Cultural casualty: Pakistan’s plunge towards Al-Bakistan
Pakistan is a country where the arrow of time is travelling backwards. In the ‘Land of the Pure’, Prime Minister Imran Khan promises to create a mythical seventh century Riyasat-e-Madina (1) yet Islamic demagogues such as Maulana Fazlur Rehman call him a Jewish agent. Rehman and hundreds of thousands of his frenzied followers are protesting nationwide, seeking Khan’s resignation. With the corrupt, cowardly and jehadi generals of the Pakistan Army choreographing this farce from the sidelines, the country’s descent into madness seems irresistible.
The real reason fanatic Muslims like Rehman have become power brokers is that in Pakistan one can never be too Islamic – the more radical and fundamentalist you are, the better you look in the public’s eye. Ever since the country’s violent birth in 1947, its politicians, landed elites and generals have found it remarkably easy to sway the public in the name of Islam.
One could argue it is the Pakistani establishment which has exploited the masses and led them into the current state of economic, social and religious chaos. Maybe the successive coups by the military plus the incompetence of the politicians have made the Islamic parties more appealing to Pakistanis. But the truth is one can only exploit a people who are ready for it.
The Holocaust happened because ordinary Germans were primed for committing genocide after centuries of hate speech directed at Jews by the Christian church. The church drilled into the collective German consciousness that murdering the “killers of Christ” would fetch them the kingdom of heaven. (2) Similarly, there is no denying that Pakistanis are easily swayed by the appeal of Islamic jehad against non-Muslims and the promised rewards – the re-conquest of India, followed by the loot of Hindu property and the capture of beautiful Hindu women.
Origin of Arabisation
Pakistan is nothing but Indians under Islamic rule. During the past 70 years the people of Pakistan have metaphorically moved westwards in a bid to become more Middle Eastern and less South Asian. Their DNA, culture, food and language are all Indian, but despite these commonalities, virtually every Pakistani claims an Arab forefather.
Perhaps the most famous photo of the 2019 Cricket World Cup in the UK was of the Pakistani fan who arrived at the stadium on a white horse for his team’s encounter with India. (3) Dressed like a faux Arab sheik and waving a Pakistani flag, he looked ludicrous to say the least. This is confirmation that the Pakistanis have internalised the belief that they are Arabs and not South Asians.
The vast majority of people in the country now trace their roots to the Arabs, and the rest to Persians and Turks. This is a picture of utter cultural devastation and there is little chance of it reversing unless Pakistan breaks up into four or five separate countries.
According to Salman Rashid, author and one of the few Pakistani Muslims rooted to the land, “Every single Muslim in the subcontinent believes s/he is of Arab descent. If not direct Arab descent, then the illustrious ancestor had come from either Iran or Bukhara. Interestingly, the ancestor is always a great general or a saint. Never ever have we heard anyone boasting of an intellectual for a forebear….” (4)
Rashid adds: “Arab origin is the favourite fiction of all subcontinental Muslims. Most claim their ancestor arrived in Sindh with the army under Mohammad bin Qasim. But I have heard of lineages reaching back to Old Testament prophets as well. An elderly Janjua (Rajput) from the Salt Range told me of a forefather named Ar, a son of the Prophet Isaac. Ar, he said, was the ancestor of the races that spoke the Aryan tongue.”
Since most Pakistanis are the progeny of converts, they have this deep inferiority complex and to hide that they invent fake forefathers. But this doesn’t work – and never has – because even as the Arabs converted the ancestors of current Pakistanis to Islam, they discriminated against them for being “Hindis”. Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta had his own prejudices against Indian Muslims, and he is not alone. “Consequently, even after conversion, my ancestors, poor agriculturists, were looked down upon by the Arabs…,” writes Rashid. “Within a generation or two, those early converts began the great lie of Arab ancestry to be equal to other converts and the Arabs. This became universal with time.”
