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Pakistan: present, past and future

By Ayub Maftoon - posted Thursday, 25 September 2008

A Persian poet once said, when a builder fails to put the foundation stone of a building straight, the whole structure gets erected clumsily. More than 60 years old, Pakistan is “clumsy” from the foundations through decades of misrule. Consequently even positive developments in the governance of the country are deemed with scepticism.

The inauguration of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhuto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari as the 12th president of Pakistan, following the resignation of General Parvez Musharaf, hardly satisfied the public. Apart from Mr Zardari’s chequered past, which makes the Pakistani public cynical of any improvements likely to happen in their lives, the country has been in continuous internal turmoil since its creation, which seems to be the major element in public’s distrust on governments.

Since 1947, the country has seen only 27 years of democratically elected governments. This has taken its toll on the integrity of the country as well as the contentment of its multiethnic population.


The maltreatment of small provinces within Pakistan and the country’s behaviour towards at least one neighbour, Afghanistan, are other major elements that have played an enormous role in its instability.


Pakistan was founded by Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), known as Qaid-e-Azam (the greatest leader). The son of a prosperous Indian merchant he was educated in London and was initially a member of the Indian National Congress party. He joined the Muslim League of India (MLI) in 1913 and became its leader in 1920. In 1940 in a Muslim League conference in Lahore (now in Pakistan) Jinnah made an official demand for a separate state for India’s Muslim population.

On August 14, 1947, his venture bore fruit. India was partitioned and a new state, Pakistan, was born. As a backdrop to the creation of the new state hundreds of thousands of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs lost their lives and more than 14 million people were forced to migrate between India and Pakistan.

The colonial empire as usual played its hypocritical role in adding to the fire. A 1940s British civil servant Christopher Beaumont’s memoir says:

The viceroy, Mountbatten, must take the blame - though not the sole blame - for the massacres in the Punjab in which between 500,000 to a million men, women and children perished. … The Punjab partition was a disaster … Geography, canals, railways and roads all argued against dismemberment. The trouble was that Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs were an integrated population so that it was impossible to make a frontier without widespread dislocation.

Jinnah didn’t live long though, and died of tuberculosis a year after the creation of Pakistan. However, in that one year as the first governor-general of the new state he demolished the Congress government in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), forced Baluchistan to enter the confederacy of Pakistan and imposed Urdu as the national language on the more than 95 per cent non-Urdu speakers of the country.


This series of hasty and unlawful actions triggered the dismissal of the first civilian government in 1953 by Governor-General Ghulam Mohammed. Dismissals were to become the fashion in Pakistani politics.

The state was created on the sole basis of Islamic identity (as MLI was granted a separate electorate on this ground by the British rulers in 1937 and 1946 elections) and its fundamental state law was supposed to be based on Islam. But Jinnah failed to implement that policy. Instead, he and his associates created an enterprise that was neither Islamic nor democratic, but a confusing mixture of both, which still constitutes today’s Pakistan.


Pakistan was created in two pieces of land - east Bengal which constituted East Pakistan - and a combination of four provinces, - Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Baluchistan, which constituted West Pakistan. One thousand miles of India separated the two parts.

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About the Author

Ayub Maftoon is a journalist. He got his bachelor degree in journalism from Monash and has recently completed his Masters in Film and Television at RMIT.

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