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Smokers’ Corner: Shifting sands


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Ever since the 1980s, urbanisation in Pakistan has been galloping at a brisk pace. This has affected demographics and the political and economic cultures of almost all major urban centres of Pakistan.

One is likely to comprehend this by studying  election results in the big cities during some of the most telling general elections in the country.

There have been nine direct general elections based on adult franchise in Pakistan.

At least three of these (1977, 1985 and 1990) have largely been discarded as being bogus, even though the rest (apart from the ones held in 1970), cannot be judged as being entirely fair either.

But the 1970, 1988, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2008 elections certainly hold enough meat and credibility to deserve a study in the context of the shifting political, economic and social dynamics of big cities.

Such a study is also important because rapid urbanisation in Pakistan has affected the growing political ambitions of the country’s middle and lower-middle-classes, and the fact is that even though elections in Pakistan as a whole are still not being contested on issue-basis, these issues do come into play in big cities.

I have chosen four cities: Karachi (in Sindh); Lahore (Punjab); Peshawar (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Quetta (Balochistan).

In Karachi, elections were held on seven National Assembly (NA) seats in 1970. Two of these seats were won by the pro-Barelvi Islamic party — Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP) — two were won by the conservative Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), two by the centre-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and one by an independent.

Karachi’s population in 1970 had an overwhelming Mohajir (Urdu-speaking) majority, most of which was politically aligned with JUP and JI.

Though socially liberal, the Mohajirs were politically conservative because being migrants from India, they were not considered to be ‘sons of the soil’ and the concept of ‘unity in faith (Islam)’ appealed to them because they had yet to declare themselves to be a separate ethnic entity like the Sindhi, Pashtun, Baloch and Punjabi.

The two seats that PPP won in Karachi were both in areas that had a majority of Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun working-class populations where the party’s socialist manifesto attracted more support.

In Lahore, eight NA seats were up for grabs during the 1970 election. All eight were won by  PPP.

PPP’s appeal in Lahore cut across classes and not only did the city respond well to the party’s socialist manifesto, but also to its animated anti-India posturing.

In Peshawar, NA election in 1970 was held on four seats. Two of these were won by the left-wing National Awami Party (NAP) — a party consisting of Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun nationalists and progressive Mohajirs — and one seat each was won by the conservative Pakistan Muslim League-(Qayyum), and the Deobandi Islamic party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI).

The PPP failed to win even a single NA seat in Peshawar.

Since Pashtun nationalist sentiment was strong at the time, the city’s large Pashtun population voted for NAP, whereas some Pashtun and Hindko speakers of the city preferred PML-Q and JUI.

Quetta had just two NA seats in 1970. One each was won by NAP and JUI.

The next significant general election to take place was in 1988, after the 1977 election was declared null and void and then a military regime ruled the country from 1977 till 1988.

A non-party election was held by the dictatorship in 1985 that was boycotted by almost all major parties.

The number of NA seats in Karachi increased to 13 during the 1988 election. The city had witnessed a mixture of economic boom as well as ethnic and sectarian strife in the 1980s. Crime also increased two-fold.

The Mohajir population decreased from being over 60 per cent in 1970 to about 51 per cent in 1988 (1981 consensus). The Punjabi population of the city grew to about 15 per cent and so did the city’s Baloch, Pashtun and Sindhi segments.

The Mohajirs (including the Gujrati-speaking Memons), had organised themselves as a separate ethnic entity in 1984 under the radical and secular Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM).

This meant a huge reduction in the vote-bank of right-wing religious parties, JI and JUP in the city.

Eleven of 13 NA seats in Karachi were won by  MQM. The remaining two were won by PPP — again, in areas largely populated by the Baloch, Sindhi, Punjabi and the Pashtun.

Lahore had nine NA seats in the 1988 election. The PPP had swept the city in 1970 but not this time.

A new middle and lower middle-class had begun to emerge in the city during the reactionary Ziaul Haq dictatorship. These classes saw the nine-party alliance, the Islami Jamhoori Ittihad (IJI), as being closer to their new-found ideological and economic interests.

The IJI was led by Pakistan Muslim League that had been given a reboot by the Zia regime in 1985. IJI also included right-wing Islamic parties.

