No, I am not being facetious, nor have I invented the term. You will find ‘Al Bakistan’ written on the number plates of many cars and bikes in Pakistani Punjab.
The Pakistanis who own these vehicles are not being flippant either. This term proclaims the ‘Arabic’ origin of the people of Pakistan… To hell with DNA analysis! These people genuinely believe that their ancestors rode in from the west, carrying swords and the holy book, and purified the land (‘pak
’, as you probably know, means ‘pure’ in Persian).
As it happens, there is no ‘p’ in Arabic. The ‘p’ sound is pronounced as ‘b’; e.g., Pepsi is called ‘Bebsi’ in Saudi Arabia. Hence, Pakistan becomes ‘Bakistan’.
As luck would have it, the name may well become very appropriate in the coming months.
Pakistan consists of four provinces (Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa—KPK), one federal territory (Islamabad), and two ‘disputed’ territories (PoK—Pak-occupied Kashmir; and Gilgit-Baltistan--GB). Punjab is the dominant province, home to the majority of generals, bureaucrats, businessmen and politicians. Effectively, Punjab runs Pakistan.
Since 1947, Punjab has grabbed the cream of Pakistan’s resources and development, be it electricity, expressways, modern townships, or water for irrigation. The other provinces grumble, but the protests are ignored, or suppressed by force.
The woodlands of PoK and GB have been denuded to garner timber that goes to Punjab. Electricity produced by hydel plants in GB is consumed in Punjab, while GB gets power only two hours a day. GB and PoK have no airports, hardly any facilities for health and education, few jobs and no development.
Now the blow has landed where it hurts the most – food.
PoK and GB have almost run out of atta, the most basic staple. Protests are growing, and people are on the streets. The situation is similar in Balochistan where the Baloch rebel army has been attacking Pak forces. In Sindh, though the MQM has apparently been crushed, the public owes little allegiance to Punjabis.
Cut - to Chetan Bhagat, who proposes (Times of India-ToI 26 February 2023) that we consider re-unification with Pakistan so as to 'help the Pakistani people,' and quotes a CVoter-CPR survey: '44% of Indians back reunification with Pakistan'.
Haven’t you heard the story of Prithviraj Chauhan and Muhammed Ghori, an ‘ancestor’ of today’s Pakistanis? It is said that Chauhan had forgiven Ghori 17 times for attacking his country, only to die at Ghori’s hands eventually.
True or not, the story does contain a lesson—it is stupid to trust those unworthy of trust.
And, whatever you may call the Modi/ Shah/ Rajnath trio, you can’t call them stupid.
No, not the whole of Pakistan. Just cherry-pick the bit that suits us best…
Let me explain.
Yes, Rajnath-ji has repeatedly talked about Kashmir being an integral part of India. There are two different ‘disputed’ zones here – PoK and GB.
PoK has a population of 4mn (million) in an area of 13,300sqkm (square kilometres). It has no real resources or strategic significance, apart from being a small buffer strip between India and Pakistan. The ‘border’, i.e., line of control (LoC), between PoK and India has been quite solidly barriered over the years. If India were to take PoK, the only ‘gains’ would be 4mn mouths to feed and a new border to seal.
GB is quite different. It has only 2mn people in an area of 73,000sqkm. The land is very mountainous with over 50 peaks exceeding 23,000 feet, including K2 which is second only to Mt Everest. Access in and out of GB is possible only at a few places amidst the mountain ranges of Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindukush.
Most importantly, GB has two vital assets.
First, GB is home to three of the world’s largest glaciers outside the polar regions, as well as 14 large lakes. These feed water into over a dozen rivers, some big and some small, most of which flow into the Indus River. The Indus, the lifeblood of Pakistan, starts from Tibet and flows through GB on its way to Pakistan.
Second, China dearly wants access to the Indian Ocean from Xinjiang province in western China – hence, the huge CPEC (China Pakistan economic corridor) project. At its core is the Karakoram highway that runs through GB on its way to Peshawar and beyond.
Water is going to be the subject of future disputes, even wars, amongst nations. Control over the flow in the Indus is tantamount to a stranglehold on Pakistan.
The Karakoram highway is at the heart of China’s access to Gwadar Port on the Indian Ocean. Block this highway, and China is denied this access.
Need I say more?
India already has 1.42bn (billion) people, the highest population of any country in the world, and ample resources of almost every kind, except oil. India doesn’t need another 240mn people, who will grow to 500mn by 2050.
But, the 2mn population of GB—half that of Mumbai—is another matter. India can feed this number for an indefinite period, without breaking a sweat.
How will we get GB?
“Jab mian bibi razi, to kya karega kazi?”…goes the saying.
From all accounts, the population of GB is fed up with the oppression and neglect of Punjab-dominated Pakistan. The boom in Ladakh, post-5 August 2019, is visible to them. Give them a chance, and they will join India.
Who am I to plan the tactics for this to be accomplished? That is the job of the army. But, the 1971 scenario in erstwhile East Pakistan comes to mind, when an oppressed population sought refuge in India, which eventually led to the creation of Bangladesh.
Mind, China and Pakistan are no fools either. China will not stand by and watch while the Karakoram highway slips from its grip. Neither will Pakistan let go of GB easily.
For all we know, Pakistan may well be on its way to handing GB over to China, via a lease perhaps.
If India wants to benefit from the current crisis in Pakistan, before it degenerates into complete chaos, action must be swift and sure.
One last thing.
If GB does move over to India, Balochistan and Sindh may be energised into complete revolt, and KPK might surrender to TTP forces.
Only Punjab (or is it Bunjab?) will remain.
That will be the true ‘Al Bakistan’.
(Deserting engineering after a year in a factory, Amitabha Banerjee did an MBA in the US and returned to India. Choosing work-to-live over live-to-work, he joined banking and worked for various banks in India and the Middle East. Post-retirement, he returned to his hometown Kolkata and is now spending his golden years travelling the world, playing bridge, befriending Netflix & Prime Video and writing in his wife’s travel blog.)