The Muslim Hindu divide was started by the British
Posted by jagoindia on May 25, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Can Pakistan say no?
ONLY one newspaper has carried the story. It was about the four-hour in-camera briefing of the Parliament by Pakistan Army Chief on May 15. No one knows whether the account is accurate but it does look like being based on that briefing.
Supposing the account is accurate, we do not definitely know whether the briefing was confined simply to informing the Parliament of either the Pakistan Army decisions that have been authoritatively taken or it was at least thinking of the Pakistan Army made known to the Parliament that the Army cannot be withdrawn from its locations of covering the expected attack routes or alternatively to mount its own operations. The question is of very high significance. The background is well-known.
The Americans have been trying hard in their Afghan-Pak thinking to make Pakistan withdraw the bulk of its Army from positions of confronting India to its western borders where the Taliban trouble is still going strong. What is clear is that Pakistan Army is simply not willing to withdraw from positions of checkmating Indian military forces.
The next question arises whether Pakistan would continue to resist American pressures to relieve the bulk of its troops to serve on its northwestern frontier. The raison d’etre of Pakistan was that it could not live in a Hindu-dominated India. Pakistan in its first partial year of existence devoted some 43 per cent of its budget to defence. It was meant in Muslim League government’s thinking that it would prevent Pakistan from being gobbled up by India.
That situation has lasted 62 years. This is now almost an article of faith for all conservative sections. To move away would be such a radical shift in Pakistan policy that it is hard to imagine it can be agreed to. The Americans are recommending such a radical departure from traditional Pakistani view that has congealed into an ideology. The conservative political class — which is most of it — does think that India is an existential and permanent threat to Pakistan. To move away from the original is now too hard an exercise. No major request of Pakistan Army, to one’s knowledge, has ever been rejected by Islamabad, whether democratic or a dictatorship at the time.
On the other hand, Pakistan agreed to join the west in lieu of military and some economic aid. The Americans were clear headed. They had made it plain from day one that their aid is not to be used against India. But General Ayub Khan, the first Commander-in-Chief, believed that what can America do if we do use its aided equipment? He did use it in 1965 war and the Americans were angry. They imposed sanctions on Pakistan; aid was suspended for some years.
But the Americans always knew that Pakistan would do such a thing when needed. They showed their anger more for the record than actual punishment of Pakistan. Later America relented and the aid was resumed. New sanctions were imposed on Pakistan and were fairly quickly lifted. There are contrary considerations on this subject.
Pakistan and its Army cannot possibly annoy Americans in any big way. Without American aid Pakistan Army cannot be sustained. It now requires anything from $ 500 million to 1 billion a year in foreign exchange. This is one consideration. There are others: Can Pakistan say no to what Americans may insist on? Can Pakistan sustain a policy of defiance to America? It is easier said in a conference or in a briefing. Some political posturing is permissible by the donors but not in terms of fundamental choices.
The Americans today are demanding a different fundamental choice by Pakistan that goes wholly against the thinking behind the Pakistan Movement and later politics of Pakistan. If a fundamental change has to come about it will not be because of someone else saying so. It is only up to India and Pakistan to compose their differences; no one else can do so.
Let us not forget the reasons why this great Hindu-Muslim problem of Indian Empire arose. One asserts that it did not exist before 1857 when Mangal Panday, the leader of the 1857 Mutiny, was demanding of the rebellion’s aim as no more than the restoration of powers and privileges of the Mughal King Bahadur Shah Zafar. He was a devout Hindu. So were many other devout Hindus who were loyal citizens of Mughal Empire. If they could rebel against the rising British power and demanded the restitution of Mughal power, it simply means that the Hindu-Muslim problem did not really exist.
To come back to the particular debate, Pakistan is ruled by a political class that is largely absentee landlords of large sizes. Their present status owes their origin to the loyalty of their ancestors to the British who restored large estates to their trusted people. The British intention was clear: They were creating a new ruling class in the then India that would always support the British. The behaviour of this absentee landlords class of large landholdings could always be trusted by the British.
The question arises how did this Hindu-Muslim problem arise in a matter of say 80 or so years pior to the partition of India. What the British did was deliberate. Their intention was to place one community against the other. For the purpose they made religion the main identity of a person for official purposes. Which is one reason why this Hindu-Muslim problem arose. Through slow stages the British played Muslims against the Hindus and delayed the freedom.
After 1906 the Hindus were grouped to vote for Hindu representatives in various bodies. Hindus voted for Hindus and Muslims voted for Muslims. What was the upshot? Muslims seemed to need more aid and support from the British. ‘The Hindus are ahead of us in education and in economic activity; they have already some industries and would go on progressing leaving us behind’. This was inherently anti-Hindu. This became the raison d’etre for Pakistan after Jinnah took over the League in 1937.
The question now is: can America, Britain or any other power order India Pakistan to make up? It is simply not possible. If ever a reconciliation comes about, it will be through political forces of India and Pakistan coalescing together and reconciling with one another in realistic stages for their own reasons.
Then there is the sordid turf reasons. If Pakistan Army is not needed to deter India then what is it meant for. Pakistan Army’s basic need was India and not Taliban or any other passing show. Other enemies cannot last like India. Army’s longevity depends on a big permanent threat. That is way to save the job for the boys.
M.B. Naqvi is a leading Pakistani columnist.