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DAWN - Opinion; 29 June, 2004

June 29, 2004


Troubling historical roots

By Shahid Javed Burki

Cues for the many problems Pakistan faces today, including those that President Musharraf has placed high up on his list of priorities, are to be found in the country's tortured history. To understand the genesis of some of them we must go to the very beginning, to the time of the country's birth.

Historians - those who have written about Pakistan's history as well as its politics and economy - have not focused on one event that helped to produce today's Pakistan. That event was the mass movement of people in 1947 across the as yet undemarcated border between Pakistan and India.

India was ruled competently and reasonably well by the British for nearly a century. In the aftermath of the 1857 Indian Mutiny, London took over from the East India Company the task of governing India.

It went on to establish an administration headed by a royal appointee operating out of New Delhi, the newly designated capital. Called viceroys, these rulers left their mark on India, its economy and its political system.

However, none of this competence and not much of the experience the rulers had accumulated over the years were in evidence when the British finally took the decision to partition India - to divide their domain into a Hindu majority India and a Muslim majority Pakistan.

For a number of reasons Pakistan bore the brunt of the sloppy way the British departed from the subcontinent. A series of mistakes were made and a series of wilful steps were taken by the administration in New Delhi that deeply influenced the way Pakistan evolved as a state, and as a nation.

Among the burdens Pakistan had to carry was the need to accommodate a large number of refugees who arrived in the country soon after partition. It was the partition of the province of Punjab and the attendant displacement of people and the arrival of more than a million refugees to Karachi, the new capital, that left Pakistan with a host of problems.

These were obviously not foreseen in 1947 and Pakistan is still tackling them nearly sixty years after its birth. The first mistake the departing British made was to task Sir Cyril Radcliffe to draw the new border between the two emerging states.

Radcliffe was a lawyer with practically no knowledge of India and absolutely no familiarity with the disputes among the country's many communities. Also, he is reported to have had little taste for consultations. "Free speech is all right as long as it does not interfere with the policy of the government," he told one of his biographers.

Having entrusted such an enormous task to be completed within a short period of time, the Delhi administration failed to shelter Radcliffe from political influence. The myth of total impartiality was later advanced by Radcliffe and Lord Louis Mountbatten, India's last viceroy, in the aftermath of independence.

However, there is now enough evidence available to historians that "there is no question, as people like Ronnie Brockman [Mountbatten's personal secretary] and Campbell-Johnson maintain, that [Radcliffe] kept aloof."

As the historian Alastair put it: "There is no way that the Government of India would have allowed somebody with so little experience of India to make the key decisions. Radcliffe was a barrister following a brief." The brief was provided by Mountbatten.

The word that Radcliffe was coming under the influence of Mountbatten who, in turn, was listening to Jawaharlal Nehru reached Mohammad Ali Jinnah as the Boundary Commission was about to conclude its labour. Jinnah dispatched Chaudhri Muhammad Ali to consult Radcliffe's associates but by then it was too late. Radcliffe's mind had been made up for him.

After appointing an uninformed barrister to draw the boundary line and then influencing him to demarcate it in favour of India, the British administration in New Delhi made the third mistake by not anticipating a total breakdown in law and order that was about to take place in the western parts of the United Provinces and in Delhi and Punjab.

The situation was exacerbated by Mountbatten's decision not to announce the final boundary until after the two countries, India and Pakistan, had already come into existence.

The belief that Punjab's partition and the disturbances in a number of Hindu majority provinces in what is generally referred to as the "Hindu belt" would not result in a mass movement of people was shared not only by India's British administrators, including Mountbatten.

The leaderships of both the Muslim League and the Congress Party who were to become leaders respectively of Pakistan and India also did not anticipate the ethnic cleansing that took place in what is today's Pakistan and what were about to become the northern states of India.

As historian Patrick French wrote in 1997: "Most Muslims saw Pakistan as a homeland from which they would come and go at leisure; even Jinnah himself did not sell his house on Malabar Hill in Bombay, apparently on the assumption that he would flit cheerfully between India and Pakistan."

