Pakistani nationalism refers to the geographical, historical, cultural, linguistic, religious, political and economic expression of patriotism by the people of Pakistan. It refers to pride of the people in geography, history, culture, heritage, religious identity and economic development of Pakistan, and optimistic visions for its future. The religion of Islam is part of the Pakistani nationalist narrative. Pakistani nationalism is not about animosity towards any other country or nation, rather it’s about pride in Pakistan. however, Pakistani nationalism faced severe challenges in recent past.
The war against terrorism had intensive negative physical, economic and psychological impacts on Pakistani society. There were competing narratives, which divided people politically and psychologically. People had various questions in their mind that whether this the war against terrorism and extremism was our war or not? The people of Pakistan mainly suffered economically and physically.
Global financial crisis 2008 coupled with impact of war on terror had drastically affected Pakistan’s economy. Due to war on terror a loss of more than 100 billion US dollars and displacement of massive population from conflict areas overburdened the existing fragile economic situation of the country. From 2008 to 2013, bad governance, severe energy crisis and corruption badly affected the economy of Pakistan. People did not find economic opportunities; therefore, they wanted to leave the country. According to PEW survey 2009, more than 80 percent people wanted to leave this country. However, in recent two years, owing to economic reforms of the present government, according to PEW survey 2014, this figure has come down to 67 percent.
The nationalist sentiment is directly linked with economic prosperity and equal distribution of economic resources and human development. As mentioned above, during 2008 to 2013, due to various reasons Pakistan’s economy was declining, therefore, a general public perception was that it was due to centralization of economic resources. Hence, the demand for new provinces emerged vigorously. The Baloch separatist movement, demands for a Hazara province and Saraiki province were largely based on economic deprivation.
All forms of media including print, electronic and social media are very important in narrative building and altering the public opinion on specific issues. Unfortunately, the media had played a negative role during past few years. The competition for improving viewership, the media often tries to highlight cultural, institutional and economic issues. It often tries to find crispy news which attract viewer’s attention. However, this unfortunate trend demoralized common citizens and created a perception that no one is immune to corruption and nepotism.
Role of external factor cannot be denied in this regard.Despite Pakistan’s peaceful neighbourhood policy, its eastern neighbour did not accept Pakistan’s existence since its independence. It has always propagated that division of the subcontinent was a historic mistake and Pakistan was a conspiracy of Britain to divide ‘Indian holy land’. Since the whole world is concerned about terrorism after 9/11 incident, India has constantly propagated against Pakistan at international forum and labeled ‘Pakistan a breeding ground for terrorism’. Similarly, it has waged a psychological warfare against Pakistan since early 1980s.
The holding of National Day parade after a gap of several years is a welcome development. This may be held each year uninterruptedly. There is a need to encourage sports activitieswhich bind various communities. Such kinds of activities increase the velocity of interaction among people from various provinces which leave positive impact on national cohesion. Such kind of activities can restore Pakistan nationalism, which is imperative to national security and integration for the country.
— The writer works at Islamabad Policy Research Institute.