PPP picked up six of the nine seats in Lahore in 1988. IJI won two seats and one was won by Pakistan Awami Ittihad (PAI).

The 1988 NA elections in Peshawar were held on four seats — all four won by PPP — a remarkable achievement considering the fact that the party had failed to win a single seat here in 1970.

Peshawar had become flushed with Afghan refugees and the destructive impact that Pakistan’s involvement in the US and Saudi backed ‘Afghan jihad’ against the Soviets in neighbouring Afghanistan directly impacted KP.

Also, Pashtun nationalism was in retreat, replaced by the Islamic radicalisation witnessed in Pashtun areas as a consequence of the so-called jihad.

The city reacted to this by overwhelmingly voting for the centre-left PPP.

Election in Quetta was held on only one seat in 1988. The seat was won by JUI.

Karachi went into the 1993 election with 13 NA seats. MQM boycotted the NA election due to a military operation against its cadres during the first Nawaz Sharif government (1990-93).

Six seats were won by  Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that had become a separate outfit after IJI collapsed; another six were won by the PPP and one was won by JI. The voter turnout, however, was extremely low due to MQM’s boycott.

The 1993 election in Lahore was held on nine seats. Eight of these went to PML-N and PPP managed to win just one.

The PPP’s electoral grip over the city had finally loosened as the growing sense of Punjabi ethnic sensibilities and the continuing expansion in the city’s middle and trader classes mostly benefitted the conservative PML-N.

The 1993 election in Peshawar was contested on three NA seats. Two were won by PPP and one by the Pashtun nationalist outfit, the Awami National Party (ANP).

Quetta again had just one NA seat. This was won by the Pashtun nationalist party, the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP).

During the 1997 election, MQM returned with a bang to win 10 of 13 NA seats contested in Karachi. Two were won by PML-N and just one by PPP.

In Lahore, eight of the nine seats were bagged by PML-N and one was won by an independent. PPP won none.

The PPP’s debacle was explained as a reaction to the alleged misrule and corruption of the second Benazir Bhutto regime (1993-96).

ANP wiped out PPP in Peshawar by wining all three NA seats, whereas in Quetta PML-N won the solitary NA seat.

During the 2002 election, held under the dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf, Karachi was allotted 20 NA seats.

Out of these, 13 were won by the MQM, five by the right-wing Islamic alliance, the Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), and two by PPP.

Lahore had 13 NA seats in 2002. Four were won by PML-N, three by MMA and PPP (that made a comeback of sorts here), two by PML-Q (a faction of PML formed by the Musharraf regime) and one by Tahirul Qadri’s moderate Barelvi party, the Pakistan Awami Ittihad.

All four NA seats in Peshawar were won by MMA, mainly due to a reaction against the Musharraf regime’s support for US military operation in Afghanistan.

The two NA seats in Quetta were also won by MMA.

By the 2008 election, all major cities of the country had been hit multiple times in terrorist attacks by extreme Islamist and sectarian outfits and were experiencing the economic fall-out of a collapsing dictatorship.

Even though the Mohajir population in Karachi had reduced to about 41 per cent, 17 of 20 NA seats in Karachi were won by MQM. Three were won by PPP.

PML-N reversed its weak performance in 2002 in Lahore by winning 10 of 13 Lahore NA seats, while the remaining three were won by PPP.

Reacting to the misrule of MMA’s provincial government in KP and rising cases of extremist violence in Peshawar, Peshawarites opted for PPP and ANP. Each won two seats out of four in Peshawar.

Both NA seats in Quetta were bagged by PPP.

Author Image

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and He is also the author of two books on the social history of Pakistan, End of the Past and The Pakistan Anti-Hero.

