Losing even Hindu roots, it could never become a homogeneous Muslim qaum either!
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief once diagnosed the basic identity crisis of Pakistan, saying it was “aadha teetar, aadha bater” (half a partridge, half a quail). A case of collective amnesia and schizophrenia.
Or as an Urdu poet said: na khuda hi mila, na visale sanam, na idhar ke rahe, na udhar ke huey (Neither were we blessed by God, nor could we embrace our beloved; we became the nowhere people).
This split-personality is at the roots of Pakistan’s prevailing existential crisis. It is now a global orphan. Other Islamized nations consciously protected non-Islamic heritage their ancestors bequeathed to them. Pakistan, however, is the only Muslim country which tried to completely erase its Hindu past and wear an Arab mask. It consciously scrapped much of its Hindu heritage but could not fully embrace Islam either. It chose to emulate Duryodhana, claimant to the Hastinapur Crown, who dragged the whole nation to the fratricidal Mahabharata War, in the Kurukshetra’s killing fields. Lord Krishna had to tell the Prince of Hate: “You could not live like a noble Kshatriya; but now try to die like one!”
If anything, the 72-year-old Pakistan may be suffering from an advanced stage of mass progeria. Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad (Abode of Islam) is now seen even by many Muslims as the nemesis of Islam, particularly after its near-total isolation from the rest of the Muslim world this month. They dread a self-proclaimed nuclear-armed Pakistan’s irrationality and unpredictability, as if a wild monkey, armed with a razor, were roaming around freely. Hysterical, gnashing teeth…rogue, pariah, unserviceable, irreparable, uncontrollable. Blackmailing and threatening India and others with apocalyptic nuclear war, ready to kill others and be killed itself. That is why even a scared China is handling this wild schizophrenic client with tact.
We should, therefore, sympathize with a mental wreck and nihilist Pakistan. It failed to emerge as a worthy inheritor of the Indus Valley Civilization and the Hindu lineage that followed the Harappa Culture, and could not become an “Arab” either.
What exactly did it gain when Muhammed Ali Jinnah carved out a medieval Muslim nation in 1947 out of a modernizing Indian Civilization? Why has Islam failed to ‘homogenize’ the people of Pakistan into a nation-state assimilating all its people?
The answer may be found in the Hindus’ caste system: a large number of converts to Islam carried over their ancient Hindu castes and feudal roots into their new faith and behaved like their Hindu counterparts in, say roti-beti relations (i.e., shunning inter-caste marriage and sharing food with the ‘lower’ caste Muslims). That is why ‘honor killings’ continued in Pakistan, as also in some parts of India. It is due mainly to this inherited caste system—which later spilled over to sect-centric and tribal conflicts as well—that Pakistan became an emporium of terror gangs. Even Prime Minister Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi admitted in America recently that his country was teeming with over 40,000 terrorists!
Why India progressed faster and Pakistan sunk deeper and deeper?
Independent India slowly elbowed out socio-political influence of feudal lords, especially after Indira Gandhi abolished the Privy Purses in 1969. On the other hand Pakistan, whose founding fathers included many influential feudal lords—their common lawyer being Jinnah!—could never get rid of them: the Bhuttos, the Zardaris, the Shariefs…the list is endless. It is they who cornered all the power and pelf in Pakistan and wantonly pauperized their country. In India, former feudal lords, kings and princes gradually lost their teeth; even Jyotiraditya Scindia, most prominent of them all, lost the Lok Sabha election in May 2019.
Post-1947, India made herculean efforts to homogenize its deprived castes by giving them reservations in educational institutions and government jobs; Pakistan failed to do so claiming that Islam is an “egalitarian” faith. As a consequence, many Pakistanis could not become ‘true’ Muslims in a homogenized Islamic culture—in their day-to-day and social life, they shared little in common with each other except the place of worship for members of the same sect. The dominance of the Punjabis, who colonized Balochistan, Sindh and other areas, continued unabated in the Army, bureaucracy and decision-making, even as the Muhajirs, descendents of migrants from India, carved out their fiefs in Karachi and other areas.
