Post Colonial Pakistan And The Distortion Of History

By Yasser Latif Hamdani
An impartial history of the Pakistan Movement and the rise of the Muslim Nationalism in South Asia shows that the main engine behind it – the Muslim Bourgeoisie – was entirely drawn from the modernist educational tradition of Aligarh and other Muslim educational institutions founded and run by pro-west Muslim reformers like Sindh Medressah (which was a school modelled after British tradition, name notwithstanding), Anjuman-e-Himayat-e-Islam schools and colleges as well entirely secular institutions like the Government College, Punjab University and Peshawar University. In comparison the religious and scholarly class – i.e. Ulema- largely stood either aloof or in opposition to the the Pakistan Movement. Darul Uloom Deoband, the most important Islamic seminary in all of India, was as much an arsenal of pro-Congress Muslim Ulema after the Khilafat Movement as Aligarh was that of Muslim Nationalism. As the independence movement progressed, the pro-Western Aligarh Muslim University came to be associated more with Muslim minority’s cause and was denounced as “reactionary” by Congress as a whole. Pro-Congress Muslims created their own parallel Jamia Milli in Aligarh which was alter shifted to Delhi. Today it is the premiere Muslim institution in India, whereas Aligarh has been decaying.
The point that I am trying to make is that Pakistan Movement was fed by financial, moral and political support of a Muslim bourgeoisie that had emerged directly out of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s activities in the 19th century. While Jinnah himself did not come out of Aligarh having been called to Bar in London, the Muslim leadership and rank and file of the League were generally the product of Aligarh. These gentlemen were the epitome of Macualay’s minute on Indian education albeit with an additional Muslim angle. A great many of them were Shias and Aga Khanis. Right from Syed Ameer Ali to Aga Khan III all of them could pass as the finest Englishmen in culture, outlook and lifestyles but for their obvious racial features. Consequently they got along better with the British conservatives than the liberal or the Labour party (here too Jinnah was an exception because till 1939, his relations with the Conservative Party were particularly bad because of his own Indian Nationalist views and his opposition to pro-British elements in India). The point that I am trying to make is not that they were good or bad but that historically these people had been the lights of the Pakistan Movement and Muslim Nationalism. Often enough they were denounced as “reactionaries” or “communal” only because they chose to stay away from the Congress and its push for independence. Yet these men were very consciously modern and attempted to reconcile their faith with modernity.
Somehow soon within the first decade or so of independence these westernized modern Muslims became irrelevant considered colonial hanger-ons. They were denounced- perhaps accurately but acerbically- as “brown sahibs” or “kala angraiz” types. As the process of indigenization took root in the post colonial state, their contribution to the cause of Muslim education and modernity was glossed over and discarded for the most part (except Sir Syed Ahmed Khan) and others like Jinnah were presented in a particularly fabricated manner as a caricature of himself- most young people don’t even recognize Jinnah in trademark Saville Row suit having been grown up with the greyish blue sherwani and topi image of the man. Similarly forgetting Iqbal’s reconstruction of religious thought which was a sine qua non for his project of a Muslim state in North West India, he was presented only as a poet philosopher of imagery and Islamic revival. Many people pin point the Zia era for this change. There is no doubt that the process of turning history on its head reached its climax during General Zia’s Islamist dictatorship, but it seems that the turning point in Pakistan’s history must have come at least a decade before Zia’s take over.
There is a curious document called Educational Policy of Pakistan 1969 which m1akes interesting reading. To our eternal shame this document was drafted by Air Marshal Nur Khan, one of Pakistan’s finest heroes in battle. If anyone wishes to understand how the worst enemies of Pakistan Movement and Muslim Modernism in the subcontinent came to be hailed as “important to the formation of Pakistani Nationhood”, they ought to read this document.
To put things in perspective before I move on: The previous two important landmarks in Pakistani educational history may well be the first National Education Conference in 1948 and the Sharif Commission of 1959. The educational principles that emerged from these two sought to reconcile Islam with modernity and emphasized the role of science, technology and western languages – especially English. Particularly praiseworthy was the Pakistani education policy till 1969 both recognized the great contribution of Christian missionary institutions and lauded them for their contribution to Pakistani society. All this was to end with the trend set by 1969’s policy. The Sharif Commission’s recommendations were denounced as “secular” and “obstructive” to the “ideology of Pakistan”. Interestingly the term “Nazaria-e-Pakistan” was coined here allegedly by one Sher Ali Pataudi. In its overzealousness, the post colonial state described the English language as a major hindrance to equality, denounced the missionary institutions as anti-national and replaced instruction in English with Urdu and Bengali.
