Our anti-Punjab mayhem — II - Aamir Riaz - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\03\20\story_20-3-2012_pg3_3

If you scan the 20th century, Punjabis never voted in favour of fundamentalists. From the PRODA of Liaquat Ali Khan to the EBDO of Ayub Khan, numerous Punjabi leaders became victims of the ruling classes and finally, in 1970 Punjabis voted for Bhutto and they were right

Raza Abidi, in his famous writing Rail Kahani, recorded the story of a British plan to build a huge railway junction between Sukkur and Larkana with the name Ruk in 1879. They had plans to build a railway line via Kandahar to Turkey though Iran. In the 1880s the British fought the Anglo-Afghan wars. They were ready to fight with the Tsar directly if required. Before the 1893 Durand Line divide, the imperial power was interested to capture the old Silk Route running through the Tsarist empire, yet the late 19th century rise of Germany in Europe halted these imperial designs. Under the threat of Germany, the British and the Tsar made the Durand Line agreement. Hot wars ended provisionally at the Pakistan-Afghanistan front and it was the beginning of a cold war, yet even during that the Punjab remained the hub of activity.
According to Abidi, the Ruk station was completed in 1896 even though up till that time the British had abandoned the project. Even today, if you visit Ruk, which means ‘stop’ in Punjabi, you will find a plate mentioning Kandahar. The 800-mile line of demarcation, the Durand Line, started from the triangular junction of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran border while it ended at the Wakhan Corridor, the neck of the old Silk Route. Under the Durand Line agreement, the British carved out the tribal areas and used them as a buffer zone. Like the martial race thesis, they, with the help of intellectuals-administrators like Olaf Caroe, proposed another flawed thesis, which is still in use. They said that the Pashtuns or the tribals remained independent and no one ever annexed them. In reality, the Mughals and Maharaja Ranjeet Singh had ruled them for centuries, yet, many Pashtun nationalists got trapped in the new thesis under the compulsion of nationalism. After the Durand Line agreement, the British divided the Punjab in 1901, carved out six Punjabi districts and included them in the newly created North West Frontier Province. In 1903, a big darbaar (court gathering) was arranged in Delhi. Now the British were ready to move their capital. In 1911, Delhi was carved away from the Punjab and declared the new imperial capital. These were the fallouts of the Durand Line agreement on Punjab. 

It must be remembered that Muslims were more than 78 percent in the Lahore darbaar, yet in 1846 the British separated Kashmir, reducing the Muslim population to less than 70 percent. After the carving away of six Punjabi districts, the Muslim population was further reduced to 56 percent. In 1916, the Lucknow Pact proposed a weightage formula, which further reduced Muslim majorities in Bengal and Punjab. Visionaries like Allama Iqbal, C R Das, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Mian Shafi registered their opposition. The All-India Congress was in favour of the rule of the majority at an all-India level, yet in the provinces it supported the weightage formula. From 1919 till 1937, the Punjabis not only fought against the pitfalls of the Lucknow Pact, but also, under Mian Fazle Hussain, got the strength to oppose the Congress. From the 1919 Chelmsford Reforms till the Government of India Act 1935, there was a system of diarchy in British India. The question of residuary powers was a bone of contention among the Centre and the provinces.

Interestingly, it was the All-India Muslim League (AIML) and the 14 points of Jinnah that supported the provinces, while the Congress supported a strong Centre. The Unionists, Ahrar and AIML (Shafi) were not only against the Lucknow Pact, they were in favour of provincial rights. In the 1937 elections, both Punjab and Bengal did not vote for Congress. It was the beginning of the parting of ways, yet the Congress leadership never realised it in time.

If you scan the 20th century, Punjabis never voted in favour of fundamentalists. From the PRODA of Liaquat Ali Khan to the EBDO of Ayub Khan, numerous Punjabi leaders became victims of the ruling classes and finally, in 1970 Punjabis voted for Bhutto and they were right. During Zia’s time, the Punjabis remained loyal to the PPP, chose prison sentences rather than siding with the civil-military establishment. In the 1980s the establishment tried its best to root out PPP from Punjab. They supported Nawaz Sharif, yet in 2006 he signed the Charter of Democracy with PPP, which threatened the establishment. The lawyers movement and the restoration of the judges issue once again divided the PPP and the PML-N, yet both parties remained committed to not call on the army in the power game. The 18th amendment once again strengthens provinces, but nonetheless, the Centre tries its best to confuse this shift. The issue of new provinces is an effort to create a post-18th amendment fallout on Islamabad. As both popular parties are still supporting the 18th amendment, the establishment is trying to stand up as a third force and yet the Punjabis are still either with PPP or the PML-N. In the anti-Punjab mayhem, intellectuals are trying to save the civil-military establishment by putting all the blame on to Punjab. That is just old wine in a new bottle.


The writer is a Lahore-based editor and researcher. He can be reached at newline2100@yahoo.co.uk

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