Pakistan Day 2009

Posted by sepoy on March 23, 2009 · 21 mins read


On March 23rd, Pakistan celebrates "Pakistan Day" to commemorate the Muslim League session in Lahore in 1940 at which Muhammad Ali Jinnah most crisply articulated a "Muslims are a nation' ideology. I want to highlight some sections for you. Look, for example, that Jinnah builds upon twinned arguments: First that Muslims as a community had politically divergent goals and their historical specificity was inarguable. It was a strictly communitarian reading of history that forcefully argued away all notions of co-habitation, without once citing an example. Take a look:

We do not want that the British Government should thrust upon the Mussalmans a constitution which they do not approve of and to which they do not agree. Therefore the British Government will be well advised to give that assurance and give the Mussalmans complete peace and confidence in this matter and win their friendship. But whether they do that or not, after all, as I told you before, we must depend on our own inherent strength; and I make it plain from this platform, that if any declaration is made, if any interim settlement is made without our approval and without our consent, the Mussalmans of India will resist it. (Hear, hear and applause.) And no mistake should be made on that score.

[[14]] Then the next point was with regard to Palestine. We are told that endeavours, earnest endeavours, are being made to meet the reasonable, national demands, of the Arabs. Well, we cannot be satisfied by earnest endeavours, sincere endeavours, best endeavours. (Laughter.) We want that the British Government should in fact and actually meet the demands of the Arabs in Palestine. (Hear, hear.)

Jinnah seamlessly unites Muslims within India (remember that the 1920s and 30s were ripe with myraid Muslim factions and political parties from Congress to Muslim League to Unionist Party to Khaksar Tehrik to Khilafat to Mau'dudi etc. So this "unity" is no given) with Muslims outside of India by harkening the connection to Palestine. He follows that up with a call to the British government that they guarantee that no Muslim will fight in a Muslim country (in the WWII mobilization). Again, a rhetorical move that further cements the Muslim bloc as distinct on the global scale. There is a genealogy to this, of course which stretches back to debates between Afghani and Syed Ahmed Khan.

But, more interesting, was how he differentiated Muslim community in India from all other:

But one thing is quite clear: it has always been taken for granted mistakenly that the Mussalmans are a minority, and of course we have got used to it for such a long time that these settled notions sometimes are very difficult to remove. The Mussalmans are not a minority. The Mussalmans are a nation by any definition. The British and particularly the Congress proceed on the hasis, "Well, you are a minority after all, what do you want!" "What else do the minorities want?" just as Babu Rajendra Prasad said. But surely the Mussalmans are not a minority. We find that even according to the British map of India we occupy large parts of this country where the Mussalmans are in a majority, such as Bengal, Punjab, N.W.F.P., Sind, and Baluchistan.

This notion of a "Muslim India within India" as a distinct polity had been around (primarily in Punjab) since Iqbal articulated it in 1930 and gathered steam since Rahmat Ali's 1935 Pakistan National Movement. Yet, there was quite a range of options from a federation model to separate states. Sikander Hayat, the powerful leader of the Unionist Party, was a strong supporter of the federated idea and proposed a number of resolutions to that effect in 1939. For Jinnah, who remained open to the federated model for a long while, the key argument was a distinction between "minority politics" (such as the Untouchable cause) which was local and "muslim politics" which was international. It is this distinction which he articulated most forcefully (emphasis added):

