Thursday, April 26, 2007

East and West Pakistan

Taking off from Dhaka and subsequently landing in Karachi is a study in contrasts – you rise above this incredibly wet and green world, crisscrossed with rivers, lush and verdant, and then 3 hours later you begin descending across this brown arid wasteland, crisscrossed with dry wadis and the occasional rock strewn escarpment. The two places couldn’t be more different.

The other thing one notices about the flight is how long it is. It takes something like four hours to go from Bangladesh to Pakistan. And this is in a modern 21st century aeroplane. God knows what it would have taken in 1947. It's during this long flight that I began to realise what a doomed and faintly ridiculous idea it was to create this one country with so much (sporadically hostile) territory between its seperate bits. Who thought it might be a good idea? It's amazing that it actually lasted for 24 years before imploding. For anyone wishing to read about the mess that was East and West Pakistan, and the resultant civil war/war of independence/brutal response to Bangladeshi uprsising, this Wikipedia article is worth a read. I had read before about the atrocities and the brutality that Bengalis suffered in that war of liberation (mostly in John Pilger's "Heroes"), but I had forgotten just how brutal and atrocious it really was.

On other historical matters, while I was in Karachi, I had a long and involved conversation with a (semi-famous?) writer on the subject of the founding of Pakistan and the role and philosophy of Muhammed Iqbal. To be honest, I hadn't heard of Iqbal before, though he was obviously crucial in the creation of the "idea" of Pakistan, and is still seen as the grandfather of the nation (with Jinnah as its father). I opined that founding a state on religious grounds (or ethno-religious grounds) was something I couldn't quite get my head around. The only two such states that I know of are Pakistan and Israel, and while I understand the rationale behind the formation of both, the "dream" on which they were founded seems to have run aground in both cases. My interlocutor said that he saw Pakistan as being founded upon an idea, rather like the US was, which I am not terribly sure I buy, but I suspect that's because he was coming from the literary perspective of the study of Iqbal. We were agreed, however, that whatever the ideal of Pakistan was, the reality was nowhere close.

Pakistan in general is more and more seen as the centre of the world - at least in a Huntington-esque clash of civilisations world. Military dictatorship vs Islamic fundamentalism vs secular / islamic-with-a-small-i democracy. The British government have realised this, it seems, and are devoting lots of resources to education there. Maybe they've got the message that education is more likely to win hearts and minds than bombing the fuck out of people, and then torturing those who are left alive. (Surprisingly the latter approach seems not to be terribly effective).


verysmart said...

Nice post, Pakistan and Israel both have failed to materialize their true potentials. Pakistan is world's 26th largest GDP, but should have had been in the top ten considering it has one of the largest irrigateable land, with nearly 7 rivers flowing throughout the country, SOuth west and north west are rich with minerals and ores including Methane gas and some oil deposits, the country has 1200 km of sea access, and can play as a major energy and economic hub to the region, consider its oil hungry neighbours India and China in west and north and Oil rich neighbours in the east. The working population consists on a staggering 40 Million people with nearly 60 universities in the country. Pakistan has the world's fourth largest herd population of dairy and poultry animals, and is the third largest cotton yeild in the world. On the front of technology, the country exports USD600 Millions worth of Software, USD250 Million worth of conventional ammunitions and the list is long and impressive.

Yet the country is in termoil, yet the population hasnt benefited from all these numbers.

The reason, failure of the core national idea to unit the masses in the modern times.

Even in Islamic teachings and Quranic verses, the rule of Just and educated ruler is always welcomed and Quran, despite of mentioning to STATE and the matters of State on 55 times, has not realy stressed the idea of inacting any ISLAMIC Law to the state.

During the second and first world wars the Religious uprising was used as the weapon to unite against the White rulers, however once the dust settled down in the following decades, the idea disntigrated and so did the nation.

Religion and State are always a bad mix. Considering Israel has to continue to fight over some stupid arid 500 sqkm of mountain region just to prove the point that it was included in their stupid PROMISED LAND. The cost of this 3000 year old war has been paid by the citizens.

Anonymous said...

As a pakistani origin, I completely agree with you that having east and west pakistan as one country was the most stupidest idea of the 20th century with a powerful enemy india in between. I also believe that forming a country based on religon is stupid. India should have never been partitioned, we would all been happy