Knowing Thyself

Published: December 21, 2013

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@ tribune.com.pk

The State of Pakistan wants the 16th of December to pass silently and quickly every year. The execution of Abdul Quader Molla made this extraordinarily difficult this time around. Enough has been said on the execution and its implications, and saying any further will be surplus to requirements. However, not nearly enough has ever been said about 1971. There is some talk every year, lament mostly, meticulously avoiding the specifics. The attempt sometimes it seems is to make the fall of Dhaka look like a natural catastrophe, beyond the locus of human and state control. Let bygones be bygones, Bangladesh is a sovereign nation and the vile Yahya Khan lives in eternal infamy, where he belongs. By all means, however, let’s trace our steps a little and briefly revisit the statements made by the architect of the “decade of prosperity” (according to our textbooks), Field Marshal Ayub Khan.

Ayub’s ghost-written, and unironically titled book, Friends, not Masters, says about the Bengalis as “ … (having) all the inhibitions of downtrodden races and have not yet found it possible to adjust psychologically to the requirement of the new born freedom”. In his diary, he further writes that the East Pakistanis have the desire “to isolate themselves from West Pakistan and revert to Hindu language and culture”. He felt that it was because of the reason that the Bengalis had “no culture and language of their own”. Aside, from the obvious point of the gallant Field Marshal being ignorant, bigoted and a racist, there is something else. The Sandhurst-trained Field Marshal sought to emulate the “Masters” in taking upon himself the mantle to pass condescending, conclusive statements about the natives. Lord Macaulay’s observation on the matter was that the Bengalis were “feeble” people … trampled upon by men of bolder and hardy breeds” and whose “mind is weak … for the purposes of manly resistance”. Repulsive thoughts by two racists, are they not? Yet, we wonder, what went wrong in East Pakistan?

What went wrong was that the State of (West) Pakistan was bred on racism and bigotry, and treated its compatriots with contempt. The violence, murder, rape and pillage that took place was always shocking, however, was it truly surprising given the training and indoctrination?

Ayub’s comment on the absence of a Bengali culture remains relevant today. The elite of West Pakistan felt that they had a culture ‘superior’ to East Pakistan. Bear the fact in mind that it was One Unit at that time and hence all of what is Pakistan was one province. The Bengalis, it may seem, had somehow betrayed the cause by insisting on also being Bengalis and not only becoming Pakistani. That sentiment lives and thrives in today’s Pakistan. The celebration of individual culture and heritage is seen to be suspect and drawing ‘divisions’ and we should all just say that we are Pakistanis only, etc. That is perfect nonsense, of course. We are Punjabis, Baloch, Sindhis, Seraiki, Pashtun, Hazara, etc. and that is an integral to us being Pakistanis.

That is why the Sindh cultural festival is a breath of fresh air and one hopes that the recently announced Punjab Youth Festival will have a cultural dimension as well. There is no reason why this should not happen in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. As someone who, for the most part, resides in the centre of Punjab, Lahore sensibilities are offended every day, multiple times by watching the “Al-Bakistan” licence plate, making one feel alien, at home. The incredible Arabisation of Pakistan, particularly Punjab, is visible on the streets of Lahore. Although the scale is certainly going up now, however, there was always some of that. Many of us grew watching Pakistan Television news, and some may remember the daily Arabic news in the evening (not sure if they are still aired or not). As a child, my explanation for the state forcing us to hear them was that we had two angels, one on each shoulder and the bulletin was necessary to keep them up to date with the happenings of the day, as no one else around spoke Arabic as a language of communication. The flip side (although there is no comparison in scale) is the mostly young people one sees on the society pages of magazines, who look like they are living in an episode of Beverley Hills 90210.

December 16 is also particularly relevant in the context of these cultural identity crises. The charge against innocent Bengalis was led by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the party of Molla, Maulana Maudoodi and Syed Munawar Hasan. The JI in general and Maulana Maudoodi, particularly, were the patron saints of the ideology of Pakistan in many ways. It is disturbing to realise how much of an impact the JI has had on society and state, even though it has been consistently rejected in the democratic process. The ideology was and still is one which makes no distinction between culture and religion or perhaps acknowledges no culture outside of religion. Hence, basically not only saying that we are Muslims (not a completely true claim), but going further and saying we are all Arabs, patently absurd. One of the best statements made at the opening ceremony of the Sindh festival was that of a distinction to be made between Islam and pre-Islamic Arabian custom.

Detailed discussions of primary and secondary identities are not suited to opinion pieces. The narrative today is that the Baloch are historically repressed by Baloch sardars and hence, somehow lack reasoning capacity, not far off from what Field Marshal Ayub thought of the Bengalis. As Bacha Khan, Wali Khan and Ghani Khan are being ‘purged’ out of Pashtun history and culture, then of course Malala will be an agent. As palm trees, Al Bakistan automobiles and Metro Bus are becoming Lahore, Punjabi language is being kicked out of our curriculums.

