Living in denial

“Is Pakistan a refuge for the Subcontinent’s Muslims? Then why are more Muslims in India; why did Bangladesh separate; why did millions of Muslim families like mine consciously reject Pakistan and not migrate in 1947?” This question was recently asked by an Indian on an online community and I am unable to answer him. Not only me, but any other Pakistani is at a loss for an answer to this question. The fact of the matter is that there is no answer to this question. As an Indian friend rightly puts it, “Pakistan’s identity crisis or lack of an identity is not because it lacks history, but because its basic premise for existence, the TNT [Two Nation Theory], has been and is being proved false over and over again, both through the secession of Bangladesh and the continued co-existence of Hindus and Muslims in India, spots of communal disharmony notwithstanding.”

India and Pakistan share a common history, yet we Pakistanis are living in denial of that shared past. Our freedom fighters were one and the same; the Hindu-Muslim separatist notion seeped into the freedom movement much later and most of the Hindus and Muslims fought ‘together’ to oust the British. Our history textbooks paint quite a different picture. Great freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, etc., hardly get mentioned in the textbooks. Why this denial? Is it because Bhagat Singh was an atheist while Maulana Azad advocated a united India? Being an atheist does not make Bhagat Singh any less of a martyr, neither does being pro-united India make Azad less of a freedom fighter. It is heartwrenching to see a great man like Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bacha Khan) being labelled a ‘traitor’ only because he was against the partition of India. Even after his allegiance to Pakistan, he was still mistrusted and regarded as a traitor throughout his life. One reason why Pakistan has not progressed is because we refuse to acknowledge our heroes; we paint everything in black and white, leaving no room for any grey area.

I remember during my O-levels, there was a discussion going on about great leaders when our mathematics teacher said that his favourite leader was Mahatma Gandhi. Not only was I shocked but also outraged at him for having taken Gandhi’s name instead of Jinnah’s. I considered him unpatriotic for a long time and could not fathom his reasons then, but now I do. Gandhi was an admirable man, who went on a hunger strike at the age of 78 for the protection of Indian Muslims who were being terrorised by Hindu fanatics. He wanted peaceful co-existence with Pakistan and was assassinated by a Hindu radical because he was thought to be giving too many concessions to Pakistan. Jawaharlal Nehru is another leader who has been utterly misrepresented in the Pakistani textbooks. He is cast in the character of a ‘chalaak Hindu baniya’ and someone who wanted to usurp the rights of the Muslims. The truth is that Nehru was a secular leader who wanted Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims to live peacefully together. He was imprisoned many times during the independence struggle, but he never gave up. Granted that Quaid-e-Azam was an integral part of our freedom struggle, but had it not been for Nehru and Gandhi’s support, it would have been extremely difficult to get rid of the British Raj. It is highly hypocritical on our part to turn a blind eye to the sacrifices made by these leaders only because they were Hindus. We must realise that demonising the great freedom fighters and living in illusions would get us nowhere.

Although Pakistan came into being as a result of Muslim nationalism, yet Jinnah was secular and never wanted it to be a theocratic state. As Tariq Ali puts it in The Nehrus and the Gandhis: an Indian Dynasty, “He [Jinnah] conceived of Pakistan as a mini-India with a sizeable minority of Hindus and Sikhs.” It is also reflected in many of his speeches after independence. Jinnah would never have wanted Pakistan to be what it is today. We are all living in denial – denial of a shared past with the Hindus and Sikhs of India.

I have great respect for the Indians. They are hardworking people, who have made it possible for India to become one of the largest growing economies of the world. We on the other hand have turned our economy upside down and are deep in debt. The US, China and Russia are queuing up to offer nuclear technology to India, while new legislation in the US Congress seeks to curtail military assistance to Pakistan and is quite similar to the infamous Pressler Amendment. India’s culture is famous around the world, but no one knows about Pakistani culture. If truth be told, our culture is inherently Indian, but in our bid to be un-Indian, we have created a confused culture – part Indian, part Islamic and part Western. Why is it that when Shilpa Shetty became a victim of racism on a UK television programme Big Brother, the whole of India made a hue and cry about it, which led Tony Blair to answer questions about racism in the British Parliament, while our government feels no remorse at handing over Pakistani citizens to the US without following any extradition procedure? Isn’t it ironic that India strongly condemned the hanging of Saddam Hussein – a Muslim – while the Islamic Republic of Pakistan only passed some mealy-mouthed statements? It is the result of India’s strong foreign policy that despite being a third world country, it has earned the world’s respect. Our directionless foreign policy has led us into great trouble and humiliation. Pakistan and India got their independence together, but it is India that is the new emerging power on the world map while Pakistan has achieved nothing and lost much in the process.

