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At the crossroads of tragic possibilities


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Forty years after the fall of Dacca, we are again at the crossroads of tragic possibilities. Once again, it is the Punjab’s middle class that shows its temperament.

We, the middle class of Punjab, insist that we are Pakistani as if all other nationalities, provinces and people are refugees in camps, which we have provided them with in our naive generosity; we even think that we are Islam incarnate, the whole of it. Although the Muslim Ummah, in general, is quite aggressive and loud in its self righteous claims, we in the Punjab are outstanding. We have taken this from quite a few morbid factors, but only the more important and recent may be relevant to mention here.

Since the British colonial times, Punjabis have been the chief component of the armed forces. Since the earliest days of Pakistan, our army generals interfered with the political and economic power of the nation and took officers of lower rank into the net of petty privileges, to expand their power base. A very small number of central districts of the Punjab had become powerful and also prosperous as business centres during the Sikh rule. These districts kept their power and wealth after partition, when the present business community took possession of what Hindu and Sikh businessmen left.

These very districts also joined civil services in British India to become partners in power with Urdu speaking leaders of the Pakistan movement. When the founder of the nation took his first fatal decision to make Urdu our only national language, we, in the central Punjab were happier than even the Urdu speaking Pakistanis, and angrier than them over East Pakistan’s protests in the following years.

The educational level of India’s Muslims had been generally poor, but that of the Punjabi Muslim was simply pathetic, particularly the business community and the army men had no taste for useless pursuits such as learning and intellect; wealth came as Fazl-e-Rabbi, self-confidence came from the success of the Pakistan Movement, aggressive attitudes were genetic to us as Muslims.

It has been natural for us to dismiss all our other nationalities with contempt if they disagreed or challenged us. So we evaluated our national diversity like this: Bengalis are black, small, ugly, disloyal crooks, Sindhis are lazy, hateful parasites living off our hard work, Balochis are unclean, lazy, ignorant, pagan fools whom we feed, God knows why. And well, Pathans? They are funny homosexuals and deeply jealous of our high merit. We never stopped our loud claims of everything good and right.

We lost the defining part of our identity with disgrace and shame in 1971, although we have never admitted to this day that the Bangla Pakistanis were Pakistan’s identity much more than we were. We supported an illegal and immoral massacre by our army, which was illegal because it acted under orders of an illegal government and immoral because it attacked the elected majority. We externalised our guilt instead of bowing our heads in shame; we blamed India and the world for our disgrace. Today, we are again at a similar crossroads with deeper internal chaos and greater international isolation.

We do not lose an inch of our honor if we submit to the wishes of the units that form that identity. Any number of provinces carved out of Punjab or Sindh or Pakhtunkhwa will still be Pakistan; a truly autonomous, even angrily autonomous Balochistan will go nowhere. If we humbly sit down with its nationalists, accepting their dismissive anger as fair and legitimate, and honestly fight the real anti-Pakistan terrorists who are conducting the genocide of our highly loveable, peaceful Hazaras, if our generals for once realise that they do not manage this world so well, we can win back the noble Balochi heart which was stabbed with daggers, like assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti.

When we insist on the crude control of our national units, we forget the principles of diversity and unity. Even though it has repeatedly failed, our psyche of physical force blinds us to the wisdom of all creation. But it is still time to appreciate that wisdom and apply it in our situation.

Before its creation, we believe, the universe was an infinite density, an absolute unity, the unknown one. It had no one to communicate with. So it broke with a big bang into countless fragments. Only then communication started because communication needs others. Communication needs diversity to give it meaning; while diversity needs communication to recognise itself. It was only after the contact and communication that the combination of fragments started. Unity is not oneness. One Unit is a meaningless expression. Creativity lies in unity not in oneness. The beauty of the galaxies and systems is their diversity which is united through the weak force of gravity, the mutual charm. This weakest force forms the unbreakable link perhaps because it is weak. Tyranny forges bonds that crush its units till they die or kill to survive.

All the people of the world are coming closer together not through force of coercion. It is the freedom of diversity and mutual need that makes nations and regional unions. It is a tragedy that we still fail to realise this.

