“If a Muslim majority area can remain a part of India, the raison d’etre of Pakistan collapses,” wrote former Pakistan premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in The Myth of Independence, a book published in 1969. Bhutto, back then, was talking purely in terms of Kashmir, not just any Muslim-majority area in India. Half a century since then, Pakistan’s proverbial raison d’etre has indeed collapsed with India revoking the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370.
The revocation that came on August 5, among other things, also made it clear that Kashmir was no longer a bilateral issue. It soon became clear to Pakistan that the term ‘global community’ is a ‘global myth’. The world that was globalised on the pretext of establishing peace in the aftermath of World War II, is now driven by trade relations between nations. In this trade-driven world, India’s 133-crore-people-powered market scores over Pakistan’s economy dependent on doles from China, Saudi Arabia and UAE.
The ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’ reverie was the staple on which Pakistani children grew for decades. Regimes, both democratically elected and undemocratically installed, used February 5 to tell Pakistani awaam that Ghazwa-e-Hind was no delusion rooted in Hadith but a prophecy whose time had come. Calling it Kashmir Solidarity Day, Pakistani regimes used February 5 to remind Pakistanis that Kashmiri Muslims were oppressed and it was incumbent upon Pakistan to be their saviour.
Pakistan cricket team playing in Srinagar, Virat Kohli playing for Pakistan. Just some regular delusions, nothing else. pic.twitter.com/swBnUp3ShM— Naila Inayat नायला इनायत (@nailainayat) September 4, 2019
A practice that remained unchanged despite regime changes in Pakistan was tableaux criss-crossing roads on Kashmir Solidarity Day showing innocent Kashmiri people going about life merrily when Indian army personnel would emerge from nowhere wrecking havoc on them.
February 5 became the day Pakistanis were reminded of the larger cause their representatives were faced with — ‘saving Kashmiris from India’. The larger cause helped push into oblivion the minor causes of the Pashtuns, Baloch and Hazaras among others.
At a time when right-wing governments are taking over countries and nations are turning to inward-looking nationalism, Pakistan is struggling to find the adhesive to build its nationalism project.
The foundations of the nationalism project in Pakistan were shaky from the word go.
When Pakistan emerged on the world map as an independent state, it had a heterogeneous cultural, religious and geographical mix. It was the only country which was separated by 1,000 miles, with religion being the common bond between the western and eastern wings of Pakistan. But Pakistan became the first country in the post-colonial world to disintegrate on the basis of ethnic nationalism. The disintegration came when Urdu was imposed on the Bengali nationalism of East Pakistan.
Pakistan is perhaps the only country where the national language, Urdu, is spoken by no more than 10 per cent of the population. Regions such as Sindh have been demanding, for a long time, that their languages be recognised as the national language too.
Surprisingly, successive regimes in Pakistan did not try to build a unique brand of Pakistani nationalism; making religion instead the dominant identity. Ridden by sectarianism, religion has only further divided Pakistan. Religion in any case is antithetical to nationalism.
The only thing Pakistani rulers did was to try and make people rally behind the Kashmir cause. That cause has suddenly been lost. Pakistan did not see this coming, much like many in India did not fathom it.
But the realisation that the decision of August 5 can’t be reversed has settled in. The admission that the development has been accepted as fait accompli, has come from none less than Pakistani President Arif Alvi, who said, "Kashmir on the Indian side is now part of India. We have to protect Azad Kashmir."
This realisation could perhaps turn things around for Pakistan. Pakistan’s army generals enjoyed unbridled power because people believed in Kashmir’s cause. It allowed the generals to steer not just the country’s security policy, but also its foreign policy.
When the myth of Ghazwa-e-Hind is busted, people will also realise the futility of jihadists who were supposed to be the foot soldiers in the conquest of the Indian subcontinent.
It is then that Pakistani regimes would be forced to rewrite books that so far focused on institutionalising hatred towards India in children. The revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir is an opportunity for Pakistan to write its destiny from scratch — in solidarity with its own people.