Seven decades and a misplaced idea of national unity and integration

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    Pakistan’s misplaced idea of National unity and integration

     

     this assertion that ‘common religion can increase chances of national unity’ is self-defeating, full of contradictions and touches the same policy orientation that Pakistan has followed for the last six decades which has essentially proven a failure.

     

     

    This year Pakistan will celebrate its 70th independence day. While we observe this historic day, let’s not forget that challenges which we face as a nation have piled up to unprecedented levels.

    Pakistan has proven to be a resilient nation, one that has muddled through all sorts of challenges. In many corners of the world, scholars and writers depict Pakistan as a ‘failed nation,’ ‘failing nation,’ ‘a nation on the brink of destruction,’ or a country whose internal imposition is imminent. While Part of this observation is true in a number of ways, Pakistan is neither a failed nation nor its going to implode from within.

    Why this optimism?

    This hope is fundamentally based on the notion – rather hope – that there appears a realisation in the country’s ruling circles that progression and good governance is essential. Essentially, this realisation at the top level is being pushed by Pakistan’s rapidly growing educated middle class, mass media, internet, youth bulge and environmental changes.

    Although there is no denying that Pakistan has outlived and outrun a plethora of challenges that were thrown at it, what is still missing – or being implemented slowly – is the country’s sustained attempt to not promote popular acceptance of cultural, religious and social diversity, backed by a strong national narrative of tolerance and progressiveness.

    It remains a fact that Jinnah’s ideals of religious diversity were never truly implemented in Pakistan. In fact, Jinnah himself became a victim of his successive leadership’s myopic vision of diversity. Jinnah didn’t have one but two funerals: one according to the Shia rituals of Islam and the other according to the Sunni rituals of Islam. These two different funerals didn’t profess acceptance of religious diversity; rather, it manifested political use of Islam with a clear message of what sort of Islam was acceptable in the country. The Objective resolution in 1949 also reinforced the belief that Pakistan was not for people of all faiths and citizenship and even basic human rights were to be determined on the basis of religious ‘majoritarianism and minoritarianism.’ Thus, rather than asserting religious and social plurality, a ‘fit for all’ unilateral religious vision was advocated.

    Over the last six decades, this ‘fit for all’ vision of Pakistani state has fragmented the country on all levels. As accepted in Pakistan’s popular narrative, the struggle to attain a separate state began with the message of Hindu Vs Muslim or in other words ‘us Vs them.’ Unfortunately, now ugly transformation has come down to ‘Muslim Vs Muslim’ or ‘us Vs us Vs’. The challenge of reversing this narrative of hatred and bigotry has taken a toll with radical Islamism deepening its roots in the country.

    This is how Punjab text book board’s 12th grade book of Pakistan studies describes religious diversity for people of all religions to attain national integration and unity in the country: “If the population of a country belongs to one religion, the chance to develop a common nationality increase, which ensures national unity. The religion of Pakistan is Islam which unites the people at national level and ensures solidarity of the people with the country.”

    Now this assertion that ‘common religion can increase chances of national unity’ is self-defeating, full of contradictions and touches the same policy orientation that Pakistan has followed for the last six decades which has essentially proven a failure. For instance, when the state at a mass level promotes that a ‘common religion’ is a key to national unity, it begins to discriminate against minority religious communities such as Shia Muslims, Christians and Hindus. In a way, state reminds them that while they are part of the country’s structure, they have been degraded to the status of second-class citizens. This approach then builds discriminatory mind-sets, not just in an ideological sense but also in cultural, social, political and economic sense. Moreover, the widespread notion which the state continues to promote that only ‘a common religion can unite people at national level’ is as problematic, for Pakistan’s past and present is littered with divisions that are result of forcing one particular form of religion to build national unity, if not voluntarily then with violence and discriminatory laws.

    Rather, the debate on achieving national unity should have focused on issues such good governance, accountability, institutional building, economic policies, citizenship regardless of ideological affinity and respect and acceptance of all faiths and religions in the state’s national narrative.

    Irrespective of potential indicators of success, Pakistan cannot truly become a developed national unless it adopts modernity which, in a way, is a by-product of diversity and inclusion rather than religious isolation and rejection. The need of the hour is that Pakistan begins the much needed process which doesn’t define citizenship on the basis of ideological affinity and merits.

    This is what Jinnah would have wanted for Pakistan to attain national unity and integration.

    2 COMMENTS

    1. You are pathetic. Your opening utterances defeat your total nonsense. You wasted this paper’s space and reader’s time. First correct your concept of Nation then dare to write such crap. You must be a follower of some Naa ahl.

    2. UMAIR JAMAL HAS WRITTEN A TRULY WISE ARTICLE ON RELIGION VS STATE. IT IS A VERY GOOD BEGINNING THAT INTELLECTUALS OF PAKISTAN HAVE BOLDLY INITIATED. SECULARISM ALONE CAN SUSTAIN A NATION BE IT INDIA OR PAKISTAN. THERE MUST BE RESPECT AND RECOGNITION OF ALL FAITHS AND RELIGION SHOULD NOT INTERFERE IN GOVERNANCE OF A NATION ONLY THEN ALL CITIZENS WILL FEEL PROUD OF THEIR NATION AND ENSURE NATIONAL UNITY

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