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HomeExperts70-years of Indo-Pak predicament: From Jinnah to Imran and Gandhi to Modi

70-years of Indo-Pak predicament: From Jinnah to Imran and Gandhi to Modi


In the middle of these intense and recent confrontations over Pulwama incident between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, the disputed territory for the past seven decades has once again become one of the most talked-about issues between the two nuclear powers. The British colonialists, under the chaotic conditions of the Indian subcontinent’s freedom movements had liberated two new states: Pakistan and India in August 1947.

Although throughout India, Hindus and Muslims were equally determined to rid their land of its British colonial presence, the Indian Congress Party rejected the power-sharing confederation idea, and eventually it was agreed sadly to partition the subcontinent into two separate states — one larger country made up of Hindu-majority territories, and the other of provinces to the east and west where Muslims were more numerous. Few today would recall that the Lucknow Pact, was arrived at in a joint session of the all Indian Congress and the all India Muslim League in 1916. Muhammad Ali Jinnah had played a major role in getting the pact through and was admired as an apostle of Hindu-Muslim unity by many. It was the Congress that eventually repudiated the pact. Jinnah’s was a cautionary tale for India. His sincere efforts became a story of continuous efforts by the Congress to marginalize him from the early 1920s onward. While Jinnah fulfilling the Muslim League’s core demand, as stated in its Lahore Resolution of 1940, for a state or states in Muslim-majority areas in all of India. It was a win-win opportunity for all the diverse communities to whom India was to remain common motherland. Jinnah’s Lahore Resolution (1940) had the Seeds of a Confederation. Sadly enough, Congress more so and some Muslim League leaders ended up burying the opportunity due to their series of blunders and misjudgments. In the end, the violent and complete division of united India was not inevitable, it was a tragic accident of history that could have been avoided. It is instructive today to briefly revisit the chequered pre-1947 debate to know how Pakistan could have been created without Partition peacefully, within a mutually agreed federal or confederal framework between two nations. [1]

The independence of the subcontinent came about after about a century (1858–1947) of British Crown rule in India (following East India Company century rule in India that effectively began in 1757 and lasted until 1858) and a previously about 700-year history of Muslim sultanates and dynasties having ruled India since the start of 13th century (although earlier Muslim conquests and inroads had occurred into present day Pakistan and Afghanistan during Rajput Hindu kingdoms since the 8th century). Close to a millennium long historic Muslim culture, civilization and heritage in India naturally laid the foundations of Pakistan’s origin and identity as a nation within India. It was a dream of Allama Iqbal’s philosophical mind, and the statesmanship of Quaid-e-Azam that Pakistan appeared in the World Map when it was meant to be within India.

Kashmir conflict

The Jammu and Kashmir conflict was an unfortunate territorial conflicts primarily between India and Pakistan, having been initiated soon after the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. It was a Muslim-majority state initially independent and was free to accede to either India or Pakistan, often denoted by its acronym, J&K. The Hindu king of Kashmir chose to join India in exchange for military protection. 

Jammu and Kashmir presently covers around 46% of Kashmir, in the south and east of the region controlled by India, while Pakistan controls Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan, which cover around 36% of the total territory in the north and west. Both India and Pakistan claim complete ownership of Kashmir; also in the picture is China, which controls around 19% of Kashmir territory known as Aksai Chin. [2]



Pakistan army’s irregulars backed by some regular military officers, precipitated the very first Indo-Pakistani War (1947–48) as a Jihadi movement even before a regular Pakistan army was put together. They launched a tribal lashkar (jihadi militia) from Waziristan (North-West-Frontier-Province) in an effort to take Kashmir from India. Pakistan army has ever since supported various insurgent groups in Kashmir from 1947 to the present.

Islamist militancy was born in Pakistan that has since increasingly become a key regional, international and internal security concern today. Pakistan had engaged in the ongoing conflicts and three subsequent wars with India over the decades and in 1971 war Pakistan lost half of its territory and 52% of its population that became a separate nation named Bangladesh.

The 1947-48 early and the first war over Kashmir that followed Pakistan’s and India’s freedom not only set the South Asian neighbors on a perennial collision course; it also had revealed from the very beginning a division in Pakistan’s civil and military leadership, with the civilians more prone to political settlement than the Military. The civilian leaders accepted a ceasefire in the 1947-48 Kashmir war that was one of the major factors that angered the Pakistani military leadership paving the way for the first military coup in the making in 1949—a precursor to all subsequent coups, soft and hard, in Pakistan ever since.

