New Age Islam Edit Bureau
14 August 2017
Moving Away From Partition’s Legacy
By Mashaal Gauhar
Pakistan’s 70 Years and Its
By Nasir Saeed
Can Pakistan-India Ties Be Normal?
By Riaz Mohammad Khan
United We Stand, Divided We Fall
By Suleman Khanzada
Nawaz Sharif’s Seven Lives
By Zaigham Abbas
Our Painful Legacy
By Dr G K Maini
A Culture of Impunity
By Muhammad Umer
Grand Trump Road
By Syed Talat Hussain
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Moving Away From Partition’s Legacy of
As always, the game of cricket provides the
most accurate barometer for gauging the state of play between Pakistan and
India. Renowned journalist Mihir Bose’s mere suggestion of a resumption in
matches between the two countries on a popular Indian talk show sparked angry
consternation. Writing in the Guardian newspaper, he explained, “My argument
was that despite India seeing Pakistan as virtually a terrorist state, and
Pakistan perceiving Indian rule in Kashmir as colonial oppression, sport and
culture can defuse tension. This was the point that my uncle, a Congress MP,
made in 1964 after horrific religious violence in both countries threatened
war. But I was shouted down. It was clear that anybody suggesting contact with
Pakistan was a traitor.”
After 70 years, the fault lines between
Pakistan and India appear to run deeper than ever as the shadow of an
unresolved past continues to loom large.Perhaps some of this stems from
imperial motivations for withdrawal from India after 300 years of rule.
According to the late Narendra Singh Sarila, diplomat and former aide-de-camp
to Lord Mountbatten, “The British adopted the policy of divide and rule in
India after the bloody revolt or the Great Mutiny of 1857. This was a policy to
control Indians, not to divide India.”
Britain’s hurried withdrawal meant that six
thousand kilometres of new boundaries were demarcated in just five weeks with
15 million people uprooted. As writer and historian Patrick French observes in
Liberty or Death, “The documentation of the last years of the Indian Empire
provided an unexpected tale of confusion, human frailty and neglect, moving
from the florid incompetence of Churchill’s wartime India policy to the feeble
indecision of Atlee’s post-war government.”
French highlights the cavalier manner in
which crucial decisions regarding the future of India and its people were made,
“Many of the key events of the 1940s were the result of chance, or even of
error, and some of the most important decisions of the period were made on an
almost random basis.”
Though the searing experiences of Partition
have adversely influenced relations between the two countries for the last 70
years, perhaps both countries can remember the stories of courage and
selflessness — as these memories pay tribute to the unsung heroes of humanity
who symbolise the spirit of both countries
The consequences of critical decisions made
70 years ago resulted in violence on an unprecedented scale — the ramifications
of which are still deeply felt today in the form of ongoing territorial
disputes, nuclear stockpiling and reciprocal accusations of cross-border
The violence, displacement and religious
polarisation unleashed in 1947 continues to reverberate across South Asia to
this day. However, a neat summation of the past is never possible. This is
illustrated by the experience of my mother’s uncle Sibtain Fazli, a Muslim
filmmaker who lived in Delhi in 1947. Riots between Muslim and Sikh communities
during the unfolding process of Partition had resulted in unimaginable
bloodletting. When news of an imminent attack on the Muslims of Delhi spread
through the city, Sibtain Fazli’s Sikh friend took him in, placed a kara on his
wrist to identify him as a Sikh and told enquirers that he was his nephew. The
next day, he arranged for him to be spirited out of Delhi.
Though the searing experiences of Partition
have adversely influenced relations between the two countries for the last 70
years, perhaps both countries can remember the stories of courage and selflessness
— no matter how few and far between — as these memories pay tribute to the
unsung heroes of humanity who symbolise the spirit of both countries.
Though written in the context of the 1971
war between West Pakistan and East Pakistan leading to the creation of
Bangladesh, the great poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s words remain profoundly relevant
to the state of Pakistan-India relations: “We remain strangers to each other,
despite our warmth and hospitality; Let us attempt to be friends again, now,
after all these encounters. When will our gaze be relieved by the sight of
pristine spring;how many rains will it take to wash away the bloodstains?”
Pakistan’s 70 Years and Its Minorities
We are celebrating Pakistan’s 70th
Independence Day. We have travelled a long way but, in all these years, among
many other things we have not been able to decide whether Quaid-e-Azam wanted
Pakistan to be an Islamic or a secular state.
Proponents of both sides have valid
arguments, but we have failed to reach a unanimous agreement. We haven’t been
able to establish our national narrative, an important clause of the National
Action Plan against terrorism. Early this year, ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
tried to raise a consensus, but failed.
