Punjab’s Pakistan

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Punjab’s Pakistan – by RSN Singh

The part that constitutes the Punjab province in Pakistan, like other provinces of Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan, were not enthusiastic about the concept of Pakistan. It was much later, in the early 1940s, that the Muslim League made strong inroads into Sindh and Punjab. Finally, when they did decide to join the Pakistan Movement, their aspirations and motivations differed from that of themohajirs and Jinnah. Jinnah acutely realised that Punjab was central to his idea of Pakistan. The undivided Punjab province had 56.2 percent Muslims. The Muslim League was a negligible force in the 1936-37 elections. It had won only one seat out of 84 Muslim seats in the province. Determined to make inroads into Punjab, Jinnah entered into a pact (known as the Jinnah-Sikander Pact) with the ruling Unionist Party leader Sir Sikander Hyat Khan. According to the pact, Sir Sikander conceded to Jinnah’s claim of being the sole spokesman of Indian Muslims, and in turn, Jinnah promised not to interfere in the politics of Punjab. Taking advantage of the pact-an indirect foothold in the province-Jinnah chose Punjab to declare the famous Lahore Resolution in March 1940, which categorically envisaged the creation of an independent and sovereign Muslims state. Sir Sikander resented the resolution, but could not bring himself to oppose it publicly, thus the Unionist Party became a party to it.1 The Unionist Party’s dominance in Punjab began to wane after the death of Sir Sikander in 1942 and resulted in the consequent rise of Jinnah.

With nearly 56 percent of the country’s population, the agriculturally and economically rich Punjab province of Pakistan is both a national asset and the biggest barrier to national integration.
In the annual session of the Muslim League in Delhi in 1943, Jinnah said, “I regret to say that the Punjab has not yet played the part it ought to play, and is entitled to play because remember Punjab is the corner stone of Pakistan. I particularly appeal to the delegates of Punjab, when you go back please – I would not say anything more – please substitute the love of Islam and your nation in the place of sectional interest, jealousies, tribal notions and selfishness.”2 Jinnah by political machinations further undermined the Unionist ministry of Khizar Hayat Khan Tiwana and ensured the rapid ascendance of the Muslim League in Punjab between 1944 and 1947. He resorted to rabid and unabashed use of Islam and its symbols. Jinnah targeted the critical political constituency of the Unionist Party, i.e. the Muslim landed elite, the pirs (sufi saints) and Sajjada-Nashin (custodians of sufi shrines). As a result, the Hindus and the Sikhs gravitated towards the Congress in large numbers. The divide increasingly became irreconcilable. In the 1946 provincial elections, the Muslim League won 75 of the 86 Muslim seats in Punjab. The Congress and Akali Dal won 57 (56.8 percent in general con-stituencies) and 21 (40.7 percent in Sikh constituencies) seats respectively. A coalition government of Unionists-Akali Dal-Congress under Tiwana came to power. Under intense pressure and deteriorating political situation, Tiwana resigned in March 1947, thus finally paving the way for Pakistan.

With nearly 56 percent of the country’s population, the agriculturally and economically rich Punjab province of Pakistan is both a national asset and the biggest barrier to national integration. The bulk of the army and officialdom is drawn from this province. Politically, an opposition government in Punjab can be a counterpoise to any non-opposition government at the centre, as was the case in Benazir’s (PPP) first tenure as Prime Minister, wherein Nawaz Sharif’s PML was in power in Punjab. The demographic dominance of Punjab has been a decisive factor in the evolution of Pakistan as a nation. Before the break up of the country, the West Pakistan dispensation sought to neutralise East Pakistan’s demographic superiority by initially denying parliamentary democracy based on adult franchise and then by introducing the ‘one-unit scheme’. As per the 1951 census, the population of East Pakistan and West Pakistan was 42 million and 33.7 million (Punjab 20.5 million) respectively. The one-unit scheme that operated in Pakistan from 1954 to 1970, however, was resented by other ethnic nationalities, i.e. the Sindhis, the Baloch and the Pasthuns. They viewed it as a tool for Punjabi domination since the bureaucracy and the army was over-whelmingly Punjabi. Ironically, the demographic the dominance of East Pakistan was replaced by domination of Punjab after the emergence of Bangladesh. Parliamentary democracy in West Pakistan between 1988 and 1999 was heavily skewed in favour of Punjab by sheer demographic, cultural and economic dominance, which ultimately translated into political dominance.

