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Lack of Nationalism

Published Mar 23, 2013 04:08pm


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Pakistan's Flag. -Photo by APP
File photo by APP

Why was Pakistan created? What was its genesis and what ideology was driving the Pakistan movement?

These are the questions which have been debated ever since Pakistan came into existence.

While everyone agrees that Pakistan should be modeled around Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s views, the contention arises over what exactly was in his mind for Pakistan?

It did not help that Jinnah died in 1948, just a year after Pakistan was born, with his plans still ambiguously stated. He authored no books and wrote no policy papers.

He delivered many speeches which are freely cherry-picked today, with some finding in them a liberal and secular voice; others an embodiment of Islamic values.

Both sides have been blaming the downfall and chaos in Pakistan on each other.

Liberals argue and blame Zia’s Islamisation as the root of all problems while Islamists blame the westernization and secularization of Pakistan as the crux of all the problems.

The confusion has reached the level of point of no return.

It is about time we stopped arguing over what Jinnah wanted, or what perhaps Iqbal wanted, or whether they were secular or not. There is a desperate need to change the debate in our curriculum, media, and households.

We need to stop moving around the same mulberry bush just to understand the basic structure upon which Pakistan was created.

We need to start asking the right questions to reach the right answers.

The need of the hour is what do we want for Pakistan today and how do we intend to achieve what we want for Pakistan.

Pakistan’s history is filled with instances of wrongdoings on the part of our forefathers.

Who can deny that the right of equality was negated when the concept of minorities was introduced in the Pakistani polity through the Objectives Resolution, or the shattering of the “Two Nation” theory when East Pakistan was separated in 1971 to become Bangladesh, and acknowledging military into politics?

This is our history; we can’t undo it. We cannot continue to protest for actions of the past just because we are too intimidated to accept our responsibilities for the future.

The harsh reality is that Pakistan has been a state since 1947, but is still not a nation.

More precisely, Pakistan is the name of a land and a people inside a certain geographical boundary that lacks the crucial components needed for nationhood including a strong common identity, mental make-up, a shared sense of history and common goals.

In the past efforts were made to unite the people under a catchy slogan about the ideology of Pakistan: “Pakistan ka matlab kya? La illaha illala!” (What is the meaning of Pakistan? There is no God but Allah!).

Unfortunately this phrase did not play the magic it was expected to play, rather it caused certain dominant sects to impose their interpretation of Islam on the smaller sects.

These particular sects also self-acquired the right to declare who can be called a Muslim and who cannot.

Today Pakistan is divided on the one hand between Mohajirs, Pathans, Punjabis and Balochis and on the other between the army, mullahs, landlords and the elite.

Each is trying to impose its views on the other and in doing so they are not only pulling this country towards the deepest abyss of chaos but are also tearing it apart.

We cannot forget that Pakistan was formed for the Muslims of the subcontinent as a state where they were allowed to practice their religion freely; we also cannot forget the fact that Jinnah was a secular person.

He, however, successfully managed to unite a great percentage of the Muslim population of the subcontinent under his leadership for the struggle for a separate homeland.

This unity for the struggle of Pakistan was without any cast or creed differences.

However, today the same cast and creed differences have so profoundly seeped into our society that they are tearing down everything from conscience to morality.

The magic words about any system to be explicitly successful are: Confidence and Thought.

Confidence in a system comes from equitability, justice and sustainability. Plato noted that “thinking is man’s natural instrument for problem solving….any problem could be solved by thought”.

The thinking people of the new and educated generation need to perceive plan and play a defining role in rebuilding the future of Pakistan.

The question is that forgetting our past are we willing to do the right thing for a secure and stable future?

Are we ready to repose confidence in our system?

If not, then are we thinking of playing a defining role in rebuilding the Pakistani society and the Pakistani system in which we can repose confidence?

The answer is that at the moment we are not ready and why not, because we are willing to satisfy ourselves by blaming everyone for the current state of affairs in Pakistan.

What we forget is blaming the bureaucracy, the army and the politicians for corruption, instability and bad governance.

Blaming India for internal anarchy, and the age old saying that whatever is happening in Pakistan is because of America is just an easy way out to escape reality.

The bureaucracy, the army and the politicians did, and are doing, what they are best capable of.

