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21 August 2010


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What a lovely, heartfelt piece Furrukh.


Thank you, Mr. Ali. What little I know of Pakistan, I got from reading "Three Cups of Tea" and of course I know the general history.

No one on this earth deserves this vast devastation.


Thank you, Mr. Ali. Although I don't know the history of Pakistan very well, Jinnah always struck me as a strange paradoxical figure, given what little I know of how Pakistan's history turned out last few decades--now I know a little bit more about why.

Any good history of modern Pakistan you might recommend?


A country founded on the ideals and values of Islam, in which all its citizens would be equal whatever their faith, with liberty, social justice and the rule of law.

Very few supporters were clear on the meaning of a non-theocratic, secular state founded on the ideals and values of Islam, and founded as a separate nation for the Muslims of British India.


You have said that Pakistan was to have been
A country founded on the ideals and values of Islam, in which all its citizens would be equal whatever their faith, with liberty, social justice and the rule of law.

What chance does anyone have to argue that a non Muslim is equal in status and rights to a Muslim in a country that claims to be founded on the ideals of islam? Does an Islamic scholar accep that the ideals of Islam envisage equal rights for Muslims and non Muslims? Apart from Turkey, which Islamic country offers the same rights to Muslims and non Muslims?

Surely the vision for Pakistan was a non starter to begin with - and the results are visible today - living proof that it was nothing more than a dream.


Journalist Abdus Sattar Ghazali has an online book on the political history of Pakistan that goes upto 2000.


jaffar khan

Thank you Ali for the article however there are lot of factual inaccuracies. Jinnah made a faustian bargain and the poor Pashtoons are paying for it. Their only fault had been that they shared religion with this Utterly corrupt, Landowning and mullah class from Punjab.
Moreover it's time that we open up eyes to the conversion horrors in Indian sub continent(60000000 killed) and stop this 'manufactured' ideal of peacefull conversions and if these were original ideals of islam then Jinnah understood the dichotomy and you do not.

William R. Cumming

I have always struggled with the conflict between the thought that countries get the governments they deserve or the ones they need! As the US spins from the first world to the third racked by greed and religion can the fact that MOTHER NATURE does not grant variances be far behind in the US when we know events in the historical background (last 10,000) and not just geologic time (say the last 25 million years) have wreaked havoc on the geographically area of the US, from earthquakes to droughts to floods. So perhaps the lucky time has passed for US and allowed exploitation of the resources of the continent for last 400 years without much infliction by Mother Nature of her savagery and perhaps not. But the denigration of science and nature seems hand in hand by the MSM, the political leadership, and the economic leaderhsip. Some will be around to pick the pieces but it can be hard for any single person or family to have the energy, will or capability to survive the possible calamities. Governance is a very tough business and requires the best and the brightest not the most forceful and corrupt. So be it? What must change for Pakistan to take its place in the world of today and tomorrow? General Ali's post is useful demarcation point. The great man theory of history shows that no always is a country so lucky as to get a great man or woman. Motivation, will, competence is not enough without the systems and processes to allow achievement of the common good given the muster roles of those who oppose that concept. Shining cities on a hill are rare and difficult to achieve.

FB Ali

Ingolf, Jackie : Thank you!

Kao : I don’t read any of these histories. They are too depressing.

Arun : You are mistaken. I was there. The millions who struggled to bring Pakistan into being intuitively understood what it meant, because it touched a deep yearning within them to live their lives according to the ideals and values of Islam. Those Muslims who were content to follow the rituals and creeds of the religion stood behind the mullahs in their bitter opposition to this movement.


Maybe in the next elections the people will elect a "Lula" instead of the usual clowns, bandits, and hereditary leaders.

Any organization, other than The Red Crescent, you can recommend for a flood-relief donation?


Mr. Ali,
Please keep us up to date on this situation. I just can't imagine what a huge catastrophe this is for Pakistan. It makes New Orleans 2005 look small.


Very powerful statement. Amen Sir.


Many high IQ people view Pakistan's very existence as an abomination. I am among them.


Well and movingly written. Let's hope its more elegiac than elegy.



An abomination with nucular weapons. If the abominable gov't there ceases to exist...


this article is moving indeed, as the lament of an earlier generation that bought into the Pakistan dream at partition. But it's also horrifying in that even a relatively thoughtful member of that generation like FB Ali sb is so uncritical of the foundational flaws of the state that to a rational outsider are precisely what are tearing it apart.


Thanks FB. A well written and heartfelt note. It seems you believe there is no opportunity for the dream of Pakistan to be realized in the future.

What a tragedy. Specially for the displaced people in the Swat Valley - first they are torn apart by the war between the Pakistani Army and the Taliban only to return and then have the fury of Nature displace them once again.

Where do you believe the Pakistan that could be got derailed? And how would you contrast the development of Pakistan with the political and socio-economic development of India?

