Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ayesha Jalal, THE Historian of Pakistan

"People are generally comfortable wearing multiple identities," says Ayesha Jalal, Pakistan’s acclaimed historian, sociologist, researcher, teacher and writer, "I'm quite comfortable being a woman, a Muslim, a Pakistani, an American."1

I happened to take a course with Ayesha Jalal when she came to teach at Lahore University of Management Sciences for a semester last year. She changed many of my perceptions about different historical facts and events.

During her lectures, a thought often came to my mind. I imagined meeting her for the first time on a busy road and not knowing who she was, imagined getting into a historical debate with her. She could sweep me off my feet with her factual arguments, just as she was doing right at that very moment as I listened to her in class. I would obviously have thought that I had met a very vociferous yet intelligent and eloquent pedestrian, one who knows how to argue her case. I would have wondered how she knew so much about history. Only her being Ayesha Jalal could have explained it all.

A short lady with a thin frame and a face increasingly getting lined due to age, you get a sense of her confidence when you hear her speak and see her body language. Ayesha Jalal does not give a perception of someone capable of attracting controversies, yet in recent years she has, both at home and abroad. She caused much controversy when she made public her research findings that the creation of Pakistan was a historical accident and that Jinnah had never meant to create Pakistan.2

Dr Jalal is a grand-niece of the famous and controversial Urdu novelist, Saadat Hasan Manto, her grandmother being the sister of Manto. She is the daughter of Manto’s favorite nephew, Hamid Jalal, Additional Secretary to the Prime Minister in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s time. Her father worked in All India Radio before Partition in 1947 and later in Pakistan’s Information Ministry. Dr Jalal first came to the United States of America in 1970 at the age of 16 when her father was posted in the United Nations.

Dr Jalal says she was inspired to study history because of her uncle Manto. Her grandmother often used to read out Manto’s works to her.

“ ‘Toba Tek Singh ' planted questions in my head and made me question the Partition of India,” she says. She used to be amused in childhood at this Manto story of insane people trying to interpret Partition.

In 1971, while studying at Stuyvesant High School in New York, she was attracted to studying sciences, but the events of that year in Pakistan made her question her identity.1

"It really made me question some of my received perceptions of myself as a Pakistani," says Ayesha Jalal. She belonged to a very patriotic family, with family members being in the civil service, and had been brought up in Pakistan under prevailing notions of Pakistan’s history. Hence, witnessing the break up of her country was a “mental trauma” for her.1

“It was a very awkward time,” she speaks.1

Such questions eventually made her want to study history and find answers for herself. When she returned to Pakistan in 1972 with her family, she enrolled in a science school but did not find the quality of education up to scratch. She instead started to pursue the social sciences and never regretted it. Eventually, Ayesha Jalal completed her Bachelors in History and Political Science from Wellesley College in 1978, and went on to do a PhD in History from the Trinity College, University of Cambridge, in 1983 with a dissertation “Jinnah, the Muslim Leage and the Demand for Pakistan”.

Ayesha Jalal has led an enviable career. She has been a Leverhulme Fellow at the Center of South Asian Studies, Cambridge, Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC and Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. She has taught at Harvard University, Columbia University, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is Mary Richardson Professor of History and Director of the Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies at Tufts University.

Dr Jalal maintains that she never sought to become a historian, but was "propelled to do so".1

"I felt that the methods of history really allowed me to question the things I was interested in," she says. "1971 was a very difficult time. The Pakistan army in the name of preserving national integrity massacred people in the eastern wing. That kind of discomfort can spark off anger and a quest to understand."1

When General Zia ul Haq came to power and began the Islamization of Pakistan under the notion that it was formed on the basis of Islam, Jalal began to question the way by which Pakistan was created. At that time also, the papers of the transfer of power at the time of Partition were released. Jalal used these papers during her PhD at Cambridge in those days and eventually used them to publish her first book on Jinnah in 1985.1

As an author, Ayesha Jalal has seven books to her credit, including Partisans of Allah and The Sole Spokesman. She is married to Sugata Bose, a Hindu from India and the grandnephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and grandson of nationalist leader Sarat Chandra Bose. He is also her research partner. Together, they have written a book called Modern South Asia which is the first South Asian history book that has been written in joint collaboration between a Pakistani and an Indian.

During her time at Columbia as Associate Professor in the 1990s, she opposed the university for accepting funds from the Hinduja Group, who are nationalist Hindus, to establish a research center for Indic studies at Columbia. She was denied tenure and filed a case against the university for ethnic, gender and religious biases against her as she maintained that her fellow Indian Hindu faculty members "were uncomfortable with a Pakistani woman teaching Indian history" and had “blocked her tenure application”. New York District Court acquitted Columbia, stating that Dr Jalal’s accusations were “thin but suggestive”.2

Ayesha Jalal has received several awards during her career. In 1998, she won the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship of $ 265,000, and on Pakistan Day, 2010, she received the Sitara-i-Imtiaz from the Pakistani government during her tenure at LUMS.

In her teaching methods, Ayesha Jalal always tries to help her students make their own interpretations of different aspects of history and encourages them to reach their own conclusions about it, helping them find answers to their own questions in the light of facts.

"I cannot tell people what to think. I myself wrote against the grain of everything I was supposed to believe in," speaks Dr Ayesha Jalal. "I believe in helping people question, to think and really create a sense of awkwardness with some received wisdoms. That's where my own personal intellectual journey began."1

External works cited:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Ottoman Conquest of Constantinople in 1453 C.E.

The year 1453 marks the conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II. What, according to you, is the significance of this victory? Does it mark an arbitrary change of territory from one ruling empire to another while leaving local customs and institutions largely unchanged? Alternatively, does the conquest of Constantinople mark a shift in power in which an “Islamic” Empire triumphs over a “Christian” one?

The capture of Constantinople by Ottomans in 1453 is an important event in history. It presents a paradox in many ways. On one level, it represents the battle between the Islamic and Christian civilizations, and on the other it shows that these two civilizations also linked in a harmonious manner.

Relations between the Muslim East and the Christian West were not as black and white as is perceived in the modern period. In 1384, Christians in the Balkans welcomed Ottoman occupation as it brought liberation from the oppressive rule of the feudal lords (Finkel, 40). The Ottomans and Christians intermarried, and marriages could be a useful, though feeble, means of forging alliances (Finkel, 22). For instance, Sultans Bayezid, Murad, and Mehmed all had Serbian wives (Finkel, 29, 42, 44, 78). Ibn Batuta mentions in his travels about his encounter with Khatun Bayalun, a Byzantine princess who converted to Islam on her marriage to an Ottoman ruler, but later switched to Christianity again after running away from her husband to Constantinople. She treated Ibn Batuta and his Muslim companions very graciously in Constantinople (Ibn Batuta, 152-164). There, Ibn Batuta also met King George who had abdicated from the Byzantine throne and preferred instead to live his life as a monk. George treated Ibn Batuta with reverence even though Ibn Batuta was a Muslim, because Ibn Batuta had visited the Christian holy cities in Palestine during his travels (Ibn Batuta, 163). It was customary for vassals, including Christians, to send their sons to the Ottoman court (Finkel, 36). Many members of the Ottoman royal family (many of them pretenders) took refuge at Christian courts during power struggles over the throne. A son of Sultan Bayezid called Yusuf converted to Christianity while taking refuge at the Byzantine court (Finkel, 30). Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III (who loved to dress in Ottoman fashion) toured around his empire with ‘Bayezid Osman’ in 1473 (Finkel, 76). It was a sign of appreciation for the prestige of the Ottomans that the Byzantine and Catholic rulers alike took to protecting members of the Ottoman royal family (Finkel, 76). Ottomans came up with the practice of youth-levy, whereby Christian boys from the newly conquered lands were brought up by the Ottomans and trained to be valuable statesmen. Usually they converted to Islam and remained loyal to the Ottoman dynasty, such as Saruca Pasha and the commander Sihabeddin Sahin Pasha (Finkel, 45). Over time the nature of the Ottoman elite class became characterized by these Christian-born rather than Muslim-born Turkish officials (Finkel, 74-8). Many Byzantine and Serbian nobles converted to Islam and retained their offices under the Ottomans, such as Ahmed Pasha (Finkel, 61), George Amirutzes (Finkel, 62-3), and Has Murad Pasha (Finkel, 57). Mehmed’s 50,000 strong light cavalry included Christian soldiers too (Finkel, 69).

Mehmed did not want to cut Constantinople from its past entirely, but instead envisioned to take the city forward into a new era. For this reason, only six churches in the city were converted into mosques, including the Hagia Sophia – symbolic acts of control to drive home the message that a new Islamic dynasty had come to stay and the days of Christian Byzantium were now over (Finkel, 53). Even in the Hagia Sophia, many vestiges of the Byzantine past were not removed, such as the pictures of angels’ faces on some walls (Finkel, 53). Several monuments deliberately appeared on the cityscape to mark the Islamic era, such as the Fatih Mosque (Mosque of the Conquerer) which was built in honour of Mehmed, intended to rival the magnificance of the Hagia Sophia, and built after destructing the Church of the Holy Apostles on the site of the church (Finkel, 55). A mosque was also built at the tomb of Ayyub Ansari, a Companion of Prophet Muhammad (Finkel, 54). Topkapi Palace was built for Mehmed who now disappeared from public events, leading a life behind the ‘veil’. This new practice started by the Sultan, and followed by subsequent Ottoman rulers, created an air of mystery and power around the royal personage, inspiring awe and elevating the status of the ruler in the eyes of the masses (Finkel, 54-5). The news of Mehmed’s military genius were everywhere after 1453, yet Mehmed was nowhere to behold – a mysterious unseen presense in Constantinople, controlling the affairs of a vast empire. Mehmed called back the Greek residents of pre-1453 Constantinople who had fled the city, and encouraged Jews, Armenians, and people of all religions to settle in the city, bringing with them their wealth for the prosperity of Constantinople. He forced Muslims from other parts of the empire to relocate to Constantinople which was now called Istanbul (Finkel, 56). The city was also addressed with other titles such as “Islambol”, “Threshold of Felicity”, and “Abode of Felicity” (Finkel, 57). Conquered peoples were allowed to retain their faiths by the Ottomans (Finkel, 73), and in many instances, Muslims and non-Muslims alike had to pay the poll-tax which was supposed to be paid exclusively by the non-Muslims (Finkel, 66).

