Written By: S.M Hali
Pakistan got its independence on August 14, 1947 through the efforts of selfless leaders like Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Allama Iqbal and numerous others although they were opposed tooth and nail by the Hindu leaders of the subcontinent and some obdurate Muslim leaders. Independence would not have come about and the British Raj in the Indian subcontinent would have continued unabated for a few more decades if the Second World War had not weakened the Empire, providing pro-independence movements the desired impetus to be rejuvenated. The Hindus and Muslims, two main communities residing in India had separate agendas. Hindus were the original inhabitants of the subcontinent while the Muslims came as invaders and became rulers till the British dominated them. The Hindus, in majority, desired to take over the reins from the British and suppress the Muslims to avenge nearly ten hundred years of subjugation. The Muslims knew that departure of the British would only mean a change of rulers while the Hindus would be more brutal than the British. Hindu leaders like Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru aligned themselves with the British attempting to impede the creation of Pakistan or in the worst case scenario, accede to a truncated Pakistan, which would not survive long and could be gobbled up by India. Lord Mountbatten, the last Indian Viceroy and a close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru, Jinnah’s nemesis, according to the Beaumont Papers, swayed Cyril Radcliff in shifting the final Pak-India boundary to India’s advantage like reassigning Gurdaspur to it, providing ground access to Kashmir. In 1947, Christopher Beaumont was private secretary to the senior British judge, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, Chairman of the Indo-Pakistan Boundary Commission; Beaumont Papers were made public in 1992 by his grand nephew and heir.
The partition, promulgated in the Indian Independence Act 1947, resulted in the dissolution of the British Empire and a mass exodus of humanity, displacing up to 12.5 million people in the former British Indian Empire, with estimates of loss of life up to a million, since marauding bands of Hindu and Sikh fanatics set upon the refugees with equally depraved Muslims retaliating this side. The violent nature of the partition created an atmosphere of mutual hostility and suspicion between India and Pakistan that plagues their relationship till this day.
Mountbatten-Nehru-Radcliffe triad’s surreptitiously provided India with a land link to the Valley of Kashmir, enabling it to physically occupy the Valley, resulting in the First Kashmir War of 1947-48, creating the core issue of Kashmir, which has become a festering sore and flashpoint between the two nuclear weapons equipped states. The partition deal also included the division of state assets comprising the British Indian Armed Forces, the Indian Civil Service and other administrative services, the Indian Railways, and the Central Treasury. Pakistan did not receive even an iota of the assets assigned to it which led to major problems for the fledgling state. In 1971, due to Pakistan’s own follies and Indian machinations, East Pakistan was severed and after a bloody war, became Bangladesh.
Seventy years since partition, if one were to review the state of affairs in the erstwhile subcontinent, one can see that India is firmly traversing the path of democracy. Bangladesh, after an initial period of turmoil, strife and bloody coups, has settled down on a democratic route. Pakistan was unfortunate that it lost both Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder and Quaid-i-Millat, Liaquat Ali Khan, his able successor in the initial years. Their replacements were virtual pygmies, lacking both vision and statesmanship, resulting in constant military takeovers, which further stifled the process of democratization. Myopic policies turned Pakistan a dependent ally of the U.S., which used and abused Pakistan depending on its own agenda. Britain, the mother country, which should have taken an interest in the unresolved problems it had left behind at the time of partition, has remained oblivious to them and has been toeing the U.S. line in the region.
Today, by the ongoing war on terror, double digit inflation and a collapsing economy, devastated through constant power outages, lawlessness and unemployment, Pakistan is far from the vision of Iqbal, Liaquat and Jinnah. Pakistan needs continuous efforts to realize the dream of its Founding Fathers.
It was perhaps in this scenario that Faiz Ahmed Faiz, in his memorable poem “Yeh wo seher to nahin” (This is not that dawn…), commented on the partition:
This blighted dawn, this darkened sun.
This is not the dawn we had waited for…
The night's burden has not diminished,
The hour of deliverance
for the eye and the heart has not yet arrived.
Face forward! For our destination is not yet in sight
Faiz leaves us with a ray of hope. Currently we have a democratic set-up, which has taken up cudgels, on behalf of the people who have bestowed their confidence in it to lead them out of the morass we are presently in. It may itself have been bogged down in the quagmire of corruption charges but it is heartening that democratic means are being adopted to deal with the situation.
Doubting Thomas gave Pakistan only a couple of years to survive. The breakup of the Eastern wing proved the naysayers right but since then Pakistan has come a long way despite its detractors planting impediments in its path to progress.
