In a couple of weeks, India and Pakistan will celebrate their independence from the British Raj three scores and ten years back. In some paradoxical way, Bangladesh may also join in that celebration as that was also the precursor to its own independence some 24 years later on 26 March 1971.

A two-nation theory (TNT) which Muhammad Ali Jinnah adopted and promoted in the late 1930s and 1940s with so much hullabaloo that not only the Indian National Congress (INC) but also the British Raj, shaken and grievously harmed and weakened by the WWII, had to cave in to. The strident call for a separate state for the minority Muslims comprising some 30 per cent of the Indian population was nothing but Jinnah’s Machiavellian ploy to achieve his political ambition. After spending the formative part of his political career in the Congress, Jinnah realised that his ambition to reach the highest rung of the political hierarchy in the talent-strewn Congress could not possibly be achieved. So he had to find other avenues to achieve his aims.

For centuries Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Zoroastrians and all other religious mixes had been living together sometimes under Muslim rulers, sometimes under Hindu rulers, sometimes under Christian rulers and many a time under an admixture of rulers. But never before were people segregated on the pretext that minorities would not receive justice under a unified government. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the INC president for a number of terms, Mahatma Gandhi and many others tried to persuade Jinnah to be part of a united India by offering him various options, such as a federated state for India with all administrative powers except foreign and defence being vested in states, Jinnah’s choice in the matter of a first cabinet, etc. But Jinnah would have none of it.

The country was forked out into two nations – one for the Muslims and the other for all religious denominations in India. Pakistan was formed by putting together two Muslim majority areas – West Pakistan on the west and East Pakistan on the east of India – separated by nearly 2000 km. There was no common ground between these two peoples, except the tenuous link of Islam. If Islam could be the glue between various peoples, then the whole of the Middle East would have been a unified state, which it is not!

However, Jinnah won the day, not so much by the strength of his political argument but by sheer communal barbarity. When communalism is stoked up by politicians to gain currency, race riots follow. More than one million people – men, women and children – died in race riots immediately pre- and post- independence and ten million people were displaced.

The first step to transform Pakistan into an Islamic state was taken by Liaquat Ali Khan.

That the new state would look after the interests of the Muslims sounds totally hollow. More than 30% of Muslims remained in India despite some of the most horrendous race riots triggered by politicians to polarise the country. Jinnah used Islam for his political purposes, but he was not a practising Muslim at all. He belonged to the Ismaili sect (also known as Aga Khani) — part of the Shia sect in Islam. He was a thoroughbred western educated lawyer with a western lifestyle. When he formed the first government in Pakistan, his first foreign minister, Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, was an Ahmadi (also known as Qadiani), another sect of the Shia community, now regarded by Sunnis as heretical. His law minister was a Hindu. Jinnah’s second wife was a Zoroastrian, an ancient religion predating all monotheistic religions. So, religion was definitely not the deciding factor, although the state was created on this basis.

However, within a few short months of the creation of Pakistan, Islamists led by the Jamaat-e-Islam saw their opportunity. The first step to transform Pakistan into an Islamic state was taken by Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister, through the Objectives Resolution, wherein it was declared thaat sovereignty over the entire universe belonged to God Almighty! All non-religious activities were gradually discouraged in both wings of the country. Within a few years, Pakistan was declared an Islamic Republic.

Religious fanaticism had completely taken over Pakistan. If such fanaticism had existed in Pakistan when it was created, then Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, would have been declared non-Muslim and expelled from the country. Mohammad Zafrullah Khan would have been relieved of his duties as the country’s top diplomat and imprisoned on charges of heresy. Prof. Abdus Salam, the first Muslim Nobel Laureate in physics from Pakistan, had actually been stripped of his nationality and declared a non-Muslim as he was an Ahmadi. His tombstone was desecrated by removing the word ‘Muslim’ from it.

The very ideology of the two-nation theory now stands totally discredited. Those two nations have now spawned into three nations, Bangladesh being the latest one. As it stands now Baloch, Sindh and the border regions in Pakistan are asserting their rights based on their ethnicity and cultural identity in contrast to Pakistan’s assertion of religiosity. If you open a can of worms, it is very difficult to put the worms back in.

The communal ideology of one state for one religion is not only heinous but positively dangerous also. Pakistan as well as most, if not all, Muslim countries started driving away non-Muslims from the country. The more fanatical a country is, the more ethnic cleansing it carries out. In 1950 (shortly after independence), West Pakistan (now Pakistan) had 85.5% Muslims, whereas by 2010, the percentage had gone up to 96.5%. In 1950, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) had 85% Muslim population, whereas in 2010 it had gone up to 89.6%. Contrast that with India, a non-Muslim country, where the Muslim population between these two dates went up up from 10% to 13.5%. In most Middle Eastern Muslim countries, the Muslim population is 98% to 99%, with all non-Muslims having been driven out or eliminated!

Intolerance is the hallmark of Pakistani politicians. In 1971 when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto roared that he would never play second fiddle to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (although Mujib had the largest number of elected representatives in the proposed assembly), one could not miss echoes of Jinnah’s strident call in the 1940 Lahore Resolution for a Muslim homeland for Muslims (with him as the leader).

Disturbing streaks of personal ambition are self-evident in Pakistani politics. In Pakistan, not a single elected prime minister since independence has managed to serve his or her full term. The latest in the line, Nawaz Sharif, has been removed by the judiciary on suspicion of corruption about a year before the end of his term. The hands of the military authorities are present all over the place. Democracy has never been allowed to flourish in Pakistan even after seventy years of independence. Chaos and confusion reign everywhere, law and order is blatantly absent. If this is not the sign of a failed state, what is? As the Indian politician Shashi Tharoor once said, “The state of India has an army, the army in Pakistan has a state”.