While for the Ottomans the capture of Constantinople may be The Conquest, for the dumbstruck Europe it was The Fall of Constantinople (Finkel, 49, 51). Europe was apprehensive about more vigorous attacks on its soil than the attacks in the past by the Ottomans following the events of 1453. The Pope tried to start crusades to reconquer the city for Christendom but these plans were unsuccessful due to dissensions amongst the Europeans (Finkel, 58). Depictions in Western art over the centuries show the events of 1453 as being diabolical, such as Benjamin Constant’s “The Entry of Mahomet II into Constantinople”, painted in 1876. This sudden upsurge of concern among Catholics for Constantinople and its importance to Christendom is in stark contrast to the earlier indifference shown by the Catholic West to the fate of ‘heretical’ Orthodox Constantinople, when the Catholic West largely ignored the pleas of the Byzantine Emperors for military assistance against the Ottomans (Finkel, 43).

Although the Byzantines were defending Constantinople against Muslim occupation, they also were not willing to be yoked to the Catholic Church in return for the Papal military aid. The rivalry between the two Orthodox and Catholic churches was such that when Emperor Constantine of Byzantium decided to unite with the Catholics in 1453 (a union which could be dispensed with when the threat from the Ottomans was over), he faced opposition from the Orthodox Byzantines, led by the monk George Scholarius; these people favored Muslim rule over having to substitute their religion for Catholicism even at this dangerous moment (Finkel, 50). Similar opposition had come up in earlier times as well. John VIII had also moved to a union with the Catholic Church in 1437 and had similarly provoked tremendous protest and an attack on Constantinople by his brother Demetrius of Mesembria (Finkel, 43). On the other hand, Catholic armies fighting on the side of the Byzantines in 1443-4, also decided it was in their better interest to make a truce with the Ottomans rather than support the Byzantines (Finkel, 44).

Despite all the instances of harmony between people belonging to the Islamic and Western civilizations, divisions also existed between the two. The vezir Bayezid Pasha refused to allow members of Ottoman royal family to be held hostage in Constantinople in the early 1400s, saying that “It is not good or consonant with the Prophet’s ordinances that the children of Muslims be nurtured by unbelievers” (Finkel, 37). Memories of the 1389 defeat of Christian Serbians by Muslim Ottomans in the Christian Serbian land fueled much violence in the twentieth century, and the Muslims were always viewed as foreigners by the Serbians even though these Muslims had lived in Serbia for six centuries (Finkel, 21). Constantine XI, the last Byzantine Emperor, is revered as a saint in the Greek Orthodox Church for his steadfast resistance of the Muslim invasion and various legends surround his death (Finkel, 52), such as the myth that he was turned into marble by a miracle in 1453 and will one day come back to life and liberate Constantinople from Muslim hands.1 Many legends also grew up in the Christian world around the incident of the fall of Constantinople, which depicted the event as being a sorrowful and tragic incident, such as the story of the ominous lunar eclipse before the city fell.2 Stories spread across Europe that the Turks were a savage people who were brutal to the Christian citizens in the Ottoman dominion, such as in Sir Thomas More’s “A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation” written in 1500s. Many of these stories were highly exaggerated but despite all the repulsion in Europe for the Turks, Europeans did not stop trading with them (More, 6).

Hence, the notion of the events of 1453 as being a clash between Muslim and Christian civilizations is a paradoxical one – it has no clear cut answer. We find that there were divisions within the Christian community and at times, many Christian factions preferred to side with the Muslim Ottomans rather than their fellow Christians. After the events of 1453, life continued peacefully for the people in many respects except for the change in the state religion and dynasty ruling at Constantinople. On the other hand, there are also instances where the two civilizations seem unable to adjust with one another and over the centuries the fall of Constantinople has been viewed with regret by the West. The notion of the capture of Constantinople by Ottomans as being a blow to Christendom at large is also questionable - importance of Constantinople for the various factions of the West varied greatly, depending on their interests at the time. There is no cut and dried answer to whether this historical event marks an arbitrary change of territory from one ruling empire to another or whether it marks a shift in power in which an “Islamic” Empire triumphs over a “Christian” one. It is, largely, a matter of opinion.

Readings used:
• Caroline Finkel, “First Among Equals”, “A Dynasty Divided”, and “An Imperial Vision”
• Selections from Ibn Batuta’s Travels
• Sir Thomas More, “The Savage Turk”

External sources used:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pakistan - India Relations in Recent Years

On 20th February 1999, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Pakistan. He came via bus from Amritsar to Lahore (Sattar, 229). This was only the second time that an Indian Prime Minister came to Lahore; Jawaharlal Nehru had visited Lahore in 1960 for the Indus Water Treaty (Singh, 197). The cities of Amritsar and Lahore had felt the Partition of 1947 most deeply as they are so close geographically and people still remembered how they used to often travel between the two cities before 1947 (Singh, 197). Coming to Pakistan via the Wagah border by bus, that too on the inaugural run of the new Lahore - Delhi bus service, was a remarkable message to the world that India wished to improve its relations with Pakistan (Singh, 198; Sattar, 229).

Prime Minister Vajpayee gave a speech in front of the Minar-e-Pakistan. He said that the members of his delegation who were sitting behind him had requested him not to visit the Minar-e-Pakistan which is a symbol of the Partition of the Subcontinent and the ideology of Pakistan, a celebration of the separation of the two countries in 1947. Yet, despite their repeated requests, he had chosen to visit the place and give a speech to show his sincerity and commitment to the cause of establishing peace between India and Pakistan. A lot of protests were staged in Pakistan by the Jamaat-e-Islami, terrorists activities took place in Kashmir, and the All-Party Hurriyat Conference announced a strike in Kashmir (Singh, 199). All this was aimed at destabilizing the peace process but these attempts proved to be futile (Singh, 199). Prime Minister Vajpayee and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signed the Lahore Declaration which was aimed at speeding up the process of the resolution of all disputes and outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir problem which had proved to be a bone of contention between the two countries ever since their inception (Singh, 199). The countries also condemned terrorism and agreed to take measures to avoid the risk of nuclear war between them, and pledged to inform each other beforehand when testing missiles (Sattar, 230). The move was much appreciated all over the globe, including in India (Singh, 199).

Then came an unfortunate twist of fate and the Kargil conflict happened between the two countries. Soon after the Lahore Declaration, Pakistan started shelling across the Line of Control as it had been doing for years to give cover to infiltrators to enter into Kashmir (Singh, 201). That year, the shelling started much earlier and with much greater intensity than usual in winter (Singh, 201). Reports came to the Indians that infiltrators had entered into Batalik, a village on the Line of Control (Singh, 202). Patrols sent to the area were attacked by the infiltrators, starting the Fifth Battle of Ladakh (Singh, 202). On 8th May 1999, the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, Pervez Musharraf, made an unannounced tour of the area opposite Kargil (Singh, 202). On 9th May, Pakistan Army shelling blew apart 5,000 tonnes of ammunition on the Indian side (Singh, 202). A few days later, Indian Army launched the Operation Vijay in Batalik (Singh, 202). Till now, the Indians were focusing on the infiltrators but by middle of May, indications started coming about the involvement of the Pakistani Army in the conflict in Kargil.

The Indians debated about the use of Air Force in the conflict since the geographical area of the conflict was limited in size and the casualties would have been greater, particularly as there was also a risk of loss of aircrafts which in turn could attract public condemnation (Singh, 203-204). Then there was the factor that aircrafts would have difficulty in determining the area of the Line of Control, since the Line of Control is not a visibly marked line (Singh, 204).

By now it was clear that the infiltrators were not regular terrorists who had come to destabilize Indian-held Kashmir, but were soldiers of the Pakistan Army (Singh, 204). Their skill, numbers, and equipment made this evident (Singh, 204) . They had come with the mission to block the Siachen glacier from Srinagar (Singh, 204). Any party which was in control of the strategic high altitude posts of Kargil would be able to observe the activity on the highway which connected the Indian troops of Ladakh (Singh, 205). This highway was used in transportation of seventy percent of the supplies used by the Indian soldiers of the area (Singh, 205). Prime Minister Vajpayee spoke to Nawaz Sharif, “We are aware that this intrusion in Kargil involved the use of regular troops from the Pakistan Army.” (Singh, 205) India let it be clear to Pakistan that this would not be tolerated at any cost and India would have to retaliate.

International community had now started issuing statements about the conflict, including the United Nations and the United States of America (Singh, 205). Pakistan and India had both become nuclear states the previous year, hence international concern was automatically on the rise about the ongoing conflict between the two states. Indian Air Force had started taking actions in Kargil and the first aircrafts, a MiG-27 and a MiG-21, were lost on 27th May (Singh, 206). To control the situation, Pakistan called for ‘meaningful international engagement’ and Nawaz Sharif spoke to Vajpayee again, offering to send the Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz to Delhi to ‘diffuse the current situation and to pave the way for a peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir issue’, stating that the Pakistan Army was not involved in the conflict in ‘any fashion’ (Singh, 206). Vajpayee then had to inform Sharif that the Indians had got hold of the dead body of a Pakistani soldier - along with his army documents (Singh, 206). Pakistan’s ambassador to USA, Riaz Khokhar, gave statements that the Line of Control was “vague or undefined in some manner”, while Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Sartaj Aziz said that the “fighters” in Kargil could be from “Afghanistan who may have crossed the LOC in support of the local mujahideen forces” (Singh, 208)

Jaswant Singh, who at that time was the Indian Minister for External Affairs, states that Madeleine Albright, the then-Secretary of State of USA, spoke to him about the developments in Kargil and that the USA had spoken to Pakistan about it, suggesting a cease-fire and that India and Pakistan should start a dialogue at the earliest in order to prevent the situation from getting out of hand (Singh, 206-207).

By mid-June, the Indian Army had re-established itself well in the region and the clearance of the region from the Pakistani soldiers continued till July (Singh, 209). The tides were turned. Pakistan hurriedly sent its Foreign Secretary to Delhi on 12th June 1999 (Singh, 220). The meeting was fruitless as India and the Vajpayee establishment felt stabbed in the back by Pakistan’s aggression into Indian-held Kashmir, immediately after the Lahore Declaration had been signed by the two countries (Singh, 221, 228). Sartaj Aziz was given the following conditions by India:
“1) immediate vacation of the aggression,
2) reaffirmation of the validity of the LOC,
3) abandoning of cross-border terrorism,
4) dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,
5) reaffirmation of the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.” (Singh, 226)

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hurried on an uninvited visit to Washington to have an emergency meeting with President Clinton on 4th July 1999 – US Independence Day - to get US help in negotiations with India (Sattar, 232). President Clinton kept in touch with Vajpayee about the meetings with Sharif, even inviting Vajpayee to the meetings, but Vajpayee refused (Singh; Sattar, 232). On 11th July, the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan met at Attari on the Indian side of the border to discuss the procedure of the withdrawal of Pakistani soldiers from Kargil in less than a week’s time. (Singh, 226) The conflict was over by 16th July, claiming the lives of between eleven to twelve thousand Pakistanis and Indians (Sattar, 232; Hagerty, 40).

