Myths of Nationalism in Pakistan by Mohsin Shahid Janjua

Myths of Nationalism in Pakistan by Mohsin Shahid Janjua

By Mohsin Shahid Janjua

Nations live in times not in ages. Pakistan is still passing through a premature period of its birth. Its progress has not been perpetual. What makes sense about a developing country is the hope which can be realized by its future 'developed and advanced.’ Pakistan is learning through its past experiences and present situations.
Post colonial area for decolonized states is a period of reshaping, rebuilding and most of all rethinking. The foremost responsibility of a decolonized state is to eliminate itself from colonial anathema. "British Raj" left its legacies in a hope that future of new states would depend on their colonial masters.
Federation has been a must for newly born nations with a tight control of power at the top. This tightness might be a blessing in disguise only when there is a unilateral, mono-culture, and uni-lingual society. Pakistan is a state with multicultural, multinational people. National symbols which are the prerequisite for a strong nationalism have a weak cultivation in Pakistan.
After independence a sense of nationalism, at least in theory, was dominant. People migrated in a ray of hope; states affiliated for the sake of protection. With the passage of time the preliminary sense of nationalism started getting change into territorial nationalism. Right in the beginning we see provincialism with its severe persecutions. Federalism was gouged in 1954 with a worst experience of Muslim league’s defeat in East Pakistan and the rise of Bengali nationalism.
That was the first litmus test in political laboratory for those who had struggled in a hope that new country would bring a change for them. It was also a test for dominant class who had been vital in the struggle for independence in a hope that its interest would not be at stake.
Nationalism in its basic assumptions is very integrated for Pakistan. If come to its practical side, it will seem difficult to see correctness. Though nationalism, in Pakistan, has a positive connotation but its understanding is not right. Nationalism can not be an amalgamation of various nationalisms. If one ism is the byproduct of many isms then it will be difficult to search for unity in a nation. What went wrong with Pakistan was a misunderstanding of nationalism. We confined it only to patriotism which indirectly means militaristic or aggressive nationalism.
Nationalism is a byproduct of middle class. Middle class is always progressive and custodian of indigenous values. It is creative and productive. In the state like Pakistan where upper class is exploitative and lower class is downtrodden, a very few people remain behind to demonstrate nationalism. In practical side nationalism is not dynamic and integrated in Pakistan.
Nationalism is a political phenomenon. If politics is progressive and evolutionary in a society, nationalism will be a fruitful thing. In Pakistan politics has been a struggle for power. And power in its predatory form can not be a plus point. Society gives birth to nationalism and nationalism gives birth to a state. In Pakistan the process is reversible where state is made to create a society.
What are the reasons behind these statements? Why Pakistan is facing the same problem throughout its creation? There are two defining concepts about state: first is a ‘state nation’ and second is ‘nation state.’ In the former case people are governed for the sake of state by the state. In the later case state works as a guardian and savior of people.
For example in the early 1930s Hitler tried to create a state nation. In this condition state is considered as a living being. It is the Hegelian state which is the march of God on earth. State as a living being has a capability to interfere in individual cum social life. The state tries to expand its perimeters from its actual position. Some times it tries to overstep from the threshold of society and ultimately tries to create a society of its own. In response existing social standards, norm and values become antagonistic toward this unnatural change. In the long run anti-state forces get a space in society for bringing a new kind a social change. Society changes in a disordered society and state irreversibly changes into a police state.
Some time a state tries to capture all the affairs or at least wants to have an eye in all the social matters. This can lead the people toward subordination. Subordination means murder of creativity, privacy, and most of all natural social order.
In nation states people matter. Territory is the second priority. If people are save and sound, territory will be an ice on the cake. Mostly, national states are creative and progressive. This is a natural phenomenon. The main objective of a society is progress. Nationalism owns and precipitates that progress. People work in a competitive environment but whit a common objective. They inherent pious legacies of loving and adoring for a holy cause. People are keen to render their achievements to posterity in a sense that future coming generation will be more progressive and peaceful.
In Pakistan we are in between the state nation and nation state. We inherent multiple legacies; from British Raj we inherited political nationalism, from indigenous experience we got a territorial or state nationalism, being Muslim we are inspired by the universal sense of nationalism.
Nationalism from Britain is solely political. Electoral politics was the first step to create a new way of getting popular support. It was, in other words, politicization of society which came out as nationalism. Practically, it was confined to the newly born intelligentsia with weak roots among the common masses. It was circumstances which created a specific segment in society to capture the power. More than 80% people were not linked to this political process. It was right before the independence when Muslim league was successful to approach to newly born urban class. With the popular support of that urban middle class Muslim leaders made the world realized about their importance.
Territorial nationalism, traditionally speaking, is an old phenomenon. Most of the people or at least those people who are aware of nationalism own land estate. The primitive attachment to motherland ‘Dharti’ and love to native areas are common in ancient sub-continent. People living in Pakistan are converted Muslims. They embraced Islam for preaching- not for practice in -social life. Social norms and values which are previously existing and have a very deep effect do not let the people to follow their religious teachings in social life. Love for land is common and universal. But love for estate and property is individual and local. In Pakistan people prefer to save their estate rater to work for state. By exploring the judicial hearings through out Pakistan we can conclude that more than 70% cases are related to property and estate.
Being Muslim we are a part of a universal Islamic community. Or we are made a part of it. There is religious appeal having very close and integrative attachment in every sphere of society. There are many areas where there is no school but we can find no place where there is a mosque. Religious affiliation makes us a part and partial of Ummah. This sense of nationalism makes us not only interactive with the world but also personify our state as a competitive actor. This nationalism is the most propagated nationalism but only in theory. Out side world envisages and recognizes us with this nationalism. And this is the only nationalism we supposedly own.
Pakistan as a state is a cobweb of affairs. The nationalism we own is not very much national to Pakistan. It is formulated with the mixture of symbols. These symbols are either institutional or personal. In federation symbols ought to be strong and long lasting. Unfortunately short term and short lived political maturity did not let the country to strengthen the desired nationalism. Lack of understanding among politicians and over estimation of state institutions created hindrance.
In the age of scientific progress state creates a competitive environment. It does not protect the interests of one segment. If state gives protection to a specific segment with the justification of nationalism, there will be as many nationalism as there are segments. More isms mean more anti state forces and more forces mean destruction of state. Decolonization was made by dividing two communities through territory. The animosity between dividing communities is natural. When a state faces internal disorder or anti state forces other states get an opportunity to detract and humiliate the first state. In the long run neither the state nor anti state forces get benefits rather the tilt of gain goes to the opportunist state.
For the state like Pakistan it is imperative to reshape her understanding of nationalism. Our social standards are just our own; not too left, not too right. Symbols are not the only way to show the national strength. Symbols are only the instruments of strengthening nationalism. We are diverse people but unity in diversity can be achieved. It can be a mobilizing point for national progress. Equality is a prerequisite not in terms of wealth but respect. Rule of law does not mean only rule but serve and accommodate. Nations learn from their mistakes but do not make mistakes from their past experience.


This article is abridged. First published on LinkedIn.


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