslims, the British choice to keep the people underdeveloped was specific. The western periphery or the present Pakistan was kept comparatively backward so that its population would remain attached to agriculture and would also provide recruits for the army. Simultaneously, to earn the loyalties of the elites of this area the centuries-old tribalism, shrine system and feudalism were patronised. Thus, the British ruled over India mostly through development and partly through the social and communal divide.
World War II suddenly ended Indian nationalism’s 100-year-old relationship with its developers. Despite its flaws, Indian nationalism was so prevailing that the backward Muslim majority states till the last moment were prepared to remain connected to it in the way proposed in the Cabinet Mission Plan.
The Congress accepted the plan but rejected it later mainly for two reasons. First, an underdeveloped area and its Muslim majority might not remain satisfied for long in a united India. Second, the US had emerged as the most powerful country after World War II and was meddling in Indian affairs.
The communal divide finally divided India into two countries, India and Pakistan. The partition saved India from an identity crisis. The Congress kept intact all that which was positive about the British rule, and it did more to strengthen Indian nationalism by turning to speedy societal and economic development through social democracy, more industrialisation and land reforms.
What partition brought to the other part of united India, history seems to be in a hurry in determining that. That Pakistan did not survive as one country and is struggling still is a question whose answer one can find in the fact that the policy to ‘divide’ rather than development was chosen to govern it. Though the nature of the divide changed, from a religious one to an amalgam of religion and ethnicity, it was a change for the worse. It left the newborn nation within months without any identity, without nationalism.
Pakistani nationhood was made controversial because sharing of political power and economic benefits with the masses were totally ignored. The Bengalis, Sindhis, Baloch and the Pashtun were kept away from state affairs that had come into the control of the central and northern Punjabis, the East Punjabis and Urdu-speaking migrants. Thus, 80 percent of Pakistanis had little or no share in matters of the state and the ruling elites representing 20 percent of the population and the US’s interests remained adamant on not sharing anything with them.
Those who differed with the rulers’ methods of running the state were declared traitors. No wonder within months after its inception Pakistan stood divided between the ‘patriots’ and the ‘traitors’. This divide still continues.
Geography was indeed the main reason behind the making of Pakistan. The majority of Indian Muslims lived in the eastern and western peripheries of India. Had the Muslims been a scattered lot as they are in today’s India, the question of deprivation could have arisen but no one would have thought about separation. And if the peripheries under discussion had no access to the seas, talk about separation would not have even originated.
Sticking to ethnicity and religion meant sticking to divisive factors. Externally, sticking to the US given anti-USSR, pro-political/religion policies meant turning to more of religion. It did not work. Treating 80 percent of the population as traitors created chaos. And to tackle the chaos the ruling elites turned to martial laws, which in turn turned the chaos into anarchy. The anarchy was so devastating that it was bound to divide Pakistan into many independent states. Pakistan did disintegrate. Neither could our army nor religious affinity or friendship with the US stop East Pakistan from becoming Bangladesh. The rest of Pakistan survived due to the constitution and the political direction given by the ‘traitors’.
It was most unfortunate that even after ethnicity, religion, military power and the American and Saudi connection had failed in keeping us together, these factors remained the most powerful parts of our state’s working. Thus the subjugation of the minorities, ethnic and religious, did not end. This is why chaos again emerged and anarchy again reigned. Again martial laws were imposed as remedies. Again the ‘patriots’ brought Pakistan to the doorstep of disintegration.
The ‘traitors’ on the other hand remained and are adamant on keeping Pakistan together through internal and external reconciliation and also through elimination of religious extremism, and for that they are, as usual, facing humiliation, character assassination, assassinations and assassination threats.
Who will win? Today, disintegration is not the only subject to discuss. Today, due to 64 years of ‘patriotic’ efforts we are suffering from a paralysis of intellect. Today, all permanent state institutions, the civil administration, military and judiciary, and schools, colleges, universities and media stand almost totally radicalised. Today, Osama and Qadri are our heroes. Today the finest and the bravest Pakistanis like Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti, Saleem Shahzad and the Baloch and Pashtun activists are either assassinated or abducted or harassed or forced to remain silent. Today, the patriots’ win would mean an outright demolition, the Arabisation of Pakistan, as happened to Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
However, today there is a kind of hope around us that was never there earlier. Today, the pain of Nauroz Khan is uncovering the faces of deceit that hide behind the Objectives Resolutions and so-called security myths. Today, Pakistan is being led by Zardari. He can fight. He can resist. He can reconcile. He knows the art of the impossible. His capacities and the determination of the ‘traitors’ have — through the 18th Amendment and the NFC Award — started knitting together again the torn fabric of Pakistani nationalism. And on the extremism front, peace has come almost wholly to Afghanistan, and partly also to a massively radicalised Pakistan.
The writer is a freelance columnist
Courtesy: Daily Times