In 2001, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his government invited Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to a dialogue in Agra in relation to solving the Kashmir dispute (Sattar, 236). This was inspite of the fact that Pervez Musharraf was the very man who had conceived of the Kargil invasion into Indian-held Kashmir.

The Agra Summit took place on 15th and 16th July 2001. The two leaders, Vajpayee and Musharraf, met each other and reached a settlement between them, and then on 16th they informed their foreign ministers of the points agreed upon which should be used to form a declaration to be finalized that day (Sattar, 236). The foreign ministers of the two countries then formed a draft of the declaration and took them to their respective authorities for approval. President Musharraf approved this document (Sattar, 236). However, the draft was not approved by the Indian cabinet committee on political affairs. Indian Minister of External Affairs, Jaswant Singh, discussed a slight amendment on the point about Kashmir with his Pakistani counterpart, Abdul Sattar, as the Indians felt that enough emphasis had not yet been put on the issue of terrorism (Sattar, 236). The Pakistani minister agreed to the amendment and preparations for the ceremony for signing of the declaration commenced (Sattar, 236). Jaswant Singh hoped to get this amended draft approved by the Indian authorities but this did not happen. The Pakistanis were informed that the document would not be signed at that time due to certain disagreements in the Indian cabinet committee about the declaration, and that the Indian Prime Minister would visit Pakistan later to sign the final agreement (Sattar, 237). Musharraf felt offended and stormed off from India without even visiting the Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti shrine in Ajmer Sharif, as was scheduled (Singh, 257, 260). Vaypayee was livid.

Jaswant Singh in his book “A Call to Honour” states that Musharraf had a rather grandstanding attitude during the Summit’s initial press conference with the media: “he refused to accept the presence of terrorism as an issue; continued to emphasize only the centrality of Jammu and Kashmir; was almost desmissive of Lahore; would not at all accept the reality of what Kargil was, what he had done; and he seemed almost to dismiss the Shimla Agreement… He wanted to carry back a victory, to be able to say: ‘We straightforward, direct-dealing military men achieve results, we do not beat about the bush etc.’” (Singh, 255) According to Singh, this meeting with the media shaped the atmosphere and subsequently shaped Musharraf’s attitude for the rest of the Summit duration. (Singh, 255) Apart from that, Musharraf had been refusing so far from setting an agenda for the talks to be held in the Summit, despite Indian officials repeated emphasis on its significance. Thus there was no agenda when the representatives of the two countries assembled at Agra (Singh, 256).

The Agra Summit ended without any agreement being reached upon. Only the prospect of another summit was a silver lining in the gloom. President Musharraf said, “I came back empty-handed but the Summit was not a failure”, while Jaswant Singh said, “We will pick up threads from the visit of the President of Pakistan.” (Abdul Sattar, 237) This optimism soon died down. Indian Ministry of External Affairs stated that “No agreement was reached. There was no closure of an agreement and no subscription by signature.” (Abdul Sattar, 237) President Musharraf blamed Indian deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani for preventing the Indian cabinet committee from approving the draft of the declaration, while Advani said that the failure was due to Pakistan not agreeing “to the clauses on terrorism in the draft suggested by India.” (Abdul Sattar, 238) Thus, India and Pakistan let go of another opportunity to solve their disputes as a result of their internal disagreements.

The 2001 Agra Summit was an ideal time for the resolution of the decades old Jammu and Kashmir dispute. At that time, Pakistan was being represented by the Army which are the hardliners in Pakistan, while India was being represented by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which are the Hindu hardliners in India. A lasting settlement of disputes can only be reached if the powerful hardliners of the two countries sat down for talks towards the settlement of all long-standing disputes. This was the case in Agra as both hardliners were assembled at one place for negotiations and the constellations were ripe and propitious for the two countries to make decisions for peace and progress. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Indian Prime Minister, was very sincere towards the cause of establishing good relations with Pakistan. He had also devised the Chenab Formula, whereby a part of Indian-held land in Kashmir along the River Chenab could be handed over to Pakistan in the settlement of the Kashmir dispute. No other Indian government could ever have even thought about giving away even an inch of Indian land which Vajpayee was prepared to do for this cause. Pakistanis, unfortunately, did not avail this opportunity. Vajpayee was around his 80s, there may never be another person like Vajpayee on the Prime Minister’s post in India. There is now no more a Chenab Formula which Pakistan could have availed at that time.

Musharraf was a military man and had the mentality of how he could conquer Kashmir for Pakistan by warfare. Plus, the Pakistan Army belonged to a Muslim nation and Muslims had traditionally ruled the Subcontinent, for a thousand years before the British arrived. The Pakistan Army had also not been able to absorb the humiliations of 1971 at the hands of a Hindu people. Musharraf’s attempts proved futile and near the end of his regime he was forced to reconsider his take on the issue. He resorted to diplomatic means towards the settlement of the Kashmir dispute. To this end, the Musharraf government held negotiations with the Man Mohan Singh establishment in India for the resolution of the Kashmir problem. Rumor has it that it was decided in 2007 that the Muslim areas of Kashmir were to go under Pakistan’s administration while the non-Muslim regions were to come under Indian administration, and there was supposed to be a relaxed border in Kashmir. This formula was based on (a) a soft border along the Line of Control, (b) a joint mechanism, (c) demilitarization in Kashmir and (d) easing of trade and cross border human contact in Kashmir. Indian Prime Minister was supposed to come over to Islamabad to sign the new declaration, and was waiting for his invitation and other formalities to be completed. Unfortunately, the invitation never came. The Chief Justice controversy brewed up in Pakistan in 2007 and President Musharraf got increasing forced into this new front, eventually resigning from his post in August 2008 due to the political developments in Pakistan. Hence, once more the fate of Kashmir could not change. The present government of Pakistan denies that any formula was devised between the Musharraf and Man Mohan Singh governments, whereas Musharraf continues to reiterate about the formula.

Kashmir is a region with no access to the sea, it is a landlocked region. For it to prosper, any formula agreed upon would need to consider that its economy would have to be inevitably linked with either Pakistan or with India, or with both (Hannum, 22). Autonomy given to Kashmir in most areas of government except defense and foreign affairs would also have various obligations for both India and Pakistan, particularly in the field of economy and finance (Hannum, 21). Also, before giving autonomy to Kashmir in crucial areas of government, one should consider “(1) those areas in which Kashmiris believe that self-government is essential; (2) areas in which continued linkages and cooperation with India and/or Pakistan are desirable; and (3) symbolic issues which may not have great practical impact on daily Kashmiri life but which would strengthen Kashmiri identity and culture.” (Hannum, 21)

Today, there are a few states of the world which have self-government in all areas except defense and foreign affairs. For example, the Cook Islands and Niue have autonomy and yet their people continue to have New Zealand nationality (Hannum, 18). Andorra is a sovereign member of the United Nations but its defense comes under the combined jurisdiction of Spain and France (Hannum, 17). The possibility of Kashmir having a similar successful political structure is there in the light that similar arrangements do exist with success and peace in a few other parts of the world.

Pakistan and India have fought several wars over the Kashmir dispute during the past six decades, losing thousands of lives and destroying their infrastructures in wars of 1965, 1971, and 1999, spending millions of dollars in these conflicts and to keep themselves armed for possibilities of any military clashes at the cost of cutting down their expenditures on other important areas for development, such as education and health, ruining regional peace conditions. It would not be feasible now for them to let go of Kashmir by giving it complete independence. On the other hand, if something is not done soon, these conditions and these losses would continue and Kashmir will remain the bone of contention between the two regional countries. In the long run, therefore, a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir problem is to the benefit for all the three parties concerned, to wit, India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiris.

The proposed Man Mohan – Musharraf formula of 2007 was good because it evidently took into consideration the convenience and welfare of all the three concerned parties. The soft border would have enhanced people to people contact amongst the Kashmiri families who were divided because of the Line of Control. It would also have enhanced trade as trade would have become much easier and efficient, which could have brought prosperity and progress. People on the two sides of the Line of Control could have helped each other in time of need, as the need arose in the 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir. An issue here would have been of terrorist training camps in Azad Kashmir, but then again, these Jihadist camps would not exist if the Kashmir dispute was peacefully resolved as the Pakistani intelligence agencies would not facilitate them. Plus there was to be a joint mechanism between India and Pakistan which could have been very fruitful in maintaining peace since the two armies would have been cooperating. Demilitarization of the region would have reduced tension between the two countries as well as saved the already meager financial resources of Pakistan. Hence, overall the formula was beneficial for the two countries so there is a high possibility that it would have been viable, since the interests of the stakeholders would have been well served by it.

Research included readings of books from course-packs of courses taught by Ambassador Shaharyar Khan at LUMS.
1) “A Call to Honour” by Jaswant Singh
2) “Pakistan’s Foreign Policy” by Abdul Sattar
3) “South Asia in World Politics” by Devin T. Hagerty
4) “Kashmir – A Way Forward” by Hurst Hannum

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Marxism in Pakistan

This article explores the development of Marxism in Pakistan's politics and history through the years and tries to identify the factors that may have inhibited its spread in Pakistan.

