Pakistan: Reclaiming the Indus Person


Computer-generated image of what Mohenjodaro must have looked like all those years ago (Courtesy Wiki)

Computer-generated image of what Mohenjodaro must have looked like all those years ago (Courtesy Wiki)

 By Aisha Fayyazi Sarwari

There are so many ways for Americans to find themselves if they are lost: They can read Eyewitness to America, an anthology of people who were there when the US was created; they could go to Gettysburg or heck, just rent the TVC; or they could go to the Metropolitan Museum in New York; or take a course with Professor Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn.

What are Pakistanis supposed to do to find themselves? And quick? Because 100 miles away from Islamabad’s serene capital and parliament are a group of hooligans with arms supplied by Russia or India and these Taliban are marching into the parts of Pakistan that are populated by people less able to fight a guerilla war and more complacent about things like drone attacks.
 All this notwithstanding that we won ourselves an independent judiciary after over a year’s struggle, restored the Supreme Court chief justice and were well on our way to feeling like the middle class bourgeoisie of Pakistan finally had become closer to reclaiming their inherent character and national ethos.

Yet there is an eerie silence as the same populace watches the Taliban descend in Buner and watch youtube videos of beheadings and floggings. What are we supposed to do? In recent statements coming from all directions of the foreign world ask us to stand up and defend our country from the militants. Intellectuals ask us to remember how Nazi Germany watched its nation decline in a wave of dogma that cannot be challenged because it seems absolute and powerful.

We are not collaborating with some Nazi regime to ethnically cleanse a race, on the contrary we, the people of Pakistan are victims of terror: The kind that keeps our children out of co-educational schools because of bomb threats. We rightfully fear the Taliban because like terror they operate outside normalcy and are masters of disrupting familiarity, and they certainly cannot be underestimated because they show fierce resolve when fighting women and children.

The militancy in the North of the country has been nurtured since 2001, and now they are been drawn in to the cities, after allowing them to air their sermons on FM radio unabated, and take over the lands of rightful owners. They have no agenda but that of fear. On 28th of February 2008, Taliban militants took 250 schoolchildren hostage in a Primary school in Bannu, after a failed attempt to kidnap an official. They threatened to blow up the school if not guaranteed a safe passage. Today, April 26th 2009, 10 school children in Dir have been murdered by the Taliban in what is a most horrendous account at prime time news. A young school boy was given a bomb by the Talib and told it was a toy.  The bomb exploded as a group of children played with it.

The policy of negotiating with terrorists has been unaltered since the Musharraf era, if not strengthened by the Zardari regime after signing off Swat to the Taliban under the Nizam-e-Adal led by an uncharismatic clown character who loves to call narcissist press conferences while his goons spread lawlessness of the most vengeful kind, the kind that lacks purpose and cause.

As confusion mounts about why the government is letting anyone challenge the writ of the state, it is time to wake up and smell the coffee. There is a good chance that the time is here to give Pakistan one last chance of returning it to its original intended state: the one defined by Mahomed Ali Jinnah and by the rationale of its own Indus civilization’s lessons – A secular liberal and egalitarian state.

As a first step, Pakistanis must shed the hesitation to call a spade a spade and say that all this talk of Sharia is nothing but nonsense, both inapplicable because this region is not homogenous in its religious construct and also because Sharia’s interpretational gurus have proven time and again to be collaborators with petro-money. As a second step we should point at the enemy, and stop sleeping with it. The enemy can be identified by its attack on a people’s identity: Its language and its heritage and the signs that remind them of their heroes and their roots. The one thing that confirms the purpose of the The Taliban is their recent vow to destroy the ancient ruins of Mohenjodaro in Taxilla.

It was Ghulam Abbas in 1957 who recognized the central battle point for the two diametrically opposed forces of liberalism and obscurantism in Pakistan. In the short story called Hotel Mohenjodaro, he wrote about a dystopia in the state of Pakistan that was on one hand ready to launch the first man to space, and on the other facing a growing mass of mullahs who thought scientific advancement to be against Islam. Eventually after a triumph of the mullah there stood, Hotel Mohenjodaro, the hotel where the launch ceremony took place. He writes, in each pen stroke spelt catastrophe, “This is the spot, before the enemy struck, stood the Hotel Mohenjodaro, with its 71 storeys.”

There is truly something gripping about Taxila’s ancient ruins that makes’ ones soul restless with questions.

Those questions are quenched by none other than Aitzaz Ahsan’s The Indus Saga. As a central figure in the lawyers movement that won Pakistanis a breath of self-confidence and dignity, this politician, poet and mentor to a leftist rock band, he is the person Pakistanis can turn to, if they want to find themselves. And in doing so they will discover that many a times, Pakistanis and found themselves and overcome their calamities though a relentless struggle, sometimes internally and sometimes though invisible forces. Each time, the battle has been won by asking the right questions and by finding this land’s heroes.

Define the Indus person, the Pakistani Citizen.

Professor Ahmed Hassan Dani, who was an authority on the antiquities and Pakistan’s most internationally acclaimed anthropologist said about Aitzaz Ahsan’s book, “This book ably represents the History of the land of the people who have lived and labored here.”

Aitzaz is a poet himself, a man who honors the written word and masters the power it has over people. He writes about the Indus region which he explains is modern day Pakistan and paints a picture of how the regions elements influence the resilience of the Indus person’s character.
“The hooves of a million galloping horses reverberated in my ears as they raised Indus dust to the farthest limits of outer space. The swords of Indus battalions rose in defense and flashed before my eyes. Mighty and turbulent rivers surged and shrank marking the unending cycle of immoderate seasons. Dry and burning desert winds swept across the endless plains every summer to be quenched only by the relentless and thunderous monsoon clouds. Cold and freezing winter nights made survival all but impossible except for the most hardy and robust forms of life. The cycle continued unabated. The invaders never relented. The resistance never tired. The seasons continued extreme. The Indus person remained tough and indefatigable. He was a survivor.”
A recent testimony to this character was when the lawyers movement was on a head to head collision course with the Zardari administration and Aitzaz Ahsan was asked on camera as he sat in his car what he was going to do about the march to Islamabad because trucks and trolleys were brought in to block all roads, making failure of the movement inevitable. He said, “We will come out tomorrow, and the next day and the day after, until those trolleys are removed.” There have been few leaders whose resolve resonates so strongly, as if it finds its power from something that was dated years ago, and runs miles deep into this land. 
Aitzaz Ahzan writes:  “If a culture that refused to support questions and inquiry are adopted, fundamentalist dogma is bound to creep in and take over. The establishment fears that if questions are indeed asked these may lead to conclusions that the present day and presumptive moorings are not the rationale for the creation of the state of Pakistan. The only two things that have survived are the questions and our heroes. They must survive.”

The book outlines myths set to confuse and complicate the people of Pakistan:

Myth #1: the people of this land are religious fundamentalists

Mohenjodaro and Harappa spread over half a million square miles, are a wonder for every archeologist, each of whom, point to various factors that made this first most advanced civilization known to man, more advanced than Mesopotamia and Egypt. 

It was perhaps the discovery of the optimal size of the brick vis a vis its ratio to the human palm, or the fertile alluvium soil that allowed for cotton textiles, which gave this civilization a certain class structure. They had an excellent drainage system, large houses, and the sculpting of statues. This civilization had an expert manufacturing factory where its products reached the merchant class in Egypt, indicating that they traveled and imported items as well. Though it is mere speculation why the Indus civilization, once so wondrous declined so abruptly, it is a fact that there seemed to be an absence of a central authority in the architectural remains, rather a presence of ritualistic baths and temples.

Sculpture of the "Dancing Girl" found in Mohenjodaro excavation

Sculpture of the "Dancing Girl" found in Mohenjodaro excavation

The priests and not the kings therefore distributed the Indus surplus, perhaps based on piety, susceptible to religious corruption. There was also an absence of sophisticated weaponry, as compared to the advanced tools that the region developed. The Indus person was right from the start controlled by a bunch of fundamentalist priesthood that superseded both the military and the politics of the land. Though much of the decline of the civilization is suspicion but this could well be one of the major reasons.