The question now is whether we as citizens can rebuild and put Pakistan together in some new order.

Can we turn our challenges into opportunities?

What is it that Pakistan does not have to offer?

It is blessed with fertile land, countless natural resources and some of the most talented people in the world.

Pakistan has tremendous potential as a country and if its resources are utilized properly then it has the potential to easily become one of the most developed countries of the world!

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, our country is strategically positioned and we can leverage this advantage in any negotiations with foreign powers.

Also, our country is a mineral treasure of sorts and we need to exploit this treasure to protect our economic interest with a view to substantially reduce our dependence on the debt which has increased astronomically.

The question is: are we wholeheartedly ready to exploit the potential this country offers?

If yes, then are we willing to exploit the potential in the right direction? As things stand, it is easier said than done but it is not impossible.

Our spiritual leaders of the different sects have to set examples for their followers by preaching tolerance.

Our politicians have to set examples for their voters by practicing equality.

Our parents have to set examples for their children by removing prejudices.

Our teachers have to set examples for their students by teaching unity.

We have to set examples for the generations to come to find an identity we have not been able to find yet.

The path to creating a patriotic Pakistani nation is daunting.

As the population explodes, oceans of poverty and misery deepen, limbless beggars in the streets multiply, water and clean air become scarce, education is stalemated, true democracy remains elusive, and the distance from a rapidly developing world increases; one is strongly tempted to step aside, give up and admit helplessness.

We will have to unite and strengthen ourselves and in turn strengthen the state in order to enable it to focus on critical challenges.

These include: defeating the forces of extremism and sectarianism, fighting inflation on a war footing, making government operations less costlier and more efficient, reducing our reliance on debt whether internal or external, fighting corruption, making the working of government more open, improving rule of law by respecting the decisions of the superior judiciary, and most of all rebuilding the edifice of our educational system at all levels.

Though Pakistan conveys the impression of being a heap of paradoxes with ever-escalating internal strife, the overall situation is far from reassuring.

However, references on Pakistan being a “failed state,” “sinking nation” or “failing country” clearly appear to be instances of journalistic hyperbole.

Pakistan has proved these wrong in the past while successfully weathering crises it faced and it will, God willing, do so again.

Pakistan does not need a military take over. Neither does it need a sharia system nor westernization.

All Pakistan needs is a united, vibrant and resilient nation!


