WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR SOUTH ASIAN MUSLIMS?

Living under the occupation of a foreign power cannot be and should never be endorsed, nor accepted under any circumstance, because the restraining chains of occupation disallow freedom and development of a nation. National institutes and businesses are undermined and become dysfunctional under occupation. It is as if a nation has been put into a straitjacket. This certainly was true in the case of India, under the British rule. And since their independence, both India and Pakistan have made huge progress. But I must confess I am of the opinion that the arrival of the British in India has been a blessing in disguise for South Asia. Maybe my view, which is perhaps unpopular, is due to my belief that not only ‘freedom’ but also a ‘challenge’ is needed for a region to break free from the clutches of stagnation.

India was no longer a rising power when the British came to India, in fact it is was a weak and internally divided nation. This is how the British found it and it is how they left it. The partition of India was part of the British ‘divide and rule’ policy. The given reason that Pakistan was created for the Muslims seems a dubious one, as a much greater number of Muslims still continue to live in India, even after the creation of Pakistan. Therefore the partition seems like a big con, and not much else. And sooner or later the India/Pakistan border will become irrelevant.

All the while in Pakistan, the Muslims have lived not under a democratic Islamic law, but under the feudal system inherited from the British. The Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, in his book ‘In the Line of Fire’ acknowledges that, “Sadly, a functioning democracy is exactly what has eluded Pakistan ever since its birth on August 14, 1947. This lack lies at the root of the most of our ills.” And he has blamed the military as well as the political leadership for creating some of the worst internal crisis Pakistan experienced.

The army has played a major role throughout in the politics of Pakistan. For example, Pakistan has experienced turbulent periods four times in its history; that is, twice Pakistan was at war with India (1965 and 1971), and then twice when the world superpowers came to the region in Afghanistan (1979-1988 and 2001-present). It is worth noting that on each of these occasions the Pakistani military was already in power. The second point to note is that the military twice moved in and took the reins of government exactly two years prior to the arrival of superpowers in Afghanistan. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the Pakistani military will be giving up the reins of power while NATO and US armies are in the region.

There is no doubt that the geopolitical position of Pakistan has been both a curse and a blessing. The dangers Pakistan has faced, and jubilations it has experienced, are a direct result of the challenges brought upon Pakistan by its geopolitical position.  Pakistan’s recent role in regional affairs has helped it to strengthen its position economically and militarily. But perhaps the greatest role Pakistan is predestined to play in the regional geopolitics is still yet to come. Pakistan will play the pivotal role in the development of the Central Asia Region, as well as the future development of global economics. The only viable route to access the huge amount of natural resources from Central Asia such as oil is through Gwadar Port (built by the Chinese) and located near Karachi on the Indian Ocean.

This anticipated economic prosperity will benefit the whole region. So the Muslims of South Asia will soon profit from the increase in literacy, health care, technology-based and other industries, as well as political freedom and creativity. Muslims and non-Muslims in South Asia will reap the benefits of the numerous challenges the region had to face in recent history. Progress and prosperity come to lands where there is freedom and where there are challenges.

President Musharraf’s book will be an interesting read for those who are not already aware of Pakistan’s history. And I think it will be a good reference book for the future, illustrating the kinds of difficult situations Pakistan was facing during the Musharraf years. In my view, the main thesis of the book, apart from the fact that the President likes to praise himself and criticise his political opponents harshly, is the economic potential Pakistan can reap in the coming years. I publish below a few paragraphs from the book, which in my view illustrate the thesis of In the Line of Fire (SIMON & SCHUSTER, London).

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