Relatively obscure, this coup named, as the “Rawalpindi Conspiracy” was a failed attempt by Maj. General Akbar Khan (a native of my own home-town area Pakistani district Chakwal) and his supporters who, “saw the civilian leadership’s ultimate decision to accept a cease-fire [in Kashmir] as a national surrender that deprived the army of a potential victory.” Although the coup had peaked in 1951, “Akbar Khan and his… army collaborators had begun to conspire to overthrow the elected government in July 1949, barely six months after the ceasefire in Kashmir,” A timely tip-off foiled the coup. Yet the military’s institutional perception of civilians’ incompetence and tensions never ceased to cast a long shadow over the question to this day as to how the dispute over Kashmir should be resolved: by diplomacy or by force.

Kashmir issue has been one of the oldest on the agenda at the United Nations, where India and Pakistan took their dispute soon after independence. Both countries agreed to a plebiscite in principle, to allow Kashmir people to decide their own future, but it has never been held because it was predicated on the withdrawal of all military forces from the region, which has not happened over the decades. Both countries have maintained a fragile ceasefire over the decades, as the two rivals regularly exchange fire across the borders.

Current and ongoing Indo-Pak confrontation

Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan and Indian PM Narendra Modi today are confronting the same tough and tragic saga that began in 1947 and previous leaderships of both Pakistan and India, despite periodic efforts for peace, have failed to resolve the issue over the 70 years. The questions being posed both to Imran and Modi presently are: ‘Will the repercussions of the war over Kashmir fueled by Pakistani and Kashmiri religious radicals continue? Will the current BJP party ruling India backed by Hindutva movement radicals want to remain confrontational to Pakistan over Kashmir? Will Indo-Pak’s current and new leadership through a sincere dialogue overcome this perpetual predicament for the sake of permanent peace in the region that has awaited so long?’ 

What enlightened experts on both sides are proposing is a recognition of the “cultural and spiritual confederation”, based on the values of human tolerance, acceptance of diversity and social harmony, which are the bedrocks of Indo-Pakistan’s true historic and civic heritage. Surely, this is consistent with their respective founding fathers vision for mutual relations to begin with, close contacts between Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah through uncountable letters and personal communications over the years before this fallacious partition. Even Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech, was inconsistent with much of what has happened in Pakistan’s and Indian history thereafter. [4]

However, alleviating the trust deficit is not the responsibility of side alone. India too must play its constructive role — in several ways. First and foremost, it must bury the divisive and hegemonic concept of “Hindu Rashtra”. As India never was, and never will be, an exclusive Hindu Nation. By continuing to espouse it, the RSS and BJP give legitimacy to Pakistan’s totally failed, flawed and toxic Two Nations theory. The “Hindu Rashtra” concept played no significant role in India’s partition in 1947. It’s continued espousal will not only raise the specter of India’s future division, but it will also further antagonize the region. Therefore, if the RSS-BJP are dreaming of “Akhand Bharat”, they need to renounce the idea of “Hindu Rashtra” — India cannot be reunited by making Pakistan and Bangladesh extinct, but a three-nation confederation still may eventually be very much possible.

Will the current political order of Imran Khan’s Naya (New) Pakistan survive and will Civil and military relationship arrive at the same page with Imran Khan, as it seems at this point in time? Will democracy and welfare state envisioned by founding fathers ever take roots in Pakistan in the omnipresence of the military for the most part of its existence as an independent and supposedly democratic state? To address these questions we also need to look into the nature of Pakistan as a state to this day. Despite seven decades after its creation, Pakistan still remains as if a newborn nation, but old enough for some hindsight reflections on its turbulent and chaotic history and the desperately needed corrective measures by current leadership. 