A leading journal like the London Times, commenting on the Government of India Act of 1935, wrote that "Undoubtedly the difference between the Hindus and Muslims is not of religion in the strict sense of the word but also of law and culture, that they may be said indeed to represent two entirely distinct and separate civilisations. However, in the course of time the superstitions will die out and India will be moulded into a single nation." (So according to the London Times the only difficulties are superstitions). These fundamental and deep-rooted differences, spiritual, economic, cultural, social, and political havc been euphemised as mere "superstitions." But surely it is a flagrant disregard of the past history of the sub-continent of India, as well as the fundamental Islamic conception of society vis-a-vis that of Hinduism, to characterise them as mere "superstitions." Notwithstanding [a] thousand years of close contact, nationalities which are as divergent today as ever, cannot at any time be expected to transform themselves into one nation merely by means of subjecting them to a democratic constitution and holding them forcibly together by unnatural and artificial methods of British Parliamentary statutes. What the unitary government of India for one hundred fifty years had failed to achieve cannot be realized by the imposition of a central federal government. It is inconceivable that the fiat or the writ of a government so constituted can ever command a willing and loyal obedience throughout the sub-continent by various nationalities, except by means of armed force behind it.

The problem in India is not of an inter-communal character, but manifestly of an international one, and it must be treated as such. So long as this basic and fundamental truth is not realised, any constitution that may be built will result in disaster and will prove destructive and harmful not only to the Mussalmans, but to the British and Hindus also. If the British Government are really in earnest and sincere to secure [the] peace and happiness of the people of this sub-continent, the only course open to us all is to allow the major nations separate homelands by dividing India into "autonomous national states."

What separated Jinnah's articulation of an anti-colonial, nationalist movement from other such movements around the globe was his clear break from the local Indian context:

It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders; and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality; and this misconception of one Indian nation has gone far beyond the limits and is the cause of more of our troubles and will lead India to destruction if we fail to revise our notions in time. The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, and literature[s]. They neither intermarry nor interdine together, and indeed they belong to two different civilisations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspects [=perspectives?] on life, and of life, are different. It is quite clear that Hindus and Mussalmans derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, their heroes are different, and different episode[s]. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other, and likewise their victories and defeats overlap. To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent, and final. destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state.
Whereas under the plea of unity of India and one nation which does not exist, it is sought to pursue here the line of one central government, when we know that the history of the last twelve hundred years has failed to achieve unity and has witnessed, during these ages, India always divided into Hindu India and Muslim India. The present artificial unity of India dates back only to the British conquest and is maintained by the British bayonet, but the termination of the British regime, which is implicit in the recent declaration of His Majesty's Government, will be the herald of the entire break-up, with worse disaster than has ever taken place during the last one thousand years under the Muslims. Surely that is not the legacy which Britain would bequeath to India after one hundred fifty years of her rule, nor would Hindu and Muslim India risk such a sure catastrophe.

Muslim India cannot accept any constitution which must necessarily result in a Hindu majority government. Hindus and Muslims brought together under a democratic system forced upon the minorities can only mean Hindu Raj. Democracy of the kind with which the Congress High Command is enamoured would mean the complete destruction of what is most precious in Islam.

Jinnah ends his call with a rousing cry to "come forward as servants of Islam".

Now, one can certainly articulate the trajectory which lands Jinnah in Lahore in 1940 espousing a particular brand of "Islamic nationalism" but I'd rather skip ahead to how this "Two Nation Theory" became the necessary condition for Pakistan's self-identity post-independence. And how it unravelled.

To re-state, there are two components articulated by Jinnah. First, the trans-national nature of Muslims as a community. Second, the internal coherence and distinction of Muslims within India. I think, and let me stress that I am speaking very off-the-cuff, that Pakistan's ideology until the 1965 war focused largely on that first half. Ayub Khan worked hard to forge strong pan-Islamic ties to the Nasserite Egypt. His protégé, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, continued this articulation of Pakistan's close ties with global Islamic community. Bhutto held an Islamic Conference in Lahore in 1974 and, also, massively courted Saudi support. The coup de grâce was delivered, of course, by Zia ul Haq. During his regime, he explicitly tied Pakistan's self-identity to an explicitly anti-Shi'a and Wahabi affect on the one end and a national "jihad" focused on Kashmir/Afghanistan on the other. There was also a severe curtailment of the earlier pan-Islamic position as Pakistan emerged as the "defender" of Mecca - with very close military and political ties between the two states. It may not be necessary to point out that a large proportion of the clandestine US funding for the Afghan operations, at the time, were funneled through Saudi Arabia to the Pakistani military.

