Why Pakistan is not a nation

And how it could become one.

By Pervez Hoodbhoy    Himal South Asia,  June 2010

 Pakistan has been a state since 1947, but is still not a nation. More precisely, Pakistan is the name of a land and a people inside a certain geographical boundary that is still lacking the crucial components needed for nationhood: a strong common identity, mental make-up, a shared sense of history and common goals. The failure so far to create a cohesive national entity flows from inequalities of wealth and opportunity, absence of effective democracy and a dysfunctional legal system.

While it is true that most Punjabis think of themselves as Pakistani first and Punjabi second, this is not the case with the Baloch or Sindhis. Schools in Balochistan refuse to hoist Pakistan’s flag or sing its national anthem. Sindhis, meanwhile, accuse Punjabis of stealing their water, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) runs Karachi on strictly ethnic grounds, and in April the Pashtun of NWFP successfully had the province officially renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (against the wishes of other residents). In getting a job, caste and sect matters more than ability, and ethnic student groups wage pitched battles against each other on campuses throughout the country.

The lack of nationhood can be traced to the genesis of Pakistan and the single factor that drove it – religious identity. Carved out of Hindu-majority India, Pakistan was the culmination of the competition and conflict between natives who had converted to Islam and those who had not. Converts often identified with Arab invaders of the last millennium. Shah Waliullah (1703-62), a ‘purifier’ of Islam on the Subcontinent who despised local traditions, famously declared ‘We [Hindustanis] are an Arab people whose fathers have fallen in exile in the country of Hindustan, and Arabic genealogy and the Arabic language are our pride.’

The founder of Pakistan, Mohamed Ali Jinnah, also echoed the separateness of Muslims and Hindus, basing the struggle for Pakistan on the premise that the two peoples could never live together peacefully within one nation state. But Jinnah was unrecognisably different from Waliullah, a bearded religious scholar. An impeccably dressed Westernised man with Victorian manners, a secular outlook and an appreciation of fine foods and wines, Jinnah nevertheless eloquently articulated the fears and aspirations of an influential section of his co-religionists. Interestingly, he was opposed by a large section of the conservative ulema, such as Maulana Maudoodi of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who said that Islam must not be confined to national borders. But Jinnah and his Muslim League won the day by insisting that Muslims constituted a distinct nation that would be overwhelmed in post-British India by a larger and better-educated Hindu majority.

Thus Pakistan, in essence, was created as the negative of India: it was not India. But what was it, then, beyond being a homeland for Muslims? Decades after the horrific bloodbath of Partition, the idea of Pakistan remains hotly debated. It did not help that Jinnah died in 1948, just a year after Pakistan was born, with his plans still ambiguously stated. He authored no books and wrote no policy paper. He did make many speeches, of which several were driven by political expediency and are frankly contradictory. These are freely cherry-picked today, with some finding in them a liberal and secular voice; others, an embodiment of Islamic values. The confusion is irresolvable.

After Jinnah, the Objectives Resolution of 12 March 1949 was the first major step towards the transformation of Pakistan from a Muslim state into an Islamic state. The Resolution starts with the statement that sovereignty rests with Allah. This obviously limits the legislative power of a representative assembly, since the fundamentals are already defined. Another consequence was the grudging concession that  ‘Adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures. ‘ This created the concept of minorities in the Pakistani polity, and hence negated the right of equality – a basic requirement of modern democracy.

The basis in religious identity soon led to painful paradoxes. An overbearing West Pakistan was to ride roughshod over East Pakistan, and become despised as an external imperial power. Jinnah’s ‘Two Nation’ theory was left in tatters after the separation of East Pakistan in 1971, and the defeat of the Pakistani military. The enthusiasm of Muslim Bengalis for Bangladesh – and their failure to ‘repent’ even decades after 1971 – was a deadly blow against the very basis of Pakistan. Nevertheless, contrary to dire predictions, the Pakistani state survived. Its powerful military easily crushed emerging separatist movements in Balochistan and Sindh.

For a while after 1971, the question of national ideology fell into limbo. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto attempted to create a Pakistani identity around the notion of revenge for the loss of the East Wing. He promised ‘war of a thousand years’ against India, and started Pakistan’s quest for the atomic bomb in 1972. While this served temporarily as a rallying cry, the military coup of 1977 that sent him to the gallows was to revive the identity issue.

Zia’s project
Soon after he seized power, General Zia ul-Haq announced his intention to remake Pakistan, and end the confusion of the country’s purpose and identity once and for all. In a sense, he wanted to emulate Napoleon Bonaparte’s achievement of creating a nation from a nation state. Eric Hobsbawm, the influential Marxist historian, persuasively argues that the state of France made the French nation, not vice-versa. Similarly, Zia sought to create a nation – albeit one based on religion rather than on secular principles – using the power of the state. The word soon went out that Pakistan was henceforth not to be described as a Muslim state. Instead, it was now an Islamic state, where Islamic law would soon reign supreme. To achieve this re-conceptualisation, Zia knew that future generations of Pakistanis would have to be purged of liberal and secular values.

