The Left in Pakistan: Birth Defects and Stunted Development
By S.Akhtar Ehtisham
Bath , NY


Pakistan , ostensibly created to safeguard the interest of the Muslims of India, but in actual fact to save the Muslim landowners of West Pakistan from land reforms which were on the plank of Indian National Congress platform, had a large impact of the more reactionary of the Muslim clerics. Mainstream maulanas, not recognizing nationalism as a driving force in Islam, had actually opposed it.

It was at any rate a very barren ground for progressive thought.

The Communist Party of India (CPI), much against its will, had supported the Pakistan movement at the behest of Stalin. After partition, CPI sent a few party stalwarts to organize the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) as most of the communists in what became Pakistan were, as were nearly all educated and politically conscious people, non-Muslims and had to migrate to India. Communist or not they were at the risk of being physically eliminated. 

But the party shared the general disarray of the society. Members openly flouted the directives of the Secretary General, claiming that he had been foisted on them and was not the son of the soil, etc.

A railway trade union leader in Punjab launched a strike against the specific advice of the party chief. He had been told that workers had not attained the degree of political maturity to withstand the inevitable government onslaught. The party chief was proven right. The government was easily able to crush the union into virtual oblivion. In communist parlance it was heresy of the worst kind, and would have merited liquidation if the party were in power

Partition had not rendered the communist party in the Eastern Wing as totally bereft of political workers; it did have mid-level party cadre.

Because of historical circumstances, Hindus in East Pakistan were, by and large, more educated and politically conscious. They controlled business, commerce and industry as their western provinces counterparts did.  Hindus constituted 15% of the population but occupied over sixty percent of positions in the fields of Education, Health, Law, Business and other professions. They played a significant role in keeping progressive thought alive in Muslim Bengal. If the province had been 98% Muslim, it might have fallen in the clutches of obscurantism as the western wing was destined to do.

Non-Muslims controlled 90% of Education and Health, 86% of Industry and commerce and 75% of agriculture of the Punjab province, though they formed only 40% of the population . They were actually in complete control of all the essential services, commerce and industry, as the leading Muslim feudal landowners nominally ruled the province.       

Muslim refugees moved from East Punjab and elsewhere to the new country. Punjabis on both sides of the divide had borne the brunt of the worst excesses of partition. They had been robbed of all assets and had barely escaped with life. Most had lost family members. They lived in refugee camps and other shelters, gradually settling down and occupying houses left by fleeing non-Muslims. 

The traumatic experience they had passed through was unprecedented in the annals of human history. All they wanted was to be left alone to pick up the pieces and live as normal a life as they could. They did not have the time, inclination or even the desire to indulge in movements, progressive or otherwise. It, therefore, took a long time for the young immigrants in the Punjab and the few among the locals, to get together and plan for the future.

Sindh was known for the cordial relations between its ethnic groups. It did not have any communal riots till nineteen forty-eight.  In fact the Government is widely believed to have abetted disturbances in Karachi a year after partition to drive non-Muslims out, well after the early insanity had subsided.  The conflict was between the immigrants and non-Muslims. Indigenous Sindhis did not take part in it. They in fact protected their non-Muslim compatriots when they could. A substantial percentage of Hindus actually stayed back in the interior of the province.

The communist party of India, for some reason known only to them, “advised” the Hindu members to leave for India. To their credit, many including the best known Sobho Ramchndrani, and Pahumal Gianchandrani ignored the advice.           

In the NWFP, Khudai Khitmatgars had been for many years openly aligned with of Indian National Congress (INC). Ghaffar Khan echoed Gandhi in preaching non-violence and richly deserved the sobriquet; Frontier Gandhi.

Baluchistan was the most feudal-tribal and least developed of the provinces in West Pakistan. Its only city, Quetta, was totally dominated by non-Muslims in pre-independence days. In no walk of life - trade, business education, and government service - could one find any Muslim. Except for a few Sardars who had houses in the city, Muslims lived in out-of-town mud houses. One such area was called Islamabad!           

As though these handicaps were not overwhelming enough, the so-called Rawalpindi conspiracy in 1951wiped out whatever little credibility CPP had.

The plot was hatched by some senior officers disgruntled by, in their opinion, less than zealous stand of the Pakistan Government on the Kashmir dispute. According to the Government of Pakistan ( GOP) it was co-sponsored by the (CPP) and their fellow travelers. CPP categorically denied the charge claiming that GOP used the conspiracy as an excuse to neutralize it, reportedly at the advice of the CIA.

CPI had been the most militant and fiercely anti-British component of the whole spectrum of the independence movement of India. They had joined hands with INC and other parties under the umbrella of the nationalist coalition. Except for singing praises of the Soviet Union, with which the intellectual/liberal wing of INC was in any case enamored, members of CPI, though they were stridently vocal against capitalism/imperialism, generally toed Gandhi’s line. They constantly vowed to fight the system to extinction, but had wisely put off the fight till the colonial masters had been thrown out of the country.

They were a little uneasy and ambivalent over Soviet/German non-aggression pact, but were able to gloss over it by calling it a pragmatic and practical necessity.  They contended that once fascism and communism had eviscerated each other, communists would be able to build a glorious workers paradise on the ruins.

But they lost valuable political capital by seemingly unprincipled approval of a fascist system, which, except for a few Muslims and Hindus on the lunatic fringe, was derided by the whole spectrum of public opinion in India.

Once Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, the communist regime in the Soviet Union had to climb down the perch of ideological heights and request capitalist/imperialist America and its allies for arms and financial aid.

Capitalists/imperialists had hitherto cherished the same hope as the Soviet communists did. They wanted fascists and communists to annihilate each other.

With the prospect of the imminent collapse of the Soviet regime leaving Hitler free to concentrate on and overwhelm the allies in Europe and monopolizing resources of the colonies, they rushed in massive amounts of arms, ammunition, logistic and financial support to the beleaguered country.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.