Bangladesh is fortunate enough to have parted company with Pakistan within 24 years of a most unhappy relationship. How dreadful it would be if Bangladesh had been with Pakistan now! I am not trying to scare Bangladeshis, nor am I thinking of giving them undue nightmares. Unless Bangladesh’s people wipe away entirely that dreadful association and vouch never to entertain any thought of association with Pakistani Islamists, the nightmare may come back. Pakistan is not going to go away. But we must stay away from its path and be vigilant forever.

A. Rahmanis an author and columnist.

13 Responses to “Jinnah’s Pakistan . . . seventy years on”

  1. Vijay Kapoor

    For the sake of differentiation you use the identity as Hinduism, but there is no ‘ism’ among those who claim to be Hindus. There is an utter freedom of belief or worship among them. Irrespective of what they believe and how they worship or if they are ‘astik’ or ’nastik’ no one becomes a ‘sinner’ or a ‘non-believer’. Every one is honored with ‘Namastey’ meaning, I honor divine within you. Hate emerge when one is committed to one way of thinking and profess everyone else is wrong or is a ‘sinner’. Hate leads to violence which we are witnessing endlessly

  2. Vijay Kapoor

    What is new! All three Abrahamic followers are fighting and killing each other ever since their identities were established from the times of Moses, Jesus or Mohammad. Simply names and places keep shuffling.
    The root cause is each one of the three religions claim their ‘ONLY’ unique justification like Only Moses, Only Son of God or Only Messenger of Allah.
    The real world is inherently diverse. Until ‘Monotheists’ learn to honor diversity, there would not be peace and the same cycle going on over last 2000 years will carry on.
    After Hitler, finally Europeans have learnt their lessons and have taken their ‘Holy Books’ to their homes and have emptied their cathedrals to live in peace, in harmony and prosper.

  3. Khan

    Depends who you are and how you look at it, and when.
    If you are a Bengalee, you justify your existence blaming him, If you think Bharat mata is your mother and Jinnah killed her, you have another opinion. But as a Pakistani my leader was the most upright honest and greatest of all. Till today Jinnah is the last word for us. He told us in India you will face what the Indian Muslims are facing now. Compare him with other leaders and you will find him unique, I think.

  4. jeffackles

    1) Jinnah proposed a loosely federated India to Nehru but he rejected that. Please look into 1946 Cabinet Mission to India.
    2) Jinnah by no means was an Islamist. He never intended to create a Caliphate. He wanted a secular state where Muslims’ interests would be protected.
    Nawaz Sharif has been removed from office by SC but his party is not ousted. The party is still in legislature and appointed their own PM to complete tenure.

  5. Ashutosh Mallik

    Thank you for writing on the Jinnah’s two-nation theory. Some historian said, in 1950 Muslims population was 65% and Hindus including other minorities was 35% in East Pakistan.

    • Dr A Rahman

      Hi Ashutosh Malik. I quoted 85% Muslim population in the then East Pakistan in 1950 (after the migration of Hindus and Muslims following the partition) from an UN report. If you look immediately before or after the partition, Muslim population could well be around 65%.

  6. Shelley Shahabuddin

    The writer has shown clearly the hypocrisy of the creators of Pakistan. Clearly, religion was used.
    Those who uses religion for politics and evil purposes, should we not call them non-believers?
    When religion is used for rape and torture, and murder, should we not call them non-believers?
    Because they are smearing the name of our creator with these evil crimes which they are doing for their own lust & greed.
    Are they not the enemy of creator?
    In Bangladesh, Jamaat and most others, were doing that for decades. Most of our people trusted them as believers. That is our danger.
    Our patriotic secular forces have battled, suffered and won some major battles up to now. But the danger lingers.
    Just take the example of DAWAT in the name of religion. Dawat has become also a mass based tool for recruitment of Jehadi business.
    But still I do not hear any protest against this evil practice. Because it is done in the name of religion.

  7. golam arshad

    Think we Muslims of Pakistan and Bangladesh confederate with India; who would you think be benefited most…Muslims of India or Bangladesh and Pakistan!

  8. Sarker Javed Iqbal

    We should learn the lessons from the religion based politics in Pakistan. Islam could not unite them all these 40 years. There should not be any religion based country where rights of the minority religion groups are ignored and the people are humiliated which is against Islamic values. Bangladesh rightly decided to be separated from Pakistan and ensured rights of all religion groups to enjoy their religious rights under the state principle of ‘Secularism’. But unfortunately in recent years a certain quarter of people are trying to tarnish that glorious image of Bangladesh and destroy the spirit of secularism which allows the religious harmony in the country.

    • Dr A Rahman

      You are absolutely right, Mr Iqbal. If we give up secularism, which is enshrined in our constitution, and gradually adopt Islamism, then the very liberation struggle that Bangladesh had fought will be totally wasted and that would also be an insult to the martyrs of Bangladesh. We must preserve our freedom and our constitution.

    • ajitsarthi

      It is not Religion, but hatred, based on which, Pakistan was built up. Pakistan also mastered the art of speaking in multiple voices, Political establishment, Army, ISI, Jehadis & what is known as Awaam. So it reached a stage when no one could trust Pakistan.
      Treachery, Deception, Intolerance seem to have been perfected by Pakistan. Osama was a classic example.
      Nukes have made Pakistan d biggest threat to the world, I think.
      Chinese collaboration seems to be taking Pakistan on a fast road to become a Colony of China!

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