THE STRUGGLE FOR PAKISTAN
A MUSLIM HOMELAND AND GLOBAL POLITICS
By: AYESHA JALAL
Pakistan for me is more than just a place of origin. Ever since my formative teen years in New York City, the trials and tribulations of this self-styled Muslim homeland have sparked my curiosity and led me to ask questions for which there were no easy answers. As a high school student in the cosmopolitan setting of Manhattan during the civil war in East Pakistan, I could not reconcile the narratives of Pakistan’s official nationalism with daily media reports of atrocities perpetrated by the national army and its auxiliaries against the Bengali population of the eastern wing. The events of 1971, which ended with Pakistan’s military defeat by India and the creation of Bangladesh, demolished the most cherished truths of official Pakistani nationalism and left a profound mark on my development as a historian.
It was as an undergraduate at Wellesley College that understanding the causes of Pakistan’s recurrent spells of military rule and the uses made of Islam by the state to govern a federally disparate and inequitable nation-state became an intellectual preoccupation. I was in Rawalpindi for my summer holidays in 1977 when General Zia-ul-Haq overthrew the elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and imposed martial law in Pakistan. The Zia regime exploited the global assertion of Islam in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and the quadrupling of oil prices to promote “Islamization” and inject public displays of Islamic piety into the national culture. The swift transformation of Pakistan in the name of Islamic ideology defined by an unpopular military dictator propelled me toward studying history, both as a methodology and as a discipline. Zia’s contention that Islam was the sole reason for the country’s creation prompted my inquiry into the partition of India that resulted in my doctoral work at the University of Cambridge. This work was later published in 1985 by Cambridge University Press as The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan.