By Sufian Qazi
There is a consensus in modern genetics that anatomically modern humans first arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa between 73,000 and 55,000 years ago. The first remains of settled life dating back to 7000 BCE, which involved the transition from foraging to farming and pastoralism, can be traced in Mehrgarh Civilization in Balochistan. By 4500 BCE, settled life had spread more widely and began to gradually evolve into the Indus Valley Civilization, which was contemporaneous with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. This civilization flourished between 2500 BCE and 1900 BCE in what today is Pakistan. It is well known for sophisticated urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage, and water supply system.
The Indian history begins with the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization and the coming of the Aryans. These two phases are usually described as the pre-Vedic and Vedic age. The word “Hindu” originates from the Sanskrit word for river, Sindhu. The Indus River running through northwest India into Pakistan received its name from the Sanskrit term Sindhu. The Persians designated the land around the Indus River as Hindu, a mispronunciation of the Sanskrit Sindhu. Then India saw an era of Vedic civilization, flourishing along the river Saraswati, named after the Vedas, which depict the early literature of the Hindus. The two greatest epics of this period were the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, still held in great reverence by the followers of Hinduism.
Gandhara, a historical region in what is now northwestern Pakistan, corresponding to Peshawar and Taxila and having extensions into the lower valleys of the Kabul and Swat rivers, became hub of Buddhist civilization. In 327 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered Gandhara as well as the Indian satrapies of the Persian Empire. During military expeditions, his beloved horse, Bucephalus, died in what is now Punjab, Pakistan, after the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC. The horse was reportedly buried at Jalalpur Sharif, a small town situated a short distance to the southwest of Jhelum. After conquering Gandhara and solidifying his supply line back to Bactria, Alexander combined his forces with the King Ambhi of Taxila and crossed the River Indus in July 326 BCE to begin the Archosia (Punjab) campaign.
After a battle with Seleucus Nicator (Alexander’s successor in Asia) in 305 BCE, the Mauryan Emperor extended his domain up to and including present North-West Pakistan. With the completion of the Empire’s Grand Trunk Road, the region prospered as a center of trade. Gandhara remained a part of the Mauryan Empire for about a century and a half. Emperor Ashoka, the grandson of Chandragupta, then unified India in the fifth century and later converted to Buddhism, and it is in his reign that Buddhism spread in many parts of Asia. Gandhara was then successively ruled by Indo-Greeks, Shakas, Parthians, and Kushans.
In 712, Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf of Umayyad Caliphate, sent 6,000 select Syrian and Iraqi soldiers, a camel corps of equal strength and a baggage train of 3,000 camels to Sindh under the command of his nephew and son in-law, Imad-ud-din Muhammad bin Qasim, a young boy of just seventeen years. Muhammad bin Qasim first captured Daibul. He then turned towards Nirun, near modern Hyderabad, where he easily overwhelmed the inhabitants. Dahir decided to oppose the Arabs at Aror. After a fierce struggle, Dahir was overpowered and killed. Aror fell into the hands of the Muslims. The Arab forces then occupied Aror and proceeded towards Multan. Along the way, the Sikka (Uch) fortress, situated on the bank of the Ravi, was also occupied. The Hindu ruler of Multan offered resistance for two months after which the Hindus were overpowered and defeated. The Muslim conquest of Sindh forever changed the course of history of the Indian subcontinent.
After the conquest of Gandhara region by Maḥmūd of Ghaznavi in the 11th century AD, the region was held by various Muslim slave dynasties. Finally, in the 16th Century, the Muslim Mughal Empire started to rise. One of the greatest empires of India, the Mughal Empire was a rich and glorious one, with the whole of India united and ruled by one monarch. Islam became a dominating political force ruling the subcontinent for almost a millennium. With the advent of East India Company in 18th century and subsequent British rule in the subcontinent, Muslim separate identity led to two-nation theory. The Muslims of India demanded a separate homeland, Pakistan. The dream was eventually realized in 1947 with the relentless efforts of All India Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
When one look at the entire Indian subcontinent’s history, the region what is now Pakistan has remained central. From Mehrgarh civilization to Muslim rules, this part of land has unparalleled historical value. Therefore, it would not be wrong to call contemporary Pakistan as true heir of the Indian history. Pakistan is not an overnight project but the story of Pakistan is a culmination of events dating back to thousands of years. As Sir Winston Churchill rightly pointed out that a nation that forgets its past has no future; thus, it is imperative to teach young generation regarding glorious history of this region.
The writer is Islamabad-based independent researcher.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.