British Government’s Statement of 3 June 1947

India Wins Freedom

  1. On February 20th, 1947, His Majesty’s Government announced their intention of transferring power in British India to Indian hands by June 1948. His Majesty’s Government hoped that it would be possible for the major parties to co-operate in the working out of the Cabinet Mission’s Plan of May 16th, 1946 and evolve for India a Constitution acceptable to all concerned. This hope has not been fulfilled.
  2. The majority of the representatives of the Provinces of Madras, Bombay, the United Provinces, Bihar, Central Provinces and Berar, Assam, Orissa and the North-West Frontier Provinces, and the representatives of Delhi, Ajmer-Merwara and Coorg have already made progress in the task of evolving a new Constitution. On the other hand, the Muslim League Party, including in it a majority of the representatives of Bengal, the Punjab and Sind as also the representative of British Baluchistan, has decided not to participate in the Constituent Assembly.
  3. It has always been the desire of His Majesty’s Government that power should be transferred in accordance with the wishes of the Indian people themselves. This task would have been greatly facilitated if there had been an agreement among the Indian political parties. In the absence of such agreement, the task of devising a method by which the wishes of the Indian people can be ascertained has developed upon His Majesty’s Government. After full consultation with political leaders India, His Majesty’s Government have decided to adopt for this purpose the plan set out below. His Majesty’s Government wish to make it clear that they have no intention of attempting to frame any ultimate Constitution for India; this is a matter for the Indians themselves nor is there anything in this plan to preclude negotiations between communities for a united India.
  4. It is not the intention of His Majesty’s Government to interrupt the work of the existing Constituent Assembly. Now that provision is made for certain provinces specified below, His Majesty’s Government trust that, as a consequence of this announcement, the Muslim League representatives of those provinces, a majority of whose representatives are already participating in it, will now take their share in its labour. At the same time, it is clear that any constitution framed by this Assembly cannot apply to those parts of the country which are unwilling to accept it. His Majesty’s Government are satisfied that the procedure outlined below embodies the best method of ascertaining the wishes of the people of such areas on the issue whether their Constitution is to be framed.
  • In the existing Constituent Assembly; or
  • in a new separate Constituent Assembly consisting of the representatives of those areas which decide not to participate in the existing Constituent Assembly.

When this has been done, it will be possible to determine the authority or authorities to whom power should be transferred.

5. The Provincial Legislature of Bengal and the Punjab (excluding European members) will therefore, each be asked to meet in two parts one representing the Muslim majority districts and the other the rest of the province. For the purpose of determining the population of districts the 1941 census figures will be taken as authoritative. The Muslim majority districts in these two provinces are set out in the Appendix to this announcement.

6. The members of the two parts of each Legislative Assembly sitting separately will be empowered to vote whether or not the province should be partitioned. If a simple majority of either part decides in favour of partition, division will take place and arrangement will be made accordingly.

7. Before the question as to the partition is decided, it is desirable that the representatives of each part should know in advance which Constituent Assembly the province as a whole would join in the event the two parts subsequently deciding to remain united. Therefore, if any members of either Legislative Assembly so demands, there shall be held a meeting of all members of the Legislative Assembly (other than European) at which a decision will be taken on the issue as to which Constituent Assembly the provinces as a whole would join if it were decided by the two parts to remain united.

8. In the event of partition being decided upon, each part of the Legislative Assembly will, on behalf of the areas they represent, decide which of the alternatives in paragraph 4 above to adopt.

9. For the immediate purpose of deciding on the issue of partition, the members of the legislative assemblies of Bengal and the Punjab will sit in two parts according to the Muslim majority districts (as laid down in the Appendix) and non-Muslim majority districts.

This is only a preliminary step of a purely temporary nature as it is evident that for the purposes of final partition of these provinces a detailed investigation of boundary questions will be needed; and as soon as a decision involving partition has been taken for either provinces, a boundary commission will be set up by the Governor-General, the membership and terms of reference of which will be settled in consultation with those concerned. It will be instructed to demarcate the boundaries of the two parts of the Punjab on the basis of ascertaining the contiguous majority areas of Muslims and non-Muslims. It will also be instructed to take in account other factors. Similar instructions will also be given to the Bengal Boundary Commission. Until the report of a boundary commission has been put into effect, the provisional boundaries indicated in the Appendix will be used.

10. The Legislative Assembly of Sind (excluding the European members) will at a special meeting also take its own decisions on the alternatives in paragraph 4 above.

11. The position of the North-West Frontier Province is exceptional. Two of the three representatives of this province are already participating in the existing Constituent Assembly. But it is clear, in view of its geographical situation and other considerations, that if the whole or any part of the Punjab decided not join the existing Constituent Assembly, it will be necessary to give the North-West Frontier Province an opportunity to reconsider its position. Accordingly, in such an event, a referendum will be made to the electors of the present Legislative Assembly in the North-West Frontier Province to choose which of the alternatives mentioned in paragraph 4 above they wish to adopt. The referendum will be held under the aegis of the Governor-General and in consultation with the provincial government.

12. British Baluchistan has elected a member, but he has not taken his seat in the existing Constituent Assembly. In view of its geographical situation, this province will also be given an opportunity to reconsider its position and to choose which of the alternatives in paragraph 4 above to adopt. His Excellency, the Governor-General is examining how this can most appropriately be done.

13. Though Assam is predominantly a non-Muslim province, the district of Sylhet which is contiguous to Bengal is predominantly Muslim. There has been a demand that, in the event of the partition of Bengal, Sylhet should be amalgamated with the Muslim part of Bengal. Accordingly if it is decided that Bengal should be partitioned, a referendum will be held in Sylhet District under the aegis of the Governor-General and in consultation with the Assam Provincial Government to decide whether the district of Sylhet should continue to form part of Assam Province or should be amalgamated with the new province of Eastern Bengal, a boundary commission with terms of reference similar to those for the Punjab and Bengal will be set up to demarcate the Muslim majority areas of Sylhet District and contiguous Muslim majority areas of adjoining districts, which will then be transferred to East Bengal. The rest of Assam Province will in any case continue to participate in the proceedings of the existing Constituent Assembly.

14. If it is decided that Bengal and the Punjab should be partitioned, it will be necessary to hold fresh elections to choose their representatives on the scale of one for every million of population according to the principle contained in the Cabinet Mission Plan of 16 May 1946. Similar election will also have to be held for Sylhet in the event o it being decided that this district should form part of East Bengal. The number of representatives to which each area would be entitled is as follows:





Sylhet District


2 nil


West Bengal


4 nil


East Bengal               


29 nil


West Punjab.                  


12 2


East Punjab.                   


4 2



15. In accordance with the mandates given to them, the representatives of the various areas will either join the existing Constituent Assembly or form the new Constituent Assembly.

16. Negotiations will have to be initiated as soon as possible on the administrative consequences of any partition that may have been decided upon: —

  • Between the representatives and the respective successor authorities about all subjects now dealt with by the Central Government including defence, finance and communications.
  • Between different successor authorities and His Majesty’s Government for treaties in regard to matters arising out of the transfer of power.
  • In the case of provinces that may be partitioned, as to the administration of all provincial subjects, such as the division of assets and liabilities, the police and other services, the high courts, provincial institutions, etc.

17. Agreements with the tribes of the North-West Frontier of India will have to be negotiated by the appropriate successor authority.

18. His Majesty’s Government wish to make it clear that the decisions announced above relate only to British India and that their policy towards Indian states contained in the Cabinet Mission’s memorandum of 12 May 1946 remains unchanged.

19. In order that the successor authorities may have time to prepare themselves to take over power, it is important that all the above processes should be completed as quickly as possible. To avoid delay, the different provinces or parts of provinces will proceed independently as far as practicable with the conditions of this plan. The existing Constituent Assembly and the new Constituent Assembly (if formed) will proceed to frame constitutions for their respective territories; they will, of course, be free to frame their own rules.

20. The major political parties have repeatedly emphasised their desire that there should be the earliest possible transfer of power in India. With this desire, His Majesty’s Government are in full sympathy and they are willing to anticipate the date of June 1948, for the handing over of power by the setting up of an independent Indian Government or Governments at an even earlier date. Accordingly, as the most expeditious, and indeed the only practicable way of meeting this desire, His Majesty’s Government propose to introduce legislation during the current session for the transfer of power this year on a Dominion Status basis to one or two successor authorities according to the decisions taken as a result of this announcement. This will be without prejudice to the right of Indian Constituent Assemblies to decide in due course whether or not the part of India in respect of which they have authority will remain within the British Commonwealth.

His Excellency the Governor-General will from time to time make such further announcements as may be necessary in regard to procedure or any other matters for carrying out the above arrangements.

The Muslim majority districts of the Punjab and Bengal according to the 1941 (census):

The Punjab Lahore Division Gujranwala, Gurdaspur, Lahore, Sheikhupura, Sialkot
Rawalpindi Division Attock, Gujarat, Jhelum, Mianwali, Rawalpindi, Shalpur
Multan Division Dera Ghazi Khan, Jhang, Lyallpur, Montgomery, Multan.
Bengal Chittagong Division Chittagong, Noakhali, Tipperah.
Dacca Division Bakerganj, Dacca, Faridpur, Mymensingh.
Presidency Division Jessore, Murshidabad, Nadia.
Rajshahi Division Bogra, Dinajpur, Malda, Pabna, Rajshahi, Rangpur



India Wins Freedom

By Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Publishers’ Note

When the manuscript of India Wins Freedom was handed over to us for publication by the late Professor Humayun Kabir in September 1958, seven months after Maulana Azad’s sudden death, we were informed that a fuller version containing additional material of about thirty pages would be made available to us for publication on 22 February 1988, the thirtieth death anniversary of Maulana Azad.

On examining the material, it became apparent that the additional matter was not just an extra thirty pages S generally believed but was to be found scattered throughout the text. Also, apart from phrases, sentence sequences and series of passages left out of the published text, the original text has been modified at many places by Professor Kabir’s editorial intervention (see his note in Appendix 1).

The present edition now gives the full text as found in the copies released to us. Major additions to the earlier version are indicated by asterisks at the beginning and at the end, the ‘Prospectus of the First Volume’ as published in the first edition has been retained. The appendixes included in that edition have also been reproduced.

October 1988.

Editor’s Note

When the first draft of Maulana Azad’s autobiography was prepared, he felt that there certain judgements on men and events which were not yet ripe for publication. He therefore prepared a revised version which is being published under th title:

India Wins Freedom

Autobiographical narrative

By Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Maulana Azad felt that he would also like to leave for the future historian a full record of his judgement and opinion on certain controversial issues which have been omitted from the published book. Even in respect of matter that has not been omitted, there are some minor differences from the original text as preserved here. This is due to the fact that the text for publication was revised several times, and with one or two exceptions, shows a toning down of his original judgement in order to spare the feelings of some of his contemporaries and fellow workers.

In the case of passages which have not been included in the published book the original opinion and judgement of Maulana Azad will be found in these papers deposited with the National Archives. The broad differences may be indicated as follows:

  1. Maulana Azad felt that injustice had been done to Dr. Syed Mahmud in not making him the first Congress Chief Minister of Bihar. On the other hand, he was equally clear in his mind that the way in which Dr. Syed Mahmud secured his release from Ahmednagar Fort jail was indefensible. Maulana Azad also disapproved of some of Dr. Syed Mahmud’s actions after he came out of jail. He decided to leave out of the published text the passages with both these matters.
  2. Maulana Azad felt that Sardar Patel had played a role which was not always consistent with the ideals of the Congress. While the published text gives a clear indication of his judgement about Sardar Patel, he left out some of his stronger indictments as he felt that heir publication should be delayed in the national interest.
  3. Maulana Azad not only disliked but had almost contempt for Mr. Krishna Menon. He felt that Mr. Krishna Menon was not trustworthy, and he had intended to discuss more fully in his third volume of his autobiography some of Mr. Menon’s actions as High Commissioner of India. Maulana Azad believed that the charges against Mr. Menon should have been investigated, so that he was either cleared or condemned. He felt so strongly on this point that when in 1954, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to include Mr. Menon in the Cabinet, Maulana Azad sent in his resignation. It was only with difficulty that he could later be persuaded to agree to Mr. Menon’s inclusion in the Cabinet. He openly said that he did so only out of deference to Mr. Nehru’s wishes, and further said that h did not wish to publicise his views as he felt that it would weaken Mr. Nehru.
  4. Maulana Azad had a very warm feeling of mingled affection and admiration for Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru. He no doubt disapproved of some of his actions as too impulsive or precipitate and in the published text has left out a few indications of his disagreement with or approval of Mr. Nehru’s actions. He used to, say that Mr. Nehru has so many merits Nd is so genuine a servant of India that his few demerits should not be stressed specially in his lifetime. Anything which weakened Mr. Nehru’s standing was to his mind harmful to the national interest. At th same time, he felt that the future historians should have some information of these failings of Mr. Nehru and left them in this unexpurgated version of the autobiography.

It was Maulana Azad’s wish that these passages should be included in his autobiography after the papers have been released to the publisher.

Humayun Kabir, New Delhi, 2 April 1958

The work in connection with this book has been for me a labour of love and I shall feel happy if it helps in forwarding an object that was very dear to Maulana Azad’s  heart. This is the promotion of greater understanding among the different Indian communities as a first step towards greater understanding among people’s of the world. He also wished that the people of India and Pakistan should look upon one another as friends and neighbours. He regarded the Indian Council for Cultural Relations as an instrument for the achievement of this object an in his Presidential Address to the Council–his last prepared and printed speech– he made a fervent appeal for the strengthening of the bonds of understanding and sympathy between the people of these two States which till only a decade ago had been one undivided country. I feel that there can be no better use of any income derived from this book than to make it available to the Council for promoting better understanding among the different communities which live in India and Pakistan.

Before I conclude, i wish to make one thing perfectly clear. There are opinions and judgements in this book with which I do not agree but sin e my function was only to record Maulana Azad’s  findings, it would have highly improper to let my views colour the narrative. When he was alive, I often expressed my differences to him, and with the open-mindedness which was so strong an element in his nature, he has T times modified his views to meet my criticisms. At other times, he s lied in his characteristic way and said, “These are my views and surely I have the right to express them as I will.” now that he is no more, his views must stand in the form in which he left them.

It is difficult for any man to reflect with complete accuracy the views and opinions of another. Even when both use the same language, the change of one word may alter the emphasis and bring about a subtle difference in th shade of meaning. The difference in the genius of Urdu and English makes the task of interpreting Maulana Azad’s thoughts still more difficult. Urdu like all other Indian languages is rich, colourful and vigorous. English, on the other hand,is essentially a language of understatement. And when the speaker is a master of Urdu like Maulana Azad, the plight of the writer who seeks to express his thoughts in English can easily be imagined. In spite of these difficulties, I have tried to reflect as faithfully as I could the views of Maulana Azad, and. I regard myself S richly rewarded. Y the fact that the text had met with his approval.

Humayun Kabir, New Delhi, 15 March 1958

Humayun Kabir (1906-1969): after a distinguished academic career at the Calcutta and Oxford Universities, he served as a lecturer, first at the Andhra University at Waltair and then at Calcutta University, 1933-45. In 1937 he was elected to the Bengal Legislature Council as leader of the Peasants Party. In 1946 Azad selected him to serve as his secretary and he was therefore closely associated with Azad. He served as Educational Adviser to the Government of India until 1956 when he resigned and was elected to Parliament as a  member of the Congress Party in 1957. He was appointed Minister for Civil Aviation (1957-58), for Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs (1958-63), and for Petroleum and Chemicals (1963-68). The author of more than twenty books in English and Bangla on philosophy, literature, politics and culture, he also published two novels and three volumes of verse.

Courtesy of:

Orient Longman Private Ltd., Hyderabad India 1959




The Pakistan Paradox


Pakistan focuses the concern of quite a few chancelleries and international organizations today. Not only is it a nation that possesses nuclear weapons without having a stable political system, the military having held the reins of power on a number of occasions since independence in 1947, but is also wracked by Islamist forces, many of which have links with the Afghan Taliban, Al Qaeda and possibly the Islamic State. A serious compounding factor, the civil and especially the military authorities show considerable ambivalence with regard to certain Islamist groups that they view as allies against India in Kashmir, but also in Afghanistan, where NATO, now on its way out, has been mired in war since 2001 against the Taliban and groups based in Pakistan where Al Qaeda leaders are suspected of hiding.