However the most damaging aspect of this policy was its distortion of history. As mentioned above, the protagonists of the Pakistan movement with very few exceptions were not the rebel types. Out of the Muslim Leaguers, only five major leaders can genuinely said to have contributed to what is broadly termed as the “Independence Movement’ (which in this author’s view is in any event hugely over-rated): Mahomed Ali Jinnah, the Ali Brothers, Maulana Hasrat Mohani and Ch. Khaliquzzaman. Ali Brothers died before the Pakistan Movement started. Jinnah’s contribution to the independence movement was constitutional as opposition and his efforts were directed towards the attainment of self governing Dominion Status for India. Maulana Hasrat Mohani was a leftist by political inclination and a devout Muslim. He chose to stay in India after partition despite having contributed handsomely to the Pakistan Movement. The rest of the leadership was by and large loyal and pro-British from the Sir Syed Ahmad Khan tradition and there is nothing wrong with that. Yet this did not gel in well with the Pakistani state’s own image of itself, particularly after the open hostility the Pakistan Movement in Punjab faced from the British in the last year and a half before independence which turned even the most pro-British of the Leaguers against the British. Thus the Pakistani state invented over time the myth of a grand and massive anti-British struggle which led to the independence from both the British and the Hindus. This self-image and unnecessary anti-colonial posture had a damaging effect.
The education policy sought to distance Pakistani Nationalism from Muslim modernists like Syed Ameer Ali, Hassan Ali Effendi and Aga Khan III. Instead it was recommended that the founders of Darul Ulooms and Islamic Madrassahs who rejected Western education and the English language be glorified as signifiers of Pakistan’s national identity. That these people opposed the creation of Pakistan was put aside. A fabricated history was fed full of crass generalization about how the “Gora” was kicked out valiantly by the Muslims. In doing so the role of the British in Muslim uplift post 1870s is completely forgotten and the support that the Muslim League got in its initial loyalist phase from the British is also set aside. All of this is done in the name of some imaginary national aspiration which to this day hurts Pakistan and puts it in a duplicitous schizophrenic mode. This fabricated anti-colonialism goes beyond being merely anti-British or indigenous. In Pakistan it becomes anti-democratic, anti-minority and anti-modernity primarily because Islam itself has undergone an orthodox revival which has made the positions taken by Ameer Ali and Aga Khan III untenable in the modern world.
The educational rot started in 1969. While Pakistan had reached a consensus of some kind of role for Islam in public life even before 1969, it was this policy and subsequent policies inspired from this policy that gave Islam a decisively anti-modern and exclusive character in Pakistan. And while this explains why history was inverted on its head and people like Maududi who were till then the anti-thesis of Pakistaniat became its uncles and aunties, what is not understood is why a man like Nur Khan would present such a policy? Those who have come across the elderly gentleman as he hikes even today on Trail 3 in Islamabad, know that the man is no bigot and from the looks of it himself a pukka brown sahib.
Perhaps the answer to that lies in the charged atmosphere of the late 1960s. First of all the 1965 war began the irrevocable process of Islamization of the hitherto secular Pakistan Army as well as the moderately Muslim population of Pakistan. The war poetry and the slogans that were introduced during this war revolved around “Jihad” and pretty much created the Islam v. Kufr dichotomy. Even though Pakistani pilots, soldiers and other citizens who contributed to the war included notable Christians, the rhetoric was almost exclusively Muslim. The war itself reinforced the perpetual suspicion of the west given what was viewed as US’ betrayal after US refused to release spare parts. Secondly the Ayub regime was seen as pro-American and the Arab-Israeli War in 1967 further radicalized the Muslim opinion.
For the idea of Pakistan to succeed and overcome the various threats and dangers it faces today, it is of utmost importance for Pakistan to undo the terrible effects of this concocted history. For better or for worse, we must recognize and give credit to the real forerunners of the Pakistan idea- those westernized and anglicized Muslims who played an integral role in safeguarding Muslim interests in the subcontinent. They are our forerunners and not the Mullahs and religiously inspired so called freedom fighters right from that ill-advised mutiny in 1857 to Darul-uloom Deoband whose role against Pakistan is well known.
We must also recognize that no one kicked the “Gora” out but that the “Gora” left once it became cost ineffective to hold onto British India and most importantly that he left through his own act of parliament.



