Whose progeny? — III
Envisaging the emergence of a new Islamic identity from the ruins of old identities, the state arrogantly rejected histories, customs and values that existed before and actively tried to obliterate them.
The Pakistani state and elite have not only always turned a blind eye to the venomous hate and intolerance preached by millions of pulpits that adorn this ‘land of the pure’, but have also actively promoted it. They patronized preachers of murder and mayhem, thereby creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in which no one can object to their sinister and pernicious dogmas. Extremists have been allowed to hijack culture, morality, history, attitudes, and even the minds of people.
In stark contrast, if a Bizenjo, a G M Syed, a Badshah Khan or a Bhashani dared to demand rights for the oppressed, they were locked up and the keys thrown away. Many brave and dedicated people like Hameed Baloch, Nazeer Abbasi and Hassan Nasir perished in dungeons and on the gallows for the crime of struggling for the people’s rights. Heroes like Nawab Nauroz Khan Zarakzai and companions, who dared to resist armed aggression against their people with arms, were summarily sentenced and executed. Poets and intellectuals were ceaselessly hounded and all this gave the fundamentalists the opportunity to lay the foundations of theocracy.
The government to date remains very selective in its reaction to ideas and demands. It takes no action against cranks that instigate people to violence in the name of religion, but if someone were to ask for the independence of Balochistan, the entire state machinery would come down on him like a ton of bricks. Such bias has forced people to seek solutions through other means.
This state-initiated process of discrimination between the good Pakistani (the fundamentalist), the not-so-good Pakistani (the secularist) and the anti-Pakistani (Baloch, Bengali, Sindhi, Pashtun nationalists) has created and intensified alienation amongst the people of different nationalities from the state.
Unsurprisingly, the missing people’s list, like always, is of an almost exclusively nationalist cadre. It was only after the state fell out with certain ‘strategic assets’ that some went missing. The state persists with repression because it considers the intrinsic democratic rights of citizens and the people in general as inimical to their aim of tyrannical rule.
The elite, having been donated a country by the British, did not let history take its course but set about engineering it as an exercise in historical eugenics. They feared that the old divisions of language, culture and histories would thwart their ambitions of establishing a semi-theocratic state; they promulgated the Objectives Resolution and launched a full-fledged brainwashing exercise. They hoped Islam’s supposedly irresistibly cohesive force would somehow erase those histories and cultures. For them, apart from the Islamic period that began with Mohammad Bin Qasim, the marauders and looters of Mohammad Ghauri and Mahmood Ghaznavi’s ilk, the rest of history was rubbish. History, understandably so, often portrays August 14, 1947 as the universe’s creation point.
Envisaging the emergence of a new Islamic identity from the ruins of old identities, they arrogantly rejected histories, customs and values that existed before and actively tried to obliterate them. This warped motive was and, as of now, remains the progenitor of the intolerant fundamentalism that is rife in this ‘Fortress of Islam’. This led to the creation of not one, but thousands of Ziaul Haqs who now blight the country. The elite only succeeded in creating an intimidating atmosphere of fear and insecurity where no one dares to speak against the aggressive brands of religion and human rights violations for fear of being termed a blasphemer.
Allowing the different nations to develop independently would have meant that different national identities would have prevailed and, consequently, even the army would have remained ‘Punjab’s army’, which it still essentially is, and not the so-called army of Islam, of which it thinks it has inherited the legacy. Similarly, the people who migrated could not have unjustly acquired disproportionate power and influence at the expense of the indigenous Sindhis. The motives behind projecting and promoting Islam as the country’s ideology were patently selfish and narrow.
The 1954 One Unit plan was a tactic to achieve the strategic goal of obliterating national identities under the misleading and maliciously unjust slogan of parity and Islamic unity; it was a political extension of the religion-oriented Objectives Resolution. Surprisingly, advocates of the One Unit plan have never demanded parity since Bangladesh’s independence. The One Unit strategy, on paper, did away with nationalities and replaced them with the soulless east and west wings. Remarkably, nothing changed since its abrogation in 1970 because the rulers’ attitudes remained unchanged.
Whenever confronted with a crisis, the elite have exploited religion. The undertones of religion in the crisis of 1971 are brazenly obvious. Bangladesh’s struggle was termed pro-Indian and so, by extension, anti-Islamic; therefore, the Al-Shams and Al-Badr militias of the Jamaat-e-Islami were in the forefront to crush Bengali aspirations. Sadly, the Left too, in its eternally bookish approach to the national problem, supported the state.
The media, too, has been complicit in the crime of promoting fundamentalism by glorifying the state’s concept of Islam and Pakistani nationalism. The coverage given to conflicting views has usually been meagre because of government restrictions and the media barons’ interests. Mediums of performing arts like films and television have actively abetted in promoting the state’s policy. The only exception has been theatre, especially the Ajoka Theatre.
Ironically, the very ideology that they had hoped would provide unity and cohesion to the disparate people, cultures and histories has now proven to be the single most important factor that is unraveling their dream at breakneck speed. They had neither studied history nor even bothered to see how the Muslim world was arranged. Had Islam ever been a force strong enough to raze national identities, all Middle Eastern countries would have been a single entity because of their common language and the same ethnic denomination. They failed to understand that Islam has never succeeded in uniting disparate national sentiments. Their attempt at historical eugenics failed and created the present irresolvable problems.
Readers naturally expect enunciation of solutions; solutions are processes that take time to become effective and need careful nurturing. Had the state spent the money on education and health that it instead spent on the armed forces, had the Objectives Resolution not been passed, had the ‘strategic assets’ and ‘strategic depth’ policies not been adopted, had not merit been smothered in its infancy, and had different nationalities been allowed to flourish, this country would not have been in this situation. Readers will object to my presenting of solutions in the past tense. This I have done intentionally because I feel that these still are the solutions but no one had implemented them then and no one is going to do it now.
Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org