An occasional cultural fault of living on an island nation is a certain insularity and failing to see beyond one’s shores. Admittedly the Irish are less prone to this than some others (no names…!). However in looking overseas one frequently finds parallels for events at home, both past and present. In The Daily Beast writer Kapil Komireddi has penned an article on the “Carson of India”, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, one of the most influential leaders of India’s Moslems in the 1940s and the man credited (or blamed) with the Partition of the Sub-Continent. This of course led to the creation of that entirely artificial entity known as Pakistan, an authoritarian, anti-democratic state based and maintained upon a sectarian and ethnic headcount.
Hmmm. Sound familiar?
“Rafia Zakaria is one of Pakistan’s most readable columnists. She’s writing a book on Karachi, the port city to the south that, having once served as Pakistan’s first capital, is now paralysed by sectarian bloodletting. Anyone with an interest in Pakistan should read it when it’s released. I suspect it will, like much of Rafia’s work, be a bracing account, free of cant. Sadly, I can’t say the same about her most recent piece, a foray into history published in Dawn, in which she labours to equate the man who savagely divided India in the name of religion with the man who kept South Africa united despite its sharp racial polarities.
Rafia’s argument is this: had Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, lived longer, his creation might have matured into South Asia’s South Africa, a pluralistic state, rather than descending into what it is today: a procrustean hell.
The belief that it was Jinnah’s premature death, rather than his wilful conduct during the last years of his life, that caused Pakistan to fail is shared widely by that country’s liberals. Like so much else in Pakistan, it’s an idea sustained by self-deception.”
So it’s not just the ghosts of Carson, Craig and O’Neill that haunt the dreams of the delusional.
“After all, the proposition that Pakistan’s evolution into an inclusive state was curtailed by the early demise of its founder works by investing Jinnah with a catholic spirit that is fundamentally incompatible with his principal political pursuit: the creation of an exclusive state called Pakistan. “Hindus and Muslims can [n]ever evolve a common nationality,” Jinnah had declared in 1940. Could a journey fuelled by such hatred and divisiveness possibly have culminated in a peaceful and pluralistic destination?”
A “Protestant state for a Protestant people”?
“One answer is to deny that Jinnah ever wanted Pakistan, that his factional rhetoric—the ceaseless traducing of his secular adversaries in Congress as aspiring Hindu overlords, the relentless invocation of the racialist neologism “Pakistan”—was all a ploy meant to secure for Muslims greater rights within a united India. This argument, pioneered by the formidable Ayesha Jalal, relies, once again, on a degree of deception, neglecting entirely the question of whether such brinkmanship, being directed by a man who was dying of lung disease, was going to profit the people he claimed to represent or condemn them to an uncertain future. Even if we accept Jalal’s thesis, it’s not easy to exalt a man who uncorked the genie of religious hatred as a tactic even though he knew that he wouldn’t be around to force it back into the bottle.
But two things are especially dismaying in Rafia’s interpretation of events. The implication that Jinnah’s struggle was in any way peaceful airbrushes from history the hundreds of thousands who paid with their lives in the course of Partition. Their deaths were not an aberration, but the direct consequence of Jinnah’s dogmatic campaign.
For Indian secularists, the tragic irony of Jinnah’s struggle for Pakistan is that, far from emancipating India’s Muslims, it empowered India’s Hindu chauvinists. (It is impossible, in fact, to imagine a man who has caused greater harm to India’s Muslims than Jinnah.) It exonerated the demonization of Muslims as untrustworthy Fifth Columnists, and it legitimised the effort to turn India, once Pakistan had been carved out from it as a homeland for its Muslims, into an exclusive homeland for the Hindus who remained.”
The events leading to the violent and anti-democratic partition of the island of Ireland and the imposition of the failed state of “Northern Ireland” in the north-east of the country have parallels elsewhere. Parallels that remind us that some things cannot be reformed, cannot be reworked but must be done away with altogether. And that includes the “Pakistan” of Western Europe.