Rashid fears Pakistan will totally succumb to Arab imperialism and make Arabic the official language of Pakistan. “That we will then be seen running around with bed sheets for clothes with our heads bound with fan belts. This is no unfounded fear, mind. The change has begun. In Punjab, it is creeping in. And it is coming by car. Or, at least, by car registration plates…. The new one, very likely paid for by the Saudis as they pay for most seminaries in this sorry land, is now in Urdu lettering. The red band on top is marked ‘Al-Bakistan’. Mind, it is not ‘Al-Pakistan’ but BAKISTAN. At the bottom, another red band reads ‘Al-Bunjab’. In between are the alphabets and numerals of the registration number in Urdu. By the way, that was how Ibn Batuta pronounced the name of this province.” (5)
Allah Hafiz replaces Khuda Hafiz
In Pakistan, along with the inclination of the people towards jehad, there is a state policy to orient the country towards Mecca, and detach it from India’s 5,000 year old culture. While this policy is rooted in the very doctrine of the Two-Nation Theory of Jinnah and Iqbal, it was the 1965 war that gave it momentum. After that 22-day war, in which the Indian Army stormed its way to the outskirts of Lahore and Sialkot, great efforts were made to break away from India. For instance, Hindustani music became the enemy’s music. (6) Ragas which formed the essence of music in South Asia were now either Hindu or Muslim under Ayub Khan’s bureaucrats. ‘Hindu’ ragas were purged from Pakistani social life.
However, it was during the dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq in the 1980s that the maximum damage was done to Pakistan’s ethos. More than anyone else, it was Zia who mutilated Pakistan’s soul by introducing Sharia laws into daily life. The largely secular – and whiskey swigging – army officers now started seeing themselves as the sword arm of Islam.
The average Pakistani got a hint of this Arabisation in 1985 when Pakistan TV started flashing messages on TV screens asking viewers to replace the term Khuda Hafiz with Allah Hafiz. A famous TV host signed off her otherwise secular show with a firm “Allah Hafiz”. (7)
The main argument for this switch was that Khuda could mean any God, whereas the Muslims’ God was Allah. Others said since many non-Muslims residing in Pakistan too had started to use Khuda Hafiz, this incensed the crusaders who thought that non-Muslim Pakistanis were trying to adopt Islamic gestures only to pollute them.
Soon, in the manner of the religious police in Iran and Saudi Arabia, the streets of Pakistan witnessed bands of fanatical moral squads called the Allah Tigers who accosted couples in cafes, restaurants and parks, scolding them for going against Islam.
The whole ancient template of social interaction was tampered with, and the masses colluded in this dystopian venture. If even one Hindi word was used in a sentence, the person was looked at as disloyal to the ideology of Pakistan. Writer and social commentator Sibtain Naqvi says that eventually Pakistanis became hesitant in replying to the Hindustani greeting “adaab” with the usual “jeetay raho”, literally: have a long and blessed life. (8)
“These were not people who had always used the ‘salaam’, no these were folks whose fathers, grandfathers, uncles and aunts all had lived and died using the same mode of salutations and greetings. And now they were replying with ‘walekum adaab’, a rather cumbersome response which was neither here nor there. Then came snide comments about how ‘adaab’ is irreligious. About how it is decadent and a hangover from a previous era which should be consigned to the dustbin of history. About how it was used only to greet Hindus in India and so has no place in an (overtly) Islamic country. With time, most even called it downright blasphemous and refused to acknowledge it.”
