Two-nation theory has bred practice of hatred
By M J Akbar
Why has Pakistan become synonymous with terrorism? The vast majority of Pakistanis surely find terrorism, which is the purest form of hatred, as repellent as Indians do. Why then does Pakistan breed an endless flow of suicide missionaries?
Practice has been shaped by theory. A theory of separation created Pakistan in 1947; over time, this has been converted into a culture of hatred by some self-appointed ideologues.
Pakistan emerged out of the notion that Hindus and Muslims could not live together. The threat perception was raised into the claim that Islam itself would be obliterated in a Hindu-majority India, during the seminal general elections of 1936-37. The Muslim League's slogan was: "Islam in Danger!"
Neither history nor theology could have sustained such a slogan, but Muslim elites in British India, particularly landlords and capitalists, manipulated the incipient ideology of the Muslim League, and fuelled it with incendiary sentiment in order to create a state where they could protect their vested interests. They were not really afraid of "Hindu Raj"; they were terrified of land reform and socialism - however pale a version it might be - that the Congress would enforce. It is no accident that till today there has been no serious land reform in Pakistan. Gandhi's honest faith in Hinduism was maliciously exploited to spread the perfidy that India would never offer an equal place to Muslims.
The idea of Islam being in danger was particularly attractive to a section of the ulema - but not to all of them; the Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Hind (now led by Maulana Mahmood Madni), unlike the Jamaat-e-Islami, was very clear-headed about the potential pitfalls and opposed the creation of Pakistan. The pro-partition ulema, however, discovered a unique opportunity for power. If Islam was going be the raison d'etre of the new nation, then who else could be its true guardians? The elites took control of the economy and politics; the upper middle classes dominated the administration; and the two shared authority in the armed forces. The clergy gradually took control of educational and legal space.
The one thing that united these elements, who had separate agendas and could be culturally antagonistic, was Kashmir. The first important decision taken after Pakistan's birth was to convert the two-nation theory into a cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy.
It is often forgotten that Pakistan created the Kashmir problem when it decided to seize the Valley by armed force in the last week of October 1947. If this incursion had not taken place, there would have been a peaceful resolution to both Kashmir and Hyderabad, perhaps by the spring of 1948, with Britain as referee through the person of Lord Mountbatten. Perhaps this was one reason, apart from his sense of self-importance, why Mountbatten wanted to be named Governor General of both India and Pakistan, but Jinnah told him to stick to Delhi.
India, Pakistan and Britain were in full agreement that no princely state should be permitted independence. The two holdouts, Kashmir and Hyderabad, could never have survived in their frozen condition. Mountbatten has left on record a note from Nehru in which he suggested that the resolution of Kashmir could be left to spring 1948, when the snows had melted.
Instead, Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan and Pakistan's freshly emboldened leaders were convinced they could pray at the main mosque in Srinagar on the Friday following the invasion. They failed. The failure sponsored a lie, that the invasion was a "popular uprising". Shuja Nawaz has exposed this falsehood effectively in his history of the Pakistan army, Crossed Swords [Oxford University Press]. The October 1947 invasion was armed and supported by the Pakistani administration.
Six decades of Fridays later, the rulers of Islamabad are still waiting. If they want to enter Srinagar on tanks they are welcome to wait another six decades and hand over the effort to their great grandchildren. If they want to come to Srinagar in peace, they can come and pray tomorrow. But it will be difficult for them to come in peace to Srinagar as long as they believe that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together. The two-nation theory might have been abandoned in 1971, when Pakistan itself was partitioned. But it remains the official doctrine of the Pakistan state, sold to generations in millions of school textbooks.
Pakistan's support for Sikh secessionism in the 1980s was clear evidence that it did not need only a "Muslim" cause to become pro-active. If it could destroy India's integrity through another religious module, it was equally happy to do so. If General Zia ul Haq had spent as much energy on the construction of Pakistan as he did on the destruction of India, Pakistan might have had a rising economic story to tell by now.
Kashmir became the implicit sanction for the emergence, under Zia's beneficial watch, of terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the Army of the Pure. Zia's successors, starting with Benazir Bhutto, did little to contain these terrorists. When India protested, Pakistani diplomats were polite across the table, and probably had a good laugh behind Delhi's back. Since Zia's time Pakistan has been asking for "evidence" or proof, and encouraging skepticism or conspiracy theories (dutifully lapped up by sections of the Indian media). Well, this time there is a canary singing in custody, and a satellite phone abandoned by terrorists with five logged calls to members of the Lashkar. Just in case you did not know, it is the declared intention of the Pure Army to fly the Pakistani flag on top of the Red Fort. Its plans are not secret. They are on its website. Its leader, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, certainly gets a wink if not a nod from the Pak establishment. Pervez Musharraf was the only Pakistani leader to ban the Lashkar, under international pressure after Vajpayee mobilized along the border in the wake of the December 13 attack on Parliament. Passions cooled, and it simply reappeared under another name, back in business. Hafiz Saeed does not live in hiding. He gives interviews to Indian publications.
Asif Zardari's latest alibi is: these are non-state actors. They certainly preen around on the Pakistani stage. If the Pakistani state cannot stop this bloodthirsty drama, the world will have to.