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by Farzana Shaikh

Once a model of Muslim enlightenment, Pakistan is now facing a lethal Islamist threat. Many believe this is due to Pakistan's partnership with the United States, while others see it as the consequence of an authoritarian rule that has marginalized liberal opinion while creating inroads for the religious right.

Farzana Shaikh argues that though external influences and domestic politics have unquestionably shaped Pakistan, an uncertainty about the meaning of Pakistan and the significance of "being Pakistani" lies at the heart of the state's social and political decline. Making Sense of Pakistan shows how these concerns have contributed to the spread of Islam in the public sphere. They have also widened the gap between personal piety and public morality, compromising the country's economic foundations and social stability. This uncertainty has also affected Pakistan's foreign policy, which compensates for the country's poor sense of national identity. Even more ominous, national insecurities have given rise to a dangerous symbiosis between Pakistan's armed forces and Muslim extremists, rival contenders in the struggle to redefine the meaning of Pakistan. Drawing on extensive research into the origins and evolution of the country, Shaikh follows the forces of culture and ideology that pressured Indo-Muslims in the years leading up to Partition and continue to resonate throughout the country.

Download Making Sense of Pakistan (Columbia/Hurst) epub
ISBN: 023114962X
ISBN13: 978-0231149624
Category: Other
Subcategory: Humanities
Author: Farzana Shaikh
Language: English
Publisher: Columbia University Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (July 9, 2009)
Pages: 288 pages
ePUB size: 1253 kb
FB2 size: 1231 kb
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 673
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In para second of the introduction chapter, Shaikh writes, “This book — a work of interpretation rather than of historical research — addresses the political, economic and strategic implications of Pakistan’s uncertain national identity.” Not doing historical research but writing a book on a topic embedded in the history of a country is not a point of strength; instead, it is a point of weakness, which is quite apparent in the book. For instance, on page 33, Shaikh writes, “Iqbal’s instinctive hostility to the idea of the nation also led him to resist, intellectually at least, any link between a Muslim nation and a separate Muslim state — a link that would have compromised his engagement with Islam as a ‘universal community’, which could brook no divisions of the sort implied by national differences. Therefore, when in 1930 he laid out his scheme for a territorially demarcated and centralised Muslim state in the north-west of India, he justified its formation not on the grounds that Muslims were a nation, but that ‘the life of Islam’ depended on it.”

Here lies the problem of not doing historical research but imposing one’s interpretation on others and thereby misguiding the readers. In his 1930 presidential address at Allahabad, nowhere did Allama Mohammad Iqbal say that the life of Islam depended on a state. Instead, Iqbal said, “The life of Islam as a cultural force in the country very largely depends on its centralisation in a specified territory.” Here, Iqbal alluded only to the cultural aspect of Islam and not the whole of Islam. The cultural aspect is just one dimension of Islam.

Secondly, the words “specified territory” mentioned here meant a state and not a universal community, as in his address Iqbal also said, “I would like to see the Punjab, NWFP, Sindh, and Balochistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim state appears to me the final destiny of the Muslims at least of North-West India.” In this way, Iqbal said that the existence of a state, whether autonomous or independent, in a specified territory was required to preserve or flourish the cultural aspect of Islam.

Thirdly, in his address, Iqbal also said, “Indeed, the Muslims of India are the only Indian people who can fitly be described as a nation in the modern sense of the word.” In this manner, he not only established a link between a Muslim nation and a sovereign or independent consolidated Muslim state but he also justified the formation of such a state on the ground that Muslims were a nation.

Fourthly, Iqbal was not at all worried about the survival, life or protection of Islam, as in the same address, he also said, “One lesson I have learnt from the history of Muslims. At critical moments in their history it is Islam that has saved Muslims and not vice versa.”

Now, coming back to the first paragraph on page one of the introduction chapter, Shaikh writes: “More than six decades after being carved out of British India, Pakistan remains an enigma... Pakistan has been left clutching at an identity beset by an ambiguous relation to Islam.” Here, her disregard for Iqbal’s address of 1930 is again apparent, as Iqbal had unequivocally said that the relation between the prospective autonomous or independent (consolidated) Muslim state and Islam would be cultural, under the auspices of European-style democracy. This point also refutes Shaikh’s self-serving interpretation that there exists any kind of Pakistan’s uncertain national identity.

In the domain of research, the major curse appended to interpretation is bias and the same is quite apparent in the book. For instance, on page 180, Shaikh writes, “For Pakistan was born not in a struggle against British colonial rule, but in opposition to the Indian nationalist movement. Overcoming the legacy of this ‘negative’ identity has been the defining feature of Pakistan’s policy towards India…” Here, Shaikh must be referring to the “Divide and Quit” slogan raised by the All India Muslims League (AIML) in December 1943 in response to the Quit India Movement launched by the Indian National Congress (INC) in August 1942.

However, in her book, Shaikh forgets to explain not only the reasons for considering the slogan of Divide and Quit negative or its resultant effects, but also the reasons for considering the slogan or its consequent effect an expression of any kind of identity. In fact, Shaikh says that the positive identity for Muslims would have been in not raising the slogan of or putting into effect Divide and Quit. In this regard, Muslims’ stance could be understood when viewed in light of Iqbal’s Allahabad’s address of 1930, in which he had already given two choices to the British to “secure the permanent solution of the communal problem” of India. The choices were either doing a territorial “redistribution of British India” or introducing such “constitutional changes” as to protect rights of Muslims. Secondly, through the Divide and Quit preference, Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted to save Muslims from the British wrath in case they did not quit India.

In her yearning for thrusting the negative identity upon Pakistan as a legacy, Shaikh also forgets to take into consideration the impact of the Congress ministries (1937-39) on Muslims before they asked for Divide and Quit, another point of historical research. The point is simple: If Muslims’ experience under the Congress ministries had been pleasant, they would have not pressed for Divide and Quit. Further, if Muslims had demanded Divide and Quit before their experience in the Congress ministries, they could have been blamed for any kind of negativity, but not otherwise.
"Making Sense of Pakistan" is on the ROROTOKO list of cutting-edge intellectual nonfiction. Professor Shaikh's book interview ran here as cover feature on July 27, 2009.