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Is it the end for Pakistan? -- Response to Anees Jilani

Vinod Kumar

Anees Jilani in his excellent article "End of the Road?" (Jang, April 11, 2000) rightly observed that Pakistanis proudly claim that they "have the highest mountains in the world, the biggest rivers in the world, the best canal system in the world, the most hardworking people in the world (we always have the best in the world)."

And they are right. Punjab and Sindh which constitute the major part of Pakistan have been the cradle of one of most enlightened civilization and ideology of the world and probably the oldest surviving, though not in the same area. Muhammad bin Kasim, the lieutenant of Al Hajjaj, called Multan, the "farz of the house of gold", because he found forty bahars of gold in one house in that city. Farz (split) has here the sense of "frontier," (A bahar is worth 333 mans, and each man two ritls -- a ritl is one pound troy). (Kitab-l Masalik Wa-l Mamalik of Ibn Khurdadba).

From temple Jibwan, again in Multan, Chachnama records "Two hundred and thirty mans of gold were obtained, and forty jars filled with gold dust. They were weighed and the sum of thirteen thousand and two hundred mans of gold was taken out."

It is needless to go into the amount of wealth plundered by Kasim other invaders like Mahmud Ghaznavi from what is Pakistan today. Obviously all this wealth could not have been accumulated had the people of what is now Pakistan not being hard working and intelligent. Suffices to say that there was so much wealth and prosperity in what is Pakistan (and India) today, that it was the envy of the entire world. Every invader and plunderer had his eyes set upon this wealth -- from Alexander to the last of India's invaders, the English.

He observes and wonders "where the hordes of journalists, columnists, writers and intellectuals had gone who used to follow Nawaz Sharif and his ministers everywhere like ducklings." And he does not miss the obvious "people in power are so insecure that they always insist upon inducting yesmen (and women) as disagreement of any sort is seen as an attempt to challenge one's authority; you wear what your superior wears (let the general switch to waskit or sherwani and the ministers would switch to the same without being asked)."

He goes on to talk about the legacy of Yazid and Imam Hussain but he forgets to about an even greater legacy; legacy of Islam and its Prophet.

The legacy of Islam, the religion which the Pakistanis now follow, whether Pakistanis accept it or not, is to follow the leader in all respects. The earlier Muslims, and the Muslims for all times, were to emulate Prophet Muhammad and if one were to read the Hadith, one thing becomes clear, the Muslims repeatedly said "Allah and His Prophet know best." Even for mundane chores of daily life they would not do anything without the express approval by the Prophet. Even today Muslims are told to do things in accordance with the Sunna of the Prophet. So following the leader come naturally to Muslims and Pakistan is above all, a Muslim country.

Jilani wrote: "people are so insecure that they are unwilling to divulge their views on anything."

This too comes as no surprise. This can also be traced to the beginnings of Islam. Islam does not tolerate views contradictory to what it preaches and it is no accident that the apostasy from Islam is a crime punishable with death. Islamic history is full of stories of people like Abu Afak, Asma bint Merwan, and others who were killed because they happened to disagree with the Prophet of Islam. Islamic history is full of examples of people being killed for disagreeing with the powers to be. And this practice goes on till today. Disagreeing with the leader is a serious offense, if not a crime.

Pakistanis should cast aside all preconceived notions, take a deep breath and compare with a rational and unbiased mind what has been going on in Pakistan and India. Not that India is heaven incarnated in any way or that India does not have its own sycophants but still the distinctions between the two are too obvious to be ignored.

Why India and Pakistan which have common history and the same stock of people are two such vastly different countries? India and Pakistan were invaded and plundered by invaders from Arabia, Persia, Central Asia, Afghanistan and then the British. I will not go into the details of inequities suffered specially by the Hindus during the Muslim rule in India because if the Muslims do not accept and are not convinced of this, they are hardly to change their mind by reading a few lines in this article. Let me not waste valuable space in enumerating those.

Let us jump start to 1947 when India (and Pakistan) gained freedom from the British and analyze the differences between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan was created as a country for the Muslims of India. Originally that did not mean only for the Muslims. It was supposed to be a Muslim majority state. What did Pakistan do right after its creation? It killed, converted or expelled almost all its non-Muslim minority -- more so in the west wing than the east -- which was about 30% (counting both wings) of its population. What does it imply? The Muslims of Pakistan could not tolerate non-Muslims in Pakistan. They wanted to create a "Pakistan" -- a land of the pure. Pure in what? Pure in Islamic ideology. The Muslims wanted to make Pakistan a pure Islamic state and it can be safely argued that when they killed, converted or expelled all the non-Muslims they must have done so in accordance with the Islamic ideology. After all, you cannot create an ideologically pure state by acting against the very ideology, can you? Thus, Pakistan was born in intolerance.