Jinnah's articulation of an internal coherence of Indian Muslims as a community had also died much earlier. One can peg that to the Partition itself but whatever lingered was diminished by the 1965 war (which forced an elimination of supra-national contacts between the Muslim populations on either side) and it ended with the atrocities of Pakistani military on their fellow Muslims (and fellow citizens) in East Pakistan in 1970-71. As a vision of Muslim community crumbled post 1971, keep in mind the Baluchistan crisis of 1972-4, the anti-India individuation markedly grew in Pakistani foreign policy. One can say, that the Pakistan two-nation theory became entirely an "oppositional" ideology built around the Kashmir issue. And the clear flag-bearer of this, in fact, the personification of this, was the Pakistan Army. Zia ul Haq, until his death in 1986, kept these flames going. But, the civilian governments that followed him (Bhutto, Sharif, Bhutto, Sharif) were just as beholden to the Army and just as oppositional. The extreme effects of this are clearly perceptible in the "Islamic Bomb" saga of late 90s, Kargil and the military stand-off of 2002.

Since 2001, Musharraf's dictatorial regime sought to polish over the internal incoherence with a unified foreign front aimed primarily at operating militarily in Afghanistan, NWFP and Baluchistan. And reaping his just rewards from the U.S. The influx of cash, some $6 billion, into the military coffers propelled it to newfound heights as the largest landlord, largest employer, largest business enterprise in the country. Musharraf's army entrenched the service track of active military service men who would retire with covetous land grants and lucrative business propositions making them immediate "entrepreneurs". In no small part, these forces contributed to the economic growth in Pakistan since 2002.

But maintaining this new oligarchy came at a steep price for Pakistan. The two main post-2001 theaters, the states of NWFP and Baluchistan bore the brunt of military over-reach and dwindling civic engagement. In Baluchistan, since 2004, a low-grade civil war emerged after brutalities of Musharraf's regime harkening back to the Baluchi nationalist struggles of early 70s. NWFP, which never even managed to get a proper name, remained the "frontier" both ideologically and developmentally. Besides being the military staging-ground, the people were denied even rudimentary access to health care, education or a functioning judicial system.

The issue of justice is supremely important to any understanding of either Baluchistan or NWFP. Swat, for example, was utilized as a staging ground under Zia, and later, as a refugee camp for Afghanistani victims of the Soviet war. Since then, it has been left to deteriorate. Benazir Bhutto cut a very similar deal for imposition of Shari'ah in 1994. Why? Because the federal state could not provide them justice or the rule of law. A few days ago Daily Swat had an account of the very first Qazi court ruling. In the district of Khwaza Khil, a Fazal Ghani entered a writ that he was owed 35,000 rupees from a Javed that he has never been able to collect. The judge called the parties to the court. javed handed over 17,000 in court and said the rest of the 20,000 will be given in monthly installments of 5,000. The two parties signed an agreement and left the court. This was the first "Shari'a" decision under the new regime. Innocuous, yes? But that is exactly what had been missing in Swat. It is this cry for justice that has propelled ordinary Swatis to listen when warlords like Maulana Fazlullah yell into their radio broadcasts about a new system of Justice. The 2007 Lal Masjid crisis may have resulted in Musharraf looking good to the US establishment, but it eliminated whatever natural sympathies for the Army left in NWFP. The results are certainly predictable. In both Swat and Baluchistan, locality after locality, tribe after tribe have fallen to warlords intent on re-terrorizing civilians into submission for their own causes. The two remaining states fare no better. Punjab, the largest (by population and by consumption) province, dominates the federal structure and is commonly conceived to be a resource-hog. Sindh is divided along the urban/rural divide, with urban Sindh hostage to a semi-separatist movement (MQM).

