If one wants to understand where the current rambling and incoherent discourses of Hindu-Zionist conspiracies come from, one would do well to look at the early days of Pakistan
The new Pakistani state faced difficult and unenviable challenges—but the strategies pursued by the ruling classes led to greater dependence, not independence, in a variety of ways.
Pakistan was surrounded by what it conceived to be hostile powers. The Soviet Union to the north, Afghanistan to the west, and India to the east. India was the most threatening, and for good reason—India had in 1948 annexed large sections of Muslim-majority Kashmir through war with Pakistan, and was in the process of annexing Muslim-ruled Hyderabad state in southern India. Neither the former British colonizers nor India’s arrogant leadership expected Pakistan to last long as an independent state.
Pakistan had inherited very little from India by way of a coherent bureaucracy or a military strong enough to protect its borders—India refused to send armaments or moneys owed to Pakistan. As such, Pakistan’s bureaucracy and military sought to strengthen themselves at the expense of provincial autonomy in order to raise revenues and keep the state together to fend off the foreign threats.
However, the bureaucracy and military were dominated by Punjabis and Urdu-speaking refugees. Their class interests were important to them. Most investment and development was focused on Punjab and urban Sindh (Karachi and Hyderabad)—at the expense of Bengal, rural Sindh, Balochistan and the Frontier. These provinces became raw material suppliers to industry and development in Karachi and Punjab.
Moreover, the Punjabi and Urdu-speaking elites preceded this slowly growing economic dependence with cultural chauvinism, suspicion and repression. In 1948, Bengali middle-classes demanded that Bengali be made a state language—after all, the majority of Pakistanis spoke Bengali. In the most vociferous of terms, Jinnah and the ruling classes refused. Urdu, and only Urdu, could be the state language. Those who disagreed were anti-state elements, Hindus, communists, and so on.
If one wants to understand where the current rambling and incoherent discourses of Hindu-Zionist conspiracies come from, one would do well to look at the early days of Pakistan and the way that movements were addressed by the ruling classes and their aligned media. If Pakhtuns and Baloch wanted greater autonomy, they were agents of Afghanistan and communist Russia, and Hindus. If Bengalis wanted greater autonomy, they were anti-state agents of Hindus and communists, and whatever else.
Ultimately, of course, Bengali became the second state language of Pakistan—after police fired on unarmed demonstrators in 1952—but this never went far in practice. In 1955, to offset the Bengali majority, Pakistan’s ruling class decided to form One Unit by merging all of West Pakistan, thus crushing the geographical boundaries of the national identities of Pakhtuns, Sindhis and Baloch, and depriving these provinces of the nominal authority necessary to promote their cultures and languages.
In sum, there developed an axis of centre in urban Sindh/northern Punjab, and an axis of periphery in NWFP, Balochistan, rural Sindh, southern Punjab and Bengal. However, these latter regions and groups were prohibited from actually organizing politically within the framework of Pakistan because of the imposition of the One Unit scheme. Rather than promoting cultural and economic development, Pakistan’s ruling classes stunted these. Overall, the latter were made internal dependencies of the centre.
Meanwhile, Pakistan increased its external dependence upon western imperialism.
Early Pakistan had a non-aligned policy internationally, in between the Soviet Union-led socialist bloc and the American-led western imperialist bloc. But by 1954, Pakistan’s ruling classes had traded their earrings of British imperialism for the kali shalwar of American imperialism—without pausing to note the irony or to feel any embarrassment.
At first, America rebuffed Pakistan's attempts at courting it for aid and weapons. But then as the peoples of the Third World arose America sought to establish and preserve its hegemony all over the world. In the early 1950s, Iran’s nationalist prime minister had nationalized the oil company and wrested it away from British control. America engineered a coup to install a pliant Shah. In Egypt, progressive officers had come to power through a coup in 1952 against a monarchy which was subservient to the British and Americans. The Americans were outpaced, but they wanted to prevent any more of this so they formed the Baghdad Pact in 1955, which would rely on the Pakistan Army to intervene on behalf of western imperialism in the Middle East.
In exchange for military and civilian aid, Pakistan’s ruling classes willingly offered to become America’s watchdog in the region. This did not ultimately work out too well and the Baghdad Pact was put aside (mainly because there was a progressive coup in Baghdad). The Pakistan Army enacted its own reactionary coup in 1958 to prevent democratic elections scheduled for 1959—with the blessing of the Americans. Democracy was too dangerous for America or for the ruling classes of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s ruling classes also received considerable civilian, or “development” aid from America. They subscribed to every prescription for development that came out of America—not because they could not think of plans for themselves, but because they saw in this kind of capitalist development their own benefit.
The whole world was freeing itself from the shackles of western imperialism. China had succeeded in revolution in 1949. In the Middle East progressive movements were throwing away pliant dictators and trying to implement meaningful social reforms. In Algeria and Vietnam, the freedom movement was fighting the French imperialists. African countries were fighting for freedom from France and Britain. In East Asia insurgencies were being fought against imperialists and their lackeys. In Latin America revolutionaries were gearing up for decades-long fight against American-backed dictators and despots.
Pakistan, however, ran backward to the arms of America. External dependence was re-established in earnest, and internal dependencies were being intensified. External and internal dependence were crucial for Pakistan's ruling classes to maintain the political, economic, social and cultural dependence of the masses.
(To be continued.)
Some works consulted for Parts I & II:
Feroz Ahmed, 1972, “The Struggle in Bangla Desh”
Hamza Alavi, 1998, “The Origins and Significance of the Pakistan-US Military Alliance”
Hamza Alavi and Amir Khusro, “The Burden of U.S. Aid”
Imran Ali, 1988, The Punjab Under Imperialism, 1885-1947
Mukulika Banerjee, 2001, The Pathan Unarmed
Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, 2003, Modern South Asia
Hassan Gardezi, 2004, “Globalisation and Pakistan’s Dilemma of Development”
Mehtab Ali Shah, 1997, The Foreign Policy of Pakistan
Saadia Toor, 2011, The State of Islam