At the time of its creation, Pakistan was very weak and struggling to stand on its own feet. It turned for help to various countries but did not get a very good response. At this critical time, Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan received an invitation on 2nd June 1949 from USSR for a visit to Moscow for holding dialogues.1, 2 Liaquat Ali Khan saw a ray of hope through this invitation but delayed the tour and after some time got an invitation for a visit from USA offering economic and political aid as well as support on the Kashmir issue.1, 2 Pakistan accepted this invitation and Liaquat Ali Khan visited Washington in May 1950.1, 2 From then onwards, Pakistan became a member of the rightist camp.1, 2

Speaking of Marxism in Pakistan, it is necessary to mention the All-India Progressive Writers’ Association. Soviet literary policy influenced Urdu literature in India and Pakistan. The Soviet Communist Party organized the Union of Soviet Writers in 1934. At that time, the Soviet foreign policy was enticing Communist groups in other countries to unite under antifascist alliances. The All-India Progressive Writers’ Association (AIPWA) was established in 1936 with the first All-India Progressive Writers’ Conference being held in Lucknow. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, who was the leftist leader of the Congress Party, was invited to preside over the Conference. (Malik, 649) The Association was a tool of the Communist Party of India (CPI), though any charges of this Communist affiliation were strongly denied. The Communist leader Sajjad Zaheer was elected as the Secretary General of the All-India Progressive Writers’ Association. However, the patronage of many well-known non-Communist personalities such as Maulana Hasrat Mohani, Maulavi Abdul Haqq, President of Anjuman Taraqqi-i Urdu, Doctor Abid Husain, Qazi Abdul Ghaffar, Josh Malih-Abadi, and Abdul Majid Salik, subsided the suspicions of any Communist affiliations of the Association a great deal. Between 1936 and 1947, the Movement had much influence on Urdu writers. Many Marxist writers emerged from the Punjab such as Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Nadim Qasimi, Zahir Kashmiri and Sahir Ludhianvi. They incorporated Marxist ideas in Urdu poetry and tried to fuse these ideas in novels and story writing as well. (Malik, 652)

The progressive writers largely belonged to upper and middle classes of the society so they did not know about the lives of the proletariat even though they were united under the idea that they should help these lower classes. These writers agreed that their social class connection was due to the prevailing capitalist social order and all of them were determined to work against their own social classes. Faiz Ahmad Faiz said that “Marx, Engels, and Lenin were not manual workers; not one of them had ever worked in any factory even for a day. Much would depend on how well [the progressive writers] understand the problems of the workers, act wisely and sincerely.” According to Faiz, literary imagination and sincerity in expression could be sufficient tools for the progressive writers even if they did not have the chance to have contact with the workers. Faiz said, “If the message of the progressive writers does not reach the uneducated workers at least it reaches the middle classes. The war between the capitalist and the proletariat is not the exclusive war of the proletariat; it is a battle challenging all of us. Are not we part of our society?” (Malik, 652-653) Many practical suggestions to familiarize the progressive writers with the conditions of the proletariat were made, some were even followed. A branch of peasant poetry emerged in which Sayyid Muttalabi Faridabadi became well-known. (Malik, 654)

The Progressive Writers’ Association could not do well in Pakistan after 1947, as in Pakistan the Communist ideology of the Association was not looked upon favorably. The Communist Party got annihilated in Pakistan after Partition. The Communist Party of India (CPI) tried to work in Pakistan for a few months between 1947-1948, and in 1948 decided to have a distinct and new Communist Party in Pakistan. CPI had a difficult time trying to find a leader who could head the new party in Pakistan. In the end, Sajjad Zaheer became the Secretary-General of the newly formed Communist party of Pakistan (CPP). Zaheer now resigned from the post of Secretary-General of AIPWA. Ahmad Nadim Qasimi was named the Secretary-General of the All-Pakistan Progressive Writers’ Association (APPWA) at its formal creation in Lahore. (Malik, 659)

Even though CPP was a perfectly legal political party between 1948-1954, it was closely being monitored by the Pakistani Government. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, in 1951, charged the CPP with having attempted to hatch a plan to overthrow the Pakistani government with the help of some accomplices from Pakistan Army. Sajjad Zaheer and Faiz Ahmad Faiz were put behind bars and faced a trial along with Major General Akbar Khan, the Pakistan Army Chief of Staff. All the accused were convicted in 1953 and by 1954 the Communist Party of Pakistan was declared illegal across the country. (Malik, 659) However, the CPP had helped formulate several other Leftist political organizations in Pakistan. Mian Iftakhar-ud-Din and Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan created the leftist Azad Pakistan Party in early 1950s. This party was an ally of Ganatantri Dal, a leftist organization in East Pakistan. (Malik, 659-660)

In late 1940s, Mian Iftakhar-ud-Din started the Progressive Papers Limited which was a leftist stock company. It began publishing Pakistan Times, the daily Imroz, and many other political magazines. Faiz Ahmad Faiz became the first editor of The Pakistan Times and managing editor of the daily Imroz. In 1953, Ahmad Nadim Qasmi who was the Secretary-General of the All-Pakistan Progressive Writers’ Association (APPWA) became the editor of the Imroz. (Malik, 660)

Under Qasmi, the APPWA made various attempts to influence young writers and poets of Pakistan. To a large extent, they did manage to draw many intellectuals to the movement. The personal charisma of Ahmad Nadim Qasmi and Faiz Ahmad Faiz was instrumental in this as they still had rather stainless reputations. (Malik, 660)
The decline of the All-Pakistan Progressive Writers’ Association was hastened by their belligerent attitude against the Pakistani government and their rigid stance against those writers who wavered from the beliefs of the Association. (Malik, 661)
The first all-Pakistan Conference took place in Lahore in 1949. There were four Soviet representatives present. The progressive writers discussed that a new time of revolutionary struggle was now there with the creation of Pakistan and there was a need for the writers to avail new opportunities of action. The manifesto which was formed discussed the trends in Pakistani literature and also stated the position of the progressive writers that they had challenged the policies of the Pakistani government and were ready to work for the development of Socialism in Pakistan. The manifesto also discussed the presence of writers in Pakistan whose only purpose was to promote the policies of the Pakistani leadership (“reactionary writers”). (Malik, 661)

From the writers who favored the current establishment, many belonged to active groups. One such group spoke of art for art’s sake; they were indifferent to art with meaning and were only concerned with style and decoration in literary texts. Another group spoke of nationalism; they were only concerned with selling Islamic literature and in reality were unaware of the true spirit of Islam. Likewise, several such groups were discussed. (Malik, 661)

The manifesto declared that the progressive writers looked upon art not just for art’s sake, but also believed that art should be used to benefit society and change society for the better. A number of publications were labeled as belonging to groups which favored the current Pakistani establishment, such as Mah-i Nao, Naya Daur, Saqi, and Urdu Adab, and progressive writers were instructed not to participate in them. In the end, the manifesto condemned many writers who supported the capitalist regime, among them Sadat Hasan Manto, Hasan Askari Noon Mim Rashid and Qurrat al-Ayin Hayder, instructing the progressive magazines to refrain from publishing their works. (Malik, 662)

Not all the writers had accepted Marxism, although they had earlier been sympathetic towards the movement. The movement required much sacrifice and the uncompromising attitude of the Association destroyed the unity of the movement. Dissidents under Hasan Askari and Manto accepted the notion of art for art’s sake. The remaining members of the APPWA gathered around Ahmad Nadim Qasmi and Faiz Ahmad Faiz and eventually began to be called the Sawera group, after the name of one of their magazines. The splintering of APPWA was good for their rivals who consequently gained considerable influence over the country’s publications. (Malik, 662-663)
APPWA’s policies led to clashes with the Pakistani establishment. In the 1949 Conference, APPWA passed following resolutions which
“- condemned the Provincial Government’s Public Safety Act, and the Public Safety Ordinance of the Government of Pakistan;
- demanded the withdrawal of the arrest warrant for Sajjad Zaheer;
- disapproved of the decisions of the Pakistan Newspapers Editors Conference, which condemned those provisions of the Pakistan Safety Ordinance which were only applicable to newspapers;
- lent moral support to the journalists of the Sindh Observer, who were in conflict with the paper’s management;
- condemned the “reactionary writers” international organization, P.E.N.;
- demanded the recognition of the People’s Republic of China, and congratulated the Chinese masses on their success against the Kuomintang;
- condemned the repressive policies of the capitalist countries against their progressive writers;
- appreciated the courage and determination of Indian progressive writers, and - condemned the “terrorism” of the Nehru and Patel government;
- declared the Association’s determination to take full part in the international struggle to preserve peace;
- emphasized the policy of support to provincial dialects along with Urdu;
- recommended the policy of bringing literature and art closer to the masses.” (Malik, 663)

It was not a good idea to announce these eleven resolutions since they challenged the Pakistani establishment at a period when the Association was not strong enough. The supporters of the movement were only there in the cities of Pakistan and the patron of APPWA, the Communist Party of Pakistan was still trying to gain grounds in Pakistan. This policy tells us of the misjudgment of Sajjad Zaheer about the Pakistani political scenario. The Pakistani Government was weak after Partition but it was not that fragile that it could not tackle the problem from the leftists, particularly since this problem was on such a limited scale. In 1951, the APPWA was announced to be a political party by the Pakistani establishment and was frequently disturbed by it until 1958. (Malik, 663)

It was Ayub Khan who finished the Progressive Papers Limited in 1958. It was charged with conspiring with a foreign power and its assets were forcibly put up on auction, sold to a group of businessmen for 4,600,000 ruppees. This was a death blow for APPWA, since it deprived the progressive writers of their means of making a living. Many writers became incorporated into different organizations while the most rebellious were left to make a scarce living out of their own publications. Hence the Association died out completely. (Malik, 663-664)

In 1966, there was a debate in West Pakistan about the compatibility between Islam and socialism and whether the term “Islamic Socialism” made sense or was a term that had inherent contradictions. A number of Middle Eastern intellectuals had earlier written about the topic, especially after Nasser’s formal proclamation of “Arab Socialism” in early 1960s. The Pakistani “Islamic Socialists” were negligent of this literature and hence did not make good use of it. (Fazlur Rahman, 31)

Allama Iqbal had criticized the capitalism of the West, had appreciated Lenin in his poem “Lenin’s Petition to God”, had suggested the abolishment of religion if it did not give the proletariat their rights in a poem “God’s Command to Angels”, and in “It Is God’s Earth” he said that the resources on earth belong to all humanity and cannot become the property of a handful of people. (Fazlur Rahman, 31) Iqbal wrote the following verses about Karl Marx:
“The world does not like tricks and
Of science and wit nor, their contests
This age does not like ancient thoughts,
From core of hearts their show detests.
O wise economist, the books you write
Are quite devoid of useful aim:
They have twisted lines with orders strange
No warmth for labour, though they claim.
The idol houses of the West,
Their schools and churches wide
The ravage caused for, greed of wealth
Their wily wit attempts to hide.”5