So we stand 62 years after independence with Pakistan a largely incoherent nation. But just as crudely as I have sketched the history of Pakistan's ideology above, let me mention the many attempts at a corrective. The 1951 Rawalpindi "Conspiracy" trial ended, by 1955, in wiping out a great segment of Leftist and Progressive thought in Pakistan. Certainly the first popular effort to wrestle back the meaning of Pakistan was Fatima Jinnah's election campaign in 1965 where she mobilized vast swathes of the population against Ayub Khan's martial law regime. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's initial campaign was similarly populist in its claims and wide-ranging in its appeal. The M.R.D (Movement for Restoration of Democracy) against Zia ul Haq. The work of citizen-poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jalib and Ahmed Faraz. The words of Ardeshir Cowasjee. There are many, many moments at which the people of Pakistan have stood up and tried to take their country back from vested interests, singularly and collectively. In their (limited) successes and their (dramatic) failures, each of these steps was monumental in articulating an alternative vision of Pakistan to its own people.

If one is to pick a unifying theme in these contrary forces in Pakistan's short history, then Justice and the Rule of Law would be of singular importance. The movement, so-called Lawyers Movement, which was triggered in March 2007 is, by far, the most important and most successful in Pakistan's history. It managed to remove Musharraf from military and civilian power, forced elections and, now, re-instated the Chief Justice. It is, I think, a singular opportunity to for Pakistan to undertake a serious re-consideration of its self-conception. The two-nation theory is largely incomprehensible and serves little purpose. By this I do not mean that Pakistan has lost its raison d'être or that we are back to simplistic Instead, we have the twin claims of Accountability and Justice for which a wide swatch of Pakistan has collectively expressed its will. It puts the focus on a properly functioning central state which needs to provide a basic level of civic support and legal protection to its citizens.

Will Pakistan, in the coming days, attempt such a re-working of its foundational ideology? Or are the centrifugal forces too strong by now? Has the moment to "solve Pakistan" already faded? I certainly hope not.


Sahar | March 23, 2009

Great stuff! I am still not fully convinced of your division of ideological thought into the transnational vs. anti-India frames. And of timing. Of course both have been there from the start, but it seems to me that post-Zia the link to the "ummah" has been articulated ever more vociferously. Our love affair with Saudi Arabia only began under Zia. And the commercial links to the Gulf have certainly strengthened sharply since the 1980s. And the hijabs and the thobes on Pakistani city streets (ugh) over the last 10-15 years. Of course it may also be the case that these two are not all that different (to show that we're NOT India, we show our connection to the Arab world). So let me check - are you saying that these are two sides of the same coin?* Also, I found the following excerpt from Jinnah striking: "It is inconceivable that the fiat or the writ of a government so constituted can ever command a willing and loyal obedience throughout the sub-continent by various nationalities, except by means of armed force behind it." Jinnah was critiquing the British, of course, but that is exactly what happened post-1947 in Pakistan. In the absence of a real and inclusive nation, the Army has been imposing its will on the country, and of course failed to do so in 1971 (and is failing now in Baluchistan and NWFP). I think the separatist angle of the Taliban is also often unmentioned. As far as I know, the Taliban (any of them) haven't expressed any interest in taking over GoP. They want autonomy over THEIR territory, and they want to aid their brethren in Afghanistan, but the story of NWFP as you say is another failure of the state to include people as real citizens. (Please note, I'm not defending the nutjobs, just trying to identify their particular brand of nuttiness.) *And after your private clarification that the "second half" of the ideological turn you refer to is specifically Saudi-Arabia-focused, I am more convinced.

Qalandar | March 23, 2009

Re: "In their (limited) successes and their (dramatic) failures, each of these steps was monumental in articulating an alternative vision of Pakistan to its own people." I would also add the peasants in Okara, Punjab, that Pervez Hoodbhoy has written so eloquently about, who resisted the army a few years ago in an entirely non-violent campaign aimed at resisting their dispossession from their land. I don't know the current status of this movement, but surely this must have been the largest resistance to the military, at elast prior to the Lawyers' Movement...would love to get some additional info. on this...