He tweets @NadeemfParacha

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (43) Closed

Pak Super Power 2030 Mar 10, 2013 11:12am
Abbas-Toronto, I enjoy reading your posts a lot. You are next NFP (Crazy Diamond 25)
sid Mar 11, 2013 08:34am
Mr. Abbas, is Toronto where you live or is somewhere you want to live in either case your rant is fairly hollow and even though it is full of some smart observation of events that took place in history, you come across as a loud mouth self gratifying hypocrite.
Cyrus Howell Mar 10, 2013 08:32am
Don't ask. Don't tell. Especially don't tell.
@Bakhat_Nasr Mar 10, 2013 08:50am
I m glad that NFP writes this kind of a column.Who are condeming Nadeem for not showing his kind of stuff in today's corner,for them ...Did they bring a change in theirself first? It s time to change the taste too,as our taste buds are loosing the sense of taste. We read & then forget,We are the most forgetful Nation.And surely we don't have courge to embrace the reality.As soon I may feel it via your responses.
Vaddi Mar 10, 2013 08:08am
What did you smoke in the morning or have angel started revealing to you too
Asad Mar 10, 2013 07:45am
Fight between Islam and Capitalism??Pakistan has neither of much Islam or capitalism. New world order,other form of absolute control by capitalism.You are contradicting yourself.Islam an urban religion?news to me."Pakistan urban areas turning in to something like Medina".I should reserve my comment otherwise Dawn will censor me.My dear Mr.Abbastoronto,I know some states are trying to make 'pot' legal in the US,perhaps the Canadiens have already done that.
Mawish Mar 11, 2013 04:01am
Yes sands are shifting. It will be confirmed when PTI clean sweeps elections 2013
Nasir Mar 10, 2013 03:42pm
seriously, you are spoiling the fun here.
Patriot Pakistani Mar 10, 2013 02:07pm
i am surprised at the depth of your knowledge.BJP was in minority and formed the government with the alliance of other parties and if Congress had 51% votes then it was a majority vote.But MQM has only 41% votes so even if their voters vote more than any other they would only have 12 seats,now one wants to know how did they get 5 more than they would have?
abbastoronto Mar 10, 2013 03:28pm
Correction: ... India lacks ?Free? enterprise, not being business-friendly (US #1, Pakistan #2 in world surveys) ... Apologies.
Tahir A Mar 11, 2013 12:18am
What have a dialog with a mad monk. Go on.Make yourself heard to Madrsah audiences only.
Rafi Mar 10, 2013 02:56pm
Just figures no analysis or predictions.
abbastoronto Mar 10, 2013 02:51pm
Tahir A: AOA Rising crime, pollution, corruption and political volatility associated with urbanization ? Are you speaking of Karachi, or here where I live, with a murder rate 5 times of Karachi? Mecca was no different. But necessity being the mother of invention, people will always find a solution in coups, revolutions, etc. Solutions never emerge until systems are at breaking point. In 1970 I attended an open lecture on Corruption in Pakistan by Ali Tayab, author of the ?Geography of Pakistan? and a University of Toronto ?University Professor? (only 14 are selected). He theorized then that corruption only re-establishes Free Market prices - a very sensible hypothesis. Thus, the solution to corruption is less government. State ownership and socialism only increases the chances of this cancer. The only time I ever was forced to bribe was in India 1991 (to have my mother's visa extended by 2 weeks) and in Iran 1985 (to have my exit changed from Bazargan to Tehran), never in Pakistan. Yes, Pakistan has corruption, but people are also vocal about this menace. Those who have lived here in America and Canada long time will tell you that people in Pakistan steal, but here they rob you in broad daylight and legally, and with sums orders of magnitude Pakistanis could hardly imagine. The 10,000,000 Pakistanis abroad are ready to contribute more than the $20B they send annually. They live abroad, and when time is ripe they do go back ? Jinnah, Sharif, Bhutto, Qadri, now Musharraf. Expect many of us back soon for action even if the misguided CJ is trying to limit our access. Most Parties in Pakistan are urban with little rural content. PPP?s origin are Sind with strongest feudal content. Bhuttos/Zardari are feudal. Sarcasm will get you a temporary lift, but I suggest you ponder on the facts and figures and respond rationally for a fruitful dialog. Wassalam
Assistant Director Mar 10, 2013 03:31am
extremely boring. not the kind NFP writes generally.
windcock Mar 10, 2013 09:08pm
Hey, man, why don't you go back to Pakistan and try creating the utopia you're raging about, uh? Put your $ where your mouth is. And, please, will you pass that joint on your way out?
gp65 Mar 10, 2013 09:04pm