However, Iqbal also criticized certain aspects of Communism. In “Satan’s Advisory Council” he rejected the materialistic philosophy of Communism. He thought that Communism had brought about an equitable economic system (which was similar to that of Islam) but it should not have materialism behind it. He wrote to Sir Francis Younghusband that “If Bolshevism can accept God, it will come very close to Islam. I will not, therefore, be surprised if at some future time Islam overwhelms Russia or Russia overwhelms Islam.” Similarly, Iqbal rejected the “atheistic socialism of Jawaharlal [Nehru]” and also termed the Muslim League’s apathy towards improving the conditions of the Islamic masses as being un-Islamic in his letters to Jinnah. (Fazlur Rahman, 31)

In the 1966 arguments, Iqbal was vigorously quoted by the two sides. The socialists quoted his statements about the similarities between Islam and socialism, while their opponents quoted his denunciation of atheistic socialism. Both Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan had actually used the term “Islamic Socialism”. (Fazlur Rahman, 31) In the Introduction to the Guidelines of his Third Five-Year Plan, Ayub Khan had mentioned that the aim of his policies was “Islamic Socialism”. But the topic gained a lot of controversy and the term “Islamic Socialism” was excluded from the text when it was finally published. (Fazlur Rahman, 32)

Bhutto launched his socialist campaign in 1966 and he was quick to understand that he needed to incorporate Islam in his socialism in order strengthen his political support in the country. J.A.Rahim, who was a Communist in his party did not approve of this and protested vehemently when Mawlana Kawsar Niazi was appointed the Propaganda Secretary of the Party. However, the Pakistan People’s Party maintained its stance of Islamic Socialism in its election manifesto, and after winning the 1970 elections Bhutto proclaimed his victory as “great victory for Islam”. In Pakistani society, vows of bringing prosperity in future through the bringing into check of the assets of upper classes brings good results in elections, especially if such vows are mingled with a touch of Islam. (Fazlur Rahman, 31) Whereas it was easy to win the elections, it was not so easy for Bhutto to manage the affairs of state once he came into power. His party’s vote bank had included a very diverse set of people, including Communists, socialists, Islamic Socialists and even landlords. Such diversity makes it difficult to have a definite policy, keeping the interests of all factions in mind. Clearly, an Islamic Socialist country would firstly need a well drafted ideology based on Islam, and secondly would need the relevant ideologically engineered government frame work for it to function. Both these features were not there in Bhutto’s time. (Fazlur Rahman, 32)

The slogan of the PPP was “Islamic Socialism”, yet it was excluded from the 1973 Constitution. There was nothing incorrect in the term, it could have been used to make true the possibilities of establishing an equitable Islamic system in the modern environment. Perhaps the opposition of the other two socialist inclined political parties, the National Awami Party and the Jamiyat ul-Ulama, made Bhutto compromise with the rightists. (Fazlur Rahman, 32)

When speaking of Marxism in Pakistan, it would be unjust to not mention Faiz Ahmad Faiz, a known Marxist, and one of the finest poets of Urdu in twentieth century. Poetry had been Faiz’s passion in his early life. It was after he started teaching at Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College in Amritsar in 1935 that he got a passion for politics and public relations. He made many new Marxist friends, among them Mahmuduz-Zafar and his wife Rashid Jahan. Reading The Communist Manifesto greatly influenced Faiz. It was banned in India, but Faiz got access to it through his new Marxist friends. From then on, Faiz led a politically active life. He helped establish the All-India Progressive Writers’ Association. (Khalid, 260) About Faiz’s poetry, Sajjad Zaheer said “[T]he values represented by the poet are the same as the values of all progressive humanity of today. But Faiz has adopted them so well that they neither appear distinct from the best traditions of our civilization and culture, nor is the individuality of the poet, his soft, sweet, and lyrical style divorced from them.” (Khalid, 261)

In Lahore, after Partition, Faiz engaged in various works including journalism, trade unions and the international peace movement. But such activities were not endorsed in the newly formed state as its government increasing leaned towards the right and adopted a pro-American stance in its foreign relations. (Khalid, 261)

In 1951, Faiz met his army friends who were dissatisfied with the current political system of the country and wanted to bring about a change. Faiz brought his Communist friend Sajjad Zaheer to the discussion. Although they all decided that the time was not suitable for any attempt to bring about change, they were discovered and charged with having plotted and conspired to overthrow the regime, and were hence convicted. Faiz got a sentence of four years in jail. Faiz spent this time writing poetry, which he had abandoned earlier. His poetic collection, Dast-e Saba was published while he was still in prison. (Khalid, 261-262)

When Faiz was freed, Cold War was happening and left wing activities were suppressed in Pakistan. Faiz could do very little. He remained a part of the International Peace Committee and he acquired an international literary reputation, receiving the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962, the greatest honor the Soviet Union had for foreign literary figures. (Khalid, 262)

Circumstances improved for Faiz when Bhutto came to power, a man whose policies Faiz liked. Bhutto appointed him as Consultant on Cultural Affairs to Ministry of Education. Then came Zia ul Haq’s regime and Faiz spent much of the time abroad in exile until 1983 when he returned to Lahore. He passed away the following year. (Khalid, 262-263)

According to Russian author Vasilieva, “the political and social values that were of the first importance for Faiz did not pass the test of history”. Faiz’s poetry in his poetic collection Mire Dil, Mire Musafir is characterized mostly with sadness, doubt and despair. According to Vasilieva, this despair and grief was largely due to Faiz’s doubts about the Soviet Union and also due to doubts about Faiz’s lifelong beliefs and aims, or about how they were being brought about. (Khalid, 267) Faiz died in 1984, and did not survive to see the collapse of so many things which were important to him, including the break up of the Soviet Union. (Khalid, 268)

We now turn our attention towards how the present Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party in Pakistan came into being.7 The Communist Party of Pakistan was banned after the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case in 1951, together with its many front organizations such as Democratic Students Federation, the All-Pakistan Progressive Writers Association, Railway Workers’ Union (headed by Communist Mirza Ibrahim).7 The Communist Party and the movement became clandestine.7

The party tried to build up support, operating behind Maulana Bhashani’s anti-imperialist National Awami Party (NAP).7 NAP was a mixture of regional nationalists and leftists.7 In 1960s, CPP tried to stir up support from amongst the working classes.7

Then came the rift between the Chinese and the Soviets which splintered the Pakistani Communists into two groups.7 The Pakistani Maoists started the Mazdoor Kissan Party (MKP) in 1970 under Major Ishaq Muhammed.7 The MKP started a guerilla war against feudals in Hashtnagar.7 The success of the People’s War, as this war was called, had an encouraging effect on the leftist movement in Pakistan.7 This war liberated an area of 200 square miles and similar movements started erupting all over the country.7 The Communist Party of Pakistan was pro-Soviet and it also started a peasant armed movement in Patfeeder in Baluchistan.7 They also began to influence various worker unions in the cities. The 1970s was period of struggles against the bourgeoisie, and the peasants and workers gained control of various sectors which remain strongholds of the working classes.7

In 1977, there was a military coup and the communist leaders were put behind bars. The head of MKP, Major Ishaq Muhammed, too was jailed and died in 1982. After him a peasant communist leader, Ghulam Nabi Kalu, led the MKP.7

In 1986, MKP criticized Gorbachev’s policies for the reason that they thought it would restore capitalism in USSR.7 The CPP, however, maintained their support for Glasnost and Perestroika.7 The fall of the Soviet Union had an adverse affect on the communist movement in Pakistan.7 Many people deserted the movement and it was a time of ideological confusion and political disillusionment.7 It was at this time in 1995 that the Communist Party of Pakistan and the Mazdoor Kissan Party engaged in self assessment and united to form the new Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) to save the communist movement.7

One reason which can be identified why Marxism has not flourished in Pakistan is that the workers and peasants are not exactly united to rise in order to bring about a revolution. The working classes in Pakistan are mostly the serfs, peasants, daily wage workers who are divided along the lines of ethnicities, sectarianism, kinship, communities, castes.

Another reason why Marxism has not been able to spread in Pakistan may be that a notion is propagated by the rulers of the promise of roti, kapra aur makaan (bread, clothes and house) for all, though it means nothing to the rulers. This is the ideological guise beneath which the rulers who themselves are the bourgeoisie are manipulating the thinking of the proletariat masses to stay in power by making the masses think along certain lines designed by these rulers.

Another reason why spread of Marxism has been inhibited in Pakistan is that the Pakistani society is emotionally attached to Islam. The ruling classes have, by a propaganda, spread the notion that Marxism is an ungodly ideology, which is opposed to religion in general, and is a threat to Islam in particular. During the 1980s, the Soviet Union was branded as being the "infidel” Soviets.8

To divert the attention of the proletariat from a revolution, the rulers have created outside enemies (the phenomenon of the security state, tensions with India, ISI created Taliban, and so on), which portray the ruling class as well as the whole nation as the deprived victims of imperialism.

Privatization and structural adjustments programs of World Bank, IMF (neoliberalism in general) break down trade unions and affect labor laws negatively, which can lead to a break down in the Left's movement.


2. "Liaquat Ali Khan « My Distinguished Sense." My Distinguished Sense. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. .
3. Malik, Hafeez (1967) The Marxist Literary Movement in India and Pakistan, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 26, No. 4 (pg. 649-664)
4. Fazlur Rahman, “Islam and the New Constitution of Pakistan”, in J. Henry Korson ed. Contemporary Problems of Pakistan, 1974, Pages 31-33.
5. "The Voice of Karl Marx « Red Diary." Red Diary. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. .
6. Khalid, Adeeb, The Life and Works of Faiz Ahmad Faiz
7. Vidrohi. "History of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party. « The Rebel Road…." The Rebel Road…. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. .

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Some Day..

Today would have been a day not unlike any other for me a few months ago.

I am trapped at my grandmother's place, unable to go home due to the ongoing law and order breakdown in the city of Karachi. I woke up at noon, ate, drank, and wasted time on the net. It was the television which was the only source of information for me about what was happening outside the walls of the suburban house I am staying in.

The streets of Karachi were deserted, there was sporadic firing all around the city, attendance in schools was low, shops were closed while those that were open went up in flames. The reason as we all know it - the assassination of a political figure a couple of days ago in an episode of a series of target killings which have paralyzed the City of Quaid for the last many months.

The news at midnight on TV have prompted me to pick up a pen and put down my thoughts in writing.

The events of the past few days have been some of the saddest for our nation. There are incoming news of the catastrophic deluge which just wreaked havoc in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, and which is fast approaching Sindh. As if that was not enough for our already augmented miseries, we hear today of yet another bomb blast in Peshawar which left four people dead, including the Commandant of the Frontier Constabulary.