Western fears about Pakistan have, however, been a poor advisor for sociological and political analysis, portrayals of the country too often being oversimplified. This is not to say that certain trends are not alarming, but in attempting to explain them, it is important to discard preconceived notions and avoid culturist conflations. The present book sets out to decipher this complexity. It is not a work of field research per se, but an essay based over fifteen years of familiarity with Pakistan.

The new nation was thus born with an image of India as a villain, a Satan, and a monster next door, out to devour the newborn state (Mohammad Waseem, Politics and the State in Pakistan, Islamabad, National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, 1994, p.99)

 Since the beginning, Pakistan has been confronted with the monumental task of formulating a national identity distinct from India. Born out of a schism of the old civilization of India, Pakistan has debated over the construction of a culture of its own, a culture which will not only be different from that of India but one that the rest of the world can understand. (M. Ali, “In Search of Identity”, Dawn Magazine, 7 May 2000).

As the two excerpts above indicate, Pakistan was born of a partition that overdetermined its subsequent trajectory not only because of the difficult relations it developed with India, but also because this parting of ways defined the terms of its collective quest for identity. Indeed, the 1947 Partition was the outcome of an intense struggle as well as a trauma. It grew out of a separatist ideology which crystallized at the end of the nineteenth century among the Urdu-speaking Muslim intelligentsia of North India, whose key figure was none other than Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder in 1877 of the Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College in Aligarh, a little town not far from Delhi. The Aligarh movement–as it was to be remembered in history–turned to politics in the early decades of the twentieth century when it became the crucible of the Muslim League. This party, founded in 1906, was then separatist in the sense that it obtained from the British Raj, a separate electorate for the Indian Muslims. The demand for a separate state emerged much later, in the 1940s, under the auspices of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, although in formulating it he did not outline contours of the future Pakistan until the last year of the Raj, nor did he fully grasp the traumatic implications Partition would have.


The 1947 Partition resulted in unprecedented violence. One million people died and about ten million others, crossed borders. The plural is in fact required here because Pakistan was then made up of two wings (and therefore had two borders with India), the two areas of the Raj where Muslims were in majority. East Pakistan (made up of East Bengal) and West Pakistan (made up of West Punjab, Sindh, the North West Frontier Province, the area that was to become Baluchistan, and a few princely states). Violence and migration were of such magnitude that this tragic episode can be regarded as the first example of ethnic cleansing in history (indeed, the word safai, cleaning was used at that time by the local actors). Not only millions of Muslims from East Punjab and Hindus from East Bengal crossed over and settled down in the western part of their now truncated former province, but Muslims and Hindus of both countries took refuge in the country where their community was a majority. The circumstances in which Pakistan was born are thus largely responsible not only for the way it has related to India, but also for its complicated trajectory.

Three Wars, Three Constitutions and Three Coups

The history of Pakistan over the last sixty-five years had been marked by chronic instability due to internal and external factors. In 1947, the British awarded Pakistan the status of a dominion. Under the aegis of M.A. Jinnah, the new Governor General, the 1935 Government of India Act became its interim constitution, minus its initial references to imperial control. It would take nine years for the country to give itself a constitution. In the course of this endeavour, political parties eventually lost the initiative as a result of their own internal divisions and the hunger for power of senior bureaucrats. In 1954, one of them, Ghulam Mohammad, the then Governor General who had taken over from Khwaja Nazimuddin, the successor of Jinnah (who had died in September 1948), dissolved the Constituent Assembly (with the consent of the Supreme Court) and had another one elected. The 1956 Constitution was not particularly democratic, but it could not be fully implemented anyway since another bureaucrat Iskander Mirza, and then the Commander-in-Chief of the army, Ayub Khan, seized power in 1958. Till 1969, the latter established a military regime that claimed to modernize Pakistan in the framework of Martial Law and then, after 1962, of a new constitution. This second constitution was authoritarian, but did not completely disregard political pluralism, especially after 1965 when Ayub Khan further liberalized his regime. But eventually, after months of unrest, he had to resign in favour of another general, the chief of the army, Yahya Khan in 1969.

By the end of 1970, Yahya Khan, having few other options, gave Pakistan its first opportunity to vote. The Bengalis of East Pakistan seized it to win the elections by massively supporting the Awami League, a party whose nationalism had been exacerbated by years of exploitation under the thumb of West Pakistan. Its leader, Mujibur Rahman asked for a confederal system that would give East Pakistan considerable autonomy. But almost all West Pakistanis–including the winner of elections in Punjab and Sindh, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)- rejected this option and supported repression. Civil war ensued and resulted in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971-after a military intervention of India, New Delhi arguing that violence and flow of refugees to West Bengal had to stop.

The arrival in power of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to whom Yahya Khan handed the reins in 1971, marked the beginning of the first democratic transition. Not only was the army subjected to a civilian government, but a third parliamentarian Constitution was promulgated in 1973. However, Bhutto displayed such authoritarian tendencies that the federal dimension of this text was stillborn and the social reforms (including land reform) that the PPP had promised were not truly implemented. Finally Bhutto rigged the 1977 election, a move that resulted in mass protests from the opposition. These events provided the army with an excuse to seize power once again led by General Ziaul Haq.

The second military coup gave birth to a dictatorial regime and even a police state: in contrast to the Ayub years, scores of politicians were sent to jail, opponents were tortured, and Bhutto was even executed in 1979. Zia also instrumentalised Islam in order to legitimize his rule. His Islamization policy affected all areas of life: education (with development of Quranic schools), law (with the setting of Sharia courts), and the fiscal system (with the transformation of zakat and ushr into compulsory state coordinated contributions). This policy gained momentum in the context of a new kind of war: the anti-Soviet jihad from 1979-88 in Afghanistan, its foot soldiers being mostly the Afghan Mujahideen who had found refuge in Pakistan. While Zia, like Ayub Khan resigned himself to seeking the support of Pakistani citizens through elections, he never gave up his uniform and it was not until his mysterious death in 1988 that Pakistan’s second democratic transition became possible.

This transition was not as substantial as the first one. While the generals returned to their barracks, they continued to be in charge of key policies regarding Afghanistan, Kashmir (India at large) and defense (including the nuclear program. They were also in a position to oust prime ministers one after another between 1988-99. Benazir Bhutto who had won the 1988 elections, benefitting from the PPP political machine and her family’s prestige-partly based on her father’s martyrdom--was the first prime minister to be dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in the 1990s. She was replaced by her archenemy, Nawaz Sharif, after army supervised elections in 1990. But Sharif alienated Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the army as well. He was dismissed in 1993 and replaced by Benazir again. She herself was eased out in 1996, this time by the President Farooq Leghari, enabling Nawaz Sharif to stage a comeback. The 1997 elections were different from the three previous ones because they gave Sharif’s party, the PML(N), the two-thirds majority that allows the prime minister to reform the Constitution: the thirteenth amendment re-established the parliamentary nature of the Constitution and deprived the president of the power to dismiss the prime minister and to dissolve both the national and provincial assemblies. But Sharif misused power. He did not respect either the independence of the judiciary or freedom of press. Furthermore, he alienated the army-including the chief of the army, Pervez Musharraf–by bowing to American pressures during the Kargil war.

In October 1999, Musharraf’s coup brought the army back into power. He then militarized the state and the economy more than his predecessors. Not only were (ex-) army officers appointed to positions normally reserved for civilians, but their business activities benefited from the patronage of the state more than ever before. While Zia had profited from the anti-Soviet US-sponsored war in Afghanistan, Musharraf exploited the fact that Pakistan had become a frontline state again during the war the US once again sponsored this time against the Taliban and Al Qaeda after the 11 September attacks in 2001. While Musharraf–like Ayub Khan-was ousted from power in 2007-08 in the wake of street demonstrations, those who protested so effectively this time were affiliated with a specific institution, the judiciary-hence the fear of ‘a government of judges” expressed by supporters of parliamentarianism after democracy was restored,

The 2008 elections brought back the same parties-and the same families, the Bhuttos and the Sharifs, both freshly returned from exile-as in the 1980s-90s. Benazir was assassinated in December 2007, but her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, was elected as President after the PPP won the 2008 elections. The new government, with the support of key opposition parties, restored the parliamentary nature of the 1973 Constitution that Musharraf, like Zia had presidentialised. Not only federalism but also the independence of the judiciary were at last in a position to prevail. However, the civilians failed to reassert their authority over the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the military intelligence agency that since the 1980s has become a state within the state, and the army retained the upper hand on key policies such as relations with the Taliban, the Kashmir issue and the nuclear program. The army justified its role by arguing that the country was facing huge challenges ranging from the unleashing of ethno-nationalist violence in Baluchistan and Karachi to the rise of both sectarian and jihadi Islamist movements, some of which were affiliated with Al Qaeda and attacked the Pakistan state because of its association with the US in the global war on terror.

However, the escalation of violence did not prevent Parliament from completing its five year term in March 2013 and citizens from voting in large numbers two months later, mostly in favour of Nawaz Sharif, who in June became the prime minister for the third time.

The alternation of phases of democratization and military rule every ten years or so is not the only the source of instability in Pakistan. The recurrence of armed conflict is another cause. Some of these conflicts come under the category of civil war, such as the 1970-71 in Bengal or during the 1973-77 insurgency in Baluchistan-and the war that started in the mid 2000s in that area, Others have primarily opposed Pakistan and India, overtly or covertly. As early as 1947-48, both countries fought each other in Kashmir. In 1965, Pakistan attacked India, whereas in 1971, the conflict was a sequel to the the movement for Bangladesh. The most recent conflict, the 1999 Kargil war (named after a town in Jammu and Kashmir) was short and circumscribed.

Thus the number of military coups (three-four if one includes Yahya Khan’s martial law episode in 1969-70) is equal to the number of wars with India (three-four if one includes the Kargil war). This is not just by chance. In fact, Pakistan’s political instability is to some degree overdetermined by the regional context, and more especially by the sentiment of vulnerability of Pakistan vis a vis India.

Between India and Afghanistan: Caught in a Pincer Movement?

In the beginning, this sentiment (which would be exploited by the army subsequently) stemmed from the conditions in which Partition took place. Pakistan resented the slow and incomplete manner in which India gave the country its share of the military equipment and the treasury of the defunct British Raj. Pakistan also felt cheated by the way the Kashmir question was settled. On 15 August 1947, Jammu and Kashmir was one of the last princely states that was still undecided about its future. The Maharaja-a Hindu-and the main party-the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference-were not willing to join Pakistan in spite of the fact that the state was comprised of a majority of Muslim subjects. But they did not support accession to India either, fearing Pakistani retaliation.*

*Jammu and Kashmir was largely connected to the rest of India via roads which had now become a part of Pakistan.

On 22 October 1947, 5000 paramilitaries from the Pashtun tribal belt who were not in uniform but were supported by Pakistani officers infiltrated Jammu and Kashmir and established a parallel government ( the government of Azad Kashmir-free Kashmir) while they were approaching Srinagar, the state capital.*

The Pakistan army formally entered the war in April 1948.

The Maharajah turned to India and Nehru sent troops on 27 October. Three days later, the government of Pakistan deployed its own soldiers, but India’s military superiority enabled New Delhi not only to retain the Valley of Srinagar, but also to reconquer key positions such a Baramulla. Certainly, when the matter was brought before the UN Security Council, India was asked to organize a referendum in Jammu and Kashmir to let the local people decide whether they wanted to remain part of the Indian Union or not. But this referendum was supposed to take place after the withdrawal of Pakistan’s troops-which did not occur. In fact the Line of Ceasefire that was officially agreed in the truce signed on 1 January 1949 gave Pakistan control of a fraction of the erstwhile princely state that was divided in two. Azad Kashmir and the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, which were amalgamated to form the Northern Areas. These regions were directly administered by the central government. Most Pakistanis considered that without Kashmir as part of their country, Partition remained unachieved.

Furthermore, some of them feared that India had not resigned itself to the very fact of Partition and that New Delhi would try to reunite with the subcontinent one day or another. Not only did the Hindu nationalists dream of Akhand Bharat (undivided India), but statements made by a few Congress leaders lent themselves to a similar interpretation. Party President, Acharya Kripalani declared in 1947, Neither the Congress nor the nation has given up its claim of a united India. Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel concurred when he said, Sooner than later, we shall again be united in common allegiance to our country.*

*Cited in Muhammad Ayub Khan, Friends not Masters. A Political Autobiography, Karachi, Oxford University Press, 1967 p.136. The very fact that Ayub cites them in his autobiography shows that one of Pakistan’s most important leaders believed these words to be true and/or used them to cultivate obsessive fears in his own country. Patel, according to another minister of the Indian government, Abdul Kalam Azad, was “convinced that the new State of Pakistan was not viable and could not last”-even though, “he was the greatest supporter of partition” among Congressmen, “out of irritation and injured vanity” (Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom, Hyderabad, Orient Longman 1988, p.225). Nehru himself at one point mentioned the possibility of creating a “confederation” between India and Pakistan, something the Pakistanis found utterly unacceptable (cited in Aparna Pande, Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, London and New York, Routledge, 2011, p.30).

The fear of India was reinforced by an encirclement complex due to the attitude demonstrated by Afghanistan. In the early 1940s, the Kabul Government had asked the British upon their departure to allow the Pashtun tribes of the Raj to choose between claiming independence and becoming part of Afghanistan. Pakistan was not an option. At the same time, the Muslim League was disturbed by Kabul’s unwillingness to recognize the Durand Line as an international border. In 1947, this attitude prevented the Pakistanis from having distinct borders, its territory not being clearly defined (or stabilized)on the eastern side either. These difficulties harked back to the pervasiveness of Pashtun nationalism on both sides of the Durand Line. Certainly, this nationalism remained fuzzy. It was not clear whether its supporters were in favour of a separate country made up of Pashtun tribes or whether they were willing to incorporate Pakistan’s Pashtuns into Afghanistan. Whatever their agenda, it was bound to undermine the project of Pakistan’s founders. The latter felt especially threatened because Pashtun nationalists developed excellent relations with India. The main architect of Pashtun nationalism under the Raj in the North West Frontier Province, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, was a staunch supporter of the Congress and was known as “Frontier Gandhi” because of his close relationship to the Mahatma.

In June 1947, Afghan Prime Minister Muhammad Hashim Khan declared, if an independent Pukhtoonistan cannot be established, then the Frontier Province should join Afghanistan. Neither of these options came about and so in September 1947, Afghanistan was the only country that voted against Pakistan’s admission to the UN. The Afghan representative to the UN declared then declared that his country could not recognize the North West Frontier as part of Pakistan so long as the people of the North West Frontier have not been given the opportunity free from any kind of influence-I repeat, free from any kind of influence–to determine for themselves whether they wish to be independent or to become a part of Pakistan.*

*cited in the Aparna Pande, Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy.

One month later, Afghanistan softened its stance but made three demands in exchange: that the Pashtuns of Pakistan should be granted a proper province, that Pakistan should give Afghanistan access to the sea, and that both countries should sign a treaty according to which they agreed to remain neutral if one of them fought a war against a third country. None of these demands were met.

The leaders of Pakistan were convinced that Kabul and New Delhi tried to take their country in a pincer movement, as Ayub Khan confided in his autobiography. Indeed, in 1949, at a time when Afghanistan formally rejected the Durand Line, many Indian cities celebrated Pashtunistan Day, which Kabul had decided to celebrate every year on 31 August.

The Paradox

The fear of encirclement, and more especially of India, partly explains the role of the Pakistani army in the public sphere. Indeed, the military could project themselves as the saviours of a vulnerable country, and this argument was likely to appear even more convincing in the post-jinnah context when the political personnel looked weak, factionalized and corrupt. But there are other factors to the democratic deficit affecting Pakistan since the 1950s. To make sense of it, one needs to understand the way civilians related to power. Pakistani politicians not only occasionally collaborated with military rulers, compromising their reputation, but when they were in charge of the government they also tended to display authoritarian tendencies. Bhutto rigged the 1977 elections and many of his successors as prime ministers showed little respect for the independence of the judiciary and sometimes even for freedom of the press.

Pakistan’s democratic deficit can also be measured by the centralization of the state. Even when a federal constitution was (re-) introduced, the provinces were never given the autonomy they demanded, whereas almost all of them-East Bengal, West Punjab, Sindh and the NWFP—had experienced form of self-administration under the Raj and coincided by and large with an ethnic-linguistic group.