Security issues of Pakistan: Islamism, Militarism and Poverty

After a review of the pre-partition period and the factors that led to the creation of India and Pakistan as two separate states, I present here the main political developments in the history of independence on Pakistani side. I argue that the failure of the civilian political leadership during the early and idealistic period 1947-1958 had certainly opened the doors to Islamism after Jinnah’s demise. Liaquat Ali Khan himself was actually the one to start and brought for the first time Mosque into Pakistani politics. His alliance with the mullahs produced the ‘Objectives Resolution’ of March 14, 1949, [6] which declared Pakistan to be an ‘Islamic state’. A common perception wrongly holds Zia and/or Bhutto responsible for mixing mosque and politics, but it was Liaquat Ali Khan who much earlier under whose leadership mullahs were also given earliest entry into politics and the right to decide the fate of the new nation. Also the military too stepped into Pakistani politics within weeks of Pakistan’s creation, and it stayed involved ever since despite its first pretentious and sham attempt to the restoration of civilian democratic rule in the early 1970s, having already paved the way knowingly/unknowingly for the disastrous 1971 split of Pakistan into two nations Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The uniformed dictator Yahiya Khan and shrewed Z.A Bhutto jointly destroyed the concept of a unified Pakistan also. These miscreants and culprits arrested the elected PM Sheikh Mujeebur Rahman in 1971 and had jailed him in the then Western wing of Pakistan for treason.

Then came Zia’s era (1977-1988) that can be seen as a further negative turning point in Pakistan’s history, the combination of radical Islamism and militarism kept standing out as the most prominent and intractable problem haunting the country even to this day. The second sham restoration of civilian rule ushered in a row of governments between 1988 and 1999, but mostly at the expense of public confidence in genuine democracy, thus leading to yet another and 4th military coup by General Pervez Musharraf by the end of Oct 1999. Thereafter, Pakistan military’s direct control did not end until Sept 2008 when the last Military dictator resigned due to the fear of indictment while military’s remote control continued. The third sham restoration of civilian rule between 2008 to July 2018, where PPP and Muslim League (N) ruled under the chaotic conditions without any real consolidation of Democracy given the ongoing Military backed by judiciary meddling in Pakistani politics. There have also been ongoing civilian intra-political party tensions in Pakistan including dharnas. In July 2018 general elections, a newer and third political party PTI (Pakistan–Tehrike-Insaf) won the national elections for the first time and backed by the Military. Despite all this, there is for the first time, a ray of new hope that this political party under the insightful leadership of a budding and popular politician Imran Khan as a new PM will attain Pakistan’s envisioned and belated goals eventually in the future.

While such a chronological review appears reasonably clear, it may still underestimate the importance of three long term and prevailing trends marking Pakistan’s history as an independent state. It needs to be stressed that, first of all, the early demise of Quaid-e-Azam leadership in Pakistan led to a radicalization of the state establishment, – rather than a classical normal nation-state – with Islam becoming a fundamental and constituent component of the new state. There has been, the lack of ethnic cohesion in conjunction with the environment of fear for next-door India, continuously ‘inviting the armed forces to assume a domineering role in governance as a manifestation of the second main trend, the militarization of the state.

The Afghan Link and Soviet-Afghan war also led to Quran-Sword alliance distortions and pretexts and progress from Sword to Nuke ideas furthering the vicious circle of Poverty ever as a cost of security and the ‘Poverty-for-Security’ Trade-Off continued.

Such a situation did not prevent Pakistan from splitting nor facilitated the badly needed human and social development of the country, thus deeper sinking the population in unfathomable poverty. More than 70 years after it emerged on the world map, Pakistan’s situation remained discomforting – a troubled nation at the risk of failing, an impoverished country and a nuclear power under military rule.

Here, I am trying to provide an an overview of the formation of Pakistan and 70 years of independence, that has followed trends looking more closely into the underlying layers ofIslamisation, militarism and deeper poverty. Arguably, these layers have rendered Pakistan as to what it is today in a darkest abyss, after the forgotten vision of her founding fathers. An attempt has to be made to answer all of these questions as to the way things have been happening – or could have happened for the better– in her post-independence history, the kind of Pakistan it is being seen as, and where it might be heading into the 21. century under Naya (new) Pakistan of PM Imran Khan. 

From Hindsight to Foresight

Over the Seventy years ago, Muhammad Ali Jinnah secured a homeland for India’s Muslims, armed with the philosophy of Allama Iqbal’s ideas dreamed up by Jinnah and his peers. Soon after his passing, the project took drastic twists and turns. But while Allama Iqbal and Jinnah’s ghosts are silent, the echoes of the partition can still be heard in the chambers of parliaments and in the valleys of Kashmir, where the fire of an undying antagonism between colonial siblings unfortunately still burns with quiet intensity.