What the hell are the political leaders doing, going on official tours abroad when they should be here with the nation at a time when it needs them most? It is painful and infuriating to see their apathy, merely contenting themselves with staying in cheap hotels on their foreign tours to save money for the people. So much for their duties to the nation.

What makes this day different than others for me is an unprecedented level of troubled and guilty conscience. It is excruciating to see my almost total helplessness in this situation, restlessness at being unable to do anything, at not being able to think of a way to bring ever-green prosperity to my society, my people, my country. Added to this is a new realization that out there, there must be others like me; other young minds, slowly awakening, frustrated, dejected, yearning to scream out loud at the rulers' indifference; people who are unaware of how best to channel their energies in to correcting the political and economic system of the country, for only then can we have a society which we, at present, can only dream of.

It is almost dawn as I write on and on, write down something which is only a wave from a treacherous sea caught up in a tempest, a sea of thoughts which have now been bothering me for the past several months; a leaf of a tree perilously swaying in a blowing storm.

Writing is becoming but a way for me to take out my frustration. I know I am somewhat becoming a changed man.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mahmud Ghaznavid and the Raid on Somanatha

In 1026 A.D., Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni raided the famous Hindu temple of Somanatha in present-day Gujarat, India. He is reported to have looted the wealth of the temple, desecrated and demolished the temple building and broken the Hindu idol which was a Shiva lingam. The event has been retold over the ages by different peoples in different ways. This paper will explore how the historiography of this event has been manipulated, embroidered and how it has evolved and changed over the period until it has reached us in its present version.

Before embarking on an exploration of the different perceptions of this event in history, we must first understand and acknowledge that the destruction of temples or other places of worship was not an unknown phenomenon in Indian society. Grand temples were built by rulers and were maintained by their successors as symbols of the might and glory of their dynasties. These temples were built with huge royal grants, and revenues from entire villages and estates were dedicated for their upkeep (Thapar, Early India, pg 427). In addition to performing the principal function of serving as places of worship, these temples exhibited the power and generosity of their royal patrons. As such, whenever a ruling dynasty was overthrown or a place conquered by an invader, many of these temples or other places of worship were sometimes destructed as bold statements of control by the incoming regimes, symbolizing an end of the previous government and the new rival government’s contempt for it. This destruction also served the additional purpose of impressing upon the masses that a similar fate awaited their other places of worship if they were not loyal to the new regime. The Rashtrakuta King, Indra III, destroyed a Pratihara temple in Kalpa when he defeated the Pratiharas. Similarly, Subhatavarma, the Paramara king of Malwa, destroyed the Chaulukyas’ temples, as well as the Jaina temples and Arab mosques that were built under Chaulukya patronage (Thapar, Early India, pg 428). Not only this but these temples were repositories of massive treasures, accumulated there from the offerings and taxation of pilgrims, revenues dedicated by entire villages, as well as the trade in which many of these temples themselves engaged. Inevitably, these temples attracted the plundering armies of various greedy rulers. The kings of Kashmir are known to have engaged in plundering temples, and one of them, Harshadeva, had a minister especially appointed for this purpose of sacking temples. Many such instances of temple destructions are on record (Thapar, Early India, pg 428).

We now come to examine the reasons behind Mahmud of Ghazni’s seventeen or so raids into India. There were several political developments in the Middle East at this time. The Seljuk Turks were rising in power and there were tensions with the Christians of Europe in the prelude to the Crusades (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 50). Mahmud needed to consolidate his rule in Central Asia. He had come to power by usurping his brother’s throne (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 49) (he defeated his brother Ismail in 997 A.D. in a battle and ascended the throne; his brother had inherited the throne from their father Subuktigin who had nominated Ismail as his successor) 1. He needed legitimacy in the eyes of his people as their king as well as finances to establish his authority (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 40). He also wished to develop his capital at Ghazni into a rich commercial and cultural centre to match the glories of Baghdad, and for this he needed wealth and craftsmen (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 41, 48). He needed elephants and slaves to maintain his army (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 39). The raids into the Indian Subcontinent were an ideal means to achieving all these ends. India was a wealthy, trading country and its temples were a rich source of wealth for replenishing the treasury at Ghazni. One entire raid of Mahmud was conducted for the sole purpose of acquiring a special kind of elephants for his armies (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 48). Also, at this time, horse trade was a very profitable business in India (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 30-31). Good quality horses were not bred in India and were imported instead from the Orient and Central Asia. Arabs were more dominant over the horse trade in Gujarat due to their sea trade than the Central Asians who traded over land with India. One possible reason for Mahmud’s invasion of Gujarat may have been to break the Arab monopoly over horse trade in the region (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 48). The raids, many of whose accounts were exaggerated by Mahmud himself in his letters to the Abbasid caliph, also helped Mahmud gain the caliph’s recognition and commendation which gained him respect and awe in the Muslim world as a champion of the Muslims. The Caliph Al-Qadir Billah lavished titles on him (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 51) such as “Yamin-ud-Daula” (after which his house became known as the Yamini dynasty) and “Amin-ul-Millat” between 1026 and 1029 A.D 2. The motives behind the raids of Mahmud into India were therefore mainly political and economical. To some extent, the raids of Mahmud were also based on religious iconoclasm. Mahmud did not only destroy Hindu temples as his Jihad against the infidel; he, being a staunch Sunni, also destroyed the Shiite and Ismailia places of worship in Multan, regarding any form of Islam other than Sunni Islam as being heresy (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 42, 48, 50; Thapar, Early India, pg 427).

The narratives of this event vary in their extent of underlining the importance of this event. The most fanciful and the most filled with contradictions are the narratives that come from the Muslim historians in Turko-Persian accounts. The Muslim historians tended to glorify this raid as being a huge achievement of the Muslims and of Mahmud. Many things in these narratives seem to be fantasies and on many counts it happens that the contradictory accounts of one historian cancel out those of other historians. For instance, some Turko-Persian historians mention that the idol had a human form (Thapar, pg 52, 56). The idol was meant as a lingam and as such it would be unprecedented in India if this was true (Thapar, pg 47-48). A lingam idol is supposed to be in the form of a stump or a column (Thapar, pg 56). Some Turko-Persian historians say that the idol’s form was such that it was partly inside the ground whereas the other parts were protruding outside (Thapar, pg 52). Still others think it used to hang in the air under the influence of magnetic fields. These claims contradict each other (Thapar, pg 52). Many accounts say that the idol was hollow and was filled with jewels inside. This too would be unprecedented in Hindu tradition, lingams are never hollow (Thapar, pg 52). Various Turko-Persian accounts exaggerate the implications of the raid when they state that the Gujarati economy was totally devastated by Mahmud’s raid when infact, historical evidence sees a flourishing economy in Gujarat at and after this time period. Some Turko-Persian accounts also exaggerate the number of villages that were dedicated to serving the Somanatha temple by putting their number upto 10,000 villages. The largest recorded number of villages dedicated to serving any major temple in India was 300 (Thapar, pg 54). Some Turko-Persian accounts claim that there were 30 rings marked around the idol, each ring representing 1,000 years of worship of the idol. This would put the age of Somanatha to 30,000 years, which is clearly an exaggeration (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 52). There are also many myths in the Turko-Persian traditions about the events that took place when Mahmud captured the temple; for example, it is said that Mahmud burnt the idol instead of smashing it and having reduced it to lime, he gave it to the priests in a betel leaf to eat (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 53). The amount of riches looted from the temple is also exaggerated; if it was true then Somanatha’s treasures would be greater than treasuries of states (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 42, 43, 51). In the letters which Mahmud sent to the Caliph in Baghdad, Mahmud almost always used to say that he had killed 50,000 of the enemy’s men. This number was repeated time and again in his letters no matter which conquest he made and against whom. It is an exaggerated amount, a formulaic number (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 51; Thapar, Early India, pg 427).

Coming to the Sanskrit accounts from Somanatha and its surrounding areas of Gujarat, we find no mention at all of Mahmud’s destruction of the temple. While the people of the area had not forgotten about the raid, it seems to be an event that generally did not arouse much interest and was therefore not warranted much attention. The Kadamba King came via the sea on a pilgrimage to Somanatha from the area around Goa in 1038 A.D. His account of the pilgrimage does not even mention Mahmud’s raid which had occurred about eleven years previously, nor does he mention any scenes of destruction or a devastated economy in the region, which is surprising if we consider the Turko-Persian narratives of the amount of destruction carried out during Mahmud’s raid (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 75). The first known inscription that actually mentions Mahmud’s raid comes from 1263 A.D.; 237 years after the raid had taken place. This inscription very briefly mentions in passing that Mahmud had left behind a governor at Somanatha after capturing the area (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 95). Another inscription which dates back to 1264 A.D. mentions an Arab trader who was given land in the vicinity of the Somanatha temple to build a mosque (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 84). The statements in the inscription show us that the people of the region were on friendly terms with the Arabs and there was a thriving trade between the two communities. The existence of mosques shows us that a reasonable number of Muslims were living in the area (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 97). Sanskrit inscriptions of the time seldom mention attacks into India by Turks, not mentioning Mahmud’s attack on Somanatha at all (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 83, 99). One might say that perhaps the Hindus deliberately do not mention attacks by Muslims on Hindu temples out of shame. This argument is offset by the fact that the inscriptions mention attacks on temples by Hindu rulers more frequently than they mention the Muslim attacks over India.

It should be noted here that Hindus at that time did not view the raids by Mahmud or other Muslims into the Subcontinent as being “Muslim” attacks (Thapar, Somanatha, 98, 164). Rather, they tended to think of them in terms of the invaders’ nationalities. The attacks were perceived as being attacks by Turks, Central Asians etc as such, and there was no such antagonism amongst the Hindus. They did view the attacks with distaste but there was no Hindu versus Muslim antagonism, and there was no trauma amongst Hindus as such over the attacks. They were used to invasions for a long time (the Greeks, Huns, Kushans and many others had invaded India in the past). One reason why the Hindus of Somanatha at that time might not have been so bitter about the destruction of the temple might be because the effects of the destruction were very short lived, the region slipped back into Hindu control very soon, and the economy thrived so much so that it reached a peak that was never seen before Mahmud had invaded the region. Perhaps all this covered up the initial short-lived resentment that might have been there amongst Hindus. Sanskrit inscriptions state that the temple of Somanatha was reconstructed and renovated several times over the ages. However, they state that this was done because the temple was withering away with age, they do not say that reconstructions were done because the temple got attacked (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 81, 189).

