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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Myths Propagated by Pakistan to Maintain an Enduring Conflict with India - Part I

Pakistan has been historically ruled by multiple power centres. Even when Jinnah was alive, he handed over the task of grabbing the state of Jammu and Kashmir to a group of Muslim Leaguers and pretended to be unaware of what was happening so as to maintain a semblance of ‘plausible deniability’. See my earlier blog piece, The Fraudulent Theory of 'Non-State Actors' - Part II, for more details. This virus of ‘plausible deniability’ then plagued Pakistan permanently. The acts of terrorism in J&K since 1947, the war of 1965 and then Kargil, the hundreds of terrorist attacks in India since 1989, the support for the Khalistani separatists in the Indian Punjab in early and mid 1980s, the support for separatism in J&K, the support for economic sabotage of India etc. have all carried this hallmark of ‘plausible deniability’. In recent years though, the ISI has seemingly decided to be careless about ‘plausible deniability’ because now everybody knows how terrorism and ISI are joined at the hips. Once somebody begins to engage in sexual commerce, otherwise known as prostitution, it may no longer be needed to hide that fact and in fact, publicizing that fact could help attract customers and hence money and even power. However crude it may sound, Pakistan has been precisely in that stage for many years now and hence more charitably, equally devastatingly nevertheless, described as a ‘rentier state’ even by its admirers. In any case, there are five power centres in Pakistan today, namely, the military (mostly the Pakistani Army), the political class, the bureaucracy, the elite (especially the 44 powerful families, the zamindars, pirs, vaderas, sardars and the Khans) and the ulema.

These five pillars of Pakistan have varying tasks, varying stakes and varying spheres of influence in shaping the trajectory of Pakistan, with the Pakistani Army (PA) having the ultimate power to overrule any of the other four. The PA generally co-opts the ulema so that it does not have to get into a confrontational mode with them. This has been also a legacy since the days of Gen. Ayub Khan, who though abhorrent of the ways and means of the ulema had to ultimately seek their help in running the government, facing the war of 1965 and winning the Presidential election against a spirited and powerful Ms. Fatima Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam’s sister. All these led to Islamists gaining credibility and traction not only with the Government but also with the armed forces.

When one listens to or reads the various discourses enunciated by political and military leaders, strategic analysts, diplomats, newspaper editors, and fiery speeches by the chiefs of terrorist organizations and the ulema, one can discern the following reasons for the continuation of this seemingly enduring conflict. Let us discuss each one of these perceptions.

In my opinion, the first and foremost is the Pakistani perception that 'India never reconciled itself to the creation of Pakistan and is awaiting a chance to undo the Partition, re-absorb the lost territories and form an Akhand Bharat (Greater India)’ This then leads to an impression that India creates problems for Pakistan by building a huge conventional armed forces, by building nuclear weapons, by resorting to coercive diplomacy, by various attempts to weaken Pakistan and by being hegemonic with respect to Pakistan. The 1971 secession of East Pakistan is cited always as an attempt by India to cut Pakistan down to size. In recent years, Pakistan has added its fears of India using the Indus waters to make Pakistan a desert by impounding waters. This is viewed as another tactic by the treacherous and cunning Hindus to weaken the state and cause disharmony among the four Pakistani provinces as the quantum of water decreases. Pakistan calls Indian military and its doctrines such as the Cold Start as Pakistan-centric.

