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History of Pakistan

Most of the past history of Pakistan coincides with the Indian history, which includes Indus valley civilization in the Ancient era, arrival and domination of Mughals in the Medieval era, and British rule in the modern era. The actual history of Pakistan begins with Allama Mohammed Iqbal, a poet and philosopher from Lahore, who proposed the idea of creation of a separate Muslim state on those parts of the Indian subcontinent, where the Muslims lived in majority.

The formation of Pakistan is thereafter credited to Mohammed Ali Jinnah who made the formation of a new state a reality. The British were initially reluctant to divide the Indian subcontinent into two countries, but through the genius of Jinnah, and his excellent mixture of advocacy skills and sheer obstinacy Jinnah brought Pakistan into existence. Jinnah is a highly revered figure in Pakistan, and is regarded as the father of the nation. His image and his name is depicted on buildings all over Pakistan. He is referred to as Quaid-i-Azam or the Quaid, which means Leader of the People or Great Leader respectively.

At the beginning of the 19th century, both the Hindus and Muslims had been united in their struggle for Independence against the Britishers. The Indian National Congress, which was formed in 1885 for the rights of the Indian, included members from both the faiths. However, in 1906 the Muslims founded their own separate political organization, which was called the All-India Muslim League. This new organization was meant to protect and advance the political rights of the Muslims of India and respectfully represent their needs and aspirations to the British government.

For a long time the emphasis of the two parties remained on unity. In 1916 the Indian National Congress and the All-India Muslim League agreed to the Lucknow Pact, under which they were to campaign for constitutional reform together. After the Jallianwallah massacre, where a large crowd of unarmed protestors were killed in 1919, the demands for greater self-governance turned into an insistence on full independence. The British, however responded with limited concessions, which just included increasing the number of Indians in the administration and in self-governing institutions.

The leaders of the two parties could see that they were making some progress. But as an independent India became a realistic prospect, tensions between the Muslims and Hindus began to grow. Mohammed Iqbal first raised the issue of a separate Muslim state in 1930. His argument was that India was such a diverse country that a unitary form of government was inconceivable. His opinion was that religion rather than territory should be the foundation of national aspirations. It was the one of the first coherent expressions of the ‘two-nation theory’ which led to the birth of Pakistan. Iqbal did not give any name to the proposed nation. The name was coined by a student at Cambridge University, Chaudhry Rahmat Ali, who suggested that the new state be called Pakistan. Taken as a single word Pakistan means ‘Land of the Spiritually Clean and Pure’. But it was also a sort of acronym standing for Punjab, Afghania (North-West Frontier Province), Kashmir, Sindh and Balochistan.

Jinnah had previously argued for Hindu-Muslim unity. However by the late 1930s, he was convinced of the case for Pakistan. At the annual session of the Muslim League in Lahore on 23 March 1940, the Muslim League formally demanded that the Muslim majority areas in northwestern and northeastern India should be autonomous and sovereign. This is one of the significant events in the history of Pakistan. Congress strongly opposed their demand, but it was an issue only London could resolve. The man who was given the task was Lord Louis Mountbatten. He was appointed the Viceroy of India in 1947 and executed the partitioning of India. Soon after arriving in Delhi, he became convinced that the demand for Pakistan would not go away, and despite all the objections raised by Congress, they will have to accept it as the price for independence.

Creating two new independent nations out of the British India was not an easy task. Assets were divided, and a boundary commission was appointed to demarcate the frontiers. Cyril Radcliffe, a civil servant who had never visited India, was given the task for drawing the boundary, who demarcated the complicated and deeply connected border areas in little over a month. British troops were evacuated and the military was restructured into two forces. The civil servants were given the choice to join either India or Pakistan.

As the moment of Independence approached, huge numbers of people started to migrate. Hindus were fearful of living in the new Pakistan, and they headed towards east. So too did the Sikhs. In the period before the British extended their influence to Punjab and Kashmir, the Sikhs had been a dominant power. They controlled territory in the north-western parts right up to the Afghan border. By 1849 the British military had defeated the Sikhs, and with Partition looming, they decided to move and make their future in India. The Muslims were also leaving their villages and making for their newly created homeland. The partition of India is one of the most significant events in the history of Pakistan as well as India, as it involved the migration of huge populations ever observed in the history of modern times.

During the partition, around eight million people gave up their jobs, homes and communities. Most of the people travelled on foot or by train and in doing so risked their lives. Many never made it to their destination, becoming victims of the frenzied violence triggered by Partition. The scale of the killing was terrible, and it is estimated that up to a million people died in communal violence. Trains full of Muslims, fleeing westwards, were held up and slaughtered by Hindu and Sikh mobs. Hindus and Sikhs fleeing to the east suffered the same fate. The rivers that separated the two new nations became a river of blood, and for those who managed to cross it, the feeling of relief was intense. On 14 August 1947 at midnight, Pakistan became independent. This is one of the most important days in the history of Pakistan, and is celebrated as the Independence day.

While the leaders in India were able to pick up where the British left off, their counterparts in Pakistan had to build state institutions from scratch. The task became much more difficult because Jinnah, who commanded unquestioning loyalty in Pakistan died 13 months after Independence. The successors of Jinnah were both incompetent and corrupt, and it took them nine years to pass Pakistan’s first constitution. The history of Pakistan, since independence has been marred corruption, and instability.

Since independence, Pakistan has always seen India as its rival and has fought three wars with them. There have been a number of successful as well as unsuccessful military coups in Pakistan, with the first one in 1958. The history of Pakistan has involved three successful coup attempts, and the nation has spent several decades under military rule (1958 - 1971, 1977 - 1988, 1999 - 2008).

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