Mutilated, moth-eaten Pakistan

The headline is inspired by the famous words of the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. In 1944, as the world war neared its end, the famous talks between Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah began on the way forward to Independence. Though Gandhi, in principle, never believed that the Hindus and the Muslims formed two separate nations, as the Muslim League espoused, he agreed to push his close aide C Rajagopalachari’s proposal to “have plebiscite in the districts perceived to be Muslim majority” whether partition was called for.

Rejecting the formula, Jinnah said, “It (the formula) was grossest travesty, a ridiculous proposal, offering a shadow and a husk – a maimed, mutilated, and moth-eaten Pakistan.” Jinnah rejected the formula out of the fear that it would lead to division of Bengal and Punjab.

Ironically a few years later Jinnah was forced to accept “a mutilated, moth-eaten Pakistan,” as the British proposal divided the two states into East and West Punjab and East and West Bengal through the line drawn by Cyril Radcliffe, chairman of the Border Commission. Today Radcliffe Line forms India’s international border with two nations – Pakistan and Bangladesh.

This is extraordinary irony as Pakistan, which continues to “stand by the people of Kashmir”, has been unable to hold onto and govern the territories which India agreed to part with following the notification of the Radcliffe Line on August 17, 1947. In less than quarter of a century, East Pakistan declared Independence.

Among the territories under its control, despite rechristening as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the North-West Frontier Province remains ungovernable. Balochistan, in whose support India has decided to go public, is under revolt for long demanding independence. Sindh in past has faced rebellion and unrest on several occasions and Jiye Sindh and Sindhudesh continue to be very vibrant movements demanding establishment of Sindhi nation-state.However, it’s not the different movements for physical dismemberment of Pakistan which make it “mutilated and moth-eaten.” To make my point a little reference to Bangladesh, which became Independent of Pakistan in 1971.

The per capita income of Bangladesh was US$1,190 in 2014, with a GDP of US$209 billion. In South Asia, Bangladesh has the second highest foreign exchange reserves after India. The Bangladeshi diaspora contributed US$15.31 billion in remittances in 2015.

Mirroring the reforms initiated by its neighbour, India, in 1991, Bangladesh Finance Minister Saifur Rahman launched a range of liberal reforms in his country too. The private sector of the country has been driving its economy since then. Bangladesh has witnessed growth in export-oriented industrialisation, with the country’s exports amounting to US$30 billion in FY2014-15. The largest portion of its export earnings come from its garments sector.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s share of overall world exports is declining; it contributed only 0.128 percent in 2007. The trade deficit in the fiscal year 2010–11 was US$11.217 billion. The seven-million-strong Pakistani diaspora contributed an estimated US$15 billion to the economy in 2014–15, lower than that of Bangladesh. Worse, in the last decade, Pakistan had to depend on a fiscal policy backed by the International Monetary Fund to avoid possible bankruptcy. Today Bangladeshi currency Takka carries more value in the international market than Pakistani Rupees.

Though these are fleeting instances but enough to show why Pakistan makes almost no news in these sectors. Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta probably has an answer to it. Writing in his popular column “Usual Suspects”, Dasgupta recently recalled his meeting with Pakistan’s ISI’s god-father Hamid Gul in 1999, soon after the cessation of hostilities in Kargil.

Dasgupta wrote, “Gul was courteous but [he] was simmering with rage. His ire was directed at the ‘spineless’ Pakistani establishment that had meekly buckled under American pressure. What was the source of India’s clout, he asked rhetorically. India’s international clout, he believed, stemmed from its economic muscle. No international power, he believed, could afford to ignore either the Indian market or the sheer size of its economy. As long as India had economic muscle, Gul felt, Pakistan would be at a disadvantage vis-a-vis its historic enemy.”

What caught my attention was Gul’s christening of India as “historic enemy” and bemoaning its economic sinews. Gul almost echoed what Muslim League’s organ Dawn had said with reference to Jawaharlal Nehru organising Asian Relations Conference in March 1947, before partition. Dawn wrote, “How skilfully he [Nehru] has worked himself into some sort of all-Asian leadership. That is just what this ambitious Hindu leader had intended – to thrust himself on the Asian further the designs of Indian Hinduism.”

Little does those with Gul-like mindset including the present Chief of Pakistan army, General Raheel Sharif realise that India’s economic sinews are firmly rooted in its democratic culture. While India surprised the world by holding its first general election based on universal adult suffrage way back in 1952, Pakistan could hold its first poll only in 1970 and did not allow Awami League, the party which won the polls, to form the government.

Pakistan’s moth-eaten economy and mutilated political and social culture are the fallout of following a policy to protect the interests of those heading the General Head Quarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, the fountainhead of anti-Indianism. Today Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif makes a tragic figure. He is a prisoner in the hands of his appointee – Gen Raheel Sharif.

A military establishment or military propelled establishment can never deliver on the challenges of governance. In the sub-continent, India has the best armed forces because pioneers like Field Marshals KM Cariappa, Sam Manekshaw, and General KM Thimayya, laid strong foundations of a professional Army, which commands unbridled respect and gratitude of the nation.

In Bangladesh, the people have warded off repeated attempts of a military junta trying to overpower a democratically elected government. In Sri Lanka, despite nearly three decades of insurgency it did not succumb to the lure of a military commander being at the helm of affairs. Pakistan finds itself in a mess because its people have not fought for strengthening democratic institutions in their country.

Jinnah created Pakistan to quench his personal ambition to wield power. He and his party failed to undertake the exercise to create a culture of democracy in the country which they created to rule. No wonder that bereft of a democratic culture, where social justice and cultural freedom could be exercised, Pakistan has remained, to use the words of its founding father -- a “moth-eaten” state. 

(Sidharth Mishra is President, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice and Consulting Editor, Millennium Post. Views expressed are strictly personal.)
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