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Time for Pakistan to resolve its identity crisis

View: Time for Pakistan to resolve its identity crisis

To stop further erosion of the much derided `two-nation’ theory, Pakistan has adopted a two-pronged policy. They projected themselves to be part of the Arab Middle East rather than the geographical entity rooted in the Indian sub-continent.

By ET CONTRIBUTORS | Sep 13, 2019, 12.19 PM IST

By Prasad Nallapati

Why is Pakistan so agitated with Narendra Modi government’s constitutional changes withdrawing `temporary’ special status of the Jammu and Kashmir state? The unbridled aggression and incoherent threats against India by Prime Minister Imran Khan,Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and terrorist groups controlled by them crossed all limits of civic decency.

Their desperate calls seeking support of the Muslim ummah and other international community had few takers. Saudi Arabia and the OIC remained muted. The UAE declared that the J&K issue was an internal matter of India while the Bahraini king conferred on Modi its highest civilian award, King Hamad Order of the Renaissance, further accentuating Pakistan’s helplessness. Turkey and Iran restrained themselves beyond issuing proforma statements.

Islamabad was shocked and clueless why it was so isolated on such an important issue.

The roots of Pakistan’s frustration lie in its unresolved identity crisis. Muslim `nobles’ of undivided British India saw the emerging Hindu-dominated independent country as a threat to their status and power. They hence invented a `two-nation’ theory suggesting that Hindus and Muslims constitute separate nations and cannot live together. To further buttress their argument, they sought to flag their “superior” race by projecting their Persian-lineage and being inheritors of the legendary Mughal empire.

While they succeeded in forcing the British to carve a Pakistan out of India as a home for sub-continental Muslims, they failed to convince majority of their co-religionists the viability of such a concept. Pastuns and Baluchis resisted joining Pakistan despite led by Muslim leaders. Large number of Muslims in India opted to remain in the country while the eastern part of Pakistan soon got separated to form a new country, Bangladesh.

The remaining Western part has itself been shaky with Baluchis, Sindhis, Mohajirs and tribals detesting control by Punjabi-dominated establishment. Islam has not proven to be an effective adhesive to keep diverse communities together. The only thing keeping them together is fear and hatred of India, perpetrated by the Army establishment, which further projected itself to be the only force in the country that can stop and defeat the designs of the enemy.

To stop further erosion of the much derided `two-nation’ theory, Pakistan has adopted a two-pronged policy. They projected themselves to be part of the Arab Middle East rather than the geographical entity rooted in the Indian sub-continent. At the same time, Pakistani establishment sought to be an unsolicited “protector” of Indian Muslims. They created and co-opted Islamist radical groups, in line with Saudi ideology, to further their agenda.

In an essay in the News, `Our search for a forgotten identity’, columnist Kamila Hyat wrote, There has even been doubt as to where we are located on the globe. Notably under the late Gen. Zia-ul-Haq an attempt was made to transport ourselves from South Asia to the Middle East.” Pakistan’s national anthem is itself mainly in Persian, with a few words borrowed from Arabic, the languages that are hardly understood in the country.

The US too seems to have acknowledged the yearnings of its cold war ally that it included Pakistan in the Area of Responsibility of its Central Command, along with Middle Eastern nations. There was no other plausible reason to explain its inclusion when the Command was formed in 1983. India and its other neighbours remained under the area covered by the US Pacific Command, which is now known as Indo-Pacific Command.


Pakistan might have received liberal financial doles and vocal support in its disputes with India for its attachment with the Middle East, but the Gulf Sheikhdoms saw it more as a source of entertainment and cheap military force to safeguard Royal establishments. Islamabad had also opened itself to receive Wahabi ideology which looked at Pakistani Islamic practices with disdain. The result of the transformation is there all to see.

As its Middle East oasis remained elusive, Pakistan too had little success in its attempts to be the voice of Indian Muslims. Muslims in India have by and large rejected Pakistan’s unsolicited offers of support. In response to a speech by former Pakistani President Musharraf in New Delhi in March 2009, Indian Muslim leaders have categorically told him that they can take care of themselves and he should worry about his own country where more Muslims are killed than in any other country.