Thus began a massive, decade-long state-sponsored project. Democracy was demonised and declared un-Islamic, culture was purified of Hindu ‘contamination’, Urdu was cleansed of Hindi words to the extent possible, capital punishment was freely used, dress codes were introduced, university teachers had their faith examined under a microscope, and religion was introduced into every aspect of public and private life. Education was the key weapon for Zia’s strategy. In 1981, he ordered the education authorities to rewrite the history of Pakistan. All new school textbooks would now ‘induce pride for the nation’s past, enthusiasm for the present, and unshakeable faith in the stability and longevity of Pakistan’. Jinnah and other icons of the Pakistan Movement had to be portrayed as pious fundamentalists, whether or not they carried beards; their lifestyles had to be hidden from public view. To eliminate possible ambiguities of approach, a presidential order was issued to the University Grants Commission that, henceforth, all Pakistan Studies textbooks must:

Demonstrate that the basis of Pakistan is not to be founded in racial, linguistic, or geographical factors, but, rather, in the shared experience of a common religion. To get students to know and appreciate the Ideology of Pakistan, and to popularise it with slogans. To guide students towards the ultimate goal of Pakistan – the creation of a completely Islamised State.

In a matter of years, Pakistani schoolchildren grew up learning a catchy but linguistically nonsensical jingle about the ‘ideology’ of Pakistan: ‘Pakistan ka matlab kya? La illaha illala!’ (What is the meaning of Pakistan? There is no god but Allah!) Although the purported answer has nothing to do with the question, Zia’s strategy soon began to show results.

Barely a decade was needed for Pakistan’s transformation from a moderate Muslim-majority country into one where the majority of citizens wanted Islam to play a key role in politics. The effects of indoctrination are now clearly visible. Even as members of the Sharia-seeking Taliban were busy blowing up schools in Swat and elsewhere, a survey in 2008 by the online World Public Opinion found that 54 percent of Pakistanis wanted strict application of Sharia, while 25 percent wanted it in some more dilute form. Totalling 79 percent, this was the largest percentage in the four countries surveyed – Morocco, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan. A more recent survey, of 1226 young Pakistanis between 18 and 29, was carried out across Pakistan by the British Council in 2009. It found that ‘three-quarters of all young people identify themselves primarily as Muslims. Just 14% chose to define themselves primarily as a citizen of Pakistan.’

Clearly, the country’s youth is deeply worried by lack of employment, economic inflation, corruption and violence. In this turbulent sea, it is not surprising that most see religion as their anchor. For some, violent change is the answer to the country’s problems. This is precisely what Zaid Hamid, one of Pakistan’s fiery new demagogues, advocates. Hamid, a self-proclaimed jihadist who claims to have fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan, builds specifically on the insecurity of the youth, enthralling college students who pack auditoriums to listen to him. Millions more watch him on television, as he lashes out against Pakistan’s corrupt rulers and other ‘traitors’. Hamid promises that those who betrayed the nation’s honour by joining the US-led ‘war on terror’ will hang from lampposts in Islamabad. In his promised Islamic utopia, speedy Taliban-style justice will replace the clumsy and corrupt courts established by the British. Just as Adolf Hitler dwelt on Germany’s ‘wounded honour’ in his famous beer-hall oratory in Munich (where he promised that Germany would conquer the world), Hamid calls for the Pakistan Army to go to war against India and liberate Kashmir, Palestine, Chechnya and Afghanistan. One day, he says, inshallah, Pakistan’s flag shall fly from Delhi’s Red Fort. The students applaud wildly.

Still no Islamic state?
Notwithstanding the enormous impetus given by Zia, final success still eludes Pakistan’s Islamists. The explosion of religiosity did not produce a new Pakistani identity, and a Sharia state is nowhere to be seen. Why? Ethno-nationalism is part of the answer. This natural resistance against melding into some larger entity is the reflexive response of historically constituted groups that seek to preserve their distinctiveness, expressed in terms of dress, food, folklore and shared history. Assimilation of Pakistan’s diverse peoples into a homogenised national culture is opposed by this force that, like gravity, always acts in one direction.

Ethno-nationalism is, of course, vulnerable. It can be overcome by integrative forces, which arise from the natural advantage of being part of a larger economy with correspondingly greater opportunities. But for these forces to be effective, it is essential that the state machinery provides effective governance, demonstrates fairness and is indifferent to ethnic origins. Pakistan’s ruling elite, unfortunately, is both incompetent and ethnically partisan, drawing its roots from the powerful landed and feudal class. The army leadership and the economic elite had joined forces after Partition to claim authority, but they were transparently self-serving and therefore lacked legitimacy.

