The Other Pakistan
Pakistan, as is being presented in the bigger part of media is a terrifying place. A place from where all the terror of the world originates, a place of Islamic fundamentalism with no touch of modernism etc. Is it really so? After visiting Pakistan twice in 2007&2008, particularly after visiting even dangerous zone of NWFP, it is difficult for me to accept this image of Pakistan. Those who committed barbarities in Mumbai in November 2008 may be Pak nationals, but whether they represented Pakistan as a nation or society, it is not only difficult to believe, it is rather utter nonsense to judge a whole nation or society with the criminal act of its some individuals. Same thing is also being done by Bangladesh based HUJI activists, but Bangladesh is not targeted with the aggressive language used for Pakistan. Leaving this fresh issue aside for a while and just having a look at the facts. Pakistan was carved out of pre partition India on 14th august 1947, in an indecent and inhuman hurry to get power transferred to Indian and newly created Pakistan rulers, resulting in the massacre of nearly ten lakh people, with more or less equal share of Hindu-Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other. It also resulted in the migration of almost one crore people on both sides of the border, again with equal share. The tragedy of this region in South Asia lies in that unthoughtful cruel decision of the all parties concerned, but most of all, of British colonial regime, who had the responsibility of transferring power to new rulers by June 1948, in a manner which caused least bloodshed. The decision to divide Bengal and Punjab province on religious grounds was a cultural massacre of hapless people, who had no say in such decisions. Even when this division of Punjab and Bengal on religious grounds was accepted by Muslim league of Jinnah under protest, it was decided that there will be no large migration from any side and people will continue to live wherever they were located. But this decision was not stuck to for political exigencies and the real tragedy of Pakistan (and of India too) started that very moment. Had the Bengal and Punjab not divided on religious grounds, there were chances that total Bengal province could stay in India and total Punjab province could go to Pakistan, making it a geographically contagious country. It could have also remained a multi religious multi cultural country like India, with Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP having its own distinct languages and cultures. The issue of Kashmir could also have been decided by the will of people at that very time with reason. But for that patience was required by the political actors of the period, particularly from Congress and Muslim League. It would have hardly mattered if independence day had been in October or November 1947 or even in some month of 1948, if rational decisions for partition could be taken at that time, giving paramount importance to people’s lives and their cultural homogeneity, but that patience and farsightedness was not shown by the political class of the time and they fell into the trap of British colonial regime to weaken both the nations, through hasty and illogical partition. Though huge migration of Hindu-Sikhs did not take place from Sindh, Balochistan ,Bengal and NWFP and there is still a good number of such population in these places, yet the massacres in Punjab of each other by religious communities led to fear psychosis and resulting in large scale migration on religious grounds, even from the areas not affected by riots, such as UP and Bihar. Atrocities on women including rapes and maiming led to the bitterness to extreme among Hindu-Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other. This was the situation in which Pakistan turned to be an Islamic state rather than being a liberal democracy, which Jinnah probably wanted, but could not ensure, not only due to his early death, but also due to religious composition of newly formed nation. Yet the religious bond could not keep Bangladesh as part of Pakistan, here the cultural oppression of Bengali culture led to the revolt and formation of third country from pre-1947 geographical region. From this brief background of the formation of three countries, one can see that the people in these three countries of present time had very strong cultural bonds from ancient times, which despite overdose of religiosity, keeps on asserting occasionally. In Pakistan of today, there is always a Hindu minister in Sindh province; Hindus are in good positions there. Sikhs are now making a mark in Pakistani Punjab, getting into important positions.
If one has to just pay a scant attention to this background, one can very well see the civilizational and cultural bonds between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The common roots of civilization are referred to Indus Valley, whose location is in Sindh. Mohenjdaro is in Sindh, then Harappa in Punjab part of Pakistan is another common root of these three countries. Peshawar and Texla are sites of Buddhist tradition, Gandhara art forms have developed from this tradition. Peshawar is capital of NWFP and Texla is part of Punjab. Nearer our times, birth place of first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev—Nankana Sahib is near Lahore, whereas Hasan Abdal is in close vicinity of Texla, where famous Punja Sahib Gurdwara is located, there it is believed that the mark of Guru Nanak’s hand exists. Mazar of Bulle shah is in Kasur, miles away from Ferozepur city in India, same way mazar of Punjabi poet Waris Shah is in Jadanwala village, where every year the ‘Heer’( Waris Shah’s poetry) singing competition begins with the singing of Amrita Pritam’s poem—‘AaJ Aakhan waris shah nun……’, the poem written on the tragedy of partition of Punjab in 1947. If one looks at Bangladesh, the famous Chittagong area, where Master Surya Sen, Preetilata Wadedar like revolutionary martyrs fought British colonial regime, how can any Indian forget that. The haste of partitioning India on religious grounds led to the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi at the hands of communal fascists, who are tried to be eulogized by some political parties in India, day in and day out, though with the hypocrisy of accepting Gandhi as ‘father of the nation’. These are such intricacies of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh that it will lead nowhere in indulging blame game. Nationalism is double edged weapon, if one country will whip up narrow nationalism; it is bound to have reaction in the other country. Though political leaders in both countries indulge in complete irrationality, yet people on any side are not so rational, as to call the bluff of their political power holders, they rather become victim of this vicious circle. Pakistan is bigger sufferer of post Mumbai situation, because the very strong civil and democratic movement, which brought military regime of Parvez Musharraf down, became much weakened after Mumbai incidents and the nascent democracy in Pakistan seems to be on the wane.In July 2008,when I was there, thousands of people were thronging to listen to Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, deposed chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court and were demanding his reinstatement. Indian war mongers and jingoists are no less responsible for causing the untimely fading away of emerging democratic aspersions of Pakistan.
