Silicon Valley Celebrates Pakistan Independence Day
By Riaz Haq

Independence Day 2011 seminar was organized by Pakistani-American Cultural Center in San Jose on August 14, 2011. It featured several speakers representing multiple generations of Pakistani-Americans living in Silicon Valley.

The first speaker was Dr. Waheed Siddiqui, considered to be among Silicon Valley’s most respected Pakistani-Americans, who had the good fortune of meeting the founding father of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the princely state of Hyderabad prior to partition in 1947. Dr. Siddiqui recalled the large turn-out of people to see the Quaid-i-Azam up close during his visit to meet with the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Quaid advised his anxious hosts that Pakistan was going to be a reality soon, and he expected that matters relating to the independent princely states of British India would be resolved as part of the process involving the British colonial officials, Indian National Congress and the Muslim League.

Moth-eaten Pakistan: Unfortunately, the Quaid-e-Azam survived only for a year after independence on August 14, 1947, leaving many of the issues with the British and the Indians unresolved. Two days after the Quaid’s death on September 11, 1948, the Indian military invaded and occupied Hyderabad with total disregard for the wishes of its people and their ruler, the Nizam.

Dr. Siddiqui said the Quaid felt betrayed by the Radcliffe Commission and its unjust partition of the Punjab and Bengal, both of which had absolute Muslim majority, describing the resulting state of Pakistan as “moth-eaten”. In spite of all of the disappointments during its birth, Dr. Siddiqui believes that the majority of Muslims of pre-1947 India remained passionate and committed to the creation of Pakistan and made great sacrifices during and after partition to ensure its survival as a viable state.

Iqbal’s View of Pakistan: Dr. Nazir Ahmad, a local Iqbal scholar, spoke about Allama Iqbal’s vision of Pakistan based on his 1930 Presidential Address at the 25th session of the All India Muslim League in Allahabad. It appears from this address that Iqbal saw an Islamic state or states within the Indian federation rather than a separate and independent state of Pakistan.

Here’s a quote from Allama Iqbal’s Allahabad address which buttresses this point: “We have a duty towards India where we are destined to live and die. We have a duty towards Asia, especially Muslim Asia. And since 70 millions of Muslims in a single country constitute a far more valuable asset to Islam than all the countries of Muslim Asia put together, we must look at the Indian problem not only from the Muslim point of view, but also from the standpoint of the Indian Muslim as such. Our duty towards Asia and India cannot be loyally performed without an organized will fixed on a definite purpose. In your own interest, as a political entity among other political entities of India, such an equipment is an absolute necessity.”

It was after Iqbal’s death that that the Muslim League decided to pursue an independent state of Pakistan when it passed the Pakistan Resolution in Lahore on March 23, 1940. Prior to this Resolution, both the Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal sought autonomy for Muslims within an Indian federation.

Dr. Nazir said that the idea of Pakistan was first articulated not by Iqbal, but by Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, an Indian Muslim student studying at the Cambridge University in England. He argued with citations to references from Dr. Iqbal’s poetry that the poet-philosopher emphasized the Islamic identity of Indian Muslims over all other identities of nationality, ethnicity, tribe, race and color, etc.

Iqbal’s Transformation: What Dr. Nazir did not explicitly describe was the transformation in Iqbal’s thinking from being an Indian nationalist to pan-Islamist as he went from singing his Tarana-e-Hind to Tarana-e-Milli. Here are a couple of lines from each:

Iqbal, the Indian nationalist, wrote in 1904:

sāre jahāñ se acchā hindostāñ hamārā ham bulbuleñ haiñ is kī ye gulsitāñ hamārā

Better than the entire world, is our Hindustan, We are its nightingales, and it (is) our garden abode

Then, as an pan-Islamist, Iqbal wrote decades later:

Chin vo Arab hamaraa hindostaaN hamaara Muslim hain hum; watan hai saara jahaaN hamaara

China is ours, Arabia is ours, India is ours We are Muslims and the whole world is our homeland

Pakistan ’s Story of 64 Years: Riaz Haq began his presentation with a recent Forbes magazine quote that “you tend to hear the worst 5 percent of the Pakistan story 95 percent of the time” attributed to a Pakistani-American entrepreneur Monis Rehman. Haq’s story focused on the 95 percent of the Pakistan story heard only 5 percent of the time.

Using charts, graphs and data, Haq explained how Pakistan has made huge strides in terms of various indicators of progress since 1947. An illustration of it was done with Swedish Professor Hans Rosling’s animation of health and wealth indicators showing life expectancy in Pakistan has more than doubled from 32 years in 1947 to 67 years now, while per capita income in today’s dollars has jumped from about $770 in 1947 to about $3000 now. Overall literacy, while still quite low at about 60%, is increasing by double digits with every new generation of Pakistanis, ranging from 30% for people over 55, to over 70% for youth.

Weak State , Strong Society: Haq argued that Pakistan is a weak state with strong society where civil society fills the huge gaps left by the weak and often ineffective state. This started with the creation of Pakistan when Pakistani state was broke, and it was bailed out by the Habibs who provided Rs. 80 million loan, more than half of the nation’s first budget of Rs. 150 million. And today, it is the Edhi Foundation and other similar charities which are present in all parts of the country where the state is absent, including the remotest corners of dusty little towns where an Edhi center can be found with a telephone in a concrete shack and an ambulance waiting to respond in an emergency. (See Riaz Haq’s article in the Opinion Section for more details)

Poetry Recitation & Conclusion: The meeting concluded with Javaid Syed and Shahzad Baseer reciting poetry celebrating Pakistan and its creation, and the unfolding horror in Karachi. The brief but animated ensuing discussion brought out controversies on subjects ranging from Iqbal’s emphasis on Islamic over all other identities, Faiz’s involvement in left-wing politics with Sajjad Zaheer and Gen Akbar, and the controversial but enduring legacy of the PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. This last discussion clearly illustrated the great diversity of views among Pakistani-Americans in Silicon Valley as a microcosm of Pakistan itself.

Event photos courtesy of Syed Ali Mehwish Bilgrami




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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