Dangling the utopia of an Islamic state raised expectations but did little else. To the chagrin of the political and army establishment, it ultimately backfired and became the cause of infinite division. The post-Zia generation – which believes that every issue would be solved if the country were to go back to the fundamentals of Islam – muddles on in a state of deep confusion and deadly divisiveness. It believes that adherence to ‘true Islam’ will solve all problems and lead to a conflict-free society. But, in reality, the Quran and Hadith can be interpreted in multiple ways, and ‘Islamic fundamentals’ can be defined in many contradictory ways. These differences fuel violent political forces, each convinced that they alone understand god’s will. Murderous wars between Sunni and Shia militias started during the late 1980s. Today, even those favouring the utopian vision of an ideal Islamic state are frightened by the Pakistani Taliban, which seeks to impose its version of Sharia through the Kalashnikov and suicide bombings.

All this was easily predictable, as sectarian divides are almost as old as religion itself. Basic questions are fundamentally unanswerable: Which interpretation of Islam, for instance, is the ‘right’ Islam? Of the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence (Hanafi, Shafii, Maaliki, Hanbali), which version of the Sharia should be adopted? Will all, or most, Pakistanis accept any non-elected amir-ul-momineen (leader of the pious), or a caliph? And what about the Shia? Democracy is excluded in any theocratic state, which, by definition, is a state governed according to divinely revealed principles wherein the head of state, elected or otherwise, interprets such principles and translates them into practical matters of the state. So, for example, although Abul Ala Maudoodi, in his Islamic Law and Constitution, states that ‘Islam vests all the Muslim citizens of an Islamic state with popular vice-regency,’ he is quick to point out that all vice-regents need not be of equal consequence. He demands that constitution makers should:

Evolve such a system of elections as would ensure the appointment of only those who are trustworthy and pious. They should also devise effective measures to defeat the designs and machinations of those who scramble for posts of trust and are consequently hated and cursed by the people in spite of their so-called ‘victories’ in the elections.

In this ‘state without borders’, any Muslim anywhere can be a citizen. It will be the best governed not only because its leaders are pious, but also because the only ones who will vote will be the pious themselves.

In fact, religion cannot be the basis of Pakistan, or move it towards integration. This can be said categorically, although religion was undoubtedly the reason for Pakistan’s formation. Coming over a half-century after Partition, Pervez Musharraf’s call for ‘enlightened moderation’ was indeed a tacit admission of this fact. He realised that a theocratic Pakistan could not work, even though this conflicted with his other responsibility, that of being chief of the Pakistan Army. Since the days of Zia, the army had arrogated to itself the task of ‘defending Pakistan’s ideological borders’ and, since the end of the 1980s, had consciously nurtured radicalism as an instrument of covert warfare in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Although Musharraf’s successor, General Pervez Kayani, also seeks to distance the army from its past, it is unclear as to what extent he or other senior officers actually have control. The Islamists, for their part, hope for, and seek to incite, action by zealous officers to bring back the glory days of the military-mullah alliance led by Zia.

While it is true that religious political parties have yet to receive any sizeable fraction of the popular vote, the secular system of power was never regarded by Pakistan’s citizens as just, appropriate or authoritative. So, by default, Islam became accepted as the basis of Pakistan, and any suggestion to the contrary continues to evoke a fierce public reaction. On the other hand, any serious move in the direction of making Pakistan a Sharia state would almost certainly lead to civil war. Why so? This is because while the Sharia is considered a panacea for Pakistan’s multiple problems of corruption, inequity and poor governance, its true nature is revealed only once there is an actual move towards its implementation.

In the past, terrible and uncontrollable forces have been released against the people. As in Swat, the Pakistani Taliban’s Wahabi-Deobandi-Salafi understanding of Sharia calls for forbidding females from leaving their houses, being educated or holding jobs. Men must have beards, wear shalwars rather than trousers, and never miss prayers. Killing apostates, decapitations, floggings and amputation of limbs are an essential part of the Taliban’s penal code. Fortunately, those who defend this notion of Sharia constitute no more than perhaps ten percent of Pakistan’s population. Of course, that still means millions.

Pakistan must remain
In common parlance, the ‘state’ refers to the government, and an entity in international law. Recognition by other states of the state’s claim to sovereignty enables it to enter into international agreements. Moreover, it needs a government to control its internal affairs. A more standard political-science definition of a nation state goes something like this: A state is an organised political community, occupying a territory and possessing internal and external sovereignty, which enforces a monopoly on the use of force. Max Weber, the political economist, defined the state as ‘a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.’

Pakistan is a nation state by the above definition and must continue to remain one. In effect, it must be because it is! The cost of the disappearance or destruction of this nuclear-weapon state is too awful to contemplate. Pakistan can indeed become a nation; moreover, it will almost certainly become one in time. Although religion will certainly remain an important part of Pakistan’s social reality for the foreseeable future, it must seek new roots lying within the country’s social reality rather than religion.

