August 14 is an auspicious day for Pakistan, the day when our country gained its independence from British rule. But how many Pakistanis know how Independence Day came about?
The new generation has just perfunctory knowledge of the sacrifices that were made to gain the country. With the exception of students of history and political science and those who would be considered senior citizens, the majority know little of the efforts that went into making Pakistan.
The reasons for the creation of Pakistan are crystal clear.
As the 19th century ended, Muslims of India found themselves in a depressive state. Events of several preceding decades, and the marginalization of the community by the new rulers of India had put them in a very disadvantageous situation. The marginalized Muslims began to notice Hindus occupying positions of strength over them. They sought a forum whereby they could voice their grievances and seek rights.
In response to this desire the All India Muslim League was formed in 1906. This was to be the voice of the Muslims and its primary objective was to gain the rights of the Indian Muslims.
On August 14, 1947, the dream finally became a reality. It took over a million Muslim lives to create the homeland for the Muslims. Both the Hindus and the Sikhs went on a killing spree indulging in wanton destruction and looting of property of the Muslims. Their behaviour vindicated the demand for a Muslim nation.
The matter, of course, did not end here.
The Indian government of the day, which was drawn from the Congress Party, was using other methods to nullify the creation of Pakistan. It held back the military stores due to the new nation. More than that, it held back the finances which were rightly Pakistan’s share.
Shaharyar, student, 14 years — “I do not have any knowledge about the Pakistan Movement and neither the reasons leading to the creation of Pakistan. But I do know that Pakistan is in a bad situation and needs good leadership to get out of it”
The Indian government felt that without finances the Pakistan government would not be able to function and would seek reunion with India. In that case, Pakistan’s return would be accepted on India’s terms. However, this Indian hope was dashed by the generous intervention of the Nizam of Hyderabad who loaned Rs. 2 billion to the government of Pakistan. In addition, Habib Bank, which had shifted its headquarters from Mumbai to Karachi, also loaned Rs. 48 crores. This was a handsome amount in 1947.
With the help of the infusion of these finances, the government functioned and grew, enabling Pakistan to survive those crucial early days. It has come a long way since then. Nevertheless, the Indian machinations against Pakistan continued unabated which resulted in the breakaway of the Eastern wing in 1971. The country survived that trauma and continues to function.
Senior citizens have some knowledge of the Pakistan Movement which is not surprising. Some lived in the time when the matter was still fresh and were also able to get first hand information. However, with the passage of time, the new generation has only scant knowledge about the subject. This reflects inadequate educational curriculum as well as sub-standard level of teaching in schools.
In any case, all the people who were interviewed, irrespective of age, were unanimous in their view that Pakistan was experiencing major difficulties which have to be addressed and if remedial action was not taken very soon it could harm the integrity of the country.
Sixty-eight years later where does the country stand? It is interesting to know the views of some Pakistanis belonging to different age groups.
Syed Nadeem Ahmad - 51 years. “The creation of Pakistan was necessary. Initially, the country showed much cohesiveness. People, irrespective of ethnicity, were drawn to each other. There was a feeling of nationhood and everybody took pride in being a Pakistani. That, however, changed over the years. In the early days life was simple and there was much happiness. Peopled looked after each other. The government functioned well and the bureaucracy showed fair responsibility. There was corruption, but it was not rife. Things began to change in the ‘70s and became worse in the ‘80s. The country, instead of making progress went into a downward spiral, economically and politically. Despite these drawbacks, there was faith in the people that the country would return to the right path.
“The return of the democratic government in 1988 did not help at all. At best, it was a farce. Neither party would not let the other function and complete its term. As a result democracy suffered and eventually paved the way for the army to take over. Gen. Musharraf succeeded in stabilizing the economy and seemed to give good direction to the country. Nevertheless, democracy must rule, but for that good leaders are needed and they are nowhere to be found.”
Siraj Ali — 71 years. “I was about four years old when my parents left India. I don’t remember the journey from India’s Lucknow in U.P., and know only what my father and uncles have related. They talked of fear of Hindu mob attacks in Lucknow. Then on the way, the Sikhs were playing the role of butchers. I recall early difficult days in Karachi. Then things began to improve as time went on. From a jhuggi (hut) we moved to a proper house located in what was then called ‘Lalu Khet’. I attended a government school and did my matriculation. After that I joined my father’s business selling crockery in a shop. The business was reasonably good. People were generally happy. Trouble started in the late ‘60s, as a movement developed to oust Ayub Khan. His successor didn’t stay long enough, but his rule did cause a massive upheaval in the country’s politics. There was a war and a big part of Pakistan broke away.