Pakistan as a new state became deprived of leadership as Iqbal had died about 9 year earlier and Quaid-e-Azam passed away a year after the birth of the nation. Pakistan had to face a number of gravest challenges of governance due to 1100 miles geographical distance between Eastern and Western wings of Pakistan, the enormous intricacies of nation and state building as well as an animosity with India that has been growing since partition. There have been no doubts as to the scale of all the difficulties; none of them were less than formidable chaos. Striving to carve out a national identity within the norms, Pakistan’s rulers had from the very beginning to grapple with the confrontations of competing ethnic groups, with political Islam serving as a tenuous link.

Pakistani nationalism, unlike Indian nationalism, was not based on a historically established culture, civilization, heritage and geographically well-defined political entity. That led instead to an exclusive focus on Islamic identity, almost by default and contradictory to the pluralistic Medina welfare state and spiritual democratic model of the 7th century.

We would have expected to see civic Islam rather the appeal of a political Islam that was to weaken at that point in time, when the self-destructive shock of the split with Bangladesh occurred in 1971. If religion had been a raison d’être for the creation of Pakistan and a ‘common denominator’ during the Years of Innocence (1947-1958), the two military regimes spanning over 1958-1971 were to be certainly regarded as the utter failures of political Islam as an important component of the new state. As a matter of fact, the 1971 break-up of Pakistan only affirmed and came to seal that failure. Yet, what followed the disastrous collapse of the Two-Nation Theory was a period of further Islamization (1971-1977), even if in a rather opportunist manner at the beginning when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto used Islam in a populist way too, aiming at increasing his political popularity.

Then an intensive use of Islam as a further tool meant to legitimize the Zia regime (1977-1988), he par excellence turned Islam further into a day-to-day political device. In both cases, however, Jinnah’s and Iqbal legacy of viewing true Islam as a source of inspiration and an all-uniting cultural and civic Islamic background that was clearly replaced by political Islam that was distorted and terribly abused.

The so-called political Islam and Islamic ‘fundamentalism’ did not spring in Pakistan from the people. Mullah-Military political alliance ideas were imposed on the public from above. Autocratic regimes found them useful to espouse the rhetoric of Islam, because people respected that language [and] were reluctant to oppose them. That is how religious distortions shored up dictators in Pakistan; by encircling them with words of power, words which people were reluctant to discredit, disenfranchise or mock. 

Indeed, this view seems to be corroborated by the small political electoral weight of the Jamaat-i-Islami and other religious parties after Zia’s authoritarian and dictatorial regime. However, the political weight of Islam in Pakistan for at least forty years, between 1947 and 1988, should not be neglected. During that period the Mullahs proved successful on a number of occasions in indoctrinating the newborn state and permeating it with the main teachings of the radical Wahabism. In broader terms, it was radical Islam on the state’s terms that carried the day during the 70 years of its independence.

Pakistan’s corrupted rulers terribly failed to evolve a stable political system and political experimentation at various times having delayed meaningful solutions for the economically distressed and socially fractured state. Ironically, the restoration of civilian rule upon Zia’s death in 1988 did more to harm and discredit democracy rather than enhance it. 

Was the failure of Pakistan’s political rulers caused exclusively by the fundamental internal weaknesses of the new state or by external factors? The answer lies halfway between the two conjectures. By no means should the threat perception of next-door India be ignored in legitimizing the prominent role of the Pakistani military; nor could the political priorities of the Cold War and the tolerance of the West for Zia’s authoritarian and dictatorship rule is to be underestimated. And that too would be a lame excuse for the short-sightedness of the rulers in clinging to the ideology of a ‘strong centre’, which brought about the insurmountable gap between Pakistan’s two wings and eventually engendered the 1971 break-up.

In hindsight, the history of independent Pakistan could be viewed as a long row of unfortunate moments, missed opportunities – even blunders – and tragic necessities. It was unfortunately obvious that leadership vacuum occurred soon after the emergence of the new state, thus leaving room for less able politicians and militant clergymen. It was also not a stroke of luck for the new- born state that the military should gain such a prominent position from early on.