At Independence, religious minorities were
23 percent of Pakistan’s population, the share has since reduced to a mere
I fail to understand how and where our
priorities of national interest are set. Nations that gained independence
around the same time as Pakistan are doing much better than us, especially
Quaid-e-Azam and his companions were
enlightened and firm believers of modern democracy. But soon after the death of
the Quaid, the Parliament passed a divisive Objectives Resolution and Pakistan
began its journey towards an Islamic state. Many intellectuals still believe
that was a mistake but nobody has tried to rectify it.
In 1973 Constitution, Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto
made Islam our state religion. Later, Ziaul Haq cut minorities from the
political mainstream and made them 2nd class citizens of the country through a
separate electoral system for them. This was totally against the Quaid-e-Azam’s
Religious minorities, and especially
Christians who supported Quaid-e-Azam in his struggle for Pakistan, have time
and again manifested their loyalty and sincerity. Post-independence they played
a vital role in the development of the country, but today they feel ignored and
the most vulnerable community in Pakistan.
At Independence, religious minorities were
23 percent of Pakistani population, the share has since reduced to a mere three
percent. All of our prime ministers and presidents have recognised and praised
minorities’ services for Pakistan, but this praise has been nothing more than
Schools and colleges run by Christian
missions have played a significant role in educating the Pakistani nation.
Several prominent bureaucrats and politicians have been educated at such
schools and colleges, which were nationalised in 1972 by the Bhutto government.
Though many institutions were later returned to their original owners, there
are still several Christian schools and colleges that remain under government
The founder of Pakistan had called for
equal citizenship status for religious minorities. He even set an example by
appointing Joginder Nath Mandal as the new country’s law minister and Sir Zafar
Ullah Khan as its foreign minister.
But instead of following in the Quaid’s
footsteps, our politicians and government have passed discriminatory policies
and laws against them, under which they feel insecure and are living in fear.
Therefore, a large number of Hindus and
Christians continue to flee the country, the Anglo-Indian Christian community
has almost vanished from Lahore while Goans Christians continue to shrink in
Government institutions are openly pursuing
discriminatory policies and preaching hate against minorities, even forcing
them to do the least respected and most menial jobs. In recent years, I have
seen several discriminatory jobs adverts despite Pakistani Constitution’s
Article 27 providing safeguards against discrimination in services
We are a nation that is teaching and
promoting hatred and intolerance against non-Muslims (our own citizens) in our
school and colleges. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom
(USCIRF) published a detailed research report on this issue. Apart from
Pakistani minorities, several international organisations have expressed their
concerns. But it is all falling on deaf ears. Politicians who enter the
Parliament on reserved seats for religious minorities are widely considered
subservient to their national political party leadership.
For almost 25 years, minority communities
have been demanding dual voting rights and according to some reports, former
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had agreed to this suggestion. She also promised
to change the blasphemy law, but was ousted from power before she could fulfil
The blasphemy law is considered a root
cause of minorities’ persecution, and its misuse is widespread in the country.
Christians consider themselves targets of this law, demonstrated by several
churches being attacked and several Christian towns and villages, like
Sanglahill, Gojra, and Joseph Colony, being burnt. Early this month Christians
marked Gojra’s 8th anniversary where eight people were burnt alive. In the same
year a judicial inquiry report was prepared and submitted to the government by
Mr Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman. He made several recommendations to stop the
communal violence and chalked out certain objective guidelines for the
protection minority rights but all of that has remained in vain.
Forced conversion of Christian and Hindu
girls is another issue and several national NGOs have published detailed
reports on it. The media has also reported several cases but it does not seem
enough to attract the federal government’s attention. Even when the Sindh
assembly passed legislation to stop forced conversion, the governor refused to
sign the bill.
There is no doubt that minorities have been
suffering for decades. The government, politicians, and even the judiciary are
aware of the situation. In 2014, the Supreme Court ordered the establishment of
a task force for the protection of minorities, as well as a national commission
for minority rights. The order has yet to be implemented.
Several international organisations and
countries consider Pakistan a dangerous country for minorities and have raised
their concerns with our government.
The world has changed but we are still
trying to live in medieval times. Religious minorities see no future in
Pakistan. We need to change our political and social culture to ensure
equality, security and protection for our minorities. It is time to take
appropriate steps to make Pakistan progressive and enlightened as envisioned by
the founder Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
August 14, 2017
AS people in Pakistan and India celebrate
the 70th anniversary of their independence, they should spare a moment for
introspection. The story of their relations is largely a history of conflict,
war and acrimony. The traumatic circumstances of their independence still live
in memory as does, paradoxically, the resonance of shared culture and centuries
of common experience. There have been periods of calm and relative ease and
transactions of important consequence such as the treaty on sharing of waters.
Can they develop normal relations?