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Comments (44) Closed

Raj Mar 23, 2013 11:36am
Too much asking from Pakistani to follow. Start from somewhere and one thing at a time will leads to prosperous Pakistan in next 100 years.
Bharat4Peace Mar 23, 2013 11:57am
Good article. As an Indian I would like to see a stable and prosperous democrat Pakistan which is able to take care of it people. With a shared common heritage we need to work together.
SM Mar 23, 2013 12:24pm
Certainly, No one would find a better articulated piece on the Pakistan Day than this one! Thanks Bilal.
Khanm Mar 23, 2013 12:29pm
You are absolutely right, having the futile debate of past and present and missing out the entire future will get us no where. why we study the history to learn the lesson. I totally failed to understand the point of all of those absurd debates over media. What will it achieve? It is time for action.... The world we see that seems so insane is the result of a belief system that is not working. To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.
uchak Mar 23, 2013 12:36pm
Pakistan is not a failed state and it has a strong ideological status also. It is a country for muslims and it has a future in getting itself to be a part of the Arab world. So the country's planning ought to be to get the muslims to become better muslims religiously and to turn the country, socially, like the Arab countrys so that pakistan goes towards their forefathers culture and religion.
Humaira Mar 23, 2013 01:28pm
Things were just fine till the author suddenly claimed that Jinnah was secular ! A person who divided a people and formed a nation Cannot be secular , Period. It is these types incredulous claims that stop us from accepting facts that are obvious to even a child. These false narratives is what prevents us from becoming a nation.
Balaji Mar 23, 2013 02:48pm
All the best.. and wish you luck sincerely in achieving a stable, united and prosperous pakistan....
Partha Bhattacharya Mar 23, 2013 02:58pm
Yes you are right. But first you need to practice one thing called tolerance. Which is lacking very much. A society cannot progress until it has peace and tolerance. A secular democratic social republican system will serve this purpose. We can expect a modern vibrant enthusiastic PAKISTAN, are we? Best of Luck....
Leo Mar 23, 2013 03:21pm
If religions made a nation Europe would have been one large Christianistan! The idea of Jinnah about Pakistan was a political move for more power where the country was damned and the whole nation paid the price of his intransigence with over 2 million dead and many more displaced. India was and will remain one with all Muslims, Hindus, etc making it one entity. Faults of history like the division of our nation cannot survive beyond few decades. We are a nation simply because we are one culture, one race. May we undo the wrongs of the history as soon as possible. Amen.
rohan Mar 23, 2013 03:47pm
This is a joke...... author knows that there is no scope of nationalism in Islam
MAB Mar 23, 2013 04:23pm
Good analysis. We need to look forward and stop dwelling over the past. What Jinnah may have wanted is not very relevant now. Today's Pakistan is much different and faces profoundly new challenges. Our unity of purpose should bring us together to prosper and create a just society that offers opportunity and hope for the future.
pankaj Mar 23, 2013 04:39pm
Time to bring the two nation theory... sorry for my harsh word .. but u have depicted a very rosy picture.
Ramesh Mohindra Mar 23, 2013 05:11pm
Mr Bilal Hussein, nice sentiments and these should come from a patriotic Pakistani. How do you create a nation, united, is a daunting task. It does not happen over night. It will take three generations to have some semblance of nationhood. That is if you start in the right direction now. I am afraid that is not going to happen. Pakistan has found an enemy and that enemy is within you.
John Mar 23, 2013 05:25pm
I have a suggestion. Why don't you do one thing at a time. First, stop killing each other. Second, stop terrorism in your country, and also stop exporting it to other countries. Because, you won't be able to accomplish anything if you're dead. A Fair minded citizen of the world.
Secular no more Mar 23, 2013 05:39pm
This is not the first article on this subject neither will it be the last....but the situation remains the same.
Mohammad Ali Khan Mar 23, 2013 06:36pm
Remove all hurdles for equal opportunities for every Pakistani.Remove tribalism,remove nepotism,remove corrupt bureaucracy,remove religious fanaticism.Pathans,Punjabis and for lack of a better term,"mohajirs" are nationalist,but not united. Sindhis and Baluchis have feelings of alienation and how can we breach that gap. In other words we need a movement(tehreek).We can't wait for some one else to start it.It is a good thing that we have started a debate.It is an enormous task.Start with introspection with in each of us who have awareness.Act individually.Join when we see a common desire.Organize and grow for collective action. Ms. Parveen was on the right track.Let us pick up where she had left and advance against all odds.
Jamshed Khan Mar 23, 2013 07:25pm
Pakistan lacks nothing. Pakistan has given us everything that anyone could ask for. It is the poeple. The people lack honesty, ingerity and discipline. We should stop blaming a piece of land whch is our home. If we don't look after our home than we are to blame. Yes, we do have a shared, common history and a goal and a mission but we are looking the other way.
Zafar Malik Mar 23, 2013 07:33pm