In Pakistani minds, the above have become axiomatic and hence escape an objective scrutiny. Let us see therefore how far these fears are true. Let us consider the issue of ‘Akhand Bharat’. Though such a concept of ‘Akhand Bharat’ was spoken of by a few sporadically, especially the right-wing Hindu groups, it never gained currency in India. In fact, it is usually a practice among the so-called centrists and the leftists of Indian intelligentsia to accuse these Hindu right-wing leaders of demanding the creation of Pakistan in the first place because of their animosity towards the Muslims ! The closest that these right-wing Hindus came to power was when the BJP came to power in 1998 . Even then, it was a coalition government of various hues and colours though the BJP was the most dominant among them. For five decades after the Indian independence, the supposedly more secular and centrist Indian National Congress (INC) ruled the country almost with an iron grip. Of course many Indian leaders during the nascent and intoxicating days of independence, felt that Pakistan may not be able to survive as an entity for too long. In fact, Indian Prime Minister Pandit Nehru said so. He wrote, "I doubt very much if it (Pakistan) can survive at all. Financially it will be completely bankrupt. Kashmir's future is of the utmost intimate personal significance. On no account do I want Kashmir to become a kind of colony of foreign interests. I fear Pakistan is likely to become that if it survives at all."

Moreover, there was no clear idea, at the time of Partition, of the future relationship between these two newly created countries. People had relatives and assets across the borders, including the founder of Pakistan and the Governor General, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. The noted Pakistani columnist and commentator, Khaled Ahmed, says that “Jinnah never thought that India and Pakistan would be hostile neighbours. The fact that three institutions in India - including the Aligarh Muslim University - were named beneficiaries in Jinnah's will clearly goes against the state-sponsored version of his life.” Pakistani litteretaeurs of great fame like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Saadat Hasan Manto or Mohammad Saeed have captured the confusion of division and the ambiguity thereon. One of the prominent Muslim League politicians of that time, Ghulam Hussain was not only completely against Pakistan but also said that Jinnah himself was not completely convinced about that. Individual families also were confused to such an extent that some in the family migrated to Pakistan while others remained in India. For example, later day Indian President Dr. Zakir Hussain decided to stay in India while his brother moved over to Pakistan and ended up as a federal minister later on. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary in the early 60s was M.Ikramullah who was the brother of the then Chief Justice (later Vice President) of India, Justice M.Hidayatullah. Such examples, not only among elite sections of the Muslim society but also among ordinary folks, are plenty. It is because of this division of families that we have today such a great demand for visas for travelling to each other’s country.

Opinions and assessments expressed, therefore, during this time of great confusion could not be taken as deterministic foreign policies of a nation. No doubt, some leaders, including Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, thought that the partition was only temporary and Pakistan would be re-united with India. In c. 1960, Prime Minister Nehru recalling those days said, “We were tired men, and we were getting on in years too. Few of us could stand the prospect of going to prison again—and if we had stood out for a united India as we wished it, prison obviously awaited us. We saw the fires burning in the Punjab and heard of the killings. The plan of Partition offered a way out and we took it. We expected that Partition would be temporary, that Pakistan was bound to come back to us.”

It was natural for most Indians who were born and raised in a united India and who would have never imagined a partition, to have held such a view in c. 1947. One can be sure that in Pakistan too there were people holding on to similar thoughts. The Hindu, wrote in its editorial dated August 15, 1947, thus: “We have achieved freedom; But at what cost! A country and a people that by every test are a unity have been arbitrarily divided. And the wound will take long to heal; for, as Mr. Nehru has sadly remarked, "division has taken place in the hearts of the people of India". But it is idle to brood over what has happened and foolish to get angry and cast about for scapegoats. Many think that there is bound to be a reunion when there has been time enough for people to reflect coolly on the disastrous consequences of this unnatural partition. That is as it may be. But those who are perpetually harping on it, whether from genuine distress or in a fractious spirit, will not be hastening that consummation.”

