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From Jinnah to Hafiz Saeed

From Jinnah to Hafiz Saeed

Author: G Parthasarathy
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: September 3, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/199927/From-Jinnah-to-Hafiz-Saeed.html

Addressing a gathering of tens of thousands of zealots at the headquarters of the Jamat-ud-Dawa'h (earlier calling itself the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba) on November 3, 2000, the Amir of the Lashkar, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, thundered, "Jihad is not about Kashmir only. About 15 years ago people might have found it ridiculous if someone had told them about the disintegration of the Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Today, I announce the break-up of India, Inshallah! We will not rest till the whole of India is dissolved into Pakistan." Saeed has been regularly and publicly pronouncing a war that would encompass the whole of India. Till the terrorist outrage of 26/11 no one took him seriously. Shortly after his November 2000 speech Saeed sent his 'mujahideen' into the very heart of New Delhi to attack the Red Fort on December 22, 2000. Addressing a gathering of political leaders from Islamic parties shortly thereafter, Saeed proudly proclaimed that he had unfurled the green flag of Islam atop the historic fort.

Saeed was and is no ordinary person. He enjoyed the patronage of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had sent the Governor of Punjab, Mr Shahid Hamid, and his Information Minister, Mr Mushahid Hussein Syed to personally call on and pay their respects to Saeed in 1998. The Wahaabi/Salafi school of Islam propagated by Saeed was patronised by Mr Nawaz Sharif's father, Mian Mohammed Sharif, through the Tablighi Jamaat. Moreover, at the grassroots level the Lashkar is closely linked to the Pakistani Army and the ISI, which provides weapons, training and logistical support to the extremist group. But is Saeed's talk of "disintegration" of India merely rhetoric of an isolated individual, or does it reflect a wider strategic vision within Pakistan and particularly its armed forces?

While the 'idea' of Pakistan was first enunciated by Chaudhuri Rehmat Ali in 1933 and given shape in the Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League in 1940, the hope in Pakistan, even after it was born, was that India would be a loose confederation, with units like the Nizam's domain in Hyderabad and even a 'Dravidistan' going their own separate ways. Mohammed Ali Jinnah spoke contemptuously of upper caste Hindus, while fostering separatism by highlighting a separate linguistic and ethnic Dravidian identity, as characterising the ethos of people in south India. While Mahatma Gandhi tried to address centuries of exploitation and alienation of Dalits in India, together with leaders like BR Ambedkar, Jinnah endeavoured to foment Dalit alienation. He encouraged elements in princely states like Jodhpur and Travancore-Cochin to declare independence. His aim was to Balkanise India and to ensure domination of the sub-continent by a minority of its population. Jinnah's approach to the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 was motivated by the belief that after 10 years, a united Punjab and Sindh in the west, together with Bengal and Assam in the east, would break away from a fragile and fragmented India.

Jinnah shared a common interest with the British in having a weak Central Government in India, incapable of firmly holding the country together. His aims regarding India were thus not very different from those of Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, though he was a virtually agnostic Ismaili, who according to his biographer Stanley Wolpert, loved Scotch whisky and ham sandwiches! Saeed, however, espouses rabid Wahaabi causes. He makes no secret of his contempt for parliamentary democracy based on the principle of one-man-one-vote. But was Jinnah's demand for a disproportionate share of parliamentary seats for a minority, on the basis of Muslims having been the 'rulers' of India before the British arrived, also not a negation of the concept of one-man-one-vote? Moreover, can religion alone be a viable basis for enduring nationhood?

Jinnah's successors, from Liaquat Ali Khan to Gen Pervez Musharraf, conducted relations with India in the belief that its unity is fragile. Field Marshal Ayub Khan launched the 1965 conflict believing that Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was a weak leader facing serious separatist problems because of the Punjabi Suba movement in Punjab and anti-Hindi riots combined with the rise of Dravidian parties in the south, apart from continuing insurgencies in the North-East. Gen Zia-ul-Haq set up an elaborate network to encourage separatism within India and laid special emphasis on creating a Hindu-Sikh communal divide in Punjab. This effort, like Jinnah's to sow mistrust in the mind of Master Tara Singh, failed because Hindus and Sikhs alike saw through Pakistan's game-plan. The ISI effort to 'bleed' India in Jammu & Kashmir is a continuation of the strategy that Pakistan has followed since its birth. It is shocking when Indians who should know better extol Jinnah's 'virtues'. His culpability in the communal holocaust he unleashed by his call for 'Direct Action' cannot be condoned.

In his book, The Shadow of the Great Game - The Untold Story of Partition, former diplomat Narendra Singh Sarila has revealed that well before the Cabinet Mission arrived in India in May 1946, two successive Viceroys, Lord Linlithgow and Lord Wavell, had decided to partition India by creating a Muslim majority state in its north-west bordering Iran, Afghanistan and Sinkiang in order to protect British interests in the oil rich Persian Gulf. Jinnah was co-opted to further this British objective even in 1939. Jinnah's efforts to impose Urdu as Pakistan's sole national language sowed the seeds of Bangladeshi separatism and of Pakistan's disintegration in 1971. His assumption of office as an unelected executive head of state who presided over the Cabinet, led to his successors arbitrarily dismissing Prime Ministers and to the take-over of Pakistan by a military-dominated feudal elite - a malady the country suffers from even today.

The statesmanlike visit of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore symbolised that India has no intention of reversing the partition of 1947 and that we wish the people of Pakistan well. Challenges that Pakistan's establishment poses will be overcome when values of secularism, pluralism and inclusive democratic development are established as being more enduring than fantasies of nationhood based exclusively on religion, which Jinnah propounded, or the hate and bigotry of Saeed. Banning books, whose contents many may find objectionable, is not the way deal with such challenges. Jihad

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