Personally, I have never served in India
and my interaction with my Indian counterparts was limited to a somewhat
tension-free period from February 2005 to April 2008. We had differences but
managed them, maintaining diplomatic courtesy. We were able to negotiate the
Delhi Declaration of April 2005 which affirmed that acts of terrorism would not
be allowed to “impede the peace process”. We prevented disruption of the
process after the Mumbai train blasts in July 2006. The November 2008 Mumbai
terrorist attacks, however, froze the dialogue. Surely, many of my colleagues
engaged with India in less salubrious circumstances.
Leaders in both capitals should not forget
that they are nursing tensions under a nuclear overhang.
Arguably, Kashmir lies at the heart of the
conflict between the two countries. It impacted Pakistan’s security perceptions
and policies, and aggravated mutual suspicion and distrust from the very first
day of the independence. Yet this dispute is essentially political, hence
resolvable. Historically, Pakistan’s position is based on UN resolutions which
have no intractable ideological underpinnings. Among the several bilateral
efforts to address the dispute, the last and the most sustained discussions
were carried out through a backchannel (2005-06) under president Musharraf and
prime minister Manmohan Singh. Importantly, the two sides tried to evolve a
text for an interim agreement towards a settlement of this longstanding
dispute. Considerable progress was achieved. Leaders of the All Parties
Hurriyat Conference were generally consulted except for Syed Ali Geelani who
had ab initio rejected the process.
The idea was simple: to work out an
understanding that protected the essential interests of the two countries and
ensured optimum freedom for the Kashmiris to be masters of their own affairs in
their sub-regions. If the 2007 judicial crisis in Pakistan had not intervened
and the effort had proceeded normally for another couple of years, it could
have reached a positive dénouement.
Sound proposals are on the table for the
other two, albeit minor, disputes, Siachen and Sir Creek. As far back as in
1987, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had agreed in principle to disengagement from
Siachen. The Indian Army leadership now rejects it. To preserve the fragile
ecosystem of the Himalayas and the Karakorams, it is important that this large
glacier be saved from the stress caused by constant military activity and
burning of energy.
I remember saying to my Indian
interlocutors that even if we know that there are rocks of gold underneath, the
ice of the glacier is more valuable and worthy of preservation through joint
monitoring. Similarly, the shallow waters of Sir Creek (area approx 75 square
kilometres) can be turned into a jointly managed sanctuary or nature park.
These theatres of conflict can be turned into cooperative arenas, setting a new
example of international collaboration.
All this now sounds like so much wishful
thinking. Relations between the two countries have hit a low point. When a
handful of militants attacked the Pathankot and Uri military bases, the Modi
government stalled all dialogue with Pakistan, blaming Pakistan-inspired
terrorism for the attacks. New Delhi conveniently ignores its own brutal
repression of the stone-throwing Kashmiri youth uprising, which began last year
in a continuation of three generations of Kashmiri rejection of the Indian
control in the Valley.
Buoyed by a Hindu nationalist wave and
stirrings of a resurgent India, Prime Minister Modi and BJP hardliners think
they can isolate Pakistan and insist on a dialogue on their terms only.
Pakistan can also hold back. It has its own challenges to address and can wait
for Delhi to adopt a reasonable course. However, leaders in both capitals should
not forget that they are nursing tensions under a nuclear overhang. And the
threat is growing.
South Asia changed when both Pakistan and
India demonstratively crossed the nuclear threshold in May 1998. The two
countries are now obliged to maintain a responsible deterrence which first and
foremost depends on a modicum of confidence building. Institutional measures
and dialogue are indispensible to addressing crises to avert catastrophe.
Dialogue opens up new avenues of cooperation; its absence is risky. In addition
to multi-layered communication, periodic highest-level contacts are invaluable
in the interest of peace. A nuclear exchange should simply remain unthinkable.
It is incumbent on the two countries to
abandon dangerous doctrines such as the Cold Start and Pakistan’s riposte with
miniaturisation of nuclear weapons. Ideas contingent on an autopilot escalation
from a terrorist attack to a blitzkrieg to use of nuclear weapons defy sanity.
Diplomacy and crisis management must interject every point of this trajectory.
The two countries had sensibly embraced the concept of minimum credible
deterrence and that sufficed as the central principle of their defence. In a
situation of spiralling tension, the media is a wild card. It should desist
from fuelling fires. Much too much is at stake.
Global power balance is in a flux with the
rise of China and the reassertion of Russia. US primacy feels challenged. India
aspires to great power status. This may be so, but these tectonic shifts are
not necessarily heading towards a confrontation. The Middle East offers lessons
to other regions. In this changing scenario, Pakistan retains importance,
strength, relationships and options, regionally and globally.