Look at it this way: rain inevitably grinds down stony mountains over centuries, and ultimately creates fertile soil. Similarly, nations are inevitably formed when people experience a common environment and live together for long enough. How long is long enough? In Pakistan’s case, the timescale could be fairly short. Its people are diverse, but almost all understand Urdu. They watch the same television programmes, hear the same radio stations, deal with the same irritating and inefficient bureaucracy, use the same badly written textbooks, buy similar products and despise the same set of rulers. Slowly but surely a composite, but genuine, Pakistani culture is emerging. Of course, stable nationhood is still not guaranteed. Both the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia broke apart after seven decades. If Pakistan is to stay together and chart a path to viable nationhood, it must identify its most pressing problems and seek their amelioration. What might be a suitable manifesto of change?

First, Pakistan needs peace. This means that it must turn inwards and devote its fullest attention to ending its raging internal wars. The sixty-year conflict with India has achieved nothing beyond creating a militarised Pakistani security state that uses force as its first resort even when dealing with its own people. Attempts to solve the Kashmir issue militarily have bled the country dry, leaving it completely dependent on foreign aid. The army’s role must be limited to defending the people of Pakistan, and to ensuring that their constitutional and civil rights are protected. Indeed, given that the country could otherwise be rapidly overwhelmed by extremists who openly declare their disdain for democracy, the army is obligated to fight its progeny – the Taliban. There should be no illusion that extremism can be defeated by purely peaceful means. Indeed, the way ahead must be subtle and complicated. How can one develop the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and ameliorate the anguish of their people when the insurgents are out to stop development, bomb schools and kill doctors? In such a situation, Pakistan must say yes to negotiations, but no to surrender. It currently appears that the future will be one of ‘talk, fight, talk, fight’.

Second, Pakistan needs economic justice. This is not the same as flinging coins at beggars. Rather, it requires organisational infrastructure that, at the very least, provides employment but also rewards according to ability and hard work. Incomes should be neither exorbitantly high nor miserably low. To be sure, ‘high’ and ‘low’ are not easily quantifiable, but an inner moral sense tells us that something is desperately wrong when rich Pakistanis fly off to vacation in Dubai while a mother commits suicide because she cannot feed her children.

A welfare state in Pakistan is a distant ideal. India abolished feudalism upon attaining independence. But the enormous pre-Partition landholdings of Pakistan’s feudal lords remained safe and sound, protected by the authority of the state. The land reforms announced by Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were eyewash. In later years, with the consolidation of military rule in national politics, the army turned itself into a landlord-and-capitalist class. Military officers own assets that have no relation to national defence. This includes vast amounts of farm lands and valuable urban real estate, banking, insurance, advertising companies, cement and sugar industries, airlines and ground transportation, cornflakes and commercial bottled water. Most countries have armies but, as some have dryly remarked, only in Pakistan does an army have a country.

Third, Pakistan must shed its colonial structure of governance. Different historically constituted peoples must want to live together voluntarily, and see the benefits of doing so. A giant centralised government machine sitting in Islamabad cannot effectively manage such a diverse country. The demand for creating more provinces should be carefully examined and not peremptorily rejected, as is currently taking place. Having smaller administrative units does make sense, especially due to the rapidly rising population. On the other hand, to fan the flames of nationalism can hardly be a good thing.

As in India, Pakistan should be reorganised as a federation in which provinces and local governments hold the critical economic and social powers, while defence and foreign affairs are held in common by the Centre. In particular, Islamabad’s conflict with Balochistan urgently needs resolution, but using political sagacity rather than military force. Blaming India will not achieve anything – the Baloch are angry for good reason. At a recent lecture to senior Pakistan civil-service officers in Peshawar, this writer was taken aback at the intensity with which senior officers from Balochistan spoke. They said that Baloch wounds are too deep, and that the time for healing and reconciliation with Pakistan had passed. A decade ago, one would only have expected this language from student radicals – now, it is the mainstream Baloch who articulate such sentiments (see accompanying story, ‘The question of Balochistan’).

Fourth, Pakistan needs a social contract and economic justice. This is a commitment that citizens will be treated fairly and equally by the state and shall, in turn, willingly fulfil basic civic responsibilities. But today, Pakistanis are denied even basic protections specified in the Constitution. The poor suffer outright denial of rights – such as personal security and access to water in cities – while the rich are compelled to buy these. Rich and poor alike therefore feel no obligation to fulfil their civic duties. Most do not pay their fair share of income tax, leading to one of the lowest tax-to-GDP ratios in the world. Seeing that the rulers flagrantly flout the very laws they claim to espouse, it is no surprise that the common citizen does the same.

Fifth, the country’s education needs drastic revision in the means of delivery and content. Money goes some way towards the first – better school infrastructure, books, teacher salaries, etc. But this is not enough. Schools teach children to mindlessly obey authority, to look to the past for solutions to today’s problems, and to be intolerant of the religion, culture and language of others. Instead, students need to be taught to be enquiring, open-minded, creative, logical, socially responsible, and to appreciate diversity. Pakistan paid a very heavy price because its leaders could not understand that a heterogeneous population can live together only if differences are respected. The imposition of Urdu upon Bengal in 1948 was a tragic mistake, and the first of a sequence of missteps that led up to the awful slaughter of Bengalis by the West Pakistani military in 1971. A myopic education system is squarely responsible for the fact that ethnic and religious minorities are viewed with suspicion and disdain by the majority. This must change.

