Aug 25, 2009


Ahmed Quraishi

While we should thank India's former foreign minister for his courage in praising Mr Jinnah, we should stop behaving as if we are seeking validation and vindication. Mr Jaswant Singh's book is not a Pakistani victory. It is a sincere attempt by an Indian citizen to probe what is commonly known as partition, which itself is based on the false notion that a sovereign India was wrongly divided. For us in Pakistan, we should realise that our independence – and not "partition" – is steeped in both modern and old histories and requires no explanation.

Pakistani intellectuals continue to be afflicted with low self-esteem that prevents them from fashioning an interpretation of history supportive of the idea of Pakistani nationalism. In this, our intellectuals are far behind the thinkers in Israel, for example, who achieved the impossible by reviving a 2,000-year-old dead language to gel a nation of diverse peoples.

Our politicians and thinkers failed to make something out of Pakistan in the past six decades mainly because of the lack of pride that comes from a sense of being, a sense of destiny, a sense of history. This discussion is important because we have seen brazen attempts during the last two years, especially in the US media, to promote the idea of Pakistan's balkanisation.

Finding a nationalistic motivation, a sort of 'Pak-nationalism' -- is essential.

The first thing Pakistanis need to know is that Pakistan was destined to happen. Mr Jinnah made it happen through his sheer brilliance because he was there. But Pakistan was going to happen anyway, in some shape or form and at an opportune time, because of the force of history. Pakistan was not a historical coincidence that the common historical version suggests and which Mr Singh reinforced. There is no coincidence in the fact that a quarter of a century before Quaid-e-Azam's rise, a poet who wore a Turkish tarboosh (hat) and wrote Persian poetry predicted such a country. Pakistan's rise came exactly 90 years after the formal fall of the Mughal Empire, Pakistan's predecessor, which was the only India the world had known for centuries. Except for that 90-year-long gap, Pakistan had existed in several shapes and forms, and for at least ten centuries.

Our Indian friends have the right to debate the question of India's supposed division. But today's India, born in 1947, was never divided or partitioned. It is a historical fallacy to think that Pakistan was ever part of any united and sovereign Indian state. The only thing that was divided in 1947 was a British colony that, in turn, was based on a defunct Muslim empire. The Indian grievance about the "partition" that is at the core of Indian animosity toward Pakistan is without base.

What is more surprising is how Pakistan's intellectuals were drawn by Mr Singh's book to conclude that Pakistan's founding father was an "Indian nationalist" who did not want Pakistan as a first choice. This is incorrect, because it negates the force of history that favoured Pakistan. Tens of millions of people wanted to be future Pakistani citizens before the country even existed. The leadership of Mr Jinnah was an instrument, not the cause.

Sixty-two years later, Pakistanis shouldn't be discussing details. We know there was a Pakistan independence movement. We know it was anchored in history. We know that the fourth and fifth generations of today's Pakistanis are more integrated than ever.

This is the reality of Mr Jinnah's 'Pak-nationalism'. And this is the only thing that matters.

The writer works for Geo TV.

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