“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake into life and freedom.” – On August 14th, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru’s words reverberated through the ear drums of the sub-continent but the primary question to his passionate statement still remains unanswered: whose freedom? One section of this culturally rich expanse, Pakistan, has not for a moment in its sixty-five year history experienced freedom although it was a state created on a mystified concept of liberty.
Ethnicities: Sindhi, Mohajir, Balochi, Pathan, Punjabi
Religions: Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Zorastian
These lists boast diversity, but for country built on the principle of divide amidst scenes of religious and ethnic cleansing, hostility and antagonism take over as forces greater than community. Terrorism aside, Pakistan remains a dangerous place and Karachi is certainly a microcosm. The reason: a lack of respect for differing opinions, religions, and ethnicities. Going back to 1947, the people of Aligarh (current day India) very enthusiastically assumed that Sindhi’s in Karachi and elsewhere in the province would welcome them with open arms. However, when migration began the Sindhi’s rejected the Mohajirs, draining their commercial resources. Now, Karachi is largely divided between ethnicities and negativity towards others is effervescent, with cases of rape, murder and kidnappings a common occurrence. A pattern of lawlessness continues as people use power to pursue goals, attack others and wreck havoc in the city.
The Indian-National Congress, so long looked down upon in Pakistani history as a fascist Hindu party, did attempt to represent the whole of India. In September 1939, shortly after Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, Congress made a public statement demanding independence for a united India. The British Governor-General at the time, Viceroy Linlithgow, needed India to fight the war on the Japanese front. In a desperate attempt to prolong the wait for independence, he finally recognized Jinnah and the Muslim League as the Sole Representative of the Muslims of India. It was then that the tide had changed. The British had made their mark, spurred the partition, and left a deep-lying legacy of ‘divide and conquer’, an ideology that made their exploitation of the Indian sub-continent such a profitable venture.
The Muslim League eventually formed Pakistan, and the greatest mass migration in history was to follow, along with unparalleled violence along the arbitrary Radcliffe line (of partition). Jinnah talked about respecting all people and making Pakistan an open society, but how could such a well-educated man be so disillusioned? His lack of foresight is astonishing, as his state, a free state, had just irrationally divided the historic sub-continent, breaking centuries old tradition in an awfully depressing and disastrous way. How could anyone expect the new country to be anything less than an area of ethnic and religious warfare? Jinnah may have died in 1948, but many others who crossed the border saw proof of this in the appearance of Bangladesh as it gained independence from Pakistan in 1971 after a long-fought war and struggle. Nationalism is a concept that belongs to the nineteenth century, but on this subcontinent, everyone wants to divide.
With a new election, flags will go up with the majestic royal green waving in the wind. People will sing the national anthem as loud as their lungs can bear, mithai will be openly distributed, everyone will be crisply clad in new shalwar kameez’s, and the ongoing violence might just temporarily halt but the question of freedom is still unanswered. People don’t realize that they’re celebrating one of the most ill-fated days in modern history and some individuals are left alienated as all the see is irony in the word independence and solitude in their thoughts.
–By Sameer Tayebaly