Centralization, once again may be explained by the need for a strong unified state to face India. However, on that front too, one should not focus mainly on this external factor. Certainly, the 1940 Lahore resolution through which the Muslim League officially spelled out its separatist agenda, recognized a prominent role for the provinces of the country envisioned, but their autonomy was drastically reduced as early as 1946 in the last pre-Partition blueprint of Pakistan as Jinnah imagined it. And in 1947, the citizens of the new country were required to identify not only with one religion-Islam-but also with one language-Urdu, an idiom that became the country’s official tongue even though it was spoken only by a small minority.

These developments reflected sociological dynamics. The idea of Pakistan was primarily conceived by an Urdu-speaking upper caste elite group fearing social decline. Made up of aristocratic literati, this group embodied the legacy (and the nostalgia) of the Mughal Empire. Their ancestors had prospered thanks to land and administrative status the emperors had given them between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. But in the nineteenth century, colonization called the privileges into question, not only because the British took over power from some of the Muslim rulers, but also because they did not trust the Muslims (who were seen as the former dominant group) as much as they did the Hindus.

Furthermore, the Hindus asserted themselves at the expense of Muslims because of their growing role in the economy (through trade and then industrial activities), because of their adhesion to the university system, which resulted in their increasingly important role in the administration, and because of their political influence that developed parallel to the democratization of the Raj almost in proportion to their numbers. The separatism of the Urdu-speaking elite crystallized in this context in the nineteenth century and was subsequently exacerbated (especially in the (1930s-1940s) in reaction to the fear of losing their traditional status-eventually prompting them to work towards obtaining a state to govern. The Muslim League leaders argued that they demanded Pakistan to protect Islam from Hinduism, but they also(and more importantly) did it to protect their interests from the growing influence of the Hindus,

The following pages will elaborate on this sociological interpretation of the Pakistan project, which is not new. Hamza’s Alavi developed a similar analysis In the 1970s-1980s at a time when Paul Brass argues in a similar vein that the League’s claim that Islam was in danger in the 1939s-40s was a political ploy used by elite groups to mobilize Muslim masses in support of their idea of Pakistan. But the present book’s approach is less Marxist than Alavi’s reading and less instrumentalist than Brass’s interpretation for the simple reason that it emphasizes the weight of the cultural and societal parameters that defined the mentality of the Muslim elite during the Raj.* More importantly, this book offers a reading of the Pakistan trajectory that focuses on the implications of these sociological factors for the country since its creation.

*Regarding Alavi’s approach, it may be sufficient to say that his definition of the “salariat”-the key actor behind the Pakistan project in Alavi’s view-is too restrictive. As will be shown, the idea of Pakistan was crafted by an intelligentsia that was not only motivated by vested interests, but by a specific upper caste Islamic culture. This is why an interpretation of Muslim separatism in terms of class needs to be supplemented by an analysis taking societal dimensions into account.

The history of Pakistan has been overdetermined by three sets of tensions all rooted in contradictions that were already apparent in the 1940s. The first one can be summarized by the equation Pakistan = Islam + Urdu. While all the ethnic groups of Pakistan could identify with one variant or another of Islam, they could not easily give up their linguistic identity, all the more because it often epitomized full-fledged national sentiments (or movements). Hence a first contradiction between the central (ising) government and centrifugal forces (which sometimes have given rise to separatist movements).

The second tension pertains to another form of concentration of power that the army officers and the politicians have developed over the course of time. Indeed, from the 1950s onwards, Pakistani society has been in the clutches of a civil-military establishment which has cultivated the legacy of the pre-Partition Muslim League in the sense that it was primarily interested in protecting its interests and dominant status. The elitist rationale of the Pakistan idea therefore resulted in social conservatism and the persistence of huge inequalities. Certainly, some politicians have fought for democracy, but they have never managed to dislodge from power a very well entrenched civil-military establishment and promote progressive reforms in a decisive manner-either because they were co-opted or because they eventually turned out to be autocrats themselves. In fact, some of the main opposition forces to the system that have emerged have been the judiciary (when the Supreme Court had the courage to rise to the occasion), civil society movements (including the media) and the islamists. In the absence of a credible political alternative within the institutional framework, the tensions that have developed have been especially radical. What has been at stake in most crisis that Pakistan has experienced has been the regime itself, not only in political terms, but also, sometimes in social terms.

The role of Islam in the public sphere is the root cause of the third contradiction. Jinnah looked at it as a culture and considered the Muslims of the Raj as a community that needed to be protected. They were supposed to be on a par with the members of the religious minorities in the Republic to be built. His rhetoric, therefore, had a multicultural overtone. On the contrary, clerics and fundamentalist groups wanted to create an Islamic state where the members of the minorities would be second-class citizens. Until the 1970s, the first approach tended to prevail. But in the 1970s the Islamist lobby (whose political parties never won more than one-tenth of the votes) exerted increasingly strong pressure. It could assert itself at that time partly because of circumstances. First, the trauma of the1971 war led the country to look for a return to its ethno-religious roots.second, the use of religion was part of Z.A. Bhutto’s populist ideology, which associated socialism with Islam. Third, Zia also used religion to legitimize his power and to find allies among the islamists.

The promotion of Islam by Bhutto and Zia was partly due to external factors as well. The former supported Afghan Islamists who were likely-so he thought-to destabilize the Pashtun nationalist government of Kabul. The latter backed the same Afghan leaders and other mujahideen (including Arab groups like Al Qaeda) against the Soviets in order to make the Pakistan army’s presence felt in Afghanistan and thereby gain strategic depth vis a vis India. Zia’s Islamization policy also (re) activated the conflict between Sunnis and Shias, an opposition that was exacerbated by another external factor: the proxy war that Iran and Saudi Arabia fought in Pakistan from the 1980s onwards.

The critical implications of the legacy of Zia’s Islamization—which also resulted in the massive infiltration of jihadis in Kashmir in the 1990s—became clear after 9/11 when the US forced the Pakistan state to fight not only Al Qaeda but also the Taliban and the Islamist groups that the ISI had used so far in Indian Kashmir and elsewhere. In response, these groups turned their guns towards the Pakistani army, its former patron, and intensified their fight against their traditional targets, the Shias and non-Muslim communities, creating an atmosphere of civil war.

The three contradictions just reviewed provide a three part structure to this book, which is therefore not organized chronologically. This thematic framework is intended to enhance our understanding of the Pakistan paradox. Indeed, so far, none of the consubstantial contradictions of Pakistan mentioned above has had the power to destroy the country. In spite of the chronic instability that they have created. Pakistan continues to show remarkable resilience. This can only be understood if one makes the effort to grasp the complexity of a country that is often caricatured. This is the reason why all sides of three tensions, around which this book is organized, must be considered together: the centrifugal forces at work in Pakistan and those resisting on behalf of Pakistan nationalism and provincial autonomy; the culture of authoritarianism and the resources of democracy; the Islamist agenda, and those who are fighting it on behalf of secularism or “Muslimhood” a la Jinnah. The final picture may result in a set, not of contradictions, but of paradoxes in which virtually antagonistic elements cohabit. But whether that is sufficient to contain instability remains to be seen.

Courtesy of: 

IMG_1069 (1)

Nationalism without a Nation and even without a People?

After sixty-one years of its existence, Pakistan has gone from a ‘nation’ searching for a country to a country searching for a nation (Lal Khan, Pakistan’s Other Story, Lahore, The Struggle Publications, 2008 p.298).

Nationalism is a modern ideology that was yet unknown in mid-nineteenth century British India when the first signs of separatist trends that would give birth to a Pakistan crystallized. The Muslims were even less an exception to the rule as, despite their relatively small numbers—they made up one-fifth of the population of the Raj— they were wracked by both religious and social divisions.

Which Islam (s)?
Regarding religion, diversity among Muslims tended to be underestimated in British India as elsewhere due to a dominant analysis of Islam in purely scriptural terms. Differences are easily levelled when the fundamental theological and philosophical principles that can be said to constitute the core of Islamic faith are enshrined in a single scriptural source and are supposed to be universally adhered to by all those who call themselves Muslims. From such a standpoint, it is easy to define a Muslim based on the pillars of Islam:

1. Shahada (professing faith in Prophet Muhammad as enshrined in the Quran)
2. Daily prayers
3. Fasting for Ramadan
4. Zakat (almsgiving)
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca.

But this interpretation reflects a classic bias consisting of understanding a culture or civilization through what Robert Redfield called the great tradition.

In British India more than anywhere else perhaps, the little Muslim tradition, that of the people and not of the clerics, was highly complex and partly syncretic. More so it readily made room for seemingly heterodox elements such as the cult of saints or possession rites, in which certain trances had a curative purpose akin to exorcism.

This heterogeneity owed much to India’s distance from the Islamic crucible in the Middle East, both from a geographic and cultural standpoint. Not only was Islam transformed on arriving in India through contact with Turkish and Iranian influences, but Indic civilization was extremely foreign to it. Since it was unable to take over entirely, its followers and promoters were obliged to adapt—as elsewhere, like in Indonesia for instance. This adjustment resulted in various types of synthesis, the Sufi phenomenon being one of the more striking of them.

Sufism took on considerable importance in India due to its affinities with the Hindu ideal of asceticism. Its main figures attracted a number of followers, mostly from the lower strata of Indian society, and allowed a particular form of Islam to assert itself. This popular congregation-based Islam established the cult of saints and institutionalized dargahs—places of retreat of the holy men and later their tombs and shrines—which became places of pilgrimage. In the sixteenth century, under Akbar’s reign, the ulema declared that the pilgrimage to Mecca was no longer an obligation, while pilgrimage to shrines of Sufi saints was spreading.

Among the congregations, the Chishtis became one of the most popular. Established in India in the late twelfth century by Khwaja Muinud-din Chishti, a native of Sajistan (at the crosswords of contemporary Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan), its epicentre soon became the Dargah of Ajmer (Rajasthan) where the founder of the Chishti order had moved and was buried. This Sufi order owed its influence—including among Hindus devotees—to the ascetic nature of the Chishti line that has come down through time. Other congregations on the contrary would become associated with the government, such as the Suhrawardis who would obtain benefits in kind (land in particular). Still others, such as the Naqshabandis, originating from Central Asia, would not only develop close relations with the authorities, but also show a sense of orthodoxy that resulted in hostile reactions to the Hindus—and the Shias.

Aside from the Sufi orders, other sects constantly developed within Indian Islam. The Muslims of the subcontinent first brought with them one of the structuring divisions of Middle Eastern Islam, the opposition between Sunnis and Shias. This schism for a long time remained latent, probably due to a strong demographic imbalance, the latter being only a small minority. But the political and social influence of this group should not be underestimated. Among them were many landowners as well as major dynasties such as the one that ruled over the Awadh kingdom in Lucknow until the mid-nineteenth century.

Among the Shias, the Ismailis mainly settled in western India, in Gujarat and the Bombay region. The Bohras formed the largest group among them. They recognize Ali as successor to the Prophet, but-like other–they diverged from the Twelvers after the death of the sixth Imam in AD 765, considering that his elder son, Ismail (and not his second son) should have taken over from him. Paying allegiance to the Cairo-based Fatimid Caliphate, they established their own church. Bohras experienced a schism in the sixteenth century that spawned two groups, the Dawoodi Bohras and the Sulaimani Bohras. While the latter would remain in the Middle East, the former migrated to India in 1539 and adopted a separate leader, the Syedna, to whom they paid full allegiance (and taxes). There, they attracted Hindus—including Brahmins—in relatively large numbers. Bohras have adopted a dress code that makes them easily identifiable. Other Ismailis coming from the Middle East, the Khojas, followed a partly similar trajectory. When they migrated to India in the twelfth century, their leader the Aga Khan-who claims to descend from Ali-remained in Persia till the nineteenth century, when they moved to India as well. Like the Bohras, the Khojas are mostly converts from Hinduism, but they have primarily attracted members of merchant castes such as the Bhatias (whose marriage customs they have retained). Muhammad Ali Jinnah-who married a Parsi-was born in a Khoja, business family.

The creation of new sects has continued into the modern era. In the late nineteenth century for instance, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1915) founded a movement known either by his namesake Ahmadi, or after his place of birth, Qadian, in Gurdaspur district in Punjab. This man claimed to be the new Messiah, contradicting the Muslim belief that Muhammad was the last Prophet. At his death, his disciples numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

Although the Ahmadis were recruited among various castes, the Bohras and the Khojas, as mentioned above, came from Brahmin castes and merchant castes-and continued to pursue some of their caste-related activities after having left Hinduism. The coincidence of caste and sect is not rare in Indian Islam. This is the case of Memons. Originating with the conversion of one Hindu merchant caste, the Lohanas, in Gujarat by a Sufi saint in 1400, the Memons finally settled in Bombay in the early seventeenth century, where they prospered in trade and industry while maintaining a separate religious identity. At the other end of the social scale, the Moplas were Muslim peasants from Kerala who descended from the early Arab migrants settled on the Malabar Coast starting in the eight century. Exploited by the Hindu landowners, the Moplas were known for their frequent uprisings–the jacquerie of 1836 being the most famous of a long series of them. An ethnic community speaking its own language, Malayalam-which gave rise to a literature written in Arabic, Mappila Pattu-the Moplas also have their own priests, Musaliyars.

Castes and Tribes
Despite the egalitarian values that Islam professes to promote, at least since the Raj which reified social categories, the Muslims of South Asia form a hierarchical community, be they part of caste-based milieus or of the tribal world-or even a combination of the two. * The fact that the mechanisms of the caste and tribe overlap is not so surprising since caste implies endogamous practices that flow from relations of kinship also characteristic of tribes.

*In his seminal work on the Pashtuns, Barth shows that their predominantly tribal universe allows for caste practices in the Swat Valley. (Frederick Barth, Political Leadership among the Swat Pathans, London, The Athlone Press,1965).

The Pashtun tribal structures are based on a segmentary lineage system, each tribe comprising clans, sub clans and still smaller kin groups claiming that they descend from a common ancestor. Social hierarchies in this milieu have traditionally been fluid since they rely on the observance of (or disregard for) a code of honour, Pashtunwali, based on—among other things—righteousness and courage (for instance in seeking justice—a quest which has resulted in cycles of family-related vendettas). Tribal chiefs were men who best complied with life-style and displayed leadership qualities— hence the notion of individual captaincy emphasized by Frederick Barth. As a result, they received the title of Khan, whereas those who came under them were usually known as Maliks. Yet, Khans, were primus inter pares who could lose their status if their personal qualities eroded—and if rivals joined forces to dislodge them from power. The theoretically impermanent character of these hierarchies reflected the fundamentally egalitarian nature of Pashtun social order that was evident from the modus operandi of the jirgas, the plenary assemblies convened when an important issue had to be sorted out collectively. Certainly, only those who had inherited land were allowed to take part in jirgas, but land was regularly redistributed to prevent the best plots from remaining with the same families forever. This basically egalitarian system known as wesh was spoiled by the British when they recognized property rights of the big Khans. They did so to promote a group of landlords on whom they could rely to establish their authority via indirect rule. This policy, which took shape at the expense of small Khans precipitated the decline of the jirga culture. The big Khans henceforth exerted decisive influence in the assemblies thanks to the protection of the British, to whom they paid allegiance in return. Pashtun society had become (more) hierarchical.

Baloch society was also structured along somewhat similar tribal segmentary lineages during the Raj, but in a rather more inclusive perspective. Indeed, Baloch tribes were the by-products of migrations dating back to the sixteenth century. When the British Raj established authority over the Baloch area, at the confluence of today’s Pakistan and Iran, these tribes had already amalgamated groups coming from Iran as well as Pashtuns, Sindhis and Punjabis. Hence their resilient multilingual character and the fact that language has never been a distinctive cultural feature of the Baloch. Their unity came more from endogamous practices and their solidarity against others when they came under attack. Hierarchies were also more marked than on the Pashtun side right from the beginning because of the authority of Khans and Sardars who dominated the jirgas.

While tribes prevail west of the Indus, caste hierarchies play a dominant role in Punjab and Sindh, two regions more directly connected to Indian civilization. The caste system which originated in the Hindu world is based on three complementary criteria:

• The relation of purity and impurity, Brahmins of the top hierarchy embodying the first pole and Untouchables, at the extreme, representing the epitome of impurity in the social sphere.
• Professional specialization, each caste being traditionally associated with a socio-economic activity linked to its status.
• Caste endogamy, which perpetuates the social structure over time, each caste providing the frame of a closed marriage market.