Filed under Education, History, minorities, Pakistan

12 responses to “Post Colonial Pakistan And The Distortion Of History

  1. Bloody Civilian

    it is right that what happened between 1959 and 1969 was the 1965 war. ayub had called upon maududi himself to certify the war as a just jihad. this even though maududi was opposed to jihad in kashmir, so he would have considered op gibraltar to be illegal.

    mirza and ayub had tried to stem the tide of islamisation. they were successful too, to an extent. but they were also compromised by their vested interests forced upon them due to their lack of legitimacy. ch muhammad ali was allegedly a maududist. it is calimed that he helped convince Liaquat Ali of the harmlessness of the objectives’ resolution. he formed the nizam-e-islam party in later life (and grew a beard). i’d like to know more about maududi escaping the hangman’s noose and going scot free. yahya’s regime bolstered the islamists in a hope to weaken both the awami league and ppp, and other democratic forces like the NAP.

  2. Hayyer 48

    Very revealing piece.
    What exactly was the Army’s role in Islamization? I used to think that it stood for secularism but Haqqani’s book says differently.

  3. YLH


    The Army’s role was that it came up with the brilliant idea of using religious rhetoric in war between nation states which permeated into the national discourse in a negative way.


    Ch. Muhammad Ali was most definitely a Maududist … It is often forgotten that this genius was behind the censorship of Jinnah’s 11th August speech.

  4. hossp

    You have built a story out of a few incidents and people. There are shades of revisionism in the whole storyline. I don’t know I would ever have enough time to discuss all the aspects of this story but some of it, I would surely discuss now.

    A word about Hasrat Mohani: he was not a leftist or anything like that. He was more like Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi with some anti-colonialist genes in his body. Hasrat Mohani was as comfortable with the congress as he was with the Muslim League. In other words, he was really an insignificant character who had no influence on any one.

    The current Pakistan in the united India days had no tradition of mullah leading the hordes like it was in Central India with central Indian Muslims. You may call me a little biased but the reality is that after the partition and of course after Jinnah became ineffective, the control passed on to the people who had recently arrived with a chip on their shoulders and had always followed the mullah politically. This tradition goes back to Syed Ahemed Khan’s days when he was called a Kafir by the same people and their mullah leaders. Liaquat ali and the bureaucracy that had migrated from India had very shaky political grounds to stand on in Pakistan. The Punjab and Sindh were more feudal and Bengal was more democratic.

    The people from central India were none of the above. That led them in to mullah’s arms. Liaquat encouraged the Mullahs and they pushed for the Objective resolution. The resolution had no support anywhere in Pakistan except in Karachi.

    Syed Ahmed’s emphasis on Western Education helped create a bureaucracy but no matter how much effort they were going to put in that, they were never going to get Pakistan without Punjab and Bengal’s support. The bourgeoisie that you are referring too was not the salariat class or the muslim civil servants. Jinnah had enormous support from the Musslim capitalists in Bombay. The owners of Habib Bank and other Gujarati and Agha khani businessmen basically bankrolled Muslim League. Unfortunately, no one talks about how much money Mohd ali Habib and Agha Khani on Sir Agha Khan’s urging spent in keeping Jinnah and Muslim league afloat in bad times.

    The role of salariat in the creation of Pakistan is overblown and overhyped. Yes, they provided the intellectual support and helped in creating a message but that was all they did.

    Once Pakistan became independent, Jinnah helped the businesses from Bombay to move to Pakistan. But before they could even get back on their feet to keep Pakistani politics on even keel, the Liaquats of Pakistan had already underwritten the country to the mullah to save their political positions.
    They got some control of the Pakistani politics during the ayub days but by that time the feudal, mullah, and the Military alliance had joined hands together to derail their politics. Then we got some hot head leftists who coined the 22 families terminology and indirectly helped the mullah. Another mistake by the left was forcing Bhutto to nationalize some major industries, thus breaking the back of the real bourgeoisie in Pakistan.
    Pakistan will never be a democratic and secular state or I should say Pakistan will not be a democratic state until we have a strong business/capitalist class that has deep interest in democracy and secularism.

    I would refer you to my article the Nawaiwaqt generation. Please read that again to get a drift of the conflict between the emerging bourgeois class and the feudal/military/mullah nexus.
    Rest of what you wrote are fables and have no direct bearing on what is happening in Pakistan now.

  5. hossp

    Excerpts from the article Imentioned above:

    “Before Jang opened offices in Lahore couple of decades ago, Nawaiwaqt was the Newspaper of choice for Lahore and the Punjabi middle class. Lahore boasted many progressive papers both in English and Urdu before the 1958 coup, yet none ever reached the kind of influence or circulation that Nawaiwaqt enjoyed.