It is pertinent to quote neutral sources as testimony to Pakistan’s progress. Tariq Al-maeena, in his op-ed titled ‘In the eyes of the beholder’ carried by Saudi Gazette of July 12, 2017, provides such a testament. The erudite scholar states: Pakistan has been listed among the next 11 countries that along with the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have a high potential of becoming among the world’s largest economies in the 21st century.
In the last five years, Pakistan’s literacy rate has grown by 250 percent, the largest increase in any country to-date. According to a poll organized by the Institute of European Business Administration, from 125 countries, Pakistanis have been ranked the “fourth most intelligent people” across the globe. The Cambridge exams of both A and O levels have been topped by Pakistani students and this is a record yet to be broken. The world’s youngest certified Microsoft Experts, Arfa Kareem and Babar Iqbal, are from Pakistan. The seventh largest pool of scientists and engineers come from, you guessed it, Pakistan. The fourth largest broadband Internet system of the world is in Pakistan.
Pakistan is the first and only Islamic country to attain nuclear power. It is also known for having some of the best-trained Air Force pilots in the world. The country’s missile technology is one of the best in the world. The country has produced a large quantity of various types of missiles since it has become a nuclear power. It also has the sixth largest military force in the world.
In cooperation with China, Pakistan has produced the PAC JF-17 Thunder aircraft, a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). The JF-17 can be used for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack and aircraft interception. Its designation “JF-17” by Pakistan is short for “Joint Fighter-17”.
It has also constructed the world’s largest warm-water, deep-sea port situated on the Arabian Sea at Gwadar in Balochistan province. Tarbela Dam is the world’s largest earth-filled dam and second largest dam overall. The Karakoram Highway (KKH), connecting China and Pakistan, is the highest paved international road in the world. The Khewra Salt Mine, the second largest salt mine in the world is in operation in the Punjab region of Pakistan. The world’s largest irrigation network is present in Pakistan. It serves 14.4 million hectares of cultivated land. The irrigation system is fed by water from the Indus River.
Land of some of the oldest civilizations (Indus Valley and Mohenjo-daro), Pakistan is a multilingual country with more than 60 spoken languages. It is the sixth most populated country in the world and the second-most populous Muslim-majority country. It also has the second-largest Shia population in the world. The Edhi Foundation, a non-profit social welfare program in Pakistan, founded by Abdul Sattar Edhi in 1951 runs the world’s largest ambulance network. The country also proudly claims of the world’s youngest civil judge, Muhammad Ilyas.
Pakistan is one of the biggest exporters of surgical instruments in the world. About 50 percent of the world’s footballs are made in Pakistan. Nestle Pakistan is one of the largest milk processing plants which generates huge revenue every year.
Among its natural wonders, Pakistan has the highest mountain ranges in the world. The world’s second highest and the ninth highest mountains, K2 and Nanga Parbat respectively, are in Pakistan. The Thar Desert is among the world’s largest sub-tropical deserts. The world’s highest polo ground is in Shandur Top, Pakistan at a height of 3,700 meters.
In 1994, Pakistan became the first country of the world to hold four World Cup titles tournaments in different mainstream sports simultaneously. The sports included cricket, hockey, squash and snooker.
The Lonely Planet, a global tourist guide, has listed Pakistan as being tourism’s “next big thing for more years than we care to remember. But world media headlines always send things off the rails.”
The septuagenarian country faces numerous challenges. Foremost among them is the scourge of terrorism. It goes to the credit of its armed forces that through military operations like Rah-e-Nijat, Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad, the blight of terrorism has been met head on and the country is on the path of eradicating terrorism and extremism.
It is an uphill task, which necessitates Herculean effort to clean the Augean Stables. The entire nation has to be on board to tackle this issue, which has shaken the roots of some mighty powers. Every Pakistani must resolve to unite to defeat the twelve headed Hydra of terrorism and deny space to the terror mongers.
On this Independence Day, let us resolve to take the bull by the horns and tackle the myriad problems audaciously. Waiting for the government to resolve the burning issues will not redeem us. Every citizen of Pakistan has to chip in since it is our very survival which is at stake. Various political parties need to sink in their differences and unite to resolve the issues.
Pakistan can still come out of the abyss it is steeped in by focusing on the growth of its economy and indulging in trade and commerce with its neighbours on an equal footing. The progress of ASEAN, SCO and the EU should serve as examples for emulation where neighbours share the strengths and opportunities of each other, bringing prosperity to all. There is much to take pride in the advent of Pakistan and with the development of mega projects like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan is expected to rise to its true potential of economic development and take its rightful place in the comity of nations.
The writer is a Former Group Captain from Pakistan Air Force who served as Air and Naval Attaché at Riyadh (KSA).