Pakistan’s espousal of Islamic “nationhood” is predicated on cultural distinction, calculations of convenience and the politics of difference.
London: ‘I know, you won’t believe it”, despaired a dejected Ayub Khan to President Lyndon Johnson three months after the Second Indo-Pak war in December 1965, “that India are going to gobble us up.” Johnson’s forebears and successors never wore this Pakistani plaint—Americans aren’t that “naive”. Condoleezza Rice was not having any of it at an unannounced visit in the aftermath of Mumbai 26/11 with Pakistan’s National Security adviser, Mahmud Durrani. Digressive Durrani, less interested in discussing the most audacious attack officially arranged and abetted by Pakistani jihadists during peacetime in India, went on to dilate how Pakistan’s “point of view on Jammu and Kashmir was right”. Ambassador Husain Haqqani minuted that meeting and noted how this former Stanford provost, “extremely curt, like a schoolteacher reprimanding her favoured pupil”, admonished Durrani: “Focusing your energies on an Indian threat that does not exist is a colossal mistake” and “What you think and what the whole world thinks are two different things.”
Posturing as an “insecurity state”, ominously described by a Johnson administration official, it has chimed with Pakistan’s contradictory and contumacious managers during and after the Cold War. They have shared no compunctions in being deferential to anyone with more socio-economic cachet than themselves. It has been no mean feat as they set up a state, muddled through six constitutions, witnessed the slaying of one president and three prime ministers, and forfeited more than half of its populace and province in a civil war which conspicuously merits designated as ethnic cleansing of genocidal proportion in the aftermath of the Raj. (British rule had begun in Bengal whose partitions in 1905 and 1947 saw nothing quite like 1971.)
Bangladesh turns 50 in 2021 and nothing could be starker about Pakistan’s dearth in ideological credibility. The calculated enthusiasm of its religio-military-commentariat cabal, who cry hoarse about Kashmir go sullenly silent when reminded that almost a quarter million, second- and third-generation Biharis, Urdu-speaking foot-soldiers who voted with their feet for a Muslim Zion, languish in transit camps across erstwhile East Bengal. So much for partition’s “unfinished business”. That the Muslim denizens of India’s Jammu and Kashmir, to say nothing of other Indian Muslims and non-Muslims, participate just as volubly and robustly as the Hindu majority in an inclusive, composite and genuinely representative at once as substantive democracy, howsoever noisome and messy, is a scholarly given. Ayesha Jalal, dean of Pakistani historians, tersely noted: “The fight for minority rights in Pakistan has a long way to go and will closely parallel the struggle for citizenship rights.”
Pakistan’s espousal of Islamic “nationhood”, anathema to the universalist solidarity which normatively coheres Muslims, is predicated on cultural distinction, calculations of convenience and the politics of difference.
That this may be admitted a truism of statecraft anywhere is not disputed so muchas the foreclosing of critical evaluation by its doctrinaires who perorate with unarticulated rage against India and Indians, ideationally and viscerally, and remain flint-faced about the consequences and costs borne by its denizens.
Pakistan’s Green Book 2020 is of a pedigree entirely in keeping with the fragile self-esteem of the refractory ranks of its custodians whose formal self-purpose privileges a pathology of bigotry and mendacity. Successive editions, internally published by the military, propound a worldview moulded by the army’s Doctrine and Evaluation directorate. Vetted civilian intellectuals do proffer discursive ramblings as is evident in this most recent imprint so long as they subscribe to what Lt. Gen. Javed Hassan, force command Northern Areas during the Kargil debacle of 1999, called the “incorrigible militarism” of Hindus. Perhaps Hassan was not privy to the parley in 1966 between ex-foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Oxford graduand, Tariq Ali. When pressed to explain why Pakistan was dragged into an unwinnable war a year earlier, Bhutto wearily replied Kashmir was a bahaana to eject “the bloody dictatorship.” Languid leftists, among irate Indian intellectuals at home or in the diaspora, should not dismiss Ali, a New Left veteran. Senator Mushahid Hussain’s clarion call is written for the perpetually disaffected driven by the drivel of an Arundhati Roy or Pankaj Mishra for he states, “70% of the battle is…promoting a cohesive and credible Pakistani narrative which we can sell at home and abroad.” He also darkly declared Pakistan’s countenance for a “long-term strategy” against “Indian hegemony” by a “united front of all Kashmiris and the linkup of the Kashmiri resistance with other insurgencies inside India”. But there are risible moments when one Farzana Shah, a Peshawari journalist, portends American and Israeli military bases in “Indian-occupied Jammu Kashmir”.
She also rebukes Pakistan’s foreign office not “to be driven by shallow patriotism, but true humanitarian grounds” in establishing a “dedicated and permanent desk” on “human rights violations in India against minorities”.
In meandering out of this Wonderland one concludes recalling former Indian Chief Justice, P.B. Gajendragadkar, who would have warmed the cockles of a principled “cold-blooded logician”, the Quaid-i Azam. Jinnah, who denounced Kashmir’s “fraud and violence” accession to India would have revoked his censure. Exactly a year after Ayub belaboured Johnson, Gajendragadkar, then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bombay, delivered as broadcast talks the “Sardar Patel Memorial Lectures” on All India Radio, December 1966. Gajendragadkar invoked the legally exercisable convention of rebus sic stantibus which New Delhi must pursue as the principle of arrested action to frustrate Pakistan’s disingenuous designs on the province. His legal brief posited India was exonerated from obligations to the UN Security Council, despite Nehru’s implicit “as early as possible” plebiscite pledge. Subsequent evolvements due to Pakistani insincerity and non-compliance of preconditions and standing resolutionsperforceprevented India fulfilling what it initiated, ergo, no plebiscite.
Burzine Waghmar, SOAS, University of London. Views expressed are the author’s own.