Pakistan’s Identity Crisis

Pakistan’s Identity Crisis
By Qurratulain

Identity may be defined as a distinctive characteristic of an individual or a particular group of individuals. For one’s survival in this world it is very crucial to maintain his identity. If we expand the criterion of ‘identity’ to national level it is of utmost importance because it is nation’s identity which distinguishes its people from the rest of the world. The importance of national Identity can be better analyzed by the fact that it is the base of all the policies, i.e. domestic and foreign policy and hence the social. economic cultural and ethical development of any country partly depends upon its national identity. In other words actions of a nation are determined by its identity. As far as Pakistan’s identity is concerned, it may be divided into three phases, i.e. pre-partition, post partition and present day. Pre-partition era dates from the Muhammad Bin Qasim’s invasion and conquest of Sind. Muslim identity bore, grew and passed through different stages during this era. The second phase of Pakistan’s identity started with the establishment of Pakistan and the third phase is present day scenario. This ‘identity’ faced variety of crisis in each phase.

The term ‘identity crisis’ is used to denote a particular situation where by an individual, group of individuals or a nation faces conflicts regarding its identity. These conflicts occur when one’s ideological basis and prevailing circumstances contradict in such a way that the prevailing circumstances dominate the ideological basis. With reference to Pakistan the history of ‘identity crisis’ have its roots in the late Mughal dynasty. The comfort-loving attitude of the rulers, bloodsheds for the throne, abandoned faith, mismanagement of domestic economic and political matters, absence of updated foreign developments and other moral, ethical and social weaknesses were the major forces which contributed in the identity crisis of the Muslims of South Asia. In pre partition era where by Muslims of south Asia have lost their regime and British rule tighten the span of their social , cultural and political life. Actually they lost their rule just because of the ‘lost identity’. After a half century of submissive life they began to find the ‘lost identity’ and they succeeded. The two nation theory brought back the essence of Muslim identity, with the help of vigorous leadership of Sir Syed Ahmed khan philosophical guidance of Iqbal, vivid spirit of Quaid and untired efforts of Muslim leaders, women and students. At the end they found their lost identity in the form of Pakistan. This identity was regained after almost two centuries of ignominious identity crisis.

The second phase of identity crisis began very after the inception of Pakistan. The Shia/Sunni crisis at the time of partition was the first of all. But luckily at that time, the crisis was pragmatically resolved by Quaid-e-Azam, so it was buried in a hatchet at that time but later on it burst up from different grounds.
The second case of identity crisis in the chronology is the crisis of East and West Pakistan. At the time of inception, Pakistan inherited East and West Pakistan with one and four provinces respectively. Population of East Pakistan alone was more than that of the total population of the four provinces of West Pakistan. The seeds of identity crisis were sown with the ‘language controversy’, where by Urdu was declared as the national language of Pakistan while Urdu was the influencing language only in West Pakistan. This language controversy and some other strategies which lead to the deprived feelings among the natives of East Pakistan and the ultimate consequence was an identity crisis in the form of separation of East Pakistan in 1971.
Not only the separation of East Pakistan but, a variety of identity crisis cases stood in the post partition era. The list contains delayed constitutional development, unstable political conditions (due to personal likes and dislikes and lust of power), Social injustice and negative image of Pakistan on international screen. Constitution is the base of any new born state but in case of Pakistan this base couldn’t be established even after about a decade of the inception of Pakistan. So when there was no base for people, the process of identity development started very late. Latterly the termination of 1956’s and 1962’s constitutions fulfilled the remaining part of delayed identity development. Secondly the political system of a nation is the index of its identity. Unluckily, in this regard we have not been so fortunate. Almost all the politicians have out shown the ability of exquisite attainment of their personal or group benefits. This created uncertain circumstances for the nation to achieve the identity goal. In this situation the youth couldn’t get the proper guideline for the active participation I the national affairs. Another aspects was lack of opportunities for them to improve the national morale and to set positive trends, which further lead towards another channel of identity crisis.

