the dangers (and inevitability) of the communalisation of politics

I was reading some more about Khizr Hayat Tiwana, and came across an excellent article by Q Abid & M. Abid from Punjab University “Unionist – Muslim League Relations and the Punjab Administration” (pdf link)

The whole article is really great, but what really stands out to me is this account of religious tactics used in the 1946 elections:

the Muslim supporters of the Unionist party were trickling towards the Muslim League. Some leading Sajjada Nasheens and Pirs 34 joined the Muslim League and later on they appealed to the Muslims to support the Muslim League’s Pakistan Movement 35 because by doing so they will be supporting the cause of Islam. 36 The Punjabi Muslims were advised not to have a division on the basis of tribal or Biradari networking (David Gilmartin and Ian Talbot have mentioned religious appeals of the Muslim League in details). In some cases, while preaching in mosques, some Imams had gone to the extent of branding those Muslims who will not vote for Muslim League as Kafirs and
Traitors. Some Fatwas were also issued. It was not only the Muslim League, the Unionist party also used religious appeals in their propaganda against the PML candidates also implying that the Unionist party candidates were in fact better Muslims. The Unionist party hired some Ulama from anti-Muslim League parties like JUI, Ahrar and Khaksars who were openly opposing the creation of
Pakistan. In fact, Chhotu Ram had made a comprehensive plan before his death to employ religious preachers to campaign for the election of Unionist Party’s candidates. Even Khizr Hayat Tiwana was using verses from the Holy Qur’an to support his party’s election campaign.

Communalisation of politics — i.e. in this case the use of a minority with extremist views which unfortunately appeal to the most basic principles of the majority population — is an always-present temptation and once one side starts doing it, the other side has to follow suit or will risk complete destruction. In the 1946 elections, the Unionists were wiped out completely, despite their feeble attempts to respond in kind to the appeal to religion by the Leaguers.

The tragedy really is… did either side know that they were playing with fire? Even if they did, they were willing to toss caution to the wind and pit various religious groups against each other for their own political gain. The sad thing is, when you do have a political reality of a certain number of radicalized religious groups in your midst and your political opponent decides to play dirty and use them against you, how many politicians would not reciprocate in kind?


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