For any civilization to have reemerged, it had to have built its foundation on the lessons from the downfall of the Mohenjodaro and Harapa era. The rebuilding of that ruin in the Indus region began with a rejection of the high church, a need for a strong central authority, a commitment towards a strong defense against an invading enemy and nothing more than a devotional commitment to religion.

The Indus person is inertly a liberal creed follower; and fundamentalism is known to the Indus person as what killed the innovation and superiority of its forefathers. Left to his own will, the Indus person has rejected the call to a theocracy.

The current voting patterns of Pakistanis in elections to this day bares testament to this lesson. The history of modern day Pakistani religio-political parties such as the Jamat-e-Islami and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam have both been unable to secure more than 15% support in Pakistan in any general elections and are both known more for their pragmatism than their dogmatism to establish Sharia in Pakistan, and their corresponding successes and failure is really measured by how much their swinging ideology is in tune with the changing times.

Myth # 2: That Barrister Mahomed Ali Jinnah was somehow an orthodox fundamentalist who demanded an exclusivist Islamic Pakistan

Mahomed Ali Jinnah:  The Founder of Modern Pakistan (Indus)

Mahomed Ali Jinnah: The Founder of Modern Pakistan (Indus)

Jinnah’s story is not taught in our official media and our textbooks are censored.  His valiant effort to bring Hindus and Muslims together, his own secular lifestyle and above all his commitment to bring his constituents to modernity and a progressive future are all forgotten.  The man was a parliamentarian, a defender of liberal ideas, an activist for human rights and above all an advocate for the people of India (and Indus).  While in dress, he was a Bond street gentleman, he was very much the man for the people of India and man from the people of India (and Indus).   His legislative record bears testimony to a passionate idealist and defender of people’s interests against moneyed classes, businesses and other vested interests.    

It is never explained how a secular minded man – thoroughly unbiased and without any color of prejudice- came to champion the cause of Muslims.  What was his greatest push for affirmative action for his community- which was a minority- has been falsely portrayed as an exclusivist demand.  

 Yet it is through stories of betrayal and deceit that this region’s students (Read: Taliban) are imbued with an unmitigated sense of betrayal and in vengeance alone do they thus seek to purge themselves of a sense of guilt and betrayal.

Myth # 3: India and Pakistan are Historically one unit

Among other things, Pakistanis are made to feel guilty about the fact that they “vivisected” an intrinsically singular piece of land. Nothing could be farthest from the truth. If the creation of Pakistan itself did not prove that there were much larger historical forces at work that overrode any gift of nature that made the Indian subcontinent have an “island-like unity” then certainly the further partitioning of Bangladesh from Pakistan did.

Interestingly, during the last six thousand years, Indus (Pakistan) has indeed remained independent of and separate from India for almost five and a half thousand years. Only during the rule of the Mauryans, the Mughals and the British, was the entire Subcontinent be ruled as one land mass. The total period of these three empires rule was not more than five hundred years which is only about 8% of this land’s History.

The belief in the unity and oneness of the subcontinent was propagated by Pax Britannica, the unified hold of the Raj which fell conveniently in the lap of Hindu mythology and the Mahabharata scripture and later taken on by Jawaharlal Nehru and even contemporary historians in Pakistan. The Pakistani historians always argued from a position of guilt and weakness that proceeded after the partition of India in 1947. The Indus Saga is among the first serious scholarly work that reverses that view.

Myth 4: Indus has willingly surrendered before every invader

After facing successful conquests in Central Asia, it was in what is now Pakistan that most expeditions met containment when it reached the Indus region. The battles always ended at Panipat: The land that is now midway between modern Pakistan and Dehli. The Indus person has won battle over the Aryans, as testified in Hindu text. The Indus person has also weakened the Greeks in this region, and compelled Alexander the Great to turn back. Taimur Lane was harassed by Sheikha Gakkhar and Jasrat. Even the Mughals were bleeding miserably for several years by the Indus people in the frontier, in Sindh and in Punjab. Likewise the Raj was fought fiercely though uprisings for several years in the nineteenth century. And it is here when the ‘dehistorification’ of the Indus person began.

Aitzaz Ahsan explains that after the war of 1857, a new set of Chiefs were created by the British and awarded large strips of land, and their sons inducted into the imperial services, creating a new civil and military bureaucracy that was unquestioningly submissive and obedient. A new history was written to suit the elite and people were as a first step deprived of the use of local languages that embodied their history, and vernacular languages were replaced by Urdu and English.

The parables of oral and written history that talked of resistance against the foreign invaders were thus wiped away in a few years.

 As the barbarian horde moves towards our capital, it would not be for the first time.  This time though the Indus Valley is going to fetch deep into those wells of history and the Indus person is going to fight.


Filed under ancient civilisations, Architecture, History, India, Jinnah, lawyers movement, Pakistan, Partition

36 responses to “Pakistan: Reclaiming the Indus Person

  1. azhar aslam

    Indeed he will will. Indeed she will.

  2. hayyer48

    I hope he will and I am sure he will. However Aitzaz Ahsan’s thesis is just manufacture. I will comment at length tomorow as it late now.
    What evidence is there that these TTP types are funded or armed by Russia and India. Russia has been out of touch with the area for 20 years. As for the TTP being Indian agents, the idea is a fantastic. One keeps hearing about it from Pakistani sources. A sense of realism is called for I think.

  3. Hayyer 48

    The Indus Saga by Aitzaz Ahsan is no more than a minor cul-de-sac in Pakistan’s long search for an authentic identity.
    I went through the book a few years ago. It had seemed then as it does now, a rather wistful attempt to forge a coherent palpable artifact out of a non existing mould.
    Pakistan’s identity in 1947, and even now is after all defined by what it is not-not Indian, not Hindu. But this negativity is only a tautology because by definition Pakistan is not India and it is inhabited mainly by Muslims.
    Aitzaz Ahsan has merely tried to substitute the putative Arab/Central Asian/Middle Eastern moorings of the Pakistani people that were so popular with theorists immediately after independence with an indigenous cast. And no one can fault him for that. Pakistanis indeed are an Indus Valley people.
    But this is the start of conceptual difficulties of another kind. The Indus Valley is different from India? This is surely begging the question. For what is India but the sum of its parts. Some of those parts separated out in 947 and form Pakistan, other remaining parts form India. Are all the remaining parts of India alike? No! They are all different. Punjab is not Bihar, Bihar is not Bengal, Bengal is not Tamil Nadu and the Tamils are not Malyalis or Kannadigas notwithstanding their Dravidian commonality interspersed with Aryan, pre Dravidian and Arab and Persian intermixture. None of them is like Maharashtrians (who themselves are a fairly heterogenous people) or Gujaratis.
    So in Pakistan, Punjabis are not Sindhis and Pakhtun are not Baloch. Kashmiris being a class by themselves.
    West Punjabis are a little different from East Punjabis, but a large number of East Punjabis are actually from West Punjab. West Punjabis are more like East Punjabis than their are like Sindhis. Similarly East Punjabis are more like West Punjabis than they are like Haryanvis, who in turn are more like Rajasthanis than they are like Bhaiyas from UP. And so on.
    The point should be clear. There is no India from which Pakistan is different. Post structuralism has much to say about this discourse of accentuating differences between people. In that sense there is no India and there is no Indus people who have an Indus Saga.
    When AA talks about the Indus people being different from Indians he is comparing a chimera with a chimera. Both are political constructs, ’empires of the mind’.
    The Indus Saga, written says Aitzaz Ahsan in prison under Zia ul Haq, purports to do for Pakistan what a Discovery of India also written in prison by Nehru sought to do for India; it imposed a fake coherence and an imaginary unity of its different peoples. AA saysNehru expounded the concept of the sub continent;s ‘oneness’ to the point of romance. Pretty much true of AA’s concept of the Indus people.
    The Aryan people who invaded India moved on beyond the Jumna and Ganga; few of their direct descendants remain and are found mainly in the surviving Brahmins and Khatris (mainly traders now) of the Punjab. The Punjab, Frontier, Sindh and Baluchistan were later invaded and occupied by Persians, Greeks, Sakas, Kushans, white Huns, Afghans, Mongols and in the case of Sindh a few Arabs. Kerala in India too has some muslims with Arab forebears. Some of these people stayed and interbred with the existing populations. Others moved onto occupy other parts of India.
    AA is not quite certain whether he wants to write a critique of born again Hindu nationalism in the sub-continent or create an equivalent mythology of his own for Pakistan. Witness “Pakistan has always had an identity; and it has always had a soul.” It takes real chutzpah to say that while searching for one.
    Sure the people of Punjab and Sind differ from say Gujaratis and Biharis. But they differ from one another almost as much. The Rohilla Pathans set up a Rohilkhand in north west UP. How do their descendants differ from the original Rohilla Pathans except for the cross breeding. Are Kashmiris closer to Punjabis? Till 1947 they detested each other. Are the Balochis closer to their kinsmen in Iran than they are to Gujjars? Why do Gujjars in Kashmir actively campaign for the rights of Hindu Gujjars in Rajasthan?
    “Is not the Indo-Pak divide of primordial origin” asks AA. How is it. The Harrapan civilization extended from Baluchistan to Gujarat and across Rajastan, Haryana, Punjab the foothills of the Himalyas and even across the Jumna river. And it is generally accepted that the Harrapan civilization was pre Aryan. The builders of Mohenjodaro live either in the villages of Baluchistan or in the depths of South India. Brahui it is said is a Dravidian language.
    AA misunderstands the geography of the Mahabharat. Some Indian scholars say that the events described therein actually took place in modern Afghanistan. All the main battles and events occur in regions which are now centred in the area between Punjab and the Jumna. Yet it is well known that migrating people carry place names with them.