We now come to the British versions of Mahmud’s raid on Somanatha. The British tended to take for granted that the versions of history coming from Muslim historians, particularly Farishta, were accurate (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 163-164). They did not consider the Sanskrit accounts or versions of history available in other regional languages. The British, like other Europeans, looked upon the Muslims as being barbarians. They came up with the notion that Mahmud had turned the greenery of India into deserts, and that the British were now there to return to India its gardens (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 164). They tried to understand the Indian society in terms of being characterized by a clear-cut dichotomy between the Muslims and Hindus, and hence came up with the notions of “Hindu rule” and “Muslim rule” over the Subcontinent (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 164). In order to prolong their presence in India, they used the “divide and rule” strategy and started up the Hindu versus Muslim antagonism. The version of Mahmud’s raid on Somanatha which is today believed to be a source of deep antagonism between Hindus and Muslims was fanned during the British rule over India. To some extent, it can be said that Muslim historians are to be blamed too because it is infact their version which the British used to propagate. However, we must remember that these versions were largely exaggerated.

It should be mentioned here about the controversy of the gates of Somanatha temple. In about 1842, Lord Ellenborough came up with “The Proclamation of the Gates” and a debate arose in the House of Commons (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 166). The British had went to war in Afghanistan, and at Ghazni, they plucked out the gates from Mahmud’s tomb, bringing them back to India as trophies, proclaiming them to be gates of the Somanatha temple. How Lord Ellenborough came to think of these gates as being from the temple of Somanatha remains a mystery as there are no historical accounts in Turko-Persion sources of Mahmud taking any gates from the temple with him back to Ghazni (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 167). Even the design of the gates was not Indian (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 168). The British brought these gates to India with a huge publicity, hoping to win over loyalties of the Hindus by showing themselves as their saviors and protectors of their interests in India (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 169-170). The impact was not up to their expectations as the Hindus were not incited against Muslims as that time (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 169), which makes one think that the present Hindu-Muslim antagonism probably arose after the Indian War of Independence in 1857. Matters concerning India were of much interest in the House of Commons at that time; Macaulay’s “Minute of India Education” to establish English as the medium of instruction in India had been discussed a few years back. People in the House debated about what motivated Ellenborough to start the controversy, whether it was right to use religious differences to fuel Hindu-Muslim antagonism or would it be in their national interest (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 171). Whatever the case, the story of the so-called gates of Somanatha did not yield the desired results at that time and the story was abandoned subsequently. The gates today lie abandoned in a room in the Agra Fort.

The present Somanatha temple was constructed after Independence in 1951 (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 186). The reconstruction required clearing away of the ruins from the site. Archeologists and historians protested at the idea as they thought as they did not want past politics to destroy the historical site. Their efforts were overruled and the site was identified as a Hindu national monument. Munshi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel used the temple as a symbol of the resurgence of ‘Hindu’ nationalism and liberty from Muslim ‘foreign’ oppression. The non-Hindus were not allowed to worship in the new temple. Munshi spoke of the rebuilt temple as being associated with the Government of India and this stance was vehemently opposed by Jawaharlal Nehru since it went against his policy of a secular government ruling over India. This position of Nehru was different from that of Vallabhbhai Patel who was the Home Minister from Gujarat (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 190). Nehru was adamant that the funding for rebuilding the temple should come from public donations and not from the Government of India (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 191).

The ratha-yatra of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bharatiya Janata Party offset the secular credentials of Indian government. It was designed to mobilize support for the destruction of Babri Mosque and it began its journey from Somanatha in September 1990. The second gathering in 1992 resulted in the destruction of the mosque in Ayodhya, leading to the violence which ended in the killings in Gujarat in 2002. The motivation behind all this was the theory of antagonism that had always existed between Muslims and Hindus, a theory fanned by the British in India. It was the result of the debate in the House of Commons and the resulting religious nationalisms which arose from it (Thapar, Somanatha, pg 194).

In the end, it can be concluded from the research that Mahmud’s raid on Somanatha was not historically a significant event. However, in subsequent years it was made to seem to be so crucial in Indian history that it has today infact become important.

Research based on:
1. "Mahmud of Ghazna: Biography from" Wiki Q&A Combined with Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Encyclopedias. Web. 14 May 2010. .
2. "Muslims Invade India." Voice of Dharma. Web. 14 May 2010. .
Thapar, Romila. Penguin History of Early India: from the Origins to A.D.1300. New Delhi: Penguin, 2003. Print.
Thapar, Romila. Somanatha: the Many Voices of a History. London: Verso, 2005. Print.
Tarikh-i Farishta (Call number KIC 954.022 M952T, available in LUMS Library).
The life and times of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna / Muhammad Nazim (Call number KIC 958 M952L 1971, available in LUMS Library).
Somnath ki Fatah, by Muhammad Husain Azad. From an Urdu textbook used in the curriculum of Matric Board of Karachi.

(This article was written by me for my Themes in South Asian History class, taught by the acclaimed historian Dr Ayesha Jalal at LUMS in my Junior year.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pakistan's Unstable Relationship with Central Asia

The Islamic states of Central Asia share a relationship marked with both economic interdependence as well as mistrust with Pakistan. They share a cultural and historical relationship with each other since times immemorial. Most of the invaders who came into the Indo-Pak region over the centuries came here from the north and central Asia, including the Mughals and the Ghaznavids. Pakistan and this region also share the common bond of being linked by Islam as a common faith; many people in the Indian Subcontinent converted to Islam due to the efforts of Sufis who came here from Central Asia. In today’s world, these states face similar economic problems and threat perceptions. A common strategy against these problems can go far in achieving economic milestones and bringing stability into the entire region. As such, Central Asia occupies a very special position in Pakistan’s foreign policy. This is apparent to the Central Asian States, as can be seen from the high level exchanges that have taken place between them.1

It would be relevant to go back into the 1990s to examine Pakistan’s relations with the Central Asian Republics. The birth of the Central Asian states was welcomed in the Islamic world when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s. These states are extremely rich in mineral resources. Their gas reserves are estimated at more than 236 trillion cubic feet, whereas their oil reserves are estimated to be about 60 billion oil barrels, sufficient for fuelling entire European needs for about eleven years. Still other estimates put the region’s oil reserves to an even higher 200 billion barrels.2 However, being landlocked, these states were unable to take advantage of their natural endowments when they came into being. As such, these states needed to cooperate with neighbouring states in order to engage with the global economy. These neighbouring states were Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. Furthermore, the need to engage with other countries was important for these states because they wanted to lower their dependency on Russia and be able to stand on their own feet; all their bureaucratic, political, military, financial structure was based on the communist Russian model.

Amongst all the neighbouring states, Pakistan was the one which was looked upon with the most favour by the Central Asian States. Amongst Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan, Pakistan was most developed in technology, science, education and industry. Pakistan’s official language was English which gave it an edge over the other two countries because English is the language of the modern world transactions and negotiations. The Central Asian states were eager to learn English from Pakistan in order to engage in world economy. Pakistan could train pilots from the Central Asian Republics. Pakistan also had prosperous textile, shipping, and fishing industries, and a commendable banking and ports sector. Pakistan could serve the interests of these states by providing them with the much needed access to the sea via its ports of Karachi, Bin Qasim and Gwadar.3 Iran was not looked upon with favour by Central Asia mainly due to the Islamic Revolution which had taken place there. The Iranians were emphatic about Islamization and were engaged in religious interference in the region. They were seen as radicals by these states mainly because these states had a relatively more secular and tolerant attitude, having lived under the communists for decades. With Turkey, these states had a colonial past and they did not want to revive it, hence they were relatively distant with Turkey as well. This does not mean that these states did not want good relations with Iran or Turkey; it was just Pakistan which was viewed with relatively greater favour by these states in wanting to establish good relations.

At the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Pakistan was overly eager in wanting to recognize the Central Asian states and wanted to start a cordial relationship with them. It did not take into consideration the various diversities of these states and therefore the need to address each of them in accordance to their complexity and multiplicity of national interests. Pakistan became one of the first countries of the world to formally recognize the Central Asian states on 19th December, 1991. The first high-level Pakistani delegation, headed by Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali who was the minister of state for economic affairs, visited the Central Asian Republics in November – December 1991. At that time, Akram Zaki who was the secretary general of foreign affairs had said, “recognition of the Central Asian states would open new vistas of bilateral co-operation with these states with whom Pakistan had close ties of history, faith, and culture.” Pakistan gave a loan of $ 10 million to each of these states, with a loan of $ 30 million for Uzbekistan. As a sign of its good-will, Pakistan also gave medicines worth $ 100,000 to each of these states as well as five thousand tons of rice. The time between 1991-1993 saw a great number of high-level meetings between Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics. Although Pakistan’s engagement increased with all the Central Asian states, it was Uzbekistan which had most of Pakistan’s attention. A lot of agreements for economic, cultural, education and technological cooperation were signed between the two nations. Pakistan agreed to import hydroelectric power from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in 1992 and set up Joint Economic Commissions (JECs) with the Central Asian states to implement various projects. Apart from this, Pakistan also provided these states with fully funded programs for instruction in English language, accounting, banking, insurance, postal service and diplomacy. These programs continued despite political disturbances amongst the states.4 Pakistan was amongst the first countries which sent its passenger planes to these states.

Although Pakistan’s policies towards these states had an emotional streak based on bonds of Islamic brotherhood, its objectives remained economic and commercial. In 1992, the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) which was created in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey as a successor organization of the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD), extended its membership to Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and the five Central Asian Republics (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan). The organization had great plans for cooperation and development in the region but it has so far failed largely due to the scarcity of resources as well as lack of political concord5; Pakistan, Iran and Turkey fell over each other in their attempts to reap the most advantage from the organization.

The Central Asian states did not want to support the political aspirations of any state; they were only desperate to build their economic infrastructure. The Central Asian states mainly wanted economic and cultural relations with Pakistan, as opposed to political relations. Pakistan on the other hand, tried to exploit the ECO platform to gain support for its cause in Kashmir. The Central Asian states opposed this move by Pakistan as the ECO was a platform for economic cooperation and not for the settlement of political issues. Pakistan’s efforts to exploit ECO for its own political objectives greatly disillusioned the Central Asian States. They began to wonder whether Pakistan really was sincere towards them. Even if Pakistan wanted to gain the support of Central Asian Republics over Kashmir against India, Pakistan failed to consider that these states for decades had lived under the rule of the Soviet Union which had a deeply pro-Indian attitude. These newly independent countries needed time to overcome the psyche they had inherited from the Russians, the psyche of India being considered good and Pakistan being considered bad. Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev told Pakistan’s then Foreign Secretary Shaharyar Khan that the bureaucratic, political, economic structure of the Central Asian states was still based on the lines of the communist model so Pakistan should not try to force them to change their stance overnight. The stance of these countries would change, but it would take some time.

