Pakistan infertile soil for DemocracyLamenting the lack of continuity of what goes for the democratic dispensation in Pakistan, with out discussing the underlying causes thereof, has attained the rank of a favorite pastime of the so-called liberal-progressives.
Some Indians and people of the west of the same persuasion, pitch in too.
Leaving aside the armchair politicians, and their protagonists of the West, one has to ponder over the all too obvious question-why has democracy not taken root, flourished and civilian authority has reigned supreme in India and not in Pakistan?
In fact, the only section of the Indian populace envious of their Pakistani counter parts, are the Army officers. In Pakistan a retired Brigadier has, usually, an ostentatiously luxurious home in a city and a farmhouse nearby. He can afford to send his children to the UK and the USA for education. An Indian retired brigadier, on the other hand, has to make do on his not very generous pension, and has to live in a tiny house, which he had had to scrimp, save and take loans to build. This I know of personal knowledge.
Not too long ago a retired three star General, no less, of the Indian army- a Hindu at that- told me ruefully that had he been prescient, he would have opted for the Pakistan army!!
Both the countries attained independence at the same time. Leaders of both countries professed faith in democratic dispensation. Jinnah, the supreme leader of Pakistan, even declared his intention to separate religion from the state.
Some have presented Jinnah’s early death as the reason for the failure of Democracy to take root in the country. If that rationale were to be accepted, that the integrity of national institutions depended on one man, it would cast doubt on the logic of the very creation of the country, and would not be very flattering to the far sightedness, skill and political acumen of the leader ship, Jinnah included.
Fundamentalists since the days of Zia, have no doubt, played the role of a handmaiden to the military regimes. But they, having by and large opposed the Pakistan movement, stood thoroughly discredited at the time of the creation of the country. The government was able to crush the Mullahs who had risen in a virtual insurgency on the highly emotive issue of the status of Qadianis in Islam. Till much later obscurantist political parties were hard put to get even one member elected to the National or Provincial assemblies.
It has been only since the advent of Musharraf’s regime that the fundamentalist grouping have managed to win a substantial number of electoral contests. So we cannot lay the blame of non-viability of representative Government at the doorstep of fundamentalism.
By a glance at history we can glean an insight into the widely divergent paths in virtually all aspects of life, that India and Pakistan took post independence,
Muslims won control of the larger part of India and ruled it for a thousand years. They co-opted the amenable section of the erstwhile rulers. Together, with the King at the head of the system, they formed the ruling feudal class. Hindus feudals were a shade lower in the pecking order, but constituted a substantial portion of the army. Hindu trading class made up the bulk of the administrative and financial services. They excelled in liberal education too.
Muslims, confident of their standing, largely kept to the martial arts. Later on, once they had stabilized their rule, they indulged in poetry, philosophy, and architecture. They built palaces, mausoleums, gardens and roads. But the artisans and engineers were mostly Hindu. They, of course, never stooped to financial management. This characteristic is true of all feudal classes. British aristocracy looked down upon the trades people, while taking loans from them, for living it up.
It was all form, with little substance. At the first whiff of adverse wind, the super structure came tumbling down,. A handful of Europeans were easily able to overcome the Empire that had lasted centuries.
Muslims descended into national depression. Crushed by an acute sense of inferiority, they groaned under the burden of self-doubt, harkened back to “fundamentals” and forsook the exhortations of their religion to seek knowledge, branding the enlightened reformers as heretics- much like they do now.
Hindus had simply exchanged one class of overlords with another. The latter, having wrested power from the hands of Muslims, favored the former, who took full advantage of the changing fortunes, and pursued western education vigorously, while not ignoring their hereditary proclivity for trade, commerce and finance In literacy, Hindus out numbered their Muslims peers by roughly a proportion of twenty to one, though in population the ratio was four to one.. From the status of rough parity with the Muslims, they forged ahead, leaving the hapless, directionless and poorly focused erstwhile rulers, decades behind in all fields of human endeavor.
Times were changing. Nationalism had been born. It was a bye product of the industrial revolution-though there were other subsidiary factors too-with entrepreneurs vying for the raw material not ready to hand in their own countries, and giving an enormous boost to the emerging Capital. Aspirations to self-government held sway over the hearts and minds of the educated class.