    The Kathiawar-Gurdaspur salient that AA draws his geographical limits from only marks off the drier areas of India from the wetter ones and even then not accurately. The climate of North west India, including Rajasthan differs somewhat from that of the Jumna Ganga areas. Bengal, Bihar Assam have their own types of weater as does the south and Kerala. Tamil Nadu does not get the South West monsoon whereas parts of Pakistani Punjab do. But then most of Rajasthan does not, nor do Kashmir and Ladakh.
    It would take a book to counter each of AA’s facile and misleading arguments. It cannot be done in the course of a blog. India’s history is replete with empires set up in different parts of the sub-continent. AA must have read comprehensively on Indian history and must know of all the different kingdoms into which India was divided most of the time except during imperial rule of the Gupta, Moghuls and British. When did the entire Indus form a separate empire. Even Ranjit Singh never got to conquer Sindh and Baluchistan, and he was the closest to having an empire of the Indus.
    I used to try and analyse what is common to India that so inspired Nehru and even moved Iqbal to talk about ‘mit ti nahin hasti hamari’ as compared to ‘Chino Arab’. Not being capable of the lofty idealism of Nehru or the poetic whimsy of Iqbal I sought more prosaic markers.
    It seemed to me that India could be defined as the place where everyone used the condiment haldi in cooking; but I had to abandon the concept because the Burmese, Thais and Malays use it too. As do Pakistanis.
    Later I thought it could be a place where cows roamed on the road without let or hinderance. That effectively exludes Pakistan because stray cows could be eaten. The concept works, except that large areas of the North East are also beef eating which would not let a stray cow go waste.
    Another marker could be the habit of defecating in the open. I do not know if this still happens in Pakistan. As a marker of nationality it would be as good as any provided the Pakistanis abstained.
    The South West Monsoon excludes parts of Rajasthan, Kashmir Ladakh and most of Tamil Nadu, so it is not a good indicator
    There are others one could try. The inability to form queues, the absymal state of municipal management, the tendency to reach beyond ones grasp. But you cant define a country by negatives. I haven’t succeeded in finding anything that distinguishes India. The British were right. It is only a geographical expression. But it is a nation. Most Indians do not have a problem with multiple identities. Linguistic, ethnic or religious.
    I wish the Pakistanis better luck in their search. But synthetic formulations dont work. Pakistanis should be happy with their multiple identities too. Pakistan was a nation created for Muslims and that is what it is. For the present it should be enough.

  4. monu

    the Brits are responsible for our miseries. they have taught us nationalism but created monstrosities like India and Pakistan. these two states-if they had not fought each other-would have crumbled in sub states on the lines of nationalism or language and culture. Brits also gave us history of past and present. prior to this all ‘historical facts’ were transported by words of mouth and written as mythical stories. people talked about these in tones depending upon the preference. another pernicious effect of british rule was that aspirations of heroes were Pak heroic generals can stage a coup but indian generals can only sigh. one might wonder if Dawood Ibrahim could could create foundation of an empire like Babur. Zia could declare Punjab as an independent kingdom and could have been very successful. It’s pity such things do not happen now.

  5. KP

    here’s another myth for you…there’s a correlation between the “indus person” and the pakistani citizen.

    there isn’t. to say that there’s a relation between the people of a civilization, who for all intents and purposes, were of a different ethnic, religious and cultural background from those currently inhabit that part of the country is patently absurd.

    islam has been around in s. asia for over a 1,000 years and has a very different cultural and social manifestation from how it is practiced in the middle east. however, over the past 20-30 years pakistan has tried very hard dispense with the reality that it is a s. asian nation, wanting instead to align itself with the middle east and has imported wholesale, the fanatical wahhabism that is alien to this region. and now that the taliban are at the doorstep, everyone seems to be turning subcontinental pretty quick.

  6. YLH


    I am travelling right now … but would like to write a full fledge rebuttal to that.


    If perhaps you were to read Indus Saga… you’d see that the Indus Person is not as simple as you make it.

    Nor is Aitzaz Ahsan arguing something that he hasn’t shown from history… nor has he emphasized the differences between the Indus Person and the Indian to establish the distinct nature of the Indus and India…

  7. bonobashi


    Thank you for bringing in a breeze with a different fragrance; it has been edifying, educative even, to read some of the posts here, and to try and supplement them, but your effort was very lightening. The visions you conjure up are really captivating.

    As it happens, Indian generals have been tempted on a couple of occasions, but have uniformly (pun intended) recognised their genius lay elsewhere, and very, very wisely abstained. Except Cariappa, who was a very fine man, but not the most politically aware one, no Indian general sighed for political office or power, as far as I know.

    Daud might well have done a Nadir Shah; there is little to choose between them. Terrorising a population, criminal tendencies, rise to power on the body of his original protector, use of hired assassins from other countries: gosh, you really might have something here. Mr. Kaskar was born 300 years too late. What do you suppose he sits on daily (no, I didn’t mean that!)?

    Zia creating a little empire in the Punjab and ruling there is again magic for the imagination (was he Jullundur born or from Ludhiana? We have a wise man from those parts; perhaps he will enlighten us).

    Matters would have been much easier; the Punjab would have ruled both India (the rest of it) and Pakistan (the rest of it), and there would be a huge administrative burden taken away. There is a possibility in such an event that Kashmir would have reverted, all five parts of it, to being an exploited adjunct of the Lahore Durbar, remembered whenever the overlord’s mood took him to do so.

    The amount of work for doctors would have plummeted; hypertension would have disappeared, also blood sugar and high cholesterol, as tension vanished from daily life, and films were banned, preventing us from fits of rage at what is dished out by Bollywood. Ministries would have vanished both in the rump capital of Pakistan (the rest of it) and in Delhi, unless, of course, Zia decided to take it over in homage to his stay at – St. Stephens, was it? no wonder our view of St. Stephens is what it is – which means that either Agra or Lucknow would be our capital. India (the rest of it) would never, ever again let Kolkata be the capital; once a cosmic instance is quite enough, and look how those loquacious Bongs go on and on about their culture and educational distinction just based on the lucky accident of having had the Imperial capital with them just that once. A repeat show is unthinkable.

