Pakistan ‘in’ South Asia by my good friend Yaqoob Khan Bangash, whose post-doc at Oxford was on the accession of the Princely States to Pakistan (sadly not all of them that were meant to accede were allowed to do so).
When I started research on my doctorate on the accession and integration of several princely states into Pakistan, my supervisor advised me to start by looking at the nature of princely rule in the states. Not knowing much about the states except a few general facts, at first, I simply assumed that they must have a lot in common with other Muslim princely states in India. However, except for a few elements in Bahawalpur, I found that the Pakistani states had a very different history and nature when compared with other states in South Asia. First, very few of them were ever part of any South Asian empire, except the British Indian Empire.
Even Bahawalpur, the most eastern of states, owed allegiance to Kabul rather than to Delhi. On the other hand, the area of Kalat paid homage to the Mughal court only for a few decades in the 17th century and had, since then, been closer to either Persia or Afghanistan. Secondly, their rulers were hardly ‘princes’ in the Indian sense of the word. There was no opulence that is usually associated with the Indian Nawabs and Maharajas, few grand palaces and buildings and no major patronage of music or art. These kingdoms were primarily tribal kingdoms where the ‘prince’ was in close touch with the people and to a large extent was not treated as a superior, set apart as a God-appointed person — as was evident in the Indian case. That said, the period of the British Raj was a transformative phase for these princely states as they were brought in a very close union with India, under whose influence these states modernised and developed. The Raj also imprinted an ‘Indian’ identity, however tentative, upon these states as they willingly (Bahawalpur, for example) or unwillingly (Kalat) became part of the Indian discourse.
Since a large part of what is now Pakistan — most of Balochistan, Khairpur, Bahawalpur, Dir, Swat and Chitral — were princely states, the history and nature of these states has a bearing on the nature and identity of Pakistan. The fact that the princely states are a unique mixture of Central Asian, Persian, Afghan and Indian customs and traditions owes a lot to them lying on the main invasion routes to India, but also points towards their cosmopolitan culture — a strength which we rarely recognise these days.
Also see his brilliant piece on the Pakistan Liberal:
Reading the comments on any opinion piece of The Express Tribune or watching news channels in Pakistan, one enters the fascinating world of the ‘Pakistani liberal’. A Pakistani liberal is a multifaceted animal. He, and I believe, also she, likes their T-shirt and jeans one size too small; likes to go around in big cars; eats at expensive restaurants; drinks alcohol like a fish; spends their holidays abroad; are variously in the pay of the United States, India, or Israel; keep quoting Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech; are responsible for Pakistan being dragged into the war on terror; are responsible for the continuation of drone attacks; support and pray for Malala Yousufzai but not people killed in drone attacks; supports (and does not support) the Great Khan; and, lest the erstwhile general gets annoyed, likes dogs. Obviously, this list of remarkable accomplishments can go on.
From the above, the Pakistani liberal sounds like a very powerful person and no wonder he is held responsible for so many things. After all, he is in control of almost every facet of Pakistani life and so should be held accountable for his actions. And while we are at it, let us also call to task the Pakistani liberal for the budget deficit (they keep up the spending and lower the tax collection due to nefarious plots) and the 2005 earthquake (they can alter the movement of tectonic plates).
However, I have one tiny problem with the description above. None of the characteristics above (and others usually used) describe a liberal in the classical or modern sense of the word. In brief, classical liberalism is rooted in individual freedom, equality, free markets and private property. To these concepts, modern liberalism has added the development of the welfare state and concern for social justice and civil rights. A liberal democracy is then a republic, which espouses and promotes such values.