At the crossroads of tragic possibilities
Forty years after the fall of Dacca, we are again at the crossroads of tragic possibilities. Once again, it is the Punjab’s middle class that shows its temperament.
We, the middle class of Punjab, insist that we are Pakistani as if all other nationalities, provinces and people are refugees in camps, which we have provided them with in our naive generosity; we even think that we are Islam incarnate, the whole of it. Although the Muslim Ummah, in general, is quite aggressive and loud in its self righteous claims, we in the Punjab are outstanding. We have taken this from quite a few morbid factors, but only the more important and recent may be relevant to mention here.
Since the British colonial times, Punjabis have been the chief component of the armed forces. Since the earliest days of Pakistan, our army generals interfered with the political and economic power of the nation and took officers of lower rank into the net of petty privileges, to expand their power base. A very small number of central districts of the Punjab had become powerful and also prosperous as business centres during the Sikh rule. These districts kept their power and wealth after partition, when the present business community took possession of what Hindu and Sikh businessmen left.
These very districts also joined civil services in British India to become partners in power with Urdu speaking leaders of the Pakistan movement. When the founder of the nation took his first fatal decision to make Urdu our only national language, we, in the central Punjab were happier than even the Urdu speaking Pakistanis, and angrier than them over East Pakistan’s protests in the following years.
The educational level of India’s Muslims had been generally poor, but that of the Punjabi Muslim was simply pathetic, particularly the business community and the army men had no taste for useless pursuits such as learning and intellect; wealth came as Fazl-e-Rabbi, self-confidence came from the success of the Pakistan Movement, aggressive attitudes were genetic to us as Muslims.
It has been natural for us to dismiss all our other nationalities with contempt if they disagreed or challenged us. So we evaluated our national diversity like this: Bengalis are black, small, ugly, disloyal crooks, Sindhis are lazy, hateful parasites living off our hard work, Balochis are unclean, lazy, ignorant, pagan fools whom we feed, God knows why. And well, Pathans? They are funny homosexuals and deeply jealous of our high merit. We never stopped our loud claims of everything good and right.
We lost the defining part of our identity with disgrace and shame in 1971, although we have never admitted to this day that the Bangla Pakistanis were Pakistan’s identity much more than we were. We supported an illegal and immoral massacre by our army, which was illegal because it acted under orders of an illegal government and immoral because it attacked the elected majority. We externalised our guilt instead of bowing our heads in shame; we blamed India and the world for our disgrace. Today, we are again at a similar crossroads with deeper internal chaos and greater international isolation.
We do not lose an inch of our honor if we submit to the wishes of the units that form that identity. Any number of provinces carved out of Punjab or Sindh or Pakhtunkhwa will still be Pakistan; a truly autonomous, even angrily autonomous Balochistan will go nowhere. If we humbly sit down with its nationalists, accepting their dismissive anger as fair and legitimate, and honestly fight the real anti-Pakistan terrorists who are conducting the genocide of our highly loveable, peaceful Hazaras, if our generals for once realise that they do not manage this world so well, we can win back the noble Balochi heart which was stabbed with daggers, like assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti.
When we insist on the crude control of our national units, we forget the principles of diversity and unity. Even though it has repeatedly failed, our psyche of physical force blinds us to the wisdom of all creation. But it is still time to appreciate that wisdom and apply it in our situation.
Before its creation, we believe, the universe was an infinite density, an absolute unity, the unknown one. It had no one to communicate with. So it broke with a big bang into countless fragments. Only then communication started because communication needs others. Communication needs diversity to give it meaning; while diversity needs communication to recognise itself. It was only after the contact and communication that the combination of fragments started. Unity is not oneness. One Unit is a meaningless expression. Creativity lies in unity not in oneness. The beauty of the galaxies and systems is their diversity which is united through the weak force of gravity, the mutual charm. This weakest force forms the unbreakable link perhaps because it is weak. Tyranny forges bonds that crush its units till they die or kill to survive.
All the people of the world are coming closer together not through force of coercion. It is the freedom of diversity and mutual need that makes nations and regional unions. It is a tragedy that we still fail to realise this.
Listen to this blog in Urdu
The author is a renowned Pakistani intellectual. His urdu books Tehzeebi Nargisyat and Mubaalghe, Mughaalte are widely regarded as the revival of critical thinking and free inquiry in Urdu non-fiction.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.