The two countries are not locked into
perennial hostility. Regardless of how we interpret the two-nation theory, I am
among those who cannot accept Pakistan as a mere antithesis of India. Pakistan
has its distinct persona, its unique history and its positive aspirations.
Looking at Pakistan and India in this 70th year of their independence, I see
‘two sacred rivers’ sharing the same source and moving in opposite directions;
yet they belong to the same subcontinent and will continue to flow forever.
71 years ago in Hoshiarpur, a city in
Punjab fabled for mango groves and micro fortresses manned by Pathans, my
teenage grandfather sat in the courtyard to catch the evening breeze. He had
chosen to skip dinner, a privilege extended to the youngest child in any home.
What’s the harm he thought, especially since his father always said, “You boys
can be wakhray (scattered) at dinner so long as you’re akhatay (together) in
battle.” A year later, that young man received a phone call in Saudi Arabia
informing him that everyone present on that dinner table is dead.
Women, children, everyone — all dead. The
house where part of the family made their last stand was later referred to as
Khoon Haveli or Blood Mansion. Many of us are unaware that the partition was
never supposed to happen in 1947. It was actually scheduled for 1948. It
happened prematurely. As a result, people of Hoshiarpur and many others on both
sides suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of the new border. They had
to leave everything; their homes, their lands, their lives and migrate to their
assigned nation. 1.2 million such people never made it to Pakistan. To this day
they remain missing.
Should we celebrate a day on which millions
were killed, pillaged and displaced? The answer is of course yes. We do not
celebrate the tragedy, we honour it with remembrance. We remind ourselves what
all this bloodshed and effort was for. We allocate a day to study and teach the
next generation how their nation gained independence. We show the world with
our mighty military parade how our nation will remain independent. Flags are
flung. Anthems are sung. Statuses are updated and display pictures posted.
Then comes the 15th of August. Like an
ambitious new years resolution, our patriotism evaporates. Seventy years ago,
imagine what our forefathers felt on the 15th of August. They had an entire
nation to console, heal, inspire and lead. They had to make dams, buildings,
roads. They had to write books. They had to fortify their boarders and brawl
with a neighbour five times bigger. They didn’t get everything perfect but they
must be commended for taking up the massive task.
70 long years later, many of those problems
are still relevant along with some new ones. That’s because nations cannot be
built in a day. If they could then our forefathers should have retired on the
15th. Building nations is a constant process.
When I speak to my elders, they say that
Pakistan on the 15th was full of zeal and anxious to get to work. They were
invigorated to make Pakistan a great nation. For a long time, it certainly was.
Along the way much happened. Mistakes were made. We had questionable
dictatorships and bad governance. Our citizens started getting killed at the
hands of religious extremism, sectarianism, ethnic and partisan divisions. We
forgot why we are here. We forgot what it means to be a Pakistani. Instead we
started associating with our tribes and provinces, or by our political parties
and religious affiliations. That must stop. Before anything, we are Pakistanis.
We are members of a nation whose foundational ideals must transcend all this if
we are to improve the state of affairs.
Should we celebrate a day on which millions
were killed, pillaged and displaced? The answer is that we don’t celebrate the
tragedy but we honour its memory
We must take pride in being Pakistanis. I
understand this nation is full of all sorts of people but we breathe the same
air and share the same soil. I understand we are a young nation but we are a
very old civilisation. I understand religion is a top priority for many people,
but almost nothing in Pakistan’s noble ethos is incompatible with any religion.
If anything, today’s mutated religions are in direct contradictions of their
Our forefathers did everything they could;
they gave us a home, protection and a vision. The rest is up to us. If we are
to improve things, we have to first start with unity. You as a person and we as
a community need to band together as one to stop hate mongering and the
influence of ignorant groups. They do nothing except turn Pakistan exactly into
the kind of place that our forefathers fought to leave. Secondly we have to
give precedence to the next batch. We are home to one of the world’s largest
population of young peoples. They need education from schools. Those schools
need trained teachers and a constructive curriculum.
Pakistan is meant to be a prosperous nation
— a sanctuary for the weak and persecuted. A bastion for the best of Islam. A nation
that protects its lush forests and beautiful glaciers. That cares for its
citizens and nurtures its youth. We have our differences every family does but
our fates are intertwined. We can eat wakhray but we need to battle, build, and
blossom akhatay. Remember August 14th is a holiday but the 15th of August
isn’t, so get up and get to work to make Pakistan proud.
When a young child is orphaned in Punjab,
it is a common practice to tell her that the parent has gone to Hajj and will
be back one day. My PML-N friends’ hoping that Nawaz Sharif would return from
his exile in Saudi Arabia appeared to me like such innocent children, nursing
an ultimate false hope. But Nawaz Sharif did return from the valley of death to
reclaim his empire. To use a Seraiki proverb, the ashes returned from the
This time, he has not gone to Hajj, but he
is not at home either. He is on the streets and a street is a liminal space, a
place full of risks and prospects. For him, it is the best of times and the
worst of times; the season of darkness and the spring of hope. In his fist he
holds the best of both the worlds and the worst of both the worlds.
