Understanding Pakistan: Looking Behind to See Ahead

Posted on June 26, 2007
Filed Under >iFaqeer, History
16 Comments
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iFaqeer

Over the last month or so I have been involved in a project that has been very edifying. But that is not the surprising part.

I could go on and on about the project and I will provide further information about the project in a minute. But here’s an excerpt form a recent post that there’s very little chance will not startle you. Read it and then decide whether the site Understanding Pakistan is worth a visit:

“At the time of their independence, with resources and destinies so interlinked with each other ( i.e. Pakistan’s dependence on India’s for its water, and India’s dependence on Pakistan’s raw material for its factories), much was dependent upon the goodwill between the two countries. Leaders on both sides made public statements that suggested that they expected nothing short of that. Some had, in the past, even suggested the possibility of a joint-defense pact between the two countries. However, in reality the relationship that emerged, as the ashes of the partition settled, was everything but cordial. This took leaders on both sides by surprise…”.

They had been colleagues in a heartfelt movement, if representing different threads in it, for decades up till that point. This something, I believe, that both Pakistanis and Indians (and, if you ask me, Bangladeshis) should sit down and think about.

“Most of us Pakistanis today”, says Dr. Athar Osama, the Coordinator and Editor of the Understanding Pakistan project, “are not only criminally apathetic to our present and future but also shamefully ignorant of our own past. The Understanding Pakistan Project aims to correct that by providing an online platform for systematic collective exploration, learning, and dissemination of the country’s history. Through the collective reading and writing of Pakistan’s history–and present–it is an attempt by us–the third generation of Pakistanis after the founders (our fore-fathers) and the second generation (our parents) and–to collectively try to find meaning and perspective on Pakistan.”

Each week, from June 4, until October 13, 2007, Understanding Pakistan will feature a series of historical and contemporary thought pieces aimed at exploring a particular period in Pakistan’s history. These will include an anchor piece to set the context of the week’s interaction, commentaries and critiques by a panel of regular contributors, and guest pieces featuring diverse perspectives of people who have been at the center of various events in the country’s history. In doing so, we hope to gradually build a comprehensive catalogue and archive of events and documents pertaining to Pakistan’s history and attract a civilized debate on issues that have confronted our country and have escaped resolution for over five decades now. It is only by deconstructing our past that we can hope to construct the future.

Understanding Pakistan also provides a great opportunity for those in the West to learn about a country that has been an enigma for the international community in recent times, and in a manner that is both substantive (or academic) and interactive (or personal)”, says Syed Asif Alam, the President of Association of Pakistani Professionals (AOPP) that supports the Understanding Pakistan Project.

Understanding Pakistan hopes that by learning about the challenges, successes, and misfortunes that have been a part of Pakistan’s history, both Pakistanis and others will learn to appreciate the complexity of the country’s past, acknowledge and build upon its diversity, and learn to navigate the future.

The most important objective, however, is to create an informed citizenry that looks at the multifarious issues confronting its own country and the world with an open and analytical mind and plays its own little part in dealing with these. Understanding Pakistan is an investigation into the life and times of a nation that has demonstrated a remarkable ability to not learn from its own past and has, therefore, often found itself on the wrong side of history and going against the currents of time. Pakistan’s accomplishments aside, political stability, democracy and good governance, law-and-order and internal security, international respectability, and human development are not ideas Pakistanis can be particularly proud about.

Only by better understanding our own past and avoiding the mistakes that we have made before, can we make a new beginning to build a more tolerant, just, and prosperous Pakistan. A Pakistan that really works for everybody not just a few of us.

This is precisely the kind of conversation–an honest and open conversation about our country’s history–that Pakistani establishment and the vested interests–the bureaucrats, the army, the politicians, and even the judiciary–does not want all of us to have. Over several decades these forces have attempted to not only restrict our access to this history (in the creation of the text book boards and the standardization of curriculum) but have also attempted to (and quite successfully so) re-engineered history. This makes it all the more important that we have this conversation now rather than later.

Understanding Pakistan invites all Pakistanis and interested international audiences to visit the website and experience the story of Pakistan’s roller coaster history spanning over 60 years. We promise you would be surprised, once in a while, and thrilled, most of the time. Find out for yourself by visiting Understanding Pakistan where the conversation is just getting started.

16 responses to “Understanding Pakistan: Looking Behind to See Ahead”

  1. Kruman says:

    Pakistan was created by lawyers. It will be saved by the lawyers. History repeats itself.

  2. Mubarak says:

    It is heartening to know about this “Understanding Pakistan” project and am surprised that some of us really know that:

    “Over several decades these forces have attempted to not only restrict our access to this history (in the creation of the text book boards and the standardization of curriculum) but have also attempted to (and quite successfully so) re-engineered history. ”

    95% of our population do not know that our history is a re-engineered one. There indeed is a lot to know.

    Keep up the good work!!

  3. Aqil Sajjad says:

    Very true checker47. It’s a bit ironic that while there is plenty of talk of open trade these days, it is not widely known that the two countries had fairly open borders for about two years. Since Pakistan totally lacked an industrial base, it was dependent on India even for basic consumer items. This dependence would probably have continued for quite some time if it weren’t for India’s move to cut trade links with Pakistan in 1949 when the latter decided not to devalue its currency.

    It is also surprising that while our Pak studies books are fairly “generous” when it comes to criticising India, they do not mention this very important event in our economic history. I guess it shows the lack of importance that we have been assigning to our economy.

  4. checker47 says:

    It might not be known to many. It was the action of India which made Pakistan to think about setting up its own industrial base.
    During the Korean war demand for Pakistani cotton from its western wing and jute from its then Eastern wing was in great demand
    bringing in foreign exchange. India was dependent on both these raw materials. British Pound and US dollar was devalued but Pakistan rightly did not devalue its currency because of the expected advantage. India applied pressure on Pakistan to devalue by banning trade with Pakistan, forcing Pakistan to set up its own manufacturing base to consume its own raw material. This was the time when the world’s largest Jute mill was established in then East Pakistan. At the same time cotton mills were set up in West Pakistan.
    Hence it can rightly be deduced that India never acted magnanimously when its interests were threatened. More so by injuring the interests of its neighbors.
    This action by India made both the countries compete with each other instead of complementing each other.

  5. hakim says:

    iFaqeer: I have been following Understanding Pakistan for the last few weeks and it is indeed a great effort. There is a lot of information to take in, but what appeals to me most is the idea that different perspectives can allow us to better understand our collective history.

    The blog allows for an open debate and once it is complete its value would lie in the diversity of opinions collected in such short a time.

    Keep up the good work!

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