No one questions your figures because you have not offered any other than crime statistics in your city without sharing what city you live in. Please also quote the survey where US is no. 1 business friendly and Pakistan is #2 as claimed by you?
windcock Mar 10, 2013 09:04pm
Islam tell us to reflect. Hmmmm. I wonder what Buddhism and Jainism tell us.
Kdspirited Mar 10, 2013 06:21pm
I think the moral of this story is the tides are shifting. The questionable ways MQM PML-N and PPP have managed to win more seats than alloted voters is not an enigma. We are not a democratic country. Going to vote does not mean you are free to vote. People are frightened, threatened and blackmailed into voting in every election. And if all else fails they are paid off. Until our nation rejects and stands up against these practices they will continue to see the same parties and the same faces. But these statistics show that in many cases the past influences people and issues caused them to rise up and vote against the status quo. In every election there was a shift. Albiet a small one. But in large cities people feel more free to vote with their hearts. We are all counting on it in 2013. I hope we can see a big shift here and people will vote for change. come on Pakistan you can do it
Nasir Mar 10, 2013 03:38pm
Just to be clear these comments are for Mr Toronto in MIchigan.
abbastoronto Mar 10, 2013 05:18am
While history is to learn a lesson, one must never ignore the context. There are certain new elements today that were not present in the 1970s making the past experience much less valuable. 1. 1979 defeat of pax-Americana in Iran at hands of Shia Islam. 2. 1980s defeat of godless Corporate Socialism at hands of Sunni Islam. 3. Obliteration of 1826 Monroe Doctrine at hands of Al-Quaeda 4. Financial meltdown of Corporate Capitalism and bankruptcy of Europe 5. Weakening of IMF, World Bank, world jewry 6. Rise of China 7. Global urbanization, Globalization and Free Trade Then the world was bi-polar between Right vs Left (both Western origin). Today the battle is Right vs Wrong, god-fearing vs godless (East, West, worldwide). In early days Pakistan played a secondary role on world level, today?s fight between Islam and Capitalism puts Pakistan at centre stage as never before. Of the alphabet soup of Parties in Pakistan, those most able to answer to needs of the New World Order will gain ground, others bite dust. Pakistan is the most urbanized of South Asia and gap with others (India, Sri Lanka) is increasing because Islam the urban religion encourages it. With increasing urbanization Pakistan is becoming more and more like Medina of our Prophet?s time. In this setting the only way to succeed is to hammer a joint front of workers and peasants as done by our Prophet Mohammed A.S. in Medina (that was not possible in Mecca) and to some extant later by Lenin and Mao. PPP is the only party in Pakistan with feudal elements, but to succeed it will have to increase its urban content by strengthening its urban appeal or by alliance with purely urban parties.
Hassan J Mar 10, 2013 05:29am
What the hell was this. A statistical over view. NFP where are your analysis? We expected you to do much better. Seems like your mind is distracted given poor performance of MQM & PPP.
windcock Mar 10, 2013 08:58pm
LOL! On a serious note, no, it's not because they have too much time but because of other reasons. One of them is that many of them have might have had half-baked intellect or not too much exposure to their own countries/cultures, forget the wider world. So, they end up in the strange environment and do the best they can to adjust but also cling on to what they brought along, their comfort blanket or teddy bear, so to say. It happens to be their uneducated or perverted practice of their own (provincial) politic and religion which usually has nothing to do with spirituality. There you have it. It's not just Western Muslims. We have several Hindus too from India (where I grew up) who have shockingly constipated worldviews and distorted perspective and practice of their own faith. The same goes for some Jewish populations in America who might be much less enlightened than the Israeli left and more invested in a distorted emotive worldview. What surprises me though about this poster is that he is from Toronto. I always thought the Canadians are better, more progressive. But then, who knows, stupidity is nobody's monopoly. Or, perhaps, Asad actually hit bulls eye and Canada legalized stuff....Good one, Asad!
Tahir Mar 10, 2013 06:17am
Shifting sands indeed. Most interesting how the battle kept on shifting between PPP and PML-N in Lahore and between PPP and ANP in Peshawar.
observer Mar 10, 2013 06:33am