    More, maestro, more.

  8. PMA

    Reading this article by Aisha Fayyazi Sarwari was a torture. Pakistan is what it is; it is an Indus Basin country and then some. It was created in 1947 to safeguard political, cultural and economic interests of the Muslims of the Northwestern parts of the British Indian empire in post colonial period. Most Pakistanis are comfortable with that definition of their self.

  9. Rehana

    “It was created in 1947 to safeguard political, cultural and economic interests of the Muslims of the Northwestern parts”

    and what about those of the Podda, Jomuna and Meghna delta?

  10. bonobashi


    They took 24 years to figure this out.

  11. bonobashi


    That earlier post of mine was impulsive, born out of a feeling of hurt and rejection on behalf of my Bengali blood-kin. I am sorry.

    Pakistan as it is today is perfectly right to seek its soul as a nation, as Pakistan, separately from the ‘nationalities’ of Punjabi, Baluch, Sindhi, Pashtun and other smaller, ethnic groupings. It has a right also to seek a self-image which is not connected to religion. It is perfectly valid for Aitzaz Ahsan to seek a transcendent identity for the nation which encompasses all these others. Such an identity, properly established, properly integrated with the tokens of its other identities, would help to promote the vision of Jinnah, a Pakistan for Muslims, but not an Islamic Pakistan. This seems to be the lesson to be drawn from the Ayesha Jalal thesis and consequent revisits of the Qaid’s writing and vision statements.

    Such an identity can be supplied by the Indus identity. It is appealing. There are reasons to dispute it. Hayyer48 has attacked it horse, foot and artillery. Nevertheless, it has a ring to it which will undoubtedly gain it many adherents, and to reject it will need some more research.

    The trouble is with the people you mentioned. My ‘watan’, my desh, is the now-mythical land of Vikrampur, which was the territory on the right bank of the Padma, across from Dhaka. It no longer exists except in our racial memory. But our land of waters, rivers and canals, mangroves and tigers, paddy and poetry, is our own, and it has nothing to do with yours. It was welded into Pakistan by political expediency, and tormented into revolt by the kind of remark that you protested in the first instance, and now it is independent. There is nothing of the Indus about it, and Pakistan’s identity lies outside the Podda/Jomuna/Meghna delta. The Pakistan of before 71 was an accident, the result of a course held too long, of a personal dislike which destroyed the lives of millions, of great leaders intriguing among themselves and with the stroke of a pen, undoing and doing up the lives of millions.

    Leave this behind and go in peace.

  12. monu

    to bonobashi: leave poor rehana alone. it appears she is still a PYT innocent of a past. she should take a tour from Khyber to kanyakumari and westernmost point of Pakistan to easternmost part of India. she will see mini Pakistans inside many cities and countryside of India and hindustani(the lingo understood by all sub continentals now) is the most commonly used language. she will feel relaxed and may start singing a rabindra sangeet! we will eagerly wait to read her diary. am sure she will be prettier and peacefully composed.

  13. PMA

    Dear Dasht Naward: You have identified yourself in the past as a Bengali from Indian West Bengal. You say you have a feeling of hurt and rejection on behalf of your Bengali blood-kin. Then you go into detail and lament about your loss of the land of waters, rivers and canals, mangroves and tigers, paddy and poetry. East Bengal was East Pakistan for 23 years, less than a quarter century and has been out of Pakistan for almost four decades. The intriguing bad boys been gone from your ‘watan’ and ‘desh’ for long time now. Why don’t you Bengalis rejoin and reestablish your Greater Bengal? What stops you from doing that? I could no longer bear your sad cries.

    And about Hayyer48. He is a modern day ‘mahatma’ for ever lecturing and informing Pakistanis what they are and what they are not. He for sure knows it that ‘Pakistanis know that they are not Indians, but beyond that they are confused’. It is this patronising and condescending behavior which makes us Pakistanis detest Indians.

  14. PMA

    And in case he is wondering, let me explain why I call Hayyer48 a modern day ‘mahatma’. On one hand he says that India is only a geographical expression. But then he claims that it is a nation. Europe is also a geographical expression. Is Europe a nation? Then he goes on to say that “Most Indians do not have a problem with multiple identities. Linguistic, ethnic or religious.” If that is true then how does he explain all those separatist movements within Indian Union. How does he explain routine ethnic and religious riots? Why Gujarat and Ayodya? Why Kashmir and Assam? Yes Pakistanis are in search of a national direction. But so are Indians. It happens when ever nation-states are created in the post colonial period. Pakistan’s case is not unique. Mahatma Hayyer wants Pakistanis to have multiple identities. He does not realize that every body in the world has multiple identities. That is the way human beings are.

  15. bonobashi


    Dear Alvi Sahib,

    I am grateful to you for setting aside your detestation of Indians long enough to scribble a few lines in the direction of this na-cheez. It may be asking too much to seek clarity on top of condescension; that would be a great strain to an almsgiver.

    Consider what your anger has led you to.

    1. You took note of what you called my “loss of the land of waters, rivers and canals, mangroves and tigers, paddy and poetry.”

    What on earth are you referring to? Please read carefully; the syntax and grammar is quite simple, actually:
    “My ‘watan’, my desh, is the now-mythical land of Vikrampur, which was the territory on the right bank of the Padma, across from Dhaka. It no longer exists except in our racial memory.”

    Try to understand that the reference to loss was to Vikrampur, it was of a geographical unit of great antiquity which has since been renamed.

    The rest, if you read on, waters, rivers, canals, mangroves, tigers, paddy, poetry, exists in perfectly good working order, thank you very much, and is accessible readily on both sides of an increasingly porous border.

    2. “Why don’t you Bengalis rejoin and reestablish your Greater Bengal? What stops you from doing that?”

    Nothing at all. When the time comes to re-join, we shall; you will surely get an invitation to the party.

    You miss the point altogether, perhaps because your prejudice has you firmly in its grip. My reference was to something else altogether. It was to the fact that Ms. Rehana was asking a specific question, if Pakistan was really set up according to your strange formula, where did Bengal belong in all of this?

    My point, just to make things clear beyond the point where a reasonable intellect would require assistance, was that the land of the Podda, Jomuna and Meghna had nothing to do with the Indus Civilisation, or the Indus Man, of the article.

    Geography is strange in its ways, and refuses to follow the dictates of jingoism.

    3. “And about Hayyer48. He is a modern day ‘mahatma’ for ever lecturing and informing Pakistanis what they are and what they are not. He for sure knows it that ‘Pakistanis know that they are not Indians, but beyond that they are confused’.”

    Why blame him? Are you claiming that you know better? May I quote your own words back to you?

    ‘It was created in 1947 to safeguard political, cultural and economic interests of the Muslims of the Northwestern parts of the British Indian empire in post colonial period.’

    And after this mistake, you criticise others? Why not look inwards, at your own ‘patronising and condescending behaviour’, amply demonstrated by the words you yourself wrote for all to see?