In the end, for Pakistan to succeed, it must want to become a nation held together by mutual interests rather than by some abstract Islamic ideology. This is the only way to deal with the multiple civil wars that have started in the country. The path to creating a Pakistani nation is doubtless difficult. As the population explodes, oceans of poverty and misery deepen, limbless beggars in the streets multiply, water and clean air become scarce, education is stalemated, true democracy remains elusive, and the distance from a rapidly developing world increases. One is strongly tempted to step aside, give up and admit helplessness.

But surely that is wrong, for what we fear will then actually come to pass. The political philosopher Antonio Gramsci spoke of ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will’. Indeed, with the pessimism of the intellect, one must calmly contemplate the yawning abyss up ahead. But then, after a period of reflection, one should move to prevent falling into it.

Pervez Hoodbhoy teaches at the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.


Filed under Democracy, Identity, Islamism, Pakistan, Partition, secular Pakistan, Society, state

32 responses to “Why Pakistan is not a nation

  1. Anwar

    Well said. First para sums it all.
    Very good recommendations to turn a singularity into an abstract reality.

  2. “Another consequence was the grudging concession that ‘Adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures. ‘ This created the concept of minorities in the Pakistani polity, and hence negated the right of equality – a basic requirement of modern democracy.”

    Brilliant point.
    India too needs to learn.

  3. Yasir Qadeer

    The reason why we have not been able to come together as a “Nation” rests in the fact that we have been divided and then sub-dived in the name of God, ethnicity, money and what not. We must realize the facts that the difference in intellectual opinions does not divide us. It rather gives space for new ideas to come in. It is the division based on all other which can lead to destruction.

  4. nazir allahwalla

    Thank you for the brilliant article.
    My late father used to say I will never employ a Punjabi because they are thieves, I will never employ a Phatan because they get mad too quickly. I will never employ a balouchi because they hate everyone. I will only employ a Sindhi because I know them and I understand them.
    If my Father could be so racist inspite of him being highly educated. Then what is there to say of the millions of us who are uneducated and territorial in their ways?
    We as Pakistanis lack a binding force. Islam is not enough to hold us together, and should not be the focal point to unite us.
    It seems the very idea of Pakistan is failing rapidly. So we have two ways to go. Either we split in 4 new federations loosly united. Or just go back to being Indians. I would prefer the latter at least they are beter off than we will every be. I know many of you will attack my post but let me make it clear. I do not care what you think about me. After all we still have free speach in this country or do we?

  5. Zulfiqar Haider

    It is true that until and unless all the people from different ethnicities start considering themselves as Pakistanis, the divide will remain.

  6. Mustafa Shaban

    Good article. However I believe that people have the right to identify themselves however they wish. Since majority Pakistanis identify themselves with Islam, the true progressive Islam should replace the clerical, fundamentalist twisted Islam as a dominant Islam. This can be done despite the breakup in sects. Ethnicity has damaged Pakistan a lot, people neeed to unite under one identity and nation.

  7. bciv


    how do you reconcile “people neeed to unite under one identity”with “I believe that people have the right to identify themselves however they wish”???

  8. shiv

    You Pakistanis are Indians. If you could be Indian and Muslim you would have no identity crisis. The problem arose from believing that Islam would have to play second fiddle to the kafir Hindus who worship penises and cowdung.

    Every Indian state is a Pakistan minus the Islamic extremism. Let me correct that – every Indian state has its own trademark form of extremism – not necessarily Islamic. Islamic extremism in India gets fierce competition from other assholes who are as bigoted and backward and I am not referring only to your friends the Hindutvadis. Yes Islamic extremism does give other extremists a run for their money in some states – but unlike Pakistan, no walkover is handed to Islamic extremists in the naive belief that they need help more than other bhenchods.

    Technically the law and a secular constitution is above all these fighting Indiots. And the Indian state has managed to maintain a monopoly on violence. The latter is the biggest mistake made in Pakistan. The “state” in Pakistan does not maintain a monopoly on coercive force. This is a fundamental requirement of statehood. Google for “Monopoly on violence”

    If anoyne has bothered to read it why do you think Naipaul named his book “India – a million mutinies now”? There are a million mutinies in India – not just anti Shia or anti Ahmedi or anti Kafir. Islamic extremism in India cannot dominate over other angry people clamoring for something or other. And those mutineers do not get free arms from the state to fight the wars that the state (establishment/army) wants to fight.

    Pakistan was created to give first place to the Muslims who went there. The same mutinies that happen in India have continued in Pakistan. But because sunni Islam was the dominant group – you guys gave it first place and you have gradually eliminated Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and are now busy eliminating Qadianis and perhaps Shias. That is because Pakistan the state never understood that a nation consists of many people with different viewpoints and beliefs. You guys wanted Islam and now it is still not pure enough.

