Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Historical grievances form barrier to peace

By Irfan Yusuf - posted Monday, 3 September 2007

August marked the 60th anniversary of the partition of the Indian subcontinent. Pakistan was created out of those regions of India (barring Kashmir) where Muslims formed the majority of the population, and was to be a homeland for Indian Muslims.

Exactly nine months after Pakistan was founded, European Zionists declared the independent state of Israel, the result of yet another partition.

Both Pakistani and Israeli writers have found comparisons between the political mythologies used to found these two nations. They argue Pakistan's founders campaigned only in terms of what could be described as Islamic Zionism, claiming Indian Muslims were a nation separate from the rest of India. Millions died in communal rioting leading up to the partition.


The political mythology of Pakistan runs deep in the psyche of most Pakistani migrants. To this day, relatives of my Pakistani-Australian father speak about the sacrifices of Pakistan's pioneers.

A particularly gruesome favourite is the image of the trains of death entering Lahore Railway Station, entire carriages turned collective coffins carrying victims of religiously inspired murder.

Ironically, today more Muslims live in India than Pakistan. Relatives and friends of my Indian-Australian mother frequently refer to this fact when arguing their case against Pakistan's creation at dinner parties.

Like Israel, Pakistan is now into its second and third generations of citizens. For these children and grandchildren of independence, the political mythology used to justify the creation and continued existence of their nation is no longer so sacred as to be beyond question.

I was born in Karachi but was carried on to a cruise liner by my parents when barely five-weeks-old. I grew up with stories about the struggle for Pakistan, about its great wars for survival and the determination of its larger neighbour to wipe it off the map.

Members of my extended family saw relatives butchered in communal riots while trying to cross the border.


I also grew up learning very little about the 1971 war which led to the creation of Bangladesh out of what used to be East Pakistan. My Bengali friends tell me stories of atrocities committed by the Pakistani Army, while my Pakistani uncles often speak of nasty East Pakistani terrorists.

Pakistani expatriate communities across the world, consisting largely of wealthy professionals and businessmen, held Independence Day gatherings in August.

The discussion at South Asian gatherings tends to revolve around three topics: religion, politics and cricket. In relation to politics, a gathering of Indian and Pakistani Muslims almost always involves a heated discussion on whether Pakistan should have been created.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First published in the New Zealand Herald on August 16, 2007.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

14 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Irfan Yusuf is a New South Wales-based lawyer with a practice focusing on workplace relations and commercial dispute resolution. Irfan is also a regular media commentator on a variety of social, political, human rights, media and cultural issues. Irfan Yusuf's book, Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-Fascist, was published in May 2009 by Allen & Unwin.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Irfan Yusuf

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Irfan Yusuf
Article Tools
Comment 14 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy