Saturday, December 29, 2007

Burying Dreams of a Nation

I don’t write Political blog and my posts are collection of very personal thoughts . So before I proceed on this post I must say that this is based on my views and knowledge – both of which have limitations. I have some very good friends in Pakistan and I have a lot of respect for their culture and faith. I am writing this becauseI have been thinking about this for last two days and I feel sad about the conditions prevailing in that country. After all as an Indian , I can’t help being curious about Pakistan. We share very similar culture and history and yet, a man made line on the map has made the destiny of the two nations so different. I read an interesting description of Pakistan in the September issue of National Geographic where they have called Pakistan as Islam’s Fault Line. It is true that the two conflicting forms of Islam meet in this land which was taken out of Indian subcontinent in the name of Islam 60 years back. There is relatively relaxed and tolerant Islam of India versus the rigid fundamentalist Islam of Afghan border…and there are followers of the both streams . But Islam as the founding philosophy of this land, has failed to unite the various ethnic groups of Punjabi, Sindhi, Baluchi , Pashtun etc , as a nation . So even in the last few days of 2007 when Pakistan is mourning the brutal death of its leader Benazir, it is also facing some difficult truths about the country itself.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, is one leader whose life and ideas I find very intriguing. How he evolved/regressed in his political philosophy is something to be discussed and analyzed. By any standard, his was an eventful life, his personality multidimensional and his achievements in other fields were many, if not equally great. He was one of the greatest legal luminaries India had produced during the first half of the century, an `ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’, a great constitutionalist, a distinguished parliamentarian, a shrewd politician, a dynamic political strategist and much more. He started off as a liberal secularist westernized leader. In fact in his personal lifestyle I don’t see much difference from the Nehru Family. Then he started talking about Pakistan which was his brain child as a refuge for the Muslims and not an Islamic state. His model was of a democracy merged with Islamic ideals. Even in his inaugural address he said “In Pakistan….Muslims will cease to be Muslims , not in the religious sense , but as citizen of the state.” But this was never to be . Pakistan’s 60 years of existence is marred with bloody coups, hangings and assassinations…..the latest victim being Benazir …and again and again the issue of Islam pops us during these troubles.

General Zia –ul-Haq after seizing power in 1977 , hanging the democratically elected PM , promptly proclaimed that Pakistan was “ created on the basis of Islam”. General Zia set out to make it a hard core Islamic country despite the fact that most ordinary Pakistanis remain moderates. Pakistan is still struggling with issues of “crimes against Islam”, “Jihad” and “ Muslim identity” . So any discussion about Pakistan has to deal with these. I wonder why ? during any cultural interactions with Pakistan…be it through music or theatre , films or books and articles , one finds that most of the ordinary men and women have nothing to do with this fanatic and extremist struggle..they are simply caught in the midst of very troubled situation. While I was reading The Kite Runner and then The Book seller of Kabul, I realized how the Pakistani borders are infiltrated by Afghanis including the Talibans. So they have their jihad for Kashmir on one side, and support for Taliban on the other…in between, being economically and strategically depended on America, they also have Uncle Sam giving them advice on internal matters. I feel sad for the land which gave us some of the best writers, poets, artists and statesmen as it is no longer in control of its own affairs. Unfortunately, all these so called ‘jihads’ and Islamic struggles…and violence in the name of it, results in more poverty…leading to more backwardness, unemployment and vulnerability to be manipulated. The dilemma of the time was very well expressed by Indian journalist Saead Naqvi who in an interview said that even those who are crying out for democratic and civil rights are aware that with such widespread extremist presence and the fact of its being a Nuclear Power , army will continue to play a prominent role in Pakistan Politics and that too on its own terms.

This morning I read two old articles written by Benazir Bhutto remembering her father’s execution and the Shimla Conference . The first was very moving. It was saying more about a personal tragedy of losing a ‘papa’ than a national loss of a leader. In the same news paper I saw picture of Benazir’s son ………grieving loss of a mother and ready to carry out a responsibility of being born a Bhutto. As in this subcontinent we are very very feudal when it comes to choosing political successors , I am sure like Rajiv Gandhi , Rahul Gandhi and other leader-sons (and daughters) …Benazir’s children will also inherit the throne sooner or later . The personal tragedy will form basis of vote banks and soon people will forget the gravity of the crime. Same, however, may not be the future for the families of others ordinary Pakistanis who lost their lives in the same bomb blast.
Relatively, in India we are better off. Broadly our democracy is not faring as bad as theirs. Our economy is booming manifold and except for some blots , religion is not the core issue for us as a nation. But go deep down the brass tacks and perhaps an undercurrent of the same feudalism, same fundamentalism run across our land as well. I agree, not to such dangerous proportions…but not negligible either.


Sudipto Basu said...

Maybe you're not quite aware of it, but I've been a sometime reader of your blog-- which I've found interestiing enough to add on my blogroll. Since I wrote a post on the very same subject you wrote about in this post, I wonder if you would mind going through it... Just a passing thought, you could say!

Sudipto Basu said...

And yep, sorry for the two i-s in 'interesting'!