He has been hunted down and yet he is
ruling the country. He has been maligned more than chiefs of terror syndicates
who have slaughtered thousands, and yet he is a darling of millions of people,
the most popular leader of the country till a new scientific survey, or an
election – the ultimate test of popularity – proves us wrong. In one hand he
holds the sceptre of power and in the other, the flag of resistance.
The birthplace of new possibilities lies in
the world of contradictions. Nawaz Sharif has landed in such a world, taking
Pakistan’s politics with him. Any wise old man can tell you that this situation
makes him very dangerous, not only to his foes, but to his many friends as
well. Foes you can understand, as far as friends, ask Chaudhry Nisar Ali.
For four years, we heard the chant ‘Go
Nawaz Go’. Now he is gone and yet he is present more than ever. Behind the Go
Nawaz Go politics of Imran Khan were two simple assumptions. First assumption:
if Nawaz Sharif stayed in power till the end, the PTI will not be able to win
elections in 2018. Imran Khan had expressed this assumption on many occasions
and it carries a lot of weight. Any party that was ousted un-ceremonially from
power was unable to win at least one election following the ouster. We can
theorise about the reasons but this is what history tells us.
The second assumption is linked to the
first and it can be summed up in these words: If the umpire raises his finger,
the fingers of the people of Pakistan will also go up in the air
simultaneously. Now this is a tricky assumption. The logical link between the
two does not exist. In fact, there is a clear negative co-relation due to the
relation of distrust between the people and the state. Bhutto did not die in
Punjab till Zardari did his magic and Nawaz Sharif may not be harmed till
Captain Safdar takes charge of the PML-N.
Behind such resilience lies a narrative of
the people’s rights. Nawaz Sharif has made this narrative the battle cry of his
recent campaign. While the PTI sticks to its narrative of corruption, the PML-N
has made a leap from the narrative of development to the narrative of the
people’s right to rule. This is an invincible narrative. No one has been able
to withstand the power of this narrative. It has put the PTI in an unenviable
position of defending the state. That exposes it as a force for the status quo
and a proxy for the establishment.
There are glaring holes in this narrative
in the current situation. Pakistan’s politics is in such a mess because the
political elites lack a consensus. One reason for this situation lies in the
fact that Imran Khan does not consider himself a politician and his followers
agree because, in their opinion, he does not even belong to this earth. But the
PML-N has played no small role toward weakening the democratic consensus
through its acts of omission and commission. During the last four, it hardly
did anything to strengthen democracy or democratic institutions.
In fact, the PPP was able to do a lot
better. During the period of the thirteenth parliament (2008-2013), parliament
emerged as a strong institution and it passed more legislation than any other
in Pakistan’s recent history. Only the 1973 parliament, which passed the
current constitution of Pakistan, passed more bills than the 13th parliament.
Nawaz Sharif did go along with Benazir and
the PPP in signing the Charter of Democracy and adopting the 18th Amendment to
the constitution. However, it was a troublesome partner in the process.
According to various reports, the PML-N resisted changed to Articles 62 and 63
in the committee that gave shape to the 18th Amendment.
During the current tenure of the Muslim
League, parliament was put on the backburner as the two most popular leaders,
Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, showed no regard for the institution. While Imran
Khan did his best to humiliate the mother of all institutions, Nawaz Sharif
made no effort to strengthen it. He ran a parliamentary system on the style of
a presidential system.
But narratives do not go into such details.
Nawaz Sharif is out on the street and he has a story to tell. Both the story
and the story teller carry a huge appeal to the audience. Since the
assassination of Benazir Bhutto, politics in Punjab, and to some extent in KP,
has been defined by the pro-Nawaz and anti-Nawaz sentiment. Imran Khan owes a
good part of his appeal to his success in attracting the segment of the vote
bank in Punjab that had lost a credible leader due to Benazir’s assassination.
It appears that the PTI had calculated that
Nawaz Sharif would land in Adiala Jail or he would spend the rest of his life
at the Ittefaq Mosque praying for his forgiveness from the Almighty. Instead,
the disqualification has sent him back to his support base – which he has built
over thirty years. For four years, he behaved like a mild-mannered grandfather
facing a street bully. But the disqualification has resurrected the old Nawaz
Sharif. It has reawakened the killer instinct in him. He appears angrier than
perennially angry Imran Khan.
In electoral terms, Nawaz Sharif’s
challenge is to keep his support base intact and ensure the loyalty of his
voters. Imran Khan, on the other hand, needs to substantially increase if not
simply double his vote bank to get into the PM House.
