Pakistani nationalism

Pakistani nationalism
Flag of Pakistan.

Pakistani nationalism refers to the political, cultural, linguistic, historical and religious expression of patriotism by people of Pakistan, of pride in the history, culture, identity and heritage of Pakistan, and visions for its future.

Most of modern-day Pakistani nationalism is centered around the common Indo-Iranic identity and heritage of 99% of the population. Kashmiri, Sindhis, Balochis, Punjabis, Pashtuns and other minorities are mainly of Indo-Iranic stock. It also refers to the consciousness and expression of religious influences that help mould the national consciousness. Nationalism describes the many underlying forces that moulded the Pakistan movement, and strongly continue to influence the politics of Pakistan.

From a political point of view and in the years leading up to the independence of Pakistan, the particular political and ideological foundations for the actions of the Muslim League can be called a Pakistani nationalist ideology. It is a unique and singular combination of philosophical, nationalistic, cultural and religious elements.


National consciousness in Pakistan

Muslim Conquest

Pakistani nationalists state that Pakistan is the successor state of Islamic empires and kingdoms that ruled the region for almost a combined period of one millennium, the empires and kingdoms in order are Abbasid, Ghaznavid Empire, Ghorid Kingdom, Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire. Pakistan's imperial past composes possibly the largest segment of Pakistani nationalism. Pakistan today celebrates numerous Muslim kings and emperors for wars of "liberation" and "emancipation" such as Muhammad bin Qasim (not a king or emperor, but the commander of the first Muslim force sent to what was then known as Sindh), Muhammad of Ghaur, Mahmud of Ghazni (who defeated the Hindu king Prithviraj Chauhan), Aurangzeb Alamgir[citation needed] and Tipu Sultan who fought the British. However, few, if any, of the Kings mentioned above belonged to the region comprising modern day Pakistan. The region that is today known as Pakistan has always been tribal in nature. The Pashtuns have always considered Islam to be their primary source of identity and have thus supported many Islamic rulers. The Baloch were a Tribal Confederacy, who at times paid tribute to Afghanistan and Persia. Sindh was ruled by the Indic Kalhora and Baloch Talpur dynasties (both tributaries of Persia and Afghanistan at various times) in the period between the fall of the Mughal Empire and the beginning of the British Raj. Punjab and Kashmir were captured by the Durranis of Afghanistan, but later formed the Sikh Empire which captured integral Afghan territory including its former winter capital, Peshawar.

Mahmud and Ayaz
The Sultan is to the right, shaking the hand of the sheykh, with Ayaz standing behind him. The figure to his right is Shah Abbas I who reigned about 600 years later.
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran

However liberal Muslim kings to an extent are also part of Pakistani pride. Akbar was a powerful Mughal emperor who started new religiont Din-i-Ilahi (for which he was condemned by orthodox clerics as a "heretic"), forged familial and political bonds with Hindu Rajput kings, and developed for the first time an environment of religious freedom. Akbar undid most forms of religious discrimination, and invited the participation of wise Hindu ministers and kings, and even religious scholars in his court. In his reign, the Mughal Empire was politically powerful, prosperous and its common people secure.

The main Mughal contribution to South Asia was their unique architecture. Many monuments were built during the mughal era including the Taj Mahal.

Renaissance vision

See Also: Syed Ahmed Khan, Indian rebellion of 1857

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817 - 1898)

Syed Ahmed Khan promoted Western-style education in Muslim society, seeking to uplift Muslims in the economic and political life of British India. He founded the Aligarh Muslim University, then called the Anglo-Oriental College.

In 1835 Lord Macaulay's minute recommending that Western rather than Oriental learning predominate in the East India Company's education policy had led to numerous changes. In place of Arabic and Persian the Western languages, history and philosophy were taught at state-funded schools and universities whilst religious education was barred. English became not only the medium of instruction but also the official language in 1835 in place of Persian, disadvantaging those who had built their careers around the latter language. Traditional Islamic studies were no longer supported by the state, and some madrasahs lost their waqf or endowment. The War of Independence 1857 is held by nationalists to have ended in disaster for the Muslims, as Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal, was deposed. Power over the South Asia was passed from the East India Company to the British Crown. The removal of the last symbol of continuity with the Mughal period spawned a negative attitude amongst some Muslims towards everything modern and western, and a disinclination to make use of the opportunities available under the new regime. This tendency, had it continued for long, would have proven disastrous for the Muslim community.

Seeing this atmosphere of despair and despondency, Sir Syed launched his attempts to revive the spirit of progress within the Muslim community of India. He was convinced that the Muslims in their attempt to regenerate themselves, had failed to realize the fact that mankind had entered a very important phase of its existence, i.e., an era of science and learning. He knew that the realization of the very fact was the source of progress and prosperity for the British. Therefore, modern education became the pivot of his movement for regeneration of the Indian Muslims. He tried to transform the Muslim outlook from a medieval one to a modern one.

Sir Syed's first and foremost objective was to acquaint the British with the Indian mind; his next goal was to open the minds of his countrymen to European literature, science and technology.

