ndsharma's blog

Pakistan — acronym becomes country!

Posted on: December 19, 2016

PAKISTAN is an acronym coined by a Punjabi Muslim student, Choudhary Rehmat Ali, at Cambridge University in 1933. It stands for Punjab, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan and literally means the land of the pure. What was a mere ‘place-making exercise’ among students led in 1947 to the ‘moth-eaten Pakistan’ as Mohammad Ali Jinnah had reportedly described it while accepting a division of the provinces of Punjab and Bengal as part of the partition plan.

This interesting observation has been made by Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar in her book ‘The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia’. Assistant Professor of History at Brown University (United States), Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar says in her introductory remarks that for the preparation of the book she travelled to many different countries across three continents. ‘As I crisscrossed the map of the world, I became acutely aware of my privileges as a scholar, and the extraordinary generosity of family friends, and strangers that have enabled and sustained sometime seemingly impossible border-crossings.’

The book has interviews with people on both sides of the border who had been actively involved in the post-Partition happenings either as refugees or as officials. Cartoons reproduced from Urdu newspapers of Pakistan on the contemporary developments occasionally enliven the otherwise serious narration.

When the All India Muslim League invoked ‘Pakistan’, it did so on behalf of a nation of ‘Muslims’, even though many Muslims did not support the Pakistan movement, and yet others would be simply left out of a state drawn from regions where Muslims formed an enumerated majority. Those who did support the Pakistan movement included Muslims of regions like Delhi and Uttar Pradesh who could not be part of its territorial claims.

After the Muslim League and Indian National Congress agreed to the denouement of partition and transfer of power to two territorial distinct post-colonial states, nation as community had to be transformed into nation as citizens of two states. This did not come out without attendant questions: where did Hindus and Sikhs belong who resided in the territory now Pakistan? Did they belong to Indian nation or become citizens of Pakistan? And where did Muslims belong who resided in the territory now India? Could they be citizens of India and yet part of an imagined Pakistan nation?

Delhi and Karachi became the two capitals of the post-independence states. Although the two were ‘dramatically different’ before independence’, it is Partition itself that binds them together. Zamindar quotes ‘colonial census of 1941’ to point out that Delhi had Muslim minority population of 33.22 per cent, while Karachi had a Hindu population of 47.6 per cent. ‘Although the enumerative power of the colonial census is unmistakable, it does not capture the enormous cultural significance these religious communities had for the two cities. Delhi has been described as an ‘Indo-Islamic city’ since it was the seat of power for Delhi sultanates and various Mughal rulers. Karachi, in comparison, had been a small, sleepy port city that served the Sind hinterland, and was largely tied to Bombay and the Malabar Coast for its mercantile links.

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Value of propaganda

Adolf Hitler believed in the use of propaganda as an integral element to seizing and holding on to political power. His maxim was 'the bigger the lie, the more easily it will be believed, provided it is repeated vigorously and often enough'. (Sean Murphy in his book 'Letting the Side Down')

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