That, of course, did not happen and Jinnah along with millions of others who had come across the border stayed put in the new country. Could the British have prevented the mass killings and mass movement of people that occurred in 1947? The answer to that question is most definitely yes but it would have required a much larger presence of British troops on the Indian soil than London was prepared to commit.

When the British were preparing to leave India, London's attention was focused elsewhere. It was diverted to the problem it faced in dealing with the debt it had secured from a number of countries that had partnered with it in the war against Germany.

Large amounts were owed in particular to the United States which Washington, with the war successfully concluded, wished to recall. Faced with near-bankruptcy, the government of Prime Minister Clement Attlee was not prepared to commit troops to India to smoothen the transfer of power to the successor states.

That the Muslim and Hindu communities would come into violent conflict had already been demonstrated by the riots and killings that had occurred in Bihar and Calcutta in the months leading up to India's partition.

Into this cauldron, the British threw in the Sikhs who were dispersed all over the province of Punjab. The uncertainty surrounding their future caused a great deal of anxiety among the members of the community.

The Sikhs were small in number in the context of India but they had a significant presence in Punjab. At one point Jinnah tried to convince the leaders of the community that their rights would be protected by Pakistan.

That assurance did not work especially after an incident in Rawalpindi in March 1947 in which a Muslim mob attacked and killed scores of Sikhs. That provoked an exodus of some 80,000 Sikhs into eastern Punjab.

The result of all these missteps and manoeuvrings was an extraordinary incidence of "ethnic cleansing" in 1947 that had no precedence in world history. It is still not clear as to the total number of people who were involved in this two-way migration; Muslims from India to Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan to India.

The first population census taken after Pakistan gained independence estimated the total number of refugees in 1951 at 7.2 million of which 6.5 million were in West Pakistan - today's Pakistan - and another 700,000 were in the new country's eastern wing, today's Bangladesh.

My own work pertaining to this aspect of Pakistan's history - done while I was a graduate student at Harvard University and based on a district by district analysis of the censuses of 1941 and 1951 - suggests a much higher number.

It appears that some eight million Muslims moved into Pakistan in the three year period between 1947 and 1950 while six million Hindus and Sikhs moved in the opposite direction. This transfer of population had a profound impact on Pakistan's future development, not just demographic but also social, economic and political.

The refugees entering West Pakistan were made up of two streams. The largest number of migrants came from the eastern part of Punjab and Kashmir and were settled mostly on the lands vacated by the Sikhs. They numbered more than six million people.

The second stream came from what is now called India's Hindu belt - the provinces of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and the capital city of New Delhi. Included in this stream were also Muslims from Gujarat, Maharashtra and later the state of Hyderabad.

They settled mostly in the large cities of south Sindh, particularly Karachi and Hyderabad. Once the refugees were resettled they transformed in several different ways the economic, social and political landscape of Pakistan.

According to the census of 1951, they constituted slightly more than 50 per cent of the population of eight large cities in the country. Contrary to the general impression, Lahore with 70.6 per cent of its population made up of refugees compared to 49.6 per cent for Karachi, was the largest "mohajir" city. Even Faisalabad had a larger proportion of refugees in its population than Karachi.

Nonetheless, the Punjab cities offered more or less the same cultural environment to the newcomers than did Karachi and Hyderabad, another Sindh city that absorbed a significant number of newcomers. Punjab's urban areas were able to assimilate much more effectively the refugee population than Karachi and other urban areas of southern Sindh.

The stage for the mohajir politics of the last quarter century in Karachi with all the attendant conflict and violence was set by the 1947-1950 transfer of population.

While the impact on the politics of Karachi of the influx of refugees has received considerable academic attention, what has totally escaped notice is another effect: the "Muslimization" of the population of Pakistan as a consequence of the demographic trauma of the 1940s.

In 1941, the areas that were to become first West Pakistan and later, in 1971, today's Pakistan had a population of 32.6 million people. Of these 6.3 million or nearly one-fifth of the total were non-Muslims.

In 1951, with an addition of two million people to the population as a result of migration in and out of the country, the country's population reached 39 million. Of these, the non-Muslims constituted only a tiny proportion, 3.2 per cent. Partition and its aftermath had thoroughly cleansed Pakistan of almost all non-Muslim population.