Therefore, in order to attain these goals, Sir Syed launched the Aligarh Movement of which Aligarh was the center. He had two immediate objectives in mind: to remove the state of misunderstanding and tension between the Muslims and the new British government, and to induce them to go after the opportunities available under the new regime without deviating in any way from the fundamentals of their faith.

At the same time, Muslim nationalist leaders like Sir Muhammad Iqbal emphasized the spiritual richness of Islam and Islamic philosophy. Sir Muhammad Iqbal the conceptual founder of Pakistan, Is venerated by Pakistani and Muslim nationalists for implicitly endorsing the independence of a Muslim state in South Asia. It must be noted that initially, Iqbal did not voice any such views. It was only in the late 1920s and early 1930s that he started proposing for autonomy for Muslim provinces within India. At this time, the Muslim League was not demanding independence from the British unlike the Indian National Congress. Iqbal demanded a Muslim state, regardless of the fact whether it will have self-government, or whether it will be within the British Empire.[1]

Iqbal is widely credited for his work in encouraging the political rejuvenation and empowerment of Muslims, and as a great poet not only in India and Pakistan, but also in Iran and Muslim nations in the Middle East.

Independence of Pakistan

In the Indian rebellion of 1857, Muslim soldiers and regional kings fought the forces allied with the British Empire in different parts of British Indian Empire. The war arose from a racialist viewpoint on the part of the British who attacked the "Beastly customs of Indians" by forcing the South Asian soldiers to handle Enfield P-53 gun cartridges greased with lard taken from slaughtered pigs and tallow taken from slaughtered cows. The cartridges had to bitten open to use the gunpowder, effectively meaning that sepoys would have to bite the lard and tallow. This was a manifestation of the disregard that the British exhibited to Muslim and Hindu religious traditions, such as the rejection of Pork in Islam, the rejection of slaughter of cow in Hinduism and the mandate of vegetarianism in Hinduism. There were also some kingdoms and peoples who supported the British. This event laid the foundation not only for a nationwide expression, but also future nationalism and conflict on religious and ethnic terms.

The Muslim desire for complete freedom, or Azadi, was born with Kernal Sher Khan, who looked to the glories of Muslim history and heritage, and condemned the fall of Muslims from the ruling elite to subservient citizens of the British Empire. The idea of complete independence did not catch on until after World War I, when the British attempted to exert totalitarian power with the Rowlatt Acts of 1919. When the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar, Punjab (India) of hundreds of unarmed and innocent civilians by British forces took place in the same year, the Muslim public was outraged and most of the Muslim political leaders turned against the British.

Ethnic Nationalism in Pakistan

Despite sharing a common Indo-Iranic language and origin with the rest of the country, Pakistan's Balochi populations are strongly nationalistic and have their own language and cultural identity as do most of Pakistan's major ethnic groups. Some groups within them wish to secede from the country and form their own separate states and have been aided and assisted by foreign governments. Nawab Akbar Bugti of Balochistan had expressed the need for Balochistan to separate and formed the separatist Balochistan Liberation Army to that effect, alleging that the Pakistani governments had been biased in favor of the Punjabi and Sindhi ethnic groups. He was killed in military action by Pakistan's forces in 2006, but many Balochis continue to support him. The majority of Baloch, however are content within Pakistan but yearn for greater autonomy and more provincial development and a greater share of national funds to bring the province at par with the rest of the country. Many Baloch irredentist movements have been inspired and supported by the Baloch from Iran and Afghanistan (countries where Baloch are also trying to achieve independence).

The Pushtun people of the North Western Frontier province also have an Indo-Iranic identity. The former Taliban regime in nearby Afghanistan enjoys significant support in Northwestern Pakistan, both in recent times and during the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan, the support reflecting in their aid to the Mujahideen. Pashtuns are disproportionately represented in all sphere's of Pakistan be it the bureaucracy, business, police force, civil service and the all-powerful Pakistan Army.

However, despite nationalistic feelings many ethnic groups have often felt alienated by what they see as "Punjabization of Pakistan", due to the domination of the Punjabi groups due to their overal larger population.[2] This extreme version of Pakistani nationalism is often attributed to the tensions among the different ethic and linguistic groups despite an Islamic majority. The secession of East Pakistan is largely blamed on such a "Punjabization" but many also claim the imposition of "Urdu" (later language of the Mughal Empire held much clout in the country up to the mid 70's) was the key catalyst in encouraging Bengal separatism. Many in Bengal felt betrayed by such a so-called "muslim nationalism" and Urdu imposition which soon proved futile,[3] paving the way for Bengali nationalism.

Many indigenous Pakistanis also reject the imposition and state support towards the language of Urdu seeing it as a foreign language imported along with the migrant community (Mohajir) that arrived from India and quickly came to dominate the government and policy making. They cite the exclusiveness during the early years of Pakistan that those who spoke Urdu (or Undri) as a first language practiced in favouring fellow co-linguists over native Pakistani's. Many blame this policy for failing to bring cohesion and interprovincial harmony within the country. Others point to the fact that the policy of the newly arrived refugees is what catalyzed and marginalized the inhabitants of East Pakistan to secede from the state. Urdu continues to be Pakistan's national language but has undergone considerable changes over the years acquiring a particularly 'Pakistani flavour' with the incorporation of more and more grammar and prose from Pakistan's many indigenous languages (e.g. Pashto, Panjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Kashmiri etc.)