The rally shows that it was easier to deal
with the Nawaz Sharif tied to the lamp post of the Prime Ministerial office. It
is far more difficult to deal with a Nawaz Sharif on the loose. By facilitating
his ouster, Imran Khan might have committed the worst blunder of his political
career. It may have granted Nawaz another life.
Nawaz Sharif may not become the prime
minister again. He may not even like to take the post again. However, there is
enough fire left in him to consume the political ambitions of his arch-rival. I
have never voted for Nawaz Sharif and now that I have lost my chance to send
him to the Prime Minister House, I find this flutter in my heart. This man is a
magician, isn’t he?
This August, we look back 70 years towards
the partition of India – essentially the vivisection of Punjab and Bengal.
Bengal, of course, had been partitioned earlier while the prosperous and
thriving province of Punjab – where different communities coexisted peacefully
– underwent a traumatic division in 1947.
Today, there is a frenzied effort to record
the oral histories of the few remaining survivors and research this historic
event. For too long, the study of Partition was confined to the politics of the
two states while the human aspect of the event was glossed over. Over the past
two decades, a number of scholars have sought to rectify this aberration and
some seminal work has focused on the experiences of individuals on either side.
Among the efforts that stand out is the
1947 Partition Archive spearheaded by Guneeta Singh Bhalla, who is based in the
US. This oral history project is a compilation of over 4,000 stories of
Another commendable effort is the Partition
Museum in Amritsar which opened in October last year. Initiated by Kishwar
Desai, the museum contains artefacts, stories and recordings of survivors and
will be formally inaugurated on August 17, 2017 by the chief minister of Indian
Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh. In his previous tenure, Captain Singh played a
stellar role in promoting cultural and economic ties between both Punjabs. The
presence of his counterpart, the chief minister of Punjab in Pakistan, would
have made the occasion truly historic.
Partition has been a significant part of my
persona as a child of two families who were affected by the division of India
as well as a historian. I can recollect my response to the very mention of
Partition or Lahore from my parents and grandparents: “Here we go again!” or
Like most Punjabis, my entire family had
been affected by Partition and bore the indelible scars of that angst. For
children, it was impossible to fathom the nostalgia their elders felt for the
lost homes that they left behind. For us, my grandmother’s habit of comparing
everything to Lahore and her nostalgia about her palatial new home that she had
walked out of, was monotonous.
My cousins would ridicule the oldies who,
on their morning walks, would talk endlessly about Lahore. “What else will they
discuss but Lahore?” one cousin scoffed. Years later, I saw a group of Lahoris
at the India International Centre, New Delhi, who reminisced about their Lahore
days together. Pran Nevile, the author of ‘Lahore: A Sentimental Journey’
(Penguin, 1993) is part of this group.
As I grew up and developed an interest in
Partition and interacted with scholars from overseas, I began to empathise with
the nostalgia and pathos felt by my parents and in-laws. As an army officer, my
father had been in charge of the evacuation of refugees across the border. I
realised that I had long been ignoring these priceless sources of oral history
in my own home. Meanwhile, in my capacity as a historian, I began to realise
that our textbooks tend to relegate the other story of August 1947: the painful
and traumatic partition.
Gradually, I began to interview and record
my father’s recollections. As for my in-laws, their amazing story of being
engaged, then losing touch with each other in the chaos of Partition and then
coincidentally meeting again at a refugee camp after Partition has been covered
by the global media. Their belongings, which they carried across the border,
are the only concrete receptacle of the painful episode.
I must credit my younger son, Tridivesh
Singh Maini, who was a shade better than me. Growing up, he viewed his
grandparents as raconteurs affected by the moving sagas of Partition. He
co-authored a book, ‘Humanity Amidst Insanity: Hope During and after the
Indo-Pak Partition’ (2009), with two Pakistani journalists, Tahir Malik and Ali
Farooq Malik, that highlighted acts of Muslims rescuing non-Muslims and vice
versa. These were miniscule streaks of humanity in this phase of barbaric
For me, the best part of the entire saga
was that I took my parents back to their roots in Lahore. They gained closure
as they experienced the warmth and bonhomie of the people who now lived in
their abandoned utopia. And the two objects that my in-laws carried across the
border – an embroidered coat and a leather briefcase – are now on display at
the Partition Museum in Amritsar for the purposes of posterity.
Hopefully, future generations will draw
lessons from this painful episode that had a tumultuous impact on innumerable
lives. Both countries should heed the sagacious advice of former Indian prime
minister Dr Manmohan Singh and make our borders more porous rather than making
a spectacle of ourselves through jingoistic heckling on the Wagah border.