Relations between Pakistan and Central Asia seemed fairly good when the Taliban emerged out of the blues on the scene of civil war in Afghanistan. Pakistan wanted to support the Pakhtuns against the Uzbek and Tajik ethnic factions in Afghanistan for its own strategic interests in Afghanistan. The Taliban were Pakhtuns and Pakistan’s support for them after 1994 came as a blow to its initial warm relations with the Central Asian states. Pakistan’s recognition of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan after the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996 adversely affected its relations in particular with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, both of which are neighbours of Afghanistan and were apprehensive that the Taliban’s radical ideology would seep into their territories from Afghanistan. There were Islamist militant groups already operating in both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan which had relations with al-Qaeda and Taliban and which allegedly received their training in Afghanistan. This posed a serious security threat to the stability of the newly independent Central Asian states. Pakistan, in pursuit of its own strategic interests, continued its backing for the Taliban despite opposition from these states regarding Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan. As a result, relations began dwindling between Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics.6 Iran too came into the fray and wanted to assert its influence in the region after the Taliban slaughtered the Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan. Now both Iran and Pakistan were fighting to control the New Great Game instead of cooperating to play a constructive role in the economic growth of the region.

Then came the events of 9/11 which gave a one eighty degree turn to Pakistan’s foreign policy overnight. Pakistan joined hands with USA in the war on terror to dismantle the al-Qaeda and Taliban network in Afghanistan. The current altered environment in the light of the new foreign policy stance of Pakistan has once again opened the doors of bilateral cooperation between Central Asia and Pakistan. However, the mistrust that has built up amongst the Central Asian states against Pakistan due to the Taliban episode in Afghanistan can not evaporate anytime soon.7

One more factor which might adversely affect Pakistan-Central Asia relations is the existence of foreign elements (Arab, Central Asian, Chechen) in Pakistan’s tribal belt in its north-west frontier. These elements came to Pakistan after the USA attacked Afghanistan in 2001. The elimination of these elements is essential for the stability and security of the entire region, and is a pre-requisite for any sort of economic cooperation, investment and trade amongst the regional powers. Pakistan has been conducting military operations in the tribal areas to clear the area of these militants ever since 2004. However, it is difficult to seal the Pak-Afghan border to keep out these militants due to the difficult and long terrain. Pakistan wants to close the border via landmines and fencing but the idea is not welcomed by the regime in Afghanistan.8

In order to establish good economic relations and build the trust of the Central Asian states, Pakistan needs to ensure the safety and security within its own dominion first. The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) has reported a rise in terrorist attacks in Pakistan from about 1,800 occurences in 2008 to greater than 1,900 occurences in 2009. Suicide attacks increased from 40 in 2007 to 84 in 2009, a more than two-fold increase. More than 8,600 people were either killed or wounded in these terrorist incidents in 2009, a 30 % increase from 2008.9 Such an environment of insecurity, uncertainty, and failure of law and order can never be conducive for attracting foreign investment and capital into the country.

Maintenance of good relations with India and Afghanistan both are crucial if Pakistan wants to start economic activities with Central Asia. One of the proposed oil and gas pipelines is supposed to originate in Turkmenistan and reach Pakistan through Afghanistan, going onwards into India. Pakistan’s population of 170 million people together with India’s population of 1.15 billion is a huge and unexplored market for energy and oil companies such as Chevron, Total and Delta, and can also be a source of readily available skilled, cheap, abundant labour for them. But the stability of the region is essential for these companies to come in because ultimately it is companies like these which will set up the pipeline with their technical expertise and financial strength. As such Pakistan, Afghanistan and India need to maintain good relations with each other. Pakistan should stop supporting the mujahidin in Kashmir and India should stop supporting the Baloch separatist elements in Pakistan. It is essentially a battle between the intelligence agencies of the two countries, ISI and RAW. It is proposed that these agencies should sit down and talk their way to a settlement of disputes for the larger interests of the region. With Afghanistan, Pakistan needs to build a policy which will safeguard its interests in Afghanistan when the US forces leave the country so that there is no power vacuum in Afghanistan as it had been in the past. A durable solution might be to support Karzai’s current regime and work towards building popular support and confidence for the regime amongst the Afghans rather than supporting different corrupt warlords in the area. For this, Pakistan needs the help of the advanced countries to build up infrastructure, education and health facilities in Afghanistan. Helping to solve the issues of the common Afghan is crucial in order to decrease the support for Taliban. Pakistan needs to change its attitude of treating Afghanistan as a backward and lowly state that should be grateful for Pakistan’s help in troubled times and should instead move forward with it as a partner state.

Pakistan also needs to make new and better policies for its economy and governance. Many countries of the world had suffered from terrorism in the past, yet they did not falter in their economic growth. Pakistan’s textile exports stood at $ 4.20 billion during July-November 2009-10, a 3.21 % decline from the same period in fiscal year 2008-09 when it had stood at $ 4.34 billion, says the Federal Bureau of Statistics. The All-Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) claimed that Pakistan has suffered a drop in textile exports for the first time in twelve years because of security issues in the country, the on-going energy crisis, electricity and gas tariffs, rising cotton prices, and the rise in borrowing rates which hindered the textile companies from taking loans from banks. All this contributed to the increase in the input costs of the textile industry.10 Pakistan, which at one time had a far more commendable textile industry, has now been surpassed by Bangladesh in textile exports. Pakistan needs to switch its exports from agricultural raw materials to finished goods in order to make the economy more knowledge-based. A feasible and better economic and governance policy is needed to attract investment projects from abroad.

These problems cannot be solved overnight. It would be a long and exhausting process and many of the solutions proposed might seem to be on the wishful side. However, nothing is impossible, what is needed is consistency and the political will. Pakistan’s solving these major hurdles in the establishment of security and political stability in the region would help Pakistan credibly demonstrate to the Central Asian states its sincerity, eagerness and hope for wanting to establish commercial and economic relations with these states. This would go miles in reducing the trust deficit that presently exists between the two regions.

Today, Pakistan is endeavouring to improve bilateral relations with Central Asia. It is trying to use multilateral organizations in order to strengthen its ties for cooperation with all the regional countries, particularly through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The objectives of Pakistan’s policy towards these countries are the same as before, to wit, they are still based on commercial and economic interests and the creation of good-will for strengthening of the relationship. Pakistan wants to realize the advantages it has due to its geostrategic location as a possible energy and trade corridor for the landlocked Central Asian states, Afghanistan, and western China. The infrastructure for this intense activity is being setup in Pakistan, as evident from the development of the Karakoram Highway in the north and the Gwadar deep seaport in Balochistan. China has pledged $ 350 million to Pakistan for maintenance and upgrading of the Karakoram Highway, and the 2004 quadrilateral agreement amongst Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, and Kazakhstan for transit and trade can be expanded to incorporate Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in future.11

Today, Pakistan’s efforts to re-establish warm relations with Central Asia are gradually beginning to bear fruit. Islam Karimov, the Uzbek president, visited Pakistan again after fourteen years in May 2006. Nine agreements for trade and economic cooperation, and one agreement for fighting against terrorism were signed during this visit. At present, Pakistan and Tajikistan are considering the establishing of lines from Tajikistan for the transmission of power to Pakistan. National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) has now been operating in Central Asia for nearly the past five years and today has about fourteen branches in the region, generating 90 % of the bank’s overseas revenue.12 China wants to open up its western regions for trade through Pakistan via the Karakoram Highway, Karachi and Gwadar in order to reduce the economic disparity which currently exists in west China as compared to the more developed eastern areas.13 West China is too far away from the Chinese coastline in the east for it to engage in much economic activity.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan signed an agreement in December 2002 to build a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan, with an estimated cost of $ 2 billion. There are hopes that the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan oil and gas pipeline would originate as soon as the political situation in the region becomes stable. Hu Deping, the chairman of All China Federation of Commerce and Industry, said during Musharraf’s 2006 tour of China that China had plans to set up an oil refinery in the Gwadar region with an expenditure of $ 4.5 billion and a capacity of 10 million tons per annum. The refinery would help transform the crude oil imported from the Middle East into petroleum products before it is transported into west China via the transit corridor of Pakistan.14

Musharraf, during the same Shanghai visit in 2006, emphasized the potential for Pakistan in contributing to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. He said, “…in geopolitical, geostrategic, and geoeconomic terms, Pakistan is most suitably positioned not only to promote but also to play a key role in all interests espoused in the SCO charter. Pakistan provides the natural link between the SCO states to connect the Eurasian heartland with the Arabian Sea and South Asia. We offer critical overland routes and connectivity for mutually beneficial trade and energy transactions intra-regionally and inter-regionally…We have a vision to develop Pakistan as a hub of economic activity linking the neighbouring regions through our railways, highways, and ports, thus serving as a trade and energy corridor.”15


4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15)

10) "January-2010 - Textile Briefs National." Pakistan Textile Journal. Pakistan Textile Journal. Web. 03 May 2010. .

1, 3, 4) Khwaja, Asma Shakir. "THE CHANGING DYNAMICS OF PAKISTAN'S RELATIONS WITH CENTRAL ASIA | Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Analyst." The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst | Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Analyst. Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center, 23 Feb. 2005. Web. 03 May 2010. .

12) Mangi, Naween A., and Farhan Sharif. "National Bank of Pakistan Aims to Tap ‘War Chest’ of Bad Debts - BusinessWeek." BusinessWeek - Business News, Stock Market & Financial Advice. Bloomberg, 16 Mar. 2010. Web. 03 May 2010. .

2) Maresca, John J. "Oil Pipeline - Central Asia - Gas - Energy." - World News From World Newspapers., 12 Feb. 1998. Web. 02 May 2010. .

9) Pakistan. "Pakistan, Afghan Make South Asia Terror Capital." The Jerusalem Post, 28 Apr. 2010. Web. 03 May 2010. .

(This article was written by me for my Critical Issues in Pakistan's Foreign Policy class taught by Ambassador Shaharyar Khan during my Junior year at LUMS.)