Monday, November 17, 2008

a demagogue delivers - destruction and death

"First he [Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman] opposed British rule in India. After the subcontinent's partition in 1947, he denounced West Pakistan's dominance of East Pakistan with every bit as much vehemence. "Brothers," he would say to his Bengali followers, "do you know that the streets of Karachi are lined with gold? Do you want to take back that gold? Then raise your hands and join me."

TIME Magazine, Monday, Apr. 05, 1971

"And one of the worst clusters of grossly overcrowded shacks and hovels, unfit for animals to live in, lay beside the main route from one of the airports to the rich centre of the city. Visiting foreigners were appalled, not merely by what they saw and smelt, but by the apparent helpless apathy of successive political Cabinets towards this mass of human misery unmitigated on their doorstep. Probably nothing so discredited Pakistan internationally, during the confused years before the military coup, as the persisting shameful squalor along the pavements of her capital."

(Ian Stephens, Pakistan, Old Country, New Nation, Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1964, p 309)"

1) Sheikh Mujib campaigned against the British: no Muslim wanted that the British should leave. The 'Quit India' movement was an entirely Hindu movement. The terror that had driven men like Sir Sayyed Ahmed Khan was the terror of democracy where the Hindus would be the majority. Since 1947, these terrors have been amply well-founded. Apart from the violence against Muslims, Muslims' job prospects are worse than that for Dalits.
2) After 1947, West Pakistan could hardly dominate anyone – never mind the far more populous East Pakistan. Indeed, Jinnah's energies were consumed by the Kashmir struggle.
3) According to my late, lamented friend, Omar Ali Chowdhury, who was personal secretary to Hussein Shahrawardy, the only reason that Shahrawardy picked Mujib to run the Awami League was because he was rabble-rouser par excellence.
4) Shahrawardy and protégé were both inimical to the Pakistan concept. The former was hobnobbing with Nehru and Gandhi while Jinnah was trying to forge a state single-handedly. When the new Indian government taxed his property away from him, he emerged in East Pakistan to revive his fortune – a carpetbagger.
5) Mujib, therefore, brought to East Pakistan, the same nationalism that had enthused the Hindus. The distance between West and East Pakistan, and the linguistic majority of the Bengali Muslims, were fertile soil for the ambitions of a demagogue to reap a bitter harvest. We in the East tended to believe everything we were told about the West because we couldn't go there – it required an expensive plane ride, or a prolonged sea voyage. Whether the streets of Karachi were paved with gold or cobble-stones was something we couldn't verify.
6) The distance between East and West also helped Mujib and others to recreate the metropolis-colony, or Britain-India, dichotomy. The psychology was powerful since so fresh, and succeeding economics, Marxists to the last man (some of them were my teachers at Dhaka University in the '80s), provided 'facts' to back up this dichotomy.
7) Furthermore, we were told that 'they' spoke Urdu, while 'we' spoke Bengali. In fact, Urdu is the mother tongue of a fraction of the people of Pakistan even today. Contemporary Pakistan is a polyglot nation.
8) Democracy produces demagogues and the last straw was the election of 1970 – the most terrible event to befall the country – one in which our servant voted seven times.

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