In this light, the Bhutto-Sharif period of ‘democracy discredited’ (1988-1999) need not be blamed exclusively on the two prime ministers, but the missed opportunity of the democratic path is beyond doubt. What could hardly be characterized as anything less than a major blunder was the fact that the rulers of pre-1971 Pakistan proved unable to keep the country together through devolving more power to the provinces, starting from East Pakistan. The nuclear capabilities of the two staunch adversaries, India and Pakistan, can only be seen as a tragic necessity in the name of security in a region notoriously charged with controversy and mistrust. Muaharraf the military dictator ruled until 2008 and then PPP and Pakistan Muslim league 2008 to 2018 engaged in serious political divions and dharnas. Imran khan PTI just won the elections this past July 2018 and the future needs to be watched with best of hopes.

What Kind of State is Pakistan today?

It is much easier to define this 200-million strong country as what it is not rather than what it is. Pakistan ended up emerging as a radical religion-state and hardly as a classical pluralistic nation-state. It would be the ideal situation for Pakistan to be considered from a primordial’s point of view, which would have seen it as a well-established nation, firmly rooted in history and having taken shape over the decades. Indeed, primordial’s stress the role of Islam in the Pakistan movement in pre-partition times as a source of inspiration in its own right and as a spiritual democratic welfare state dreamed by Allama Iqbal and Jinnah. That, however, has been hardly the case, as argued here. Pakistan has been seen as a ‘one-issue state’ without Jinnah’s and Iqbalian reformation and dream.

Where as the Indian Congress had to begin with a developed large-scale reformist platform of its own along with the pursuit of independence for India, but the struggle of Muslim nationalists became confined to the one-point agenda of Pakistan by default. Along with this line of thought, some writers explore Pakistan asstate in annihilation rather than as a rejuvenating version of a primordial polity. Even so, and despite centrifugal forces and regional nationalism, Pakistan cannot be seen as a genuine nation-state yet, as its political leadership certainly has had a strong hold on power – even if too strong and highly questionable as to the genuine democratization process, to put it mildly. Nor would it be accurate to suggest that Pakistan qualifies for a ‘failed state’, given its impressive – by any standards – ‘achievement’ of acquiring nuclear capabilities. 

Yet, the question may be worth posing still. A nuclear power, displaying Pakistan’s dismal levels of poverty, can by no means be seen as a prophetic model ‘welfare state’. In fact, it may well also qualify for the terms‘ potentially failing state’ or ‘relatively weaker state’ (one with low levels of socio- political cohesion). Adding to that Pakistan’s behavior as a ‘torn country’ in the wake of 11 September and the war in Afghanistan, in effect as a country whose corrupted rulers were pursuing a pro-western ‘bandwagon’ strategy, while the strong religious background of the population seemed to point the other way.

Given this conspicuous vulnerability, it may not be unjustifiable in historic context that the military has always enjoyed immense control over the decision-making process in the country, thus rendering Pakistan a military state.Which, eventually, seems to be the safest and most precise qualification for a state with the army as its most powerful institution and dominating it practically all along since its creation. Indeed, there appears to be no single public institution in Pakistan that can claim to have thesustainability of the armed forces. 

Positive trends and Indo-Pak initiatives for peace and Harmony

Imran Khan’s unique personality, his scholarly and versatile background in my view gives him a golden opportunity in trying to start a dialogue on Kashmir and a move towards ending this over 70-year precarious stalemate with India. [3]

In his first six months since becoming PM, Imran Khan has proven his critics wrong on many counts and he has carried out from the start a well balanced foreign policy based on self-respect and economic concerns. On the critical issue with India, Imran Khan has always claimed he knows India and Indian people better than any other Pakistani. It is not any exaggeration to say that with Imran Khan – India has the best chance ever for a meaningful dialogue and peace with Pakistan under his watch. Without Pakistan publics’ awareness, even the Indian media has been cautiously optimistic given Imran Khan’s relationship with India over the years. According to India Today, Imran Khan is the ‘ most well-known Pakistani in India for the last four decades’.

A Leading Indian journalist Barkha Dutt in the Washington Post recently wrote that Khan’s closeness to the Pakistani Army and his better familiarity with Indian civil society are a very good thing for Indio-Pak relationship.  Imran Khan has been a regular participant on Indian talk shows and has a close relationships with India’s social elite in Bollywood – indeed in the Indian social and political hierarchy, and his access to two of the most important things in India, cricket and film stars, have been his main reach to Indian hearts and souls in many circles.

For his inauguration as a PM, he had invited three Indian famous cricket stars of which only one,Navjot Singh Sidhu, was able to attend. This then led to the constructive ‘Sikh diplomacy’ and Kartarpur corridor, seen by many as a venture for peace with India. It is this kind of access, understanding and insight of India that Imran Khan often says, “he knows India better than any other Pakistani.”

