Nationhood and Nationalities in Pakistan
Pakistan is a country inhabited by people belonging to many different nationalities. Hamza Alavi’s article focuses on the rising sub-national demands in the country and how the dominant factions have tried their best to suppress these movements.
Benedict Anderson describes official nationalism as “A national identity that is not spontaneously generated from below, but is imposed from above by those at the heart of the power structure in the country, in reaction to powerful sub-national movements.”
Despite the passing of more than half a century since the inception of Pakistan, we still remain a ‘country’ rather than a ‘nation’. It may not even be wrong to say that we are a collection of nations residing inside a country. Pakistan has become divided on the basis of ethnicity due to the long denial of provincial autonomy and due to the dominance of a particular ethnic group.
Reasons for Installation of ‘Official Nationalism’:
As soon as Pakistan came into being, demands of provincial autonomy began to surface. People belonging to the smaller provinces started to realize that the salariat (which constitutes the military and the bureaucracy) was dominated by Punjabis. Due to the fact that it makes up more than half the population of the country, it was obvious that it would dominate the civil service, military and politics. This led to the feeling of deprivation. People of Sindh, KPK, and Baluchistan felt that they were not being treated equally and nor were they being given equal opportunities. As a result the demands for greater provincial autonomy began to surface and it also triggered the sub-national movements. The privileged and dominating ethnic groups that held key positions in military, bureaucracy and government, saw this as a threat to their control and dominance, because increase in provincial autonomy meant decrease in their power. Apart from this, regional players took special interest in promoting sub-national movements. These were people who knew that they could not score power in the centre, so instead they tried to strengthen their position in their provinces by resorting to ethnic politics. So, the people in control in the centre and in military and bureaucracy felt that if these demands were to be fulfilled, it would mean surrendering their control, which they were naturally reluctant to do. Instead of providing the concept of territorial basis of Pakistani nationhood within which the people belonging to all ethnicities could be accommodated, they sought refuge in religious ideology, which was used to deny the validity of ethnic identities altogether. This obviously had disastrous effects which our power hungry rulers had failed to foresee.
Salariat based National movement:
The heart of Muslim nationalism in India was in UP and Bihar, which were Muslim minority provinces. Muslims constituted almost 13 to 15 per cent of the total population in UP. Due to...