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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Of Independence

Happy Independence Day?

Rather than write about my feelings (actually I feel kind of numb), I would like - once again - to share those of my friend, Naeem 'Warrior' Sadiq, the full-time working arm of the collective conscience of some of us.
I decided not to celebrate the 14th August this year, to record my personal grief, shame and solidarity with the innocent citizens of Gojra, who were killed , wounded and burnt, for belonging to the same God, but a different religion. In my room I will fly the Pakistan flag at half mast, I will put my TV off, have none of those “milli naghmey” and sing no national anthem. I am sad, ashamed and distressed. I will call up all my Christian friends to say I am deeply sorry and I apologise.

I do not wish to celebrate the birthdays of a land where the Mullahs spread hate from the minarets of their mosques. Where 20,000 Muslims unite to kill a few hundred Christian men, women and children. Where the administration provides bullet-proof vehicles and multi-layer protection to its leaders but will do nothing to protect the life and property of its ordinary citizens. I am ashamed that not one person, the CM, the PM, the Governor or the President resigned from his job as an admission of failure to perform their primary duty.

There are plenty of flags, parades, speeches and ceremonies, but no real sense of guilt, remorse, or reform. The Dawn newspaper alone has 24 ‘ad’ nauseam ads, sponsored by the government departments, with the tax payers’ money, most carrying the pictures of four members of the same family. All under the garb of a “Happy Birthday to you, dear Pakistan”. The theft and plunder of peoples’ money does not pause for rest, even on the 14th day of August. Should not a state, at a minimum, protect the life and property of all its citizens, to deserve ‘a happy birthday’.
Pakistan at 62: How different is it from Pakistan at 2?

Not very much, I guess, in matters that really matter. From Leaders to Facebookers, from the Steeple to Tweeple, everyone is still asking others to do something for Pakistan, even if it is just to superficially 'go green' by changing your display picture.

In 1949, when I was almost 9 and Pakistan had just turned 2, Abi (my father, Azhar Kidvai) wrote a poem that he read out on at a small mushaaerah celebrating Independence Day. While the rest of the poem was simple and understable enough at that age, too, it was the brief section of it that contained an anecdote I found very amusing and read it often enough to have it permanently etched in mind. Listen to me reciting it for my daughter, Ragni, a few years ago.

Random thoughts that occurred as I read about the Jaswant Singh book

• As I commented on Fawad Zakariya's FB, the one conclusion that I strongly subscribe to - and have always held - is that the Muslims of the subcontinent have been the greatest losers because of the Partition of India.

• It is obvious that had Pandit Nehru and others accepted certain demands, the Quaid - with his fairly strong commitment to Hindu-Muslim Unity - would not have had any reason to press on for Pakistan.

[BTW, I have never quite understood how one can support the concept of Democracy and, then, expect a larger than democratic share in the cake.]

• Pakistan was forged out of the fears of a Muslim minority. Whether they were real, perceived, or instigated (by the Pakistan Ka Matlab Kyaa brand of sloganism that introduced religiosity into the equation) is of no consequence.

[Incidentally, this is one of the the major reason for the tragic state we find ourselves in, because those who have attained security (the Feudals, the Rich-by-any-means, the Theocracy, and others in power deceptively usurped) have no more 'fears' and, so, are no longer concerned about the needs or insecurities of the rest.]

• Much as the Two-Nation Theory may have attempted to shape them artificially, this 'nation' (and a separate State for it) were certainly not created on the basis of common aspirations - the key ingredient that defines real nations.

[Had the usually touted ingredients for nationhood - the commonality of religion, language, heritage, culture, and, preferably, geographical contiguity - been of any real consequence, there would have been one large Arab state, or, at least, an attempt to push for one.]

• Nations (the American Nation is just one example) continue to exist, despite their many diversities in these matters, as long as they more-or-less share the larger vision for a common future.

• I anxiously await a book from a Pakistani writer that re-visits Gandhiji in the same way: criticism, yes - demonization, no!

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Anonymous Anthony Mitchell said...

Would the marginalization that many Muslims experience in India today have been extended to most of a combined state, in the event partition had not occurred? Most likely not.

Would the land reforms that have yet to occur in Pakistan but which in India occurred shortly after independence (often with tragic consequences, as in the South Wing) have transpired on a more equitable, peaceful and broader basis in the event of a unified post-colonial state?

Within the next thirty to fifty years, extreme conditions created by sea-level rise and population growth will call into question the continued viability of Bangladesh as an independent nation. Gradually integrating Bangladesh into surrounding economies could ease the potential for absolute, unmitigated tragedy a few decades hence.

Pakistan could take advantage of that integration process to advance the regional economic integration of all the members of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation. Some of the lessons of the European Economic Community could be incorporated to advance good governance, land reform and rule-of-law protections for all citizens within SAARC member nations.

The problems caused by partition are not going to be reversed the same way they were created. Today there are greater opportunities for citizen diplomacy, as we see in the Arab-Israeli conflict where heterogeneous citizen groups are creating new avenues for progress.

Existing citizen organizations with a strong presence in multiple countries such as TiE can take important first steps by targeting low-hanging fruit that would bring immediate and visible rewards to people in both India and Pakistan.

Elimination of trade barriers and the creation of common markets could begin with auto parts, automobiles and trucks, and some agricultural products. Easing restrictions on labor mobility would be the next step.

