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Friday, July 18, 2008

Are Bengalis missing Pakistan?

Have Bengalis missed anything by breaking away? The answer is: No, they haven't because they made a Nation-state out of themselves.

The Bangladesh Today
Some of the Pakistani newspapers have quoted a particular news agency stating that according to a recent release by World Health Organization two hundred sixty two thousands people had got killed in 1971 Bangladesh War of independence. Although I could not get hold of any such report on internet, yet the news item provides an opportunity to do some stocktaking.
Emergence of Bangladesh draws an analogy at least in one aspect with 1857 upheaval. What for Sub Continent was a war of independence was mutiny to British chronologists. Pakistanis term 1971 event as "Separation of East Pakistan" whereas all and sundry, especially Bangladeshis, term it as war of independence.
Today when we look back, tragic paradoxes dominate the scene. Take for example Muhammad Ali Jinnah's Speech at Dhaka in which he declared Urdu as the one and only national language of Pakistan. Whosoever drafted that Speech was either unaware of cultural and linguistic history of East Bengal or was not sincere with his leader.
What West Pakistanis could not appreciate, or perhaps could not comprehend, was the fact that Bengali was a language richer and older than Urdu and was, since centuries, being used, unlike Punjabi, as medium of instruction and communication. This speech sowed seeds of permanent distrust between two wings. Adoption of both Urdu and Bengalis as national languages was the only logical solution of the issue. In Canada, for example, only one province is French speaking but French is accepted as national language, besides English, by the entire country. Switzerland has three national languages. The irony is that in the leftover Pakistan, even today, after sixty years, Urdu is yet to occupy its promised seat at Centre as well as Provinces. Bengali, on the other hand has been treated with far greater reverence in Bangladesh.
Ayub Khan's ten years despotic rule, played to the gallery, unfortunately, as Decade of Development, had eroded much of the already decomposed national integration. He was followed yet by another general. I remember during my student days at Dhaka University, Bengali class fellows used to ask sarcastically as to when the turn of a Bengali General would come to rule the country from the throne of Islamabad?" not even in remote future". The never ending military rule diffused a deep, irreparable despondency all over in the eastern part of the country.
There was no light at the end of tunnel. This turned the intelligentsia hostile and cynical. I can not forget the taunt with which my hostel-warden at Mohsin Hall Dhaka University regretted to accept the cheque for university fee telling me "we are small people - we don't deal with cheques."
Variance in land ownership patterns was another decisive factor. There were, practically no feudal in East Pakistan whereas West Pakistan was a vast green pasture for land Czars including privileged members of the notorious Unionist party who, one fine morning at the eve of partition, had found themselves safe in the Sanctuary of Muslim League.
The majority province, ultimately, seceded. This was unprecedented in history. Small chunks always had been bidding farewell to the mainlands but here it was a unique case. The biggest province which had struggle and achievement of Pakistan to its credit was breaking away after waging a war of independence.
It is a pity that no soul searching is being carried out in the leftover Pakistan. The million-dollar question which deserves reply is whether the objective for which Pakistan was fought and won has been achieved? There is a complete lack of consensus as far as objective is concerned. The upper crust maintains that Pakistan was created to provide opportunity to Muslims to live without economic domination of Hindus. The masses, however, claim that the chunk of land was broken away from the mainland to implement Principles of Islam.
Not withstanding the fact that the Poet, Asghar Sodai, (he breathed his last recently), who had coined the popular slogan, "Pakistan ka matlab kia - La-ilaha illalah," was neither a member of the then Muslim League nor the League officially owned this catchword. We assume, for the sake of argument, that founding fathers, indeed, had intention to make it a state wherein Islam, in letter and spirit would be practiced as a way of life at national as well as individual level. Unfortunately the present day Pakistan has no compatibility with cannons of Islamic State. The "Sirdari" system of Baluchistan, the fiefdom prevailing in Sindh and South Punjab, the heterogeneous and chaotic education system, based mainly on class-distinction, and the dynasties monopolizing the elected bodies are some of the features of present day Pakistan which can hardly be accepted by any version of Islam. But the most unfortunate is the sectarian strife which has completely destroyed the fabric of state as well the society.
If, at all, Islam is being implemented, it is confined to a particular brand interested only in size of beard, colour of turban, length of shirt, visibility of ankles, burning female education institutes, blasting barbers' shops, destroying video centers and slitting throats of fellow-Muslims. Those who attribute creation of Pakistan to the cause of establishing an Islamic State must do some soul searching whether the alleged objective has been achieved.
That the country was created for economic emancipation of the Muslims is a more shattered dream. Pakistan's economy is in shambles. The well-fed baboos, fortified in permanently under-renovation glass-houses of Planning Commission and Finance Ministry, have been aping Harvard and John Hopkins models and parroting phantasmagoria of per capita income and growth rate. "Brains" behind cotton policies had never seen cotton crops in their entire careers and architects of wheat policy believed that wheat plant was as high as a tree. What fruit the common man is reaping?
A massive dreadful load-shedding program throwing the country in utter darkness six times every twenty four hours, a virtually non-existent purchasing power, thousands of roofless Public Sector schools where students bring their own empty sacks of jute or plastic to bottom themselves on hard ground, the lowest literacy rate in South Asia, women forced to march naked in streets every now and then, an anachronistic but free jirga system running parallel to the shackled judiciary, an ever rising poverty line and teeming millions of youth running from pillar to post to get hold of jobs even if they are below their qualifications. Above all, the country has turned into a huge slaughter house.
Anybody can be slain any time anywhere on parochial, linguistic or sectarian basis. Car jacking, cell phones snatching and kidnapping for ransom have been accepted by all concerned as order of day. A small but all powerful minority is enjoying a life style known only for despots of Middle East and criminals of Latin American banana republics. This is one country where your jet-set living will never be probed into whether it is off shoot of Commission in Arms purchase or some other crime hidden behind the fortune. So much for emancipation from economic hegemony of Hindus!
Reverting back to emergence of Bangladesh, whether it was outcome of a war of independence or a separation movement , the basic question which every Pakistani must ask himself is:Have Bengalis missed anything by breaking away? The answer is: No, they haven't because they made a Nation-state out of themselves.

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