Ironically, while the Arabs are easy-going about language and religion, the Pakistanis are going full-tilt Arabic. For instance, the Arabic greeting Assalamu Alaikum is used far more regularly in Pakistan than in the Arab world, where (Saudi Arabia included) often the more secular Merhaba is used to greet. (9)
Lure of Petro Dollars
Germany based Pakistani Kashif Ali argues that with Pakistan’s turn towards the Middle East, there has been an attempt to escape from Pakistan’s Indian roots and emphasise on a shared consciousness of Islamic Brotherhood. “It was reinforced by the programme of Islamisation with an objective of ‘other-ising’ India, which meant removing the historic, geographic, civilisational and cultural traces of Pakistan’s South Asian identity. What this desire ‘to be a Middle Eastern’ country has done is that it has established a national narrative which is essentially not rooted in history, but rooted in fantasy.” (10)
The decision to turn the country irrevocably towards Mecca has its roots in the collective trauma of Pakistanis after Pakistan’s crushing defeat in the 1971 war with India. According to Nadeem F. Paracha, a cultural critic and columnist, the state with the help of conservative historians and ulema made a conscious effort to divorce Pakistan’s history from its Hindu and Persian past and enact a project to bond this history with a largely mythical and superficial link with Arabia. (11)
“The streaming in of the ‘Petro Dollars’ from oil-rich monarchies and the Pakistanis’ increasing interaction with their Arab employers in these countries, turned Pakistan’s historical identity on its head.”
“In other words, instead of investing intellectual resources to develop a nationalism that was grounded and rooted in the more historically accurate sociology and politics of the Muslims of the region, a reactive attempt was made to dislodge one form of ‘cultural imperialism’ and import by adopting another.”
“For example, attempts were made to dislodge ‘Hindu and Western cultural influences’ in the Pakistani society by adopting Arabic cultural hegemony that came as a pre-requisite and condition with the Arabian Petro Dollar.”
How it all started
The attachment of Indian Muslims to India started weakening when the Mughal Dynasty became a vassal of the Maratha Empire in the early 1700s. Paracha corroborates that view: “After the complete fall of the Mughal Empire in the 19th century till about the late 1960s, Pakistanis (post-1947), attempted to separate themselves from other religious communities of the region by identifying with those Persian cultural aspects that had reigned supreme in Muslim royal courts in India, especially during the Mughal era.”
There is ample evidence that the Mughal emperors started collaborating with the English invaders in a bid to prevent the Marathas, Rajputs, Jats, Sikhs and other Hindu kingdoms from taking over the country. (12) This was despite the fact that the reestablishment of Dharmic rule was peaceful and Muslims were treated as equal citizens in territories conquered by the Hindus and Sikhs.
Because of their betrayal of India, large sections of subcontinental Muslims are alienated from the land of their birth. This was why they created Pakistan – the first country created solely on the basis of religion in the last 1,400 years. Today, the vast majority of Muslims of the Indian subcontinent have their focus fixed towards Arabia – and lately Turkey – and believe they must become more Arabian (or Turkish, Persian and Afghan) to gain respectability in the Muslim world.
Respectability doesn’t work quite that way. Military observer Ayesha Siddiqa says Pakistanis “are always keen to provide all sorts of ‘strategic’ help in the name of the Muslim Ummah, which probably exists in our mind but not in the minds of the leaders of many Muslim states”. (13)
Indeed most Arabs have a very low opinion of Pakistanis. In 2017, the Saudi Arabian defence minister wrote a letter in which he said, “Pakistanis are our slaves.” (14)
Paracha says Pakistanis have adopted the “cultural dimensions of a people who, ironically, still consider non-Arabs like Pakistanis as second-class Muslims”.
The upshot: while a Saudi Arabian is a Saudi first; a Jordanian is first and foremost a Jordanian; an Iraqi is proud of belonging to the pre-Muslim Babylonian and Mesopotamian civilisations; and Persians are proud of their great non-Muslim emperors Xerxes and Cyrus; Pakistanis (and many Muslims of the Indian subcontinent) take pride not in Indian history and heritage but in Saudi Arabian wealth; the lapsed glory of the Baghdad Caliphate; Persian culture that is not theirs; and even mundane things like their friendship with a Jordanian or Palestinian co-worker in the UAE.
Is there hope?
