Fu­ture in a Box

Ti­tle: Au­thor: Pub­lisher: Pages: Price: ISBN-10: ISBN-13: Tin­der­box: The Past and fu­ture of Pak­istan M.J. Ak­bar Harper Collins, In­dia (Jan­uary 11, 2011) 341 pages, Hard­back PKR.995 9350290391 978-9350290392

Southasia - - Book review - Re­viewed by Bri­gadier A.R. Sid­diqi

M. J. Ak­bar’s ‘Tin­der­box: the Past and Fu­ture of Pak­istan’ makes fas­ci­nat­ing read­ing clouded over by a sub­stan­tial amount of the weird or a sort of a con­scious ef­fort to leave the reader won­der­ing about the fu­ture of the ‘Tin­der­box’ of the sub-con­ti­nent as a whole.

The dic­tio­nary de­fines Tin­der­box as ‘dry in­flammable ma­te­rial es­pe­cially used for kin­dling fire from a spark.’ What an ar­ray of tin­der­boxes would do is too fear­some to imag­ine.

Mani Shankar Aiyar’s sub­sti­tute ‘Ten­der­box’ in his marathon 8,000 odd word re­view, is more hon­eyed than a sober cri­tique would per­mit.

Ex­plod­ing in the West ‘Tin­der­box’ would en­gulf the East in its fierce blaze of hell­fire.

As for the subti­tle ‘The Past and Fu­ture of Pak­istan’, Pak­istan’s past dates back only to 14 Au­gust 1947. Prior to that, it had been wholly In­dia’s.

The Khiljis (1288-1320), Tugh­laqs (1320-1413), Sayyids (1434-1451), Lodhi’s (1451-1526), Suri’s (1540-1556) and Mughals (1526-40) and (15561857) – Mus­lim in­vaders and em­pire builders came to In­dia to rule.

Amongst their many ex­cesses as con­querors what stands out to their eter­nal credit is that they never dreamt of chang­ing the name and style of In­dia. In­stead, they loved and made Hin­dus­tan their cher­ished home­land.

Above all, rather than im­pos­ing their own cava­lier way of life and cul­ture they en­riched In­dia’s by fus­ing the two into an or­ganic whole.

M.J.’s some­what un­war­ranted pos­tu­late that ‘a strange alchemy of past su­pe­ri­or­ity and fu­ture in­se­cu­rity shaped the dream of a sep­a­rate Mus­lim (Pak­istan) state in In­dia,’ makes lit­tle sense.

What was there to stop the ab­so­lute rulers - Sul­tans and Em­per­ors of In­dia - to re­strict them to the ‘dream’ of a ‘sep­a­rate’ and ‘moth-eaten’ Mus­lim state at all? Even Sir Sayyed, a ded­i­cated In­dian-turned-Mus­lim ‘na­tion­al­ist’, af­ter the emer­gence of the In­dian Na­tional Congress (1885), would have dis­missed with con­tempt any thought of phys­i­cal par­ti­tion of his dear home­land.

As the mav­er­ick Ni­rad Babu (Di­ary of an Un­known In­dian, Con­ti­nent of Circe, etc.) would put in his own inim­itable words, par­ti­tion was made ‘pos­si­ble by a com­bi­na­tion of three fac­tors – Hindu stu­pid­ity in the first in­stance and Hindu cow­ardice af­ter­ward, Bri­tish op­por­tunism and Mus­lim fa­nati­cism.

The end re­sult (Par­ti­tion) there­fore fol­lowed a long and vi­cious chain of mis­placed pri­or­i­ties and mu­tu­ally con­flict­ing vi­sions. The post-Plessey (1747) and Bax­ter (1764) wars found the Mus­lim rulers – even if in name only – sur­ren­der­ing their ‘au­thor­ity’ to the Bri­tish trades­men as Hin­dus stood by the Bri­tish. Un­like the Mus­lims, the Hin­dus had ac­cepted the Bri­tish as their nat­u­ral al­lies or part­ners in their quest for an in­de­pen­dent In­dia un­der an ab­so­lute Hindu ma­jor­ity.

The ed­u­cated Kolkata Bengali would get rid of the Mus­lim Raj or, what­ever was left of it, be­fore throw­ing the Bri­tish out.

Bankan­chan­dra Chat­terji, cre­ator of ‘ Yande Ma­tram’ In­dia’s prepar­ti­tion na­tional an­them, in his fa­mous novel An­nand­math ( Path of Peace) would want the English to

stay on to help them get rid of the Mus­lims first.

The Hindu rage against thou­sand years of Mus­lim rule and ma­raud­ing for­ays, pit­ted against the Mus­lim dream to re­turn to the an­cient glory, fer­til­ized the poi­sonous ivy and its com­mu­nal­ism.

From the Wa­habi Sayyid Ahmed of Rai Bareli (born 1786) to Sir Sayyid, In­dian Mus­lims had been on the fore­front of the free­dom strug­gle against the Bri­tish. Si­ra­jud Daulah of Ben­gal and Tipu Sul­tan of Mysore died fight­ing against the Bri­tish at Plessey in 1757 and Sri­rang­pt­nam in 1799.

Sayyid Ahmed and his friend and fel­low scholar Shah Is­mail trav­eled all the way from their na­tive Rai Bareli to the North-West Fron­tier to wage a ji­had to lib­er­ate the Mus­lims from the Sikh stran­gle­hold. Both were be­trayed by their fel­low Mus­lims and met their mar­tyr­dom in ac­tion in 1830.

