The Seven Stages of Pakistan

Posted on December 10, 2008
Filed Under >Khurram Ali Shafique, History, Politics, Society
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Khurram Ali Shafique

Through my researches about the history of Pakistan, I have come upon a rather curious pattern. It is the recurrence of “peak moments” precisely every twentieth year (with one interesting change).

Ayub Khan and Yahya KhanZulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia ul Haq

The gathering of Muslim community representatives from all over India at Aligarh in 1886 was the first of its kind in Islam since the days of the early caliphs. Strangely, something similar has been happening since then – every twentieth year with a slight change in 1947:

1886, Foundation of Muslim Educational Conference
1906, Foundation of All-India Muslim League
1926, General Elections on the basis of separate electorates
1946, General Elections on the question of Pakistan
1967, Birth of PPP and popularity of 6 Points
1987, General discontent with General Zia
2007, Lawyers’ Movement

Why does it happen, and can it help us in a better understanding of our history (and of ourselves)?

That question can be answered in several ways depending on how you approach it. Yet, in whatever way these “peak moments” are interpreted, they help us divide the history of Pakistan since 1886 into seven symmetrical periods:

1886-1905, Inquiry
1906-1925, Discovery
1926-1946, Transcendence
1947-1966, Freedom
1967-1986, Action
1987-2006, Expansion
2007-26, Creation

The names of the stages (i.e. inquiry, discovery, and so on) have been taken from the “Seven Stages” which recur in Iqbal’s work as I’ve shown in my book The Republic of Rumi: A Novel of Reality (2007) and discussed briefly in my online newsletter. Needless to say, those who may like to name these periods differently can do so (“What’s there in a name…”)!

The beauty of dividing history into these seven periods is that not only this division is symmetrical but it is based on the peak moments of the entire society rather than the coming and going of individual rulers. Does this sound better than naming the periods of our history “the Ayub Khan era”, “the Yahya Khan era,” and so on? To me, it does.

There are other uses. Patterns naturally lead to the possibility of forecasting. Once we observe certain patterns in the history of Pakistan we are likely to recognize the possibility of forecasting the future of this nation. In order to test my observations since I first came upon them in the summer of 2007, I have been making forecasts: about the results of Elections 2008, for instance. Such forecasts have turned out to be correct.

Yet, quite understandably, I have faced so much hostility from some “friends and foes” on this issue that I think I should now withhold my interpretations until I get the opportunity of displaying the background reading involved in the matter (for now, it may suffice to say that Muhammad Ali Jauhar, who had a degree in history from Oxford, was also working along these lines but unfortunately there had been only two peak moments by then, and hence not enough data to proceed with the investigations).

The beauty of this twenty-year division is such that I don’t want to spoil it even for a skeptic: in my zeal for saying more, I don’t want to put off any who might be more sympathetic to it if I left it at this but whose minds may get shut off if I said more!

17 Comments on “The Seven Stages of Pakistan”

  1. Kamal says:
    December 11th, 2008 12:34 am

    Very interesting. I like the data points you fit to make your case. Although I think it is really driven by the desire to get neat 20 year periods.

  2. December 11th, 2008 7:15 am

    There are three stages of Pakistan.

    1: 1947; creation of Pakistan
    2a: 1954: First Mullah insurgency
    2b: 1974-1978 :Democarcy hijacked by Mullah
    2c: Mullah supported Dictatorship.
    3: The

  3. December 11th, 2008 9:52 am

    what our feelings,what we thought,what we have done,who is responsible,what is the cure,what will happen now.Almighty Allah knows better.But we all should pray and wish for our beloved pakistan not only our country but it is demanded and Almighty Allah given us TOHFA in liew, of our unprecedental sacrifices,the Almighty Creater will take care of Pakistan and We pakistanies ,.INSHA ALLAH PAKISTAN LIVE TILL DAY OF JUDGEMENT AND WE WILL MAKE IT AS FOR WHICH WE HAVW DEMANDED.ISLAM ZINDABAD,PAKISTAN KA MATLAB KIA “LA ILAHA ILLALLAH………..”

  4. maskeenel says:
    December 11th, 2008 9:54 am

    Lutful Islam, Could you please further shed light on part two of your three stages. This Mullah deal seems interesting. Please indulge us.

  5. December 11th, 2008 10:33 am

    There is a common theme in the downfall of all muslim insitutions.i.e., Mullah. Pakistan, a potential Grenada in making has been reduced to rubble at its foundations. The article above mentions a number of milestones after the creation of Pakistan which are but minor blips in the uniform anarchy produced by religious zealots. The birth of PPP could have been a substantial step towards the development of a progressive state, but alas, Mullah not only manipulated ZAB but also caused his downfall and judicial murder. Even the educational reforms were shunned by the orthodoxy. Muslim league was opposed by this clergy and the idea of Pakistan was reviled by it. Pick any point in the history of Pakistan, look at any era, any year and you will see the hideous shadow of the extremist zealots in the background. Nowadays, they are in the foreground.
    Inquiry: The muslim identity. Orthodoxy had always defined the muslim identity as a superior population among the native hindus. This very idea caused the muslims to stay behind in persuit of education.
    Discovery, Transcendence, Freedom: You will find that unlike the educated “muslim league”, the orthodoxy did not discover the state of afairs in India. They followed Gandhi and Nehru as Indians. They discovered that India was “Darul Harb”. This continued until the partition. After Partition, Mullah had no place in the new country.. 1953 provided a reason to be importan. Anti-Ahmadi riots provided the reason for Jamaat Islami, Jamiat Ulema, Ahrar to gather support. They also gathered momentum from this. 1965 war provided a little buffer, but they continued through the decade. JI helped the persecution of liberal bangalis and made the situation worse in East Pakistan.
    Action: What action. The only actions I see are.. The first comprehensive constition which was mutilated straight away. The Ahmadi amendment. Then the action was “Nizam e Mustafa” action. Causing the downfall of a democratically elected government, a judicial murder, and the strengthening of a dictator who reminds us of the times of pharoahs. The action of “majlise shoora”, more mutilations of the constitution. public floggings, executions, and Jihad which has turned against the very people who supported it.
    Expansion: Inflation rather. Inflation of egos, of the PPP which was only an empty shell of its ideals.. Fragmentation of the right wing into many different mullah influenced factions. Some (recent) center right wingers are more left wing than the PPP. All depends on who is flapping their wings. This expansion stage is more like scattering/shattering of the national identity.
    Creation: I hope out of these ashes a wisened nation emerges. But Mullah is still around adding more fuel to the fire. We have to wait until he is done.