    While Jang was a Jamaat Islami influenced newspaper, Nawaiwaqt was always considered closer to the Pakistan establishment, especially the army. The army enjoyed enormous respect in Punjab and for a long time politicians from the smaller provinces thought they would never be able to break the army stronghold over the political situation in Punjab. But as luck would have it, the newspaper that was considered the mouthpiece of the army was now the newspaper that had created a generation that though intellectually closer to the Nawaiwaqt support of the army, yet politically did not agree with the Junta rule of the country especially after 9/11 and the army U turn after that dreadful day!

    Listen to Nawaz Sharif carefully, he speaks the language used by Nawaiwaqt against Musharraf, take note of the lawyers speaking in the Bar Councils and they use the postulations found in Nawaiwaqt op-ed columns. Pay closer attention to what Imran Khan says and the voice of Nawaiwaqt echoes in his tirades for the rule of law. Listen to Aitzaz Ahsan, generally more intelligent than the rest and find Nawaiwaqt expressions creeping in his speeches!

    While the Nawaiwaqt might have provided the intellectual fodder to this new breed of Pakistani nationalists who insist on rule of law, civilian rule, perhaps democracy, and sending the army back to the barracks; the real change is the rapidly changing economic realities in Punjab.

    For more than 100 years the sons of small landowners and the poor peasants in Punjab found jobs first in the British Indian army and then in the Pakistan army. For a long time, Punjab and the army interests became synonymous! Whenever Bengal had to say something against the army, it used Punjab as the metaphor. Sindhi, Baloch, and Pushtoon all were unanimous that it was the Punjab that was exploiting them. The reality as most knowledgeable politicians knew was the army that was eating up Pakistan’s resources and in return providing jobs to only the Punjabi youth.

    In the 70s, the Bhutto government opened up the Middle East for the job hunters from Pakistan and swiftly people from Punjab started taking up whatever was offered to them. In the coming decades the reliance on the army for the jobs reduced and a new breed of Punjabis came alive that did not depend on the army for the livelihood. The army began to look for recruits in the other areas and the nature of its political influence in Punjab changed. New businesses developed who either relied on the Punjabis outside of Pakistan or had made money outside and were now investing in Pakistan. The War on Terror that played havoc in FATA, brought ton load of money that was invested in Punjab and parts of NWFP. With the change in economic reliance the need for the army reduced and the army support in the urban areas weakened. A new breed of Punjabis was ready to finance politicians who would bring more business to the cities and who would not hesitate to use the government money to invest in infrastructure to facilitate their businesses. This is still a class that is learning to stand up on its feet, yet is not afraid to take chances against the army rule.
    “Political changes follow changing economic realities and the politicians fight to make the economic changes permanent.

    The army in Pakistan had the sole control over the money and resources. Now the new capital in Punjab wants to share the resources with the army or if possible get a complete control over the resources. The resources that have multiplied over the last several years are the bone of contention. The army which was never willing to share the loot with the smaller provinces in the country is now confronted with new business from Punjab which sees the smaller provinces as potential markets and would love to increase buying power in the far flung areas of the country.

    The provincial autonomy which was considered a crime next only to blasphemy in the 70s and 80s in Lahore, now is a welcome commodity. The Feudal elitists in Punjab have given way to the grouchier in the urban areas and the Lawyers have become guerrilla warfare experts.”

  6. YLH

    Dear Hossp,

    I don’t see what I have written is different. I have always maintained that a strong capitalist class is necessary for the creation of a secular democratic Pakistan in terms of “bourgeoisie nation democracy”. I think you are reading too much into the indigenous v. Mohajir which plays no role in my argument.

    Anyway side by side the class struggle there was the Post colonial hang up that led to attempts by people like Nur Khan and more recently Imran Khan to resort to Islam.

    The 1969 education policy, Bhutto’s education blunders and Imran khan’s ramblings against the game of Polo are all part of the same push.

    The Nawai Waqt generation’s close contact with Jamaat e Islami style of thinking also has to do with the same thing.

  7. YLH

    Btw Hasrat Mohani was a member of the communist party. That is why I called him a leftist.

  8. YLH

    Read “national” not nation in the first line of the first post.

  9. Ahmed Chowdhry

    Excellent analysis!

    Everything falls in perspective after reading this. Although, it would be great if you could accompany this piece by analyzing the primary force behind all this change – the ‘establishment’ of the country. What moved it to go into the arms of the religious right and how to counter it now.