For instance, at the time of partition, "the Hindu-Muslim ratio of population [in Sindh] was roughly 30:70." According to one estimate, based on the 1951 census, only 140,000 Hindus were left, mostly in Sindh. In other words, Sindh's Hindu population was reduced to only 1.9 per cent of the total. The same was the case in Punjab.

The Muslimization of our population resulted in Pakistan's departure from Jinnah's original dream - to create a country in which Muslims would have a large majority but in which people of all other religions would have complete political, social and economic rights.

Instead, the post-partition transfer of population set the stage for the pressure to Islamize Pakistani society. It also created the environment in which Islamic extremism could throw deep roots - one of the four problems General Musharraf says engage him the most these days.

The Istanbul declaration

By Shameem Akhtar

The thirty-first conference of the Islamic countries' foreign ministers at Istanbul was hailed by a section of the media as a successful moot that brought together the foreign ministers and representatives of 57 member countries.

Its declaration similar to the past ones attracted little attention of the world powers which are engaged in ruthless horse-trading over the distribution of Iraq's spoils, mainly its 112-billion barrel oil reserves.

The foreign ministers recognized the cabal of occupied Iraq handpicked by the UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, in consultation with the occupation forces - a far cry from an elected government in a free election under the auspices of the UN.

Ironically, the UN has been denied its legitimate role in any future dispensation of Iraq; it is there only to rubber-stamp the decision made by the occupying power.

The recognition of the Iyad Allawi regime by the OIC has given the rulers of Muslim states - monarch, despots, fascists and puppets of big powers - a pretext for sending their troops to the so-called multi-national force that would not be part of the occupying army but will be there to protect the UN personnel who have yet to go there.

The CNN has quoted an Arab diplomat who disclosed on condition of anonymity that Tunis, Morocco and Pakistan have agreed to dispatch their troops at the request of the so-called government of occupied Iraq.

Though Islamabad has been equivocating on the question, President Musharraf's latest declaration that Pakistan has refused to send troops to Iraq despite intense US pressure has somewhat dispelled the misgivings in the public mind.

The situation on the ground in embattled Iraq is such that the combined resistance forces are struggling for liberation and they see even a symbolic UN presence in Iraq as part of the occupation forces.

Didn't the 'Resistance' attack the UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing De Mello, its head? The Iraqi freedom fighters also killed the former chief of the Iraqi Governing Council in the highly protected Green Zone in Baghdad.

The other day the council's deputy foreign minister also fell victim to a bomb attack. Surely, these attacks are seen by the Anglo-US occupiers as terrorist acts but looked at from the other side of the fence, they are part of the war of national liberation.

They are as legitimate as the French, Greek and Yugoslav resistance to Nazi occupation during the World War II which received moral, political and military assistance from the US and Britain.

Even so the Istanbul declaration is self-contradictory because on the one hand it demands restoration of sovereignty to Iraq which means an end to foreign occupation and on the other, it recognizes a regime nominated by foreign occupation as a legitimate authority.

This is precisely the problem of the Muslim rulers. They want to appease the US and at the same time they dupe their subjects who want an immediate end to foreign occupation.

It is about time that the ruling classes of the Muslim countries took a forthright stand on the question of occupation. If non-Muslim states such as Spain can withdraw troops and Thailand and others are having second thought about their military presence there, why should Islamic states send their troops there?

For Islamabad to send troops to Iraq on whatever pretext would be seen by many as a repetition of history when the British Indian army was called to Iraq to suppress the war of independence against British occupation during 1920.

The stark reality is that there has been persistent opposition by non-Muslim governments and peoples all over the world, especially in the West to Iraqi invasion and occupation but not so in the Islamic world.

The OIC did not dare ask the US to quit Iraq, a demand that has been gathering momentum in America itself. It is an irony that the OIC cannot espouse the cause of the Islamic world while the oppressed Muslim peoples often find genuine advocates of their cause in the West. Occupied Iraq is a living example.

The OIC foreign ministers have asked for the deployment of UN peace-keeping force in occupied Palestine knowing full well that the US has repeatedly vetoed such resolution in the Security Council. They should have demanded that the Bush administration refrain from blocking such moves in future.

