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Thursday, May 30, 2024

From Partition to Resilience: Pakistan’s Struggle and Progress

Amidst fervent opposition and widespread skepticism, Pakistan emerged as a separate homeland for Muslims during the tumultuous era of India's partition. Despite strong opposition from various factions, the All India Muslim League persevered, securing convincing victories in elections and affirming the aspirations of the Muslim majority.

When All India Muslim League (AIML) officially adopted the idea of a separate homeland to safeguard the interests of Muslims of India at its annual session in March 1940, it was strongly opposed by the Congress and other Hindu parties, the British, Muslim religious parties including Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, the Ahrars as well as Khaksars.

In August 1942, the Akali leader Gayani Kartar Singh proclaimed in Amritsar, ‘If Pakistan is foisted upon the Sikhs with the help of British bayonets, we shall tear it into shreds as Guru Gobind Singh tore up the Mughal Empire’ (‘A History of the Sikhs, vol. 2, by Khushwant Singh, New Delhi, 1991, p. 252).

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Convincing victory of AIML in the Central and Provincial Assemblies in the elections held in end of 1945 in which it won all the Muslim seats in the Central Assembly, 87% seats in the Provincial Assemblies, reaffirmed the stance of Mr. MA Jinnah that only AIML represented the interest and aspirations of their vast majority and that the Muslims did not want to be a part of Hindu dominated united India.

Exhausted by the long war, Britain realized she could no longer hold on and decided to give India her freedom. It only remained to be decided in what form power should be transferred to avoid chaos and possible civil war.

The British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee had decided to hand over power to avoid the eventuality of a bloody civil war. (Transfer of Power Documents 1942-1947, Vol. IX, P. 319). He would have much preferred if India remained united but when the Cabinet Mission failed in 1946, the only option left open was to Partition the country.

To get the Congress Party to agree to it, the latter was assured that it will be done in such a way that Pakistan will not be a viable country and unlikely to survive for long. This assertion was made on the basis that East Bengal, Sindh and Balochistan were underdeveloped; most industries/factories/mills were located in India, and most headworks of canal irrigation systems were in East Punjab.

There is evidence to suggest that based on assurances given to them, Congress leaders accepted Pakistan only as a makeshift measure. In a letter to India’s representative in China, K. P. S Menon on 29th April 1947, Nehru wrote that he was in no doubt that eventually India would have to become one country and it could well be that Partition was but a stepping stone on the path towards that goal. (Nehru: The Making of India, by M. J. Akbar, London, 1989, p. 405). The economic wizards had given six months life to Pakistan prophesying that it would collapse under the weight of a plethora of problems.

To ensure this happened, India withheld Pakistan’s share of finances and other assets after independence. Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, who became Supreme Commander of both India and Pakistan after Partition reported to Whitehall on 28th September 1947:

I have no hesitation whatsoever in affirming that the present India Cabinet are implacably determined to do all in their power to prevent the establishment of the Dominion of Pakistan on a firm basis. In this I am supported by the unanimous opinion of my senior officers, and indeed by all British officers cognizant of the situation’. (Auchinleck, by John Connel, London, 1959, p. 1379).

Efforts to Dissuade Mr. Jinnah

As a last resort to dissuade Mr. Jinnah, the Hindu Bengalis and the Sikhs egged on by Congress leaders demanded bifurcation of Bengal and Punjab. They knew that division of Bengal would torpedo Pakistan since East Bengal without Calcutta would become a rural slum. The Muslim nobility in this part of Bengal had already been turned into serfdom by the Hindu-British combine from 1757 onwards and Hindu Bengalis residing in West Bengal became the new masters in a matter of 50 years. It was due to their maltreatment that Muslims of Bengal were most keen to create Pakistan and were in the vanguard of the Pakistan movement.

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It had been originally announced that the transfer of power was to take place on 30th June 1948. Citing the example of Irish independence when Britain had taken more than two years just to agree on the modalities of the transfer of power to Ireland, Jinnah asked for more time. Instead, Mountbatten advanced the date to 15th August 1947 giving Jinnah less than two months to set up a new country!

Not only that, eight tehsils in Central Punjab adjoining Pakistan, including Ajnala, Gurdaspur, Batala, Jullunder, Nakodar, Ferozepur, Zira, Fazilka and parts of Shakargarh and Lahore where Muslims were in majority, were all awarded to India to ensure the latter had access to Kashmir and control of rivers flowing into Pakistan. Gurdaspur District provided India contiguity and access to the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

In the face of such formidable opposition, creation of Pakistan was undoubtedly a miracle of the 20th century. The unwavering conviction and resolve of the Muslims of India led by indomitable and incorruptible Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to have a place of their own where they could live freely, without being dominated by the Hindus carried the day.

Pakistan’s Teething Problems

Pakistan started its journey as an independent State from Aug 15, 1947 onwards from a scratch. The toughest challenge was rehabilitation of refugees. Pakistan had to accommodate and settle nine million destitute refugees from India. After migration of skilled non-Muslims, Pakistan was seriously handicapped in skilled manpower. The fact that she survived and prospered and continues to do so against all odds can only be attributed to the resilience, fortitude, determination, unity of purpose and spirit of sacrifice of her people.