In contrast, the ‘lower’ castes in India were slowly empowered, and, as sociologist M N Srinivas observed, “Brahminized” and “Sanskritized”, particularly in government services. The rise of Dalit leaders like Kanshi Ram and Mayavati and OBC and Backward Caste leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Laloo Yadav and Nitish Kumar was a precursor to the rise of Narendra Modi due to this silent, gigantic and structural undercurrent and social transformation over the last few decades.
Moreover, uprooted from Hinduism, the Pakistanis tried to emulate the Arabs, and sometimes Persians and the Turks, wherever possible—Islamabad even joined the US-led SEATO, CENTO and other military alliances aimed at protecting the Middle East from the erstwhile Soviet Union—and yearned to find solace in another land (Mecca); the Hindus, on the other hand, were contented with most of their pilgrimage centres being in India itself. Due to this fakery, the Arabs and other ‘first class’ Muslims despised the Pakistani (and Indian and Bangladeshi) Muslims as ‘second or third class’ Muslims. Pakistan even named its second-hand ballistic missiles acquired clandestinely from China and North Korea, re-painted and retrofitted, after medieval Muslim invaders of India, like Ghuri, Ghazanavi, Babur, Abdali and Taimur, thus giving a ‘bad’ name to Islam which Muslims profess is a peaceful religion.
Why did Pakistan try to erase its Hindu heritage and acquire an Arab identity instead? A hundred years ago, Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar had said that the Hindus have their Pitrabhoomi (Fatherland) as well as Punyabhoomi (Holy Land) only in India whereas the subcontinent’s Muslims (and Christians) have only their Pitrabhoomi in India, their Punyabhoomi being overseas. But a majority of Pakistani Muslims have forgotten Pakistan even as a Pitrabhoomi and successor of the Indus Valley Civilization, and tried plastic surgery en masse to make themselves look like an Arab, Persian or Turk! But not all plastic surgeries succeed—the experiment failed in the case of Michael Jackson!
Is Islam, therefore, a misfit in Islamabad? Are the two incompatible with each other?
Unfortunately, Pakistan has discovered no new narrative, and no new heroes to follow and brutally suppressed any saner voices that tried to disrupt the status quo. Pakistan has turned into the like of a vast fallow land waiting for intellectual rains to re-germinate the seeds buried deep a thousand years ago under the trampling boots of invaders from Muhammed bin-Qasim, Muhammed Ghuri, Mehmood Ghazanavi and their ilk.
Parvez Mahmood, a retired officer of Pakistan Air Force (PAF), is among those few scholars who could aptly diagnose their country’s prevailing identity crisis. Writing in a two-piece article in Friday Times in May 2019, he regretted that Pakistan has lost its Hindu heritage. He blamed religious zealots for the country’s problems. “After independence, the Pakistani nation should have felt secure enough to display affinity with this land but then the religious zealots took us on a confounded and misleading trajectory.”
“Pakistan was created to allow Muslims to live as free citizens without the fear of being dominated by a resurgent, occasionally hostile, Hindu majority. However, not feeling secure even in independence, Pakistani people have driven themselves to a social and historical narrative that strives to align our genetic origins with our religious roots in the East”, he said.
“In pursuit of this goal, we have also shed our heritage; the very values and customs that defined a nation. Some of these trends to delink from the indigenous Indian society started a millennium ago in an atmosphere of insecurity due to frequent armed incursions from the Western passes.
While acknowledging the importance of religion in a society, Mahmood said, “We in Pakistan have employed religion as a pivot to distance ourselves from our own land, culture, history and heritage. There has been little realization that in attempting to be what we are not and in rejecting what we are, we will be lost as a people. Being neither here nor there implies that we are nowhere.”
In trying to move away from being Indians, he said, the Pakistanis have claimed to be one with Arabia or Iran on the basis of sharing religion and culture. “But we belong to the South Asian subcontinent. We are neither Arabs, nor Turks, nor Persians. Even if we try to be one of them, we shall become unacceptable intruders and imposters, he said.
“One staggering loss in this identity crisis has been a name that has been appropriated by our Eastern neighbour (India). We are children of the Indus…We, the people of Pakistan were therefore in error in simply relinquishing the name ‘India’ to our eastern neighbour.
“It is our name.”
(To be continued)…