Athar Osama July 2nd, 2007
By: Athar Osama
We left the story of Pakistan last week at a critical juncture in its history. The new country is in its fifth year since independence. It has lost two of its most capable leaders—first, Quaid-e-Azam (the greatest leader) who passed away merely a year after independence and, second, Quaid-e-Millat (the leader of the nation) who was assassinated just four years into the journey.
The country has already seen an unsuccessful military coup (the Rawalpindi Conspiracy) and while it has survived the mammoth effects of the partition, stability and prosperity is still a long way ahead. During the short few years, a number of challenges have rocked the country, thus further adding to this instability. The dispute over water of the rivers, boundaries in Kashmir, allegations of corruption in allocation of evacuee property, and a fast deteriorating drought that began as early as the last quarter of 1947 in the eastern wing are a few of these.
First Signs of Trouble in East Pakistan
In fact, in some parts of the country—especially the province of East Bengal—the Muslim population which was under the illusion—perhaps naively so—of having achieved a mythical Islamic state where welfare of the poor and social justice would reign supreme, is already getting a bit restless due to the perceived gap between that lofty ideal and the reality on the ground. Badruddin Umar, in The Emergence of Bangladesh: Class Struggles in East Pakistan (1947-58), writes:
“[After the partition] the whole political perspective was [thus] transformed, and the communal contradiction which caused the partition of the country was replaced by contradictions between the two regions and the ethnically and linguistically different people who belonged to the Muslim community…The Muslim peasants, workers and middle class people were taught to visualize Pakistan as a dreamland, where milk and honey would flow, everyone would get education and suitable job, healthcare would be a routine matter, and there would a flowering of the culture espoused during the Pakistan movement. What really happened was that the Muslims of East Bengal, who constituted the vast majority of population, were quite confused and bewildered at the barrenness of the dreamland called Pakistan, where they had to go hungry and die of famine, where no surplus land was distributed among the poor peasants and sharecroppers, where very little new opportunities were opened up for the working masses and the educated sections of the people and life in all aspects remained as torturous as before. ” (Umar, 2004, p.15-16)
In East Bengal, which was the most politically literate and aware province of Pakistan—perhaps entire British India—and was also the birth place of All India Muslim League itself, this anti-exploitation sentiment now turned into an anti-Muslim League and soon anti-Pakistan sentiment.