Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pakistan and Afghanistan



The nature of relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan is a very delicate one. Leaving aside the recent realities (past 20 years) of the close brotherly relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan during the Jehad against the Soviets/Communists, the emergence of the former-Taliban, and now the post 9-11 Afghan govt., prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan many Afghans were uneasy towards the region of Pakistan. What had embittered the feelings of the Afghans was the taking away of Pashtun inhabited territories by the Sikhs who perpetrated brutal atrocities on their Muslim subjects and made their existence miserable.

Similarly, their successors the British, were no less antagonistic toward the Pashtuns and waged constant war against them causing great hardships and miseries to the inhabitants of the entire area. The Pashtuns of what is called today NWFP and the Tribal Areas of Pakistan had to make tremendous sacrifices for about 130 years both under the Sikhs and the British (1818-1947). It was this misfortune of the Pashtuns of this belt that was partly responsible for the attempts made by the Kabul rulers to get it back.

But from August 14, 1947 things have taken a different turn and the entire perspective has changed. The Pashtuns of neither the settled regions nor the Tribal Areas are subjected to any discrimination nor any expeditions sent against them or armies deployed to suppress them. They are citizens of a free state where they enjoy the same rights as people of other provinces. Pashtuns hold positions of highest responsibilty in civil as well as military services of Pakistan. They are today proud citizens of a Muslim state and have so much endeared themselves to the other people of the country that one cannot think of Pakistan without the Pashtun element forming part of it. They have produced great leaders of national stature with large followings in the Punjab, Sind and Baluchistan.

Since the day Mahmud Ghaznavi entered this sub-continent, Pashtuns have been a constant factor in political, social and military life of Muslims of this sub-continent. In terms of time from 1000 AD onwards for about a thousand years, and in terms of space from Chitral to Chittagong and from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, the ubiquitous Pashtun has always been there. There is no city or town in this sub-continent with Muslim population without Pashtun 'mohallas' or neighborhoods and there is hardly a Muslim family which has not entered into matrimonial relations with Pashtun.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned we can very well understand the feelings of Amir Dost Mohammed, Sher Ali, Abdur Rehman Khan and King Amanullah toward fellow Pashtuns east of Durand Line living under non-Muslim rule during their time. But today they are not living under non-Muslim rule. Similarly today the problem is not of "divided Pashtuns" as Kabul was inclined to look at it in the past, but on the contrary Pashtuns playing a leading role in two Muslim states..... in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. There was a time when Durand Line divided Pashtuns to weaken them but today the Line makes them partners-in-power in two states. No decision on any issue can be taken by the government of Pakistan without the consent of the Pashtuns living in Pakistan.

Further, since they are spread over NWFP and Quetta division of Baluchistan, they will weild power in the governments of both provinces in any constitutional setup. Would the Afghan government and the supporters of 'Pakhtunistan' movement like to deprive the Pashtuns of this important role in Pakistan? Wise counsel is: they should not. Moreover, Pashtuns are the connecting link between the two brotherly Muslim states whose geographical and economic necessities may, in the near future, bring about their fusion.

A few words about the fusion of the two brotherly countries. The idea of Afghanistan forming an autonomous province of Pakistan is not an unfamiliar or impracticable one. The letter 'alif' in the Urdu (or 'A' in English) word Pakistan stands for Afghans. Both Jamaluddin Afghani and Allama Iqbal cherished the concept of North-West British India and Afghanistan together forming a single Muslim state. Moreover, Pakistan, as at present constituted is poor in minerals but rich in food and fibres while Afghanistan has tremendous untapped mineral and manpower resources. Plus, Afghans would be able to get direct access to Pakistan's ports of Arabian sea, while Pakistanis will be able to get direct access to Central Asian markets.

A fusion of the two would be pregnant with immense possibilities not only for the people of the two countries but for the entire Muslim world. There is nothing wrong or repugnant in this idea. The combined strength of the Pashtuns from the Indus to the Oxus and from Dir to Herat would ensure their internal autonomy as well as a strong voice and a powerful say in the Central Government of Pakistan. Furthermore, such confederation will be a diluting factor to the predominant groups of Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Punjabis in Pakistan, thus creating stronger equity among all groups. World trends are towards greater integration and larger pooling of resources. Let the Afghans give the idea a calm and cool consideration in the larger interests of Muslim unity. There is plenty of commonality between Pakistan and Afghanistan in respect to their religion, culture, race, history, geography, etc.

Here I would like to quote a paragraph relevant to this aspect from W.K. Frazer Tytler's book "Afghanistan: A Study of Political Developments in Central and Southern Asia". He writes: "It is indeed a strange feature of this complicated situation that there exists, like a cancer in the body politic of northern South Asia, this collection of 'independent' tribes, well armed, intractable and formidable, who may at anytime disturb relations and disrupt the economy of either of the states in whose midst they dwell. It is an anachronism and a danger to the stability of northern South Asia and the peace of Central Asia. The remedy is the fusion of the two states of Afghanistan and Pakistan in some way or other. It may be argued that, given the differences in mental and political outlook of the two states, such fusion is impossible. This may be so; I am in no position to argue the matter. But history suggests that fusion will take place, if not peacefully, then by force." This is the view of an eminent western author.