Indian Islam softened the contours of this system without really questioning it. The most discriminating criterion of the Hindu caste hierarchy, the relation to purity and impurity, has generally not been as preponderant among the Indian Muslims as among the Hindus. As a result, upper caste and lower caste Muslims could generally attend the mosque together. But the Arzals (former Untouchable converts) usually remain excluded from it unless they remain on the steps outside. Similarly, they could read the Quran but not teach it.

Although observance of the relation to purity and impurity is less systematic in Muslim circles than in Hinduism, Indian Islam has established a social stratification based on geographic origin that is nearly as strict. The so-called noble (Ashraf) upper castes are made up of descendants of Muslims who (allegedly) migrated to India from abroad, whereas those who converted to Islam after it spread throughout Indian territory make up the two lower categories, the Ajlafs (lower castes) and the Arzals (formerly Untouchables) *.

*This rule is subject to many exceptions; some upper castes having gone from Hinduism to Islam without a drop-in status. Such is the case of Rajput castes in North India, for instance.

The first are subdivided into three categories in which are found:

1. those of Middle Eastern extraction (the Syeds who claim descent from the Prophet and the Shaikhs who say they have roots in Mecca and Medina),
2. those claiming a Central Asian, and particularly Afghan, lineage, the Pathans (or Pashtuns) and
3. last, the Mughals who claim Turkic or Tartar origins. *

*Few, the Mughals are concentrated in Rohilkhand, a region on the Ganges plain.

The Rajputs (a high Hindu warrior caste) are the only converts who are part of the social elite. The others are part of the Ajlafs when they are of Shudra origin, which is most usually the case. These were lower caste Hindus primarily cultivators and artisans who converted to Islam in the vain hope of escaping an oppressive social system. Most of them are weavers (Julaha or Momins). The Arzals are the descendants of Hindu Dalits who followed the same route with the same result. Among them are mainly sweepers (Bhangis in Sindh and Churas in Punjab) to whom are assigned the most thankless cleaning tasks.

Traditionally, these status groups often matched caste-specific jobs and were more reminiscent of the Hindu hierarchy as many indian Muslims came from this religion. The Syeds and Shaikhs, like the Brahmins, were scholars occupying positions of power in the traditional state apparatus; the Pathans—reminiscent of Hindu Kshatriyas-dominate the military (more so since the British saw them as a martial race and recruited them into the army in great numbers). As for the Memons, Bohras and Khojas, they usually ran business. The Ajlafs have remained cultivators and artisans—a particularly high number of weavers converted by entire caste. As for the Arzals, they formed a populace that can be exploited at will—and still do.

These social divisions go together with a legacy of strong geographic contrasts. A brief comparison between the Muslims of Bengal, those of the Gangetic Plain and those of Punjab suffices to illustrate the point. The first, primarily a result of mass conversion of castes of Hindu peasants, remained traditionally at the bottom of the social pyramid, even when the ruling dynasties were of Islamic faith. Not only were the Muslims of Bengal less numerous in urban centres—such as Calcutta— but in the countryside they were often under the command of Hindu landowners. At the other geographic extreme of India in Punjab—another predominantly Muslim province, like Bengal—the Muslims were also predominantly rural, Hindu merchants and intelligentsia dominating in the cities. But Punjab which warrants attention because of the key role it will play in Pakistan*—in contrast to Bengal, experiences some radical changes under the Raj. The British who were grateful to the Muslims of Punjab for their help during the 1857 Mutiny developed the economy of the region through the creation of a sophisticated irrigation system. The canal colonies would contribute to the formation of a new class of farmers in which Muslims would be over-represented since the Hindus were more over-represented in the cities, among traders and professionals. The British also protected the farmers from moneylenders by passing the Punjab Alienation of Land Act in 1900, which prevented non-agricultural tribes (mostly Hindu traders) from acquiring land.

*At the Quetta Command and Staff College, the soldiers trained to become the officers of the Pakistan Army learn that each country is organized around a vital province, its heartland, whose loss results in disintegration. In case of Pakistan, Punjab is naturally this key province.

Finally, the British recognized pirs (descendants of Sufi saints in charge of their dargah) as part of the cultivating group -making their land inalienable—and other groups (including. Muslim Jats and Rajputs) as a martial race, which gave then new opportunities in the army. The Muslims of Punjab did not for all that constitute an elite as they did in Gangetic India.

The Ganges Plain from Delhi to Bihar, the true crucible of Muslim civilization in India, was the area in which several Muslim political structures were experimented, from the Delhi Sultanate to the Mughal Empire—of which the capital was also Delhi for most of the time. After the gradual disintegration of the Mughal Empire, it was also in this region that many successor states ruled by Muslim dynasties, including the Kingdom of Awadh, took shape.The British who took over most of them in the first half of the nineteenth century, baptized the region the North-Western Provinces and Oudh in 1860, later renaming it the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh in 1902 without changing its borders—which independent India would moreover keep for many years as the northern province of Uttar Pradesh was not subdivided until 2000.

Muslim society in this area was dominated by Ashraf of four categories, the Syeds, The Shaikhs, the Mughals and the Pathans. This elite—into which Muslim Rajputs readily include themselves without being accepted by the Ashraf as regards marital unions—is clearly distinct from the long list of Ajlafs* and even more so from the Arzals. The Syeds and the Shaikhs have a virtual monopoly on clerical occupations, which are often handed down from father to son. At the bottom of the social pyramid, the Bhangis suffer discrimination that excludes them not only from holy places but also restricts commensality. It is worth noting that in Northern India Muslim society there were practically no large merchants likely to go into industry.

*It includes Julahas (weavers), Darzis (tailors), Qasabs (butchers), Nais or Hajjams (barbers), Kabariyas (green grocers), Mirasis (musicians), Dhuniyas (cotton carders), Fakirs (beggars), Telis (oil pressers), Dhobis (launderers) and Gaddis (herdsmen and milk producers). See Ghaus Ansari, Muslim Caste in Uttar Pradesh.

From both a social and religious standpoint, Indian Islam across the territory delineated by the British Raj thus formed a mosaic that complicated the ascendancy of communal boundaries. It was a mosaic that not only fragmented the group but also made it more porous to outside, particularly Hindu, influences, as much due to forms of religious synthesis as to social ties. In fact, popular Hinduism and popular Islam have been the crucible of many syncretic practices which developed in particular around places of what thus became joint worship. Yet, even if Islam’s adaptation to Indian soil and its own internal tensions clearly show that this religion does not have the fine sociological unity that a scriptural approach would lead one to believe, the scale of the theological and doctrinal conflicts among Muslims of the Great Tradition should not be exaggerated. After all, Indian Islam has always seen, much more than many others, overwhelmingly dominated by Sunnism and a school of law, the Hanafi school.

This overview also suggests that the Muslims of the United Provinces were in a very peculiar situation, which explains their pioneering role in the movement that was to lead to Pakistan. The Muslims of the Ganges Plain formed a small minority in the province. In the first census, which took place in 1881, there were about 6 million of them, as opposed to 38 million Hindus. But although they were less than 14% of the total, they continued to be most influential, as evident from the fact that they accounted for two-fifth of the urban population. This overrepresentation in towns and cities—in stark contrast with the situation of their co-religionists of Bengal and Punjab—reflected their key position in the bureaucracy but should not conceal their importance as a landed group as well, since the Muslim aristocracy used not to live in villages. This is a legacy of their past domination and sign of their resilience.

Although they made up an eighth of the population, the Muslims owned one-fifth of the farmland, often as large landlords. The Taluqdars in Awadh, whose ancestors under the Mughal Empire were in charge of collecting taxes and meting out justice, continued to dominate the country, as the British recognized their property rights. Numbering fewer than hundred, these men exerted an influence that had as much to do with their prestige as their economic clout—including as moneylenders. The other pole of Muslim power came from the over representation of the Ashraf elite within the administration. Civil servants, whose prominence dated back to the Mughal Empire, retained power in the successor states—particularly the Kingdom of Awadh—that was handed from one generation to the next. In 1882–statistics not being available prior to that—the Muslims still made up 35% of the civil servants in the United Provinces—and even 45% of the Uncovenanted Civil Service.* Although they occupied two poles of power—one more rural and informal, the other more urban and administrative—these two groups, Muslim landlords and civil servants were part of the same world, that of an elite proud of its past and cultivating the refinement of the Ashraf culture. It was within this relatively small circle—there were 2.5. million Ashraf in 1881 in the United Provinces—that Indian Muslim separatism was born in the wake of the 1857 Rebellion when the status and the interests of this elite group were challenged.

*Francis Robinson points out that Muslims occupied 55% of Tahsildar posts, highly sought after as these local officers wielded great influence over their district.

By courtesy:

IMG_1069 (1)

The Sikh Homeland


The Punjab 


The Punjab has a geographical unity distinct from the neighbouring countries and the rest of India. It is shaped like a scalene triangle balanced on its sharpest angle. The shortest side is in the north and is composed of the massive Himalayas, which separate it from the Tibetan Plateau. The western side is bounded by the River Indus from the point it enters the plains to another point 1650 miles downstream, where it meets the confluence of the Punjab’s rivers at a place appropriately named Panjnad, the five streams. Westwards of the Indus runs a chain of rugged mountains, the Hindu Kush and the Sulaiman, pierced by several passes like the Khyber and the Bolan which have served as inlets for the people of the countries which lie beyond Afghanistan and Baluchistan. The eastern boundary of the Punjab’s triangle is not clearly marked, but from a point near Karnal where the Jumna plunges south-eastwards a jagged line can be drawn up to Panjnad, which will demarcate the state from the rest of Hindustan and the Sindh desert.

The Punjab except for the salt range in its centre, is an extensive plain sloping gently down from the mountains in the north and the west towards the desert in the south. Across this monotonously flat land flow six large rivers: the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and the Sutlej. In the intra-fluvial tracts or doabs* between these rivers and the in the western half of the tract between the Sutlej and the Jumna live people who speak the Punjabi language and describe themselves as the people of the Punjab. The homeland of the vast majority of the Sikhs is in the doabs between the Chenab and the Jumna.

*The intra-fluvial tracts or mesopotamias are known in the Punjab as doabs—two waters. Except for the doabs between the Indus and the Jhelum and the Sutlej and the Jumna, they are known by a combination of the names of the two rivers between which they lie. These names were coined in the time of Emperor Akbar, presumably by his minister, Todar Mal.

a) The Sindh Sagar Doab, between the Indus and the Jhelum.
b) The Chaj Doab between the Chenab and the Jhelum. This doab was also known as Dhanni-Gheb, Chinhat-Chenab, and Behat (which is another name for the Jhelum).
c) The Rechna Doab between the Ravi and the Chenab. At one time this area was also known as Dharpi.
d) The Bari Doab between the Beas and the Ravi. The tract on either side of the Ravi south of Lahore was at one time called Nakki.
e) The Bist Doab or the Bist-Jullundur Doab between the Beas and the Sutlej. The area also known as Seeroval because of the many hill torrents (sirs) which intersect it.
f) The Cis-Sutlej Doab between the Sutlej and Jumna. Only the northwestern portion of this Doab is strictly in the Punjab.

Since the River Sutlej runs through the middle of the zone of the main concentration of Sikh population, historians refer to the region west of the river as Trans-Sutlej and that east of the river as the Cis-Sutlej. This division corresponds roughly to the traditional division of the Punjab into Majha and Malwa.

In addition to these divisions, the following Punjabi names for different regions have been (and in some cases still are) used.

a) Potohar or Dhanni Potohar for Rawalpindi district including a part of Jhelum district.
b) Majha or the middle, for the Bari Doab. The people living in Majha are known as Majhails. (Also spoken as Manjha and Manjhail).
c) Doab for the Bari Doab or Jullundur Doab. The inhabitants are known as Doabias.
d) Malwa for the Punjabi-speaking zone between the Sutlej and the Jumna. The people are known as Malwais. (The Malwa of the Punjab should not be confused with the Malwa of Central India, north of the River Narmada). Malwa is sometimes referred as Sirhind,
e) Kurukshetra, between the rivers Sarasvati and Drisadvati (probably the present day Ghaggar). In this region somewhere between Karnal and Jind was fought the famous battle between the Kurus and Pandavas mentioned in the Mahabharata which occasioned the sermon by Krishna and the theme of the Bhagavad Gita. Because of its association with Krishna, this land was reputed to be free of sorrow—nirduhkha. It was also the brahmavarta, the land of the holy singers where many of the great classics of Sanskrit literature were written. Manu refers to it as the land frequented by gods (ii 17). The Chinese traveller Hsuan Tsang, who visited Punjab in the 7th century AD, refers to it as the sukhabhumi, the land of contentment.
f) Bhatiana, area in southwestern Punjab extending from Hissar to Bikaner, which was the home of Bhatti Rajputs; hence bhatiana, the land of the Bhattis.
g) Hariana, comprising Hissar, Rohtak and the southern parts of the old states of Jind and Patiala. This tract of desert was at one time irrigated by the Sarasvati and was very green; hence hariana, the green land.

The Name of Punjab
When the Aryans came to India there were seven rivers in the Punjab, so they named it Sapta Sindhva, the land of the seven seas. The Persians took the name from the Aryans and called it Haft Hindva. Sometime later, after the seventh river, the Sarasvati, had dried up, people began to exclude the Indus from the count (since it marked only the western boundary of the province) and renamed it after the remaining five rivers as Pentopotamia or the Panj-ab, the land of the five waters. *

*Two other names by which parts of the Punjab were known in ancient times were:
• Madra Desha, the land of the madras. So, named after Madri, the mother of the Pandavas. Madra Desha extended from the Beas to the Chenab or the Jhelum. Its capital was at Sakala, probably present day Sangla. In the Bicitra Natak, Guru Gobind Singh also speaks of the Punjab as the Madra Desha. (J. Dawson, Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion p.183).
• Uttarapath, or the northern country. The name appears in Buddhist literature.

Climate and Landscape
The climate of the Punjab ranges from bracing cold in the winter to scorching heat in the summer. Extremes of temperature and the two monsoons produce a variety of seasons and a constantly changing landscape.

The spring is traditionally ushered in on Basant Pancami, which falls early in the month of February. It is the Punjab’s blossom time, when, in the words of Guru Nanak, “all is seemly; the woodlands are in flower and loud with the humming of bumble bees” * The countryside is an expanse of mustard yellow, broken by sold squares of green sugarcane with its fluffy pampas plumes. If the winter monsoon has been good, a crop of wheat, barley, gram, oilseeds and tobacco will cover the land with lush abundance. Peasants supplement the rain by canal water, or where there are no canals, by Persian wheels turned by bullocks or camels. Around the wells grow vegetables: carrots, radishes, cabbages and cauliflower. Branches of Jujube trees sag under the weight of their berries. In spring time, the sounds that pervade the countryside are the creaking of Persian wheels, the call of partridges, and the monotonous kooh, kooh, of flour mills

The sugar cane is cut, its juice squeezed out, boiled in large cauldrons, and solidified into dark brown cakes. The canary yellow of the mustard is replaced by newly sown cotton and the golden-brown of ripening wheat—and we know that spring has given way to summer.

Trees shed their leaves and after a short period of barrenness come into blossom. While the Marisa is still strewing the earth with its brittle ochre leaves, the silk cotton, the coral and the flame of the forest burst into flowers of bright crimson, red, and orange. Even the thorny acacia, the commonest tree of the Punjab, is covered with tiny pale pom-poms. Persian wheels and the partridges are silent: instead there is the screaming of the koils in the mango groves and the crying of barbets.

The wheat is cut and winnowed in the warm breeze. In the words of Guru Nanak: “The sun scorches . . . the earth burns like an oven. The waters give up their vapours, yet it burns and scorches relentlessly.” The temperature rises to a fever heat. The parched earth becomes an unending stretch of khaki with dust devils spiralling across the wastes. Even the stolid pipal and the tamarisk are shorn of their leaves and the only green that meets the eye are bushes of camel-thorn, prickly cactus and the ak—calotropis. The succession of hot days and shimmering mirages is occasionally broken by fierce storms which spread layers of dust and sand over everything. All through the torpid afternoons comes the call of the brainfever bird* in a rising crescendo, peeooh peeooh. On moonlit nights one can see the wavering arrowhead formations of geese honking their way northwards to the snowy Himalayas.

*The hawk-cuckoo (hierococcyx varius). Its cry is rendered as “brainfever, brainfever” in English; in Punjabi and Hindustani as peeooh or pikahanwhere is my beloved?”