    Because I think that the opening of the media has enabled the liberal minority to resurface and this chance must be exploited to the fullest to get rid of intolerance and hypocrisy in this country. Remember the turnaround against the Taliban this summer? It was provided an impetus by the media. Globalization has certainly changed minds. It is time to accelerate this change for a better Pakistan and believe me your writings do get a wide readership. It is powerful stuff which echos the truth and minces no words in going about it.

    Keep going!

  10. Ahmed Chowdhry

    This stuff is pretty relevant to this post:

    Police sacrilege Ahmadiyya Mosque and houses in Lathianwala

    Faisalabad, Pakistan; Aug 10, 2009: Couple of days ago a case under
    anti-Ahmadiyya clauses (PPC 298) was registered by some activists of
    Sunni Tehreek against 32 Ahmadis accusing them of inscribing Holy
    scriptures at their houses and place of worship which allegedly hurt
    the feelings of complainants in village Lathianwala located some 25KM
    away from Faisalabad at Sheikhupura Road. Police at the behest of some
    bigots also added Blasphemy clause PPC 295-C (Use of derogatory
    remarks, etc; in respect of the Holy Prophet) to the FIR (First
    Information Report) which carries death penalty. At this outrageous
    act of Police a three member delegation of Ahmadis approached high
    ranking police officials to get the Blasphemy charges dropped and
    settle the matter peacefully without unjustifiably hurting innocent
    Ahmadis implicated in the case.

    In the morning of August 10, 2009 around 300 strong contingent of
    Police, gathered from whole district, stormed the Mosque and 28 houses
    belonging to Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and removed Holy inscriptions,
    comprising Names of Allah and Kalima (Muslim creed) etc. According to
    reliable sources the terror and frightful operation continued for 8
    hours. Police sacrilege was led by Deputy Superintendent of Police Rai
    Muhammad Hussain and Station House Officer Mian Muuneer Ahmed of
    Police Station Khururianwala while the matter was still pending
    decision with high ranking police official Senior Superintendent of
    Police Kamran Yousuf. At the time of operation Ahmadiyya delegation
    was waiting for a meeting with Deputy Inspector General of Police.

    Police used chisels, cement, paint etc to do this dreadful act of
    shameful sacrilege and removed every Arabic word they could find on
    Ahmadiyya Mosque and houses. It is worth noting that media was kept at
    distance thereby not allowing to cover this act. After what happened
    at Gojra and Mureedke last week; Police is still busy to appease the
    religious extremists and bigots. Religious minorities feel insecure
    and helpless in this hostile environment.

    32 innocent Ahmadis still face the charges of anti-Ahmadiyya laws and
    Blasphemy, arrests and prosecution which may lead to from three years
    imprisonment to dea

  11. Kareem

    Simplified notion of facts but understandable to get to the main point that US and CIA is behind current extremism.

    Yet the real tragedy is simple, because democratic forces, creeping secularism, moderate versions of Islam, and so forth, were springing up throughout the Middle East and much further afield where Muslims were a majority. Therefore, in nations like Indonesia the Christian faith was allowed to spread and Muslims and Christians had a united bond, this bond was humanity.

    It appeared that the “notion of Islamic jihad” was on the wane, just like radical Christian forces had been challenged by new ideas in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Therefore, pan-Arabism, socialism, and other forces, alongside passive Islam, was changing the make-up of society.

    This is an over-simplification because the topic is so vast, however, new laws were being implemented in nations like Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Syria, and a host of other mainly Muslim nations, whereby greater freedoms were being enforced. So just like Europe, which once had its brutal Catholic-Protestant inter-wars, a new era looked liked it was going to "dawn."

    However, this era was soon about to collapse but the reasons behind this collapse are galling because the hands of America and Saudi Arabia can be found everywhere. Therefore, let us now focus on the unleashing of Sunni Islamic “dark forces” via American and Saudi Arabian sponsorship of terrorism.

    September 11th, the destruction of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the spread of radical Islam to moderate nations like Indonesia, can all be blamed on past American leaders and names that I have mentioned already. So why aren’t these people facing the consequences of their actions?

    For they have unleashed “a potent” and radical Sunni Islamic movement which is destroying the fabric of society in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Just like the same Islamists caused mayhem and bloodshed in Algeria and other parts of the world. The road to September 11th and “year zero Islamic jihadists” was created by the forces of America and Saudi Arabia, alongside other important players like Pakistan. Yet what about real accountability and “the real story being told?”

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