Photo by White Star
Photo by White Star

KARACHI: An expert on Pakistan’s history on Wednesday said it was not the partition of British India that sparked riots in the Subcontinent but the partition of provinces of Bengal and Punjab; and Jawaharlal Nehru, not Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnnah, was responsible for those tragic events.

“Jinnah gave his blessings to the idea of an independent Bengal, but Nehru turned it down by questioning how Hindus would live in perpetual Muslim domination if Bengal and Pakistan emerge together. No blood would have shed had that been allowed to happen,” said Dr Muhammad Reza Kazimi at a talk on his book ‘A Concise History of Pakistan’ at Oxford University Press’ (OUP) bookshop in Clifton.

The book presents a detailed history of Pakistan while highlighting contemporary issues in the context of the subcontinent’s ancient and mediaeval history to explain how Muslim nationalism emerged and how the community interacted with the other communities in the region.

‘Jinnah gave his blessings to the idea of an independent Bengal, but Nehru turned it down’

Dr Kazimi, academic and historian, said he said when Huseyn Shaheed Suharwardy and other leaders from Bengal came to the Quaid and said let India and not Bengal be divided, Mr Jinnah fully supported the idea, but Nehru opposed it.

He said Islam was not the foundation of Pakistan, “it was something that was result of religious discrimination”.

He added that it was not the partition of British India that sparked riots, but the riots led to partition.Dr Kazimi traversed through the confines of political history to depict the intellectual, economic, diplomatic, and cultural history of Pakistan.

In diplomatic history he presented little known material on the 1971 war and in intellectual history he examined the circumstances that caused piety to develop into terror.

However, the talk chiefly focused on the events that created Pakistan as the audience were eager to have his informed views on the events that normally carry mystery and denial.

“The founders of Pakistan were not in favour of Pakistan initially, but the discrimination towards Muslims led them to do so. We are Muslims not by definition, but by discrimination.

“Mohammad Ali Jinnah founded Pakistan because of discrimination in united India. But, how liberal he actually was, is evident in his speech of Aug11, 1947 in which he said regardless of caste and creed everyone was an equal citizen of Pakistan.

“Even the Objectives Resolution says the sovereignty would be exercised by the people and not by Muslims of Pakistan,” said Dr Kazimi.

He said Pakistan had already survived 70 long years, which was much beyond than the expectations of those who thought the country would not survive for that long.

He said all main stakeholders in the Subcontinent were on the same page for a united India with a loose centre and maximum autonomy to the provinces or states. There was no conflict, yet the conflict went so sour later that it changed the whole proposition.

He said the two-year rule of the Congress on provinces was not attractive for Muslims, which, in the end led them to rally under the Muslim League.

He said history gave theories and not a theory could be regarded as history. He added that the Quaid founded Pakistan because it was the most suitable proposition in the end. However, he said, before all that all other options were tried and tested.

He reiterated that creating Pakistan, a separate homeland for Muslims in India, should not be taken as the blame and be thrown on Mr Jinnah; on the contrary, it was the result of his unmatched acumen and statesmanship.

“A better understanding of the events and study of thousands of pages of documents would show how fluid the situation was and how that culminated in the end.”

Dr Reza Kazimi said partition produced three great fiction maestros hailing from different faiths, Mahindra Singh Bedi, Krishna Chandra and Saadat Hasan Manto, who wrote splendidly on the tragedies of partition and introduced the concept of crime against humanity.

Answering a question about the future of Pakistan, he said nations did not evolve in 70 years and there was no instant recipe to become a nation.

“We see the evolution of nations in the world that took hundreds and thousands of years. We are a resilient nation and a better future lies ahead us.”

Salman Qureshi moderated the proceedings.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2018