It would also be great to get your erudite viewpoint on a theme that I have heard independently from a couple of Pakistani-Americans I am acquainted with who grew up in Pakistan during the late 40s to 60s before immigrating to the US. A slight variant of this theme was also articulated by the founder of what is today one of India's largest IT companies who happens to be an Ismaili Muslim. The theme:

The formation of Pakistan through partition of colonial India was a mistake. The price in blood paid by millions of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs who were massacred during the ensuing violence was not worth it. The price paid by families who were split across borders for a generation was unnecessary. The fears of religious persecution and subjugation did not pan out. That despite the use of religious extremism and violence by some politicians in post-colonial India there has been remarkable freedom of religious expression for many minorities including thriving communities of Zorastrians, Jains, Buddhists and Muslims. That Pakistan is an artifact of Jinnah's ego and his need to be head of state. And that Gandhi was tired after the long struggle and acquiesced to Jinnah's demand for a separate state despite the objections of Nehru and the other political leaders at that time.

Is this revisionist history?


Perhaps the view from history has some advantage over having been a witness.

The Raja of Mahmudabad was a close associate of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. This incident is narrated, this is from an article in the Dawn


"However, only one version advances the reasons behind Jinnah's objection, the unpublished autobiography of Isha'at Habibullah.

The Raja started off by saying that since the Lahore resolution had been passed earlier that year, if and when Pakistan was formed, it was undoubtedly to be an Islamic State with the Sunna and Shariah as its bedrock. The Quaid's face went red and he turned to ask Raja whether he had taken leave of his senses. Mr. Jinnah added: `Did you realize that there are over seventy sects and differences of opinion regarding the Islamic faith, and if what the Raja was suggesting was to be followed, the consequences would be a struggle of religious opinion from the very inception of the State leading to its very dissolution. Mr. Jinnah banged his hands on the table and said: We shall not be an Islamic State but a Liberal Democratic Muslim State."


It is very evident from the historical record (e.g., various letters to Jinnah found in Z.R. Zaidi's collection or various speeches by various lesser Muslim League leaders) that very few understood the distinction between a "Liberal Democratic Muslim State" and an Islamic State; the Raja of Mahmudabad was not the exception.

The millions who got the Pakistan dream only intuitively and not intellectually are whom turned Pakistan into an Islamic State rather than the Liberal Democratic Muslim State that Jinnah wanted.

The deathknell of Jinnah's version of Pakistan came on March 7, 1949, just months after Jinnah's death, in the Objectives Resolution that was passed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. You can read a bit of the debate here.. It is also obvious there that there was little understanding and no desire for a Liberal Democratic Muslim State; many could not see the difference between that and an Islamic state.

And this is without factoring in the confusion that is engendered by Jinnah himself by his public utterances, which we need not go into here.


Abdus Sattar Gazali narrates this incident as well (here

In a TV discussion on Shariah bill in April 1991, two prominent Molvis of Lahore, Maulana Abdul Qadir and Mufti Mohammad Hussain Naeemi, implied that the Shariat bill was "the will of the Quaid. " They claimed that the rule of Quran and Sunnah was pledged by the Quaid and that Mullahs never opposed Pakistan since it was to be a religious rather than a national state. One of them said "was it not said that Pakistan ka matlab kia: La Ilahah Illallah." [40]

However, the fact is that this oft quoted statement is an election slogan coined by a Sialkot poet - Asghar Saudai. But it was never raised by the platform of the Muslim League. First and the last meeting of All Pakistan Muslim League was held under the chairmanship of the Quaid-i-Azam at Karachi's Khaliqdina Hall. During the meeting a man, who called himself Bihari, put to the Quaid that "we have been telling the people Pakistan ka matlab kia, La Ilaha Illallah." "Sit down, sit down," the Quaid shouted back. "Neither I nor my working committee, nor the council of the All India Muslim League has ever passed such a resolution wherein I was committed to the people of Pakistan, Pakistan ka matlab....., you might have done so to catch a few votes." This incident is quoted from Daghon ki Barat written by Malik Ghulam Nabi, who was a member of the Muslim League Council. The same incident is also quoted by the Raja of Mehmoudabad. [41]

The problem is that this slogan was raised in countless Muslim League campaign meetings and even when the Quaid-i-Azam was present.

The kindest light we can put on it is that Jinnah made a gamble -- the slogan of Islam () was necessary to get the Muslim masses to flock to the Pakistan cause -- that he would be able to turn around and slake all the fanaticism that his campaign had aroused and not have an Islamic state, but a liberal democratic one - one not based on Sunnah and Shariah. If he had lived, who knows?

different clue

I wonder if part of the process of losing the vision
might have started from the Kashmir Irredenta nationalism which took hold at and after the founding of Pakistan. Taking the rest of Kashmir (and Jammu too?) from India would have made for a Greater West Pakistan (and then just Greater Pakistan), and the never-ending quest to take the rest of Kashmir has soured and embittered this unattained Greater Pakistan nationalist goal. It also has given space, birth, and support to the various fighting groups who were supposed to take the rest of Kashmir; and in the absence of achieving Kashmir they have turned their weapons and energy inward against Pakistan itself. If the keepers of Dr. Jinnah's vision were to decide that an Islamically Democratic and Secular Pakistan could be possible within the confines of "Lesser Pakistan" (without Kashmir);
could they sell such a Democratic Lesser Pakistan vision to the rest of Pakistani society?