The blazing inferno lasts from the end of April to the end of June. Then come in rains. The monsoon makes a spectacular entry. It is heralded by the monsoon bird* which fills the dusty plains with its plaintive cries. The colourless grey sky suddenly fills with dense masses black clouds. There are flashes of lightning and the earth shakes with the rumble of thunder. The first big drops of rain are swallowed by the dust and a heavenly fragrance rises from the earth. Then it comes in torrents, sheet upon sheet, and continues for several hours. Thereafter the skies are frequently overcast; clouds and sunshine contend for dominion; rainbows span the rain-washed landscape; and the setting sun fires the bulbous clouds in hues of red and purple. The two months of incessant downpour turn the land into a vast swamp. Rivers fill up and become a mass of swirling muddy waters. Punjabis who have to live through many months of intense heat every year, love the monsoon. It is the time for lovers’ trysts and the reunion of families. Guru Nanak went into raptures over it: “The season of the rains has come, and my heart is full of joy . . . river and land are one expanse of water . . . The nights are dark. Frogs croak in contentment. Peacocks cry with joy. The papiha calls peeooh, peeooh. The fangs of serpents and the stings of mosquitoes are full of venom. The seas have burst their bounds in the ecstasy of fulfillment.” Life begins afresh. There are new leaves on many trees and grass covers the barren ground, Mangoes ripen. The clamour of the koils and the brainfever bird is drowned in the song and laughter of girls on swings in the mango groves.

*The pied-crested cuckoo (clamator jacobinus) takes advantage of the monsoon winds and flies from the East African Coast ahead of the clouds. It usually reaches the coast of India a day or two before the monsoon breaks; hence the name monsoon bird.

By the time the monsoon is over, it is cool again. The dust has settled, and the countryside is green once more. If the summer monsoon has been good—neither too sparse to create a drought nor too heavy to cause floods—all is well. A new crop of rice, millet, maize, indigo and pulses of many kinds is sown. The peasants wind brightly coloured and starched turbans round their heads, put on waist coats covered with mother-of-pearl buttons, tie bells round their ankles and dance the Bhangra to the beat of the drum. From October to the festival of the lamps (Divali) in November there is a succession of fairs and festivals,

There is little rest for the peasant. Cotton is to be picked and the land ploughed again for sowing wheat and gram. Persian wheels begin to turn. The kooh, kooh of the flour mills is heard in every village. Partridges call in the wheat fields. And at night one hears the honking of geese on their way back to the Punjab.

Once more it is winter time. The starlit nights are cold and frosty, the days full of blue skies and sparkling sunshine. The mustard is in flower, the woodlands are loud with the humming of the bumble bees, and all is seemly once again.

The Punjab is essentially a rural state made up of innumerable mud and brick villages built on the ruins of older villages. At one time most of them were fortified. Even today one comes across remains of baronial castles and ancient battlements that rise out of the rubble or the village dung heap. Until the 15th century the Punjab had only two important cities, Lahore, which was the seat of most governments, and Multan in the south, which had a busy market dealing with commerce coming up the rivers from Sindh and caravans from Baluchistan and Persia. There were also several towns like Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Wazirabad, Gujarat, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Saidpur now called Eminabad, Pak Pathan, Kasur, Sialkot, Ludhiana and Sirhind, whose fortunes rose and fell with those of their feudal overlords (or, as in the case of Pak Pathan, with the popularity of the religious order of which it was the centre).

Nothing remains of the extensive forests which once covered large parts of the Punjab. Up to the 16th century there were jungles in the north where rhinoceros (and probably elephants) were found. In Central Punjab there was the notorious lakhi (the forest of a thousand trees), which gave Sikh outlaws refuge from their oppressors. There were equally dense forests in the Jullundur Doab and one long belt of woodland stretching from Ludhiana to Karnal. Up to the middle of the 19 th century these forests teemed with wildlife: lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, bears, wolves, hyenas, wild boars, nilgai and many varieties of deer. The flora and fauna survived the incursions of foreign armies but succumbed to the indiscriminate felling of trees and slaughter of game in the 19th and the present century. The desert with its camels and goats—the only animals which can thrive on cacti and thorny scrub—are a phenomenon of recent times.

Indologists are not agreed on the age of Indian civilization except that it is among the oldest in the world and that its cradle was in the Punjab. Near Rawalpindi, spears and hatchets made of quartzite have been found which date human habitation in the region to between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago. Agricultural implements made of copper and bronze have been found in mounds on both sides of the river Indus which prove the existence of fairly organized rural communities between 25,000 to 20,000 BC. Nothing more is known about these communities, nor would it be right to describe to describe them as civilizations. We are, however, on surer ground when we come to the archaeological remains of Mohenjo-Daro in Sindh and Harappa in southern Punjab, both of which were unearthed in the 1920s. From the sculpture, pottery, jewellery, fabrics and other relics (particularly seals bearing extremely beautiful figures of bulls, rhinoceros, and other animals) found among the ruins of baked-brick buildings in these cities (and subsequently in many other places) it can be presumed that the people of the Indus Valley had attained a high degree of civilization. They lived in multi-storied houses with marble baths, their craftsmen made goods which were sold as far away as Mesopotamia; and they had evolved some form of religion around the worship of a mother goddess and her male consort. Neither the hieroglyphics nor the relics found in these cities have yet revealed all their secrets; archaeologists and historians are still disputing the identity of the people who made them. The generally accepted view is that these cities flourished between 2500 BC and 1500 BC and that they were destroyed by a people known as the Aryans who began to infiltrate into Sindh and the Punjab about fifteen centuries before the birth of Christ.

The Aryans who were tall and fair, drove out the darker-skinned inhabitants and occupied most of northern Hindustan. The newcomers were a pastoral people with a religion and language of their own. Both were further developed in the land of their domicile. It was in the Punjab that Vedic Hinduism was evolved, and many of the great works of Sanskrit literature written.

The Aryans were followed by other races. The Persians under Darius (521-485 BC) conquered northern Punjab, and for a hundred years his successors ruled over Peshawar, Taxila and Rawalpindi. In 326 BC, Greek armies under Alexander the Great crossed the Indus and swept as far as the Beas. Although the Greeks left behind by Alexander were deprived of power by the Indian Mauryas, a few years after his death, they left a permanent impress on the face of the Punjab. In Peshawar, Taxila and perhaps in some other towns as well, Greek artists produced some of the greatest works of sculpture found anywhere in the world.

Maurya power was extinguished by Bactrian invaders. Menander is believed to have gone across central Punjab and beyond the Beas. The Bactrians were followed by many Scythian tribes. When the dust raised by the invading armies had settled, the Indian Guptas spread their benevolent rule over the country. For some centuries they were able to block the gaps in the mountains and keep out other invaders. By AD 500, the pressure from Central Asia became too great and once more the sluice gates were forced open to let in the Mongoloid Huns. The Huns were subdued and expelled by Vardhana. His son Harsha was the last great India ruler of the Punjab. After Harsha’s death in AD 647, Vardhana’s empire disintegrated and races living across the Sulaiman and Hindu Kush mountains began to pour into Hindustan. The new conquerors who came, belonged to diverse tribes but had one faith: they were Muslims.

In AD 1001 came Mahmoud of Ghazni. Thereafter the Afghans came like the waves of an incoming tide, each column advancing further inland into Hindustan. The Ghaznis were followed by other Afghan tribes: the Ghoris, Tughlaks, Surs and Lodhis.

Between the succession of Afghan invasions came the terrible visitation in 1398 of the Mongol, Taimur, an invasion from which northern India did not recover for many decades. A hundred years later Babar, who was one of Taimur’s descendants, started dreaming of an empire in India. His opportunity came with the decline of the Lodhi dynasty. After a few unsuccessful attempts, he finally defeated and slew the reigning Afghan Ibrahim Lodhi on the field of Panipat in 1526, and set up the most powerful and long-lived dynasty in the history of India,

People of the Punjab
The ethnic pattern of the Punjab has changed with every new conquest. At the time of the birth of Nanak (AD 1469) it was somewhat as follows:

In the northwest stretching along both sides of the Indus were the Pathans and Baluchis—the former on the upper and the latter on the lower reaches of the river. These people, like their neighbours (Gakkhars, Awans, Janjuas, and others who settled between the Indus and the Jhelum) were divided into innumerable warring tribes, jealously preserving their traditions and way of life but united in their fierce loyalty to the Islamic faith. On the northern fringe of the country in a narrow belt running along the foothills of the Himalayas were the domains of Hindu princes who had fled the plains in front of the Muslim onslaughts. In this sub-montane region intersected by mountain streams and deep ravines, made impassable by entangled bushes of lantana, vasicka and ipomea*they built chains of forts which defended them from further inroads of Muslim invaders. Here they burnt incense to their gods and preserved their inegalitarian society in which the Brahmin and Kshatriya exploited the lesser castes. In the rest of the Punjab, consisting of the vast champaign stretching to the Jumna and beyond, the countryside was inhabited by Jats and Rajput agricultural tribes, the cities by the trading Banias, Mahajans, Suds, and Auroras.

*These three flowering shrubs are found all over India. The adhatoda vasicka is used to make medicinal syrup; the ipomea is grown to reinforce canal banks. Since it blossoms most times of the year it is known in Punjab as sada suhagan (ever-in-marital-bliss).

In all cities towns and villa ages there were the dark and somewhat negroid descendants of the aboriginals who were considered beyond pale of the caste system, forced to do the dirtiest work and then condemned as untouchables. In addition to all these were nomadic tribes of gypsies wandering across the plains in their donkey caravans, with their hunting dogs and herds of sheep and goats,

Birth of Punjabi Nationalism
The Punjab being the main gateway to India, was fated to be the perpetual field of battle and the first home of all the conquerors. Few invaders, if any, brought wives with them, and most of those who settled in their conquered domains acquired local women. Thus, the blood of many conquering races came to mingle, and many alien languages—Arabic, Persian, Pushto and Turkish—came to be spoken in the land. Thus, too, was the animism of the aboriginal subjected to the Vedantic, Jain and Buddhist religion of the Aryans, and to the Islamic faith of the Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Persians and Afghans. Out of this mixture of blood and speech were born the Punjabi people and their language. There also grew a sense of expectancy that out of the many faiths of their ancestors would be born a new faith for the people of the Punjab.

By the end of the 15th century, the different races who had come together in the Punjab had lost the nostalgic memories of the lands of their birth and begun to develop an attachment to the land of their adoption. The chief factor in the growth of Punjabi consciousness was the evolution of one common tongue from a Babel of languages. Although the Punjabis were sharply divided into Muslims and Hindus, attempts had been made to bring about a rapprochement between the two faiths and a certain desire to live and let live had grown among the people. It was left to Guru Nanak and his nine successors to harness the spirit of tolerance and give it a positive content in the shape of Punjabi nationalism.

It is significant that the spirit of Punjabi nationalism first manifested itself in Mahja, the heart of the Punjab, and among a people who were deeply rooted in the soil. Although the founders and many of the leaders of the movement were not agriculturists, its backbone was the Jat peasantry of the central plains. There are as many conjectures about the etymology of the word Jat ** as there are of the origin of the race. It is now generally accepted that the Jats who made the northern plains of India their home was of Aryan stock. They brought with them certain institutions, the most important being the panchayat, an elected body of five elders, to which they pledged their allegiance.*

*Panc men Parmesvar. There is God in the five (elected men)

**Cunningham followed Tod and other European scholars in believing that Jats were of Scythian stock. The origin of the Jats has been exhaustively dealt with by K.R. Qanungo, who states emphatically that the Jats are of Aryan stock who migrated from Rajasthan into the Punjab. He estimated the number of Jats to be 9 million in 1925, of whom one-third were Muslims, one-fifth Sikhs and the remaining Hindus, Qanungo’s figures include Jats of Rajasthan, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
According to the Hindu caste system, the Jats, being Vaisyas (workers) are of lower caste status than the Brahmin and Kshatriya.

There are many sub tribes of Sikh Jats, of whom the following are the most prominent:

Sidhu (including Sidhu Brar); Sandhu; Gill; Garewal; Sekhon; Dhillon; Man; Her; Virk; Bhutta; Bal; Punnun; Aulak; Dhaliwal; Sara; Mangat; Chahl; Randhawa; Kang; Shoal; Bains

There are other Sikh agricultural tribes like the Labana; Kamboh; Sansi and Mahtam who are not Jats by race.

Prominent among the “untouchable” village communities converted to Sikhism and living in Jat villages are the Mazhabi, Ranghreta and Ramdasia.

In present day speech, the Sikh Jat is called jat (to rhyme with gut while the Hindu, particularly of Hariana (Gurgaon, Hissar, Rohtak) and Bharatpur remains a jai (to rhyme with the British pronunciation of ‘start’).

According to Ibbetson, the Jats and Rajputs form 28% of the population of the Punjab. In the 1883 census, the Jats numbered 4432750 and the Rajputs 1677569. In the last detailed census of the Punjab prior to partition (census 1931), the figures were: Jats 4855426, Rajputs 1874325.

Every Jat village was a small republic made up of people of kindred blood who were as conscious of absolute equality between themselves as they were of their superiority over men of other castes who earned their livelihood as weavers, potters, cobblers, or scavengers. The relationship of a Jat village with the state was that of a semi autonomous unit paying a fixed sum of revenue. Few governments tried to assert more authority, and those which did, soon discovered that sending out armed militia against fortified villages was not very profitable. The Jat’s spirit of freedom and equality refused to submit to. Brahmanical Hinduism and in its turn drew the censure of the privileged Brahmins of the Gangetic plains who pronounced that “no Aryan should stay in the Punjab for even two days” because the Punjabis refused to obey the priests.* The upper caste Hindu’s denigration of the Jat did not in the least lower the Jat in his own eyes nor elevate the Brahmin or the Kshatriyas in the Jat’s estimation.

*Mahabharata, VIII, verses 2063-8 (Karna Parva)

On the contrary, he assumed a somewhat condescending attitude towards the Brahmin, whom he considered a little better than a soothsayer or a beggar, or the Kshatriyas, who disdained earning an honest living and was proud of being a mercenary. The Jat was born the worker and the warrior. He tilled his land with his sword girded round his waist. He fought more battles for the defence of his homestead than the Kshatriya, for unlike the martial Kshatriya the Jat seldom fled from his village when the invaders came. And if the Jat was maltreated or if his women were molested by the conqueror on his way to Hindustan, he settled his score by looting the invaders’ caravans on their return journey and freeing the women he was taking back. The Punjabi Jat developed an attitude of indifference to worldly possessions and an instinct for gambling with his life against odds. At the same time, he became conscious of his role in the defence of Hindustan. His brand of patriotism was at once hostile towards the foreigner and benign, even contemptuous towards his own countrymen whose fate depended so much on his courage and fortitude.

Courtesy of : A History of the Sikhs Volume 1 (2nd Edition) (1469-1839) by Khushwant Singh, Oxford University Press 2004

Origins of the Colonial Indian Navy

Colonial Indian Navy-Establishment of the Bombay Marine

The English East India Company was established in 1600.

In 1612, Captain Thomas Best encountered and defeated the Portuguese at the Battle of Swally. This encounter, as well as piracy, led the English East India Company to build a port and establish a small navy based at the village of Suvali, near SuratGujarat to protect commerce.

The Company named the force the Honourable East India Company’s Marine, and the first fighting ships arrived on 5 September 1612.

This force protected merchant shipping off the Gulf of Cambay and the rivers Tapti and Narmada. The ships also helped map the coastlines of India, Persia and Arabia.

In 1686, with most of English commerce moving to Bombay, the force was renamed the Bombay Marine. The Bombay Marine was involved in combat against the Marathas and the Sidis and participated in the Anglo-Burmese Wars. The Bombay Marine recruited many Indian lascars but commissioned no Indian officers until 1928.

Expansion of Her Majesty’s Indian Navy


Sailors of the Indian Navy breaching the Delhi gates during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

In 1830, the Bombay Marine became His Majesty’s Indian Navy. The British capture of Aden increased the commitments of Her Majesty’s Indian Navy, leading to the creation of the Indus Flotilla. The Navy then fought in the China War of 1840.

Her Majesty’s Indian Navy resumed the name Bombay Marine from 1863 to 1877, when it became Her Majesty’s Indian Marine. The Marine then had two divisions; the Eastern Division at Calcutta and the Western Division at Bombay.