Born and brought up in post partition Punjab on Indian side, I had no particular attachment to pre partition Punjab, yet being a student of literature and having done some research on partition related Punjabi literature, I had keen desire to see and have the feel of Pakistan. But I could get chance to visit Pakistan for first time in April 2007, almost at the age of sixty years and second chance in 2008. Both the visits belied the myths perpetuated by a certain section of media about Pakistan. As student of literature, we used to read about—‘Jin Lahore nahin dekhya oh jammia ee nahin’( Who had not seen Lahore is not yet born). It was a pre partition saying among educated class of Punjab, based on which Asghar Wajahat wrote his play in Hindi, which is as much popular in Pakistan, as in India. Since in 2007, I had to present a paper on Dr. Ambedkar in Lahore and first thing I openly admitted after being in Lahore for just a single day that this saying was correct. Lahore city has such charm that I could not feel that type of charm in any city of Indian side of Punjab. Lahore was not only political, but was cultural capital of pre partition Punjab and continues to be so of post partition Punjab as well. I could locate Bradlaugh Hall in Lahore, which was almost forgotten by everyone after partition, though this is the place which deserves to be preserved as heritage building, if it can not be declared national monument, which Pakistan Govt. may not agree to. The foundation stone of this headquarter of freedom movement in India, was laid by none else than Surender Nath Bannerjee,famous nationalist leader in 1900.This foundation stone is still intact, at least till April,2007, when I located it with the help of local friends there. Bradlaugh Hall was built in the memory of Charles Bradlaugh, British labour party MP, who always supported the cause of Indian freedom. This hall located in its vicinity ,National College as well, established by Lala Lajpat Rai in 1922, where Bhagat Singh was a student. Lahore has beautiful Shalimar Bagh, which is not so well maintained now; Tombs of Jehangir, Noorjahan and Anarkali are also worth seeing. Dyal Singh College and library, built by S.Dayal Singh Majithia, founder of ‘The Tribune’ continue to exist as such, without any change of name. Rather Pakistan Govt. during Musharaf regime established two foundations there-One in the memory of Dayal Singh Majithia and other in the memory of Sir Ganga Ram, the famous architect and philanthropist of Lahore, who designed Lahore,Patiala and Amritsar’s beautiful buildings. Ganga Ram hospital continues to function in Ganga Ram chowk of Lahore,though after partition another hospital with same name was established in Delhi. Lahore’s National College of Arts, established in 1875 continues to carry its glory, so is Punjab University Lahore, now renamed as ‘University of The Punjab’. Those who lived in Lahore and migrated in 1947 to India could never reconcile with the separation from this city and always remained nostalgic and those alive are still nostalgic. One Seth Harikishan did not leave Lahore even after partition and on a visit to Delhi later and under compulsion to settle in India, fell seriously ill and could recover only when he went back to Lahore, where he lived till his death. Lahore was the centre of national and revolutionary movement as well. Classical music still continues to be performed in Lahore at occasions for whole night as I could get a feel of it in Jinanah Bagh at ‘Shimla Pahadi’ at 2 o’ clock in night. The visits to Nankana Sahib, Waris shah and Bulle Shah’s mazars and to Bhagat Singh’s village in old Lyalpur and now Faislabad district was as much pleasant as was Lahore sites.