Sir Henry Lawrence, Gov­er­nor of Pun­jab de­scribed the Wa­habi in­doc­tri­nated war­riors as ‘Ghozat or Mu­jahideen’ (Ghazi or holy war­riors). The Wa­habis were in­spired by the teach­ings of Mo­ham­mad Bin Ab­dul Wa­hab (1703-92) a rad­i­cal Is­lamic clerk of Ara­bia.

His rad­i­cal­ism com­bined with the sword of Ab­dul Aziz bin Saud (1764-1803) em­barked on their Jihadi mis­sion and never looked back. The emer­gence of Saudi Ara­bia was the cul­mi­na­tion of Ab­dul Wa­hab schol­ar­ship and Ab­dul Aziz’s scim­i­tar.

His­to­rian, Sir Al­fred Lay­all wrote: ‘the Mus­salmans of In­dia are, and have been for many years, a source of chronic dan­ger to the Bri­tish power in In­dia.’ A sub­stan­tive state­ment to prove that the Mus­lim Jihadi strug­gle had been against the Bri­tish only and not against the Hin­dus. The an­tiHindu as­pect of the Jihadi strug­gle wormed in only af­ter the failed 1857 Up­ris­ing, the last fa­tal blow to the mori­bund Mughal Em­pire.

Lay­all would still ar­gue that the ‘fa­nat­ics’ (all Mus­lims) had en­gaged in sedi­tion long be­fore 1857… and de­lib­er­at­ing on their obli­ga­tion to rebel.’

But for the deep Hindu dis­trust of the Mus­lims as aliens, a united na­tion­al­ist front against the Bri­tish, grab­bing In­dia in the grab of mer­chants, could not be formed.

M.J. in­vokes the The­ory of Dis­tance at­tribut­ing it to Shah Wal­i­ul­lah (1703-62) to il­lus­trate the Mus­lim ‘dis­trust of Hin­dus’ as some­thing ‘fun­da­men­tal’ to the Mus­lim mind? He would want the Mus­lims to keep their dis­tance from the Hin­dus.

If there was any­thing at all like the The­ory of Dis­tance, it cut both ways, Hin­dus would treats Mus­lims as malichas - un­touch­ables - re­fus­ing to eat or drink from the same ves­sel.

A cen­tury later, Sir Sayyad would carry Wal­i­ul­lah’s the­ory defin­ing Mus­lims as a ‘sep­a­rate nation’. In 1906, about eight years af­ter the death of Sir Sayyad the Mus­lim League would seek its own po­lit­i­cal and even­tu­ally ge­o­graph­i­cal space’ at its in­au­gu­ral session in Dhaka.

M. J. goes on to dis­cuss, at length the role of the lead­ers in the van­guard of the free­dom move­ment, Gandhi, Jin­nah, the fa­ther-and-son Nehrus, Moti Lal and Jawa­har­lal, the Ali Brothers Shaukat and Mo­ham­mad Ali, Dr. An­sari and Aj­mal Khan on the side­lines each as a true son of the soil. But the man who stands out un­wa­ver­ingly com­mit­ted to In­dia – its ter­ri­to­rial one­ness and sanc­tity re­mains Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. A pa­triot above all pol­i­tics – per­sonal or par­ti­san. Warn­ing against the ‘ evil con­se­quences of Par­ti­tion,’ he said, ‘ An en­tity con­ceived in ha­tred shall last only as long as that ha­tred lasts…’

Nehru re­placed Azad as the Congress Pres­i­dent in June, 1946 to re­verse the ac­cep­tance of the Bri­tish Cabi­net Mis­sion Plan for a united In­dia. On 7th July, Nehru, de­clared: ‘We are not bound by a sin­gle thing (em­pha­sis added) ex­cept that we have de­cided to go to the con­stituent Assem­bly un­fret­ted by the terms and con­di­tions, of the Plan.’ Nehru’s fa­tal blun­der gave Jin­nah rea­son enough to with­draw the ac­cep­tance of the Plan by the Mus­lim League.

While with­draw­ing the ac­cep­tance he or­dered his ‘Di­rect Ac­tion’ to achieve Pak­istan by any means nec­es­sary.

M.J.’s la­bel­ing of the Ja­maat-e-Is­lami founder and su­per­mom Maulana Abul Aala Maududi as ‘god Fa­ther’ is bizarre. Maududi with all his politi­coide­o­log­i­cal com­mit­ment to es­tab­lish­ing an Is­lamic state in Pak­istan was es­sen­tially a man of peace.

His role in Pak­istan’s pol­i­tics had been an un­bro­ken tale of woe. His party failed even in the first pro­vin­cial elec­tions in the Pun­jab in 1951.

Two years later at a party con­clave in Mac­chi Goth, he failed to make a case for the party’s shift from its doc­tri­nal base to prac­ti­cal pol­i­tics. In con­se­quence his deputy Maulana Amin Saleh Is­lahi quit the party.

Thence­for­ward, Maududi and his Ja­maat con­tin­ued to lose their po­lit­i­cal clout and erode that vote bank. To­day the Ja­maat clings to re­alpoli­tik only by skin of its teeth.

What M.J. must re­al­ize is that In­dia and Pak­istan are trapped in the same box. The two must join forces to over­come the evil legacy of Par­ti­tion with­out dis­turb­ing the con­sti­tu­tional fab­ric of Pak­istan as an in­de­pen­dent state. The re­viewer is an em­i­nent re­gional se­cu­rity ex­pert, a de­fense an­a­lyst and for­mer ISPR spokesman. He writes for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions and of­ten speaks on na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues on TV chan­nels.

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