Nationalism: Turning Diversities into Uniqueness.

(This article is First part of a series of 6 sections under the banner of “Nationalism: Turning Diversities into Uniqueness. – The Case of Pakistan”)

“Men do not become nationalist, said Ernest Gellner, from sentiments or sentimentality, atavistic, or not well-based or myth-founded; they become nationalists through genuine, objective, practical necessity, however obscurely recognized”. Nationalism, from its literal paradigms, signifies to be a force that stems from the niche of unity and sense of cohesion in a peoples which in turn works as a force towards sovereignty and exclusiveness. Nations flourish, disintegrate, strengthen and end in havoc and it is nationalism behind that tide of “rise and fall”.

There is, however, no constant component rendering the sense of nationalism. Retrospectively one nation can divide into more identities when the subordinate nationalist feelings are intensified within it. The partition of East & West Pakistan can be a reference in this case. Thus, nationalism from its sophistication can also escape its deterministic definitions where it merely sounds to be a sort of patriotism. Nationalism can turn patriotism into prejudice. As we see the vanished lines of Religiously-driven nationalism in the face of more intensified ethno-territorial nationalism when retrospectively Pro-Pakistani jingoist Bengali Muslims turned into separationists within a span of two decades. Nationalism fanned by a sense of superiority turns into jingoism which can become a cause of war and conflict as in the case of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The cohesive power based on the history of coexistence in the subcontinent could not withstand the separationist force of subordinate nationalist movements accentuated by religious differences and intensified by socio-political discrimination.

“The history of the people of Indian subcontinent corroborates the notion that nationalism cannot remain a constant reality without central force of ideology.”

Pakistan is situated in South Asia the part of the world characterized by fascinating socio-cultural variations. Hearing word Pakistan we may mean a nation-state but the image that strikes our mind has been composed of ethnically, culturally, linguistically and demographically diverse identities. This heterogeneity, albeit, is not of any rare sort. Many countries and states with such and an even deeper degree of social, cultural, ethnic and religious pluralities exist around the world. But the state of Pakistan still remains distant from a consensual conception of nationhood. Pakistan since its inception is in search of a national identity. It may have acquired all the credentials of a state but not a nation. The nation and state of Pakistan can better be defined as a peoples inside a defined geography that either lacks or is not ready to acknowledge the existing connotation of nationhood.

The identity predicament of Pakistan has much in convention with the 1947 split. The history of the people of Indian subcontinent corroborates the notion that nationalism cannot remain a constant reality without a central force of ideology. This very notion of the centrality of ideology is somewhat absent from or weak in the nationalist meaning of Pakistaniat. Even the official well-orchestrated version of Pakistani nationalism lacks the solidity of unity. Today’s Pakistani is more proud of being a Sindhi, Punjabi, Baloch or Pakhtoon than a Pakistani. What factors subordinate this sense of broader nationalistic mental makeup still remains an unanswered question before the intelligentsia of Pakistan. Politics, sect, caste, culture, language, colour and class are few of the factors that dominate the parochial socio-political architecture of Pakistani society. While these variations do not possess any big threat to the broader version of nationalism as do the ethno-territorial nationalist sentiments.


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Rehan Ahmed Written by:

The writer is one of the Senior Editors of the online journal The Geopolitics (TGP). He is a candidate of International Relations based in Pakistan.