On this gloomy Independence Day, in the aftermath of yet another brutal tragedy in Quetta, the nation wondered in agony if there will ever be an end to our trials and tribulations. More painful was the unwarranted muckraking from the floor of parliament by some self-serving ‘champions’ of ‘sardari and darbari’ democracy who never spare an opportunity to weaken Pakistan.
As the British were planning to quit India, the Congress-led Hindus had cast themselves in the role of a ‘great power’ in the style of the 19th century great-powers. In September 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru declared: “There are only four Great Powers in the world – USA, USSR, China and India.” Britain did not appear in the list presumably because the new India was already being conceived as the successor of the British in the East. And without India, Nehru thought, England was no great power. Alluding to Pakistan, Nehru claimed it would eventually survive only as a culturally autonomous area with no independent political character.
This was the thinking behind the last minute manipulations by the Congress leaders to ensure that the new state of Pakistan was left as truncated as possible to make its survival as a state difficult if not impossible. To this end, they tried to have NWFP excluded from the territories which were to constitute Pakistan. Although the province was overwhelmingly Muslim and the bulk of its population supported the League, there was a Congress ministry in the province headed by Dr Khan Sahib. The Congress thus laid claim to NWFP by opposing any referendum there. Gandhi even conceived the idea of Pakhtunistan or an independent North-West Frontier Province.
This was only a tactical ploy in a larger Congress stratagem aimed at further reducing the size of Pakistan. It already had plans with regard to the state of Jammu and Kashmir from where it would be easy to bring NWFP back into the Indian union. Had this grand scheme worked, Nehru’s vision of ‘Greater India’ would have come true with Pakistan surviving only as a ‘culturally autonomous’ area.
Despite all these efforts, and thanks to our Quaid’s persistent vigilance, the NWFP referendum did take place, and Pakistan did emerge as an independent sovereign state. Territorially, though, it was a unique example with no parallel anywhere in the world. It was a house divided, not against itself but by a thousand miles of hostile Indian territory. It came into being like the Siamese Twins with two halves joined together by just a little bit of ‘heart and mind’ connection. The ‘heart and mind’ connection was too weak to withstand the pressures of physical separateness, and within a quarter of a century it got severed brutally through India’s military intervention.
The cruelty of geopolitics did not end with our country’s dismemberment. India still militarily occupies a vast territory – including Kashmir, Siachen, Kargil and water sources – that belonged to us. No wonder, from the very beginning of our independent statehood, we have remained confronted with security challenges that perhaps no other country in the world has ever experienced. Ironically, the first challenge to Pakistan’s independence was the sole negative vote cast by Afghanistan in the UN General Assembly when Pakistan was admitted as a member of the UN on September 30, 1947. At work was the same mindset that had opposed the very creation of Pakistan.
Misled by Indian leaders who claimed Pakistan was geopolitically and economically unviable, the then Afghan government questioned the validity of the Durand Line, an issue that had long been settled under the Anglo-Afghan Boundary Agreement of 1893, subsequently reiterated in their successive Treaties of 1905, 1919 and 1921. Three weeks after Pakistan’s admission to the UN, Afghanistan withdrew its negative vote. Since then, despite Kabul’s occasional detractions raising the bogey of ‘Pakhtunistan,’ Pakistan has maintained a consistent policy of friendship and good-neighbourliness with Afghanistan.
We have, over the decades, stood by Afghanistan in its long ordeals including foreign-imposed wars – first the Soviet-occupation-led war and then the US-occupation-led Afghan war. Indeed, the Afghans are not the only victims of the Afghan tragedy. Pakistan has suffered more in multiple ways in terms of refugee influx, socio-economic burden, rampant terrorism and protracted conflict in its border areas with Afghanistan. This is a reality that even Hilary Clinton acknowledged as Obama’s secretary of state in a Congressional testimony. And the Afghan crisis with all its ramifications still plagues Pakistan.
Our problems are aggravated by a complex new regional configuration with the growing Indo-US nexus that gives India strategic ascendancy in the region. Its unprecedented influence in Afghanistan now gives it an opportunity to play its old game, striking as it has been at the very roots of Pakistan.
Modi’s recent claims on Balochistan are no revelation. We know them well. Modi never spares an opportunity to be truly himself – as he was two years ago in his visit to Dhaka where he could not be more spiteful of Pakistan. He gloated over the role his country played in the 1971 dismemberment of Pakistan.
He must have been looking into the mirror when he accused Pakistan of “creating nuisance and promoting terrorism.” But let’s be honest. Modi is doing what he is supposed to do. He is only advancing his country’s larger interests including its designs for regional hegemony. And he is doing it with great finesse as a master chess player.
On our part, we are left clueless with no matching vision or foresight. We are aimlessly clamouring for peace which will never come by surrendering on our national causes. India-Pakistan problems are real and will not disappear or work out on their own as some people in our country have lately started believing.
To make things even worse, in recent years, the so-called liberal elite have been wilfully distorting our history, misleading the youth that Pakistan’s birth was only ‘an accident of history’ and that the India-Pakistan border is no more than an artificial ‘thin’ line drawn on paper.
They are naïve enough to believe that if we were to erase this ‘thin’ line, there would be no India-Pakistan problems and we would live happily thereafter as ‘one people.’
Pakistan came into being as a result of a long struggle. It is now a reality with its borders drawn in blood that cannot be erased, not even through any ‘goodwill’ gestures that some of our ruling elite and media friends are eager to make.
The writer is a former foreign secretary.