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For a deeper Understanding of politics in Pakistan

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by Syed Salamah Ali Mahdi(A Concerned Senior Citizen of Pakistan)

Pakistan was created by a stroke of a single pen and its borders drawn up by a single 'colonial', tasked by Attlee to bisect and dissect the Indian sub-continent in a single month, before the clock struck midnight, August 13, 1947!

What happened the days, weeks and months thereafter is History, which has been recorded to some extent by Brits, Indians and Pakistanis; all from their own national perspectives. Be that as it may, one of the facts forgotten by now, but with a direct bearing on today's Pakistan, is that on August 14, 1947, those who woke up as Pakistanis happened to be the Muslims in the Muslim majority provinces of the erstwhile British India, the very same who had strived the least for such an eventuality and hence, were the least prepared for it.

On Independence Day, Pakistan had two constituent parts separated by a thousand plus miles of India, one in the West which was named West Pakistan, today's Pakistan; the other, East Pakistan, which seceded from Pakistan to become Bangladesh in 1971. But that is another story. For the purpose of this narrative we shall try, as much as possible, to revisit the history of Pakistan from the restricted angle of its political experience with democracy and dictatorship during the past six decades.

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In mid-August 1947 the State of Pakistan, East and West, lacked almost everything normally associated with statehood with the exception of territory and population; 50 odd millions of Muslims; Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluchis and North West Frontier Tribesmen and around 3 million Muslim 'Muhajirs' or refugees who had made it through the killing fields from across the border in India. (For the sake of record and fairness, an equal of number Hindus and Sikhs had also passed through the same 'killing fields' but in the opposite direction, that is, from Pakistan to India. It had been a messy and gory 'partition'.

Although Pakistan (East & West) did inherit the erstwhile British India's 'provincial governments' in Balochistan, Sindh and the North Western Frontier (today's Taleban country) nearly intact, in 'partitioned' Punjab and Bengal, it inherited much depleted provincial governments. The British Indian capital, New Delhi and the united Bengal's provincial capital, Calcutta, now Kolkota, went to India. Hence, both West and East Pakistan had no semi-central/semi-federal governments nor legislative Assemblies or the other institutions that are usually associated with statehood. Even federal Pakistan had no capital, no Government, no Parliament and no Supreme Court. The provincial capital of Sindh, Karachi became the federal or central Capital. Not only was there was no Parliament, there were no political parties, except for the Muslim League, the Pakistani successor/heir to the All India Muslim League of (undivided) British India which

went into disarray after achieving the creation Pakistan. Its prominent leaders, 'muhajirs'/refugees, crossed over from India to Pakistan before partition, leaving the overwhelming majority of their followers behind; the same who had shouted the most for the creation of Pakistan, spent most and sacrificed most, in lives and property, only to discover that they had been abandoned to a dismal fate in India; around 80 millions of them.

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In reality though, there had been one 'fringe' political party in the North West Frontier Province before 'partition', which had opposed the creation of Pakistan, accepting a belated 'fait accompli' accession to Pakistan just a few weeks before August 14, 1947. So much so that paramount leader was named, the Frontier Gandhi. This Party became redundant and melted away only to re-emerge in later years as a political movement calling for more rights for the Province, ranging from broader autonomy to secession for the Pakhtoons or Pushtuns, who were more akin to the other half of their number living across the border in Eastern Afghanistan, than to Punjabis or Balochis to their East and South, this again, thanks to another British 'colonial', Durand, who partitioned their ancient homeland and awarded part of it to Afghanistan and the rest they put under the British Crown. This was after the stalemated British Afghan Wars (several) with a shabby truce between Afghanistan and British India, but, only after Czarist Russia went out of 'gas' and had to stop their push southwards through Afghanistan's present borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, These borders remained quiet up until the military intrusion of the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980's and the Afghan Mujahideen War which ultimately led to the rise of the Taleban amongst these same Pashtun tribesmen on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border, thus, setting the clock back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth Centuries.

The old wound of the Durand Line has split open and this time the wound is highly septic having been infected by toxic virus injected by America and its 'allies' in the Arab Middle East.

In the part of Punjab awarded by the British to Pakistan as in Sindh, the Hindus and the Sikhs who had been controlling agricultural lands, business and industries, hence, pre-partition politics, departed for India leaving behind a political vacuum. Of course, the All India Muslim League had had a presence in undivided Punjab but this provincial Muslim League had a smaller following, compared to the following which the Indian National Congress had, across the Hindu-Sikh-Muslim spectrum. Hence, the part of the divided Punjab which acceded to Pakistan, acceded very late in the game and only after the Sikhs & Hindus of United Punjab, all Punjabis by domicile and vernacular, caved in to Punjab's partitioning and left for India.

Hence, for all practical purposes, the Pakistan of today started its political life 60 years back with a Single political PARTY, the Muslim League which unfortunately led to acceptance of 'one party rule' for years on end but not for the same reasons as in the ex-Warsaw Pact, today's China and Cuba. As the years advanced the failures of one party rule led to the evolution of other national and/ or regional political parties like the People's Party of Pakistan of Bhutto fame in West Pakistan and the Awami League of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman fame in East Pakistan.

In contrast, India inherited not one but several prominent political parties with history and experience in parliamentary democracy, like the All India Congress Party, the Socialist Party of India and many smaller parties in the fourteen odd Indian provinces and princely states which became India.

Prominent among the provincial parties were the likes of the Leftist parties in the poorer provinces, the Communist Party in Bengal, the Dravid Munetra Kazhagam (DMK) in today's Tamilnadu with a platform bordering on self rule based on race and language, the Jharkand Party in South Bihar, asking for a better deal for its tribesmen and even a Muslim League in Kerala. Together, these parties, both on the national and provincial levels had enough experience in party politics and time to prepare for the eventuality of British departure and an Indian take over. Now, because India had everything which goes with statehood in place and operating on August 15, 1947 they inherited a national identity or Nationalism, which Pakistan has still to evolve even after years of becoming a nation. To highlight this, I would like to repeat what has been quoted as a recent statement made to the Press by Wali Khan, the son of the late Frontier Gandhi which goes like, "I have been a Pakistani for 60 years, a Muslim for a thousand years and a Pashtun for several thousand years"-. Nobody in India would say anything like this today or earlier despite the fact that India has two dozen or more major provinces with their distinctly dissimilar racial origins, vernaculars, sects and religious affiliations. Compare this to Pakistan which has one religion and one DNA based race, all Aryans! Even the different vernaculars are not that different and they all use the same Persian-Arab script!

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Going back to Pakistan, governments were formed at the Centre and in the provinces by the Muslim League, a Party which had neither Plans on what to do with Pakistan once created nor any political Program on how to run it thereafter, simply because, this Party's predecessor in India had had no political platform or agenda other than the Creation of Pakistan.

Because of the fact that provincial concerns were easier to identify and pursue, the Central governments that came in the years to follow, one after another, in quick succession, became pawn to provincial politics. Such provincial politics was primarily based on Language and Ethnicity and the erstwhile unifying bond of common religion, Islam, became weak and ineffective.

One of the founding fathers of Pakistan and its first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated because he was a 'mohajir' or refugee from India. Several of the other 'mohajir' prime ministers who followed could not muster enough support within the Muslim League and/or in the provinces to survive the onslaughts of 'provincialism' based on linguistic and ethnic concerns, the likes of Shahid Suhrawardy and Mohammed Ali Bogra.

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For a deeper Understanding of politics in Pakistan