The partition between India and Pakistan cannot and should not be reversed. But some of its most devastating and persistent impacts can be.

20 August, 2009 12:05

Anonymous Anonymous said...

JAH would never give the power to a baldhead
Run come crucify the dread

Time alone, oh! time will tell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell
Time alone, oh! time will tell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell

Back them up, oh not the brothers
But the ones, who set them up

Time alone, oh! time will tell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell
Time alone, oh! time will tell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell

Oh children weep no more
Oh my sycamore tree, saw the freedom tree
Saw you settle the score
Oh children weep no more
Weep no more, children weep no more

JAH would never give the power to a baldhead
Run come crucify the dread

Time alone, oh! time will tell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell
Time alone, oh! time will tell
Think you're in heaven but you're living in hell

20 August, 2009 19:38

Blogger Fawad Zakariya said...

Zak, the stream of thoughts after reading your post is more voluminous than a comment can contain but I would make at least some points where I differ even as I largely agree with many of your major points:

1) Even as partition turned out to be an unsuccessful solution for India's "Muslim question", I am not convinced that by 1946/47 a united India could have adequately dealt with the constitutional structure and protections demanded by many Muslims in the midst of great religious polarization. I believe that in the short term a civil war of some kind would have been more likely than an acceptable constitutional arrangement between distrustful political factions with no outside intermediaries. (The US history and its evolution from the constitutional convention to Civil War, in my opinion, provide many interesting insights into the problems of constitutional union that faced India prior to partition)

2)Re: your statement that "I have never quite understood how one can support the concept of Democracy and, then, expect a larger than democratic share in the cake": This is in fact a fairly common occurence in democracies when minorities (however defined) ask for a greater than proportionate share as a price of joining any new union where they fear dilution of their rights and way of life. The best example of this is the US constitution. US lower house has representatives based on population (Wyoming gets 1, CA gets 53) but the equally, if not more, powerful Senate has 2 representatives from every state which means equal representation for Wyoming and CA. This was the price that small states demanded for joining the union. In India, if the principle of federalism had been accepted many potential arrangments could have been made to work but it was the collective failure of leadership that no such agreement could be reached. In this light, I believe that Jaswant Singh, Abul Kalam Azad and HM Seervai are absolutely correct in laying more of the blame of partition on Nehru because he simply did not agree with a federalist framework.

I will leave it here but the points you raise make for an interesting face to face discussion. I differ with you on some of the nuances. Hopefully we will get an opportunity to do that one of these days.

21 August, 2009 23:26

Blogger Zakintosh said...

@Fawad - I'd love to discuss this with you someday, too.

As to the point you raise in #1 it's, as you say, your 'belief' - more correctly your extrapolation from what you read into the event. Mine, obviously, differs. But neither is a totally provable point, for too many other factors are unknowable.

#2 is not an area I can say much about, given your example of the USA and a system that I am not famili with. As I see it, it has to do with the equality of the various states (which, in Pakistan, would translate into equal seats through wiightage to the different provinces). Whether such equality should be based on belief systems, I am not sure. Does a whole Muslim/Hindu village that votes on the basis of its religion lose its privileges when it turns Christian, as it often does in these two countries? Would not it have encouraged a greater Hindu-Muslim divide, something that Jinnah, too, was opposed to until a political stymie left him no other option but to use the religion card - though not in any deceitful way but as a political tool for rallying the community?

22 August, 2009 15:48

Blogger Fawad Zakariya said...

Zak, as to #1 I agree with you that most of this discussion is in the realm of speculative "what ifs" and everyone will have a different read and interpretation of the facts and where they would have led. But to answer the question of whether some person or group collectively would have been better off this speculation, grounded in actual facts, becomes necessary. Unfortunately, the evolution of human history is so devilishly complex and dynamic that these questions will be asked perenially and every vantage point of the future will have a different fact base (whether Pakistan deteriorates more and more or becomes more stable and prosperous will have a critical bearing on a future answer).

As for the US it is a much longer discussion. In fact the underlying anxiety of state rights in the US was only partly analogous to provincial weightage. There was the deep issue of slavery / anti-slavery stance which is not quite the same as the Hindu/Muslim dynamic but has many parallels. Ultimately even a successful constitutional outcome could not avoid the eventual Civil war which finally resolved that issue on the battlefield 70+ years later.

22 August, 2009 23:39

Blogger Vic said...

@Fawad: True, the US cannot be a perfect comparison, but do remember that the slave trade worked in direct opposition to their Constitution for decades, literally ten in fact.

At least the Partition of South Asia, being prior to the writing of Constitutions, cannot be blamed as a failure of constitutional democracy per se.

To limit the description of that failure to a clash of personalities, in modern pop style, may sell a lot of books, but doesn't do much to heal the rifts, or to move forward.

28 August, 2009 11:22

Blogger Omer said...

The elemental problem in the end boils down to what level of importance you give to religion in policy making....
The entire Munir Report episode testifies how religion can never be homogenous, even in a country of 97% muslims....
so religion, especially in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious countries shd be a taboo while drawing up legislation. What that also means is that parties that adopt a mandate calling for enforcement or segregation on basis of religion should be banned...(read all india "Muslim League")

the partition was hardly a possibilty before 1946. Jinnah's Direct Day, the Calcutta communal riots and what consequently followed was the more relevant reason behind partition.

10 September, 2009 00:20


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