Over the years, I have come across many people who believe that Pakistan should never have been created. Keeping today’s lawlessness and corruption in mind, I often feel that they are, indeed, right.
However, amongst the many reasons given to me by such individuals for Pakistan’s creation being a mistake, one of the most widely quoted one is that had India not been divided, Muslims today would have been the largest religious group in the subcontinent. Such statements are misguided as these people are misinformed.
Currently, the population of Muslims in the subcontinent is 510 million, with roughly 180 million each in Pakistan and India, and another 150 million in Bangladesh. Had Partition not taken place, the subcontinent’s total population would have been 1.7 billion.
This would mean that Muslims would have been only 30 per cent of the total population. In Pakistan and Bangladesh today, Muslims are more than 90 per cent of the population in both countries.
My father, when he was alive, often used to tell me of the hardships Muslims had to endure in pre-Partition India. Most restaurants were out of bounds to Muslims. Thus, when my father and his friends desperately wanted to eat at such restaurants, they would walk in and ask: “You’re sure Muslims are not served here?” The owner would reply: “Muslims and dogs are not served here.” And my father and his friends would then dine at such eateries, pretending to be non-Muslims.
In geography textbooks of those times, prescribed for schools in Kathiawar (present-day Indian Gujarat), regions comprising present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh were described as having climates which were “unsuitable for industrialisation”, because they were Muslim-majority areas. Hence, non-Muslims would set up textile mills in Ahmedabad and jute mills in Calcutta, even though cotton was produced in West Pakistan and jute in East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh).
Muslims were thus condemned to be peasants, and this would not have changed even if India had remained undivided.
Therefore, did Mr Jinnah make a mistake in almost single-handedly creating Pakistan? Perhaps it may appear so to some, particularly those who had to leave everything behind in India and flee to the new country to save themselves and are still suffering. But, on deliberation, and keeping facts in mind, I personally believe that the emergence of a new country for the Muslims of the subcontinent was perhaps the best thing to have happened in recent history.
Looking at the current pitiable condition of Muslims in India (not every Indian Muslim shares the same fate as that of Shahrukh Khan or Salman Khan), I believe that my parents took the right decision in 1947 in migrating to the new country. Had they stayed in India, they would surely have been killed by wild mobs, who were indulging in indiscriminate killing of Muslims.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2013.