I disagree with 1997 election being fair or even close to fair. Look at the strangely skewed pattern on popular votes versus NA seats grabbed by different parties. Also, election of 2002 was not noted for its fairness. Let us see what the 2013 election brings in big cities. At least election of 2013 is not expected to be rigged. It is only PTI that is already saying something like this: If PTI does not win all the seats all over Pakistan by huge margin, then the election must have been rigged.
Fahad Rehman Mar 10, 2013 06:41am
Exactly not his style of writing. But it makes a lot of sense and relevance seeing that the elections are probably around the corner and it is giving the readers a very good insight into how the electoral process and different parties have evolved and lost and succeeded on various occasions depending upon various circumstances during different eras.
Accountant Mar 10, 2013 06:58am
Not very interesting but one wonders how come MQM gets 17 out 20 seats keeping in mind the fact that the Mohajir population was reduced to 41 percent and the fact that MQM is purely an ethnic group.
Tahir Mar 10, 2013 06:59am
Well said, Fahad. This is a very straight forward article but very telling at the same time. As I see it, it is suggesting that there is electoral room opening for third forces like PTI in all the major cities, except maybe Quetta. Very precise and informative article.
Tahir Mar 10, 2013 07:02am
Karachi has a massive population. 41 percent still constitutes a huge sum of people. But the effects of Mohajir population shrinking were felt in the Provincial Assembly elections in Karachi in 2008 in which for the first time the Pushtun ANP won 2 seats.
Shoaib Mar 10, 2013 07:14am
it must have taken quite a lot of time to put all this factual data in order. Good job.
Cyrus Howell Mar 10, 2013 07:21am
In the Third World there is no longer farm land to be divided between family members. Manual farm work is hard and so young people prefer to try "the big city". In countries were women are relatively safe if the first born is a woman she will go to the city first (as a brother would) to work, go to school and establish an apartment where the siblings can follow. This is the trend in every country of the developing world. In democracies there are men who will help the newcomers with some of their initial problems like finding some a job and a place to stay to bring in the vote. That's how the Irish ward bosses did it in America.
Tahir A Mar 10, 2013 09:50am
PPP is the only party in Pakistan with feudal elements ? I nearly fell off my chair. We are waiting for a person, perhaps of your stature and financial acumen and vision to come to Pakistan and replicate the urbanization pilot programs to match up with your perceived Medina model. Personally I think it will take a little more than a few bags of dates, sheep and camels under your concept of Exchange Economy to achieve it ? if ever. With the rising crime, pollution, corruption and political volatility associated with urbanization, the only major source of income under the Exchange Economy that I can think is the continuation of hijacking of vehicles and kidnapping of innocent people (quite rampant in Pakistan) and demanding ransom in exchange of the seized people. And not to forget, the blossoming exchange economy of Afghani opium through Pakistan with US dollars.
Prak Mar 10, 2013 07:54pm Here you friendly ranking, Pak is not 2nd. So much for facts.
rich Mar 10, 2013 11:24am
because other voted are divided bet ppp,anp,mullah theis party and mullah that party so if majority mohajirs vote mqm then they can win more seats as compared to voted polled eg bjp ruled the country but had polled less then 30% voted same with congress in india only after indira gandi was assainated did congress poll 51% voted and had got absolute majority in parliment govt is not formed on number of voted polled as in some countries but nos of seat won irrespective of votes, i can win a seat with just 1% margin for all it matters
Patriot Pakistani Mar 10, 2013 11:37am
It is very surprising analysis as it does not include the most potent force or farce of ISI in Pakistani elections as I heard on BBC here that some of Muslim league N candidates won more votes than there were registered I do not know where the ghost votes came from or who produced them.If NFP wants to know the truth and he should as a journalist tell other people the same he should refer to Asghar khan case.Coming to MQM winning 17 out of 20 seats in Karachi with only 40% vote does not need rocket science to come to conclusion.
Samina Sattar Mar 10, 2013 05:08pm