Listen to this blog in Urdu [soundcloud url="" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

The author is a renowned Pakistani intellectual. His urdu books Tehzeebi Nargisyat and Mubaalghe, Mughaalte are widely regarded as the revival of critical thinking and free inquiry in Urdu non-fiction.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (37) Closed

om Jan 15, 2013 02:49pm
Just thanks. earliest we realise these facts and imbibe, better is for this subcontinent in general and humanity in particular.
Alex Jan 15, 2013 02:47pm
As long as religion and religious identity is used for unity, Pakistan has NO future. Learn from the very same Bangladesh how to keep religion at bay. Pakistan is at where it deserves to be when you teach school children how to hate other religions!! Punjab is not THE only problem...whole nations perception of religion is wrong! Hindus and Sikhs are the sons of the soil and the original natives....they have been uprooted..the land lost its sheen! Even most literate keep mentioning religion as common factor in pakistan...future is bleak.
Zeshan Jan 15, 2013 01:27pm
Punjab Accepts everybody but nobody accept punjabis so i think their is a need of a national level reconciliation of thoughts and ideologies. we can only move in forward direction once we know that our neighbors is not conspiring against us and he is sincere in our success
Hindustani Jan 15, 2013 01:44pm
Rich play the game of Politics and Business and poor workers(slaves) are mere spectators who are used by politicians and businessmen.
Zeshan Jan 15, 2013 01:23pm
very interesting thoughts! only in Punjab can all the other "nationalities" live in peace and harmony but a Punjabi cannot live in a Baluch, Pathan or Sindhi Neighborhood
Soul of Manto Jan 15, 2013 12:30pm
Very well written.
Raj Jan 15, 2013 12:33pm
Very insightful writing. Pakistanis should read this column.
mujaahid Jan 15, 2013 12:57pm
Just amazingly spoken facts. Wao.
Baig Jan 15, 2013 11:18am
Mobarak Haider Sahib, I must admit this is another masterpiece of an article from you. " Unity is not oneness. One Unit is a meaningless expression. Creativity lies in unity not in oneness." In addition the last paragraph in your article sums it up nicely and provides us with the stark truth that things are not happening the way they should have or be happening in Pakistan. My own deduction and query is then: "Is Islam at fault?" I am more inclined to think that it is or perhaps its twisted form that we have been brought up with. Surely, then it would be time to look at it from a different perspective or pursue other options. Many thanks.
Stranger Jan 15, 2013 10:38am
Yes we need to join the mainstream whichever region we become a part of .we should be like a flowing river taking in all new things in its stride and not a stagnent lake .
Think Jan 15, 2013 04:03pm
Excellent article- truthful and objective analysis. Courage to honestly look at situation and history. Very impressive
Mohamed Ayub Jan 17, 2013 06:09am
India has progressed so well! you must be day dreaming! learning by rote you have just produced copycats. Go and do a proper research. Human Development Index by UN puts India and Pakistan at the same level, few notches of difference shall be completely ingored. Indians please dont live in illusion.thats even more tragic. problems with Pakistan started by unscrupulous elements of Cold War and it will take time to settle down. Dont worry Pakistan will remain ever to vie with India at every level .
Whats in the name Jan 15, 2013 04:41pm
A Good usually, all talk and no action on the ground will still make the situation the same...
human Jan 15, 2013 05:56pm
May your tribe increase in Pak. Definitely in India we bring children up with principles of diversity and unity and unconditional love.
Ind Jan 15, 2013 06:14pm
Ankahi Baatein Jan 16, 2013 05:44pm
A very formidable summary of Pakistan's history specially about the breakup of it's East Wing! A great mistake (or should I say crime) was made by not allowing the majority Bengalis to form a government at the centre! But we are a nation who does not want to learn from its mistakes! Will history repeat itself? This is the troubling question today!
sam_a Jan 17, 2013 08:54am
can decency and patriotism not be the binding force? what of the religious minorities, if you focus on religion?
Tahir Jan 15, 2013 08:33pm
Mobarak Sahib. May I kindly ask if your own referenced Urdu books are available translated in English? If so I would be grateful if you could provide methe publishers name and availability in UK. Many Thanks.
sam Jan 17, 2013 04:08am
Zeb Jan 15, 2013 09:04pm
