May 6, 2014 By KC Saleem

Ambiguities of Pakistan


Go to Pakistan’ in India means ‘Go to hell.’ When a BJP leader Giriraj Singh exhorted the voters either to back Narendra Modi in the ongoing election or to go to Pakistan, nobody was really shocked. First, it’s BJP’s exhortation, despite the party’s recent attempt to bury the hatchet of chauvinism in its drive to paint itself as a business-friendly, capitalist political formation. The fox, despite its warmest blue color, can only bark; it can hardly roar.

A local daily in Kerala retorted to Giriraj Singh’s remark with a cartoon (sketched by Madhyamam daily’s Rajesh). A bus scheduled to Pakistan is illustrated in which Lal Krishna Advani, the senior most in the BJP, and Jaswant Singh, who fell out of the party’s favour and then the party after bickering with Modi, are travelling. Advani asks for two tickets to Pakistan. Though these two are not the only ones in the BJP who get on Modi’s nerves, they are the only politicians in the camp who admire Muhammad Ali Jinnah as a model of secularism. They think Pakistan should have gone Jinnah’s way.

There are many stances from India to what Pakistan is and what Pakistan should be. They can be shortened into three. The first line of argument is ‘Go to Pakistan’, which Giriraj Singh has adopted. Modi himself has used this line as a ploy to counter his rivals. ‘There are three AK’s in India,’ he says, ‘which will be India’s undoing.’ ‘AK 47,’ the assault rifle cultivated as export crop in Pakistan; AK Antony, who, Modi says, kept silent when the Pakistan army killed Indian soldiers; AK 49, Aravind Kejriwal of the new generation anti-corruption political formation called AAP who was Delhi’s chief minister for 49 days and whose sympathy, according to Modi, lies with Pakistan. For semi-Fascist, ultra nationalist political leaders in India, ‘Pakistan’ is a handy barometer of Indian Muslims’ and secularists’ (pseudo secularists’ in BJP jargon) loyalty to the country.
The second line of argument is that of Advani and Jaswant Singh. Pakistan was Jinnah’s brainchild and it can remain as a viable state only if Jinnah’s ideas are fully percolated down to its polity. Since they are not percolated, Pakistan remains and will remain to be a failed state, the argument goes. This argument is shared by most political leaders in the country. The difference between Jinnah and Pakistan is one of the major arguments of the Communist Party of India. Some leaders of the Indian Union Muslim League, while it claims lineage to Jinnah’s statesmanship, distances itself from Pakistan as, firstly, not something that Jinnah desired but negotiations and conspiracies, including that of Congress leaders, brought about; and as, secondly, something far removed from Jinnah’s vision.

There are different versions of the founder v/s foundation theory. Allama Iqbal mooted, some say, the idea of Pakistan as a federation, which could have been a viable option not only for Muslims in India but also for all minorities, including Dalits. Pakistan emerged as a distorted picture of Iqbal’s vision, the arguers conclude. Mawdoodi, arguments go on, at first stayed away from the Pakistan project as a materialistic idea mooted by secular, educated, landowning elites. Later he saw the country as a playground to experiment his concept of Theo-democracy. The failure of Pakistan is the failure of its keeping away from Mawdoodi’s vision, thus comes the conclusion.

The problem with this line of reasoning is its indifference to the fact that no country in the world has ever lived up to its founders’ visions and dreams. Also the visions and dreams, including that of Iqbal, may have transmutations and transitions. Jinnah himself was first averse to the idea of Muslim homeland, which he later championed as his ideal or a bargain chip. Also, the argument is sort of an I-am-better-than-you attitude to Pakistan which only considers Pakistan’s failures and the arguers’ vantage points. How can Advani with the baggage of the BJP in his shoulder point an accusing finger at Taliban? If Pakistan’s failure is the insecurity of minorities, has Advani himself built a political fortune out of the insecurities of minorities in India? One might say in passing that Mawdoodi’s Jamat-e-Islami is still active in Pakistan. What are the tasks does it perform to render Pakistan as a viable state? We doubt, despite all his worth as a scholar, Mawdoodi’s political formula has ever been clear and viable.

The third line of argument is that Pakistan is a moral sin. Mahatma Gandhi is credited with saying it. Some of us, mostly Muslims in the nationalist ilk, say that Pakistan should have never happened. It was a failed model and the logic behind it is nonsensical. But we sinned. Pakistan came about. Now what? With it comes an array of orientalist, neo-colonial questions, which Ziauddin Sardar introduces in his Introduction to Muslim Institute’s Critical Muslim issue on Pakistan: Form ‘Can Pakistan survive?’ to ‘Should Pakistan Survive?’ to which the answer is either an emphatic yes or a feeble no.

This issue of Interactive, on a new platform, tries to reflect on Pakistan from India. We think that Pakistan is a reality, not a moral sin; not an aberration of its founders’ vision or logic; not a hell. It was born out of the tangible fear of minority about its being engulfed by majority. The fear was not unique to Muslims. Ireland has feared it, as Ambedkar says, just as Slovaks were not just content at with the hyphen differentiating them from the Check. We believe that the far could have been assuaged in a less violent and more creative manner. Not just Jinnah, But Mahatma Gandhi’s Congress and Gandhi himself, the British, the minority groupings including that of Ambedkar bear the responsibility of resolving the issue rather amicably. But we are saying this in 2014 about six decades ago. We have this luxury of watching the game from the gallery.

So Pakistan is a reality. There are things about Pakistan which we don’t like-its brand of religion and politics, its corruption, its feudalism, the tentacles of its military, the ambiguity of its present and the uncertainty of its future-and there things we like about it-its ghazal, literature, the untapped resource of its art; the resilience of people and their love; achievements amidst debris; an array of Islamic scholars such as Muhammad Iqbal, Fazlur Rahman, Akbar S Ahmed, Asma Barlas-to name a few-who stand in sharp contrast to the brand of Islam with which Pakistan is familiar.

While seriously reflecting on the ambiguous present of Pakistan, we would like to see the nation as being in the process of becoming, to borrow Naveeda Khan’s expression, living up to many images pasted on its face while challenging them all.


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