Imran Khan has also in the past become the first Pakistani who had invited famous Bollywood stars like Amir Khan to raise money for his cancer charity hospital and even India’s biggest star of all, Amitabh Bachan, has in the past raised money for Imran Khan’s cancer charity also. In India, movie and cricket stars carry some political weight and Imran Khan has used this very well to his advantage thus far.

Above all, Imran Khan also had already met the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 and had made a personal connection. This connection in bound to come in handy during the current crisis and can go a long way towards a meaningful search for dialogue and peace. During the recent tensions, Prime Minister Modi did remind Imran Khan about the promise they made to each other to reduce poverty and work together for the betterment of the region. It is this connection between the two as populist leaders against the established status quo that has also given hope to Indian writers, who despite criticizing Imran Khan’s military backing admire him still for his honesty and desire to reduce poverty and tension in the region and work together on trade and economic prosperity. 

Imran Khan has, in his two speeches since these crises, repeated the mantra of an all-out dialogue without conditions and the need to work on peace and alleviation of poverty. He has also said that any intelligence provided by India would be dealt with, in fact, he has already signaled a crackdown on anti-India militants. Also main streaming idesas for radical groups.

Pakistan’s current Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi also became the first official to state that India has a role in Afghanistan-another significant concession by Imran Khan’s government. In the past no other Pakistani leader or governnment has ever called for Indian cooperation in Afghanistan and instead made statements for India to keep out. It is too early for peace talks right now – but talks will be very meaningful after Modi wins another election where we will see a meaningful dialogue between the two leaders.

BJP and its possible constructive role

BJP still has attempted to utilize opportunity for introspection and course-correction. After all, the Modi government has some remarkable achievements in the field of economy, foreign policy, technology and infrastructure to its credit. Even now, there seems to be an absence of a credible leadership that could replace Modi .The Congress lost the 2014 elections because of incompetence, corruption and its staunchly anti-Hindu behavior. Until today, Hindus in India remember the days when Congress was talking about saffron (hindutva) terrorism. Political gimmicks like Rahul Gandhi’s soft-Hindutva might not make much headway with the Hindu-majority. The Modi-government has so far had a clean-image until Pulwama incident. An average middle-class voter trusts Modi as a man with a progressive vision and clean intentions who has the potential and the desire to give effective, business-friendly and efficient governance. The BJP might want to harness the said image and legacy in popular perception.

However, given the dire need in upcoming Indian elections and the history of the defeat of 2004 general elections, it is highly likely that BJP will go back to Hindutva. Pragmatically speaking, it might actually be a political necessity. However, this time around the party can try an inclusive, modern or rather post-modern, cultural, intellectual, spiritual and constructive version of Hindutva rather the one dwelling on hatred, mob-passions, and high-voltage street drama. 

Reviving the Idea of Indo-Pak Confederation Before the Dawn of August 15, 2047:

Todays’ Confederation certainly does not mean undoing the Partition of 1947; [4] rather, it means creatively re-defining and recasting Partition. If we are wise enough to do so, before the dawn of August 15, 2047, hundred years after India’s bloody division, our subcontinent will have seen three independent and sovereign countries coming together and pursuing a common policy on defense, trade, environment, infrastructure linkages, religious tourism, cultural cooperation and people-to-people contacts. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh would be free to exist as separate entities. However, they will be, as they have always been for thousands of years, “one (South Asian) family consisting of many members”, to recall the words of Mahatma Gandhi, the wisest man produced by our common motherland, in his letter to Jinnah seven decades ago.

This confederation is an urgent necessity beyond any doubts in the minds of millions in the subcontinent. Together, our three countries account for a population of over 1.6 billion, the largest segment of global population with a common civilizational legacy, ancestry and socio-religious-racial-cultural complexion. The problems of poverty, socio-economic backwardness, protection of the environment, guarantee of equal rights and security to all sections of the plural societies in the three countries, safeguarding and strengthening of inter-religious harmony, development of spiritually robust democracy and institutions of good governance, peace within and along the borders – that are common. It is delusional to think that any of the three countries could ever fully surmount these challenges on their own individually. 

