Patriotism vs Nationalism in Pakistan


Part I

 Pakistan appeared on the world map as a sovereign state on August 14th, 1947 as a result of partitions of the sub-continent under British rule. The state of Pakistan had two parts: East Pakistan and West Pakistan until 1971. The Punjab (Punjabi ethnic group) was divided into two parts, one becoming Indian Punjab and the other becoming part of West Pakistan. In the eastern side, the British adopted the same formula in Bengal. The western part of Bengal became East Pakistan while East Bengal remained the part of India. In East Pakistan, the Bengali ethnic group was in the majority while in West Pakistan there are many ethnic groups i.e. Punjabi, Sindhi, Saraiki, Pakhtuns and Balochs. On the issue of national language, the conflict among ethnic groups erupted. As a result of war between Pakistan and India, the people of East Pakistan (Bengali) gained independence and formed the state of Bangladesh.

The refusal of provincial autonomy under the federal system was one of the strong reasons for East Pakistan’s (Bangladesh’s) separation. Geographically, the eastern and western wing of Pakistan were separated by 1000 miles of Indian territory. Despite cultural and linguistic differences, distance was the main barrier in the way of the governing system. The eastern wing was majority Bengali as an ethno-linguistic group, while the west wing was divided into four provinces with different ethnic groups i.e. Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi, Saraiki, Pushtoons and Urdu speaking Muhajirs (Muslim immigrants which migrated from Hindu-dominated India). Unfortunately, as a center of power with the federal capital (Karachi, now Islamabad), West Pakistan imposed Urdu as the national language upon all provinces.  In retaliation, not only Bengal’s nationalists, but also Sindhi, Baloch and even Pashtoons launched nationalist moments against this decision.  This decision forced East Pakistan (the Bengalis) to claim provincial autonomy with Bengali as a national language.  They also demanded that the federal capital be democratically shifted from Karachi/Rawalpindi to Dhaka given their 55% of the population. 

The western wing (present-day Pakistan) refused to yield autonomy by imposing a minority decision on the majority.  The conflict led the federation to adopt one unit scheme with Eastern and Western provinces. In Western Pakistan, the Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and North West Frontier (present KPK) provinces merged into the western province. This new experiment of federal system also failed because it boosted nationalist movements within both units.  This one unit system was proposed and launched by Punjabi leaders who were controlling the lever of power to counter the numerical strength of Bengalis.

In newborn Pakistan, not only Bengalis, but also Balochs stood up for secession due to the wrong policies of the Punjab-dominant establishment.  Balochistan’s central state, Kalat, refused to join Pakistan. The army launched an operation on March 27th, 1948. The ensuing invasion of Kalat invited insurgency to Balochistan.  In 1970, Pakistan, with the military help of Iran, launched a massive operation on the Pakistani side of Baluchistan against guerrilla fighters and separatists. By taking advantages of Pakistan’s internal situation, India then waged war on Pakistan in 1971. As a result of the war, the Pakistani Army signed a treaty of surrender and East Pakistan (Bangladesh) gained independence while the land of Baluchistan was still left dreaming for peace.

Balance of power within federation and Punjabistan 

Nationalist parties and linguistic scholars used the term Punjabistan for the dominance of Punjabi establishment over Pakistan. Unfortunately, the lever of power in Punjab’s hands boosted ethnic conflict within the federation. Before the separation of Bangladesh, Punjabis were in a minority in numerical strength due to Bengalis majority, but at that time Punjabi establishment had adopted a discriminative formula regarding the divide of wealth and resources area wise under the federal system, while after the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the Punjabi ethnic group got numerical strength through forcefully counting the Saraki ethnic group in the overall population of Punjab through ignoring the demand of the creation of Saraikistan province within Punjab on ethnic bases.     

In that new emerging situation, Baluchistan had become the largest province of Pakistan by landmass, acquiring 44% of the total area of Pakistan. However, at that time the Punjab-led federation had adopted a revised formula to divide NFC award among provinces population wise, and it increased hate for other smaller provinces.  

Recently, during the budget 2016-2017 debate in Parliament, the political parties that belong to smaller provinces accused the Punjabi ruling party that the proposed budget is not the budget of Pakistan but it is the budget of Punjabistan. 

Unfortunately, US intervention in Pakistan had cultivated extreme nationalism to weaken the state structure. The above cultural and ethnic clashes in Pakistan highlighted that America had weaponized nationalism in Pakistan to weaken Patriotism and now the situation was much worst in Pakistan that Sindhi, Baloch, Pakhtun, and Saraiki need the certificate of patriotism from Punjab. 

Political solution of Balochistan and formation of Saraiksitan province

The US color revolution scheme boosted Nationalist movements and ethnic conflicts in Pakistan to weaken federation so that Western objectives would be achieved by creating hostility. In this situation, separation from federation is not a solution. That’s why despite the guerilla revolts and army operations, mostly Patriotic Baloch’s leaders have raised their voices with other smaller provinces against Punjab’s dominance and demanded political solutions in the federation according to the constitution of Pakistan. As it allows the formation of a new province under the federation, but unfortunately the formation of Saraikistan province has been blocked by Punjab. The rest of the three Provinces agreed to fulfill the demand of the Saraiki ethnic group. It is considered as one of the oldest ethnicities of south Asia and the Pacific with Pakistan’s largest speaking language saraiki living in the center of an ancient civilization, Indus valley. The creation of the new province Saraikistan in southern Punjab will not only create a balance within the federation, but it will also discourage separatism, extremism, and terrorism in the country.  Historically, Saraiki region has a great influence of Sufism (Islamic ideology of peace and tolerance) that can defeat separatism, extremism, and sectarian violence. Legislators have introduced an amendment to the constitution by constituting a mechanism for the equal distribution of resources and wealth with reference to provincial autonomy. In this regard, the 18th amendment to the constitution of Pakistan was passed in 2010. But putting it into action is still a challenge as the dominant Punjabi establishment and bureaucracy are creating a hurdle in this regard, likewise they are already blocked the very popular demand of the formation of Saraikistan province. The Punjabi establishment had already diverted the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route to Punjab, and this decision of the establishment has not only created confusion among provinces, but it also led to uncertainty regarding China’s initiatives in Pakistan.

Political instability: Hide and seek between Democracy and Dictatorship  

Since 1947 (partition of sub-continent), Pakistan is facing a game of hide and seek between civilian Democracy and military Dictatorship. Unfortunately, civilian and elected governments were overthrown by the army four times in the history of Pakistan. The Army has become the main source of power, therefore Pakistan is still politically immature and every elected political government faces the threat of a military coup due to an institutional fight for power.  

All military rule over Pakistan was supported by America; time and time again Washington replaced civilian elected governments through sponsoring military coups in Islamabad to achieve western objectives in the region.    

Unfortunately, it is true that American sponsored military regimes had exchanged Pakistan’s independence for material gains. A series of events - sponsored military coups in Pakistan - led the country to its destruction. If we look at the details, it can easily be observed that the 1965 and 1971 wars with India were fought by military regimes, while the tragic event of Pakistan’s history regarding the separation of Bangladesh also happened under a military government.  Moreover, American sponsored military dictator General Zia ul Haq waged an American war on Pakistan and Afghanistan against USSR. Beside this, the US-NATO invasion of Afghanistan also took place during the military government in Pakistan.  

These few facts describe how the US had polluted Pakistan’s political institutions. According to CIA declassified documents, the US had killed Pakistan’s popular Prime misters Liaquat ali khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, while most believe that two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto was also killed by the USA.   

For Pakistan, the quote of Frank Zappa (American song writer and musician) comes true: “Politics is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex”.