The Indian Capital was, inevitably, overwhelmingly Hindu. Led by the elite newly educated in western mores, they started clamoring for a level playing field in matters of markets for their products. This naturally led to the demand of control over own affairs, culminating in the demand for independence. Indian National congress, curiously enough, was formed by an Indophile Englishman[i]. The idea was of only to produce a comprador class, certainly not to promote the cause of independence.
The British, past masters at protecting their flank, started a process of reappraisal of the weaknesses and strengths of their rule in India. They had to find an alternative to the restive Hindus. The remnants of the Muslim feudal class, the progeny of those who had saved their skin in the war of independence of 1857, were ready and willing to come to their aid again. In the aftermath of 1857, they had also created a class of new feudals, who were at their beck and call. Muslim landowners were concentrated in the region that was destined to emerge as West Pakistan.
There is adequate documented evidence that the British actively encouraged the Muslim landowners to launch the Muslim League[ii]. At the helm was the wholly owned British creation, the Agha Khan[iii]. Ismaelis, whose spiritual and temporal head the Agha Khan is, had been ousted from Egypt by the majority Sunnis and had ended up in Kerman in Iran, from where they were exiled by the Iranian rulers to the remoteness of Iranian Baluchistan. They lived precariously in the area, till a British administrator of the then Indian Baluchistan took them under their wing, and brought them over to Sindh. They were finally settled in the vicinity of Bombay, with Agha Khan ensconced in a palace in Poona, and favored with the titles of His Highness, the Prince etc, for services rendered to the crown. The family never looked back, even though the father of M.A.Jinnah took the Agha Khan to court on the charge of misuse of community funds and was excommunicated for his pains[iv].
The Muslim professional class with Jinnah who was to emerge as the leading light of Hindu-Muslim unity, kept away from the League.
The nationalist movement gathered momentum. Jinnah was probably the first to realize the precarious state of the Muslims; that the British patronage would not last for long. In 1916 he engineered an equitable deal between the Hindus and Muslims[v].
At this stage, it would be pertinent to remind ourselves of the class character of the Hindu and Muslim political activists. Hindus were under the sway of their nascent Capital personified by the Birlas and Tatas. The latter were actually Parsees, but their essential economic interest was the same as those of Hindu capitalists.
Muslims drew their sustenance from the feudal class.
I have deliberately not made any note of the vast ranks of the poor; ninety five percent of the population, as neither the Muslim nor the Hindu leadership took (the British neither) them into account.
The nationalist leadership (read Hindu for practical purposes), lacking any mass base could not afford to alienate any significant section of the educated class, so gulped the bitter pill of the pact Jinnah had made them accept, though they fully realized that it would give sustenance to the Muslim feudals, they so detested.
Now Gandhi descends on the scene. By mobilizing the disempowered through a heady mix of populism, mysticism and religion, he soon managed to loom large over the political horizon and to curb all the radical elements in the congress. He also tried, though mercifully with little success, to change the class character of the congress by obsessionally pushing handlooms and other cottage industry. The party though remained a tool of the Indian Capital, as the Muslim League, Jinnah and a few others leaders not with standing, was to sub serve the same function for the Muslim feudals. Jinnah and all the constituitionalists, moderates, and the King’s men in Indian politics were effectively sidelined.
Citing the greater cause of nationalism, agents of the Capitalist class took the opportunity of repudiating the Congress-League pact on safeguarding the rights of Muslims in independent India. Maulana Azad, Rafi Qidwai, Dr Ansari, clerics and other Muslim luminaries in the congress were left high and dry.
[i] Indian National Congress was founded in 1885.
[ii] Muslim League was founded in 1906.
[iii] Agha Khanis are dissident Shias. They accept only seven Imams and are some times called seveners. Mainstream Shias accept twelve Imams and are called twelvers.
[iv] Source The Agha Khans by Mihir Bose published by World’s work Ltd, The Windmill Press, Kingswood, Tadworth, Surrey. England.
[v] The so-called Congress-League pact awarded more representation and other safeguards to minorities in respective provinces.
Dr. S. Akhtar Ehtisham
P.O. Box 469,
Bath NY 14810
All religions try to take over the establishment and if they fail, they collaborate with it, be it feudal or capitalist.