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Sunday, August 10, 2003
Books

What ails Pakistan?
R. L. Singal

Contemporary Pakistan: Political Processes, Conflicts and Crises
by Veena Kukreja. Sage Publications, New Delhi.
Pages 348. Rs 295.

Contemporary Pakistan: Political Processes, Conflicts and CrisesTHE title of the book Contemporary Pakistan is slightly misleading, because the author does not confine herself to presenting a picture of the present-day Pakistan. The book, on the contrary, gives us an analytical study of the social, political and ethnic problems plaguing this Islamic country since its inception in 1947. Based on the two-nation theory and the false and tenuous premise that religion alone was sufficient to bind together people of different linguistic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds and affinities, Pakistan has throughout over 55 years precariously floated on stormy waters. Its survival as a unified state (even after the loss of East Bengal) is an enigma.

The author has worked hard to study the countryís turbulent history and convincingly analysed its deep-rooted problems of conflicting cultures, linguistic affinities and ethnic loyalties. The main cause of its misfortunes, as the author rightly pinpoints, has been its "stress on Islam and the Islamic state to conceal and curb the reality of the country being a microcosm of the ethnic communities that inhabited it. The ruling coterie attempted to project the ethnic divide as unlawful and subversive, to national unity and integrity."

 


The author has rightly emphasised that the military junta and bureaucracy have dominated Pakistanís politics and administration for about 38 years (except from 1947 to 1958 and from 1971 to 1977). Even during the spells of democratic rule, feudal lords ruled the roost to the utter disregard of the common peopleís needs and aspirations. The author has also focused the readerís attention on how the catchy but lethal slogan of jehad and gun culture and the resultant militancy both in Kashmir and Afghanistan were used by Pakistanís short-sighted and selfish rulers to divert the peopleís attention from the real problems of poverty, hunger, ignorance and illiteracy.

Obsessed with hostility towards India, Pakistan has been spending abnormally huge amounts on its defence. It showed no sign of curtailment even when it was receiving free military hardware from the US from 1954 onwards.

The encouragement given to the rabid and fanatical fundamentalists, particularly the mullahs, has led to a frightening escalation of ethnic conflicts such as Shia-Sunni sectarian clashes which take a heavy toll of life in Pakistani towns and cities every year. These fatal clashes have increased since the time of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who, instead of curbing fundamentalism, bowed before this hydra-headed monster by declaring the Ahmadiyas (or the Qadianis) as non-Muslims and Kafirs. Zia further fanned the fires of this fundamentalism by boosting the madarsa-culture.

All this was in fact the negation of the thinking and ideology of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. The Pakistanís Quaid-e-Azam was not a truly religious man at heart. His right hand man in his struggle for the attainment of Pakistan was Sir Mohammad Zafrullah Khan, a known Ahmadiya, who was Pakistanís first Foreign Minister. He later died as a sad and frustrated man in Lahore at the ripe old age of 94. It is indeed sad that this glaring fact of Jinnahís ideology and his getting the whole-hearted support of the Ahmadiyas in his struggle for the attainment of Pakistan has not found any mention in the book. Even the name and contributions of Zafrullah Khan have not been considered worth mentioning by the author. Zafrullah Khan and his communityís fate in the Islamic republic of Pakistan is a pointer to the cancer of fundamentalism that has eaten into the vitals of Pakistan.

The author says that at the time of its creation, Pakistan had no well-developed party organisation. Though the Muslim League was there, no regular elections were held to its various bodies and offices. Whereas the Indian National Congress functioned as a democratic organisation, duly electing its president every year, the All-India Muslim League did nothing of this kind, as Mohammad Ali Jinnah remained its permanent president for 15 years. No other leader in the party could ever question his decisions even if they defied reason, logic or propriety. With this convention to inspire those who donned his mantle, it is too much to expect that democratic traditions would take roots in Pakistan. Jinnah ruled the Muslim League (and consequently his Muslim nation) like a dictator for 15 long years. Military Generals later ruled Pakistan for a much longer period without holding any credible elections. They got their cue from their Quaid-e-Azam. This tradition of Pakistanís polity (Muslim Leagueís polity before Partition) should also have been highlighted by the author. On the whole, the book makes interesting reading.