(Do I see or merely imagine certain parallels between Pakistan and Israel here? Might there be old Movement Zionists and some Israelis who feel that a Democratically Secularistic Jewish NationState would have been possible if certain different choices had been made in different ways? And might some of them think it could even yet be restored if Golan/Gaza/East Jerusalem/West Bank just-barely-Redenta could be restored to recently prior ownership? Would they be ready to fight a Civil War with the Greater Israel nationalists who have shown themselves ready to kill a Prime Minister in order to keep East Jerusalem/West Bank just-barely-Redenta?)

In the widest sense, is there a difference between happy lesser nationalism and angry greater nationalism? If the Serbs lose every bit of non-Serb territory and reconcile themselves to living in Lesser Serbia which will never be Greater again; will they learn to settle down and be happy? If the Icelanders worked up a big angry national grievance movement based on re-conquering Greenland and Newfoundland to reclaim the Greater Iceland of Irredentist dreams; would they become the "Serbs of the Frozen North"?

(I expect I will be corrected one way or another
on whatever I have gotten wrong in all this.)

As to the Indus River flooding, perhaps that can be approached as a matter of River Basin management. Would that be possible in the context of today's frustrated Greater Pakistan?
Or would Pakistan have to reconcile itself to a post-Kashmir Lesser Pakistan future before it could free itself for such mundane and difficult tasks as watershed/river basin management?

FB Ali


Is this revisionist history?

Yes, it is. I had intended to add a short explanation of why that is so, but I see that Col Lang’s blog is already being inundated with posts reviving this tedious controversy of long ago. Anything I had said would have unleashed a fresh torrent of these.

I am repeatedly surprised by the number of people who have the time and energy to dig up all these old arguments and quotes, and rehash them. It almost seems as if the thought of that frail old man practically single-handedly carving a new state from out of Mother India is still more than many people can bear.

Saeed Malik.

Thank you Brig Ali for a very moving piece. I agree with you entirely in that that things did not have to turn out the way they did. The dream that once was, need not have turned sour.
For epochs in history when things are unsettled, I am one who subscribes to the Great Man theory of history. It was crucial for Pakistan that Jinnah had lived a few more years. At that time, his credabilty was about the only national resource that we had. His early death was therefore an incalculable loss. His departure from the scene ushered in the cancer of corruption that spread unchecked. And now when our need is so dire, we are not getting assistance, because the potential donors suspect that what they contribute will end up in the pockets of our leaders! What a commentary on the death throes of a country.

FB Ali


Where do you believe the Pakistan that could be got derailed?

That’s a question worth answering. To my mind, there were two basic, underlying causes. The first was Jinnah’s early death. He fell seriously ill a few months after the creation of the new state, and died just over a year from its founding. He never had the chance to set the country on the path to achieving his vision of it.

This vision he expressed in his speech to the inaugural session of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on 11 Aug 1947. He talked about “the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State” with “equal rights, privileges, and obligations”. About a country in which “the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State”. He wanted the State to “wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor”.

The second underlying cause of Pakistan’s fall is the destruction of the moral and social fabric of a large part of society during the horrors of the partition of India. The primary responsibility for these horrors lies upon the British government, the speed with which they tore apart a unified country and left the new state to mange as best as it could with whatever governance and resources it could scrounge or patch together. Of all the crimes that Britain committed in its imperial history, this is the blackest.

Bob Bernard

Dear General Ali,

Let me preface this by saying that I am not an engineer. I am a retired artilleryman. If you think this suggestion has any merit, you would know better than I to whom to send it.

The scenes of flooding in Pakistan are tragic, and the visuals of aid delivery by helicopter seem hopelessly inadequate. Their small cargo load and limited range are better than nothing, but not by much.

Perhaps it would be possible to use the floodwater to deliver aid, using shallow draft boats towing rafts. The rafts would be towed to the vicinity of those in need and once unloaded could serve as improvised support platforms.

Expandable foam similar to that used for buoyancy in small boats can support significant loads and has been evaluated by the U.S. Army for improvised flotation. The chemicals for the foam expand rapidly and cure quickly, allowing for rapid production of rafts without the need for skilled manpower or production facilities.

While raft delivery may be primitive by modern standards, its potential tonnage far exceeds other means when road and rail nets are compromised, and it is very affordable. Of course all means can and should be considered, but water borne delivery should be part of the logistics strategy.

My deepest sympathies at the hardships your country is facing.

Robert Bernard
U.S.Army (Retired)



I understand that you don't want to add to the "tedious controversy".

I hope however that at some date you will write a note covering the politics and dynamics that led to the formation of Pakistan and India and their subsequent political development.

Carving of new states as colonialism ebbed should of course be considered in the context of the times but maybe hindsight can give us some insight too. When we see all the conflict in the Middle East today it would be interesting to contemplate the consequences if the Ottoman empire could have been carved out differently.

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