Understanding Pakistan Project Team July 23rd, 2007
Guest Column* By Aqil Sajjad
Six decades after independence, Pakistan continues to struggle with basic issues relating to democracy and constitutionalism. The country has yet to see a smooth change of government through elections. The rot started at the very outset as the political leadership found it difficult to reconcile the various interests competing with each other to produce a widely acceptable constitution. The purpose of this article is to discuss some of the prominent interest groups that were involved and how their differences contributed to the constitutional delay and the political instability that marked the years leading up to the military take over in 1958.
Broadly speaking, there were three distinct groups that joined Pakistan. These were East Pakistanis, those who migrated from Hindu majority areas to West Pakistan, and the indigenous people of West Pakistan.
East Pakistan was geographically, culturally and ethnically distinct from West Pakistan. Among its features were a large population, low level of education, absence of feudalism, and a greater propensity for political activism among the masses.
The people of West Pakistan were also generally less educated, but the political scene in this wing was dominated by the landed aristocracy. Moreover, unlike the mostly homogeneous population of East Pakistan, the people of West Pakistan had considerable ethnic and cultural diversity. This along with the larger geographical area often resulted in sharp divergence of interests between the four units in this wing.
The third group of Pakistanis comprised those who had come from the Hindu majority areas. Their influx and the exodus of Hindus who migrated to India had a huge demographic impact and thus played an important role in shaping the political landscape of Pakistan.