We need to go back to 1971 and then some more; we need neither ‘imported’ culture nor rank it in ridiculous superior and inferior categories. If there is going to be a ‘Pakistani’ identity, it will have to be a sum of proud and clear ethnic identities. The JI and the bleeding green model failed in December 1971 and it is the right time to reflect on this. We need the Sindh festival and festivals for all provinces before we begin planning for a Pakistan festival.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • shahid
    Dec 22, 2013 - 12:12AM

    The charge against innocent Bengalis was led by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the party of Molla, Maulana Maudoodi and Syed Munawar Hasan.

    There is no limit which our self styled secular liberals” will not cross in order to re-write the history in order to meet the needs of their ideological agendas. It is a matter of recorded history that JI along with NAP, JUI, PML and others strongly supported Mujeeb’s demand that the assembly session be held in Dacca and that AL be allowed to form the government. Any one who is even barely knowledgeable about the events of those days will know this. It was the great leader Bhutto who joined hands with the Yahya regime and allowed the military operation in East Pakistan to proceed. As per him the Pakistan was saved by this military operation. He was then supportive of the military regime till the end when he became the deputy prime minister and the foreign minister and defended the military junta in the UN before the world. Once he came to power he appointed Tikka Khan who was in-charge of the Pakistan army and defense.

    And here we have the author accusing the JI of bringing on that catastrophe. There really is no limit to hypocrisy indeed.

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  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Dec 22, 2013 - 12:14AM

    This author seems to suffer from memory loss, in his biased analysis of 1971.
    Who can forget that ZAB, master minded the debacle of 1971, in his obsession to
    grab power, at all cost. ZAB refused to accept the reality of his defeat in the 1970
    elections, and deceptively used a half sober Yahya Khan, and some bureaucrats around
    to refuse to concede defeat, to Mujeeb, who should have been the rightful ruler.
    All of the characters, in this political drama, ZAB, Mujeeb, and Indira Gandhi, were
    punished by Allah Subhana, and met a humiliating end.
    The truth of 1971, is now available in Sharmeela Bose,s book, as well as some statements
    of former Indian generals, on the role of mukti bayani, trained Indian insurgents,
    who dressed in Pakistan army uniforms, went about killing, and raping women.
    The rest is history.

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  • Parvez
    Dec 22, 2013 - 12:34AM

    How can one not agree with what you have said……..what is of paramount importance is to learn from the many mistakes made but this does not appear to be happening.
    It is high time that organisations like the JI must be seen for what they really are and a stop be put to their activities that in essence are regressive.

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  • Rajeev Nidumolu
    Dec 22, 2013 - 3:05AM

    “No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.”
    Elie Wiesel (1928- ) Nobel Prize peace prize 1986Recommend

  • Zalmai
    Dec 22, 2013 - 3:37AM

    Saroop Ijaz tells it like it is. Respect! Keep reminding your fellow countrymen especially Punjabis that it is okay to be Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun and Baloch.

    Pan-Islamism is a failed political ideology, which was a response to colonialism and subsequently adopted by the Pakistani establishment to unite its diverse ethnic groups by supressing ethnic nationalism.

    Importing cultures and discarding indigenous cultures only causes more confusion and identity crises, evident in al Bakistan today.

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  • Ahmed
    Dec 22, 2013 - 5:05AM

    Mr. Saroop Ijaz…You have excellent thinking. We need more writers like you to counter the ever growing monster of ‘Arabisation’. The state-approved textbooks have turned the youth and general population into delusional lot. Just keep writing.

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  • Major Iqbal
    Dec 22, 2013 - 6:44AM

    Pakistanis are in search of Arabistan but Arabs tell them not to set foot on their lands.

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  • Jijaji00
    Dec 22, 2013 - 9:30AM

    As usual pakistanis will shrugg their shoulders, deny everything, boast how they met bengalis with iron fist and then go back to haleem dinner, business as usual. Iam impressed by Bengaladedhi’s vengence they hanged the war criminal even after 42 yrs. Way to go Bangaladesh.Recommend

  • Syed . D. Mahmud
    Dec 22, 2013 - 9:43AM

    The author seems to have fixated the responsibility of East Pakistan debacle entirely on discriminatory treatment rendered out to Bengali brethern and role of JI thereon. Not withstanding above, there is also a need to question role of ZAB in refusing to accept the mandate mated to Shaikh Mujeeb’s AL. Bhutto’s lust for power alongside bigoted western Pakistani mind set never accepted the very thought of being ruled by an East Pakistan led party. Yahya Khan is equally to be blamed for his inability to ensure timely holding of NA session and transfer of power to majority political party inline with democratic traditions. Secondly there is no need for us to be over apologetic and guilty. Seperatist movements have been taking place all around the world, every state does what ever possible in its means to curb the tendency, use of force and military action being part of state policy. Another important facet overlooked by the author is the Indian conspiracy and full fledge Indian military interference that led to separation of East Pakistan. Indian aggression amounted to interference in Pakistan’s internal affair and should not have taken place. US and other international community’s tacit connivance was indeed deploring. Today we are faced with similar situation in Baluchistan. Let’s not repeat mistakes of the past and strengthen the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan.