On the contrary, their ability to overcome these challenges will be greatly enhanced by maximizing cooperation in a confederation and its framework. Indeed, the failure of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to realize its vision and potential, even 30 years after its inception, clearly shows that what is really lacking is cooperation between India and Pakistan. If Europe had become a zone of peace, after fighting two devastating World Wars during the last century, it is certainly because most European nations had come together in a cooperative, confederal framework called the European Union.

There are of course large and dark clouds of doubts hanging over the heads of three countries individually about the possibility of an India-Pakistan and Pak-Bangla Confederation, given the enormous trust deficit between them. Nevertheless, these clouds can be dispelled if we rediscover and strengthen the unifying reconstructive examples in our mutually shared histories. Jinnah’s iconoclastic speech at the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 was a renunciation of Pakistan’s own Two-Nations Theory. [5]

It is a supreme irony that one of these examples was provided by Jinnah himself when he addressed the inaugural session of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in Karachi on August 11, 1947. Speaking extempore, the soon-to-become Governor General of Pakistan sketched a highly appealing vision of Pakistan based on religious tolerance and national unity. In other words, soon after he created Pakistan, he jettisoned the divisive Two Nations theory! Let’s hear Jinnah speak: 

“I cannot emphasise it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit, and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community — because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shies, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalees, Madrasis and so on — will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence, and but for this we would have been free people long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls, in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. 

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State. The people of England in [the] course of time had to face the realities of the situation, and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country; and they went through that fire step by step. Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain, and they are all members of the Nation.

“Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in the course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

This speech is iconoclastic in many ways; here Jinnah breaks his own “icon”, deliberately sculpted during the days of the Pakistan movement. What is most remarkable is that he still seemed to refer to India (“a nation of 400 million”) as his own motherland. 

If today’s, and tomorrow’s, Pakistan returns to embrace this inclusive and tolerant vision of its own Father of the Nation, the doors of rapprochement with India will surely open. It goes without saying that there can be absolutely no place for religious bigotry, extremism, exclusivist and terrorism if Pakistan’s rulers and people wish to faithfully follow this founding vision of Jinnah. Pakistan. For its own survival as a nation at peace with itself, and also for wiping out the image in the international community of a nation that harbors terrorists who kill innocent people both at home and in countries near and far, Pakistan must adopt and implement a policy of zero tolerance towards “Islamist terrorism” .The term “Islamist terrorism” is indeed self-contradictory in its essence because Islam was founded by a prophet who was a messenger of peace and universal brotherhood.

Happily, an urge to reject the entrenched anti-India sentiment is currently growing in Pakistan. Here is an example of a book entitled ‘ Making Sense of Pakistan’ [7] by Farzana Shaikh, a Pakistani historian, in which she writes:

“There is a strong pressure on Pakistan to re-orient itself away from its perennial stance of confrontation with India. The aim is not only to ease relations with New Delhi, but also to distance Pakistan from the appeal of a type of militant Islam that is at odds with true Islamic traditions indigenous to South Asia. Historically, these traditions, characterized by their strong syncretistic bias in favor of exploring common ground between Islam and India’s indigenous religious, have been judged to be especially responsive to the region’s culturally plural character Reviving these traditions, with their strong syncretistic foundations, could alleviate the pressures on Pakistan. By recasting its enduring quest for religious consensus in terms of a cultural heritage rooted in the discourse of Indian Islam, Pakistan may yet salvage a pluralistic alternative consistent with democratic citizenship. Though any such endeavor will be forced to confront (and adapt to) the challenge of orthodoxy in Pakistan, it remains the only meaningful model for a country that seeks still to project an identity founded on reconciling Islam’s universalist message with respect for the rich diversity of its peoples.”

The people and government of India must accept, without any hesitation, the reality of Pakistan and Bangladesh as separate, independent and sovereign nations, and also sincerely wish for Pakistan and Bangladesh to remain united, stable, and peaceful and to become prosperous. India must consistently convey a credible message to its estranged neighbors that they pose no threat to each other’s security and unity. This is especially important due to Pakistan’s concerns after the secession of Bangladesh, in which India played a role. Even though the liberation of East Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh was inevitable, and even though India was forced to intervene on the side of the liberation forces, the fact remains that this has made Pakistan worry that India remains inimical to its existence. New Delhi must address Islamabad’s concerns, real or imaginary, on this score.

