Bridging history’s watershed moments!


The sister of this country’s founding father, Madar-e-Millat, Fatima Jinnah, was once declared to be an agent of Kabul in a high-profile newspaper advertisement campaign sponsored by the state.

By Nazarul Islam

Can Pakistanis deny having a long and ignominious state history, clustered within powerful elements-to declare their genuine political activists and citizens as traitors, foreign agents or externally funded saboteurs of national security?

Despite the humiliation caused by the country’s dismemberment in 1971, Pakistan managed to recover over time, and mature over the decades-as an independent country and a nation. And rightly so, there should have been an expectation that the state needed to shed some of its worst proclivities, phobias and paranoias, with the passage of years.

Quite unexpectedly, powerful elements within the state have appeared heedless of the past, determined to repeat their history’s blunders that had driven a wedge between the people and the very state that has existed to serve them. Lately, an indigenous, organic ethnic rights movement was publicly and quite extraordinarily accused of being on the payroll of hostile foreign, intelligence agencies

In the effective declaration that Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement was an enemy of the state, the former DG ISPR had perhaps unwittingly cast the PTM in questionable status.

Preposterous as it may appear today, the sister of this country’s founding father, Madar-e-Millat, Fatima Jinnah, was once declared to be an agent of Kabul in a high-profile newspaper advertisement campaign sponsored by the state. This country’s first military dictator, Ayub Khan, had at some time, feared Fatima Jinnah’s challenge, to his rule.

Before Fatima Jinnah, there was the case of Huseyn Suhrawardy, a Bengali politician and for a brief moment in history-the prime minister of Pakistan. ‘Suhrawardy’, Pakistanis were told by the establishment of the 1950s, had also been deemed a ‘traitor’ to Pakistan.

G.M. Syed, a towering politician of Sindh, was imprisoned for decades on accusations of being anti-state and anti-Pakistan. Such allegations ought to have been unthinkable – G.M. Syed is known to have moved the historic Pakistan Resolution in the Sindh Assembly, the first colonial legislature to do so – but they were cynically deployed to shut down a political opponent. Wali Khan, Ataullah Mengal, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo – each was at some point declared a traitor or foreign agent.

Perhaps most poignantly and tragically, Mujibur Rehman was vilified and declared to be a traitor to Pakistan. Arguably, had an independent media existed at the time, the reality of events in East Pakistan could have been made known to the public and the catastrophe of the ‘secession’ avoided. Alas!

Instead, the military regime of the time had imposed a near total media censorship, on actual news, relating to disturbing events of 1971, in East Pakistan.

Today, it is the turn of the PTM to suffer vilification and slander. More ominously, the top, shiny brass of Pakistan’s military leadership suggested that an attempt to dismantle and shut down the PTM had been contemplated, at various levels. I agree that some of the PTM’s rhetoric was perhaps, ill-advised and inflammatory. But the PTM as a whole had remained undeniably, an indigenous and organically founded group of Pakistanis.

Is this not the right time for the Pakistanis, to step up and embrace the disaffected and disillusioned youth of the PTM, whose demands have been but legitimate and constitutional?

Fifty years ago, this nation has made a grievous error-something that shook their ideological foundations. People must ask us – Should another generation of Pakistanis be lost to heedless, state discrimination?

In the year 2005, I had the opportunity to visit the Sindh Foundation, in Washington DC. Unfortunately, I was unable to avail of the opportunity to attend the World Sindhi Institute conference in Toronto, Canada in 2006.

A reliable friend dispatched the notes he had made, during this event. Prominent speakers then had taken the liberty to reflect their thoughts on the genocide, war crimes, and rape committed by marauding Pakistan military in collaboration with their henchmen Jamaat-e-Islami during the brutal birth of Bangladesh in 1971.

There were people from many countries, and cultures, who had actively participated in several of these protest rallies, mostly organized under the banner of Free Balochistan, United Kashmir, and Free Sindh movements in Washington DC, New York, and Toronto, and spoke on atrocities committed by the Pakistan army. Participants to these rallies had been informed that the Pakistan army was committing atrocities in Balochistan, similar to the ones experienced in Bangladesh. Certainly, as the saying goes-there is no possibility of smoke, without the underlying fire!

We cannot deny that thousands of Baloch nationalist leaders and activists living in North America and Europe have dreamed of regaining the independence of Balochistan, which they had narrowly missed some time ago, after having lost a major opportunity in March 1948. It was unfortunate that the army had invaded the princely Kalat State and acceded the territory. In terms of area, Balochistan had then become the largest province of Pakistan, with rich mineral resources.

I end this piece here, to come back with a more absorbing narrative. Thank you for your patience.

(The writer is former educator, based in Chicago, USA. He writes regularly for American, Indian and Bangladesh newspapers. This article was originally published by Daily Observer, Dhaka)

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