Qalandar | March 23, 2009

I think many would disagree with your characterization of urban Sindh as "hostage" to the MQM -- for the sorts of reasons you bring up re: Swat, many feel the MQM "delivers" in Karachi (I was there earlier in March, after a 2-year gap, and I was struck by how much better the roads etc. seemed. This is the sort of thing that leads many to overlook the thuggish aspects of the party's rule)...

Jonathan Dresner | March 23, 2009

My (largely uninformed) reaction is to question whether the pan-Islamic theme -- which seems to have unraveled into oppositionalism and sectarianism pretty quickly -- was authentic transnationalism or more rhetorical leverage. Maybe it's my cynical side, but that kind of transnational talk should translate into some kind of action, whereas I don't see anything happening beyond the independence movement which, as you note, doesn't continue to cohere very long.

Global Voices Online Pakistan Day And The Lawyers’ Movement | March 24, 2009

[...] celebrated Pakistan day yesterday. Chapaty Mystery discussed the significance of the day and mentioned how the recent successful lawyers' movement [...]

sav | March 24, 2009

I hope you're right sepoy. Yours are the first picture's I'm seeing of women's participation, the media here only ever show men! Also, I largely agree with Qalandar about people's perceptions about MQM (though, they're considered to be a terrorist organization in Canada, re: I don't know where this fits in, it's a speech given by Ch. Zafrullah Khan in Canada to the Empire Club about India's involvement in the war and some of the Hindu-Muslim struggles, I'm sure you can place it much better than anyone else:

Long Time Chapati Lover | March 27, 2009

No-one ever says Bangladesh needs a "foundational ideology", a "raison d'etre" or a "unifying theme". Why does Pakistan need a "theme"?

The Idea of Pakistan « Subcontinental Breakfast | March 27, 2009

[...] can attempt to understand the very idea of Pakistan and it’s existential qualms at Chapati Mystery, as they commemorate Pakistan Day 2009. On March 23rd, Pakistan celebrates “Pakistan Day” to [...]

Qalandar | March 27, 2009

I would argue that is because Bangladesh is more akin to a conventional nation-state ("conventional" in the sense that it is closer to the 19th century European conception at the heart of the very idea of the nation-state: one land, one people, one language, etc.) than are either Pakistan or India. Bangladesh is more like France or Germany than it is like the United States.* The latter, or Pakistan, Israel, or (I would argue) India, are no more or no less ideological constructs than the first group of nation-states I've mentioned, but have what I would call a "performative" ideology -- i.e. in a world where most nation-states fall into the first category, the ones in my second category feel compelled to perennially "act out" their ideology, to justify it in a sense. In psychological terms, an anxiety underlies these conceptions of the nation-state. *[I do not mean to suggest that nation-states like France, Bangladesh, etc. are more "natural" than the ones in my second category; I do not find such fictions persuasive, and one ought never to forget the large doses of violence needed to make multi-ethnic spaces into relatively mono-ethnic ones. Think of France, which over the course of the 19th century basically succeeded in culturally exterminating all cultures/languages other than French, or at a minimum in gravely subordinating them; to the point where it was illegal for street signs in Brittany to be in Breton, or for children to be given certain names, or for people to be taught their own language. Today, Provencal -- once a language more important than (what became modern) French -- is basically the province of academics.] Aside: Bangladesh presents a fascinating picture, because although it is "like" Germany vis-a-vis Pakistan (i.e. the "one people state"), vis-a-vis India it is "like" Pakistan, i.e. its two nation-theory inheritance comes into play.

Sikander Hayat | April 04, 2009

On 4th April 1979, a dictator Zia Ul Haq oversaw a judicial murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. We must not let this kind of thing happen again and the only way to stop us from repeating history is by not forgetting history. By Sikander Hayat