The above study brings out two alternatives for the solution of Pak-Afghan problems. Either the Durand line remains, enabling the people of Pashtun race to play a leading role in both Afghanistan and Pakistan which should lead to the shelving of 'Pakhtunistan' issue forever and the establishment of amicable relations between the two, Or, since one of the objectives of setting up an independent state (Pakistan) in the north-western parts of British India was to include in its fold Muslims living up to the Hindu Kush or the Oxus which have been the traditional boundaries of all the Muslim and pre-Muslim dynasties of this area, a fusion of Afghanistan and Pakistan is highly desirable. Such a development would be natural, normal and extremely welcome. It will benefit both, strengthen both, and open up new vistas for both. As the present boundaries of Afghanistan skip the Hindu Kush and lie along the Oxus, the possiblities are considerably broader and potentialities exceedingly brighter.

The whole issue needs to be studied in historical, cultural and religious perspective and not in terms of modern, recently nurtured ideas of parochial western nationalism. We have to break the linguistic and racial barriers sometime and somewhere and demonstrate to the world that Muslim nationalism does not brook petty ideas and does not believe in tenuous bonds. The best place to demonstrate the superiority of Islamic principles of nationalism is between the Sutlej and the Oxus and the best time is the 21st century.

Common rule over Pakistan and Afghanistan is not a new or novel idea in the context of history. The Sakas, Parthians, Graeco-Bactrians, Kushans, Ghaznavids, Abdalis and many others were rulers of both the countries with their capital either at Peshawar, Taxila, Ghazna or Qandahar.

Then, the territories now forming Afghanistan have great political significance for the Muslims of South Asia. From its bosom have originated movements and monarchs who established Muslim rule in Pakistan, and later in the entire sub-continent.

Mahmud Ghaznavi, though a Turk, was born and brought up in Ghazna in Afghanistan and it was with the help of Afghan soldiers that he conquered several cities in northern India and introduced Muslim rule in the areas now known as Pakistan (11th century AD).

Mohammad Ghori, though of Turko-Persian origin, was born and nurtured at Ghor in Afghanistan. It was again with the help of Afghan soldiers that he extended Muslim sway over the whole of northern India (12th-13th century AD).

It was again an Afghan, Alauddin Khilji, who extended Muslim rule for the first time to southern India up to Cape Comorin (end of 13th and early 14th century AD).

Zahiruddin Baber, though a Barlas Turk, conquered parts of Afghanistan and stayed at Kabul for no less a period than twenty years, making it a base for the conquest of the sub-continent where he finally established Mughal rule.

It were the Afghan dynasties of Lodhis and Suris that strengthened the base of Muslim rule in India by introducing land reforms, by bringing the rulers (Muslims) and the ruled (Hindus) closer to each other and by encouraging cultural and literary activities.

It will be noticed that almost all the Muslim dynasties that ruled over this sub-continent sprang up from the territories now constituting the state of Afghanistan...... Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khiljis, Lodhis, Suris and Mughals, not to speak the various Afghan dynasties that ruled over the provinces.

And finally when the Mughals were facing extinction, being stangulated to death by the Marathas and the Sikhs, it was again an Afghan, Ahmed Shah Abdali, who came to their rescue (middle of 18th century) and allowed them a brief respite. But since the Mughals were a spent force and unable to rise again, the support and succour provided by Abdali proved of no avail.

However, Abdali being a shrewd and sensible leader, aware of the huge anti-Muslim forces raising their head, and conscious of the limitations of his own power, established his hold, as a first step, in the north-western corner naming it Afghanistan (1747 AD). Pakistan is merely an extension of Abdali's kingdom..... in fact Punjab, Sind, Baluchistan and Kashmir formed part of it during reigns of Abdali, his son Taimur Shah and during short period of the latter's sons Shah Zaman and Shah Shuja. In view of this historical background, Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot remain separate from each other for long especially when the same forces that Abdali had faced and crushed in the 18th century (Sikhs and Marathas) are again, in a different garb (India), posing a threat to the independence of this entire region.

Since Afghans have made glorious contribution to the development of the administration, education and culture of this sub-continent, instead of remaining isolated with closed minds within the boundaries of Afghanistan, they can come out again play a leading and constructive role in the whole of Pakistan extending their area of activity up to Sea of Arabia. They have been known throughout history for their valour, broad-mindedness and tolerance. Instead of thinking on racial lines let them demonstrate these fine qualities once again for the benefit of their co-religionists.


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