The foreign ministers did criticize US though, for applying economic sanctions against Syria but they did not demand Israel's withdrawal from Golan Heights. Nor did they demand an inquiry into Israel's clandestine nuclear programme in defiance of the NPT while Iran, a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, is being constantly harassed by the US, European powers and their surrogate, IAEA.

The OIC foreign ministers have failed to point out the duplicity and double standards of the West in its policy toward Israel and Iran in respect of non-proliferation.

Pakistan has, doubtless, gained some success in mobilizing the OIC for focussing attention on state terrorism perpetrated by the occupying Indian army in Kashmir and demanding a peaceful settlement of the dispute on the basis of self-determination.

But such exhortations do not find expression in the policies of the OIC member states which never protest against Indian atrocities at diplomatic level. Nor are they prepared to use their leverage on New Delhi to soften its stand.

Again, some non-Muslim states such as China, European Union and the US have done more to bring India and Pakistan around the negotiating table to resolve the contentious issues.

Most amusing of all was the OIC's rejection of the US pressure on Saudi Arabia and other monarchies for introducing democracy at home. Instead, the member states agreed to democratize their polity gradually. While it is a pragmatic approach, it is difficult to see how the existing monarchs, Sultans, Emirs and Sheikhs would sign their own death warrant.

The OIC summits made grandiose plans in the past only to be buried in the archives such as Islamic charter of human rights and an Islamic court of justice to be based in Kuwait. But these decisions have not been implemented so far. How can one believe that the fate of the Istanbul Declaration would be any different from the previous one.

What one finds missing in the deliberations of the OIC are issues most crucial to the Third World countries such as the trillion-dollar debt and the access of the products of the developing countries to the markets of the developed countries, anti-dumping laws and subsidies to their agriculture sector by developed countries and non-tariff-related restrictions on imports from the developing countries.

The OIC remains negligent of the above mentioned issues on which depends the survival of the population of its member countries. It is cut adrift from the mainstream politics of the South. Article II(7) of the OIC Charter expressly provides for co-operation with the non-OIC states. Given leadership and direction, the organization can increase its political weight in the comity of nations.

A protected democracy

By Omar Kureishi

One of the most combustible issues in American politics is abortion and a fierce debate has raged about the sanctity of human life and both science and religion have been invoked.

Is an unborn child even in the earliest stages of conception have the right to life? Is abortion tantamount to murder? That there should be such strongly held views about human life would suggest a deep compassion and a high value. Alas! This compassion does not extend once the foetus is hatched and becomes a person.

There is a distinction between human life and a human being. Ironically, the same forces that fight for the sanctity of human life think nothing when hundreds of thousands of human beings are wantonly killed in wars. This is seen as a patriotic act.

The beheading of a South Korean is rightly seen as a barbaric act. This is because he had a name and an identity and television pictures of his grieving family filled our screens and we were able to relate to him in some personal way.

At about the same time, the US Air Force carried out bombing raids on what they claimed were legitimate targets in Fallujah and ended up destroying some homes and killing a few Iraqis which included children.

This being an act of war, it provided its own moral justification. No television pictures of grieving families. The beheading of the South Korean was not an act of war. It is seen as cold-blooded murder and gruesome in the extreme.

Does the manner of his death horrify us rather than his death? Iraqi and Afghan children who get blown up when they pick up a bomblet thinking it is a toy do not always die. They are not so lucky.

They lose their limbs or their sight or both. "Does it matter? Losing your legs? For people will always be kind," wrote the poet Siegfried Sassoon. The poem itself was called "Does It Matter"? It doesn't matter now and will matter even less except to the boy or girl who has no legs or no arms. War is hell but it's other people's hell.

When perception becomes an article of faith, we create for ourselves a world that caters to our worst fears. There is the assumption that 9/11 changed the rules of human existence, that, suddenly, there was no tooth-fairy, no Easter Bunny and not even Santa Claus.

There were the good guys and the bad guys, there was a civilised world and an uncivilised one and the rest of the world had to decide where it stood. 9/11 needed a statesman-like response, something like Franklin Delano Roosevelt's " the only thing we have" to "fear is fear itself" and not an ultimatum nor an orgy of chauvinism.

