The Punjabi elites, when the question of distribution of national resources and allotment of quota in the services (both civil and military) comes up, become thoroughbred Punjabis albeit in a hushed manner to claim the largest chunk of the national pie with the legal and constitutional claim; being the biggest entity of the Federation they deserve all that jazz, while at the same time raising their shrill voice in a loud chorus that they are nothing but Pakistanis. And they do all this in the ‘national interest’. Funny logic!

T.S. Eliot put it so well though in a different context; ‘a tedious argument of insidious intent to lead you to an overwhelming question —.’ The overwhelming question is why the Punjabi elites own and disown their Punjabi identity in the same breath? The owning is in fact sham; it is a handy ploy to perpetuate their position of dominance in the economic and political domains. The formula, if you scratch its surface, is weirdly interesting; be Punjabis to extract the maximum from the Federation and be Pakistanis to deny the maximum of what you get, to the people of Punjab.

It is vulgar opportunism of the Punjabi elites that makes its logic absurd; Pakistani identity and Punjabi identity are mutually exclusive but wear any of these on the sleeves as the occasion demands. The sole objective is to perpetuate their privileged position. Let us have a brief look at the so-called mutual exclusivity of the two identities; Pakistani and Punjabi.

Punjab is much older than Pakistan. So are Sindh, NWFP (now called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Balochistan; the other three federating units of Pakistan. It was not Pakistan that created these historical entities. Rather it was the other way round. To be exact, East Bengal (no longer part of Pakistan), Punjab, NWFP and Sindh created Pakistan through vote or referendum in 1947. Balochistan became part of the federation later. All these entities made the emergence of a new state called Pakistan possible with a view to safeguarding the economic, religious and cultural rights of the Muslims inhabiting these areas which were thought to be threatened by majoritarian rule in the independent united India. But the moment Pakistan came into being, the common sense, logic, reasoning and historical perspective were jettisoned as unbearable load in a revivalist streak to shape up things in the name of national unity. The concept of national unity was monolithic, born of distorted perspective of history of sub-continental Muslims i.e., their origins and interconnection with the Middle East, Iran and Central Asia. The very obvious fact was brushed under the carpet that the Muslims in the newly-created state despite having the commonality of faith with the abovementioned entities, had distinct society, culture, languages and at least five thousand years old glorious history of their own. Islam, being a universal religion, flourished because it allowed the cultural diversity and pluralism wherever it was accepted as faith.

Iran is a theocratic Muslim state ruled by Mullahs but celebrates Nauroz, the Zoroastrian New Year, with great joy and fanfare just to quote an example.

The Punjabi elites in cahoots with the Urdu-speaking clique from UP India misled the founding fathers regarding the linguistic issues facing the new state in its early years. Declaring Urdu as the national language met with resistance from the Bengalis who constituted a majority of the population and were proud of their language, literary heritage and culture. It is worth noting that the first voice of dissent was raised not over the economic or political issue but on the question of language and culture which was confounded by Punjabi and Urdu elites with ulterior motive to level the rich diversity of the country. They, in their warped thinking, insisted on having a single national language for the sake of national unity that proved to be rather divisive. They read the history wrong or perhaps never tried to read it. If common language was the sole guarantor of unity and cohesiveness, the partition of India would not have taken place. Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims had and still have the same language. And so was and still is the case with the Punjabi Hindus, Punjabi Muslims and Punjabi Sikhs.

You can have a nation-state with multiple languages and you can also find people having a common language living in different nation-states. A host of historical factors create a nation-state. Language alone cannot do it. The Bengalis struggled for their linguistic and cultural rights and finally forced the state to recognise the Bengali as a national language along with Urdu. The Sindhi language was banned in the schools by undemocratic rulers when so-called One Unit was created, causing a lot of resentment among the culturally conscious Sindhis.

After the separation of East Bengal new constitution of Pakistan was adopted in 1973, which for the first time recognised the language rights of the provinces and provided the constitutional mechanism through which a province could choose language of its choice as its official language. Soon after it, Sindh declared Sindhi its official language.

The KPK government last year introduced teaching of Pushto and other languages spoken in its territory in the schools. But the Punjabi elites continue to be what they are; the shadows of their colonial masters, mimicking the cultural practice that deserves the dustbin of history. They are full of self-loathing which is expressed in the public display of their disdain for their language and culture. And hence are little more than ‘stuffed men’. Their disowning of the people’s history and language has reduced them into philistines.

Before the emergence of Great Russian classical literature, French was the court language. Once a courtier had the guts to ask the Czar: “Your majesty, you are the sovereign of all Russ, why don’t you speak Russian?” “Who says I don’t speak Russian,” shot back the Czar. “I do speak Russian when I talk to my horses.”

The Punjabi elites treat their language the way this Czar treated his. They are rather worse. The Czar had no literary heritage in the Russian language while the Punjabi elites deliberately ignore the huge repertoire created during the last millennium. They suffer from the self-induced amentia. Their contempt for the Punjabi language in fact insults the people they are supposed to lead. They, without sense of past and present, are dangerous political animals, wrecking the richly diverse cultural landscape of Punjab and Pakistan that can add to our national pride. Unity in diversity is the natural principle. Nature is extremely diverse and its diversity is sustained by perceptible uniting links. But the malady of the Punjabi elites has rendered them incapable of learning even from the nature. — soofi01@hotmail.com