    With sincere regards,
    Dasht Naward

  16. hayyer48

    I look forward to your article. I am long in search of what Indiaman is. If you can distinguish effectively between Homo Sapien ‘Indusicus’ and Homo Sapien ‘Indian’ it will be an achievement of some sort. I dont mean that they are identical. Only that I can see Homo Sapien ‘Awadh’, Homo Sapien ‘Bengalensis’, Homo Sapien ‘Dravadicus’ and various other sub species. Your task is to draw up a list of defining traits that separate the Indus, Ganges and ofcours the Krishna Cavery varieties of the beast.
    I did not say during my searches for India through Haldi, and cows that a net search for haplotypes in the DNA produced nothing conclusive either.
    I wont have access to the net from tomorrow for some days except intermittently, so any response to your piece if it is published in the interim will have to await my return to where my copy of the book is.
    PMA: Touche! I have criticized patronizing Indians in the past. It did not seem to me that I was guilty of the same defect. Sorry if it appears that way. Certainly I do not feel patronizing.
    To explain once again since I fail repeatedly in making motives clear.
    This is a Pakistani web site. It discusses Pakistani problems, but many of them have an Indian dimension. It is here that I and most other Indians comment. The Pakistani identity is up for discussion. The Indian identity is not. I use the term ‘most Indians’, never ‘all Indians’ when I talk about identity problems in India. I am not patronizing or talking down to Pakistanis; certainly not the highly intelligent discussants on this site when I say that Pakistanis generally are agreed on what it means to be a Pakistani; that they are not Indian, not Hindu. That surely is true even if tautological. (I am for the moment discounting the small number of Hindus, Christians and Sikhs in Pakistan). Similarly the fact that is that Indians generally know that they are all of different varieties, even when some want independence from each other, but most dont, except the Kashmiris, and decreasing numbers of Nagas. The Tamils once threatened to secede but seem to have changed their minds.
    There are separatist movements. What of it? It does not invalidate what I say.
    Is a plea to live together harmoniously something that justifies your calling me a Mahatma. I mentioned the black American in LA who said it after the riots when the police beat him up. Why, Jinnah said the same thing after Pakistan was formed, did he not? So why is it a joke if I say it. I dont say it just to Pakistanis. A lot of Indians say it to each other, just as a lot of Pakistanis say to each other too.
    What I have disputed in this particular post about Aitzaz Ahsan is his concept of an Indus Man and an Indus Saga. Is it patronizing to disagree with him or those who support his views?
    I would be happy to discuss your views on India and things Indian. But this is as I said not a site for things Indians as the primary focus.

  17. Gorki

    “If that is true then how does he explain all those separatist movements within Indian Union. How does he explain routine ethnic and religious riots? Why Gujarat and Ayodya? Why Kashmir and Assam?”

    So I guess you knew about the Indian separatist movements within the Indian Union after all; yet you asked me on another post which ‘separatist movements’ I was talking about when I mentioned that the sacrifices of Bhagat Singh and like help keep India together.

    Anyway, I am not writing this for a ‘gotcha moment’ 😉 just to explain to you that I wrote a response to you (regarding the Khalistan era) actually believing you were asking a question out of a genuine interest.

    I feel silly now (although no hard feelings from my side) since I may have been too naive to take your rhetorical (or perhaps sarcastic) question seriously and actually posted a reply.

    Please overlook my naivette.

    PS: Since I actually wrote an answer, and now in hindsight it appears from your question that you did not really believe me, what are your thoughts now?
    This time, if possible, kindly respond as sincerely and specifically as you can. ;-).

  18. Bloody Civilian

    which makes us Pakistanis detest Indians.

    Patronising? A rather lamentable case of practising what you accuse another of rather than what you (seem to) preach?


    that most Pakistanis no longer even know who Jogendra Nath Mandal was, is due to state enforced scorching of memory at least as much as collective amnesia helped by a natural bias (although, not many people read more than what is in the curriculum… so they cannot be accused of forgetting what they were never told).

    Has Chief Justice (retd) Bhagwandas caused many to reconsider? The Pakistani identity was not meant to be based on a negative, or two…. or it would not have been so quickly and substantially surrendered in favour of a more equitable united India as per the Cabinet Mission Plan. What would have been the ‘identity’ of Group B and Group C? And even that was only to be guaranteed till the first general election only. So much for intransigence, which ought to have been a logical symptom/accompaniment of an identity based on ‘who we are not’.

    The nation state is of course a political entity, and works best (perhaps only) if blind to identity. Nations, as in communities, only become political if rights are involved. Equality is a political issue at its heart, surrounding but not about identity itself. There will be no need to make identity a political issue unless it was to either safeguard rights for a group or deny them to another. Non-political celebration/awareness of identity is not the issue here.

    The politics of identitiy up to 1947, and since then, in Pakistan’s case, might as well have belonged to two different worlds. It most certainly is not a logical extrapolation nor a continuous trajectory, as many naively believe as a result of a very superficial analysis and lack of full consideration of facts. There is a gaping disconnect.

  19. PMA

    “grateful………asking an alms giver”

    Why do you wrap around yourself in this pseudo modesty? Why don’t you come out of your ‘soft shell’ and say what you really want to say. Let me copy your exact words to Rehana, poor soul who is still stuck in Pakistan of 1947, a Sub-continental Pakistan that no less thanks to Indians does not exist anymore. These are your words:

    “But our land of waters, rivers and canals, mangroves and tigers, paddy and poetry, is our own, and it has nothing to do with yours. It was welded into Pakistan by political expediency, and tormented into revolt by the kind of remark that you protested in the first instance, and now it is independent.”

    You have very clearly outlined to her what is “ours” and what is “yours”. I wonder what Bengali Muslims have to say about your claims. And if you think that my earlier reference to ‘Northwest’ was a mistake on my part then your are wrong. ‘Northeast’ is no longer part of Pakistan and therefore not relevant to any discussion pertaining present day Pakistan. For long East Pakistanis were told that Pakistan’s identity lies outside the Padma/Jamuna/Meghna delta. This sinister position is so eloquently repeated by you:

    “The Pakistan of before 71 was an accident, the result of a course held too long, of a personal dislike which destroyed the lives of millions, of great leaders intriguing among themselves and with the stroke of a pen, undoing and doing up the lives of millions.”

    And then you wonder why Pakistanis mistrust and detest Indians.

  20. bonobashi


    Dear Alvi Sahib,

    1. I am not aware that I left anything unsaid that needed saying, with or without what you have termed my ‘pseudo-modesty’. If there is something that you have detected, we must add mind-reading to your other qualities. I assure you, I speak my mind. Do read on.
    2. The words of mine that you have quoted are exact and specific, and refer to the difference between Aitzaz Ahsan’s Indus Civilisation and the civilisation of the Podda, Jomuna and Meghna. They are different in every essential; what is the problem you have with this truism?
    3. ‘Ours’ refers to Bengalis, as you must be aware if you are reading all that is in front of you. India comes nowhere in the picture, except to someone going out of his way to pick a fight.
    4. Are you still waiting for a reply from Bengali Muslims? Rather than ask me, it might be rewarding to look around; there is ample evidence. I should have imagined that there is a surfeit; perhaps I am handicapped by being thin-skinned and sensitive.
    5. Your own words are on record, however much you protest about what you really meant and why. The creation of Pakistan was an historical event, and was as it was, North West and East together, not to be corrected by wise hindsight. What you stated, perhaps inadvertently, is clearly what you had in mind. Unless, of course, everything that you write is to be read subject to subsequent corrections and refinements.
    6. There is nothing sinister in what you have read of my writing. If you have the patience to read some of the discussions that have taken place, it would be easy for you to decipher, without ascribing evil motives to everyone who does not slavishly agree with your opinion, that
    (a) ‘the course held too long’ was the effort to get the INC to give up its opposition to the CMP by holding out partition as an awful alternative; when the INC accepted it over the objections of Gandhi, it turned to a course held too long;
    (b) ‘a personal dislike which destroyed millions’ is Nehru’s well-known and idiosyncratic antipathy to Jinnah, which was so ill-omened for all;
    (c) ‘great leaders intriguing among themselves and with the stroke of a pen, undoing and doing up the lives of millions’ refers to Sir Stafford Cripps and his clandestine changes to the document relating to the acceptance of the CMP, which changes were intended to bamboozle both the Congress and the League into thinking that their view was adopted.
    These are all cited examples from the lead posting in PTH over these past few days, and should be familiar to all of us who have been avidly following the discussion.
    I cannot help it if you lack the application and the patience to go through the record, and substitute hoary old chestnuts and a predisposition to seek conspiracies and malice for genuine study.
    7. No, I do not wonder that some Pakistanis mistrust and detest Indians, and have never said so. Do me the courtesy, if you please, not to put words in my mouth that I never uttered.
    There are, on the other hand, some stupid Indians, semi-literate and unwilling to be educated, possessing the intellect of dull upper division clerks, who mistrust and detest Pakistanis, and I have no time for them, not after the first or second attempts to bring them to their senses.
    8. As far as Pakistanis are concerned, I have found among them wonderful hosts, very learned and deeply read in these matters, and my preceptors whom I have humbly acknowledged and shall do so again.
    There are exceptions, of course, and I am reconciled to living in an imperfect world.
    9. If there is any further clarification that I can offer, please do not hesitate to ask.