“I blame the government in the ‘70s which started the country’s decline including its unity. It introduced corruption and lawlessness on a large scale. It was from then on that things began to turn for the worse and have continued their downward spiral. I am happy that Pakistan was created. I fear that unless the rising trend in corruption and lawlessness is not arrested it will endanger Pakistan’s existence.”
Mohammad Hassan Abid, student - 21 years. “I was never a serious student so I have little knowledge about the Pakistan Movement and whatever I know about it was through school lessons, the print media and radio and talk shows on TV. But I do believe that Quaid-e-Azam was an able leader. He had the ability to take on the British and the Indian Congress and fight for Pakistan and he won in the end.
“I also feel that Liaquat Ali Khan should have visited the USSR instead of going to the USA as the latter is responsible for Pakistan’s current deplorable situation. Ayub Khan’s tenure gave the country not only economic stability but also resulted in the development of industries, agriculture and trade. I blame West Pakistan for the secession of East Pakistan. Mr Bhutto’s foreign policies were good but his domestic and economic policies weren’t. I blame the Afghan War for the current security problems the country is facing. I also condemn the politics that Nawaz Sharif and Benazir indulged in during the 1990s. Musharraf’s rule brought Pakistan some stability and it seemed that Pakistan would finally make some progress. The government of Mr Zardari introduced corruption on a large scale. His tenure was dismal. Hopes were tied with Nawaz Sharif. So far he has proven to be a disappointment. I feel that Pakistan holds many promises. If ably led, it can make tremendous progress.”
Ali bin Mushtaq, student - 16 years. “The reasons that led to Pakistan’s creation was due to Hindu-Muslim conflict. Beyond that I have no knowledge of Pakistan’s history nor have any desire to study about the Pakistan Movement. I accept that Pakistan has a bright future but corrupt leaders are stopping that progress. I am not very optimistic about Pakistan’s future if the current situation persists.
Shaharyar, student - 14 years. “I do not have any knowledge about the Pakistan Movement and neither the reasons leading to the creation of Pakistan. But I do know that Pakistan is in a bad situation and needs good leadership to get out of it, as I hear grown ups talking about it, but I am optimistic. I feel that things will turn out all right for Pakistan.”
Atiya Fatima, housewise - 65 years. “I consider myself a proud Pakistani and am very happy that I was born in this country. I have lived all my life in Karachi and have had a happy childhood. Life was simple yet full of happiness. Karachi did not have many of the facilities that exist today, yet people were happy. Everyone ate well and looked after one another. Relations, neighbours and friends - they were all caring.
“All that changed when the Bhutto government took over. His rule saw the rise in corruption, a malady that has become worse overtime. Lawlessness, too, has become worse over time. As a result, the country and the city of Karachi are not making any progress. The intellectuals and professionals are being compelled to leave the country. This country was built in the name of Islam. In reality, the country has gone off course and is doing everything prohibited by Islam. The feelings of disunity abound and this can lead to the disintegration of the country. Only a leader of great stature can save the country and he is nowhere to be seen. Pakistan was a beautiful idea, but now I fear for its existence.”
Mohammad Hyder Khan - 75 years. “My family migrated in 1948. My father was a civilian working for the Indian army and had opted for Pakistan. We lived in a small flat in Lea Market. It was a different place then, not a squalor locality that it has now become. I got my education at Sindh Madrassahtul Islam school. While the essentials of today may have been missing then, one very important element existed in those days which was love and affection and caring of neighbours, friends and relatives, irrespective of religious or ethnic background. People met with sincere feelings and came to each other’s help when needed. Ethnicity was introduced by Ayub Khan in the 1964 elections. Ayub was displeased with Karachi as the city voted for Fatima Jinnah. But Ayub’s first five years were probably the best and Pakistan did well. In his last five years he was surrounded by sycophants and they destroyed him.
“Bhutto’s nationalization policies destroyed whatever the country had built up. His educational policies did much harm to the country as well. The quality of education has not recovered since then. His foreign policy was brilliant. Equally brilliant was the way he got Pakistan the nuclear technology. Zia ul Haq helped defeat the USSR and thus freed the Muslim Central Asian Republics, but he was so engrossed with the Afghan war that he could not launch economic development plans.
“The politics of the ‘90s during Benazir and Nawaz Sharif’s rule was disastrous for Pakistan. Musharraf’s tenure did give some stability to the country. The economy improved and the country seemed to be going in the right direction. Zardari introduced corruption on a mega scale. Lawlessness in the country and especially Karachi, increased tremendously. Zardari’s term of five years has nothing to show. Politically, economically and socially, Paksitan is in a mess. The country expected much from Nawaz Sharif. So far he has been a big disappointment. We need a leader of very high stature in order to get out of this dangerous situation. So far it is Divine intervention that has kept the country intact. But, for how long.”
The writer is a freelance journalist.