  9. bciv


    “If you could be Indian and Muslim you would have no identity crisis”

    Kindly, do not steal your opponents’ line and then throw it back at them pretending it is yours. Had the claim to being Indian and Muslim been acknowledged, there would have been no issues.

  10. rara

    “That is because Pakistan the state never understood that a nation consists of many people with different viewpoints and beliefs.”

    Completely agreed.

  11. Peria V.

    @bciv: “Had the claim to being Indian and Muslim been acknowledged, there would have been no issues.”

    Dear Sir, On what basis do you claim that the very existence of India as a secular state does not imply that India has not acknowledged the right of muslims to retain their personal faith of Islam and be considered Indian? Isn’t India’s existence with a significant muslim minority proof enough?

    From what I can tell, the issue that “muslims can never live as equals to hindus in the same country” which was the basis for partition — a sentiment that prefers the state to have an official religion, a path that Pakistan has clearly chosen to walk down since 1947, and with sufficient consensus among the pakistani public on making Pakistan an extremely pure, religious state.

    Unlike Pakistan’s choice to go down this road, the fact is that in India, the power and authority vested in the state can only come from the constitution and its provision of equality of all citizens, and no religion can challenge this provision and pretend to be the “preferred religion” of the state.

  12. Raj


    Do you think, that the claim of other Muslims in India of being both Muslims and Indians remain unacknowledged?

    Which claim do you speak of, which does not involve treating Muslims and other Indians differently or as separate constituencies? After all, being Indian does mean everybody being treated the same in the eyes of the Land and Law.

  13. shiv

    @ Raj
    Do you think, that the claim of other Muslims in India of being both Muslims and Indians remain unacknowledged?

    If Pakistanis don’t say this their identity dies.

    Pakistanis have no problem saying they are Muslim. Fine

    They will never say they are Indian. That is fine with me.

    But when they say they are “Pakistani” – people used to say “Who the fcuk is that?”. Except those in the know like middle easterners including Iranians and Lebanese and even Algerians who used to call them Indians. In the good old days of our grandfathers.

    Now Pakistan has an identity of its own. Terrorism and Taliban. But people don’t seem to like it. Seeing what you might have been and what you actually are can cause distress. Somehow this reminds of a limerick I heard

    There was a Hindu called Santosh
    who loved melted shit on toast
    When the toast saw the shit
    It collapsed in a fit
    For the shit was its grandfather’s ghost

  14. bciv


    Congress’ definition of Indian, Muslim, Indian and Muslim, Indian nationalist, Muslim nationalist etc. was to enforce its monopoly even if it lead to Partition. Muslim League disagreed. It’s definition of Indian and Muslim was not to be acknowledged, and despite not managing even 5% of these Indian-and-Muslims’ vote, Congress claimed to represent all Indians and assert its monopoly on these definitions. Partition followed.

    Then, only after Partition and not before, did Congress turn to bagging itself the Indian Muslim vote. That is the start of an entirely separate history. Partition signifies an even greater disconnect and separation in pre- and post-partition history in case of Pakistan.

  15. shiv

    An afterthought

    It is important for the Pakistani to see unhappiness among Indian Muslims. It is important for the Pakistani narrative to hold up as poster boys, unhappy and disssarisfied, and preferably murdered or raped Indian Muslims.

    The Indian government recognised this long ago and indulged in a series of moves that are nowadays called as “Muslim appeasement in India” to make sure that Muslims got as much Islam in India as they desired. But this actually kept them away from modernization and education. Luckily for India even Pakistan did not bother about modernization and education of Pakistanis so they eventually had nothing to show off about.

    I have written an article about this – linked elsewhere from Pak Tea House – I will not bother linking it here save to say that the article is called “The Partition Factor in the status of Indian Muslims”. Anyone who wants to find it can find it.

  16. bciv

    Luckily for India even Pakistan did not bother about modernization and education of Pakistanis

    little wonder it was congress’ allies a la deoband and the ahrar and the likes of JI who the despotic coterie in pakistan took under their wing. to that extent at least, they took up congress’ pre-partition role and tactics to oust Muslim League from power and political influence. but the coterie differed from congress in that they were a) not even politicians, b) their disregard for rule of law was slightly different than congress’ non-violent extra-constitutionalism, and c) the army leadership was willing sponsors, at first, and then soon surpassed and subordinated the rest of the so-called establishment. and so things moved on in a predictable direction, and an equally predictable lack of direction.

  17. bciv

    … zia was a disaster waiting to happen. the afghan war was neither predictable nor did pakistan have much control over it. a dictator, and that too in the form of zia, being in place at the time of the war, turned it into a double disaster. ‘zia bharti’ – at the more senior levels – again was a predictable disaster.

  18. bciv

    if i have two good options, i don’t necessarily mind being ‘forced’ into one or the other.

