Marks of Nationalism: myths, memories and the untruth

(This article is the first of a series of 3 sections under the banner of “Marks of Nationalism: myths, memories and the untruth”)

When two persons share same DNA they belong to the same family; when a number of people are inhabitants of the same area they become citizens. In this same way when they are more in number, inhabit a shared area and share some commonalities based on whatever the factor be they become a nation and the ideological facade of their bound is what we call nationalism. Nationalism is an elusive term. It can be based on territory, faith, colour or historical bound; we don’t have any distinct set of criteria that could define what nationalism is. Many discourses have been written on this subject but no definition has yet qualified to be agreed upon in our academia consensually. Nationalism, as a matter of fact, generation after generation keeps consolidating. Subsequently, a new face of this union comes to the fore. We see those people proud of this bound. It’s the simplest and manifest connotation of the term nationalism. This nationalism, same way, is recognized with its specific characteristic as sub-nationalism when it is a part of a union that is composed of such two or more nationalities. When two or more nations have something in common they construct another narration of this bound which is, subsequently, identified as their collective – national – narrative. At this juncture, we can see that we have escaped the predefined terms of nationalism where the unity was among people; now among different nationalities.

Our history can become the best book of directions nations can learn from, for it is full of blunders and mishaps.

The quagmire of defining different nationalities from their ethno-cultural vocabulary while orchestrating another account of – broader nationalism and rendering their unchallenged accommodation and consistency remains heightened all the time not only in our society but in our academia as well. In the absence of a broader nationalistic version of identity, we see, in an inevitable aftermath, the rise of factions among sub-nationalities challenging the legitimacy of Pakistaniat. Demanding more autonomy which sometimes turns into ultimatums of divergence, if we, for the time being, leave those blatant, minority-driven, anti-state factions out of our discourse.

This ethnic divergence has caused much harm to Pakistani society than what the current markers suggest so far. We have witness, under the guise, the rise of ethno-nationalist extremists; regionalism-driven diversity in politics spoiling the democratic fabric of Pakistan; subordination of national interests; mishandling of national institutions; the relegation of constitutionalism; dwindling of federalism and; the emergence of an anti-state diaspora from among the sub-nationalities campaigning against the state of Pakistan.

Our history can become the best book of directions nations can learn from, for it is full of blunders and mishaps that they would in a way or other find their case. In our history, we saw ideas tried to mould with physics, where guns were lined to coerce the nationalities that, resultantly, broke the state of Pakistan apart. Just like there is no role of hockey in the game of cricket; there is no role of intimidation in the realm of conceptions, ideas and ideologies. Ethnic diversity is deemed a blessing; a curse, perhaps, it has turned out in case of Pakistan.

Sculpting a facade: State, governance and the people.

Someone rightly observed that financially a poor man can become rich in a single day but mentally he would require a longer span of time to become rich. In this very sense, when we see Pakistan as a democratically ruled federation and then look at the pre-independence history of Pakistan we see an obvious and unprecedented political difference. A part of the Indian subcontinent that happened to be the hub of conflicts and invasions; ruled under monarchs, kings, warriors, imperialists and quasi-democratic regimes that in the immediate turn of events became a democracy where rules, rule and ruler were subjected to the people, power was vested in the hands of masses. Being not adept at this culture of governance masses didn’t worry about the manipulation of democracy and this democracy, which was no less than a blessing for those who fought for its cause in the West, adopted a new radical face. The epoch of following 60 years Pakistani people witnessed oscillating forms of governance from democratic to authoritarian, quasi-democratic to despotic tenures.


(The discourse continues)

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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.