Pakistan and India should celebrate independence from the British – not from each other

Published: August 16, 2016

He uttered the following words, “Partition nai hona chahye thi” (partition should not have happened). PHOTO:TWITTER

Sometime back I ran into an elderly man at work. Since I live in an area of Canada that is densely populated with immigrants from Indian Punjab, I knew the gentleman was from India. After I was done helping him out, he looked at my name-tag and asked me what part of India I was from. I told him I was from Pakistan, not India.

A wide smile appeared on his face, and he asked me what city of Pakistan I belonged to. After I mentioned that I was from Lahore, his smile grew even wider as he got teary-eyed. He told me that his family is from Jaranwala (a small town in the Faisalabad district), but they had immigrated to India following the partition in 1947. We spoke for a while as he asked me questions about the place he formerly called home. As he was leaving he uttered the following words,

Partition nahin honi chahiye thi.

(Partition should not have happened.)

This was not the first time the de-merits of partition crossed my mind, but it was a moment that raised countless more questions.

India and Pakistan both celebrated their 69th year of Independence in the last few days. Almost a quarter of a century has passed and the political and military leadership of both countries remain at loggerheads. The question isn’t whether foreign relations between India and Pakistan are good, it is whether the foreign relations between both countries will remain in the ‘manageable hostile’ zone. The problems between the countries are well documented and don’t need repetition – from water disputes to the murky business of intelligence agencies, the countries take two steps back for every step that has been taken forward. An abundance of economic and military resources are allocated to ensure that the hostile neighbour remains in check.

But despite the hostile attitude towards one other on a federal level, the average Indian and Pakistani connects effortlessly. There are no politics. No religion. No Jinnah. No Gandhi. No Bhutto. No Nehru. There is only the ease of familiarity; the ease that comes with being in a place where you’re surrounded by people who share the same socio-cultural history, and practice the same traditions. Therein lies comfort.

There is something quintessentially South Asian that breaks down borders and creates ease.

Why then, do India and Pakistan remain in a perpetual state of hostility at a federal level?

In my opinion, time has shown that the Two-Nation Theory was flawed. Less than 30 years into Independence, Pakistan lost its eastern wing. In no way is this a question of Jinnah’credentials as a statesman of the highest order, but rather, an acknowledgement that an unnatural geographic division based on religious grounds was bound to have problems sooner or later. While the situation in British India before partition was hostile, in hindsight, a united India might have dealt with the problems better. Partition only multiplied the problems by two, with the added horror of mass bloodshed on either side.

As things stand currently, India and Pakistan both have their unique set of challenges, large chunks of which are exclusively linked to the hostile foreign relations between them. India’s involvement in the insurgency in Balochistan is common knowledge, whereas Pakistan’s involvement in the insurgency in Kashmir is also well documented. India has historically gained mileage with political groups in Karachi, whereas Pakistan was actively supporting the Khalistan Movement in the 1980s. The red corridor in India continues to experience Naxalite-Maoist insurgency, with Pakistan having been accused of subsidising it. Similarly, Pakistan has blamed India of supporting terrorist groups active in the country today. India, despite being on its way up economically, suffers from massive levels of poverty and malnourishment. Pakistan is in a significantly lower position economically, and it suffers from problems such as illiteracy and poverty as well. Notwithstanding these glaring problems, both countries allocate significant chunks of their resources on activities aimed at weakening each other.

Both countries remain crippled by the narratives built around memories of the crimes of partition, as politicians (particularly in India) and the military (particularly in Pakistan) continue to fan the hatred of 1947 for their own interests. But in spite of that, it is pertinent to remember that the division of what is modern day India, Pakistan and even Bangladesh, is chillingly unnatural. The communities that were divided in 1947 had coexisted for almost a millennium and, after the British made an exit, a united India would have been better equipped to deal with its problems.

If one wishes to celebrate Independence Day on August 14th and 15th, then celebrate independence from the British – not from each other.

salman Zafar

Salman Zafar

The writer works in the Education Sector and tweets as @salmanzafar1985 (twitter.com/salmanzafar1985)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Critical

    From what I’ve seen in my 30 yrs in India,we always celebrate our independence day for getting rid of the British,not for sending Muslims to Pakistan..If thats the case,there wouldn’t be an equal number of Muslims in India as its in Pakistan…

    I guess the author is simply making assumptions without knowing the ground reality in IndiaRecommend

  • M Waqas Sajid

    Had we not been a separate nation, then, we had been treated as the Kashmiri’s are being treated nowadays. Innocents die, brutally injured but who cares? The largest democracy –the so-called largest democracy.
    We are happy to get ourselves liberated from the British and the Indians.Recommend

  • PRASAD SN

    Salman Zafar, Indians would welcome Pakistanis like you with open arms as fellow humans. However, do not even think of painting India and Pakistan now in the same brush. Pakistan, after Zia ul Haq, thanks to the continued hold of the military over civilian governments, has been a state sponsor of World terrorism, a cancerous tumour for the World which needs to be cauterized. All the World nations must realize what kind of a hell the Pakis are plotting for the World. It is a tragedy that the world is blind to this fact.Recommend

  • jay

    I am just glad that Pakistan went their own ways !!! Mother India has a glorious destiny and we are slowly but surely reaching there ! Recommend

  • Lakhkar Khan

    Mahraj, you are generalizing. Just like every Muslim is NOT the CEO of Taliban, NOT every Hindu is the CEO of Google.Recommend

  • Sridhar Kaushik

    I am responding to the title of this artcle. This title is so moronic that i did not have to read the article.
    Indians celebrate Independence from the British. Have been doing so for 70 years now. I believe this author thinks that Indians read the same doctored history that Pakistanis do. I am sorry to puncture his bubble but Indians don’t. Their independence from the British is a hard fought one.Recommend

  • Archer

    You are right and I didn’t mean to generalize. The original quote was about one side being better than the other and I added few inputs as counter argument.Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    Secular Muslim?????? Isn’t it an oxymoron??? By the way, Only Mohajirs suffered the consequences of partition because they had to leave India. Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    You put is so aptly. Had India not divided, we would have been living in 700 AD. Recommend

  • Cybil Peril

    Glad that good sense has prevailed following India’s hard hit. Is this d true character Pakistan wants to project of their Islamic Republic to d world? Who is then responsible 4 defaming the ideology? Pakistan…!!!Recommend

  • Ramesh Nakhwa

    Somewhere the author tries very hard to bring parity between India and pakistan. India is on a path to growth abundance and prosperity. India has dealt successfully with many insurgencies.Recommend

  • Ramesh Nakhwa

    Pakistani film industry ??? Does it exist???Recommend

  • Rajiv

    What today is called Pakistan was a Muslim majority area and would have become a headache.

    Partition was good for most part for most Indians.
    good riddance the Muslims left.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Nobody care about your lies anymore and nobody in the world is interested in Kashmir.
    Violence in Kashmir was started and sponsored by Pakistan.Indian army only went to cease it.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    yeah yeah, you Pakistanis are so talented.
    that’s why your “Superstars” come to India begging.Recommend