    With sincere regards,
    Dasht Naward.

  21. PMA

    bonobashi: Your underhandedness is typically profound yet not totally concealed. But I accept your explanations. Please carry on.

  22. bonobashi


    Dear Alvi Sahib,

    That was hurtful.

    Please accept my solemn assurance: I neither intended, nor intend further any underhandedness. If you can point to such an action, I declare in front of all, in public, I shall correct myself. More than this no gentleman can offer.

    ‘Deeds and not words shall speak me.’

    With sincere regards,

  23. Bloody Civilian

    And then you wonder why Pakistanis mistrust and detest Indians.

    Actually, what I wonder is why far too many West Pakistanis mistrusted and detested East Pakistanis. Who was it really telling them, by word and deed, “that Pakistan’s identity lies outside the Padma/Jamuna/Meghna delta”?

    ‘Northeast’ is no longer part of Pakistan and therefore not relevant to any discussion pertaining present day Pakistan

    I can think of at least a few reasons why the fate of East Pakistan is relevant to today’s Pakistan: Bringing to justice perpetrators of genocide, rape and plunder; not repeating the same ‘mistakes’ in Baluchistan; understanding and thereby resurrecting the true spirit of the Lahore Resolution, Justice Humood-ur-Rehman’s efforts, however narrow his remit, etc.

    I wonder what Bengali Muslims have to say about your claims

    PMA, if you needed further clarification of what has already been explained, you could look at the Suhrawardi-Sarat Bose plan.

    Your assumption that every Indian nationalist is, by definition, anti-Pakistan, and vice versa, is just that. To assume ill-will and to make ad hominem remarks based on that assumption.. is regrettable.. to say the least. As the graciousness in response to what all your assumptions really amount to stands out in contrast, we can but only reconcile ourselves to the fact that, indeed, we live in an imperfect world.

  24. YLH

    “If you can distinguish effectively between Homo Sapien ‘Indusicus’ and Homo Sapien ‘Indian’ it will be an achievement of some sort”

    The nature of my rebuttal shall not follow the narrow paremeters you want to impose on the debate… as frankly you’ve failed to appreciate fully the argument that Aitzaz Ahsan has presented which as unimpeachable as the conception of British India as one whole….

  25. Gorki

    I too was gone for a few days and did not have proper access to the net so apologize for a delayed post but would like to share a few thoughts on nationhood myself.

    Consider the following:
    1. In The United States, anyone; regardless of race, religion, culture or sexual orientation can become an American national, complete with all the rights and responsibilities, once he takes an oath of loyalty to the US.
    2. Recently a son of a black African non citizen Muslim father, became the president of the US; a nation that calls itself the leader of the free world (read Western Europe) and remains a predominantly white, Christian majority nation.
    3. Western European nations continue to integrate and the membership in the EU and NATO is highly sought after by other non members.
    4. Several Western nations routinely allow dual nationalities.
    So what is a nation state and what is the meaning of nationality in 2009?
    Will the idea of a nation state itself become outdated someday?

    Nationhood and nationality are relatively new concepts. The first modern nation as it is understood today was France; and came into being only about 500 years ago.

    It is not to say that before that, most Europeans were avowed internationalist; of course they (as the rest of the world) had a strong sense of a group identity; only they did not identify the group in terms of a fixed geographical limits.

    Once the French Kingdom established itself as a model of a state, a nation, in the European sense; came into being. In this sense a state was one that had other attributes e.g. people of one ethnicity, sharing a common language, culture, religion, with a centralized government, subject to uniform laws etc.

    Following this, the Europeans all aspired to become nations and then embarked to colonize the world taking their ideas with them. Thus like their religion, they spread this notion of a nation state into the far reaches of the planet.

    Yet this model of a nation state was often ill suited for ancient lands which were often not inhabited by such well defined populations.

    In Europe, too this nation statehood was a mixed blessing. While on one hand the society became a lot more organised, on the other the attempt to fit everyone into neat homogenous groupings with identical attributes often ran into problems.
    Or example even in Europe, there were places with people of many religious sects, races, languages etc. living side by side for centuries and defied a neat assimilation into the majority. Thus nations had minorities of several kinds and religion, ethnicity, and language still divided many people.
    In the time of crises, these minorities often became easy punching bags for the majorities upset at multiple things such as economic or social upheavals, disease pandemics, or even battles losses to outsiders.

    One such major turmoil was an especially bloody war which involved several of these nation states in the 17th century over religious differences. The 30 year war as it was called; it denuded the German countryside of almost 30% of its population yet no one side could claim a victory.
    It ended in the famous treaty of Westphalia which established the outlines of modern Europe divided among Catholic and Protestant states.

    The question of religion was temporarily settled; yet this tribal urge for conflict continued and now took on a nationalistic hue.
    Wars continued. The last major nationalistic orgy in Europe was the two World Wars in which the European nations collectively tried to commit suicide (the Japanese felt left out so they too joined in the fun later).

    So out of these experiences over the last several centuries, the Europeans seem to have learnt a painful lesson or two; namely:

    1. Religion and nationalism can both unleash terrible passions that are hard to contain, and can lead to unbelievable misery.

    2. Peaceful co-existence and cooperation is not a bad idea and nationalism may have been overrated anyway.

    The United States, a nation of the Europeans immigrants fought its own wars and learnt another lesson; which was that all the attributes of a nation (other than ethnicity) could be acquired or learnt and even taught to anyone. Thus a group of people can, over time, come to share a common set of values, a language, culture, a broad acceptance of secular religious beliefs and that once these attributes are acquired, then ethnicity can be ignored and one can still forge a successful nation out of these people.

    Neither is this a novel idea; Two millennia before the founding of United States much of Western Europe (and parts of Asia and Africa) were knitted by Rome into the first major multiethnic, multicultural empire that was so successful a state that it became a victim of its own success. It collapsed not because its people wanted to break free from it but because other tribes\nations wanted to be included into it as a part of it!

    So how does this apply to India and Pakistan?

    First, I believe if the British had not been myopic due to their notions of racism and had, like the Romans extended the benefits of the Empire equally to all the conquered peoples, the World would have perhaps seen its first multi-continental mega state.

    Second, at some point, the Indian and the Pakistani people too will realize the silliness of this arbitrary and artificial nature of this European model of nationhood and can perhaps then learn to accept the fact that we have to learn to share our land with others different from us in some ways.

    For this to happen, people on both sides will have to accept that:

    1. Religion and faith are very personal matters; and being personal, these matters are of no concern of the state. They can neither be denied nor imposed by force.
    2. The state exists by the consent of the people and for their welfare. Any form of government imposed without consent of the majority is illegal.
    3. Violence or terrorism has no place in resolving difference matters.
    4. People of South Asia will have to stop chasing the mirage of a non existent single homogenous identity in our land and accept the reality. There is none. There is no generic Indian and perhaps no generic Pakistani either.
    5. Large and ancient countries such as ours, by definition can not have one homogenous identity. Each such nation will be inhabited by peoples who represent multiple ethnic tribes, influences, social mores and traditions sharing commonalities with peoples elsewhere but unique in their own way and there is no one set of identifying features that can make then entirely homogenous again.
    6. Accept the fact that for reasons too numerous to go into, our ancestors voted with their feet and made this land, our common South Asian home. Those people belonged to past generations and were very different from anyone of us alive today. Some day we too will pass off our land to an entire new generation that will be our ethnic progeny but by virtue of a different set of conditions, will have evolved into a people who will be different from all of us. It is our duty to make sure we pass this land to them as free of controversy and conflict as we possibly

  26. Gorki

    last line:
    …as we possibly can.