    Which parts of these did the deoband and ahrar object to?

    better ask both of them. they are bound to make better sense than your ‘guess’.

  19. shiv

    I believe that when you people speak of Jinnah and his pressures or achievements, you may be leaving out the role of the British, who had more than one reason to see the creation of what they could have as a client state.

    I believe that everyone was caught in the pincers of history – the British, Jinnah and Nehru and the Congress party.

    Everyone played his strongest card. And while I accuse Jinnah and the Muslim league for being violent it is equally true in the interests of history that there were quite a few prominent Indians who were convinced that Muslims in general were not going to live in peace and that the two nation theory had some truth in it. Ambedkar (an oppressed untouchable in triumphalist Pakistani folklore) was a great thinker as a contributor to the Indian constitution. He wrote that if Muslims wanted Pakistan, they should get it, for Muslims who desired a separate country would be untrustworthy in India. So the idea of Pakistan had some support in India alright.

    I am sorry for the horrific massacres of partition and feel sorry that the Sikhs and Sindhis lost their lands, as did many Bengalis. But I believe India got a good deal from partition. A whole lot of rabble rousers were summarily evacuated. History seems to bear out the statement that they really were rabble rousers.

    But all this is history. Pakistanis had a smaller nation to rule. There were fewer people to educate, fewer mouths to feed and, as Muslims they were thought to be superior people in any case. It should have been possible, with some effort (and an iota of good sense) to outpace the Indian tortoise and its Hindu rate of development. For an equivalent increase in literacy India had to educate seven people for Pakistan’s one. And yet Pakistanis botched this badly. They could have raced ahead in development but all you guys wanted was a bloody beautiful valley in Kashmir to romp and rule over Like spoilt brats cutting off their own noses to spite their face – all development was thrown into the scrap heap and covered over by an veneer of boastful self esteem and bravado: Hans ke liye Pakistan. Lad ke lenge Hindustan. I haven’t heard such crap before or after.

    Pah! Talk about a B grade movie plot. Pakistan need a deep rethink. It exists. Never mind why it exists. Look to the future of its people. And damn India.

  20. bciv

    considering that he last edited his book in jan 1945, 18 months or so later, and ambedkar didn’t have to rely on guesswork anymore.

  21. Karay


    Funny, pakteahouse says today: “For Jinnah and the Muslim League, the Two Nation Theory was not an ideological position etched in stone. It was the restatement of the arguments needed to ensure national status for Muslims in a multinational independent India.

    That Ambedakr excerpt is very apt AG3L. To think that Ambedkar was convinced that the “Musalmans are devoted-to Pakistan” and to play for the googly was “wishful thinking” is quite ironic. But of course it’s easy to confuse the holistic knowledge of the events of the 1940s that we have today (thanks to some amazing Historical writing) with the actual knowledge and situations as they existed during the 1940s.

    Plus, Partition is a hot potato due the unfortunate way it was carried out (and not necessarily to be blamed on the people who conceptualised it). Hence it’s natural for Pakistanis try and wash their hands of it just as the Congress once did. Of course, unlike India, Partition is also the very event that gave birth to Pakistan hence the whitewashing will always be more angst ridden in Pakistan (if it ever takes place at all that is, by standards of popular not academic discourse)

  22. Hi,

    I feel that somewhere along the line in Pakistan – tolerance, as a socially relevant concept was abandoned.

    Systematically over the past 60 years, succesive governments robbed ordinary Pakistanis of psychological tools to deal with diversity issues.

    There was a fashion of sorts that came into existance in 1947 – a practice of demonizing your political adversaries – and that continues to hold sway even today. The result is a complete free-for-all where everyone claims with equal zeal and strength to be doing “Allah’s Work”.

    The real rah-e-nijat lies in bringing tolerance back into society as a guiding principle and doing so without reinforcing anti-democratic forces.

    At the very least – leading Pakistanis should consider discussing the role of tolerance as a socially positive concept. This business of shouting “Allah-ho-Akbar” and all this sword-for-God nonsense needs to be stopped.

  23. shiv

    If you look at the choices that were offered prior to independence and partition – you find that either Muslims should have had a separate electorate or a separate country.

    A separate country for all Muslim majority areas was never technically possible because the exact “countries” formed would be totally dependent on how small you wanted to chop your administrative unit. One could technically take one part of a city and say “Here is a Muslim majority area, this will be Pakistan” Ultimately the size of administrative unit was totally arbitrary resulting in West and East Pakistan.

    Only a separate electorate was technically feasible. One could have issued Muslim/non Muslim cards to all Indians and hold separate elections. It is moot whether this separate Muslim electorate within India would have somehow joined to develop a huge subcontinent sized country or whether they would have been looking for separateness and special treatment in everything they did. In any case, “Indians” who had studied the basics of governance and democracy from the British had no precedent to study in which a nation state could exist with separate religion based electorates. Why some Muslims thought this was feasible remains a mystery.

