Independence; a forgotten tale

By: Shehryar Memon
[The writer is  Deputy Secretary, Planning and Development Department, Government of Sindh, Karachi]

Masters turned slaves, after 1857, Muslims of sub-continent persevered to secure their socio-economic and political rights in the region. The struggle was not about securing the lost political rule and communal glory in the area but it was about the survival of the community; of a nation, in fact. Acquisition of modern education provided Muslims a sound political base and well-equipped leadership required for the political struggle. It would be no exaggeration to emphasize that Muslims drew their strength from the modern education during British rule in United India, a strong historical lesson that remains un-learnt in the modern times. Muslims never chased partition till 1939; it was the consistent failure of British authorities that the demand for Pakistan erupted as they failed to provide the socio-economic and political rights to Muslim majorities in sub-continent. It was the consistent failure of the political parties to finalize an acceptable agreement on the constitution for ensuring the rights of the Muslims in British India that strengthened the demand for Pakistan. It was the tyrant attitude of the Congress during their ministries (1937 to 1939) that forced Muslim political leaders to work on the political idea of a separate state. Issue, thus, was of rights: Socio-economic and political.
The role of Islam in promoting a sense of Muslim Nationalism in pre-independence era and its mobilizatory appeal during the Pakistan movement had produced conflicting interpretations of its relevance to the establishment of Pakistan. Jinnah maintained that Islam as a religion was a complete socio-cultural, political and economic manifesto that gave Muslims a distinctive political stature. Islam, during the struggle for independence, served the purpose of a necessary force, required for the political mobilization of the masses and uniting them under one platform; and it served the purpose very well.
After independence in 1947, Islam alone could not foster solidarity. As the political environment changed, the central dynamics also changed, requiring a utilitarian approach to strengthen the bonds of a political community. That was something phenomenal in the history of Pakistan. In its infancy the state was pressed to address the issue of rights for which the down trodden masses of united India sacrificed almost everything. The message was loud and clear: economic disparity, denial of political power and super imposition of new forms of cultural or ideological identity foment ethnic nationalism. A new polarization along the center-province lines emerged. The issue was of rights and fair share of powers in state affairs and not of religion; in fact, it never was. The separation of former East Pakistan aptly proves that faith and political interests are two different matters. The material interests of a regional group are significant and can never be suppressed.
Unfortunately, the lessons remained un-learnt and issues un-addressed. Denial of rights resulted in damaging conflicts. Peace remained a dream. Enemies took advantage. Pakistan was forced to become a security state. The situation still continues. Establishment of Peace is the pre-requisite for human development while conflict and confrontation are exact opposite of it. It is high time that the attitudes witness change. It is time that we, as a nation, evolve. It is mandatory that the lessons be learnt. Mandatory, it is…