Nationalist mausoleums, shrines and symbols

Mausoleum of M.A Jinnah is frequently visited by Pakistani nationalists, It is a national symbol of Pakistan.
The Mausoleum of Iqbal, next to Badshahi Masjid, Lahore, Pakistan

Pakistan has many shrines, sights, sounds and symbols that have significance to Pakistani nationalists. These include the Shrines of Political leaders of pre-independence and post-independence Pakistan, Shrines of Religious leaders and Saints, The Shrines of Imperial leaders of various Islamic Empires and Dynasties, as well as national symbols and sounds of Pakistan. Some of these shrines, sights and symbols have become a places of Pilgrimage for Pakistani ultra-nationalism and militarism, as well as for obviously religious purposes.

Nationalism and politics

Governor-General Muhammad Ali Jinnah the key architect of the Pakistan movement, that led Pakistan to Independence in 1947.

The political identity of the Pakistani Armed Forces, Pakistan's largest institution and one which controlled the government for over half the history of modern day Pakistan (see History of Pakistan for events in the region that is now Pakistan before the Pakistani nation-state emerged) and still does, is reliant on the connection to Pakistan's Imperial past. The Pakistan Muslim League's fortunes up till the 1970s were single-handedly propelled by its legacy as the flagship of Pakistan's Independence Movement, and the core platform of the party today evokes that past strongly, considering itself to be the guardian of Pakistan's freedom, democracy and unity as well as religion. Muslims have remained loyal voters of the Pakistan Muslim League, seen as defender of Religious rights. Smaller parties have arisen, such as Pakistan Peoples Party, a party based on Liberal conservatism have also arisen. In contrast, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal employs a more aggressively theocratic nationalistic expression. The MMA seeks to defend the culture and heritage of Pakistan and the majority of its people, the Muslim population. It ties theocratic nationalism with the aggressive defence of Pakistan's borders and interests against archrival India, with the defence of the majority's right to be a majority. The party's fortunes arose primarily in the 1990s, with the frustration of the people with over 40 years of military domination as well as PPP corruption, sycophant leaders and lack of direction.

Ethnic nationalist parties include the Awami National Party, which is closely identified with the creation of a Pashtun-majority state in North-West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas includes many Pashtun leaders in its organization. However, the Awami National Party, At the last legislative elections, 20 October 2002, won a meagre 1.0% of the popular vote and no seats in the lower house of Parliament. In Balochistan, the Balochistan National Party uses the legacy of the independent Balochistan to stir up support, However at the last legislative elections, 20 October 2002, the party won only 0.2% of the popular vote and 1 out of 272 elected members.

Almost every Pakistani state has a regional party devoted solely to the culture of the native people. Unlike the Awami National party and the Balochistan national party, these mostly cannot be called nationalist, as they use regionalism as a strategy to garner votes, building on the frustration of common people with official status and the centralization of government institutions in Pakistan. However, the recent elections as well as history have shown that such ethnic nationalist parties barely ever win more than 1% of the popular vote, the overwhelming majority of votes go to large and established political parties that pursue a national agenda as opposed to regionalism.

Key people

Pakistan has more than 160 million Muslims. It is also the fastest growing population among the 10 most populated countries with greater than 2% population growth each year and is expected to become the most populated Muslim country in the world within 10 years. Pakistani Nationalism has varied from the original idea in the early 1900s to the status quo, usually varying by socio-economic class and political ideology. Originally, it was a concept defined by the Western regions of British India and their religious affiliation of Islam. During the late years of British rule and leading up to Partition, it had three distinct supporters:

1) Realists, such as Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who driven by political inflexibility demonstrated by the Congress Party, feared a systematic disenfranchisement of Muslims (and not necessarily Islam). This also included many members of the Parsi, and Nizari Ismaili communities.

2) Technocratic Elitists, such as the majority of Aligarh students who were driven by a fear of being engulfed in "false secularism" that would assimilate their beliefs and values into a common system that defied Islamic tenets while hoping to create a state where their higher education and wealth would keep them in power over the other Muslims of India.

3) Idealists, primarily lower Orthodoxy (Barelvi), that feared the dominative power of the upper Orthodoxy (Deoband) and saw Pakistan as a safe haven to prevent their domination by State-controlled propaganda.

Nuclear power

On May 28, in 1998, Pakistan tested its first nuclear weapon in Chaghi, Balochistan, in response to Indian Nuclear tests on 11th of the same month; and thus became the 7th nation in the world to possess an arsenal of nuclear weapons. It is postulated that Pakistan's nuclear program arose in the 1970s as a response to the Indian acquisition of nuclear weapons. It also resulted in Pakistan pursuing similar ambitions, resulting in the May, 1998 testings of five nuclear devices by India and six as a response by Pakistan, opening a new era in their rivalry. Pakistan is not a signatory to the NPT and CTBT, which it considers an encroachment on its right to defend itself.

See also


Further reading

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