    Why the British came up with a such an unprecedented formula was IMO pure spite and callousness. And I guess a desire to just hold the fort for a bit and exit with what appeared to be dignity and not be chased out. That they would have to quit India was certain.

    While the reason for the creation and existence of Pakistan needs the hijab of “Muslim subjugation in Hindu India” to cover up any objections, few Pakistanis want to touch the more unsavory explanation for Pakistan – i.e that many of the creators were just a greedy bunch of louts who were seeking power and glory by hook or by crook. It appears to me that this played a role in the creation of Pakistan which was not created entirely out of compassion and goodwill for Muslims.

    And after this freak nation was created, it was necessary to bask and savor suffering among the Muslims of India. And pay lip service to them while cursing the Hindu who was the worst creature in the universe. Any sign of happiness among Indian Muslims was, and remains, a big threat to Pakistan. Some ultra rightwing Hindutva groups are Pakistan’s biggest allies. What a fucking incestuous relationship.

  24. nazir allahwalla

    why dont you become the priminister of pakistan. We needs many ppl like you.
    At lest you will do better than the goons that sit there and scratch eachothers balls all day long.

  25. bciv


    Jinnah had taken his stand against separate electorates in 1927. He had clarified his conditional support based on his failure to bring his electorate round to his pov, post the Delhi Muslim Conference. In Jinnah-Rajendra Prasad talks of 1934, it was agreed that separate electorates would be done away with. There was no provision for separate electorates in the Cabinet Mission Plan.

    Countries are ‘created’ more by accidents of history than anything or anyone else. Those who created nazaria e pakistan, not what or who created pakistan, might have needed the ‘hijab’ you have mentioned, and duly provided by the religious right in india at regular intervals. Nazaria e Pakistan was created after the creation of Pakistan, not before.

  26. shiv

    Those who created nazaria e pakistan, not what or who created pakistan, might have needed the ‘hijab’ you have mentioned, and duly provided by the religious right in india at regular intervals

    When the “hijab”, or excuse for exposing reality is an external agent, it is always permanent, unchangeable and uncontrollable.

    What you are saying is what has occurred – i.e that nazaria e pakistan is controlled and guided by the perceived and real actions who what is described by you as the “religious right” in India.

    What we are talking about here is a case of “It’s not my fault. My actions are inspired by the actions of the religious right in India. if only they stopped, I would be different”

    As long as Pakistanis believe that their destiny is being moulded by the actions of uncontrollable external forces nothing can change. You can say that Pakistan is controlled by allah, djinns or whatever.

    Unless Pakistanis can take their country’s destiny into their own hands and not be guided by accidents and uncontrollable external forces, there is little hope.

  27. bciv


    you obviously do not know the difference between the creators of pakistan and the creators of nazaria e pakistan. the religious right in india, or its existence or otherwise, is totally irrelevant to me. as is the ignorance – and the sorry inability to do anything about it – of your kind.

    all i need to do and am fighting for is to get my country back from those who created nazaria e pakistan. since the nazaria e pakistan types are also against true democracy, fighting for democracy is a fundamental part of fighting and defeating the creators and sponsors of nazaria e pakistan.

  28. bciv

    What you are saying is what has occurred – i.e that nazaria e pakistan is controlled and guided by the perceived and real actions who what is described by you as the “religious right” in India

    no. what i am saying is that those who created the nazaria e pakistan need this ‘hijab’. i don’t. just like i don’t need a nazaria e pakistan.

  29. Bin Ismail

    Out of the 194 countries of the world, we are the only “nazariati mumlikat’ with a nazaria that was invented after the birth of the country, and a nazaria that was known, not even, to the founder of the country himself.

  30. nazir allahwalla

    the day when ppl will let their daughters and sons marry out side their sects, religion, ethnic, social back grounds and color, will be the day Pakistan will be considered a real tolerant society.
    I dont say this does not happen. i does but very rarely. The majority are bend upon not mixing their gene pools. So until then lets all just sit back and watch the geneticaly-deformed walk about your towns.
    What I mean to say is when you do not diversify and mix and be a melting pot of different tribes you will have to pay a price. It is not only a political price but a medical one as well. think about that!!

  31. Why are we starting this debate about 1947 all over again? Regardless of what should have happened, and whether Pakistan should have come into being as an independent country, or somehow been part of an Indian federation, the fact remains that now, 60+ years later, Pakistan and India are both independent countries and are going to remain that way. While all thinking people can agree that the brutality that occurred during Partition was not inevitable and is South Asia’s own version of the Holocaust, Partition has occurred and cannot be undone. Perhaps in the future, we can come to a South Asian federation like the EU, but I don’t think Pakistanis or Bangladeshis will ever now consent to giving up their status as independent countries and becoming part of India.

    That said, I do think that Pakistanis have to develop a common national identity that goes deeper than Islam. After all, if Islam was enough to unite all Pakistanis, than East Pakistan would most likely not have split and become Bangladesh way back in ’71–after only 24 years. Clearly, language, ethnicity, etc, are just as important, if not more in some cases, than religion.