The non-Punjabi Muslims therefore withdrew into religious, cultural and political isolation. The winds of reforms and changes experienced by the Hindus in these areas, as a counter to the challenge posed by Christian missionaries, left these Muslims un-impacted.
In the 1988 National Assembly Elections, the distribution of seats were: Punjab-115, Sindh-46, NWFP-26, Balocistan-11, Islamabad-3 and FATA-8. Punjab therefore is the deciding factor in the formation of governments. In the 1997 elections, Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N was able to come back to power by virtue of the massive support it received in Punjab. Ironically, the movement for the creation of Pakistan received Punjab’s support in the final stages.

The growth and domination of Punjab has its roots in the British colonial rule. Following the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, who ruled from Lahore (Sikh kingdom at its peak extended beyond Peshawar and Kashmir)-the British fought two wars with the Sikhs. In the Anglo-Sikh War in 1849, the British annexed Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, and Kashmir, which was sold to the Dogra Dynasty in 1850. The British authorities brought about unprecendented development of the region, particularly in the areas of infrastructure and irrigation. As a consequence of these developments, the Sikhs and Muslims in Punjab developed a sort of admiration for the British. This admiration and respect translated into support to the British in suppressing the ‘First War of Independence’ (referred to as Sepoy mutiny by the British).

The Sikhs had also allied with the British in the first ‘Anglo-Afghan War’ (1838-1842). The First War of Independence was confined in terms of area and scope. The troops, who rose to revolt, were primarily from the Bengal Army. The war was sparked off at Meerut and engulfed areas of present-day Bihar, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and parts of Madhya Pradesh. Their attempt to restore the power of the Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar, as the Emperor of India, however failed. British forces with the help of Punjabi sepoys recaptured Delhi. The consequence of this failed war of independence, perceived the Russian threat through Afghanistan, and the distrust of nationalist classes, was that the area of Punjab became one of the most preferred recruiting grounds for the British. The Sikhs, Punjabi Muslims, Dogras, Gurkhas and Pakhtuns came to be regarded as martial races. On the other hand, the Bengalis, high caste Hindus, and the landed upper class Muslims of the Indian heartland stood discredited. Even as the British were compelled during World War I to extend recruitment to the so-called ‘non-martial races’, the response was tepid. Bengal with the population of 45 million provided 7,117 combatant recruits, while Punjab with the population of 20 million provided 349,689.3 In Punjab, one out of 28 males was mobilised for the war, as against the rest of India where the ratio was 1:150.4 In the 20s, Punjab, NWFP and Nepal provided 84 percent of the recruits. In World War-II, Punjab and NWFP provided more than 700,000 recruits out of 20.5 lacs from all over India.5 The non-Punjabi Muslims therefore withdrew into religious, cultural and political isolation. The winds of reforms and changes experienced by the Hindus in these areas, as a counter to the challenge posed by Christian missionaries, left these Muslims un-impacted. As a result, the economic and social hiatus between the Punjabi Muslims and the Muslims of the Indian heartland widened to the extent that the latter had ceased to be a force of any consequence. Moreover, most of the Sikhs and the Punjabi Muslims have a common Rajput and Jat ancestry.

The irrigation projects undertaken by the British administration transformed the area into the granary of India and as such is the case with the Punjab province of Pakistan, especially the Lahore division (particularly the districts of Lahore), Gujranwala and Shekhpura districts which enjoy both good rainfall and canal irrigation. Relatively the northern part of Punjab was less productive and characterised by small farms. Its economy was largely sustained by army recruitment. The southern part of the region was even drier and sparsely populated by nomadic herders. The agricultural economy of Punjab province received further boost with the ushering of the green revolution. The districts of Lyallpur, Multan and Montogomery stole the march over others during the Green Revolution. They, by 1965 accounted for 46 percent of Punjab’s Gross Domestic Products, but had only 28 percent of the area. The number of farmers in 150 acres and plus category increased by 106 percent and 8-25 acres declined by 28 percent. By mid 70s, Punjab was producing 72 percent of country’s output of major crops and 67 percent of food grains.6 The surge in agricultural economy in Punjab as result of infusion of new technology further sharpened the differences in levels of prosperity between various provinces in Pakistan. Within the Punjab province itself the economic cleavages became deeper and wider between irrigated and non-irrigated regions. A symbiotic relationship between landowners of Punjab and the military emerged because of the government policy (particularly after the 1959 Land Reforms) of providing land to servicemen at abysmally low prices. This policy started by Ayub was pursued by other military rulers. Therefore, for large number of Punjabis of Pakistan, including refugees from East Punjab, support to the military is vital to their economic interests.

