Our identity crisis
SINCE the fall of Dhaka in 1971 the most haunting and disturbing question for all patriotic Pakistanis has been “Where is our country heading?” while in recent times of war on terror some local and foreign analysts have even gone to the extent of calling Pakistan a “Failed State” and fears have been expressed that the country might collapse if right and appropriate measures are not taken immediately to sort out the fault lines and contradictions within our body polity.
Everybody has a right to his or her opinion but there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that this nation faces a major crisis of identity even seventy-three years after independence.
Our ideological moorings are based on the fact that it was the first state to be born in the post WW II era with Islam as an ideology.
By end of the 19th century the Muslim elite failed to cope with modernisation set in by the British resulting in recourse to religion on a more dogmatic way.
Over sometime Muslims in India got alienated from other people and the feeling grew that Muslims and Hindus cannot live together.
The fear of exploitation by the Hindus took tangible form when Allama Iqbal in his speech of 1936 in Allahabad gave it rationalisation and Mohmmad Ali Jinnah wrote to Gandhi “Hindus and Muslims belong to two different civilisations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions”.
The idea took concrete shape in the form of Lahore resolution of 23rd March 1940 and Pakistan was born on 14th August 1947.
Our first crisis of identity occurred just 24 years after independence when founders of Pakistan assumed that followers of the great religion Islam could become a homogeneous group.
This assumption proved wrong first in December 1971 when Bengali speaking Muslims separated themselves from West Pakistan and became an independent state.
After this sad episode Shia-Sunni differences cropped up leading to targeted killings and sectarian violence and politics became controversial questioning the very ideological foundations of the state and the fact is that more Muslims were killed in sectarian conflicts than in the three wars with India.
The first Constitutional Assembly of August 1947, in spite of outliving its mandated terms of five years, failed to produce a Constitution defining the core values of the new state.
Its only achievement was the Objective Resolution of March 1949, which specified that the Constitution would be Islamic, democratic and federal.
But there was no agreement on how these objectives would take form, no details and, no calming of fears of minorities.
The second Constituent Assembly did manage to produce a Constitution in 1956 but General Ayub Khan abrogated it in October 1958 on the eve of general elections in March 1959.
After the fall of Ayub Khan and disastrous aftermath of the 1971 war with India Z.A. Bhutto ushered in the so-called people’s revolution and his half-baked concept of Islamic Socialism.
General ZIA, who toppled Z.A. Bhutto’s govt in July 1977 coup, tried tooth and nail to bury the concept of a secular Pakistan and percolate the society with Islamic laws rules and philosophy.
But Zia’s Islamisation process was in direct conflict with what Mohammad Ali Jinnah had pursued.
Zia had usurped power through questionable means and lacked any legitimacy to rule so mostly people looked upon his efforts and his use of religion as an attempt to consolidate his power and rule.
After the despotic and disastrous Zia era Pakistan entered the age of Musical chairs in Politics with the PPP and PML (N) taking turns to rule culminating in another Martial Law by General Musharaf, happenings of 9/11 and the war on terror.
This stage saw the rise of the Taliban suicide bombings and death and destruction across the land and the dangerous rise of Islamic Militant Parties hell bent on imposing the rule of Sharia and turning Pakistan into a theocracy.
In 2018 Pakistan society witnessed a major political change in the form of Imran Khan regime and his party called the Tehreek-i-Insaf with the slogan of Riasat-i-Madina and making Pakistan an Islamic society.
Thus once again a political party, using religion to advance their political agenda, without any solid frame work or socio-economic strategy captured power?
Pakistan, the cradle of one of the most ancient Indus Civilisation – has been suffering from the identity crisis since its independence in 1947.
The conflict of identity crisis was evident since the very beginning as political elite was mostly influenced by western culture while among masses Islamic roots were embedded.
To bridge the gap, common ground was found in the shape of the Arab factor.
The emotional association of Pakistani public with the Arab land, especially Saudi Arabia, and financial and political benefits of Pakistani political elite with the Arab Monarchs, helped both the state and the society to start a joint venture.
However, today, the trend seems to be altering towards Turks as Arabs have started to lose their charm.
—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.