How Afghanistan may affect Pakistan

Ever since President Ashraf Ghani decided to fly out of Kabul and take with him some of his close associates, much has been written about the country he left behind and also about the people who replaced him

A lot has appeared in the Western press about the country and also about those who tried to bring modernity to the nation that has defied for long all attempts to have it join the modern world

The Taliban who entered the presidential palace once Ghani fled have also been the subject of study by foreign scholars

There has been detailed coverage in the press in attempts to explain Afghanistan and its people, the Afghans, to those who have been looking at both — the country and its people — from the outside

Books about the nation and its citizens have begun to collect on the shelves

Some of them are concerned with making some sense of how the American forces and the civilians who came with them behaved in the country in their attempt to change it over a period of 20 years during which they were engaged

However, all these writings failed to develop an understanding of what Afghanistan is and why it has remained more or less unchanged for decades, if not for centuries

Related to this is the question why the Afghans have succeeded in defeating foreign attempts to subdue the country and make it a colony of a powerful outside force

This was attempted several times, most recently by the British, the Russians and the Americans

Each time the Afghans, even though they were poorly equipped with instruments of war, prevailed

They successfully repelled much more powerful invaders

In accomplishing this feat, the Afghans were able to retain the same boundaries for their state

What has made it possible for Afghanistan to retain its original borders? This has happened in spite of the fact that there are several ethnic groups that inhabit the land and some of them have uneasy relations with one another

The country also has two sects of Islam that have been bitter rivals from the time of the founding of the religion

The Sunni and Shiite Islam have not lived in peace

The most important feature of the Afghan political life is that it has not developed a strong central authority

Political power is wielded by local leaders who are not prepared to surrender it to a central authority

What are the likely consequences for Pakistan of the seismic events in Afghanistan, the country that runs along its northwestern border? It is an important question to which it would take a while to find a suitable answer

The new Afghanistan is still in the making

It is still devising a system of governance

It is still in the process of working its relations with the world outside its borders

The world around it is changing in several significant ways; how would the new rulers place their country in this altered geographic space? Dominated by one ethnic group, the Pashtuns, it will need to find ways of working with other groups

Taliban in Afghanistan are attempting to obtain what few Muslim majority countries have been able to achieve after they became independent states

They are trying to use religion as the basis of nationhood

In doing so they have relied on the religiosity of one ethnic group that is most numerous but not in majority in the country

The Pashtun, with 15

4 million people in the country, are concentrated in the areas that border Pakistan

With 43

4 million people belonging to this ethnic group in Pakistan, there were three times as many Pashtuns in Pakistan as in Afghanistan

At the time of the country’s creation in 1947, the Pashtun were concentrated in the areas bordering Afghanistan

Since then, waves of migration have taken the Pashtun to Karachi which has now overtaken Kabul and Peshawar and become the largest city with this ethnicity in the world

Will the Taliban succeed in making religion the basis of nationhood in Afghanistan? If they succeed in this effort, they would have created an example some other Muslim majority countries may want to follow

To speculate the direction in which Afghanistan under the Taliban is likely to go, I would step back into Pakistan’s early history and its attempt to create a nation state out of ethnic and religious diversity

There are forces in this country that would like to push it towards making Islam the defining force in governance

But there are other divisive forces operating in the country as well

It was the power of ethnicity that broke up Pakistan into two halves after it had been an independent state for less than a quarter century

Religion was not a strong enough force to keep ethnic Bengalis within the original state of Pakistan

The accepted story about the founding of the state of Pakistan is that it was created to secure geographic space for the Muslim population of the British Indian colony

In the late 1940s, London accepted Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s plea that culturally and socially India’s Muslim were so different from the Hindu majority that they needed to have a country of their own

The Indian colony then had a population of 400 million of which one-fourth, or 100 million, were followers of the Islamic faith

Some of Jinnah’s followers may have believed that he was creating an Islamic state but in various speeches he made it clear that that was not the case

He was much more interested in preserving Muslim culture

“Hindus worship the cow; Muslims eat it,” he is reported to have said

When the idea of creating a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India was finally accepted by both the Hindu and British leadership, he made it clear that he was not founding an Islamic state

In an often-quoted speech made on August 11, 1947, three days before Pakistan became formally independent, he made it clear that the country he had worked hard to found was to be a Western-style liberal democracy, not an Islamic state

He was addressing the first session of the Constituent Assembly that had been created to write a Constitution for the state of Pakistan

The Assembly, by a unanimous vote, elected Jinnah as the President of the Assembly and the country’s first Governor General

“I think we should keep in front of us our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State,” he told his surprised audience

He continued to spell out his personal ambition as the newly elected head of the new state

“I shall always be guided by the principles of justice and fair play

My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your support and cooperation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest Nations of the world

” That vision was only partially realised

Jinnah was fully aware of the fact that the idea of Pakistan — the idea that the 100 million Muslims of British India — needed a country of their own to protect their culture did not have the support of the entire Muslim population

Jamaat-e-Islami, British India’s largest Islamic party led by Maulana Maududi, was not in favour of creating Pakistan

Such a political entity would go against the idea of creating the Islamic Ummah, a political entity that would embrace the entire Muslim population of the world

  Published in The Express Tribune, January 03, 2022

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Date:04-Jan-2022 Reference:View Original Link