Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Road to Pakistan

Partition: I include this reflection on partition and the emergence of Pakistan. It draws on the points that were made in the previous posting. Importantly it argues that the reasons for Pakistan were less to do with religion itself, but the preservation of the privileges of a narrow band of landed aristocrats.
Before the 1940s, the membership of Muslim League was solely comprised of non-practicing Muslim landed aristocracy. They had enjoyed fruits of British colonialism, who had bestowed upon them fiefdoms on which they had lorded over. They never wanted Independence from British, whom they considered taller, fairer and worthier rulers. Indeed, Muslim League consistently opposed India's independence, never took part in any agitation, or launched any significant mass movement. They were very comfortable with the status-quo.

The arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi changed everything. He transformed the independence movement from a debating society to a mass mobilization. He injected his own brand of socialism into the movement. This scared the the Muslim as well as Hindu zamindars. They knew that if British left, their titles will be abolished and land distributed amongst the poor farmers on whom they had preyed upon in the past. The Hindu feudals were complete marginalized by the Congress. However, the non-practicing Muslim feudals launched the movement for Pakistan.

Aside from the landed aristocracy, until 1940s, the majority of Indian Muslims as well as Muslim scholars opposed the creation of Pakistan. . They opposed Pakistan Movement not because they supported secularism. On the contrary, they opposed it because they genuinely believed that the Pakistan's creation would hurt their long-term objective of spreading Islam in India through Da'wah. Even Maulana Maududi objected to Pakistan. Nevertheless, after the Pakistan movement gained momentum, the majority of Muslims voted for the Muslim League led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah whose slogan was 'Pakistan ka matlab kya. La ilaha illallah' over the Congress Party which was under the leadership of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.

Pakistan's creation was thus an accident of history. As I explained above, the Muslim aristocracy was afraid of losing their undeserved wealth, so they demanded disproportional representation for Muslims, in the legislative assemblies to preserve their privileges, anticipating that the illiterate, poor Muslim masses would be easily manipulated by the use of religious rhetoric. Thus, Pakistan Movement was meant as a bargaining chip, they had no intention of going through with it. There was no actual partition or post-partition plan. Indian National Congress called Muslim League's bluff. Jinnah called for Direct Action Day in August 1946 as a show of strength of Muslims. Wide-spread communal riots first in Bengal then in other parts of India followed. From that day onwards, because of the hatred that ensued, Pakistan was fait accompali. The partition was ensured whether Muslim League leaders wanted it or not. 

This lack of planning is the reason why Pakistan has stumbled from one political crisis to another since its inception, and it took almost 10 years to frame Pakistani constitution (which would later be mutilated multiple times). And, unlike India, no land redistribution took place in Pakistan. The secular non-practicing Muslim aristocrats have new fiefdoms to lord over in Pakistan.

Indeed on his deathbed Mr. Jinnah admitted that he had committed a great blunder by creating a "mutilated, moth-eaten" Pakistan.
Drona, August 2012. PashtunForums 

For additional reading see the follow-up post: Two Muslim Theory

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