Pakistan inherited the unfinished agenda of J&K left behind by the British and had to suffer the consequences of the unjust Radcliffe Boundary Award which truncated Pakistan.

India wants Pakistan to repent its decision loaded Pakistan with an overabundance of knotty problems so as to throttle it in its infancy. It turned down the offer of peace and friendship made by Quaid-e-Azam and adopted a highly belligerent posture by deploying forces along the border in 1950 and in 1951. It withheld rightful share of financial assets, ordnance and services and staff records of Pakistan and started an economic war. All the 565 Princely States including those wanting to join Pakistan were gobbled by India. In Oct 1947, Indian forces landed in Srinagar and nibbled two-thirds of the Kashmir territory. Pakistani forces and Azad forces managed to save AJK. India suspended water flow in the rivers. Fissiparous tendencies in NWFP, Balochistan and Sindh were encouraged.

Afghanistan was another security concern which refused to accept the Durand Line as an international border. It laid claims on all of Pushtun inhabited regions of Pakistan and supported the Pashtunistan movement and Balochistan insurgencies. Security concerns impelled the early leaders to gravitate towards the US and join the western pacts in 1954/55. Security overtook economics.

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Pakistan was deprived of its founding father Quaid-e-Azam in Sept 1948 which orphaned the nation struggling to survive. After the murder of Liaqat Ali Khan in Oct 1951, seven PMs were changed in ten years. It took nine years to frame the 1956 constitution, which remained operational for only two years. The shaky formative years during which the two bureaucrat Governor Generals got involved in palace intrigues and power struggle made the foundations of democracy weak.

India’s Progression

India on the other hand started its journey as a successor state of the British under ideal conditions. Nehru ruled the roost till 1964, his daughter Indira Gandhi up to 1984 and his son Rajiv Gandhi till 1991. It had a well-established Congress Party, a well-oiled administrative infrastructure, strong industrial and defense bases with no dearth of skilled manpower, staff and resources and had no external threat.

India opted to become a camp follower of the former Soviet Union and it opposed western imperialist policies. India also projected itself as the leader of the Non-aligned World (NAM) and champion of democracy to derive benefits from both camps. Under the farce of secularism, Indian Congress was authoritarian, and it decried other minorities particularly the largest minority of Indian Muslims, and pursued soft Hindutva. The ruling Congress Party treated the Hindu extremist groups like the RSS and Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackereray, who stoked ethnic and religious violence, softly. Hindu-Muslim communal riots were a recurring phenomenon in India before and after the Partition of India.

India’s Habit of Self-Projection

India relied heavily on the media and Bollywood for its glamorization and to hide its ugly four-fold casticism in which the 2.8% Brahmans remain the unchallenged and indisputable rulers of India. Centralism has been the centerpiece of India’s mode of governance.

Media helped in promoting notions like the glorious past of the Hindu Brahmans and mythical Akhand Bharat. The golden rule of the Muslims in India for over 700 years was painted in black by twisting historical facts, and parts of Indian history were obliterated. India used music, films and colorful rituals of Hindus to win over audiences inside and outside India. Subversion was used as a tool to create problems for all the seven neighboring states in South Asia and to keep them intimidated.

India Profited from both Camps

Taking advantage of its big size, geographic location, population and huge consumer economic market, it drew maximum benefits from the former Soviet Union and also accrued profits from the USA led West which remained eager to befriend India. From the times of President Truman, Washington’s preference was India. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, India hastened to shift into the waiting lap of India and became its strategic partner. Since then, the Indo-US relationship has progressed leaps and bounds.

India enjoys cordial relations with all countries of the world and the US is its chief patron. It is maintaining a strategic relationship with Russia, spread over 75 years, which was its major supplier of arms throughout the Cold War. Even now, over 60% of India’s armed forces armaments are of Russian origin. In spite of the US and Europe’s serious concerns, India has not broken its defense and strategic ties with Iran. While India and China are rivals, India’s trade with China is about $100 billion annually. India is also a strategic partner of Israel and has made deep inroads in the Muslim world, in Africa, Central Asia and Far Eastern countries.

India’s economy that had remained in doldrums till the mid-1990s with its GDP remaining at 4% and below, made a remarkable recovery and today it ranks among the leading economies. India aspires to become a permanent member of the UNSC and of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Pakistan a Bigger Threat for India

Pakistan is India’s arch-rival and seen as a thorn in the flesh. Although China poses a bigger threat to Indian security and geo-economic interests, India views Pakistan as the only stumbling block in its way to achieve the status of superpower of South Asia, policeman of the Indo-Pacific region and global power.

After subverting the minds of the people of East Pakistan for 24 years, Indian forces with the help of the former USSR, severed the eastern limb in 1971. India is still looking for opportunities to further fragment Pakistan. Reason behind India’s never-ending animosity is Pakistan’s refusal to accept its hegemony in South Asia, its refusal to get overawed with the bullying tactics of five times superior Indian armed forces and its intimidating diplomatic clout. Attainment of nuclear and missile capabilities by Pakistan, its close alliance with China and CPEC give nightmares to India.

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The writer is retired Brig Gen, 2nd generation officer, war veteran, approved defense & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, takes part in TV talk shows, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan. asifharoonraja@gmail.com  

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.