During the colonial period, only few industries existed in the part of Punjab that forms part of Pakistan today. The major industrial centre was Sialkot, which was known for its sports goods and ‘Ittefaq Foundries ‘established by Nawaz Sharif’s father in 1940. With influx of refugees from East Punjab, industralisation received a major boost. The process was encouraged during the martial law regimes of Ayub, Yahya and Zia. Faislabad and Lahore, emerged as new industrial hubs. In fact, Faislabad was dubbed as the ‘Manchester of Pakistan’. Owing to the ethnic tensions in Karachi, a substantial industrial capital shifted from there to Punjab.

The Punjabi domination in the bureaucracy became more acute during the period of Ayub Khan and later Zia-ul-Haq. The imbalance between the Punjabi dominated bureaucracy and military vis-à-vis Bengalis…
With introduction of diarchy in the 20s by the British, the responsibility of education fell on Indian representatives. Mian Fazal-e-Hussain of the Unionist Party became the education minister (1921-1926). During his tenure he introduced 40 percent reservation for Muslims in prestigious centers of learning such as the Lahore Medical College and Government College Lahore, which hither-to-fore had Hindu predominance. This emphasis on colonial and western education made Punjab the principal recruiting ground for bureaucrats and army officers. Initially, after the creation of Pakistan, the bureaucracy was dominated by Mohajirs and Punjabis; the military, however was overwhelmingly Punjabi dominated.

The Punjabi domination in the bureaucracy became more acute during the period of Ayub Khan and later Zia-ul-Haq. The imbalance between the Punjabi dominated bureaucracy and military vis-à-vis Bengalis, whose population was more, is evident from the under-mentioned statistics7 of 1955.

The number of Pathans in the army has increased substantially since then; nevertheless the army as such continues to be Punjabi dominated. The continued emphasis on British concept of martial class has perpetuated the Punjabi domination in the army. Despite the fact that two Mohajirs, General Aslam Beg and General Musharraf rose to be the Chiefs-Mohajirs (in lower ranks), Sindhis and Balochs are severely under-represented. It is estimated that the representation of Punjabis and Pathans in the Army are as follows:-

The resentment against Punjab becomes more acute in Balochistan and Sindh during the military regimes, because the military is essentially seen as Punjabi-Pasthun dominated. Nevertheless, that Punjab is not an economic, linguistic, social and cultural monolith. In fact, the province of Punjab is characterised by a great deal of heterogeneity. The northern region of Punjab (corresponding roughly to the Rawalpindi Division) constitutes 10 percent of the population of Punjab. Agriculturally, it is not as rich as Central Punjab and therefore is the most fertile region as far as military recruitment is concerned. Its economy is substantially sustained by remittances from servicemen and its workforce employed in the Gulf.

In the year 2004-05, approximately Rs. 30 billion was disbursed as pensions to retired military personnel. The share of the various provinces with regard to officers and other ranks is shown in the fig:-8

In parts of the northern region, Hindko and Pothwari are spoken along with Punjabi. The central region of Punjab is agriculturally most rich, the most prominent being the districts of Lahore and Gujrawalan. Faislabad, one of the most important industrial centres in Pakistan is also located in this region. It has nearly half the population of Punjab and accounts for 55 out of 115 National Assembly seats in the province.

