Volume 3, No. 9, September 2021
Editor: Rashed Rahman
I started the journey of my life in the 1950s hearing the mantra: “Pakistan faces an existential threat.” As I grew older, this sound bite became more vociferous. Now when my grandchildren are in school, the phrase is still in vogue with even more ferocity. With the mushrooming of the electronic media, its sound has acquired unprecedented volume. This syndrome has spread so much and occupied so much space in our lives that it badly needs thorough discussion and in-depth analysis to know where this existential threat comes from and who is responsible for it. For historical reasons (real as well as imaginary), India, since the very creation of Pakistan, is considered as enemy number one, bent upon undoing the very existence of this country. The foreign policy of any country is seen as the reflection of its internal policies but in Pakistan’s case it is vice versa. Here the domestic policies are dictated by the needs of the external policies.
The state-sponsored narrative holds, along with the Indian state, ‘Indian-backed’ political forces in Pakistan responsible for this ‘existential threat’. But a universally acclaimed notion is: ‘The one who has the power bears the responsibility for the results/consequences.’ In all the 71 years of Pakistan’s existence, the people castigating others as ‘agents, anti-state and anti-people’ have themselves held absolute power over all the state organs. They have used the full panoply of means to suppress any opinion, idea or narrative different to theirs and treated people holding such views as per the proverbial ‘Give people a bad name and hang them.’
Pakistan owes the most for its creation to the Bengalis of erstwhile East Pakistan but they were never allowed to rule the country they had created, despite being in a majority. They were treated as ‘traitors’ almost from the very start. They were ‘rewarded’ with the corpses of their sons when they raised voice for due status for their mother language soon after Independence. Their first popularly elected provincial government in 1954 in the shape of the Jugtu Front was dismissed within days and a non-Bengali retired military officer was appointed as Governor. They were treated as inferiors in the country’s first Constitution of 1956 when their majority of 54 percent of the total population of Pakistan was equated with the 46 percent from West Pakistan. And their exceptional and absolute majority in Pakistan’s first and only free and fair election of 1970 was drowned in a sea of blood.
Sindh was ‘penalised’ after Independence for passing a resolution in favour of the creation of Pakistan as early as 1942 through snatching its capital city Karachi for the federal capital of the new state and abolishing the use of the Sindhi language in schools, offices and the courts. The elected governments of Sindh and NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) were dismissed arbitrarily within the first year of the coming into existence of the newborn country.
Balochistan’s journey in Pakistan began with a military intervention, which has intermittently continued till this day. Their popularly elected and genuinely representative government was dismissed after just 10 months in office in 1973 through yet another military operation.
Political leaders, workers, writers, intellectuals of these ‘oppressed nations’ raising voice for their due rights have been dubbed as traitors, kept in jail for long periods and banned or kept away from politics by other means. All this was done to prevent them from coming to power. So much so that the establishment precipitated the break-up of the country in 1971 because of its wrong policies rather than allow the Bengali nationalist party, the Awami League, to ascend to power as was its right and mandate.
The Punjab elite-dominated establishment exercises a monopoly over the power structure of the state with the collusion of the feudals, mullahs and bureaucrats of the oppressed nationalities as their agents and collaborators. This clique has ruled over the destiny of the people of this country either directly in the shape of Martial Law or indirectly through their hand-picked politicians. They have been solely responsible in our history for all the important policy decisions having far-reaching consequences for the state as well as society at large. It may be sending tribal ‘Lashkars’ (armed militias) into Kashmir soon after Independence (1947-48); passing of the Objectives Resolution in 1949 declaring Pakistan an Islamic state, arguably in contradiction of the views of the founder of Pakistan Mr Mohammad Ali Jinnah; and abrogation/suspension of the Constitution and imposition of Martial Law at will or dissolution of Assemblies and dismissal of elected governments again and again. It preferred a military crackdown to the democratic political process in East Pakistan. This ruling clique supported jihad in Afghanistan for four decades by now, combined religion with state affairs and strengthened religious extremists to weaken the secular, democratic and progressive forces of society.
Ostensibly the ruling elite did all this in the ‘national interest’. However, whether the national interest has been served is very much evident from the results accrued from these policies and decisions. The country was halved (with the creation of Bangladesh); the Afghan jihad has backfired, resulting in religious extremism of proportions never seen before, leading to terrorism and putting Pakistan on the watch list of the world; the Kashmir issue is still far from a solution, and relations with ‘old friends’ like Iran (in the neighbourhood) and the US are strained (to say the least). Pakistan is amongst the lowest developed with regard to social, economic and human development on almost all survey lists; inter-provincial tensions and Centre-provinces conflict is on the increase; the economy relies more and more on loans, and the state organs are losing confidence in each other day by day.
Since the establishment has consistently held power over the state institutions in our history, according to the universal rule of ‘power brings responsibility’, the ruling establishment bears sole responsibility for the ‘existential threat’ bandied about constantly, due to its myopic and anti-democratic policies in our history.