  6. Rabi says:
    December 11th, 2008 11:32 am

    Until the creation of Pakistan, the trend had been upwards (higher peaks followed by even higher peaks) but since then we have just been sliding down. Every few years, a small peak emerges to temporarily halt the downward slide. Like any other artificial trend it does not last very long and hence we continue down the roller coaster. One thing I have noticed is that the peaks are small and few. Like NASDAQ

  7. Hasan says:
    December 11th, 2008 11:55 am


    Perhaps your 20 year pattern will match the lunar calendar more accurately?

  8. Riaz Haq says:
    December 11th, 2008 12:51 pm

    Cycles theories are quite popular in business and investment world. I guess we could try and develop similar theories about Pakistan. How about an approx 10 year cycle (every other decade) for military takeovers? Ayub in the 60s, Zia in the 80s, Musharraf in the 00s? The way things are going right now, these cycles could shorten with the military intervening sooner this time, with people demanding and welcoming the military takeover, as in the past.

  9. Aqil Sajjad says:
    December 11th, 2008 3:14 pm


    If you’re talking about military take overs, then we are used to 11 year cycles.

    The pre-Ayub political period: 11 years from 1947 to 1958.
    Ayub’s period: 11 years from 1958 to 1969.
    Zia: the famous 11 years
    Post-Zia civilian period: again 11 years from 1988 to 1999.

    The Yahya period was only about 2 years but Musharraf was there for about 9 years, so the total is, again 11 years.

    Bhutto didn’t complete 11 years since he shot himself in the foot sooner, and he was there for about 5 and a half years.

    If the 11 year trend is to continue, then the next military coup should probably be around september 2013. This, along with Bhutto’s 5 and a half years will complete another 11 years of civilian rule.

  10. Sajjad Junaidi says:
    December 11th, 2008 6:31 pm

    Lutf ul Islam
    Very well described. It’s a scary thought but I think we are in this mess for a long haul.
    One thing is guaranteed that we can’t get rid of Mullahs, so why don’t we learn to live with them and accept them. In long run some moderate Mullahs will emerge from them. Right now when we try to suppress them even ridicule them, we give rise to more extreme views and violence.
    Will banning them from politics work?
    My above comments about Mullahs do not include extremist Jehadi groups. We can’t accept them, let alone live with them.

  11. sikander says:
    December 11th, 2008 6:35 pm

    Very well written but you have missed a very important part which is the sucession of East Pakistan. You can read about that event and its consequences on

    it is the month of Decemeber and we must discuss this issue to learn from it.

    Many Thanks

  12. naseer says:
    December 12th, 2008 6:34 pm

    Are you saying we have to wait 19 years for next break……..

  13. meengla says:
    December 12th, 2008 11:05 pm

    Sounds like this ’20 year’ analysis is more like the famous ‘Jantri’ book of Urdu or the Farmer’s Almanac of the States.
    Discontent against Zia in 1987?! Why bend backward to make it to 20 years? 1983-84 were the worst anti-Zia years when the MRD (especially in 1984) started its agitation where, sadly, only Sindh agitated enough to make a stir.

    There are no ‘seven stages’ of Pakistan. Borrowing from Shakespeare is not going to help here. But I will come out with my take–what Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said decades ago is still true: “There are are only two parties in Pakistan. Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistani Army.” The rest is just details.

  14. Rahat Ali says:
    December 13th, 2008 8:34 pm

    You are right in identifying the lawyers movement as the begining of a new era. I do not think that people fully realize its significance just yet. I think with time we will realize how important it was. Not because it restored a judge but because from here on the demand for real democracy will only grow.

  15. Wahid says:
    December 13th, 2008 10:02 pm

    Very interesting. But I think it is a little contrived and the stages are forced, not real. I am sure if you chose 25 or 30 year periods you coudl still force a storyline around it.

    But I guess the value of this is that it forces us to think back. That is interesting.

  16. Javed says:
    December 18th, 2008 10:54 am

    Interesting insights into the history. Bt I also think that it is artificial distinctions. But yes it makes one think maybe.

  17. January 16th, 2009 8:01 am

    Dear Rahat Ali, I am curious to know who you are. It seems there is a lot more which you have to say on the subject which you have touched upon here. I would be eager to listen.

    Everyone who posted comments, I thank you. Including (or perhaps especially) the questions raised here and the reasons given to dismiss the entire premise, I am going to incorporate the feedback in my research (which is on-going, as mentioned in the article).

Have Your Say (Bol, magar piyar say)