The blatant disregard for human rights by
the Indian armed forces in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is evil. Through their
most recent actions, the Indian Army demonstrated that there is institutional
support with the promise of reward and not punishment for their troops on the
ground in AJK to torture, abuse and murder the local population.
In April 2010, the Indian Army claimed that
it had killed three Pakistani militants in Machil Sector near the Line of
Control (LoC). Those claims later proved to be false as the three men killed
were identified as locals who had nothing to do with any kind of militancy.
After a massive outcry from the public and
the death of more than 100 people in large-scale protests across AJK that
summer, the Indian military initiated an investigation and the five Indian army
men accused of the fake encounter were court martialled in 2014. Last month, on
July 27, an Indian military court suspended their life sentence.
In a desperate plea to the Indian
government, the families of the victims responded to the suspension by
demanding justice. The families of the victims said: “If the soldiers who
killed our loved ones in Machil are let off, then please just hang us”.
Although it seems highly unlikely, the families hope that the Indian government
will hear their appeal and force the military tribunal to change their minds.
The decision is not surprising because it
is in line with a growing effort by the Indian Army to encourage and reward
their soldiers for committing heinous atrocities against the people of Kashmir.
This is part of a larger strategy to suppress the Kashmiri voice and their
right to self-determination.
According to Srinagar-based human rights
lawyer, Parvez Imroze, the Indian armed forces have killed more than 70,000
civilians over the past three decades, with more than 8,000 forced abductions
and thousands of reported cases of torture and rape. But not a single lawsuit
has been brought against the military.
Riyaz Wani, a seasoned journalist based in
AJK, said: “It was the first time in the past three decades that a sentence was
pronounced against army personnel in a fake encounter or human right violation
case. But [through] the kind of verdict that has come now, the message is clear
that the army is free to do anything here. The government has their back”.
In April, an Indian Army major physically
tortured and tied a young man to the hood of his military jeep and drove him
around different villages as a warning to those who dared to defy India’s rule
in AJK. The disturbing images went viral on social media and even prompted an
article in The New York Times, in which the major’s actions were harshly
criticised. The young man, Farooq Ahmad Dar, was so afraid after the ordeal of
being kidnapped and tortured again that he feared going to the doctor for his
injuries. Following this horrific event, the major, instead of being punished,
received a promotion and an award for gallantry by the Indian army chief, who
justified his disturbing behaviour to the media.
Owing to these incidents, there is massive
mistrust regarding the actions of the Indian government and army and it is only
getting worse. For example, a large percentage of Kashmiris had, in the past,
shown their willingness to participate in elections. But this year, there was
barely a six-percent turnout and elections could not be held.
Due to the growing number of civilian
deaths, international human rights organisations – such as Human Rights Watch
and Amnesty International – have urged the Indian government to investigate the
army and the police’s use of illegal and often lethal force.
The numerous requests have been ignored. In
fact, the Indian government has forced some human rights organisations to shut
down their offices in India by claiming that they are working against the
The impunity enjoyed by Indian Army
personnel is by design. There is a legal framework that grants them exemption
from prosecution. Legal immunity is granted because of the Armed Forces Special
Powers Act (AFSPA). Ironically, it is the same type of law that has enabled the
British to use military force to suppress the Quit India Movement – a movement
aimed at demanding an end to the British rule in India.
The AFSPA has been long targeted by Amnesty
International. In 2015, the organisation said: “Impunity is a long-standing
problem in Jammu and Kashmir and that the lack of political will to account for
past and present actions of the security forces, including the state police, is
fortified by legislation and aggravated by other obstacles to justice”.
There is a shared responsibility among all
international states and institutions to apply pressure on the Indian
government and military to put an end to the inhumanity with which they have
treated the Kashmiri population. The people of AJK are looking to the
international community as their last and only hope and we must not fail them.
With his Grand Trunk Road push, Nawaz
Sharif has entered into a now or never phase. He has said pretty much what he
had to say, even though the details of what transpired between him and members of the powers that be – ie
the establishment – at crucial points in his shortened tenure remain to be
shared fully with the public.
He has not named names directly (not all of
them) and has remained behind the red line of attacking specific individuals.
He has also not spilled the secrets that he claims are in his heart about the
motives behind the plots he says had been hatched throughout his tenure. He
does point to three events however when he mentions the “large conspiracy” to
undo his premiership: the rigging Dharna, Dawnleaks and then finally how the
Panama leaks were turned into (in his view) a get-Nawaz operation. Who did it
and what happened in these episodes are things he has
kept under wraps.