Fed on an anti-infidel diet from childhood, Pakistanis no matter where they are born, grow up ready for jehad. Not every Pakistani will volunteer to grab a gun and kill Hindus, Jews, Christians and Ahmediyyas, but most Pakistanis will contribute to Islamic charities that offer to kill Hindus, Jews, Christians and Ahmediyyas.
Even Muslims with a nominal Pakistani connection are beyond help. Take Aatish Taseer, the son of the assassinated Pakistani politician Salman Taseer and Indian journalist Tavleen Singh. Aatish Taseer was raised mostly in India and Britain and raised by his Sikh mother. He didn’t meet his Muslim father until he was 21. Yet he is one of the most Hinduphobic individuals today, and can be spotted on Twitter, throwing hate filled invectives such “cow urine” and “gaumutra” at Hindus, including Hindu women. (15) One wonders whether Tavleen is a closet Hinduphobe whose Hinduphobia has rubbed off on her son. Or is it just his Pakistani Muslim instinct kicking in that makes him hate Hindus and India?
However, there is the tiny minority that includes people like Maz Halima Khan, a Pakistani origin writer born and raised in London. According to her, the Pakistani penchant for Arabness is this: “You seemingly can’t be more Muslim than a Muslim Arab – their language is that of the Quran; our most significant holy sites can only be found in their land.” (16)
Maz has survived the relentless brainwashing that all Pakistanis undergo in their families and mosques, and has immense pride in her Indic roots. “The older I have grown and the more I’ve read about India – from the concept of Karma to the practice of Yoga – the more fascinated I have become,” she writes. “It’s magical! You can be Pakistani and only believe in one God and not be offended at the thought that once upon a time, we were all Indian. I now embrace my Indian roots with pride – I refuse to contribute to the divide between us, I refuse to desire to be something that I’m not…”
Several Pakistanis this writer has met overseas have expressed a similar view. Whether it gains traction among youth in Pakistan remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the madness continues. Sibtain Naqvi concludes that since everyone in Pakistan is waddling around, looking for their Arab roots, the country should be renamed “Bakbakistan to truly reflect how everyone within it is busy doing Bakbak, that is, discussing, arguing about and fighting over irrelevant issues, while ignoring and postponing critical actions required to save it from its ongoing downward spiral into self-destruction and anarchy”.
- Pakistan Today, Turning Pakistan into Riyasat e Madina, https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/04/26/turning-pakistan-into-riyasat-e-madina/
- Deicide, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_deicide
- News18, https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/pakistan-cricket-fan-arriving-on-horseback-to-watch-world-cup-match-against-india-is-everything-2189285.html
- Arab Origins, Dawn, https://tribune.com.pk/story/317619/arab-origins/
- Truthful Inaccuracy, Tribune, https://tribune.com.pk/story/514344/truthful-inaccuracy/
- Dawn, https://epaper.dawn.com/DetailImage.php?StoryImage=26_11_2017_528_002
- Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/833553/allah-hafiz-to-khuda-hafiz
- Tribune, https://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/18102/when-ramazan-became-ramadan-our-infatuation-with-arab-culture/
- Tribune, https://tribune.com.pk/story/579975/ramadan-or-ramazan/
- Tribune, https://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/23076/brother-you-are-from-pakistan-and-you-dont-speak-arabic/
- My name is Pakistan and I’m not an Arab, Dawn, http://www.dawn.com/news/1032519
- India Facts, The Mughal tax break that cost India its freedom, http://indiafacts.org/mughal-tax-break-cost-india-freedom/
- The Arabs and US, Dawn, https://tribune.com.pk/story/86006/the-arabs-and-us/
- The Economic Times, //economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/59146021.cms?from=mdr&utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst
- Twitter, https://twitter.com/Dhriyamana/status/1193396857382170624
- Huffington Post, Overcoming Today’s Pakistani Desire To Look Arab, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/overcoming-todays-pakistani-desire-to-look-arab_b_597784d5e4b0c6616f7ce59a
Featured Image: Kharif Writes