these elections are going to be different. almost everyone has a cell phone and can take pictures also.every one will be a n observer. its very difficult to cover up and deny anything.remember what happened to Romney with his 47 percent remark.maybe things will change for the better. as for the Canadian stay there and read your religious text and leave Pakistan, alone we have suffered enough at the hands of his kind.we don't like you.
abbastoronto Mar 10, 2013 02:28pm
abbastoronto Mar 10, 2013 02:30pm
Pak Super Power 2030: AOA NFP may be a Diamond, but he is hardly crazy. With 65 years of collected experience, tomorrow?s diamonds are less likely to go crazy. The word today is Islam, right, left, and centre. Islam tells us to reflect and learn from others? mistakes. 1. Past diamonds are from the ?Left?, today aimless, but sympathetic to Islam if not outright converting. 2. Women are beating men in academics worldwide. With feet on terra firma they go less crazy. 3. 10,000,000 Pakistanis abroad are still part of the system. They bring in wealth of world experience (20,000,000 Indians do not, Hinduism ties you to land). Pakistanis abroad are always active in local politics. 4. Left?s drinking, a minor sin, led to bigger ones. World is waking up to dangers of smoking too. Weak body means weak soul, weak thoughts, weak staying power, thus failure. Pakistan a superpower 2030? Islam?s goal is to perfect mankind at the ?Individual? level, unlike Socialism, Capitalist Democracy, et al who target social groups, nations, countries. Pakistan is an artificial construct hurriedly set up only because Nehru/Patel would not give Indian Muslims freedom to practice their socio-economics, just as in today?s India Muslims can do their ritual but not put it into practice as the system is not conducive to it. India?s 40 years practiced Socialism, today Reaganomics/Thatcherism, both un-Islamic. Islam is religion of small business, and India lacks ?Free? enterprise, being business-unfriendly (US #1, Pakistan #2 in world surveys). In contrast to Democracy, the Republic is individual minded. France produces crazy Diamonds galore, and do does US. In tomorrow?s borderless world Islam will prevail but anyone with superpower illusions will bite dust inshallah (India take note). Allah is the only Superpower. Did you notice no one picks fight with the facts and figures I post. Are they too strong for them. As Keynes put it ?Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking.? He also remarkably lamented ?I work for a Government I despise for ends I think criminal.? LOL. Wassalam
Nasir Mar 10, 2013 03:35pm
No Canadians (legalized pot) have not and that's why he lives in Michigan (probably somewhere rural), while using handle that says Toronto. He is high on the Opium that Karl Marx mentioned (religion), so he is "blind dumb and deaf..." what happened just a day ago in Lahore probably has a precedence in Medina in "his history" need I say any further. I just watched the coverage of this event and your gibberish here has just made my brain go off limit, so please open your eyes and ears and be careful with your mouth, and please take challenge from Quran "So why you don't think".
excalibur Mar 10, 2013 03:14pm
It is foolish to believe that all votes are cast on strictly ethnic lines
dancer Mar 10, 2013 01:20pm
lol good one asad sometimes i wonder why western muslims are so much more radicalized and talk nonsense.. may be they have to much time on their hands as govt is babysitting them ...
Magister Mar 11, 2013 03:40pm
Not a very lucid article. A very incohesive and grammatically challenged beginning. For example, the first sentence: "Ever since the 1980s, urbanisation in Pakistan has been galloping at a brisk pace." could have more convincing and precise if it read: The urbanization in Pakistan has been steadily shifting since the 1980s. Which is more lucid and inviting as an opening statement. But as with all non-native practitioner of the English language the zeal to cement their knowledge of a foreign language mostly results in the perfuse use of archaic phrases and incohesive sentence structure.
abbastoronto Mar 11, 2013 04:02pm
I am trying to locate the recent world survey about people's positive attitude toward business that placed Americans as 1st and Pakistanis as close 2nd. It is natural for Muslims to be pro-business, since Islam was founded by a businessman/trader. While Hinduism does have a trading sub-caste, the caste-division means that some look down on them, and their preference does not represent 100% of the populace. The link by prak refers to countries with legal infrastructure most suited for business. That is not the same thing.
abbastoronto Mar 11, 2013 04:07pm
The Quran time and again asks people to reflect rationally on reality around them, aside from the prayers that are ritualistic and congregational, thus not meditative. Budhdism and Jainism are meditative in prayers, but not reflective on nature around them.