During my second visit at the invitation of Peshawar University Teachers Association to participate in an international seminar on higher education in July 2008 at Barangali summer campus, I could see ancient Texla university sites in Jaulian area near Texla town, also Texla museum and nearby Gurdwara Punja Sahib at Hasan Abdal.We crossed Haripura, Abbotabd on way to Murrey, famous hill resort of Punjab, which has direct road to Shimla earlier. In Abbotabad we even observed a van of ‘Shimla Akhbar’ published from there. We traveled on famous motorway of Pakistan to Peshawar, crossing Char Sadda, village of Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan and Hoti Mardan, home town of martyr Harikishan, who was executed by British regime in June 1931 at Lahore. In Peshawar we could see the city museum known for preserving Gandhara art of Buddhist tradition. At all these places people were very warm and hospitable. At Texla museum, we were given privileged treatment to photograph the rare items of museum, which were not allowed even to Pakistani visitors. In Peshawar too, on holiday, staff specially came to open the museum for their Indian guests. No doubt, Dr. Mukhtar Durrani of Peshawar University had major help in getting these privileges. We were warmly welcomed by Dr. Ajmal Hayat Khan, known west Asian scholar and Vice Chancellor of Peshawar University, who narrated his friendship with Kuldip nayar and also the stories about Bhagat Singh that he had stayed in NWFP to have arms training. It was he, who told us that Harikishan’s father Gurdas Ram Talwar was an eminent citizen of Mardan . In spite of being rich businessman, he suffered at the hands of British regime, but did not betray his son, who has shot Punjab Governor in Punjab University Lahore’s convocation in early 1931. It has been such narrations of common bonds, wherever we went. Islamia University’s Vice Chancellor Dr. Ajmal Khan, a grandson of Khan Ghafar khan’s family, welcomed us with warmth. People by now have generally forgotten the wounds of massacres of partition days, but do remember their ancestral places. Now whenever Indians or Pakistanis are able to visit the places they left in 1947, they are treated with warmth, be in India or Pakistan. They are kept in the villages as family guests on both sides.In Pakistan, particularly in Lahore, it is a common saying to Indians—“Aap hamare Mehman Hain’(You are our guests). They will offer seat in Bus or vehicle,, if you are standing, may not even charge you at shops occasionally. A bearer from Ludhiana ancestral background in a five star hotel will bring even bucketful fruits and pastries for free, to a guest(me) coming from his ancestors place.
Though at religious level Pakistan is influenced by his Islamic neighbors, yet the common cultural living in pre partition India has its lasting impact on their lives. In Lahore any car with young boys and girls were playing latest Hindi film songs. Latest Hindi film vcd’s were available in Lahore at much cheaper price. A Lahore cinema house was showing Hindi movie. Now lot of Indian publications in English is available in Lahore and Karachi. Kuldip Nayar’s book on Bhagat Singh was translated in Urdu by none else than Fahmida Riyaz and published by Oxford University Press Karachi. Another famous Urdu writer from Pakistan, Zahida Hina recently described Bhagat Singh as ‘the greatest Pakistani martyr for the cause of freedom’, as he was born and executed at present day Pakistani soil. Lot of Indian Punjabi writers books have been transliterated in Persian script and published from Lahore, like Paash,Gurdial Singh etc..Same way Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Nadeem Kasmi, Manto, Tehmina Durrani, Habib Jalib, Kishwar Naheed,Parvin Shakir, Sara Shagufta, Ahmad Faraz, Abdula Hussain etc. are as much known in India for their writings, as in Pakistan. Their books are always in demand in Hindi, which are translated in no time in Hindi and English and some other Indian languages. If we can not think of Ghazal mehfils and big programmes without Mehdi Hasan, Ghulam Ali or Abida Praveen, Jagjit Singh is as much popular in Pakistan. A Pakistani Punjabi film ‘Kartar Singh’’s vcd was sent to me by Dr. Mukhtar Durrani, which is a scathing attack on communalism. The film has picturised Amrita Pritam’s famous poem on partition—‘Aaj Aakhan waris sha nun…’ in a touching song form. From the names of Pakistani writers, one can see the share of Pakistani women in their social life, at least in big cities like Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad etc.I heard with my own ears the women demonstrators in Lahore shouting ‘Mullagardi Murdabad’(Down with religious fundamentalism),I also observed women scholars participation in Peshawar University seminar. To see women with Shirt Pants or with bobbed hair is no strange thing in big cities of Pakistan, one could see some of them even smoking.
Habits of eating, clothing, talking, of common cultural tastes has as much strong impact on Indians and Pakistanis lives, as has religion, if not more. In such ground reality, to talk of enmity between two countries, with much population on both sides having strong kinship relations on both sides, is cruel. One of my students from Punjabi University Patiala has migrated to Pakistan after her marriage in Lahore; she originally was from Malerkotla, only Muslim majority town of Punjab. In fact there is a dire need of opening up in all three countries; there should be no visa system at all in these countries. Traveling to each other countries should be as easy as is with Nepal. In reality India has more in common with Pakistan and Bangladesh than Nepal, as these have been part of one country not far ago, whereas Nepal has never been part of India. All three countries will benefit if they open up, in terms of trade and commerce, in preserving and expanding democratic institutions, in field of culture and education etc… But to realize this, all these countries need a farsighted and statesmanlike leadership. When that day would come, is quite difficult to say. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can leave a long lasting name in the history, if only he could achieve his famous saying-‘to make borders irrelevant’ for these three countries for mutual relationship. Not through war, but through statesmanship and wisdom, but would he or would he be allowed to do? People in his birth place had celebrated his elevation to Prime Ministership, his childhood friend even came as his guest to greet him. Same way the residents of Nawaz Sharif’s ancestral village near border in Amritsar district has always celebrated his Prime Ministership of Pakistan. Could anyone do it for enemies?