By S. M. Hali
Pakistan got its independence on August 14, 1947 through the efforts of selfless leaders like Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Allama Iqbal and numerous others although they were opposed tooth and nail by the Hindu leaders of the Sub-Continent. Independence would not have come about and the British Raj in the Indian sub-continent would have continued unabated for a few more decades if the Second World War had not weakened the Empire, providing pro-independence movements the desired impetus to be rejuvenated. Hindus and Muslims, the two main communities residing in India had separate agendas. Hindus were the original inhabitants of the Sub-Continent while the Muslims, came as invaders and became rulers till the British dominated them. The Hindus, in majority, desired to take over the reins from the British and suppress the Muslims to avenge nearly three hundred years of subjugation. The Muslims knew that departure of the British would only mean a change of rulers while the Hindus would be more brutal than the British. Hindu leaders like Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru aligned themselves with the British attempting to impede the creation of Pakistan or in the worst case scenario, accede to a truncated Pakistan, which would not survive long and could be gobbled up by India. Lord Mountbatten, the last Indian Viceroy and a close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru, Jinnah’s nemesis and according to the Beaumont Papers, swayed Cyril Radcliff in shifting the final Pak-India boundary to India’s advantage like reassigning Gurdaspur to it, providing ground access to Kashmir.In 1947, Christopher Beaumont was private secretary to the senior British judge, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, Chairman of the Indo-Pakistan Boundary Commission; Beaumont Papers were made public in 1992 by his grand nephew and heir.
The partition, promulgated in the Indian Independence Act 1947,resulted in the dissolution of the British Empire and a mass exodus of humanity, displacing up to 12.5 million people in the former British Indian Empire, with estimates of loss of life up to a million, since marauding bands of Hindu and Sikh fanatics set upon the refugees with equally depraved Muslims retaliating this side. The violent nature of the partition created an atmosphere of mutual hostility and suspicion between India and Pakistan that plagues their relationship till this day.
Mountbatten-Nehru-Radcliff triad’s surreptitiously providing India with a land link to the Valley of Kashmir, enabled it to physically occupy the Valley, resulting in the First Kashmir War of 1947-48, creating the core issue of Kashmir, which has become a festering sore and flashpoint between the two nuclear weapons equipped states. The partition deal also included the division of state assets comprising the British Indian Armed Forces, the Indian Civil Service and other administrative services, the Indian Railways, and the Central Treasury. Pakistan did not receive even an iota of the assets assigned to it which led to major problems for the fledgling state. In 1971, due to Pakistan’s own follies and Indian machinations, East Pakistan was severed and after a bloody war, became Bangladesh.
Sixty six years since partition, if one were to review the state of affairs in the erstwhile Sub-Continent, one can see that India is firmly traversing the path of democracy. Bangladesh, after an initial period of turmoil, strife and bloody coups, has settled down on a democratic route. Pakistan was unfortunate that it lost both Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder and Quaid-e-Millat, Liaquat Ali Khan, his able successor in the initial years. Their replacements were virtual pygmies, lacking both vision and statesmanship, resulting in constant military takeovers, which further stifled the process of democratization. Myopic policies have made Pakistan a client state of the US, which has used and abused Pakistan depending on its own agenda. Britain, the mother country, which should have taken an interest in the unresolved problems it had left behind at the time of partition, has remained oblivious to them and has been toeing the US line in the region. In Pakistan, the common man has been totally ignored by subsequent military rulers, who were more intent towards extending their reign or corrupt civilian leadership, which has been bent upon lining its own nest providing space to the military to dictate both the defence as well as the foreign policies of Pakistan while the masses suffered.
Today, traumatized by the war on terror, crushed by double digit inflation and a collapsing economy, devastated through constant power outages, lawlessness and unemployment, Pakistan is a far cry from the vision of Iqbal, Liaquat and Jinnah.
It was perhaps in this scenario that Faiz Ahmed Faiz, in his memorable poem “Yeh who seher to nahin” (This is not that dawn…), commented on the partition:
This blighted dawn, this darkened sun.
This is not the dawn we had waited for…
The night’s burden has not diminished,
The hour of deliverance
for the eye and the heart has not yet arrived.
Face forward! For our destination is not yet in sight
Faiz leaves us with a ray of hope. Currently we have a new government, which has taken up cudgels, on behalf of the people who have bestowed their confidence in it to lead them out of the morass we are presently in.
It is an uphill task, which necessitates Herculean effort to clean the Augean Stables.
This Independence Day, let us resolve to take the bull by the horns and tackle the myriad problems audaciously. Waiting for the government to resolve the burning issues will not redeem us. Every citizen of Pakistan has to chip in since it is our very survival, which is at stake. Various political parties need to sink in their differences and unite to resolve the issues.
Pakistan can still come out of the quagmire it is steeped in by focusing on the growth of its economy and indulging in trade and commerce with its neighbours on an equal footing. The progress of ASEAN, SCO and EU should serve as examples for emulation where neighbours share the strengths and opportunities of each other, bringing prosperity to all.