In recognition of the services rendered during various campaigns, Her Majesty’s Indian Marine was titled the Royal Indian Marine in 1892. By this time, it consisted of over 50 vessels.

The Royal Indian Marine in World War I

The Expeditionary Forces of the Indian Army that travelled to FranceAfrica and Mesopotamia to participate in World War I were transported largely on board ships of the Royal Indian Marine. The convoy transporting the first division of the Indian Cavalry to France sailed within three weeks of the Declaration of War, on 25 August 1914. At the outset of the war, a number of ships were fitted out and armed at the Naval Dockyard in Bombay (now Mumbai) and the Kidderpore Docks in Calcutta (now Kolkata). The Indian Marine also kept the harbours of Bombay and Aden open through intensive minesweeping efforts. Smaller ships of the Indian Marine, designed for operations in inland waters, patrolled the critical waterways of the Tigris, the Euphrates and Shatt-al-Arab, in order to keep the supply lines open for the troops fighting in Mesopotamia. A hospital ship operated by the Indian Marine was deployed to treat wounded soldiers.

By the time the war ended in 1918, the Royal Indian Marine had transported or escorted 1,302,394 men, 172,815 animals and 3,691,836 tonnes of war stores. The Royal Indian Marine suffered 330 casualties and 80 of its personnel were decorated with gallantry awards for service in the war. The Royal Indian Marine played a vital role in supporting and transporting the Indian Army throughout the war.

The first Indian to be granted a commission was Sub Lieutenant D.N Mukherji who joined the Royal Indian Marine as an engineer officer in 1928.

The Royal Indian Navy in World War II

In 1934, the Royal Indian Marine became the Royal Indian Navy (RIN). Ships of the RIN received the prefix HMIS for His Majesty’s Indian Ships. At the start of the Second World War, the Royal Indian Navy was very small and had eight warships. The onset of the war led to an expansion. Additionally, Indian Sailors served on-board several Royal Navy warships. The large number of Indian merchant seamen and merchant ships were instrumental in keeping the large stream of raw material and supplies from India to the United Kingdom open.

Indian sailors started a rebellion also known as The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny in 1946 on board ships and shore establishments, which spread all over India. A total of 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors were involved in the rebellion.

The Royal Indian Navy retained its name when India gained independence in August 1947 as a dominion within the Commonwealth. It was dropped when India became a republic on January 26, 1950.

Partition and Independence of India

In 1947, British India was partitioned and the Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan gained independence from the United Kingdom. The Royal Indian Navy was split between India and Pakistan, with senior British officers continuing to serve with both navies, and the vessels were divided between the two nations.

More information: Vessel type, India …

Vessel type



Frigate HMIS Tir

HMIS Kukri

HMPS Shamsher

HMPS Dhanush

Sloop HMIS Sutlej

HMIS Jumna

HMIS Kistna

HMIS Cauvery

HMPS Narbada

HMPS Godavari

Corvettes HMIS Assam
Minesweeper HMIS Orissa

HMIS Deccan

HMIS Bihar

HMIS Kumaon

HMIS Rohilkhand

HMIS Khyber

HMIS Carnatic

HMIS Rajputana

HMIS Konkan

HMIS Bombay

HMIS Bengal

HMIS Madras

HMPS Kathiawar

HMPS Baluchistan


HMPS Malwa

Survey vessel HMIS Investigator
Trawler HMIS Nasik

HMIS Calcutta

HMIS Cochin

HMIS Amritsar

HMPS Rampur

HMPS Baroda

Motor minesweeper(MMS) MMS 130

MMS 132

MMS 151

MMS 154

MMS 129

MMS 131

Motor launch (ML) ML 420
Harbour Defence Motor Launch(HDML) HDML 1110

HDML 1112

HDML 1117

HDML 1118

HDML 1261

HDML 1262

HDML 1263

HDML 1266

Miscellaneous All existing landing craft

When India became a republic on 26 January 1950, the name was changed to the Indian Navy, and the vessels were redesignated as Indian Naval Ships (INS).

Vice Admiral R. D. Katari was the first Indian Chief of Naval Staff, appointed on 22 April 1958.

Courtesy of

Pakistan after the Partition

The period covered is till year, 2005


On September 11, 1948, Mohammad Ali Jinnah died of tuberculosis. Just a little more than a year earlier, Pakistan, the nation that Jinnah had devoted the last years of his life to creating, celebrated its independence. Fittingly, Jinnah had served as the nation’s first governor-general, continuing in the role of the Quaid-i-Azam, or great leader, of India’s Muslims that he had held for years.

Jinnah’s successor as the leader of Pakistan, already holding the office of prime minister, was Liaquat Ali Khan, who had served as Jinnah’s chief lieutenant in Pakistan’s independence negotiations. Like Jinnah, Liaquat Ali was a westernized, secular figure. Unhappy with that and frustrated by the prime minister’s failure to act aggressively with regard to the issue of Kashmir, a small group of conspirators arranged to have Liaquat Ali assassinated in October 1951. Subsequently, Pakistan fell under the control, first, of a series of pedestrian civil bureaucrats reared in the British service traditions and, after 1958, under the steel frame of martial ‘law’.

Pakistan’s first years of independence, therefore, were quite different from those in neighbouring India, where the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru and the government’s status as the inheritor of the subcontinent’s many traditions provided a large measure of political stability and continuity. Pakistan, instead, had to create a nation almost from scratch. Unlike in India, there was no logic to Pakistan, a problem that was exacerbated by the fact that the country was divided into two wings. West Pakistan was carved from the former British Indian provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan (from the Northwest Frontier Province) and parts of the Punjab and Kashmir. It contained the nation’s first capital, Karachi, as well as most of its major military installations. East Pakistan, the other wing was made up mostly of the eastern portion of Bengal province. Its population, which was larger than that of the western wing, had a vastly different culture from that of West Pakistan, and maintained separatist sentiments of its own. Further, West Pakistani politicians hesitated to weaken their power by granting the easterners the representation in the national government that their population justified. Beyond these considerations was the fact that Pakistan had effectively seceded from a much larger and longer-lasting entity, India. To novelist Salman Rushdie, who traces his heritage back to both countries, to build Pakistan it was necessary to cover up Indian history, to deny that Indian centuries lay just beneath the surface. This building process continues.

The commander-in-chief of Pakistan’s army, Mohammad Ayub Khan, seized political control in 1958, and the nation’s subsequent history was one of military coups and counter coups punctuated by occasional, quasi-democratic elections. Early in Ayub Khan’s rule, Pakistani leaders moved their capital from Karachi, which lay far away from the nation’s other population centres and military installations, to a new city, Islamabad.

Ayub Khan’s first major challenger was Fatima Jinnah, Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s sister, who ran for president of Pakistan in 1964 but did not win because of Ayub Khan’s limiting of the franchise in managed elections. His second opponent was an East Pakistani Bengali politician, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who emerged to prominence in 1966 as head of the so-called Awami League. Rahman called for greater autonomy for East Pakistan, including an independent military and a separate currency. His third opponent was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a sophisticated politician descended from a wealthy Sindhi family. Ali Bhutto had risen to prominence as a diplomat under Ayub Khan but had since split with the leader. He formed the so-called Pakistan People’s Party in 1967, pledging a sort of ‘Islamic socialism.’ In 1968, both Mujibur Rahman and Ali Bhutto were arrested, although far from halting Pakistan’s apparent fragmentation, the arrests inspired civil unrest in both West and East Pakistan among the two leaders’ supporters. Ayub Khan retired in 1969, turning power over to another general, Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, who was willing to use greater force to limit public expressions of political discontent, especially in the east.

In December 1970, Pakistan held nationwide elections, the results which showed that strong boundaries of cultural and political interests separated the nation’s two wings. The two great victors were Mujibur Rahman, whose party nearly swept all the allotted seats to East Pakistan in the National Assembly in Pakistan’s new capital of Islamabad, and Ali Bhutto, whose Pakistan People’s Party took most votes in the West. His decisive victory should have allowed Mujibur Rahman to become Pakistan’s prime minister, but neither Ali Bhutto, now serving as Deputy Prime Minister, or Yahya Khan, were willing to accept a Bengali as the leader of Pakistan. When the three proved unable to come to an agreement, East Pakistan declared its independence as Bangladesh, and the Pakistan Army failed to hold its recalcitrant eastern wing. The Indian Army stepped in, as Indian leaders were fearful of a massive wave of refugees crossing the border into Calcutta and the rest of Indian West Bengal, and the independence of Bangladesh came to fruition in December 1971.

Pakistan Splits: The War for Bangladesh

One of the clearest of the arbitrary borders left in the wake of India’s partition in 1947 was the separation between the eastern and western ‘wings’ of the new nation of Pakistan. Even though the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of both wings were Muslim, they had little else in common. The Punjabis, Sindhis and Pathans of West Pakistan had completely different languages and cultural traditions than the Bengalis of East Pakistan. In fact, the easterners had greater affinity towards the Hindu Bengalis of Calcutta and the rest of Indian West Bengal.

 In 1966, the politician Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, unhappy with the fact that his Bengali home of East Pakistan was often ignored by leaders in West Pakistan, produced a document that was to provide the foundation of an independent Bangladesh, a political partition of Pakistan that would echo the partition of India in 1947. His six-point program called for nearly full autonomy for East Pakistan; new electoral procedures; a separate East Pakistani militia; separate currency; independent control over foreign earnings; and almost complete control over taxation in the province. Pakistan’s government could not approve these demands, but when Rahman’s party won nearly all East Pakistan’s assembly seats in 1970, he could no longer be ignored. After Rahman called for a general strike in East Pakistan, the nation’s military leader, General Yahya Khan, sent a large force of 60,000 troops to the east to maintain order.

 In March 1971, brutal fighting broke out between these troops and the local people, who now demanded full independence and formed themselves into militias. Rahman was arrested and imprisoned, and millions of Bengalis fled across the border into India to escape the expanding violence. At the United Nations, India decried the bloodbath in East Pakistan and grew concerned about how they were to feed and house millions of refugees crossing a Bengali border that had recently been created. The United States for its part, sided with Pakistan, unhappy with India’s flirtations with the Soviet Union. In October, a large, Indian-trained force of Bengalis moved back into East Pakistan to do battle with Yahya Khan’s troops. They were followed by three divisions of the Indian army, supported by the Air Force. India and Pakistan were now fighting their third war since independence.

 Pakistani aircraft attacked Indian cities in the West, and India responded with its much greater air-power capability, stifling any possible Pakistani advances. In the east, India’s forces moved quickly on the local administrative capital of Dhaka, as Pakistan’s troops, now holding out among a very hostile population, could not hope for any reinforcements. Pakistan surrendered on December 15, 1971, and the new nation of Bangladesh was born. Mujibur Rahman returned to Dhaka in triumph. The Indian subcontinent had once again been partitioned.

 As had been the case in Pakistan’s early years, at first the new leaders of Bangladesh clung to a democratic ideal, but by 1974 Mujibur Rahman abandoned democratic processes in favour of a more powerful executive branch, citing excessive corruption and other internal threats to the nation. He was assassinated in a military coup in Dhaka, the nation’s capital, in August 1975, and Bangladesh succumbed to a series of military dictatorships of varying degrees of effectiveness and severity for years. In recent years, Bangladesh has relied on legitimately elected leaders, but it remains subject to political violence and instability.

In Pakistan itself, Ali Bhutto rose to the pinnacle of leadership. After a strong denunciation during negotiations in the United Nations Security Council of India’s interference in the war in East Pakistan, Bhutto returned to Pakistan to find that he had secured the backing of the nation’s military and civil elite. During a non-violent coup, General Yahya Khan was convinced to step aside, and Bhutto replaced him as prime minister. Under his leadership, Pakistan’s politicians devised and approved a new constitution, which took effect on August 14, 1973. It was Pakistan’s third. Among its major changes from previous constitutions was the declaration that Islam shall be the state religion of Pakistan. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, by contrast, had declared in 1947 that Pakistan was to have complete freedom of religion, that religious caste or creed . . . has nothing to do with the state.

In 1977, after elections had been deemed unsatisfactory by Ali Bhutto’s opponents, the prime minister was forced from power by yet another military coup, this one led by General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. Bhutto himself was imprisoned and, in April 1979 executed after being found guilty of conspiracy to engage in political murder in a mysterious incident in 1974. After a reasonably peaceful period, during which Zia ul-Haq largely managed to maintain order as well as his own popularity, the General died in an airplane crash in August 1988. Among his strongest legacies was the increased presence of Islamic tradition in government, such as elements of Sharia, Islamic law as described in the Koran. Zia ul-Haq did not want to create a theocracy in Pakistan; his feelings were more sophisticated and subtle, although they still differed notably from those of Jinnah, the nation’s founder. Zia ul-Haq argued in 1981 that Pakistan is like Israel, an ideological state. Take out Judaism fromIsrael and it will collapse like a house of cards. Take Islam out of Pakistan and make it a secular state; it would collapse.

Sharia is open to varied interpretation, as Pakistan’s politicians and legal experts were to discover. Despite Zia ul-Haq’s views and the emergence of conservative Islamic political parties, though, most of Pakistan’s elite cling to the notion that their nation should remain a secular one, where Muslims can live and worship free from oppression. Most Pakistanis have been content to let Islam guide individual behaviour rather than become the religion of the state. In this, they seem to hold more to Jinnah’s conception of Pakistan as a nation of people bound together by tradition and culture as well as religion, rather than Zia ul-Haq’s notion of religious ideology alone.

This secular emphasis has helped Islamabad politicians hold together a nation containing a broad diversity of linguistic and ethnic groups. Since most of these groups are Muslim, there are fewer sources of religious tension than in neighbouring India. Nevertheless, linguistic, economic, and cultural tensions still exist among these people, thrown together by the creation of arbitrary geographical borders. For example, although Urdu is the nation’s main language; the tongue in which government business and most educational instruction are conducted, 48% of the population speaks Punjabi as their first language. Other major languages include Sindhi as well as Pashto, one of the languages spoken by the many tribal groups who inhabit the frontier regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some members of these groups advocate complete separation from Pakistan. Another outspoken and discontented group, the Muhajirs, is made up of migrants from India, many of them wealthy and with strong economic ties with India. Most have settled in Karachi and have little long-term personal identification with Pakistan. Hindu or Sikh groups in Pakistan, meanwhile, are quite small and not organized in such a way to allow meaningful communal action.

After a brief period of government under President Ghulam Ishaq Khan following Zia’s death in 1988, Ali Bhutto’s daughter Benazir Bhutto became prime minister. Among her promises was to return Pakistan to status as a full democracy, and many Pakistanis were happy that a civilian government had now replaced the military one of the last 11 years. The pattern of factional squabbling, charges and counter charges continued, however. During the 1990s, Benazir Bhutto returned to power once, holding office from October 1993 to February 1997. Nawab Sharif, her main opponent and the head of the Muslim League, held office both before and after her second term. Both presided over civilian elected governments. Pakistan’s political instability created a vacuum of authority in which the nation’s elite, army, and traditional landlords especially, wielded a great deal of influence, however. When Sharif made the decision to force aside his army chief of staff, General Pervez Musharraf, the general staged yet another of Pakistan’s military coups. Musharraf took over Pakistan on October 12, 1999 and remains the nation’s leader with Sharif and Benazir Bhutto occasionally voicing vocal opposition.

Pakistan’s political instability has shadowed the nation’s role in international politics. Beginning in the 1950s, and partly in response to India’s non-aligned status, Pakistan became a major ally of the United States during the Cold War. As such, Pakistan received a great deal of military and economic aid from the West. Being a recipient of military aid may have given Pakistani leaders a false sense of the nation’s military capabilities; it was only after their loss in the war over Bangladesh that Pakistani leaders stopped trying to be India’s military equal. Then, after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan became a staging point for Western efforts to support anti-Soviet rebels in Afghanistan, bringing in more aid, much of which was designed to support the more than a million Afghan refugees who fled across the porous border between the two countries. During the 1980s, for instance, Pakistan was the third largest recipient of American aid after Israel and Egypt, and it was described as a bulwark against the spread of communism.

