Javed Jabbar speaks at the event on Monday.—Photo by writer
Javed Jabbar speaks at the event on Monday.—Photo by writer

KARACHI: “What is a nation? There is no unanimity on the definition of a ‘nation’. There are diverse elements such as history, language, ethnicity, culture, territory, religion, adversary, aspiration, etc, that set nations apart,” said Javed Jabbar.

The retired senator was speaking on the ‘Relevance of the Two-Nation Theory in the Present World Setting’, an enlightening and thought-provoking discourse, organised by the Department of International Relations, DHA Suffa University, here on Monday.

“Nations exist but state is an entity with sovereign authority over demarcated territory recognised by other states,” he said, adding that there are 193 member nation-states of the United Nations. Also that all in the General Assembly are equal, yet each is different. “The 193 member nations can be divided into six categories,” he said.

The first of these categories includes countries such as China, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Turkey and Russia with rich ancient histories. The second category is of the mass immigration states such as the USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, where people migrated from other places to settle there. The third category, according to the former senator, is of the permutated nations, or states, such as Germany and Italy. The fourth category is of the postcolonial states, such as Iraq, Jordan, Ghana and Kenya. The fifth category is of countries created from disintegrated states such as Bangladesh, Eritrea, Central Asian and Balkan states. And the sixth category is of the religion-based states such as the Vatican, Saudi Arabia, the Maldives, Israel and Pakistan.

‘Bangladesh is devoutly Muslim, a fact that strengthens, not weakens, the Two-Nation Theory’

“Yet Pakistan’s origins are more unique than all other religion-based states,” Mr Jabbar pointed out, adding that the people of the Maldives are Hanafi Sunni, Israel is where all the prophets of the Jewish people were born and are buried, the Vatican has the pope but Pakistan, well, it is no holy land. And unlike the Vatican, our head of state is not a religious leader,” he said.

“There are eight good reasons why Pakistan is the most uniquely-created nation-state in history, and two not so good reasons, too,” he said. “For 24 years after its creation, Pakistan existed on two sides separated by a huge region in between — India. Muslims and Hindus are two distinct, separate nations. This is a reality. And to explain this reality we have a theory,” he said.

Two dimensions, or two phases of evolution of the areas that came to be Pakistan including places such as Mehergarh, Moenjodaro and Gandhara with advanced civilisations from BC times were also looked at. It was explained that for more than 6,000 years the rule of the land of today’s Pakistan had been autonomous. Then in 1857, a new search started for Muslim identity. The ideologies of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Iqbal, Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, who came out with the Two-Nation Theory that Muslims and Hindus were different peoples with different ways who cannot live together, and then Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who gave Muslims the gift of Pakistan though he wanted respect for all faiths, including Hindus here, were also discussed.

Examining the tragedy of 1971, Mr Jabbar said that it was due to our own errors as India was already there to make trouble by poisoning the minds of the East Pakistanis. “They were in a majority, yet the national language was declared as Urdu instead of Bangla by Jinnah, though he did caution East Pakistanis to not fall prey to issues of language. But after Jinnah, we also did not do justice to the people of East Pakistan, and India had its way by breaking up Pakistan. Independent Bangladesh remains devoutly Muslim today, a fact that strengthens, not weakens, the Two-Nation Theory. They don’t want to be reunited with India’s West Bengal even though they share the same language,” he said.

“There is also nationalism that brings people together, which is a positive thing. But nationalism also has negatives such as majoritarianism, striking fear, hatred, both internally and externally.

“The two-nation reality defines our identity, it inspires us and is a source of humble pride for us. It gives Pakistan its identity of being distinct from all others. It is an anchor of our identity in times of rapid and unpredictable global conditions,” he said.

“Each civilisation has to help build a cohesive and creative Pakistan that makes a peaceful constructive contribution to humanity.”

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2021

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