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  • Talat Haque
    Dec 22, 2013 - 10:24AM

    The saddest part is that we have not learnt anything from the separation of East Pakistan ………… we still carry those prejudices and still practice them ……….. we still do not know the difference between religion and culture ……….. we still do not acknowledge the beauty of languages and have no respect for humanity, we still lie to our children to perpetuate the hate ………….. we are on our way to extinction if we do not halt , face the truth , acknowledge our mistakes and find our way foward.Recommend

  • Arifq
    Dec 22, 2013 - 12:23PM

    Very Well said Saroop, not many honest heart and souls left in the land of pure.

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  • sabi
    Dec 22, 2013 - 1:47PM

    This article is mostly judgemental and lack intellectual depth.Sorry I don’t agree with it.

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  • Riaz Khan
    Dec 22, 2013 - 2:50PM

    Nation in total denial! We have learned nothing from our past mistakes. Destructive mind set out to destroy 200 million. Superb article! Salute you Saroop!

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  • pir fazal mabood
    Dec 22, 2013 - 5:00PM

    we started thinking about our identity after partition when we last our nationality as indian muslims and till to today we are searching for it,we were unable to make a constitution till our majority province got independence. they r good bengali muslims their constituition is secular and on the path of progress we still are confused for our identity we could not develop consesus that we r all pakistanis. we may be sindhis baluchi punjabis etc but at the end of the day we all are pakistanis. we should start respecting our identity not as a ethnic or religious group but plain simple pakistanis who may be speaking urdu pashtu or any other language.as far religion is concerned i it is every body,s individual concern and for religious harmoy if a muslim help hindus to make their temple they would come for your help when you start constructing a mosque.

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  • pir fazal mabood
    Dec 22, 2013 - 5:18PM

    we started thinking about our identity after partition when we last our nationality as indian muslims and till to today we are searching for it,we were unable to make a constitution till our majority province got independence. they r good bengali muslims their constituition is secular and on the path of progress we still are confused for our identity we could not develop consesus that we r all pakistanis. we may be sindhis baluchi punjabis etc but at the end of the day we all are pakistanis. we should start respecting our identity not as a ethnic or religious group but plain simple pakistanis who may be speaking urdu pashtu or any other language.as far religion is concerned i it is every body,s individual concern and for religious harmoy if a muslim helps hindus to make their temple they would come for your help when you start constructing a mosque.

    Recommend

  • Ali tanoli
    Dec 22, 2013 - 6:37PM

    Maulana Abu Kalam Azad was Bengali and he knew the mentality of his peoples and warns Mr Jinnah about sepration of east Pakistan can Jinnah heard him that time and H, S, Suherverdy was a Bengali and he told the Jinnah that make Bengal a seprate country in 1947…. history tells us that they were against the merge of both countries and then india took the advantage of that situation and did what he supposed and we still cant get Kashmir…

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  • mind control
    Dec 22, 2013 - 8:24PM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir:

    All of the characters, in this political drama, ZAB, Mujeeb, and Indira Gandhi, were
    punished by Allah Subhana, and met a humiliating end.

    Well, at least Allah Subhana granted them a proper funeral.

    He denied the same to Mard-e-Haq Zia-ul-Haq, may be you can tell us WHY?

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  • wonderer
    Dec 22, 2013 - 8:44PM

    “,,,,,, However, not nearly enough has ever been said about 1971……”

    Saroop has honestly done his commendable bit to “trace our steps a little“, but for those many who would like to brush off more of the forty-year dust, I shall strongly recommend the discussion on the subject by some knowledgeable ex-Pakistanis in a video on this link:

    The Naked Truth about Bangladesh and Quader Molla.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyjlzJYrXFY

    Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Dec 24, 2013 - 7:16PM

    Saroop great but you did not see openly who is responsible for all the nonsense of superiority of race and language that every other culture and language is Inferiro and Hindu

    For all JI supporters and PPP haters
    Please before you blame PPP, go back and read what happened soon after operation in Bengal. Yahya annulled elections in Bengal and conducted new elections,And no elections took place but everything was on paper, do JI supporters know won the election? JI won the election with clear majority and PPP did not get any or was given few seats.This part of puzzle is not discussed that proves who who master minded the whol project and who we’re being rewarded and who we’re supposed to rule Pakistan in case army was successful inPakistan

    ZAB poor person who after advocating Pakistan in UNO was so afraid of army that from New York he went to Kabul and did not dare to enter Pakistan . It is only when army deposed Yahya and assured him him of safety and he came to Pakistan.
    JI was the part of operation and local Bengalies who were part of killings in the name of religion should be responsible for their misplaced priorities.
    Unfortunately every one among us have to live with consequences of our decisions, what ever make.

    Recommend

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