In the new millennium, Pakistan found itself again at the front line of international conflict, this time with the fight against Islamic fundamentalist terrorists based in Afghanistan. Pledging to support the United States and other nations in their attempts to control Afghanistan’s Taliban fundamentalists and their global allies, the Islamabad government has once again been the recipient of foreign aid. One unforeseen consequence of this in contentious Pakistan has been the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in some segments of the populace, although the government, and most of the population, remains committed to secularism in public life.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah had worried, in the years and months leading up to independence, whether he might inherit a moth-eaten Pakistan, shorn of the economic capabilities of West Bengal and eastern Punjab, both of which were awarded to India. As it happened, Pakistan proved very capable of supporting itself, at least until the 1990s, when many signs of trouble became apparent. In the 1980s, in fact, World Bank statistics suggested that Pakistan was on the verge of crossing a significant economic boundary: moving from the status of a low-income country to that of a middle-income one. Certain areas of the country, especially the Punjab, remained strong in its agricultural production, and by the end of the 1980s, Pakistan was producing a substantial surplus of food grains, as well as cotton, much of which was sold to the Islamic MidIdle-East. In industry too, Pakistan held its own despite much government manipulation and corruption. By the 1990s, however, poverty was increasing, industry had reached a state of stagnation, and the nation’s national debt was so extensive that Pakistan was nearly bankrupt.

In May 1998, Pakistan staged its first public tests of nuclear weapons. Always a nation with a cohort of highly educated citizens, Pakistan had been theoretically capable of building nuclear weapons for years. Only after India publicly tested its own weapons did Pakistan respond with its tests, though, and both nations are now officially members of a select group of acknowledged nuclear powers. This has inspired increased tensions between the two nations, which, since partition, have gone to war three times. With nuclear capability comes a sense of responsibility, however, and leaders on both sides have made halting gestures that suggest that they understand they must live side by side-that they must come to terms with the arbitrary geographical borders of 1947.

Some of these gestures are simple: for instance, after many years, it is now possible to travel by bus between the Indian city of Amritsar and the Pakistani city of Lahore. The two stand only 40 miles apart and were the centre of violence that attended the partition in 1947. In March 2004, the Indian national cricket team made its first ever tour of Pakistan; both nations love the sport and matches between the two have sometimes looked like symbolic wars. The tour went peacefully, even though the Indian team defeated its Pakistani counterpart. Also, since 2003, summit meetings between Pervez Musharraf and his Indian counterparts Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh created still more hopes for stronger ties between the two countries.

There is little chance that Pakistan and India will be reunited in the foreseeable future, or that the problem of Kashmir will be solved to the satisfaction of all sides. The far greater possibility is that, as has been so often the case in the history of the subcontinent, these borders will become increasingly irrelevant—that the arbitrary border imposed in 1947 and after are, like all arbitrary borders, subject to change. If both Indians and Pakistanis can move across the borderline easily, and if goods and ideas flow just as easily, ordinary people on both sides of the border may yet move again towards a new version of the subcontinent’s historical ideal of unity and diversity.

Courtesy of:


Towards the Watershed of 1971

During a visit to Dhaka in the late summer of 1968, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto declared Bengali demands for provincial autonomy to be in the best interests of the country. He assailed civil bureaucrats, the CSP in particular, for treating the people of the eastern wing as Kala Admees, literally black men. This derogatory attitude had misled the government into implicating Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the Agartala Conspiracy Case when they might have tried negotiating with him. Self-interested quarters in West Pakistan had started attacking the Awami League’s demands the moment they were announced by Mujib without examining their merits and demerits. Bhutto regretted that Mujib had refused his invitation to debate the six points set forth in public. Only two of the six points were totally unacceptable to the PPP leader, who was prepared to discuss the others in order to remove doubts and misgivings. He urged the government to find some political solution of the problem as such issues cannot be solved byforce.

Three years later, when the golden hues of eastern Bengal’s lush green landscape had been turned red with the steely might of oppression, the sharp-witted Bhutto stood knee deep in the bloodshed in East Pakistan alongside the leadership of a hated military junta. Upon returning to Karachi from Dhaka after the military crackdown on the night of March 25, 1971, the former foreign minister thanked the Almighty for saving Pakistan. He defended the military action publicly and accused Mujibur Rahman of conspiring with India to dismember the country. In private, he conveyed to Yahya Khan that even if limited military action had been found necessary to counter the threat of secession, a resolution of the crisis demanded a political solution that gave the people of the eastern wing their due share of both political and economic power. If the correct course is not followed, Bhutto wrote in a memo to Yahya Khan, then why should East Pakistanis want to stay a part of Pakistan–what stake would they have left in Pakistan with their due rights denied to them? Bhutto warned Yahya against projecting discredited Bengali politicians and strongly recommended providing economic relief to the rural populace of East Pakistan who had not yet been swept away by the Awami League’s propaganda. It was dangerous to create a situation in which the government was left facing a hostile public in both Wings during this national crisis, particularly when India is waiting to take advantage of the situation.

The military regime was disinclined to countenance civilian rule until the successful conclusion of the counterinsurgency operations in East Pakistan. Mindful of the risks involved in attacking the junta, Bhutto confined himself to calling for a transfer of power in the west, which he defined as democratization to deflect criticisms of his thirst for power. Similar steps were to be taken in the eastern wing whenever circumstances became conducive. Despite clear differences in their stances, Bhutto has come to be regarded as Yahya Khan’s accomplice in the making of the colossal human tragedy that culminated in the breakup of Pakistan in December 1971. Bhutto vehemently denied the charge. His differences with Mujibur Rahman were not in the nature of power struggle but a struggle of conflicting equities. For the Awami League leader, equity lay in an independent Bengal . . . for me in the retention of Pakistan. Mujib claimed that the six points were the property of the people of the eastern wing. For Bhutto, Pakistan was the property of the people and the Awami League’s demands a concealed formula for secession. it was in this that our points of view clashed.

The question of who ultimately was responsible for the 1971 debacle has spawned a rich harvest of commentary. At the political level, the debate on the causes of Pakistan’s disintegration has three sides to it in much the same way as one about India’s partition. The Pakistani Army might be seen as replacing the British at the base of the triangle, with Bhutto and Mujib substituting the Muslim League and the Congress as its two sides. As in 1947, the primary hurdle in the way of a mutually acceptable arrangement was how power was to be shared between the main political contenders within a federal state. The similarities between 1947 and 1971 should not be allowed to obfuscate the key difference between them. Unlike the British, who were transferring power before leaving the subcontinent, the Pakistani Army wanted to secure its own interests before passing the mantle to the victorious political parties. Despite the army’s self-interest in the outcome of the negotiations with the Awami League, a powerful current of popular opinion in Pakistan and Bangladesh has held that Bhutto in his greed for power bamboozled a mentally and physically unfit Yahya into dismembering the country. On this view, a conniving and unprincipled politician tricked the army into committing national suicide. Although there may be some merit in this view, the events of 1971 also had a fourth dimension in the form of India’s role, which had a direct bearing on the Pakistani Army’s calculations. To make sense of the single most important watershed in the subcontinent’s post independence history, therefore, requires retracing the evolution of the Awami League’s demands for provincial autonomy within the context of the formation and consolidation of Pakistan military bureaucratic state structure.

The Politics of Denial

Starting its independent career without the semblance of a centre, Pakistan showed its determination to parry external and internal threats to its survival by developing an elaborate hydra-like state structure during the first two and a half decades of its existence. Steeped in the classical tradition of colonial bureaucratic authoritarianism, the state sought to penetrate society, extract resources from the economy and manipulate the polity rather than devolve responsibilities or serve as a two-way channel of communication between the rulers and ruled. The early demise of representative political, processes shored up the centralizing logic of bureaucratic authoritarianism, replacing the democratic requirements of consensus with the dictatorial methods of coercion. The primacy of the central state in all spheres of a society characterized by regional heterogeneities and economic disparities generated rancour among the constituent units, breeding a web of political intrigue and instability that affected the functioning of state authority at the local and provincial levels.

Unable reconcile the imperatives of state building with those of nation building, successive ruling combinations tried to gain legitimacy by playing up the Indian threat and paying lip service to a vaguely defined Islamic ideology. With a narrowly construed security paradigm defining the centre’s conception of national interest, the perspective of the provinces was sidelined, if not altogether ignored. Rumblings of protest in the provinces were put down with an iron fist or given short shrift by invoking the common bond of religion. Islam in the service of a military authoritarian state proved to be divisive. Far from unifying a people fractured along regional and class lines, the state’s use of religion encouraged self-styled ideologues of Islam to nurture hopes of one day storming the citadels of the Muslim state. The great populist poet Habib Jalib poured scorn on the state’s appropriation of Islam to promote national unity. “ISLAM IS NOT IN DANGER” he cried out in a memorable poem. It was the idle rich, the exploiters of the peasantry and labour, the thieves, tricksters, and traitors in league with Western capitalists who were endangered.

Proponents of such populist ideas were hounded and winnowed out. With the press in chains and civil society the target of novel forms of social and political engineering, the odds were stacked against the advocates of democracy. After derailing the political process in 1958, the military-bureaucratic establishment tried securing its bases of support. This meant bypassing political parties and using state power to bring segments of dominant socioeconomic groups under the regime’s sway through differential patronage and selective mobilization. During the heyday of modernization theory in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Pakistan under military rule was hailed in some quarters in the West as a model of social harmony and political stability in the developing world. The expectations were sorely belied by the realities on the ground. The methods employed to construct and consolidate the state exacerbated provincial grievances, with dire consequences for Pakistan’s political stability and tenuous federal equation. State-sponsored processes of political inclusion and exclusion, the economics of functional inequality, and neglect of regional disparities made it increasingly difficult to administer two geographically separate parts, triggering the ignominious downfall of two military regimes and sowing the seeds of disintegration of the country.

The breakup of Pakistan was the result of the autocratic policies of its state managers rather than the inherent difficulties involved in welding together linguistically and culturally diverse constituent units. Islam proved to be dubious cement not because it was unimportant to people in the different regions. Pakistan’s regional cultures have absorbed Islam without losing affinity to local languages and customs. With some justification, non-Punjabi provinces came to perceive the use of Islam as a wily attempt by the Punjabi-led military-bureaucratic combine to deprive them of a fair share of political and economic power. Non-Punjabi antipathy towards a Punjab-dominated centre often found expression in assertions of regional distinctiveness. But politics more than cultural differences stoked regional resentments. Clarion calls for provincial autonomy were effectively demands for better job opportunities, basic social services, and a larger cut of state finances.

Here the fault lines in the Pakistani state structure played a decisive role. The demands of the military establishment on the state’s meagre resources left little for development in the provinces. Seeing India as a near and present danger, the military-bureaucratic establishment used Pakistan’s geo-strategic location to attract American military and economic assistance in return for supporting Washington’s Cold War agenda. Once a partnership had been struck with the United States, a security-conscious state fostered a political economy characterized by high defence and low development expenditure. The primary goal of the state’s development initiatives were to enhance revenue rather than social welfare— a process that saw the no- elected institutions edging out the elected institutions in the struggle for dominance in the new state. These non elected institutions carried a legacy of uneven recruitment patterns from the colonial era, compounding the difficulties in integrating diverse linguistic and socioeconomic groups.

An overarching reason for the Pakistani state’s faltering steps in the quest for social support and legitimacy was that the federal centre came to represent the interests of the dominant non-elected institutions more effectively than those of the regional socioeconomic groups to which at different stages it was loosely tied. Apart from extending patronage to its functionaries and locating them in key sectors of the economy, the state defined the field of political privilege. In the absence of democratic politics, the dominance of a predominantly Punjabi civil bureaucracy and army heightened the grievances of non-Punjabi provinces and the linguistic groups within them. The entrenched institutional supremacy of a Punjabi army and federal bureaucracy, not Punjab’s dominance over other provinces per se, had emerged as the principal impediment to restoring democratic processes in Pakistan. In the face of chronic tensions between the centre and the regions, the religious glue of Islam alone could not bind a diverse and disparate people into a nation.

The proposed homeland for India’s Muslims was envisaged in the Lahore Resolution of 1940 as a federation of sovereign and autonomous units. The hint of confederalism quickly fell by the wayside in the heady aftermath of 1947. The first requirement of the new government in Karachi was to establish its writ over two geographically distinct constituent units. In the absence of a preexisting central apparatus and effective political party machinery in the provinces, pragmatism was the better option. The Government of India Act of 1935 was adapted as the provisional constitution and later made the bedrock of the 1956 and the 1962 constitutions. Aimed at perpetuating, not terminating colonial rule, the Act of 1935 retained certain unitary features of the British Indian state to counterbalance the concessions of federalism. Unlike most federal systems of government, the constituent units were made subject to a single constitution. The federal centre arrogated superior powers in legislative, financial and political matters. Soon after independence, the provinces were deprived of the financial autonomy granted to them under the act and made dependent on central handouts which, given the severe shortage of funds, were wholly inadequate for their development needs.

The future course of democracy was imperilled in a country whose federal configuration to begin with consisted of fifteen different entities—five provinces and ten princely states—of vastly uneven size and political importance. Troubled by the political implications of an overall Bengali majority in the federation, officialdom in West Pakistan gave enthusiastic support to the merger of the western wing under the one unit scheme. Unlike the western wing, with its heterogeneities, East Bengal was in relative terms linguistically and culturally homogenous. It was also politically more volatile than parts of West Pakistan. Bengalis felt passionately about their autonomy and were prone to leftist ideologies and sporadic bouts of violence. They resented the use of their hard-earned foreign exchange to beef up a military establishment wedded to the curious strategic doctrine of defending the eastern wing from West Pakistan. Seeing an Indian hand in Bengali demands for provincial autonomy, the federal government declared them seditious and, in turn, used this to justify its centralizing and homogenizing designs. But neither the threat of India nor the allure of Islam could save the centre from the wrath of constituent units reduced to being hapless appendages in a state that was federal in form and unitary in substance.

If East Bengal was a thorn in the side of the federal establishment, the fourteen units composing the western wing presented a political and constitutional conundrum. Most of the princely states claimed some semblance of sovereignty and had to be cajoled and coerced into acceding to Pakistan before being summarily bundled into the one-unit scheme of October 1955. Those that resisted, Kalat, for instance—were clobbered with an iron hand. As the largest of the tribal states in Baluchistan, Kalat enjoyed the allegiance of tribal chiefs who, though monitored by the British resident in Quetta, had retained autonomy over their local affairs during the colonial period. The Pakistani centre’s encroachments on Baluchistan threatened to alter a jealously guarded status quo. Sporadic eruptions of armed insurgency became a recurrent feature of politics in Baluchistan. This was not too difficult given the impoverishment of the people and the absence of the most rudimentary forms of infrastructure for the economic development of the province. During the 1960, Sher Mohammad Marri spearheaded the resistance under the umbrella of the Baluch Liberation Front. The battles fought by the Pakistani Army in the rugged terrain of Baluchistan shaped its institutional psyche in decisive ways. Baluch nationalists were labelled miscreants working hand in glove with either Afghanistan or the country’s premier enemy. This perception did not remain confined to the military. Tarring regional demands with the Indian brush became such an entrenched part of the official discourse of nationalism in Pakistan that the managers of the centralized state regarded legitimate demands for provincial autonomy with deep suspicion.

Consequently, even in the relatively quiescent parts of West Pakistan, there was no love lost for an unresponsive centre that continued swallowing up larger and larger chunks of provincial revenues without contributing much for the development of local infrastructure and social welfare. The massive demographic changes accompanying partition strained the limited administrative capacities of Punjab and Sindh to breaking point. While the exodus of non-Muslims disrupted the economic and educational networks in these provinces, accommodating the bulk of the 7.2 million Muslim refugees from India within a short span of time was impossible without the sustained help of the central government. Preoccupied with matters of defence and its own political survival, Karachi’s assistance to these provinces fell well short of expectations. In the absence e of funds and efficient administrative solutions, the rehabilitation of refugees was quickly transformed into an explosive political issue. Several provincial politicians used it to chip away at the centre’s uncertain authority.