However, Pakistani leaders mischievously propagated the idea that India was actively working to destabilize their nation and re-absorb it. In the history of Pakistan, one can see clearly the Pakistani State propagating such alarming assessments about India frequently or whenever attention of the people needed to be diverted away from pressing domestic issues. For example, India’s supposed ‘stealing’ of waters from the Indus system of rivers or India’s conspiracy to dismember Pakistan through the separation of East Pakistan. In the early years after Partition, the various disastrous events within Pakistan itself lent credence to the Indian assessment that Pakistan may not survive as an independent entity for long. The paranoia about India in the minds of the Pakistanis was a deliberate creation of the State of Pakistan. Allama Iqbal and Mohammed Ali Jinnah along with his Muslim League leaders were able to create a sense of paranoia about Hindu domination and Muslim subjugation before Independence thus paving the way for a violent separation. In the final stages of this policy, extraordinary violence was employed to achieve their goal. Similar policies of paranoia and aggression were thus carried forward into the newly created state of Pakistan. The well known Pakistani historian, Ms. Ayesha Jalal speaks of Pakistan as ‘Paranoidistan’ caught in a mindset ‘heavily influenced by fear of India’ and consequently ‘conspiracy theories’. These conspiracy theories have been used to justify atrocities within their own country by claiming, for example, that attacks on Shia’s or suicide bombing in mosques, could have been carried out only by kafir Indians because no Muslim would kill another Muslim.

Precisely to allay such imaginary fears and put them to rest forever, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Minar-e- Pakistan, and the Mausoleum of Allama Iqbal in c. 1999 (February 20-21, 1999). By visiting the Minar-e-Pakistan, considered a symbol of Pakistani identity, Prime Minister Vajpayee implicitly assured Pakistanis that India considered Pakistan as a separate state. In June, 2005, the BJP President Lal Krishna Advani visited Jinnah’s Mausoleum in Karachi and declared Pakistan as an ‘unalterable reality of history’.

(To be Continued . . .)


  1. I completely agree with the writer of the article. Till 1946, Pakistan was a vague idea. Its appearance was sudden on world's map after the bloodshed of partition. Millions were rooted from their homes and ladies raped only because of some power hungry politicians of that time. History will never forget Mr. Jinnah, Mr Nehru and Mr Mountbettan. Indians and Pakistanis are the same people with common ancestors.
    It is high time that Pakistan should shed the animosity towards India. I am an Indian by heart and consider all Pakistanis as brothers next door. We do recognise them as a sovereign independent state. Why do they hate us?
    Conservative people should open their minds and let be friendly for ever for our future generations to come.

    Mohit,Sarojini Nagar, New Delhi, India

  2. Another piece of Junk! showing not a neutral but the Indian point of view ,telling the same old typical Indian antiPak story.its funny how Indians present their views and claims as established facts ...
    Well if anyone wants to assess and compare the mentality of the people of both nations just check the difference between the media of both the countries you will not only know the mindsets of people but also the fact the who is and has been propagating myths to maintain conflict and hate !

    Dear writer a thousand times can more than this can be written on these topics from my side about what happened before and after partition telling Pakistan's view of the story ..try to substantiate ur claims and views with to make them acceptable for people outside India.


  3. Talal, you can rebut the statements made in this blog with your own presentation of facts. I invite you to do so rather than making a very general statement about Indians etc.

    As for substantiating my claims, which ones are you particularly interested ? The acts of terrorism in J&K since 1947, the war of 1965 and then Kargil, the hundreds of terrorist attacks in India since 1989, the support for the Khalistani separatists in the Indian Punjab in early and mid 1980s, the support for separatism in J&K, the support for economic sabotage of India ?

    Or, ISI & GoP's tactic of 'plausible deniability' ?

    Or, terrorism & ISI joined at the hips ?

    Or Pakistan's various paranoia about India such as India striving for re-absorption of Pakistan, or India's so-called stealing of the Indus Waters, or general characterization of the Hindus as treacherous & cunning, or the confused thinking by Nehru as well as Jinnah on the inchoate idea of Partition, or the division of families across the borders, or the employment of extraordinary violence in the end stages of the British rule by the Muslim League, or Ayesha Jalal's characterization of Pakistan as 'paranoidistan' ?

    Be specific and I will give you citations and proof from sources that you will believe.

    By the way, I would also urge you to write about India especially when you can do so a thousand times over. At least, that would help set the record straight.