Indians are loyal to their country and are proud of being Indian, but I do not really feel proud of being a Pakistani. What is there to be proud of? A country where both military rulers and civilian rulers have plundered our resources and given us a terrorist culture to boot; where the name of religion is used only to serve one’s own vested interests and nothing more; where Muslims are not safe from other Muslims merely because of belonging to a different sect; where minorities are treated with utmost contempt; where most people would sell their souls just to get their hands on some money; where the establishment is responsible for killing hundreds (if not thousands) of innocent Baloch only because they ask for provincial autonomy, which is their due right; where many books and websites are banned merely because they present an alternate view different from that of the government or the mullahs (examples include Baloch nationalist websites and blogspots being banned and books such as Maxine Rodinson’s Muhammad [PBUH] and (late) Chief Justice S A Rahman’s Punishment of Apostasy in Islam among many others). Sadly, we have turned into a philistine and materialistic nation. Some people might label me as unpatriotic for praising India and denigrating Pakistan, but I do not need to sugarcoat the bitter truth and wear my patriotism on my sleeve. In the words of Clarence Seward Darrow, “True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.”

Pakistan needs a new direction; it needs new leadership and new ideals. Right now, there is hardly any credible leadership – all politicians are much the same. The other phenomenon of military rule has time and again proved to be catastrophic. Be it Ayub, Yahya, Zia or Musharraf, the end result would be the same: disaster. What Zia did in the name of fundamental Islam, Musharraf is doing under the garb of enlightened moderation. A revival of the Left is critical for the survival of this country. “Since the collapse of the Pakistani Left in the early 1980s, the political field has been abandoned to the Right and Centre,” writes Rashed Rahman in his column titled ‘Musharraf’s plans’ (The Post, January 23, 2007). To rid Pakistan’s politics of one-sided views and bring objectivity in the political arena, a Left view is extremely important. It would help bring new leadership forward, which is the need of the hour. The success of Hugo Chavez’s socialist movement in Venezuela is evident to the whole world, as he has empowered the poor and stimulated economic growth.

Pakistan needs a leadership that grants provincial autonomy; scraps unjust laws such as the Blasphemy Law and Hudood Laws (even the amended laws after the Women’s Protection Act leave much to be desired, therefore repealing it altogether is the only option); allows its people freedom of expression and speech in the real sense and not just pay mere lipservice to the idea of ‘freedom’; promotes egalitarian values, discourages interference and breach of independence as it would serve to help people focus on their own issues instead of their neighbours; makes Pakistan a secular state instead of being a theocracy, and brings effective economic reforms. Pakistan needs to be saved before it is too late.


BD said…
There's no Indian culture, just like there's no Pakistani culture. Both India and Pakistan have several cultures living together, some of which is shared.

While I despise people who reject this element of commonality, I also find statements like 'pakistani culture is inherently Indian' unfair and uncalled for.
Mahasu said…
Its rare to find passion, coherence and logic combined so well in a text. Congrats!!
Eff said…
Blaming separation for the dismal state we are in right now is not justified. Bangalis are in a worse condition than we are, yet you will never hear a bangali wishing that he was still a pakistani...or an indian for that matter. Yes, India has advanced very well recently, it is way ahead than pakistan and I myself believe that it has what it takes to be the next super power, but that doesn't mean things are all hunky dory there and all messed up here in pakistan. You mentioned that jinnah was secular, yet he believed that it was important for muslims to have their own country and that coming from a secular person is a strong statement is it not? We lack good leaders, always have. If separation was that bad an idea, India should have suffered too. Maybe it did, but it recovered, why can't we? As you said, we need good leaders, a new direction, new ideals. It's sad that you couldn't think of even a single reason to be proud of what you are, a pakistani. Maybe it's this lack of pride that is failing to produce good leaders cuz afterall, leaders bahir say nahee aatey, hamare darmiyan say hee nikaltey hain.