“The only viable and workable solution to the Kashmir dispute is for India and Pakistan to merge the two sides of Jammu & Kashmir, and co-administer its affairs…”

India – and Pakistan both — must realize that an early and amicable solution to the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir is a precondition for any genuine reconciliation and abiding peace between our three countries. The governments must stare at, and accept, the reality: neither can India ever recapture the Pakistan-held part of Kashmir, nor can Pakistan hope to get the part of Kashmir that is with India. No military solution can secure this goal in favor of India or Pakistan.  There can be no mentioning of any nuclear war ever understandably.

The only viable and workable solution to the Kashmir dispute, therefore, is for India and Pakistan to merge the two sides of Jammu & Kashmir, and co-administer its affairs with a large degree of autonomy for the people of the merged state. Indeed, this is what the interlocutors of Dr Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterparts were negotiating, with a fair degree of progress, a few years back. Dr Singh had then said in 2008: “While we cannot change borders, we can make them irrelevant… I invite Pakistan to work with us to usher in a new era of sub-continental cooperation.”[7]

This was a wise and innovative stance. Today Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Imran Khan (with the cooperation of the Pakistani army and Pakistan’s opposition parties) should pursue this approach most vigorously ever, especially since there is simply no other solution to the Kashmir problem. This will surely be welcomed by a large majority of Kashmiris too, since it meets their aspiration to be reunited. Moreover, this solution will lead to large-scale demilitarization of Kashmir by both India and Pakistan, thus making it possible for Kashmiris  to live in peace and security. If the people of Jammu and Ladakh wish to stay out of this arrangement, their wish should be respected through a suitable democratic mechanism.

The governments of India and Bangladesh not too long ago adopted a creative approach of mutual accommodation by implementing the “land-swap” arrangement, which has been welcomed by the people in both nations. Why can’t the governments of India and Pakistan adopt a very similar out-of-the-box approach to solve the Kashmir problem? Yes, they can and they must.

Here, both India and Pakistan should learn a few lessons in pragmatism from Chinese. When Hong Kong ceased to be a colony of Britain in 1997, Beijing adopted a scheme of “One country, two systems”, allowing Hong Kong to have its own economic system. In the case of Taiwan, too, it is following this principle. It has even tolerated, to a large extent, Taiwan’s existence as a separate country with its own independent government, while promoting rapid economic integration between Taiwan and Mainland China.

Linking China-Pakistan and Bangladesh-Myanmar-India corridors

After making the border in Kashmir irrelevant as suggested by Dr. Singh, the remaining stretches of the Indo-Pak border can also be made porous (making them irrelevant may still take time) through modern transport and trade connectivity’s, both land- and sea-based, linking Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Sindh and Maharashtra. Today the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has created concerns in India because parts of it go through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK). Once POK and Indian Jammu and Kashmir are brought together, and once we create new and smooth connectivity’s elsewhere between India and Pakistan, we can envision CPEC extending into India and becoming CPIEC. On the eastern side, India and China are already having talks on the BMIC (Bangladesh-Myanmar-India-China) project that plans to build modern infrastructure linkage connecting the four countries. It is clear that China stands to benefit from closer integration between countries of South Asia and South-East Asia both. The benefit for Bangladesh is even more self-evident because it is landlocked on three sides by India.

If India and Pakistan can make this creative solution work in Jammu & Kashmir, it will immediately open up broader possibilities of moving towards a confederation, as actually envisioned by Irbil and Jinnah to begin with before partition, and spelled out in the Gandhi-Rajaji Formula in 1944. 

Muzaffar K Awan MD is a Pakistani-American physician who has lived in the USA for over 40 years. He practices medicine in Allen Park, Detroit Metropolitan area of Michigan. He has had keen interests in the enlightenment thought and practice of moderate Islam, East-West intellectual exchanges and interfaith dialogues. He is an amateur writer and has written numerous articles in International and Pakistani magazines and newspapers.



[2] https://wholedude.com/2016/08/22/special-frontier-force-defends-jammu-and-kashmir/jammu-kashmir-map-jk-crimson-chinar-2/






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Muzaffar K Awan MD is a Pakistani-American physician who has lived in the USA for over 40 years. He practices medicine in Allen Park, Detroit Metropolitan area of Michigan. He has had keen interests in the enlightenment thought and practice of moderate Islam, East-West intellectual exchanges and interfaith dialogues. He is an amateur writer and has written numerous articles in International and Pakistani magazines and newspapers.

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