Every one in Pakistan agrees on at least one thing : Some thing has terribly gone wrong with it. However no two people can agree on what it is and what is a remedy. In fact the problems are clearly multidimensional and there is no simple or linear solution possible. Either the entire ship will sink or if it will float it will be the result of a collective effort. Every individual is directly or indirectly responsible for the current state of affairs, but every one loves to point a finger at some one else. Positive change requires abandoning dogmatic way of thinking, it requires adopting rational, pragmatic and responsible behavior at every level of society.
Ajaya K Dutt Mar 23, 2013 07:35pm
Our spiritual leaders of the different sects have to set examples for their followers by preaching tolerance. Would it not be counter to
Jaggy Mar 23, 2013 08:24pm
what you want is fine, " a vibrant and resilient country" but how is to be achieved? you failed to give a solution.
thomas Mar 23, 2013 09:24pm
Pakistan was formed for the Muslims of the sub-continent. Point accepted. However the point that still needs to be discussed is if Pakistan was created ONLY for Muslims. Who is responsible for the reduction in percentage of Hindu and Christian minorities from 10% in 1951 to 1.7%?
Cyrus Howell Mar 23, 2013 09:27pm
Some put Pakistan first, others put God first. General Zia's attempt them both together failed. Does Pakistan do what God wishes? Does any country do what God wishes.
Mohammed Baluch Mar 23, 2013 09:27pm
One quick fix to instill nationalistic fervor is to make mandatory one year military service for males and females alike. This will teach discipline to young minds, help integrate various ethnic groups, improve women's rights , and reduce the divide between the military and the civilian population.
MK Mar 23, 2013 09:41pm
The main problem is that Pakis always celebrated independence from India(not the british). They do not know the value of independence. Or the curse of slavery. They should be taught correct history as no one(even a highly educated paki) doesn't know much about true heroes of struggle of freedom.
HWG Mar 23, 2013 10:37pm
Your eastern neighbour has managed to stay intact and progress even though its is not as homogenous in religious identity which you claim to have for your very existance. Had you found your peace with your neighbour you would have progressed considerably. But your leaders and powerful institutions thought hatred of neighbour was a tool to retain power and influence the masses and your masses were always led to believe that notion. Shed those qualities, make peace with the neighbour, save billions by not building up military power, and you will progress.
umer Mar 23, 2013 11:04pm
Nice article, Bilal.We need a new system based on the premise that the citizen is supreme and the state should work to increase his happiness. Presently we are told that "sab se pehle Pakistan".
omar qureshi Mar 24, 2013 12:26am
why build a false sense of nationalism when past efforts have been futile.. why not agree on a few common interests and create a strong federation with many near-independent states - the way it was conceptualized in t 1940.
Shahid Khan Mar 24, 2013 12:37am
The idea of Pakistan is rooted in a complex intellectual vision for the Muslims of the subcontinent. It is not based on a kind of simple cultural or social kinship that would make it easy for the average person to identify with. As a result, the average Pakistani citizen is unable to develop a deep connection to the nation. I think the lack of national identity will only get worse with time. As the number of people who actually have some understanding of Jinnah's vision dwindles, so too does the hope for a united country.
pakistan Mar 24, 2013 02:56am
there are strong national views in one section of society that is reaping immense benefits out of this sentiment : the pakistan army. Fauji flakes, Fauji fertilizer, Askari bank, NUST, CMH, DHA, Army channel and the list goes on and on......It is a corporate army and so of course has to protect its money making machine which is Pakistan. Rest are not citizens. They are civilians and since they happen to be "bloody" so they cant have sentiment of nationalism.
umesh bhagwat Mar 24, 2013 04:58am
India and Pakistan are twins! What happens to one has repercussions on the other. The people want cooperation but the elite will not allow it. Both countries have an ostrich mentality and are refusing to admit the obvious.
SaneAsian Mar 24, 2013 06:16am
You said it- God willing! Pakistan, or for that matter any country in South East Asia, cannot achieve progress without junking this God. The term God has done these South East Asian countries in and will continue to do so. You should introspect more. You will find that god and religion are two biggest enemies of the people of this region. Surprisingly, no one talks about trashing these two.
Zeeshan Shamsi Mar 24, 2013 07:04am
Yet, hope is not lost if such wonderful assessment and analysis still exists in our country. Time to press the reset button, and start influencing our immediate surroundings for change rather than waiting for the "messiah" to come and rescue us. Any change, if it ever comes, can only start at the individual level.
Nony Mar 24, 2013 07:12am