On a lighter note, hey, we have Imran khan. India kay paas hai?
mehmal said…
BD, I know that people of many ethnicities live in India, so there is no ‘one’ culture, but when you talk about a sari or a bindi, or even Holi, others identify it as an Indian culture. On the other hand, we Pakistanis deny that we shared this culture before partition. We deny anything Indian! It’s as if we want to eradicate our shared past. Hence, my views that ‘Pakistani culture is inherently Indian’. I am not saying that everything in the Indian culture is Pakistani, but since we lived together for centuries, it would be wrong to assume that we’ve done with a centuries-old culture and carved out a totally different culture in just 60 years!

Thanks Aniket (Mahasu). In fact, if you look closely, I started my column with your comments on SNOBS. Your comments and that thread motivated me to write this column, so hey, thanks for the motivation :D

Faisal (Eff), if you read the column carefully, I never suggested that partition shouldn’t have taken place or that we are in a dismal state due to partition. On the contrary, what I am saying is that both India and Pakistan got independence at the same time, yet look at India today and then look at Pakistan. The myth of the so-called ideology of Pakistan being a separate state for the Muslims has been shattered. Jinnah did not want a separate state until much later in the independence movement, and that too because he was pressurised by the circumstances and the Muslim League leadership around him. He still envisioned spending his vacations in his favourite city (Bombay) even after partition.
Honestly tell me what is there to be proud of in Pakistan (except for Imran Khan :P and even he’s nothing to be proud of any more since he joined politics and became a directionless politician). As I said in the article, I don’t have to wear my patriotism on my sleeve. I do love my country, but unfortunately, I do not feel ‘proud’ of it.
mehmal said…
*...done away with a centuries-old culture and carved out a totally different culture in just 60 years!

P.S: Guys, I am sorry for the delayed response, but since I live in Pakistan, I was unable to post the comments after shifting to blogger beta. Now I've asked someone else to post these comments on my behalf. Thank you for your patience :)
Danish said…
Hamare paas Bharat "Maan" hai...Hats off to you, Mehmal, for such a brilliant piece. We reciprocate the same feelings for our brethren on the other side of the line. My trip to Pakistan was a very pleasant one. I am looking forward to come back in June Insha Allah and get another taste of Pakistan.

Frankly speaking, the partition was definitely a fiasco, thats what I feel too. Although its nice to see Pakistan growing as a nation and the slightly different feel that it gives. I just hope our countries can become more amiable and compatible in the future, and I could ride down to Pakistan someday, Insha Allah ;-)
Anonymous said…
Kudos to the author for stating her mind at the cost of being terrorized by her own community. I grew up in a family who were driven homeless , uprooted in the name of religion during the partition and know the ill -effects it has on the society. But unfortunately people like the author are a minority and it needs a even bigger movement than partition to bridge the gap.
mehmal said…
true that Danish. And I also hope that the relationship between the two countries gets better with the passage of time :)

Thanks Anonymous. And I am sure that if there is more awareness, the myth of 'enmity' can sure be shattered :)
Sathyanarayan.B said…
In the post titled "Living in denial" I have seen one thing which I must protest, it is about the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Well the popular and well circulated conception about it is that Hindu radical killed him thats not the case. It is one of the many mysteries in which are yet to be answered and probably never be answered.

But according to me he was moved by the very notion of India getting portioned and he believed that Gandhi was the cause for it.

I must honestly appreciate U, its an excellent site which I would like to read repeatedly. In fact honestly saying its a very good interospection.
Shahed Bin Karim said…
In resonse to @Eff: u said,"Bangalis are in a worse condition than we are." Being a Bangali (Dhaka), I agree we r in a very poor condition. I'm not trying to hide this. But u later said,"...yet you will never hear a bangali wishing that he was still a pakistani or an indian for that matter." Hear it from me Mr. Seperation was, is and will be the main reason for all the troubles of our beloved Sub-Continent. I'm not proud to be a bangladeshi, don't want my child/children to be a bangladeshi. I'm still and always will be a true pro-united Indian.
@Mehmal: Shabaash behenji, thank u very much for ur brave writing. Will need more people like u to speak up to re-unite MI (Mother India)-(in the secular sense).

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