The Punjabi domination of Pakistan has been the biggest obstacle in nation building. By virtue of its population predominance, sense of martial superiority, and political and economic prowess, the Punjabis in Pakistan have treated the other provinces as their vassal states.
The south-western region of Punjab (cor-responding to Multan and Bahawalpur Divisions) has about 20 percent of the population of the province. This part of Punjab became the major cotton-growing region owing to the canal irrigation constructed by the British. A considerable segment of the population in this region speaks ‘Seraiki‘, which is more akin to Sindhi. Some Seraikis also inhabit contiguous areas in Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP. Since the mid-80s, there has been a demand for a separate province (Seraiki Suba) by the Seraiki speakers. However, in their demand for a separate province, in the NWFP they have only laid claim to the district of Dera Ismail Khan. The Seraiki’s complain that being major producer of wheat and cotton, their contribution to the Pak economy has not been acknowledged, and they have been rather ignored in terms of development, industrialisation, army recruitment and representation in the bureaucracy vis-à-vis the rest of Punjab. They have also been demanding for a ‘Seraiki Regiment’ in the Army.

The western districts of Punjab (cor-responding to Sargodha and Dera Ghazi Khan Divisions) are the poorest. The society in this region is feudal. This region of Punjab, especially the Jhang district, is the hotbed of sectarianism in Pakistan. The rural areas of the Jhang district are dominated by Shia landlords while the Sunni organisations like the Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) have more influence in Jhang city. SSP’s militant arm Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has in the past targeted Shia mosques and Iranian diplomats. It even made an attempt on Nawaz Sharif’s life in 1999. In the 1993 elections, the SSP had garnered 46.8 percent of the votes. Regional differences in Punjab were best reflected in the 1993 National Assembly elections, while the majority of the seats in Northern Punjab were won by the Muslim League, the PPP won 22 out of 36 seats in the Seraiki speaking areas of Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahimyar Khan and Bahawalpur.

The Punjabi domination of Pakistan has been the biggest obstacle in nation building. By virtue of its population predominance, sense of martial superiority, and political and economic prowess, the Punjabis in Pakistan have treated the other provinces as their vassal states. The fact that historically and culturally the Sindhis and the Balochis have much older, if not superior claims, is conveniently dismissed by the Punjabi elite. When queried by this author on the composition of the Baloch and Sindh regiments in the Pakistan Army, one of the senior officers said that both the regiments are overwhelmingly Punjabi, as the Sindhis and the Baloch, particularly the former, did not make good soldiers. Delving deeper in the pre-partition history makes it evident that the four provinces of Pakistan to begin with were acutely skeptical about the idea of a separate country. They were temporarily beguiled by Jinnah, his political machinations and religious appeal. The innate historical and cultural diversity was bound to reassert itself once Pakistan was created in the name of religion. Even after the separation of East Pakistan, the present day Pakistan is therefore struggling in its quest for nationhood, but the centrifugal forces being witnessed today are far stronger than the centripetal forces.

Notes
Amarjeet Singh (ed.), Jinnah and Punjab, Shamsul Hasan, Collection and Other Documents 1944-1947, (New Delhi: Kanishka Publishers, 2007), p.221.
S S Pirzada (ed.), Foundation of Pakistan: All India Muslim League Documents 1906-1947, (Karachi), Vol.II, p.406.
Report of the Indian Statutory Commission, London, 1930; cited in Hasan-Askari Rizvi, The Military and Politics in Pakistan, (Lahore: Progressive Publishers, 1987), p.137.
Punjab Administration Report, 1921-22 (Lahore), cited in Hasan-Askari Rizvi, The Military and Politics in Pakistan, (Lahore: Progressive Publishers, 1987), p.137.
Prasad, Expansion of the Armed Forces and Defence Organisation, 1939-1945 (Calcutta), 1956, cited in Hasan-Askari Rizvi, The Military and Politics in Pakistan, (Lahore: Progressive Publishers, 1987), p.137.
Christophe Jaffrelot (ed), Pakistan: Nationalism Without a Nation, (London: Zed Books, 2002), p.56.
Christophe Jaffrelot (ed), Pakistan: Nationalism Without a Nation, (London: Zed Books, 2002), pp.54-55.
Data based on: Ayesha Siddiqa, Military Inc. Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, (London: Pluto Press, 2007), p.214

Source: IDR

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