September 11 was a dastardly act and the rage that the Americans felt was understandable. The use of the word "crusade" to describe the war on terror was an unfortunate one for it gave to terrorism a religious colour. It led to the Muslim community in the United States being stereotyped as a security-threat, as if being a Muslim automatically made one a terrorist or a fellow-traveller.

This was the group-mind at its most bigoted and it has not helped that a climate of fear has been created which feeds the frenzy. We are told endlessly that the war on terror is about winning hearts and minds but the use of excessive military force is the preferred option. One cancels the other out.

There was a letter in Time magazine in praise of the late Harry S. Truman and the need for such a decisive president who did not hesitate to use the atomic bomb "to save American lives".

He is, perhaps, implying that some such use of force is needed in Iraq. I don't think the writer belongs to some lunatic-fringe. There were many in the American military who were of the opinion that the Vietnam war had been fought with their hands tied behind their backs, that is to say that they were denied the use of nuclear weapons.

The preponderance of military force wins battles but it does not win wars. This week full sovereignty will be restored to Iraq. At the same time, it is being said that the insurgency will intensify and there will be no end to the resistance to the occupation which, at first, was limited to remnants of the Saddam regime but which has now been bolstered by foreign fighters.

Rather than pulling out their troops, the Americans are going to increase the numbers. Militarily, the Americans are in Iraq for the long haul. Both George Bush and Tony Blair continue to justify the war they launched but are no longer talking about the weapons of mass destruction and are now leaving it to history to decide whether they were right or wrong.

That too is a long haul. There seems the small matter of the use of torture on the detainees. There seems to be some hair-splitting about what constitutes torture. Is there a legal definition of torture? How do we measure pain? One way would be if American and British soldiers were to be subjected to the same aggressive interrogation as the Iraqi or Afghan detainees should they be taken prisoner.

There would not only be a howl of protests but be seen as barbaric. The definition of torture depends very much on who is being tortured and who is doing the torturing. It's a flexible definition. Abu Ghraib prison is where Saddam Hussain tortured his opponents.

Iraqi detainees were merely roughed up in a nobler cause. That so many of them were picked up at random and locked up and then given the treatment was unfortunate but was done so that democracy could be brought to Iraq.

In order to bring the rule of law to Iraq it was necessary to suspend due process. A commander in Vietnam had to destroy a city in order to save it. Iraqis are going to get democracy even if their country is destroyed. That decision has been taken on their behalf.

From now on the Iraqis will be their own masters and the combat troops of the coalition partners will remain to sort out all those who stand in the way. It will be a "protected democracy."

A leadership that cannot deliver

By Mirza Aslam Beg

One could describe the causes of deprivation of the poor as 'deficits' - a terminology used in the American paper "Greater Middle East Partnership " under consideration at the G-8 conference.

The deficits are, in fact, the afflictions the poor in Pakistan suffer from with regard to the economy, their well-being and their future. The main deficits are: leadership, democracy, military interventions and American influence.

Leadership: Comparing the Pakistani leadership with that of China and India one could find the difference. China has a galloping economy and the world is wondering where are they heading. It is estimated that in the next two decades, China will be reaching the level of the United States in terms of economic and military power.

They have been able to achieve such spectacular results because of the selfless and dedicated leadership which comes mainly from the middle and the lower middle classes.

Amongst their leaders one will not find industrialists, feudal lords or money barons. They also have developed a very strict accountability procedure, and the mechanism for transfer of power is fully operative, in conformity with their environment and conditions.

In India, the people have voted for a change through the process of elections because strict adherence to the rules of business was ensured by an independent election commission and a benign leadership, which is drawn mainly from the middle and lower middle classes and respects democratic values growing out of their political background.

Thus, India is making good progress with a booming economy, expanding at a rate of over seven per cent, with more than $110 billion reserves and a high rate of economic growth, yet the people, through the power of the ballot, have brought about a change, with the implicit message to the future leaders, that, they dare not ignore the deprived and the impoverished people of the benefits of economic progress and prosperity. To what extent their hopes are fulfilled is something we have to wait and watch.

