How about Confederation!
How about a loose confederation between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh? This confederation should be based upon the geographical contiguity and a common culture. For the State of Pakistan that is apprehensively heading towards the precipice of a failed status, this is the best way-out to preserve its territorial integrity and separate identity. The sentimentality dripped slogans of Pakistan ideology and two nation theory do not seem to be relevant any more. The ideology of Pakistan primarily a religio- national sentiment has been blunted by surging and strident provincialism. The Pakistani nationalism is confined to only two cities of Lahore and Karachi. In recent times, the inhabitants of other places and provinces mostly prefer to project and identify themselves with their provincial suffixes or prefixes. Urdu, the Pakistan’s national language too has not been able to bring about national unity in Pakistan. People like to converse in their local dialects and are under the impression that Urdu was the immigrants’ language.
The Islamic ethos or two nation theory is cast away by the gushing deluge of sectarianism. So the question is where Pakistan stands? The answer is: it stands at the crossroads where a nation falls in the dustbin of history and is reincarnated to continue its existences in a new garb. The contemporary example is the Russian Federation built upon the ashes of the Soviet Socialist regime of yester years.
The separation of the formerly East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh), from the Federation of Pakistan in 1971 leaves the original united Pakistan bequeathed by the founders now to a half Pakistan. Still to call it Pakistan may be self-cajoling misnomer. To be true, the truncated Pakistan is a half Pakistan. This half Pakistan is again beset with overt cessation movements such as in Baluchistan. Who knows there might be covert as well? The latest onslaught of Taliban to carve out an orthodox Islamic state within the state of Pakistan was a kind of blue print for separation. The left out Pakistan after 1971 is still a hunting ground for overpowering army generals, the regal feudal classes, the local sovereigns or cut throat tribal chiefs, and boorish mullahs. On top of it, the political leadership both in and out of government consists mostly of runaway, fortune hunting and moronic individuals.
A host of factors have contributed to the dwindling chances of Pakistan’s viability as a strong, stable and independent state. The first is the inept, totally self-aggrandized and hypocritical leadership comprising the classes that are the vestiges of the imperialistic legacies. These are the ignominious outposts of an order that survives on self- promotion. I mean feudalism and parasitic classes with huge landholdings, enormous socio-political clout and economic ascendency. These classes of rank saboteurs seldom want the people to prosper and the country to stabilize. In People’s awareness is their death and decline. They spread their tentacles all over, be it army, bureaucracy, business, executive, judiciary and legislature. There has always been an inevitable need to dismantle and defang these powerful classes, for them to be counted at par with the common folks of Pakistan.
The framing of a constitution in Pakistan has all along been an unpalatable ordeal for the ruling elite. The enforcement of a truly democratic order has been an anathema to these basically people-averse classes and therefore they resisted all efforts for Pakistan to shape up as a veritable democratic polity. If the genesis or raison d’être of Pakistan was to be a citadel of Islam then let us admit that Islam is not confined to the geographical contours of Pakistan. Islam existed in the subcontinent for centuries and perhaps Islam then was more protected and monolithic than it has been after the creation of Pakistan. It has fallen into the booby traps laid by the ignorant, die- hard clergy with many a face. The endemic communalism that we witness across the Indian sub content was not as intense, lethal and sharp as now. Before the partition, the Hindus, the Muslims and other religious communities lived in peace with each other.
Therefore, Pakistan’s mis-projected alignment or identity as a sanctuary for the ever marooned Islam is patently false and has been consistently pedaled by those brands of Muslims who want to grind their axe under the cover of Islam. In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Islam has come under more pressure and direly threatened by the hate laden religious factionalism and mutually hostile crazy sects. We ought to be candid and honest enough, in admitting that Pakistan has failed to serve the coveted cause of projecting and protecting Islam as a cementing force to unite Muslims. If the founders of Pakistan wanted the Muslims to attend to their religious obligations with peace of mind and without the tyranny of religious majority, then that objective stands shattered. The ferocity of sectarianism, the brazen bad blood and incessant feuding among various shades of beliefs has undermined the very stability and survival of Pakistan let alone making it a haven for the faithful to pursue their religions obligations in a serene and fraternal environ.
