Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Pakistan Army and Muslim communities

Sardar Patel at home May 1946. Photographer: Margaret Bourke-White source: Life Magazine

Speaking at the All India Congress Committee on 14 June, 1947, where a resolution accepting the division of Punjab, Bengal, and Assam (and the secession of Sind, Baluchistan, and NWFP) by the British Empire was passed, Sardar Patel said, "Today they had 75 per cent to 80 per cent of India which they could develop and make strong according to their genius. The League could develop the rest of the country."

Implicit in this statement is the age-old idea of India's oneness, and the reality that this hasty act of partition was between two political formations, and not any communities.

By accepting partition of those provinces, and the secession of others, the Indian National Congress (INC) had accepted that it did not represent all communities in those areas. This was a debatable fact because in elections held in NWFP and Sind the party had strong actually formed the government in NWFP. While in Bengal and Punjab also the INC had considerable seats.

Under the "separate electorates" devised by the British Empire to divide the Indian people, the Muslim League (created to represent the interests of upper-caste Muslims), only began winning seats reserved for Muslims with the open support of the British administration in India. And even then they did not manage to win the support of Muslim communities in Sind, Punjab, and NWFP. By agreeing to partition, the Muslim League accepted that it was dumping its supporters (Muslims in India's heartland) and would be imposing its rule over NWFP, western Punjab, and Sind.

The British Empire, as the true creators of Pakistan, had always claimed that the Muslim League were the sole representatives of Muslim communities in the Indian Continent. They fostered this myth by limiting the electorate to those with a certain income level, education, and property. After partition the INC extended the electorate to cover the entire Indian population and won the first general elections. By contrast, the Muslim League was reduced to a minority in the first elections in the Pakistani provinces! For all their bombast, and British propaganda, the League never had a true political base, no agenda for development, and no forward-looking leaders.

Pakistani polity fragmented on ethno-linguistic and regional lines, some Muslim League leaders were killed, others driven out of Pakistan. The League not only failed to "develop the rest of the country" but condemned it to army rule....Jinnah and his British friends had used the army to invade and occupy Baluchistan, and to invade J&K princely state and fight India. With a fragmented polity Pakistan was not fulfilling its assigned role for the British and their American allies, hence the Pakistan army established its dictatorship over the country.

The Pakistan Army repeats the methods and claims of the Muslim League

The remnants of the Muslim League in India had also failed to win the support of the different Muslim communities, who instead voted for the INC and other parties. This again revealed the Muslim League to have been a party representing upper-caste Muslims (ashraf), which could not spread its influence without the use of communal terrorism and the support of the British administration in India.

The All India Momin Conference, an association of poor Muslim communities like weavers and mill workers, described Jinnah's league as, "controlled and manned chiefly by such Muslims as belong to the rich section or Superior-Group, whose interests are obviously antagonistic to those of the poorer section or Inferior-Group Muslims." They naturally opposed the creation of Pakistan, fought elections against the League, and had violent clashes with its members.

Despite the claims of the Muslim League of being a representative of Muslim communities in British India having been disproved, the Pakistan army, which came to rule Pakistan, repeated the undemocratic and bloody methods of the League in trying to stake the same claim for itself. These included supplicating foreign support, organising violence and bloodshed, and intimidating those Muslim communites who did not share their aims (Bangladeshis, Baluchis, inhabitants of Gilgit-Baltistan, etc). The violence they relied on was overt war, carried out with western arms and support, but each time the Pakistan army failed in its aims. All through these wars the Muslim communities in India did not rise up in support of the invaders.

The repeated failures have not stopped the Pakistan army from continuing with its methods; part of the reason is the attitude of the Indian political leadership which tries to live in peace with the Pakistan army despite all provocation.

The INC and Muslim communities

After the death of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, the INC came under the complete stranglehold of Nehru, who fostered leftist ideas for development and social changes. Leftist intellectuals under him and his daughter Indira altered Indian History, and covered up even recent events, to portray the various ethno-linguistic Muslim communities as a monolith. According to these morons all Muslims had a right to be proud of the "glories" of the Mughal empire, whereas the reality was that many of the poorer and depressed Muslim communities had suffered great opression under what was a feudal and medieval system of government!

Their objective was to turn the Muslims into a permanent vote-bank, under a mostly religious leadership, and prevent the formation of local leaderships which could articulate the different problems and demands of these different Muslim communities. Under this system India's foreign policy towards West Asia, Afghanistan, and even Pakistan became hostage to the "Muslim viewpoint"; even though most of the poorer Muslims were concerned only with issues concering their daily lives.

This problem of painting all Muslim communities in India as a monolith has stopped India from carrying out the liberation of Indian territory under Pakistani occupation, from taking strong action against terror cells and supporters inside India, and from recognizing the rights of the ethno-linguistic Muslim communities inside Pakistan. But even this self-imposed Indian reluctance and the Pakistan army's restless ambition were not enough to create the present problem of state-terrorism.

This current problem has emerged firstly from the funding, since the 1970s, by oil-rich Arabs of madrasas throughout the world. These religious schools have imposed a uniform Arabic dress, regressive culture, and militant ideas into the many diverse Muslim communities in India and its neighboring countries. Secondly the Pakistan army has used products of these schools, and its own soldiers, to form terror groups to carry out low-intensity war against its neighbors. Thirdly it has created supporters for these groups inside India and other countries.

Inside its own borders the Pakistan army continues to supress the different ethno-linguistic groups, much like the Muslim League supressed poorer Muslims with British support. While economic sanctions and military pressure is critical in destroying the terror capabilities of the Pakistan army, global recognition of the ethno-linguistic identity for such groups, which are stronger than religious identity, will lead to the eventual break-up of Pakistan.