By Sonya Fatah
Jun 10, 2012,
Recently it seemed doves would be flying madly between India and Pakistan showering olive branches or visas as it were. It's unclear whether we are back to status-quo, but as we know not much has changed since Bhutto and Gandhi signed an agreement 40 years ago in hilly Shimla.
In light of Ahmed Rashid's rather bleak analysis of Pakistan's future, a country on the brink, I thought it appropriate to add to the list of blame takers in this great regional game. (Poor south Asia never gets a chance in the face of Indo-Pak - shall we say - expressionism.)
Upon investigation, it appears that the additional culprit is Mahindra and Mahindra. Seriously. Keshub Mahindra's recent retirement from chairmanship reminded me of this star-crossed connection. The company traces its origins to British India. In those days -1945 in Ludhiana to be precise - the company was titled Mahindra and Mohammad.
Mohammad being Malik Ghulam Mohammad had no way of prophesising the company's future success, that the company he sired along with the Mahindras would one day be a global conglomerate with total assets valued at just under $7.5billion.
Intrigued by the idea of Pakistan, Mohammad quit his business enterprise and opted for better fortunes. He became Pakistan's first finance minister, and subsequently the governor general in 1951. Although he died early, in 1956, few remember this gentleman warmly.
After all, Mohammad can be seen as one of the earliest eroding influences on the growth of democracy in Pakistan. He introduced the first army intervention to quell the Lahore agitation of 1953, led by another Indian who crossed the border - Maulana Maududi. Maududi's Jamaat-e-Islaami was already causing mayhem inciting hatred against the Ahmadiyya community.
During his short tenure in office, Mohammad dismissed the then PM, Khwaja Nezamuddin (full disclosure: my family), changed around laws, alienated then East Pakistan, and most importantly to today's story, brought the army into politics. A lament: if only Mohammad had stuck to doing business in India, who knows how this sordid tale would have ended.
The origins of Pakistan's doom and gloom have been traced by many, too many. I thought it might be good to add Mohammad's name - and that of his former business partners for not keeping him back - to that elite list. One other major loss to Pakistan was that of human capital - the exodus of Hindus and Sikhs from the urban centres of Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore and even Quetta. Many Muslims of the Jinnah generation, whose intimate circle of friends included Hindus and Sikhs, despised Jinnah for causing the exodus of all their good friends to India. Indeed, the most targeted of the accused in Pakistan is Jinnah, whom I personally prefer to think of as misunderstood and who, as Ayesha Jalal's thesis goes in The Sole Spokesman, overplayed his hand in a super high stakes poker game with Nehru. Winning Pakistan probably didn't feel like a reward to him. In leaving behind his beloved Bombay I think Jinnah quite lost his soul and lived out his days in some agony.
But since none of this is relevant to the Indo-Pak of today, we return to search for today's Mohammad and Mahindra to develop tangible cultural and business ties.
And since, thanks to another culprit, Bhutto, we can't raise a glass for a collective toast and drink to such a day, let's just cin-cin over hot chai, and hope that 65+ year olds deciding South Asia's future will soon let the 40 year olds take a stab at bonhomie.