Pakistanis celebrate National Day

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Pakistanisall over the world recently celebrated Pakistan Day. On that day, Muslim leaders from the Indian subcontinent met in Lahore and adopted the resolution called the Lahore Resolution or the Pakistan Resolution, which ended all attempts to unite Muslims and Hindus in one front to demand independence from the British government. When the Indian National Congress started a movement called “Quit India,” Pakistan started a similar one with the slogan of “Divide and Quit India.”

The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) recently organized a symposium to mark the occasion. I was invited to deliver a speech in which I drew attention to the inception of the very idea of Pakistan. The idea of a separate nation for the Muslims of the subcontinent evolved through several phases that had its origin as early as the beginning of the 11th century AD when the famous Muslim traveler and philosopher Abu Al-Rayhan Al-Biruni first mooted the two-nation theory. Al-Biruni described in his books the major ideologies, customs and traditions in Indian society. He pointed out that Muslims and Hindus differed from each other in their customs and everything else, and hence that it was very difficult to achieve peaceful coexistence between the two communities. Eventually, the partition of the subcontinent was made on the basis of this theory.

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a great proponent of the unity of Hindus and Muslims in the subcontinent. Jinnah started his political career as a leader of the Indian National Congress. He was one of the towering young leaders of the party. But later he realized that the rights of Muslims were not guaranteed, and Hindu leaders did not have the desire to give Muslims their full rights. That is why he left the Congress Party and joined the All India Muslim League and became its president.

Even after assuming the key position in the Muslim League party, Jinnah continued his work to achieve unity among all segments of Indian society while preserving the rights of minorities, especially Muslims, who had been subjected to great suffering as a backlash to their active participation in the rebellion against the British in 1857.

At the conference of the All India Muslim League, the historic Pakistan Resolution was moved by A.K. Fazlul Huq, a prominent Muslim League leader from Bengal. The resolution, adopted by the conference unanimously, stated that the Muslims of the subcontinent accept nothing less than an independent homeland called Pakistan, and the Muslim League eventually worked hard to achieve that goal. Muslim League President Jinnah and his followers from all over India made great sacrifices to achieve a separate nation for Muslims. The sectarian unrest between Muslims and Hindus, especially the massacres of Muslims in the state of Bihar, accelerated the momentum for achieving the separate nation of Pakistan.

By 1947, everyone was convinced that the subcontinent should be divided on the basis of the so-called “Two-Nation” theory. This theory stipulated that the predominantly Muslim majority regions should be part of the new state of Pakistan while the Hindu-majority regions would continue to remain part of India. However, this was not implemented in the case of Kashmir. Even though, the overwhelming majority of people were Muslims, it did not become part of Pakistan.

The ruler of Kashmir was a Hindu, who wanted his princely state to remain semi-independent and, therefore, sought the Indian government’s protection. But India did not agree fully to his request and put forward a condition for giving protection that Kashmir should join India. The Maharaja did not want to join Pakistan and, therefore, he complied with the condition of India and eventually announced the accession of Kashmir to India.

Pakistan considered this to be contrary to the agreements under which the subcontinent was partitioned, and that it would undermine its national security. This led to the first war that was fought between the two countries over Kashmir, prompting the United Nations to intervene and impose a ceasefire. The UN also called for a plebiscite so as to enable the people of Kashmir to have their own self-determination. The UN failed to implement its resolutions calling for a referendum that would give the Kashmiri people the right to self-determination. Kashmir continued to remain a problem that escalated the situation between the two countries that have become members of the nuclear club.

Pakistan is the only Muslim nuclear state in the world. It has a strong army and huge human resources. I also emphasized that Pakistan has some internal problems like any other country and that it is capable of dealing with these problems. I am a lover of Pakistan and acknowledge its advantages and specialties. The first foreign country where I set my foot was Pakistan where I spent five years of my diplomatic life in addition to pursuing my university education there.

I also noted in my speech the plight of nearly a quarter of a million stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh ever since the secession of East Pakistan and the creation of the new state of Bangladesh. They are languishing in squalid camps, where they have been denied even the basic amenities of life. These people still pin hope on the promises made by successive Pakistani governments with regard to their repatriation and rehabilitation in Pakistan to where they migrated from the Indian state of Bihar at the time of partition.

How can the government of Pakistan continue to disregard and neglect these Pakistanis? Is it not fair to treat them like other Pakistanis? When they migrated from India, they migrated to Pakistan and not to Bangladesh. Therefore, it is the national, humanitarian and moral responsibility of the Pakistani government to address this issue. I urge Prime Minister Imran Khan to take the responsibility to solve the problem of stranded Pakistanis.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com


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