The conditions obtaining in Pakistan determining the future of the people of Pakistan, as to their empowerment and sharing of the benefits of economic growth and prosperity, present a different picture although our economy is rising at a rate of over 6.4 per cent.

We have a reserve of over $12 billion and yet this kind of progress, and expansion of the economy and its growth has failed to bring prosperity, to meet the barest needs of the common people, particularly those living below the poverty line.

Therefore, the question is: What kind of leadership can deliver? For a specific answer let us refer to the Holy Quran: "Allah wishes to be gracious to the weak and the deprived and make them the leaders, and heirs of the land and all its riches."

These words describe a complete code of socio-economic justice, ensuring empowerment of the marginalized people; to make them responsible for chartering their own destiny as per their hopes and aspirations; to make them the real masters of the land and all its riches. In other words, the people - 'Al-Nas' are the engine of change and development, for an egalitarian society.

Undoubtedly, we have to wait for such a leadership to emerge from amongst the poor and the deprived which shall prove to be the catalyst. General Pervez Musharraf, early in 2000, through the devolution of power reforms attempted for the empowerment of the people, as the arbiters of their destiny. But unfortunately, political expediency came his way and the process got delayed.

There is no hope that empowerment of the poor through this process could be achieved because the elected leadership of Pakistan comes from the privileged group of money barons, professional politicians grown rich and powerful through years of manipulations, the feudals, ex-bureaucrats and such influentials who have managed to avoid the accountability net, by joining the government. This leadership cannot deliver because they can only deliver to themselves, to satisfy their greed and rapacity.

Democracy: Owing to frequent interventions by the armed forces, and lack of democratic and political culture, the growth of democracy in Pakistan has suffered. We do not have a functioning democracy. We do not have a sovereign parliament either, and therefore no hope for exercise of free choice to bring about a change as in India.

The present political manipulations indicate that the elite group of Pakistani rulers will not allow free choice to the common people, and will continue to silence the opposition and make it hopelessly crippled.

There will be no rules of the game. Thus, to hold a fair and free elections, would be well nigh impossible, in the present political and democratic cultural environment.

Military interventions: With the coming of military regimes, economy starts presenting a picture of expansion and improvement, creating false hopes and high expectations of growth and development, because of the special favours and advantages enjoyed under the strategic partnership with the US.

For example, under the military rule of Field Marshal M. Ayub Khan, Pakistan enjoyed American favours and the economy grew up in return for the services rendered for containing Communist Russia and China.

Similarly, General Zia was paid off to boost the economy for letting Pakistan act as a conduit to arms, ammunition and aid against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. General Musharraf gets all the support from the US, IMF, and the world financial institutions because he is chasing the terrorists. And as soon as, the transfer of power is to take place, the civil government, invariably falls from grace, as economy declines and sanctions and embargoes are imposed, causing greater hardships to the people.

American influence: Because of the inroads made into various echelons of Pakistani society, the American influence has become the determining factor for major political changes in Pakistan, thus achieving a degree of control over the political leadership and the elite group, who are eagerly ready to comply. At present the Americans find Musharraf a trusted leader, "who has delivered in the past and will deliver in the future also". The people of Pakistan, therefore, have to tag along with the present setup. No possibility of a change through the power of the ballot either - a situation, which at present is a frustrating dilemma for the common people of Pakistan.

And if you really want to know, who are the oppressed and the deprived people of Pakistan, take a look at the political grouping called PONAM (Pakistan's Oppressed Nations' Movement).

You will not find a similar political organization anywhere in the world, by such a name and grouping, demanding their due rights, in a sovereign state. In fact, it is a bad reflection of the democratic consciousness of the Pakistani rulers. No doubt, there are people in Pakistan who are truly deprived, and oppressed, who are not getting what is due to them. This situation should serve as a wake-up call for us all.

Let's hope and pray that we get over these problems soon, because such deficits must not come in the way of the collective will of the people of Pakistan, who cherish the vision of a liberal, democratic order based on the Quran and Sunnah, as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, which can bring people nearer to their vision of life. In order to reach that level of consciousness, the will of the people of Pakistan must prevail to lend dignity and viability to the nation.

The writer is a former chief of army staff.