Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pakistan: A Sense of Nationhood in Islam?

In an interesting article published recently in the Pakistani newspaper The News International (part of the Jang group), Ayaz Amir seems to imply that a common religion does not automatically build a sense of shared nationhood.

“Pakistan was a wholly new invention and it was a reflection of the difficulties besetting the idea of Pakistan that our leading figures declared, very early on, that Islam was the basis of our nationhood.

"Indeed, we made religion a fallback position, seeking refuge in its dialectics when more attention should have been paid to temporal problems. The discontent arising in East Pakistan [now Bangladesh] was proof that temporal problems needed a temporal solution. Today it is the same in Balochistan whose grievances are crying out for something more than the usual palliatives.”

Amir suggests that the fight agaist the Taliban, which Pakistan avoided for so long, is putting the country through a “formative experience” by forcing Pakistanis to recognize that “Talibanism” is alien to Pakistani soil. Amir does not spell this out, but presumably what he means is that not every idea or movement that identifies itself with Islam – rightly or wrongly – is somehow Pakistani, or acceptable to Pakistan. And, conversely, not everything about being Pakistani (or Punjabi, Baluchi, Sindhi etc) is limited to being Muslim.

Read the full article: Reversing 800 years of history, The News International, Sept 25, 2009.