Accounting for 10% of Pakistan’s population by 1951, the refugees permanently altered the political landscape of Punjab and Sindh. Despite taking in a much larger percentage of Muslims fleeing parts of East Punjab ravaged by violence, Punjab had a relatively easier time absorbing the mainly Punjabi-speaking migrants into its social fabric. By contrast, the influx of mainly Urdu-speaking migrants into Sindh created a clutch of political and cultural problems for the provincial administration. More than half a million refugees came to Sindh during the initial years of independence. Almost two-thirds of them opted for urban centres like Karachi and Hyderabad while the remainder settled in the rural areas of this overwhelmingly agricultural province. In principle, the incoming migrants were expected to replace the non-Muslims in both the urban and rural areas. However, the problem of resettlement was far more complicated and the ensuing tensions between local Sindhis and the newcomers much fiercer than in Punjab. For one thing, the outflow of Hindus to India was slower in Sindh than in Punjab. For another, some of the more powerful Sindhi Muslim landlords are said to have grabbed nearly two-thirds of the agricultural land vacated by the Hindus before migrants from UP, Hyderabad Deccan, or East Punjab could make their presence felt. The situation was particularly fraught in Karachi, a thriving cosmopolitan city of 400,000 in 1947, but one in which construction activity had not kept pace with the growth in population due to World War II. The preferred destination for a majority of uprooted Urdu-speakers from North India’s urban areas, Karachi had thinly spread municipal facilities, whether for health, communications, water supply, electric power, or housing, that were incapable of bearing the burden of its new population.

The sheer pace of the sociocultural and political transformation of Sindh can be seen by the jump in the number of Urdu speakers from a mere 1% of the population in 1947 to 12% by the time of the 1951 census. With just a sprinkle of Urdu speakers at the time of partition, Karachi by the late 1950s had become a migrant city with more than half its population claiming Urdu as their mother tongue. This would not have been possible if the provincial government had succeeded in getting its way. Within a year or so of partition, relations between the centre and the Sindh government had nose-dived over the forcible separation of Karachi from the province. Justified on the grounds of national interest, the loss of Karachi rankled the Sindhis all the more because they were not compensated for the loss of the province’s primary revenue earner. Under the circumstances, the centre’s advocacy of Urdu-speaking migrants’ right to space, gainful employment, and adequate political representation was perceived as a deep-seated conspiracy to displace Sindhis from a position of dominance in their own province. The centre’s preference for authoritarian methods over democratic ones even during the first decade after independence only confirmed the worst fears of the Sindhis. Calling themselves muhajirs, or refugees after the early community of Islam that migrated from Mecca to Medina, the Urdu speakers believed that their sacrifices of life and property for Pakistan entitled them to a privileged position in the new state. Lacking a provincial base of their own, the class, occupational, and emotional profile of many Urdu speakers made them particularly susceptible to the appeal to religion by self-styled “Islamist” parties like the Jamaat-i-Islami and the JUP, which had made Karachi the focus of their oppositional politics. Paradoxically enough, their religious pretensions and claims of cultural superiority over other linguistic groups suited a West Pakistani establishment, harping on the Islamic identity of Pakistan and Urdu as the cultural motif of its national unity, much more than political parties with provincial bases of support.

The concordat between the centre and the better-educated Urdu speaking muhajirs, many of whom held top positions in the federal bureaucracy, had large implications for Pakistani politics. Even before the first military takeover of 1958, the migrants’ success in creating a social and political niche for themselves, especially in Karachi, was intensely resented not only by Sindhis but also by Punjabis, Pathans, Gujaratis and Baluchis who had come to the city looking for employment and a better quality of life. Antipathy towards the Urdu-speaking migrants was not a facet of the Sindhi sociopolitical scene alone. It extended to other provinces where the educated classes felt slighted by the cultural pretensions of the Urdu speakers. This was true even of those members of the urban Punjabi middle and upper classes who accepted Urdu as their lingua franca in the interest of national cohesion. Urdu was much less prevalent in the NWFP and Baluchistan. The Pathan provincial elite gradually took to it for pragmatic reasons without abandoning their own mother tongue, Pashto. In Baluchistan, Urdu was resisted as an alien imposition by a rapacious and indifferent government.

The suspension of democratic government in October 1958 gave a fillip to these sentiments and, in turn, provoked the centre into draconian measures in the name of national unity. Disgruntled politicians with regional bases of support were either locked out of Ayub’s bureaucratically controlled political system or locked up in jail on various grounds. Pakistan under military rule flouted the elementary norms of federalism, accentuating strains in centre-province relations. As the non-elected institutions were the main beneficiaries of administrative centralization and democratic denial, their overwhelmingly Punjabi character caused bitterness among non-Punjabis. Unable to allocate financial resources equitably to the provinces and unwilling to grant them their share of power, the federal union of Pakistan was built on a fragile branch that was liable to break under the weight of its own contradictions.

To prevent this eventuality, steps had been taken as early as 1949 to placate the non-Punjabi provinces by instituting a quota system for recruitment to the federal government services. This failed to provide adequate, far less equitable representation to the provinces or the linguistic minorities within them. Instead of correcting centrifugal trends, a centralization drive by an administrative bureaucracy dominated by Punjabis and Urdu speakers fanned provincialism. Bengalis led the non-Punjabi charge in demanding better representation in the civil, diplomatic, and armed services. The federal centre was accused of pursuing policies of internal colonization by posting Punjabi and Urdu-speaking civil servants to the non-Punjabi provinces to pilfer their meagre share of resources. Instead of consulting with the provinces or making a prior reference to the legislature, the federal centre soon after independence had temporarily withheld the share out of income tax. In an audacious move, the centre arbitrarily took away the right of the provinces to collect sales tax, the single most elastic source of their revenue. Justified in the name of national interest, the centre’s monopolization of the entire gamut of fiscal and financial arrangements to pay for a debilitating defence burden extinguished such hopes as existed of generating a measure of federal bonhomie.

The nub of Bengali hostility towards the West Pakistani establishment was the pernicious logic of functional inequality. Once militarization and industrialization became the twin pillars of Pakistani officialdom’s development rhetoric, an astonishing range of special concessions were offered to West Pakistani-based business families at the expense of the agricultural sector in East Pakistan. Raw jute grown in the eastern wing was the leading foreign exchange earner during Pakistan’s first decade of independence. In the fall of 1949, Pakistan exercised its financial sovereignty by refusing to follow the example of Britain and India and devaluing its currency. As the centre’s economic wizards had correctly calculated, this boosted export earnings by nearly 40%. The non devaluation decision brought down jute and wheat prices while those of other essential commodities increased. By imposing heavy export duties to the detriment of agriculture, the central augmented its foreign exchange reserves. The additional foreign exchange was used to finance the defence procurement effort and the industrialization of West Pakistan. Bengali grumbles about being used as milk cow for the security and development of the western wing were dismissed or conveniently misread as evidence of secessionist and pro-Indian tendencies.

So long as even the most compromised form of a federal parliamentary system was in place, it was impossible to leave the provinces completely in the financial lurch. Soon after the controversial erosion of provincial fiscal rights, the central government entered into negotiations with the provinces to arrive at a more mutually acceptable allocation of financial resources. An official of the Australian treasury, Jeremy Raisman, had been asked by the Pakistan government to examine the existing financial arrangements between the centre and the provinces. In January 1952, the Raisman Report increased the provincial proportion of federal finances. It gave East Bengal just under two-thirds of the export duty on raw jute but turned down Punjabi and Sindhi requests for a cut in the export duties in view of the federal government’s precarious financial position. Raisman also rejected provincial demands that the sales tax should be distributed among them and not shared between them and the centre. Although a positive development in an otherwise grim federal landscape, the Raisman Award did not go far enough in alleviating centre-region frictions over the all-important issue of financial autonomy.

If the centre’s tight fistedness could be justified in the light of the strategic and economic consequences of partition, its overbearing attitude towards the cultural sensitivities of the provinces was inexcusable. There were powerful undercurrents of cultural alienation in provincial demands for autonomy. Bengali outrage at the centre’s Urdu-only language policy was just the tip of the iceberg, concealing a deep-seated resentment at the marginalization of their culture in the emerging narratives of the Pakistani nation. The wounded pride of the Bengalis had met with a rude shock on February 21, 1952, when the centre’s crackdown on the student-led language movement in Dhaka led to the killing of four students and injured several more. Commemorated as Martyrs’ Day by Bengali ever since, the incident is thought to have marked the beginning of the politics of dissent that culminated in Bangladeshi nationalism and independence. Bengali linguistic nationalism, however, was one among several factors that led eventually to the breakup of Pakistan.

Bengalis were not alone in feeling aggrieved by the centre’s imposition of Urdu as the official language. A section of Punjabis belonging mostly to the lower and less well-off middle classes, bemoaned the loss of their linguistic tradition in the rush to embrace Urdu. They felt alienated by the state’s artificial attempts to imitate the mores of the Mughal court. Their opposition was not to Urdu but to its patronage by the federal centre at the expense of Punjabi, a language with a rich and vibrant oral and written literary history spanning a thousand years. Confusing cultural assertion with parochialism, the central government harassed Punjabi intellectuals working to promote their regional language, declaring the more recalcitrant among them as “anti state.” The suspension of parliamentary government in 1958 dealt a hammer blow to regional linguistic aspirations not only in Punjab but also in non-Punjab provinces. Fancying himself as the great unifier, General Aruba suppressed regional literary associations, dubbing some of them as extensions of the banned Communist Party.

State coercion could at best curb the growth of mass-based language movements, not dilute the enthusiasm of the more ardent protagonists of linguistic regionalism. Bengalis defied the government’s crude attempts to prevent them from celebrating the birthday of the revered Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. The ban on his works in the state-controlled media heightened Tagore’s appeal as a symbol of Bengali resistance against an intrusive and dictatorial centre. Bengali writers and poets used Tagore, along with socialist and communist themes, to highlight the exploitation of East Pakistan and attack the state’s Islamic ideology. In West Pakistan too, regional languages like Punjabi, Pashto and Sindhi continued to expand their readership by increasing their literary production independently of the state. Advertising the risks of forcibly regimenting cultural traditions, Urdu came to be seen as an alien implant at the service of a neo-imperialist agenda.

The centre’s myopic handling of provincial sensibilities on language was matched by ham-handed attempts at marshalling Islam in the cause of nation building. With the religious ideologues agitating for the introduction of sharia, senior bureaucrats set about feverishly establishing the religious credentials of the state. The result was a strange convergence of interest between an authoritarian centre, besieged by a crescendos of demands for provincial autonomy, and a spectrum of Islamic ideologues looking for ways to squeeze through the woodwork to the apex of state power. Although it is impossible to exaggerate the extent of the symbiosis between these two distinct forces, the state’s emphasis on its religious identity lent greater legitimacy to the would-be-ideologues of Islam than the ground realities merited. But there was a world of difference between using religious preachers to advance the state’s homogenizing logic and a commitment to turning Pakistan into a conservative, hidebound Islamic state on a narrowly construed reading of Islam.

Ever since the Objectives Resolution of 1949–ostensibly a victory for modernist interpretations of Islam—the so called religious parties had chastised the state overlords for not living up to the ideals of Islam. Mawdudi, the leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami, lent ideological starch to this argument. In his opinion, it was the duty of a state created in the name of Islam to mold the hearts and minds of its citizens according to the tenets of their religion. There was no scope for citizens to influence or contest the state’s understanding of Islam. Mawdudi defended this on the grounds that because sovereignty in an Islamic state was vested in Allah, such perfect justice and equity will prevail that dissent would amount to apostasy. The Jamaat ideologue had pretensions about pressing his credentials as an Islamic scholar with infallible authority to interpret the divine will. Consistent with his view of the state in Islam as a spiritual democracy, Iqbal had proposed reposing the authority in an elected Parliament. In Mawdudi’s authoritarian conception of an Islamic state, there was no possibility of Parliament debating, far less defining God’s will. Muslims not confirming to his idea of Islam were implicitly excluded from Mawdudi’s definition of a believer. In another significant departure from the poetic visionary of Pakistan, who had held that the idea of the state was not dominant in Islam, Mawdudi considered the acquisition of state power vital to attain the ideal Islamic way of life. He proposed a jihad to seize state power and declared the lesser jihad (against the enemies of Islam) to be more important than the greater jihad (with one’s inner self). Jihad was justified against internal Muslim others quite as much as against non-Muslims, sharpening the edges of the fault lines in the battle for the soul of Pakistan. There was no place in this scheme of things for any mutually negotiated coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Islamic state was the ideological embodiment of Muslim belief in one God and the Prophet Muhammad. Consequently, non-Muslims had to be debarred from holding key positions of responsibility. The same logic led Mawdudi to propose that Indian Muslims, a rump of a once significant community, had no choice but to live according to the dictates of the Hindu-majority community.

Mawdudi’s idea of indoctrination and his strident anti-Indian rhetoric coupled with an insistence on Islam held out attractions for a military dominated state. However, there was no question of the decision makers in the military and civil bureaucracy letting the clerics rule the Islamic roost. During Ayub Khan’s era of enlightened Islam, Mawdudism became a word of execration and also fear. The religious lobby’s potential to kick up a popular storm to the detriment of an authoritarian regime fully dawned on the general within years of his usurpation of state power. Moon sighting for the Muslim festival of Eid was a source of contention among the believers, with the clerics using it as an opportunity to enhance their public reach. When the Ayub regime tried rationalization of the process in 1967 by setting up a committee that proceeded to announce a day for Eid, the ulema led by Mawdudi protested this unwarranted intervention by the state in a sphere they regarded as their exclusive preserve. Five of them were quickly put behind bars, including Mawdudi, and the press prohibited from reporting on the matter. Throughout the Ayub era, Mawdudi bore the brunt of the state’s coercive apparatus and was dragged through the courts in lengthy and financially withering legal battles. Ayub vented his fury against the Jamaat leader, calling him a traitor and true enemy of Islam. In any other country, the dictator opined, Mawdudi would have been lynched like a dog, but in Pakistan we have rule of law of which traitors take full advantage and protection.

A gaggle of senior civil bureaucrats close to Ayub’s way of thinking set about conjuring up the idioms of an Islamic ideology designed to expedite national integration rather than any visible kind of religiosity. What ensued was a scrappy tug-of-war between self-styled ideologues at the helm of state power and the bearded legions with their prayer rosaries, whether in the mosques, seminaries, or on the streets, over the authority to interpret the message of Islam. Among the main casualties of the struggle was the centre-province equation, with dire consequences for the federation. The state’s recourse to religion was designed to counter claims based on cultural diversity and difference. Intended to facilitate unity among Pakistan’s diverse regions, cynical uses of Islam served to undermine any sort of consensus on national identity. For a largely destitute populace seeking to eke out a decent living, matters to do with Islam’s ritualistic, doctrinal and spiritual aspects were not the primary issue. Singling our Islam as the only thread in the intricate regional weave of Pakistan’s national identity was a crudely conceived policy of homogenization through which the military-bureaucratic state succeeded in making an issue out of a non issue. A citizenry more in tune with the eclectic and varied social makeup of the country was quite comfortable wearing multiple affinities of region, religion, and nation. Policies of national indoctrination in the name of Islam generated derision, dismay and dissension, most noticeably in the eastern wing.

The votaries of the Pakistani state’s centralizing and homogenizing project arrogantly dismissed dissenting reactions as products of ignorance, insularity, and worse still, secessionist inclinations. General Ayub had a visceral dislike for the advocates of provincial rights, who he thought were disrupting the economic progress of the country. The Pakistan Council for National Integration was established with the explicit objective of promoting better understanding among the people of the two wings in order to fashion a common national outlook. Reading rooms were opened in key cities, and lectures, seminars and symposia were held on the theme o& national unity and integration. Some of these did help lift the veil of ignorance between the two halves of the country. But without qualitative changes on the political and economic front, integrative rhetoric without a concrete action was wholly ineffective in bridging the gulf separating the Bengali from the people of West Pakistan.

Ayub had banked on the leavening effects of his economic development policies to justify keeping tight curbs on political activity. This was excessively optimistic, as he soon found out. Under his regime’s externally stimulated development policies, East Pakistan received a bigger share of state resources than in the 1950s. But with 55% of the population, a share of 35% of the total development expenditure was neither fair nor equitable. The centralized nature of the state-directed development effort, in any case, ensured that the economy of the eastern wing continued to lag well behind that of the western wing. The regime’s growth oriented strategies increased regional income disparities without any improvement in Bengali representation among army officers, which remained at a lowly 5%. The higher income levels in West Pakistan were ascribed by officialdom to the effects of the “Green Revolution” and the leap in agricultural production that had ensued after the introduction of new technologies. In fact, inter regional discrepancies in growth and development were a direct result of the policy to use East Pakistan’s export surplus to finance West Pakistan’s deficits. The federal government’s hollow propaganda incensed Bengali popular opinion further, galvanizing support for the Awami League but, at the same time, threatening to subsume its campaign for provincial autonomy with cries for full independence.

By courtesy of: The Struggle for Pakistan by Ayesha Jalal, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2014