Part played by social injustice in the development of identity crisis is not negligible. This social injustice also arose at the very threshold of our independence. At the time of partition millions of Muslims migrated, leaving their valuables and properties. This gave the opportunity to some people to attain the acquisition of these massive properties. Such people latterly, enslaved some others in order to become ‘jagirdars’, and hence appeared the identity crisis in the form of ‘feudalism’, making people to forget the ideological agenda under which Pakistan was emerged.

All these factors further participated in corruption, national disharmony, rigid attitudes, misconceptions about the religion (partly the role played by ‘mullas’), blind practices on
unnecessary customs and a list of moral dilemmas. The identity crisis after the partition threw Pakistan in an ignominious status both at domestic and at international arena. Domestically we couldn’t achieve the social status which we’ve dreamt during the Pakistan movement. Economically we stood at the back end of the global economic stage. And above all we were entitled as a ‘terrorist state’ due to some mismanaged and scattered groups. Even some of them really didn’t have the basic knowledge of their ideological agenda.

In present day Pakistan, the situation is more hazardous than that of one discussed in the previous phase. Today’s identity crisis is ‘giant’ in nature aiming to nip our ideology form the bud. Now with changing global environment and with the changing role of Pakistan at international level, the nature of identity crisis has become more complex. The present day crisis may be classified as political, social religious and economic identity crisis.
The social and religious crisis work in collaboration. On the religious part, the extremist group has developed misconceptions about the religion. On the other hand the society is facing the ‘cultural war’ through different media. In such a situation the nation, preferably the youth has contradictions with religious implications which is making them unaware of their ideological basis. In the second step the attractive evil (the weapon of cultural war) is becoming dominant. So the nation’s ideological basis is being deployed by the prevailing circumstances, creating identity crisis. In this case we can’t blame the young mind (as he’s not getting the proper guideline and he has not been trained in such a way that he can find the roots the purpose of his existence, secondly the so called knowledge of religion he gets is not authentic).
The second type of present day identity crisis in Pakistan is political in nature. In fact our political system has always been ruled by reigns in hands of few influencing groups. No such political platforms were built for the coming generations, to ensure their participation in national or international affairs. It is very necessary to train the youth for the participation in national affairs because they are the people who have to run the country in the future. Unluckily our youth didn’t get any such training at any stage of our 59 years history. The ultimate result was that, the administrators belonged to a specific group, making others so annoyed that others even don’t care to have a look at the mismanagement. This imbalance in the political infrastructure restricted the educated youth to participate in the national policies and ultimately the process of policy making enjoyed the influence of un-educated and narrow minded policy makers, who couldn’t devise the identity goals of the nation till yet.

At international political arena we are still facing the vicious circle of ‘terrorism’. Even our government ensured Pakistan’s contribution in the ‘war against terrorism’, but being an Islamic state we become the suspect of any international terrorist act. Here the policy of state is ambiguous, which aims to satisfy the western world but the integration of Muslim world is not to be seen any where. In my opinion we don’t know that where we are standing right now, where we have to go and where we are going?

On the part of economy, no doubt our economy grew with in last half decade but only at macro level. The poor is still standing on the place where he was a decade ago. Increasing
Unemployment, inflation, and poverty etc are not only contributing in social imbalances but because of these factors, a common man is not able to find the basis of his identity.

The identity of a nation is its image, and our image today is ‘a tree whose roots have been cut’. This situation is actually showing our lost identity. We have become much concerned about our outer look but we have forgotten the basis on which we have to develop our inner self. If this process keeps on going with the same velocity, the time is not far when the existence of our identity will vanish.

It is very crucial to have a breach of the peace against identity crisis. In this regard the most important step is identity education. The identity education should be provided at educational institutions as well as in temporarily organized seminars (seminars should be accessible for general public). Identity education will not work till we present a difference between different cultures. Media censorship should also be there in order to lessen the possible damages of cultural war. Media should also spread the knowledge of values among the common men. And last but not least we all should play our part to improve our religious image at international level. In this connection we can spread the true essence of our religion which is peace.

2 Responses

  1. […] others. Its their own self created identity crisis. Some good articles on that identity crisis: Pakistan’s Identity Crisis Qurratulain Pakistan's Identity Crisis – Council on Foreign Relations […]

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