Wherefore art thou, Pakistan? 19 September 2006Posted by VARANGALI in History, Politics, VARANGALI.
There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.
– Victor Hugo
Hassan Nasir, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP), was tortured to death in a decrepit Pakistani prison in 1959, his mangled body hastily buried. Some twenty years later, a fellow CPP leader, Nazir Abbasi, would be similarly tortured to death by Pakistani authorities for trying to unionize Sindhi serfs. I wonder if either, in their last moments, finally questioned the power of the idea to which they had dedicated their lives.
The history of Pakistan is littered with such driven, yet failed, activists. And it is perhaps in respect to that incessant search for justice that my Pakistani elders bristle when my callous, consumerist generation asks so readily: was Pakistan really necessary? A couple of years ago, a Kashmiri family friend responded to the question with a non-answer: he shared the memory of hefting on his shoulders to carry away the charred bodies of three fellow Kashmiri students from a firebombed train at Allahabad University, victims of Partition violence.
Whether Pakistan’s creation was necessary or good is an earnest question, and I fear that Pakistan was born of an idea whose time never came. But as my Kashmiri family friend subtly suggested, I cannot begin to fathom the human cost to forging the nation’s identity. My peers who debate this are similarly de-contextualized; we stand in the shadow of giants, but are quick to pass judgment on their accomplishments.
I thought of Hassan Nasir and the CPP last month, when the Karachi newspaper “Dawn” carried a picture of a CPP women’s rally for Lebanon outside the US Embassy. To crib from Karl Marx, history does repeat itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce: we have gone from Hassan Nasir and Nazir Abbasi to the CPP today – hijabi Marxists decrying Israel’s aggression by holding up posters of Che Guevara.