We also have to look into few other matters. First of all a nation could only be built when it has its own culture, history, heros and events to be proud of. The tragedy is, we have always admired the culture of conservative Islamic countries instead of continuing the oldest culture of our own provinces. We have been repeatedly told that our history is the history of islam and our heros are the invaders of then muslim kingdoms such as Mohammad bin Qasim and others. We idealize the events of conquering Mandirs and Churchs. This is all where we go totally wrong ideologically. We have intentionally negated the pre-partition history and culture of provinces so that we can make a new start as one nation of Pakistan, however, we tried to link the culture of this new nation with religious events and history which had nothing to do with people living in Pakistan. Apart from this failure to build a nation ideologically, we have also failed to recognize the basic term on which these provinces or states opted to go for Pakistan. We tried to build a strong federation which resulted in breaking the country into two parts, we have not recognized the languages of most of the people living in Pakistan, we still look at Baluchistan being a rich land with useless or complicated people living over it, we do not have trust to bring people into our army and security agencies to practically show that every province has equal stake in this country, certain institutions and a province has assumed the responsibility to control the country. We cannot look into the matters of our choice and assume that all the problems would be over if we solve these handpicked issues, instead it would be better to look into all the issues being raised by majority of people living in various provinces. We have to recognize our own pre-partition history, languages and culture instead of importing it from others. We also have to bring equitable resource distribution system to let everyone feel the ownership of the country.
aryan khan Mar 24, 2013 07:54am
Hashem (Kerala, India) Mar 24, 2013 07:59am
Please make a note.........Pakistan was not created for all the Muslims of the subcontinent rather only for those Muslims for the subcontinent who wanted a separate nation.........So, for God sake, please stop saying the same old story of "pakistan was created for muslims of subcontinent because they can practice their religion freely" Muslims never had problem practicing their religion before the independence/partition, nor is now......Muslims still have right to preach and practice their religion freely........If not, Mr. Zakir Naik and others like him would have been dead by this time, which I believe he would have been if he had been in Pakistan........
Shahid Khan Mar 24, 2013 08:56am
"it has a future in getting itself to be a part of the Arab world" You want to become a part of the Arab world? Are Pakistanis Arab? You are a prime example of a confused national identity.
Shahid Khan Mar 24, 2013 08:58am
You have had almost 60 years to form a nation. If it hasn't happened yet, it is probably never going to happen. Wake up!
raniah Mar 24, 2013 09:46am
Jinnah was secular, he knew he could never lead a united India,however, havin Pakistan would ive him leadership. He was an inspiring leader and provided hope to millions of people who left their homes to live in the land of pure. However, I do aree with this article that we should not look back, but look ahead. Also learn by example. India has thousand more ethnic groups within its nation and 126 languages, however, they have what we lack:nationalism. The Pakistanis have more similarities than differences, but we blame eachother rather than improve ourselves. I really don't know how Pakistan can improve, only a revolutionary leader can bring about change...and that seems like a dream. May Allah help the nation.
Kaly Mar 24, 2013 10:46am
I don't understand one thing...if Pakistan was created for Muslims only, people from other religion should have moved to India and vice-versa, atleast India wouldn't have faced Mumbai blast & other blast etc etc....Yaah...we could have missed a great person like Dr.Kalam who is our hero. Secondly Unless Pakistanis who were basically Hindus(mostly) long back before conversion, should keep their religion in home, in every matter this is as per our religion blah blah is of no use for outside world. We Hindus did modifications in way of life(know as religion) and feels we are far better in this regard. Third thinking my religion is pure , we are true Muslims, doesn't make any sense to others. Free yourself from Mulla's education and keep par with others. Lots of Pakistanis are so talented, need to use in proper way. Hope good sense prevails and all the best to you. By the way DAWN is one of the best newspaper and I read it on regular basis. ----A very ordinary citizen from India
aaa Mar 24, 2013 11:07am
Why do people keep on dissecting national ideology. Jinnah did something good, iqbal was man of vision. The qs is how did one destroy what they made.
hyderphd74 Mar 24, 2013 05:49pm
"Pakistan was created for Muslims of the Subcontinent" is actually a fallacy. The Britishers took control of most of India from the rulers who were the remnants of the Moghul Empire. The remnants who were Muslims. Technically they should have returned the country to the Muslims from whom they had forcefully taken the country. I know this is a very controversial point so I would like to invite any historians to comment/criticize on it.
Shubs Mar 24, 2013 06:33pm
For the sake of all Pakistanis, I hope you are being sarcastic!
Shubs Mar 24, 2013 06:39pm
I'm sorry Umeshji, but bogus moral equivalency, just to sound fair and balanced, is not on. "The people want cooperation but the elite will not allow it. Both countries have an ostrich mentality and are refusing to admit the obvious." Would you care to elaborate?
ram Mar 25, 2013 12:57am
If Jinnah was secular what was his difference with secular India? Remember Millions of lives are lost during partition not to mention around 20 million population displaced, many women children lost their lives during partition, After 70 years there is no sense for Pakistan to be secular besides there are only 2 percent minorities left. It is very important for Pakistan to know its true history.