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Issue No.: 574 | April 2015
 

Pakistan’s Quest for Nationhood

Suresh C. Sharma
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The causes which produce military interventions in politics…lie not in the nature of groups but in the structure of society. In particular, they lie in the weakness or absence of effective political institutions in the society – Samuel Huntington

Pakistan was conceived as a home for Muslims. Jinnah’s direction for it to be a secular State with equal rights for all religions and communities was soon forgotten. Generals Ayub Khan and Musharraf took Kemal Ataturk of Turkey as their model. It required a strong nationalist movement, lacking in ethnically diverse Pakistan. The Turkey model had taken a long time at the cost of high loss of human lives. General Zia tried to unite the country under a puritanical form of Islam mixed with nationalism. It has led to sectarian violence. Zulfiqar Bhutto wanted to rally the masses with programme of economic populism. They all failed. The democratically elected elites were replaced due to corruption and misrule. It took a long time for them to frame a constitution. The military governments were not strong enough to rule without a Parliament. Democrats in Pakistan have tried to be dictators and dictators have tried to be democrats. The situation has led to confusion and misrule. General Zia’s efforts to promote militancy in Afghanistan have resulted in internal subversion by the militants who want a theocratic state. 

Pakistan has failed to forge their four units into a nation. They do not share a common language, history or ethnicity. Pakistan’s attempts to convert the idea of Pakistan into a nation by spreading fear of India, Israel and the USA are unrealistic and have failed. The attitude of the major province of Punjab to claim superiority and much higher representation in the various services including the military has not helped to bridge the gap. The other states are wary to concede a major share of resources to one state. The proposal for a dam at Kalabagh with promise of water and hydro-electricity remains a dream due to opposition by Sindh and NWFP. They are apprehensive that the benefits would primarily go to Punjab. Nor have the coal resources discovered in Thar been exploited due to opposition by Sindh. The Central Government does not want to force the issue lest Sindh break away. 

Perhaps, the emergence of Bangladesh may have imposed this precaution. India is also a multi-language, multi-ethnic and plural society, but there is a fundamental difference. India’s federal constitution ensures that no state dominates over the other states and all the states are free to pursue their plans, with the assistance of the Central Government. The vice-chancellor of Delhi University could be from Chennai and the director of Bangalore Institute from Bengal. Students from Bihar are welcome in Karnataka. Even the insurgency prone areas like Nagaland have learnt to join the mainstream. The last assault on the Kargil peak was made by the Naga Battalion with their dahs. Similarly, the ex-Mizo rebels were absorbed into the para-military unit. Pakistan has not even tried this model of tolerance and reconciliation. Fear of India and unattainable dream of Kashmir cannot forge the idea of Pakistan into a nation. Fear cannot be a substitute for shared goals.    

Pakistan’s existence has been marked by attempts to build a nation but without first building up the institutional foundations that are needed to allow a stable federal entity to evolve in a democratic and pluralistic setting. -  Shuja Nawaz  

Brig. (retd.) SURESH C. SHARMA, Mumbai, 
sureshsharma236@yahoo.com
 
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