Pakistan – May 1953 – Atlantic Monthly

Quaid E Azam

The least understood great power of Asia today is probably Pakistan. To Western eyes, Pakistan is that “other India,” the vestige that was left over when India achieved her independence. A Pakistani is always being taken for an Indian, simply because he is a citizen of the same subcontinent. He feels something like an Israeli being taken for an Arab because both are Semites.

Pakistan would be easier to understand at a distance if it were one remnant. But it is made up of two unequal lobes separated by the vast territory of India – hung like two great ears of an elephant, two Muslim ears on an Indian skull.

West Pakistan, the left-hand ear, has some 33 million people, including energetic mountaineers and light-skinned members of the ancient Aryan races. East Pakistan, separated from the other ear by a thousand miles of Indian brow, has a darker, tamer race of rice and jute growers and there are some 42 million of them. In their swampy forest they are packed 800 to the square mile, while in the parched western plains there are hardly 110 people to a square mile.

The plan for a split Muslim nation, sketched by the father of Pakistan, the lean, aristocratic reed of fire called Mohammed Au Jinnah, drew little encouragement from Lord Louis Mounthatten, Nehru, and Gandhi, fellow artisans of the division.

Nehru had predicted earlier that a Muslim state carved out of India would collapse. In 1936 he had written: “Politically the idea is absurd, economically it is fantastic . . . . And even if many people believed in it, it would still vanish at the touch of reality.”

Few people in the West, at first, wished Pakistan well. Pakistan, a new “Islamic Democracy” the Muslim religion as the foundation for its existence, did not seem to be a blessed move toward oneness of the world. The terrible mutual slaughters that accompanied the exchange of population when Pakistan and India separated caused observers to ask why so much blood was necessary, and to blame it on Pakistan. The contrast seemed the more striking because 43 million Muslims remained in “Bharat,” as the Pakistanis call India, not going over to Pakistan at all.

West and East Pakistan, even amid so much pessimism, stoutly refused to make the worst come true. When Jinnah died his spirit was carried on by the cool international lawyer Zafrullah Klan, and by the able, thoroughly modern premier, Liaquat Ali Khan and his Begum, who bore with grace and good humor a Western opinion that often confused them with Rita Ilayworth and Aly Khan. A fanatic Afghan emptied a revolver into Liaquat Ali in the old Kipling town of Rawalpindi; still Pakistan did not waste away, but found fresh hope in new Prime Minister, the roly-poly little politician Khawaja Nazimuddin.

Kashmir, Asian Trieste

When Greece and Turkey exchanged populations a few years ago, they passed from being enemies to being allies of sorts. Pakistan and India are such a natural partnership, too, but the reconciliation has never taken place. What prevents it is the question of Kashmir, the mountain state wedged into the Western Himalayas.

Kashmir is partly Hindu, partly Tibetan Buddhist, but mostly Muslim. Yet India holds most of it. Irregulars from Pakistan’s Khyber Pass country, riding in trucks with homemade rifles over their shoulders, attempted to take the lovely lakeland of Kashmir for their own, to “liberate” it, not without some looting. Nehru snapped in paratroopers and followed them with Indian army regulars. He still holds the country, stalling off the endless demands by both the UN and Pakistan for a plebiscite.

The Pakistanis managed to save for themselves less than half of Kashmir and about a quarter of the population. They block the main exit road and compel the Kashmir government of Sheikh Abdullah to wear out its trucks on the 9000-foot Banihal Pass, closed by snow in winter.

Pakistan, with its vast fields of wheat and cotton, and with its anti-Communist barrier range of healthy little Himalayan states like Swat and Ilunza, ought to be a happier and wealthier country than it is. The two Pakistans, East and West, share the advantage of all farming, nonindustrial countries in our day. But Kashmir prevents them from enjoying these fruits. Even when drought cuts down the yellow wheat of the Punjab, forcing Pakistan to buy bread, the trouble starts—the Pakistanis feel—with Kashmir.

Kashmir lies heavy on the Pakistani brow heavier than Trieste on the Italian. The Pakistanis know that just an auto ride away are thousands of co-Muslims who would go to Pakistan if they had a free choice. What prevents the Pakistanis from rescuing their Kashmir brothers-in-faith is the presence of a well-behaved Indian army. New Delhi’s position in this matter is that India is responsible for the maintenance of order in Kashmir.

Rice for coal

East Pakistan has worked out a fair deal with India by shipping its jute to the hungry factories in Bengal. The rice of East Pakistan—rice being the best bargaining lever in the East today—keeps East Pakistan financially independent. And the Pakistanis, who are providers of raw cotton for the mills of Red China, agreed in March to provide 10,000 tons more in return for 100,000 tons of Chinese coal.

But the narrow corridor of West Pakistan, squeezed between a hostile Afghanistan and an unfriendly India, strung on its cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Peshawar, is too tense to be healthy. How long would it take India’s tanks to stab westward through the Punjab to the Northwest Frontier, severing West Pakistan like a broken hourglass? This is the question every Pakistani asks himself.

Karachi, the seaport capital on the broiling Arabian Sea, has become an Asiatic Los Angeles a bursting boom town, living on a miracle of will. Its terrible slums, a vast Hooverville of ragged doorways, oilcans for water, and rickety children are very slowly being cleared away. But a fundamental fever in West Pakistan remains, though the incredible 6 million refugees are gradually be absorbed.

A Pakistani woman is usually more progressive than any of her Muslim sisters. The veil has been almost wholly whisked away. Clean and intelligent young women, wearing the national white tunic march with rifles over their shoulders ready to defend the nation. But some plain needs remain unsolved—among them, water. What about water?


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