If the Hindus really wanted to do what the Muslims had done in Pakistan, at that point in time and given the climate of the period, nothing could have prevented the Hindus to retaliate in kind. What prevented Pakistan being repeated in India was the Hindu beliefs and not just what Mahatma Gandhi preached. Why did the Hindus listen to Gandhi -- because he said what the Hindus believed in anyway. Gandhi was in complete resonance with the basis Hindu beliefs.

Why did no one stop the massacres, conversions or expulsion of the non-Muslims in Pakistan?

Now coming to why India and Pakistan are two vastly different countries? The reason lies in the basic ideology and philosophy the two follow. The Pakistanis were also Hindus and Indians before they become Muslims and Pakistanis. Though as I said earlier, India today is by no means a paradise of prosperity or virtue but still it is much better off than Pakistan. Indians have full freedom of speech without any retaliation from the authorities for "divulging their views" on any subject on this earth from politics to religion or anything else.

With all its diversity of regions, languages, customs, races, ethnicity, castes and sub-castes, religions -- almost every religion of the world is practiced here -- India is still a practicing democracy and with full freedom of religion and expression with which even today hardly a few countries can compare. It is safe to say that India has more diversity in every sphere than any other country. It is not united by any one aspect except the strong desire of its people for respect of freedom of religion and speech. Even much maligned BJP does not disagree on this.

To the contrary, Pakistan even with its profession of "monolithic" Islam is full of every imaginable economic, social and religious strife. One had expected, with all the non-Muslim infidels eliminated from the soil of the "land of the pure", Pakistan would be an Islamic "paradise" on earth, but we all know it has not happened. Having gotten rid of its non-Muslims, the Pakistanis are now killing each other. The greatest tragedy of all of this is the mohajirs -- the very people who were most responsible for the creation of this Islamic "Land of the pure" have become its worst victims. There is not as much ethnic difference between a Punjabi and a Sindhi or a Pashtun Muslim as there is between a Punjabi and a Tamil or a Gujarati and a Bengali Hindu. A Gujarati can carry on his business in Calcutta or a Tamil work in Delhi without any ethnic hatred.

On the economic front, while the children in Pakistan are busy committing the Koran to memory the Indians are fueling the engines of high technology worldwide. While Pakistan is shunned by every peace loving country as harbinger of terrorism, the demand for "brilliant" Indian high technology experts is ever increasing -- from USA to Germany to Australia. The best of the world are rushing to India to set up their shops.

Yes, India has this cursed caste system -- whatever its origin, it is there -- but still India can elect a person of the low caste as the president of the nation. Yes, Pakistan politicians talk derogatively of infidel Hindu India as something evil and have waged a terrible terroristic jihad to free the Muslims of Kashmir from the evil yoke of infidels but there must be something these infidel Indians are doing that is right otherwise why have millions of Muslims migrated from Islamic Bangladesh, Talibanisque Afghanistan or even Hindu-persecuted-Kashmir to infidel India? Many have been coming to India even from Pakistan.

Jilani says "The problem with Pakistan is that people have lost their spine." I don't agree that the Pakistanis have "lost their spine". Pakistanis, whether Sindhis or Punjabis or Pashtuns or Mohajirs, are as intelligent, hard working and brave people as any in the world. The problem with Pakistanis is, having been conquered by foreigners, they have given up their culture and their heritage and acquired the culture and heritage of their conquerors. They hate what was and is rightfully theirs. They are ashamed of their own glorious past and seek solace in the glory of their conquerors.

Indians, on the other hand, in spite of having suffered the same fate, have been able to preserve all that the Pakistanis hate in their past -- their glorious heritage, ideology and philosophy. They are not only proud of it but are trying to revive it. Pakistan has adopted the legacy and heritage of its conquerors as its own while India is trying to forget the trauma inflicted by them.

Simply put, Pakistanis have not lost their spine, they have lost their soul. Pakistan is not a failed state; it is just a confused and lost state.