(Or why citizens of both countries should stop imagining that we can ever be)
[Brief background for those who did not know how the name of Pakistan came into being? The name Pakistan literally means “Land of (the) Pure” in Urdu and Persian. It was coined in 1933 as Pakstan by Choudhary Rahmat Ali, a Pakistan Movement activist, who published it in his pamphlet “Now or Never”, using it as an acronym by referring to the names of the five northern regions of the Indian subcontinent: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan“. The letter “I” was incorporated to ease pronunciation and form the linguistically correct name.]
The TV broadcast media is recently on the forefront displaying tremendous amount of righteous indignation on the recent beheading of Indian soldiers on the LOC (line of control). There is an unending 24×7 stream baying for retribution. This left me quite puzzled since TV along with its print brethren was leading the Indian government’s call for renewing the peace process with our not so nice neighbor on the western border.
Let the bitter truth be told: Pakistan can never be friends with India. Why? Here are some clear and cogent historical reasons:
1) The constant cry of ‘Islam / Muslims are in danger’ was the main reason why Muslims rallied around the leadership of the All India Muslim League during the independence struggle. Hence Pakistan’s existence came about because its leaders (founding fathers) imagined that Muslims would be unsafe in India after independence. Now if Pakistan ever did become friends with India, then the very reason for it continued separate existence will cease. While an Indian can imagine such a situation in the distant future, can a Pakistani ever accept that the separation in 1947 was a huge mistake?
2) After gaining their own country for Muslims, Pakistani leadership soon needed a new rallying cry… so they came up with “Kashmir as a core issue”. Now after more than 60+ years even this rallying cry has begun to lose meaning for most citizens of Pakistan. Of course it never made any sense to any Indian.
3) Pakistan’s leadership can never forgive India for its successful partition and subsequent creation of Bangladesh after the 1971 war.
4) Pakistani leadership can never forget that India won war after war (1947, 1965, 1971, 1999, state sponsored terrorism and terrorism by non-state actors) and after each case, India did not ‘attack’ or seek ‘vengeance’ in the manner of Israel, US or even UK.
5) Pakistani leadership in unable to understand how Indian Muslims (despite the destruction of Barbari Masjid, Mumbai train bombings, massacre of Muslims in Gujarat and Assam, etc.) fare better than those within their own borders. In Pakistan, Muslims are killing their own kind everyday (the bombings of girl schools and the bloody feuds between Shias and Sunnis immediately come to mind) just because some happen to believe in a different or a more moderate version of Islam.
6) When the world leaders attempt to get Pakistan to distance itself from using terrorism as a state policy, Pakistani leadership bemoans to those willing to listen that actually they are victims of terror and the huge sacrifices they have made to crush terrorism. However none in the Pakistani leadership will publicly acknowledge that it was through their active encouragement and sponsorship of “Muslim Jihad” they now have to reap the whirlwind after sowing the wind.
After seeking answers within major religions (of the world), I realize that no religion can ever be the basis or foundation for a political state. Even where an over-reaching religious contiguity is available, one will find that there are other strong supporting considerations especially linguistic/ regional/ ethnic/ tribal considerations that often leads to the formation of a political state. We need not go too far into ancient history for examples. The most recent ones being the breakdown of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in around 2000 which gave birth to 5 nations of:
– Bosnia and Herzegovina
– State Union of Serbia and Montenegro
While religion can be a rallying point for those in fear of their lives, it can never be a basis of togetherness when people are at peace with one another. When in peace, people by their very nature will start to imagine a slightly different ‘heaven on earth’ from their neighbor and the basis of achieving it. In such a situation, religious bigots and political parties, if encouraged, sow the seeds of fear and attempt to rule the roost. You see, strongly religious people like others to imagine heaven in exactly the way they experienced it and do not like or tolerate a different version except their own.
One can see all this even now play out in the social, economic and political atmospheres of India and Pakistan which were twin fraternal brothers born from the same freedom struggle. While one adopted a secular federation approach to deal with the inherent existing schisms the other tried to gloss over its ethnic and tribal differences and hoped that religion would bind its people into one nation.
We should take heed and learn those lessons from history and culture that helps us to remain united even as we celebrate diversity. Let us also be wary of countries who are unable to understand an Indian’s inherent need and desire for peace and tranquility even as reach out to them.
Indian political leadership (and those in media) should stop imagining that we would ever be able to ‘turn around’ the thinking of Pakistani leadership. It’s a foolish notion and has no basis. All this talk of अमन कि आशा (Aman ki Asha) is like hoping to catch the wind… no more than a मृगतृष्णा (a mirage). Such discussions make for good sound bites but let us not fooled to behave like lemmings for ever ready for a suicidal dash over the cliff.