India, Democracy, Economy, Hindu Extremism, Minorities
To be very frank, South East Asia, like many other parts of the world, is very complicated, and boiling with issues. India used to be the “Golden Sparrow” of world. This changed under the British colonialism. British needed a stronger ruling class to keep masses under control. So, they did everything possible to strengthen India’s already strong feudal culture. Big landlords and rich families were awarded with titles like “Sir”, and even more land and power. The existing broad class division in the society was broadened, even more. Only the kids of rich and powerful, with English degrees could achieve anything significant. Others were just marginalized into the poverty.
The legacy of this feudal and ruling class continued after independence in 1947, when India was divided into India and Pakistan. Although, most Muslims welcomed this division with the depths of their hearts, it was the result of “divide and rule” British policy, orchestrated by a political party, Muslim League, lead and run by a British educated lawyer, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who lived almost all his life in Britain, before returning to India, in order to lead the movement for division of India. The division was based on religion. India was divided into Hindu Majority India, and Muslim majority Pakistan. The division turned out to be a bloody disaster, right from beginning.
Hundreds of thousands were killed and twelve million were displaced from their homes, migrating to the respective majority country. The huge riots, loss of life, property and business, and millions of displaced immigrants, provided a troublesome start to both countries, especially Pakistan, being smaller with smaller economy. This also started, and resulted into an unending animosity between the two countries. While, both countries had very high poverty rates, especially India had even worse poverty rates, they kept spending incredible amounts of money on defense, including nuclear bombs, and engaged each other in three wars.
The last one of those wars, resulted into the severance of Pakistan’s Eastern arm, now known as Bangladesh. The two arms were divided by a distance of thousand miles of Indian Territory which made it an economic and administrative nightmare. Beside this, East and West Pakistan had stark differences in culture, economy, education rates, wealth and growth. In addition to having a very different culture, West Pakistan, now, Pakistan, was far ahead of East, on every economic criterion. Also, Pakistan, continuously engaged in ridiculously high defense spending, failed to deliver the promise economic growth to East.
In the middle of 1971 war between Pakistan and India, Bangladeshis led by Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman of Awami League, revolted against Pakistan. Pakistan army tried to kill that revolt with an iron fist. Unbelievable atrocities were carried out on Bangladeshi people. But, Bangladeshi people had the support of India. Pakistan Army could not fight this two way war, and lost. East was liberated as Bangladesh. West Pakistan became new Pakistan.
While India was given a Socialist constitution by its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Pakistan did not have a written constitution, until that point. India was mostly a Socialist Democracy, belonging to Soviet bloc.
On the other hand Pakistan was mostly ruled by military or military backed dictators, belonging to Western bloc. Right before losing its Eastern arm in 1971, under the extreme pressure of Pakistani citizens and devastation created by dictators, Pakistan took a major historical turn. First truly democratic elections were held. Those elections proved, even before actual division that Pakistan was a badly divided country. Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman’s Awami League swept East Pakistan winning almost hundred percent of seats. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party which won elections in Western arm, did not win even a single seat in East. Similarly, Awami League did not win even a single seat in West.
Overall Awami League was a clear winner of elections. It had the right to form first democratically elected government in Pakistan. At that point Pakistan Army made another fatal mistake. General Yahiya, the military president of Pakistan, at the time, refused to hand over power to a political party dominated by East. It is worth to mention here, while east had deep sense of being left behind in the post-independence process of growth, West always considered east a burden on their economy, and inferior to themselves.
The political deadlock created by refusal of military leadership to hand over power to East dominated political party, turned out to be the last nail in Pakistan’s coffin as a united country. Long story short, Pakistan and Bangladesh became two separate countries. Awami League formed government in Bangladesh, and Pakistan People’s Party in Pakistan. They were given the duty of building from scratch, the countries destroyed by military dictators. While Awami League gave Bangladesh a secular constitution, in the beginning, it was later turned into an Islamic constitution. Bhutto gave an Islamic, Socialist, Democratic constitution to Pakistan, as its first in twenty-six years during 1973. Although Bhutto gave an Islamic constitution, he was very secular, by all means.
Disappointed by dismal support from its Western allies during 1971 war while India got full support from its ally, Soviet Union, Bhutto did publicly tear down the SEATO and CENTO defense pacts with Western countries, walked out of common wealth, and very efficiently started building third word and Islamic blocs, with very strong and renewed ties with China. While Bhutto was Socialistic in his economic policies, and his extensive nationalization of industry, banks, education and agriculture, is very controversial, he made immense progress in re-building Pakistan’s class ridden social structure. Average Joe got voice for the first time in Pakistan’s history, and student and labor unions became very strong.
Over time Bangladeshis are increasingly realizing that the exploitation from West was not the only cause of their problems. The real problem actually lies in deep rooted corruption and cronyism. In the meantime, major proportion of populations in three South East Asian countries, especially in Bangladesh and India, remain deeply buried in poverty. Religious extremist parties, in all three countries keep blaming minorities and exploitation, on part west, for their problems. So, the polarity between majorities and minorities is on rise within all three countries. As far as the elections and mass support is concerned, religious extremists have been very unsuccessful in Pakistan.