Despite lack of traction with Indian Muslim community, Pakistani establishment sought to sell to its own people a `macho’ image of its superior military that could easily subjugate Hindu `baniya’ (low level traders). Their educational textbooks from Nursery class onwards teach that Hindu is an enemy to be killed. History texts claim that they had won all the wars against India inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy.

In an Op-ed in the Daily Times, Ali K Chishti, a Pakistani political analyst, gave a detailed description of institutional radicalization of public schools. One textbook reads, “The Hindus who had always been opportunists” (Social Studies, Class VI, Punjab Textbook Board, page 141). Still another reads, “The Hindus had always been an enemy of Islam.” (Urdu, Class V, Punjab Textbook Board, page 108).

He further wrote, “In fact, schools like those run by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (new name for terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba), which received Punjab government’s funding of Rs 30 million, systematically replaced the mainstream curriculum. Now Allah instead of anar (pomegranate) is used to teach the sound of the Urdu alphabet letter alif; bandooq (gun) instead of bakri (goat) for bey and jihad instead of jahaz (ship) for jeem.”

“The educational materials in Urdu are based upon hatred, confusion, propaganda and exclusiveness,” according to another Pakistani columnist Zubair Torwali, who writes in The News. “Urdu is not very different from Hindi. It is a form of Hindi and is still known as Hindi abroad. To distort this linguistic balance more words from Arabic were introduced into Urdu to make it appear different from Hindi, the language of the “core enemy” of Pakistan.” Urdu has been used for indoctrination since the birth of Pakistan, and particularly since the Zia regime.

“The popular myth is that Ziaul Haq sowed the seeds of radicalization but, in reality, institutionalized radicalization of Pakistanis started in the late 1950s when the Iqbalian concepts of `mard-e-momin’ and `shaheen’ were promoted (by the then military regime led by Gen. Ayub Khan), much like the Nazis originally promoted the concept of the superman of Nietzsche,” wrote Chishti.

The Pakistani establishment has thus created a narrative that Kashmir is their `jugular vein’ and they will wrest it from India even with force, if necessary. They launched Jehad with an array of different terrorist groups to create serious disturbances for an ultimate action to separate Kashmir from India.

With their Kashmir narrative collapsing in front of their eyes, the hard-built macho image of the Pak military establishment is under question mark

💬✔ If India is able to better integrate the Jammu and Kashmir region into the country along with its economic development, there will be serious consequences for Pak military establishment and the lies that it has perpetrated all through these years.

Gen. Qamar Bajwa’s intemperate outbursts can thus be explained. The army might try to do everything to create disturbances through use of terrorist groups or even launch a limited war in the hope of world powers rushing in to bring calm and force India to address the Kashmir issue according to UN resolutions.

It is perhaps time that Pakistanis re-assess their policies and realize that their experiments to identify itself with the Middle East, institutionalize radicalization and terrorize Kashmir have in fact brought them to this stage where they found all friends disappearing. Pakistan has become much weaker politically, economically or militarily compared to the time the country was born.

Modi’s Kashmir jolt can in fact be converted into an opportunity for better relations and economic development to all people of the sub-continent. It is wise to reverse policies that did not work and extend hand for a new relationship. It should not be taken as a defeat to do a course correction. The policies that benefit people are appreciated, not derided.

The whole world is changing. The US has changed. The Gulf countries have changed. They started realizing that radical Islam is hurting their countries and need to look for alternate models of development that bring strength and welfare to their countries and people. This must have been the message that Foreign Ministers of the Saudi Arabia and UAE jointly carried to Islamabad recently on the instructions of their leadership.

Pakistan deserves to be at peace with itself and with its sub-continental brotherly nations. A new relationship between India and Pakistan can lead to soft borders between countries of the region that would even end Kashmir issue to the satisfaction of everyone. Such a united sub-continent can be a model and leader for global development.

Prasad Nallapati is President of the Hyderabad-based think tank, Centre for Asia-Africa Policy Research, and former Additional Secretary to the Govt of India


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