I love reading this peace of writing. I think education is cure to these issues. Army can not guide the nation. We need academics who bridge among communities. I am very impressed by the writer and contribution of comments.
Zahid Jan 15, 2013 10:01pm
Zeshan your confused statement further reinforces the key points highlighted in this article. Have you ever had the opportunity of walking around the streets of Garhi Shahu in Lahore and noticing the permanently erected hatered banners? If you think this is your idea of living in peace and harmony and a shining example for other nationalities to share Punjab's hospitality, then God bless you. Stop living in denial.
Terry Bola Jan 15, 2013 10:04pm
Superb article. I wish people everywhere especially in Pakistan pay heed to your thoughts.
BRR Jan 16, 2013 01:30am
Thought provoking. Written with Candor.
Karachi Wala Jan 16, 2013 01:34am
Mr. Mubark comes across as a one brave Punjabi. It sure takes guts to self criticize. I encourage and am looking forward from other Pakistan ethnicities to come forward and admit their ills out here in the open.
Rao Jan 17, 2013 06:56am
Haven't heard of Unity in Diversity.....
Bacha Khan Jan 16, 2013 03:29am
Good going
Bilal Jan 16, 2013 01:28pm
If religion cannot be binding force, then there is no other glue which could stick you and you are found to fall apart which you are witnessing in 2013. Bilal UK
Farooq Ali Jan 16, 2013 04:35am
Since last two decades and after Afghan war we are engulfed in greed , pride , and hate triangle and the whole society is rapidly degrading by this infestation , it has resulted in massive corruption and infighting of sectarian and other groups , the intellactual class has preferred migration instead of crrection due to poor leadership.
aabdul Jan 16, 2013 04:55am
The root cause of most problems in Pakistan is this monstrous obsession with religion. To make things worse, the nation was led by Punjabis who are known to be overtly aggressive and more prone to irrational behavior.
Pramod Jan 16, 2013 03:10pm
Very Well Said Mr Baig. Muslims should open up their mind about religion and should not trust anything and everything said on name of Islam.Situation has come from a point when fatwa against Taslima Nasreen was issued for writing a book about (or against can not say did not read the book) to dragging a mentally unstable person from police station and burnt him alive. Such behavior of Muslims is the only reason for what ever bad name Islam has got today.
kamaljit singh Jan 16, 2013 05:40am
This article was master piece particularly last two paras. This writer is not only visionary and intellectual but religious in true sense. We need these kinds of people around. We must believe on theirs interpretations of religions, races, nations and love. These people should be the guiding force
Pakistani Jan 16, 2013 05:46am
Excellent writing!!
peddarowdy Jan 17, 2013 08:36am
Pakistan did indeed grow economically faster than India, but things changed after 1991 when India adopted a economic liberalisation. The difference between India and Pakistan is while poverty in India is on the decrease, its on the rise in Pakistan. I can't paste links, for the comments will not get published, but you are free to Google. UN MDG report says India will halve its poverty from a high of 51% in 1991 to 22% by 2015. It says the opposite with Pakistan. World Bank website data says India's poverty in 2010 was 29%. In 2006 it was 33%. You see the trend, don't you. Pakistan's last available data is from mid 2000s. Recent estimates show the poverty level has climbed to 43%, as per Asian Development Bank analysis.
Saad Jan 16, 2013 06:25am
cultural or religious identity is a no reason to become united with, no unity will be fruitful other then National unity.
Nony Jan 16, 2013 06:51am
Our beauty is our diversity, we can survive only if we start nourishing our own culture and start idealizing our own heroes, religion can not be the binding force amongst us and it was proved in 1971.
peddarowdy Jan 16, 2013 07:11am
Even at the time of Partition Muslims had no reason to be not educated. They ruled for 800 years a large part of India. Even today that mindset persists and of the many Muslims I know in India, education is still not the high priority for them. They start dreaming of Dubai, Saudi and stuff ever since their teens.. They instil this same with their children. Children they have lots! No family planning, Islam forbids it, they say. There is a fight among Hindus as to which community gets better educational sops. No wonder India is progressing so well. Muslims are missing the train, quite literally.
Ali Baloch Jan 16, 2013 07:26am
i guess the article fell on deaf ears.