Raza Habib Raja
Some say that it was never the founder’s intention and consequently the entity when it materialized had no solid footings to begin. The political entity, which came into being on the fateful day of 1947 was born out of chaos, confusion and bloodshed. All of these constituted the birth environment of the country and resulted in a deep paranoia which has prevailed to this day. This environment was dominated by fear of a breakup and consequently the newly formed country lived its early years in constant insecurity. This insecurity was further enhanced due to lack of any powerful leadership and also due to virtual absence of institutional arrangements which are generally essential for keeping an ethnically diverse state cohesive.
Such institutional arrangements were not there for two reasons. First, Pakistan’s founding party Muslim League only became a mass party (that too is arguable whether it ever became one) at a very late stage and it did not have well entrenched roots in all the provinces of Pakistan. At least two provinces, namely NWFP (now Khyber Pukhtunkhawa ) and Baluchistan were less than eager to join the federation and in both Muslim League was relatively weak. The demand for Pakistan was not uniform and even Bengal and Sindh (the two provinces who had voted for it) had perhaps supported it as a means to greater provincial autonomy in the future. It is argued and with justification that one of the reasons as to why they voted for Pakistan was that they had assumed that they would be granted greater autonomy in Pakistan compared to India, as they shared at least the same religion with the other inhabitants.
Secondly and as mentioned earlier that Pakistan was not even what perhaps the founder himself had really wanted. A credible and a well-established narrative actually states that Pakistan had been thought of as a bargaining ploy to ensure a better representation for Muslims in a United India. However, the circumstances in the last days of British Raj did not shape up that way and the bargaining ploy instead materialized into a reality which perhaps no one was prepared for.
Pakistan thus came into being as a weak state characterized by constant fear of break up which due to its ethnical diversity was only going to worsen with time. In those early years, it was perhaps natural that country tried to over centralize and went for a very strong center with even stronger establishment institutions. But that was not all. In the absence of democratic traditions as well as mechanism (which Pakistan movement did not have), in order to resolve the issue of ethnical diversity in a rational way, the country also went for a host of supplementary measures to foster cohesion. Chief amongst those were stress on strengthening Islamic identity and whipping up fear of India.
Both these ideological tactics, political usage of Islam and fear/hatred of India, were used to “unite” a country that had come into this world virtually unprepared. These measures over the years were not gradually phased out but rather further enhanced.
Rather than try to build a nation through granting enough space to various ethnicities, we have just relied on centralization, political Islam and supplementing these two with fear and hatred of India. These tactics have not solved the issue of ethnic demands of greater autonomy but have created a bigoted schizophrenic mentality which hates minorities, fears diversity and looks for foreign conspiracies everywhere.
Centralization over the years has led to a state structure favoring Punjab and has deepened fissures in the polity. We are apparently united and in reality breaking apart. We created one unit to negate the population advantage of Bengalis, denied them their demand for greater autonomy and eventually conducted a bloody crackdown. We lost East Pakistan and instead of learning the lesson went back with a renewed vigor towards imposing more of “real” Islam.
Whipping up religion has made us bigoted and relegated us to nothing but a polity riddled with sectarian violence and mindless extremism. And yet we seek further solace in religion and get ourselves even more entangled. Today the world mistrusts us and the green passport has become a bane to its holders. Literally every major act of terrorism is traced back to Pakistan and yet we are unable to even recognize the linkage. Everything becomes either a grand conspiracy of our enemies or when the evidence is just too damning then a reaction to US atrocities.
The state cultivated fear of India though weakened in recent years (as the main enemy needed to “unite” Pakistan has been replaced by our friend of yesteryears, the United States) continues and we keep dreaming about Ghazwa Hind and feeding the big white elephant, the Pakistan army. As our neighbor zooms ahead in economic sphere, we lag behind still deeply engulfed in the paranoia that it wants to “conquer” Pakistan and undo partition. Frankly, now the fear is completely nonsensical and is actually an outcome of our misplaced image about ourselves. Who will like to takeover Pakistan with its so many social as well economic problems? Ironically today India’s interest is more likely to be a stable Pakistan not a weak Pakistan. And yet the threat is still needed to keep us together and to keep on feeding a large army.
Sixty five years have passed and today looking back, I ask frankly what is there to celebrate? In the failed state index of 2011 Pakistan ranked 12th.Only Afghanistan and Iraq rank higher among Asian countries. As a state we were placed in the category of “critical” and shared that category with completely war torn African and Asian countries. What we consider our achievements (such as nuclear arsenal), are actually the fears of the rest of the world. A recent Gallup survey revealed that nuclear arsenal is considered to be the most important achievement by most of the Pakistanis. Since insecurity has always been with us therefore even our perceived achievements are devices which can kill millions. The irony that actually it has not made us secure and we have ended up protecting the device, is totally lost on us. We have such misplaced priorities that sometimes I feel whether the entire nation has gone bonkers. We get agitated over drone attack which are supposed to kill the militants and yet silent when Hazara Shias are murdered by militants. As a nation, we do not have the basic morality to stand up for minorities. In fact we are not able to condemn monsters like Taliban even when they target the urban areas of Pakistan.
Our heroes are gutter minded scientists like Doctor Abdul Qadeer Khan who actually stole the technology from the other countries to build the bomb and subsequently sold the parts to rogue states of the world. And add to it his shameless bigoted views against minorities. And that person which ideally should have been hated even in “nationalist” and rightwing sense is a revered figure. And while we esteem a creep like him, the real hero, Pakistan’s only Nobel Laureate, Dr. Abdul Salam is virtually ignored just because of his Ahmedi faith.
Our Judiciary instead of delivering justice to ordinary man is more concerned about Katrina’s legs shown on the TV, once again showing the role of religion in almost every aspect of life. And yet despite so called anti vulgarity slogans, Pakistan continues to be the global leader in porn downloads!
We are not a nation but a joke and riddled with contradictions and will remain so unless we get rid of that paranoia which has existed from the inception of this country. We need to stop fearing diversity and plurality. The main source of all the problems is this fear that ethnic diversity if allowed to form political expression will break up Pakistan and to tackle this our establishment over the years has adopted measures.
Today on the eve of Pakistan’s 65th birthday, I do not want to say “Happy Birthday Pakistan” but rather advise “Think Pakistan”.