  27. Gorki

    A Tale of Two Lawyers

    The founder of Pakistan, MA Jinnah was a lawyer, a decent man, liberal, justice loving and a secular human being, who I believe, made two mistakes:

    He assumed that after the British left India, the thousand year old Islamic culture of India would be overwhelmed and extinguished in a democratic setup (because India would have a Hindu majority rule) unless he could somehow have ironclad safeguards for its protection.

    In hindsight, it appears that fortunately his fears were unfounded and inspite of occasional hiccups, Islamic culture and influence is thriving and is well in India.

    His fears nevertheless are understandable since he was a product of a different era, an era which had seen the worst carnage in history caused mainly by the cultural intolerance of men like the Nazis.

    Cultures indeed had been entirely replaced before in other places by other men in other times, (pre Columbus Americas, Andalus), yet he should have known that Islamic roots went too deep in India and after a millennia of existence Islam and its culture had become a part of the landscape itself in India and could never be uprooted.

    In other words, Islam will remain a part of India but Indianess too will remain a part of Islamic culture of South Asia, as I shall explain later.

    Anyway it was fortunate that the first assumption turned out to be a mistake but the second mistake was not so fortunate.

    The second mistake was to not clearly communicate to his countrymen his vision for his idea of Pakistan. I believe (as many on the PTH do) that Jinnah had no intention of creating a theocratic state in Pakistan. When he talked of the preservation of a Muslim nation I believe he meant it in the cultural sense.

    Unfortunately he failed to communicate his vision clearly and even more unfortunately died too soon. As a result, the Pakistanis who actually understand and follow his vision today are still unable to fully convince the rest of the nation as to his vision and his true intent and purpose.

    Today, as I read the above post, I think another Jinnah like lawyer is in the process of making another mistake, out of a similar fear; this time the fear of being culturally overwhelmed by a larger India if he could not carve a separate cultural identity and a separate narrative for his beloved Pakistan.

    His name is Aitzaz Ahsan, a man I admire greatly for his fearless and an uncompromising struggle for civil liberties in Pakistan.
    He resembles Jinnah in many ways, being a secular, humanist lawyer with a passionate commitment to his people.
    He is also the author of the Indus saga, which by all accounts is a very readable historical account of various civilizations in the Indus valley.

    I have no problem with the narration itself but with its overall message; that is the various Indus valley peoples were completely separate from India and the Indian experiences and that somehow the present day Pakistani is similar to that westward looking man, with his back firmly turned on India.

    The fact of the matter is that the Pakistan of today is the home of Muslims from north India and throughout the one millennia of Muslim presence in India, the present day Pakistan was always a cultural and political part of the empires of Delhi; first under the Sultanate period, then under the Mughals, and still later under the British (except the roughly half century of independent Lahore kingdom under the Sikhs).

    Even if one were to concede the contention that pre-Islamic Pakistan was always a separate culture from the spectrum of Indian cultures (although Hayyer argues very persuasively against this assumption) one can not deny the fact that the Pakistanis of today are as different from those Indus dwellers as the Anglo Saxon English are from the ancient Celtics or the Frankish French are from the Gauls of antiquity.
    Neither can one deny the ethnic and cultural commonality that the present day Pakistanis share with the people living in north India.

    Thus if one were to sample the people living in a strip of land 150 miles wide, due east and due west from the Wagah border in Punjab, one would find a scattering of the Punjabi Tiwanas, the Baths, the Bhattis and the Cheemas on either side, whose DNA are virtually indistinguishable from each other but would be different from the DNA of say anyone who is 1500 miles away from this border, in Iran on the west and UP\Bihar on the east.

    Punjabi is spoken on both sides, the dominant Jat and Rajput clans are found on both sides and common folklores and love stories of Heer, Ranjha Mirza and Sahibaan gladden the heart of people on both sides. Sufi saints like Kabir and Mian Meer are revered by simple folks both sides of the border.

    This is not to say that AA can not or should not try to change the orientation or outlook of his nation. This is his right as a Pakistani leader to lead his people in any direction he and others like him see fit. In fact in another century a young Russian Czar named Peter the Great summoned a superhuman will power when he tried to do exactly that. He tried to turn his own country similarly by 180 degrees (culturally speaking) to turn its back on a medieval central Asia to face an enlightened Europe.

    AA and others like him can perhaps, like Peter the Great, engineer Pakistan culturally to orient itself westwards and ignore India but I think it would be another mistake for the following reasons.

    Pakistanis of today are the proud inheritors of a rich Islamic culture of South Asia which is completely a unique culture with no parallel in the world.
    They, like all South Asians can be proud of Emperors like Akbar and Shahjehan, of poets like Mirza Ghalib and Amir Khusrao of saints like Kabir and Nijamuddin Aulia.

    Their progeny may want to be inspired some day by men like Shershah Suri and Tipu Sultan. They may also want to beam with pride when they observe the architecture of not only the Char Minar and the Taj Mahal but also of the majestic sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri and the enormous dome of the Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur.

    They may want to take a look at the faith of the Sikhs which was inspired by the principles of justice and equality brought to India by Islam. They may even want to revisit the roots of the beautiful language of Urdu which lies only in the subcontinent.

    They may want to pause and consider the fact that their own current Pakistani culture is way too confident and way too dynamic in quality to be overwhelmed by another in India.

    If after considering all of the above, they still decide to turn their face away, they may sadly do so but atleast with the satisfaction that the Indian civilization that exists today is all the more greater and richer today in part due to the fact that Islamic ideas of their ancestors had enriched its soul and renewed its spirit at a time when it was growing flabby and was ailing.

  28. Gorki

    At the risk of appearing to carry on a monologue all by myself, 😉 I post the following comments emailed to me by a friend after he had read my previous post.
    He was kind enough to convey his reservations regarding my assessment privately to me in an email.
    I agree with him completely and stand corrected in regards to Jinnah’s compulsions and subsequent actions.
    Thus in hind sight, the word ‘mistake’ was too strong for Jinnah’s fears regarding the fate of Muslims in post British India; perhaps ‘apprehension’ would have been a better term. That certainly was the meaning that I wanted to convey.


    Your latest post on the Indus valley person is excellent.

    I take a very slightly different view… as differentiating between a politician sticking to democratic rights and the philosophers etc to develop visions
    Iqbal is used and misused and abused by all sorts… the mullah, the modernist Muslim, and even the Indian nationalist pick him up and use him.
    That’s the nature of poetry, philosophy.
    A philosopher need not deal with the difference between a federation and a confederation… or autonomy and sovereignty… but a politician cannot avoid these details. they are his bread and butter.

    Jinnah, I think kept himself within the democratic/political sphere. His ‘vision’ was a political tool… forced upon him by the ‘mass mobilizing’ Gandhi.
    Gandhi (and the INC) decided to use his anti-imperialist power and how he was worshipped to block and oust the AIML and Jinnah.
    Jinnah could only counter that becoming the mahatma of the Muslims.
    You’ve correctly identified the longer lasting repercussions of that.
    But, Jinnah having accepted the CMP, I believe the greater blame for that lies with Gandhi + INC… even if the greater loss was suffered by the Muslims”.

  29. Majumdar


    Let me disturb your monologue.

    The second mistake was to not clearly communicate to his countrymen his vision for his idea of Pakistan.

    I dont think so. His 8/11 speech is very clear about his vision for Pakistan. He may never have used the word “secular” but then seldom did India’s founding fathers.

