December 2012

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          

Blogs & Sites We Read

Blog powered by Typepad

Search Site

  • Search Site



  • Counter

Become a Fan

Cat Quote

  • "He who dislikes the cat, was in his former life, a rat."

« The Return of the Mommy Wars- Mother's Day 2012 (Sujatha) | Main | "Affordable housing has to go somewhere." »

May 22, 2012


So she insists that “the ideology of Muslim nationalism that underpinned the demand for Pakistan embodied an ethnic and not a religious nationalism”. What does that even mean?

Indeed, what does it mean? If common ethnicity was the basis of Pakistani nationalism, why did Bangladesh come into being? Jinnah's weirdly nebulous and sly definition of democracy based on historic religious ideals and the prevalent realpolitik of the post WWII, rapidly decolonizing world is telling. It appears that he probably had not thought beyond an identity constructed on Muslim nationalism and un-Indianism for the newly minted nation of Pakistan - “a place insufficiently imagined”.

I am interested in the past and present 'progressive politics' (not populist nationalism) of Pakistan on which the author seems to have based much of her interpretation of Pakistan's history. I imagine there is less of it today than there was immediately following the partition. I am familiar with the left leaning sensibilities of the literary intelligentsia of Pakistan. But what about its influence among practising politicians? Were (are) there any communist members of the Pakistani parliament? Was (is) there a viable communist / socialist party that contested elections on a platform that was vocally pro-labor, pro-farmer and anti-religion as is the case with similar political groups in India? Are Pakistani workers in the public and private sectors unionized?

Sorry to put it so bluntly, but the Marxists of Pakistan have for the most part been of a particularly vulgar stripe as exemplified by the agitprop of Toor and her cadre comrades some of whom still apparently still pine for a "Saur Revolution" of their own. Faiz was an honorable exception, but then he was not particularly doctrinaire.

Even 6 decades ago that enemy of hypocrisy, Manto was critical of "Pakistani communists whom he always considered unthinking camp followers who had surrendered their own sense of judgment to what they believed was the all-knowing Party pontificating from distant Moscow".

Journalist/activist David Barsamian, a frequent visitor to the subcontinent--although he cannot enter India--blogged the following during his stay in Pakistan a few years ago:

Last night a soiree w/ old leftists arguing old issues. They have no clue what to do and are still lamenting the demise of the USSR which they insisted was socialist. They were asking me for guidance! I said just walk outside. Looking for something to do? Your country is on fire.

Ruchira, there has never been an electorally successful communist or socialist party in Pakistan. After the military allied with the US and started using their anti-communist activities to sell themselves, the communist party was officially banned. The number of communists was very small, so the state went to ridiculous lengths to hunt out communists. Both my grandfather and my father had files in the intelligence bureau for being left wing subversives and neither was anything of the sort. It was a gigantic farce. Anyway, the small core of communists then influenced politics via front organizations (an influence that was much greater than their small numbers would suggest...especially in cultural fields) and when Bhutto started the PPP, a number of hardcore leftists (JA Rahim, Meraj Mohammed Khan, Meraj Khalid, Mubashir Hasan, Sheikh Rashid, etc) joined the party and played important roles in it..but that was the high water mark of left wing impact on actual politics. Once they were weeded out by Bhutto (it took a few years after he came to power for him to complete that process) that was it. There has been minimal left wing presence in mass politics in Punjab or Sindh since then. A little more perhaps in KP and Balochistan. Nothing like the Indian communist party exists in pakistan. Now that Uncle Sam is more or less OK with left wing politics in Muslim countries (they really leftist likes to admit it, but Uncle Sam is now open for business with the Left in Muslim countries...just as Islamists were in favor because they hated communists, old communists are now in favor because they are fairly reliably anti-Islamist) things may change...

The comments to this entry are closed.