On the contrary, the Hindu majority India that was perceived and dreaded to be a decimator and vicious enemy of Islam offers more salubrious, conducive and much free atmosphere for the Muslims and followers of other religions alike to carry out their religious duties. So it means that a land even if it is named as a religious state or has come into being in the name of religion cannot guarantee sectarian harmony. So then to harp on the tune that Pakistan was the bastion for protection and promotion of Islam is not based on the factual situation on the ground. In the time to come the disparate sectarian, regional, ethnic and linguistic forces would widen and deepen the fissures that are already there in Pakistani society.
It is not difficult to perceive that the linguistic and ethnic barriers between all the four provinces are a looming threat to the cohesion of Pakistan. The religion which was thought to be a binding force for the Muslim majority Pakistan has miserably failed to prove itself as such. The inescapable excruciating fact is that the majority of population from the smaller provinces, place more trust and preference in their provincial identities than being Pakistanis or Muslims. Islam is indeed a great religion but its protectors, patrons and proponents are generally not earnest.
Bangladesh that broke away from Pakistan has seldom been troubled by the sectarian and religious anarchy. Bangladeshis are more orthodox, steadfast and devout Muslims than their counterparts elsewhere in the subcontinent. In the creation of Pakistan, the part played by the Muslim leaders from East and West Bengal has been decisive and overwhelming. But despite this abiding and passionate love for Islam, they parted company with the Muslims of West Pakistan. Islam is still more earnestly observed in Bangladesh. In Pakistan if Islam has ever been in danger then it is from the sectarian monsters, bigoted exploiters and not from the non believers. The enemies of Islam are from within and not from outside.
So whether Pakistan remains as an Islamic state or turns into an atheist or a secular state, Islam would, still remain intact because it is practiced and preserved by the individuals irrespective of their region, geographical or ethnic origin. Presumably, if Islam is not safe in an Islamic country then it is immaterial if is practiced in Islamic or unislamic countries. Perhaps it would flourish more stridently in a secular society because of the religious tolerance and parity between the diverse faiths. Such a society would not allow discrimination, bias and oppression against the minority sets or parallel religions. In western societies which are by and large unislamic, Muslims pray in the same mosque and seldom stare at each other for being different in sectarian rituals.
There is a basket full of advantages that can accrue from entering into a confederal arrangement between the regional states of the Indian sub-continent primarily comprising Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Afghanistan can later join this confederal fold by her consent. If Europe can become one common market by having a common currency and visa system, why can’t the countries of the Indian sub-continent evolve a similar framework that would not commit themselves to the extent the European Union has gone?
The economy of all the three countries will get an instant fillip and this region can emerge as a phenomenal economic bloc that can counter the strongest economies of the world. The confederation will not involve population migration as was done in 1947. The population of all the three countries would stay in their lands. There wouldn’t be any displacement of assets or industrial units. But certainly there will be a balanced and even handed progress for all the member states. The divided families would be free to travel in all parts of the confederation. The hostility that keeps these countries in a state of unremitting tension would gradually wither away. The huge chunks of money being spent on armament would be saved for better utilization on nation building projects and improving life of the citizens.
Between India and Bangladesh on one side and Pakistan and India on the other, the disputed territories and sharing of water, with contending claims of ownership, would be automatically resolved. With the restoration of normalcy and as part of confederation, these territories would also be able to benefit from the economic progress and property of other settled regions. The entire region would turn into an abode of peace. By close interaction and social intimacy the people to people interaction would give birth to social harmony, mutual respect and cordiality. After all in the Indian subcontinent, the Muslims and Hindus have a legacy of livings together for 1000 years.
Despite difference in religion, the inhabitants of the subcontinent have countless common cultural and social features. The color of their skin, their folklore, cuisine, their wedding customs, and traditions of hospitality and spirit of camaraderie are the same in the entire length and breadth of India. They wear the same dress and speak a common language called Urdu in Pakistan and Hindi in India. The difference in scrip hardly makes any difference as long as they can communicate with each other. Muslims have their architectural, religious and historical heritage and antiquity, in all parts of the subcontinent. Similarly, the Hindus and Sikhs and other denominations have their sacred and historical temples, monuments and ancient buildings in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The formation of confederation between, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan is not going to be an easy task. In the first instance, the member states may not agree for such an arrangement. The wider acceptance by the people of these three countries may also be difficult to achieve. The strong opposition to this plan can come from the hard line nationalists, the pseudo patriots, the religious purveyors, and the comprador classes. Therefore, to forestall the projected apprehensions, the confederation can be considered on experimental or transitional basis. If it clicks, it should continue: if not, it should be scrapped. But if, somehow, it takes place, it would be nothing short of a boon for 1.3 billion people of this region.