    A word on India and Pakistan

    These two nations exist, there is no particular reason why they shud, yet they do. Just as there is no reason why Austria exists and shudnt be part of Germany and why we shud have a Belgium rather than a Walloon Republic and a Flemish republic. These two nations will continue to exist as long as the people who make it up continue to wish to exist as a single nation (or where the majority nationalities can bully recalcitrant minorities to remain part of the nation). At some point of time national boundaries may change, one or both nations can disappear or reunite. Or maybe both will endure till global warming or an erring asteroid puts paid to all of humanity. There is no need to search out for a “Indus man” or an “Indian man” Let us just accept two nation states as they are.


  30. hayyer48

    Nirad Chaudhuri in one of his books, I cannot for the moment recall which one, says that when he travelled up to Delhi for the first time in his life by train he was surprised by the landscape of the towns and villages as he neared Delhi. They seemed to him, he said, (and I paraphrase here, perforce, because I read the book a long time ago) rather what an Arabian town or village might be like with their flat rooves and dust environs.
    I had a similar experience on my first visit to Bengal, many years ago. Travelling by the Kalka Express to Calcutta, I had gone to sleep somewhere in east UP, near Mughal Sarai or thereabouts, I woke the next morning to lush green fields, coconut palms, thatched rooves, and fish ponds of villages rushing by. It was utterly different from anything in my youthful experience.
    Later travelling back and forth sometimes between Bihar and Bengal in the coalfields area, as the landscape changed my companion would sigh each time on re-entry, ‘sonar bangla’. I never comprehended then the depth of sentiment expressed.

  31. bonobashi

    It changes in identical manner in all directions. Only Bengal has that shade of vibrant green, almost painful in its vividness. To my surprise, Kerala wasn’t like that. Nowhere is like that, actually.

  32. Prof Mujahid Khan

    I am a proud pakistani with a positive sense of national pride. As a scholar of ancient history and as a friend of Late Prof Dasani, I must admit then when it comes to the issue of Indus Valley civilization, I feel ashamed to be called a Pakistani. I absolutly protest at the millitant approach with which certain illiterate pakistani are steaking a claim over the heritage of Indus valley civilization.

    Let us be clear, Pakistan was born out of the amputaion of a larger India. An India that has existed for thousands of years of which current day pakistan is only a small part. India has existed since long before islam was created. Earlier islamic rulers were very violent people(some violence still persists in islamic terrorists). They attacked whatever they could, whenever they could and pretty much lost the battle against any army they attacked. India was a differnet story. Indians were peaceful so it was pretty easy to gain control over India.

    One of the tenets of Islam has always been to breed, convert or kill. Basically, eliminate everything that is non-islam and spread islam by procreating endlessly.

    Not surprisingly, after attacking India, the muslim population in India began to explode. It began to displace and subjugate ethnic populations of northwest india. Long story cut short. When the british left India, some selfish polititians fought against all logic to amputate north western part of India and name it as pakistan.

    Pakistan is a political entity born out of greed and selfishness. It is occupied by a population of muslims who are genetically distinct from the native populations of northwest india. Pakistan is all about islam and anything non-islam is non-pakistani.

    Imagine islamic terroists attacking and capturing New York (yes, i know it is impossible, bear with me, this is just a thought experiment). Now imagine after capturing the city, the local muslims breed and breed until muslim populations far outnumbers non-muslim. Then imagine they fight for a separate state. Now imagine, this new state born out of what was New York rewrites its history and says statue of liberty belongs to its own heritage.

    A different thought experiment. Imagine your leg gets cancer and you amputate it off. Image after amputation the cancer cells steak claim over the leg and include everywhere it has walked as part of its own heritage.

    You get the point. You cannot include the heritage of what you have snatched by force and claim it to be your own. In the same way Pakistan cannot claim any part of the history of north west India to be its own.

    The Indus Valley civilization is part of Indian heritage and yes it current rests in modern pakistan.

  33. Gorki

    “The Indus Valley civilization is part of Indian heritage and yes it current rests in modern pakistan”.

    Prof Saab,

    I can understand where you are coming from; as you seem to be opposed to narrowminded militant Islamic ideologues.

    Being an Indian I must say that a part of me is proud that my ancestors were such accomplished builders and craftsmen but I would be dishonest to another great Indian’s memory who in his book ‘The discovery of India’ mentioned that India had a great capacity to accept different thoughts and peoples into its bosom and yet turn them into something uniquely Indian; what people like to call our composite culture of the Sub continent.

    Thus Islam in India was not all about murder and pillage; it too contributed to our civilization; I would be genuinely interested to hear your views in theis regard.

    Regarding the people who claim the Indus man as their own; I would like them to make their case themselves but I believe they want to make the case that the civilization in this part of the world is far older and far bigger than the islamic chapter of our past.


  34. “Prof Mujahid Khan” is an indian faking as a Pakistani.
    These people have absolutely NO CLAIM to Pakistan glorious pre-Islamic past.

  35. monu

    i thought Indians and Pakistanis flock to Oxford and Cambridge to acquire knowledge and wisdom. but it appears they go there to get degrees. i have been fooled by my deshi simplicity. the attractive force between India and Pakistan is so strong that they hate and love each other so strongly. this intensity will rise till like estranged lovers they make up and embrace. the division has created many psychiatric problems. militancy is one manifestation.
    young Pathans returning from Oxford feel cramped by the boundaries on all sides. they go back to Vilayat to escape but again find themselves in an alien landscape. they find escape in militancy.

  36. Dev


    “These people have absolutely NO CLAIM to Pakistan glorious pre-Islamic past.”
    Pakistan’s pre-islamic past????

    I, frankly, have nothing against Islam or any religion for that matter! to each his life.. in religion.
    born a Hindu, I will in all probability will die a Hindu, the culture,the philosophy and the teachings are and will be Hindu.
    But nowhere in my culture,our philosophy or the teachings have I been imparted was I told that other religions are bad or ugly.

    So Sir, in all honesty and with all due respect I ask, what do you mean by Pakistan’s pre-Islamic past? are you saying that Pakistanis were not Muslims (followers of Islam) at some point in time? or are you trying to say that Indus Person knew that he would be a Pakistani or a Hindustani one day? I don’t think he cared a damn about Hindustan or Pakistan,cause they did not exist!

    We,my friend and my dear brother, were divided because of a fairly stupid but equally practical (in today’s world) situation!
    Gandhiji for all that he did for OUR freedom could not deny Nehru the ultimate seat in the house, knowing very well that Jinnah deserved it more than anybody else.

    Now that settles the ‘origin’ of Hindustan and Pakistan. Hindustan, the name occurs only during and after the partition, otherwise India as we know it today was know as Bharat. you can trace the name Bharat for centuries.

    If we understand and acknowledge what’s been said above we can safely say that the year of birth for Pakistan is 1947, like mine is 1979. I cant say I was born in 1400AD just cause the place I was born existed in 1400AD!

    If you feel ashamed or bad that your nation is quite young and might not find roots deeper in the Geographical area that it resides in then my friend you should be ashamed of yourself.

    I currently live in a ‘dot’ on the map of the world..Singapore which was a deserted island till the 1700s and was ruled by Malaya,then colonized by the Brits,conquered by the Japs and finally settled down to be a Chinese majority. This nation boasts a phenomenal growth rate,fantastic infra and first world living standards, and guess what it very proudly accepts that it is a young nation with no roots beyond the last century! This nation has accepted me and my family with open arms based on my capabilities and not on my religion,caste or creed or for that matter the glorious past of my lineage (and it is glorious,I can trace my ancestry to the family of Chatrapati Shivaji) .

    Let us all learn the lessons of living in the present rather than in the past like the Singaporeans did. be proud but move on! Worship but don’t rely on the past for your present and the future!

    May the supreme power bestow upon you the patience,knowledge and humility required to comprehend and appreciate your own origins!