What is clear, however, is that during his
premiership he did show a remarkable ability to keep totally quiet even when he
believed, observed or witnessed attempts aimed at reducing his office to the
level of a besieged island. It was this remarkable ability and nothing else
that kept him in power for four unremarkable years. He understood well at that
time that opening his mouth could lead to opening the exit door for him. Or at
least this is what he gambled on. Just as clear, however, is that the gamble
failed. Listening to his narrative of four years of conspiracies makes one
wonder if keeping quiet about all these alleged unconstitutional moves when
they were taking place was good strategy. It wasn’t. The sacred mandate that he
is crying oceans on now should have been protected when he felt that it was
under attack and was being violated. He should have risen to the occasion and
showed the leadership that he now speaks of. That might have incurred costs
then but those costs would have been much smaller than the one that he ended up
paying eventually – disqualification and ouster.
Put differently, Nawaz Sharif’s judgment
call on the ‘conspiracies’ when they were supposedly unfolding was poor. And if
the conspiracies against him were taking place one after the other, as he
claims, his judgment call in response to these events was repeatedly poor and
This raises the fundamental question about
his present judgment call to up the ante and take the battle to the next level.
He is doing it by speaking about the circumstances of his eviction from power
and then building the case that in Pakistan no civilian prime minister is free
from the reins of power imbalance between the civil and military relations.
Just as crucial is his mantra that unless this imbalance is corrected in favour
of elected governments decisively, the country will not move forward. Is this a
good judgment call from him? Or is it too much too late – to change the phrase
according to Nawaz Sharif’s circumstances. Is he picking a fight that he cannot
win just as he did not pick a fight when he could have won?
Nawaz Sharif’s camp is enthused by the
response that he got from the people and as importantly from his party cadres
in the heartland of his power-base. They believe that this has shown that the
anti-Nawaz narrative – of corruption – has not stuck as far as their vote-bank
is concerned. While this may be reassuring to the party, this does very little
for the person of Nawaz Sharif and his own politics that has been cut off
because of his disqualification. Nor does this do anything to the cases that
NAB’s courts will hear under the tight supervision of the very judge(s) who
have administered bitter and controversial justice to him.
It is a brave argument to say that Nawaz
Sharif is not raising pointed questions about the manipulation of the political
system by non-elected forces for his own self, his political ouster through
disqualification does put a formidable limit on his ability to carry forward
his agenda of ‘reforming the system’. To make it more understandable, things he
could not – or did not – do to reform the system when he had all the power and
influence will obviously be even harder to do when he has lost that power.
Can he get his disqualification reversed
through the courts? Very unlikely. Can he get parliament to pass a law that
neutralises the impact of this disqualification? Very difficult. What can he
practically do to carry forward what he has championed throughout his GT Road
march? He can use his centrality to the party and the loyalty of his key
members to work on a legislative agenda and constitutional amendments that curb
judicial activism and make it harder for strings to be pulled from behind the
scenes. But this will depend on the support from other parties, the PPP to be
more precise, which itself will require a grand bargain. Can Nawaz Sharif
sitting outside parliament underwrite that grand bargain? This will be a very
hard walk for him.
Moreover, the more he pushes the narrative
that the power and hold of non-elected elements in the system needs to be
curbed and neutralised the more he raises the stakes against his return and
acceptability. Popularity and centrality are double-edged swords. They cut both
ways. The more popular you become, the greater is the effort to demolish you.
The more central you are to the success and failure of any scheme, the harder
the attempt to destroy you.
It is obvious to any neutral observer why
Tahirul Qadri has been brought back after a hiatus of a year and half. His
rants are direct threats just as suggestions of Nawaz and family rotting in
jail and losing their property and wealth from the likes of Babar Awan and
Shaikh Rashid are signals that Nawaz Sharif’s new found desire to be a martyr
will actually make him one – without, of course, the rewards of a martyr.
The media onslaught – one among many other
such channels openly calls him murderer, killer, agent of India and recommends
not so between the lines and almost daily that he should hang by the highest
pole – against him has increased both in volume and in viciousness. There are
clear moves and messages that if he continues to roll on the same path, his
party will be torn apart and he will be permanently erased from the political
map. Dead men lead no protests. Those who lose their parties lead no marches.
For now, Nawaz Sharif is on a high and
considers these signs as mere bluffs that he can neutralise and deal with his
vast majority in Punjab and his own government at the centre. But as time
passes he will have to create a workable agenda for himself that is not just a
mix of slogans, chants and catharsis. Sitting outside parliament and imagining
himself to be in a position of power to direct the destiny of the political
system sounds romantic, but it is cut off from political realism. Nawaz Sharif
has come from the Grand Trunk Road roaring, threatening, promising, imagining.
The path ahead, however, is littered with blocks of practical politics.
If Nawaz Sharif does not have a realistic
plan to overcome these impediments, he might find himself standing the middle
of a Grand Trump Road, on which all his aspirations and desires are trumped by
the forces he showed no wisdom in dealing with when he was in the PM House.