|Name of the book: Pakistan-Nationalism without a
Editor: Christophe Jaffrelot
Publisher: Manohar, New Delhi
Year: 2002, Pages: 352
Pakistan, the first country in the modern world to have been created in the name of religion, has, since its inception, been faced with the daunting task of nation-building and coming to terms with its diverse ethnicities. Much has already been written on the dilemmas that Pakistan faces, as it seeks to balance what often seem to be the mutually conflicting demands of Islamic universalism, on the one hand, and ethnic particularism, on the other. This collection of essays provides a broad account of the problems of nation-building in contemporary Pakistan. As the book's title suggests, the task of creating a nation on the basis of a universal religious ideology has not been easy, for Islam and nationalism seem to be at odds with each other.
Christophe Jaffrelot's opening essays deals with the basic problem afflicting Pakistan: a perennial search for identity and unifying symbols seeking to bring together a diverse collection of peoples who share little in common other than their religion. The 'two-nation' theory, on which the Muslim League under Jinnah based its project for a separate Pakistan, has meant, Jaffrelot says, that Pakistani nationalism has always sought to define itself against the Indian/Hindu other. In other words, it is a negative self-identity, premised essentially on an unrelenting anti-Indianism. This has not proved an effective way of uniting the various different ethnic groups in the country, however. Jaffrelot shows how, increasingly, groups such as the Mohajirs, the Sindhis and the Baluchis, following the example of the Bengalis of the erstwhile East Pakistan, have been increasingly resentful of what they see as Punjabi domination, with the Punjabi-dominated bureaucracy and army employing Islam as a tool for keeping other ethnic groups in their place. Four incisive articles that follow the introduction, each dealing with various aspects of the ethnic question in Pakistan. Ian Talbot discusses the notion of the 'Punjabisation of Pakistan', arguing that although in the decades after independence Punjabi domination has clearly increased, not all regions and social classes in Punjab have actually stood to gain, as the benefits of economic development have largely accrued to certain social and economic classes concentrated in a few districts of the province. Yunas Samad describes the chequered history of the Mohajirs of Pakistan, Urdu-speaking refugees and their descendants, concentrated, for the most part, in urban Sind. He shows how Mohajir identity has undergone a radical shift over the years, with the community having been, in the first years of Pakistan, a dominant factor in the country's bureaucracy and polity, and now being increasingly pushed aside by Punjabis and Pathans. Alongside this, Mohajir self-perceptions have also been dramatically transformed. From being vociferous champions of the 'two nation' theory and Islamist politics, they are now among its most bitter critics. This process of reformulation of ethnic identities in Pakistan cannot be separated from the process of sectarianism, as S.V.R.Nasr and Mariam Abou Zahab show in their contributions. They argue that as the Pakistani state has increasingly sought to use Islam as a tool of legitimation, the official version of Islam has been challenged by rival versions, thus giving rise to extreme sectarian strife, as between the Shias and the Sunnis, and, among the Sunnis, between the Deobandis and the Barelwis. The principal dilemma that Pakistan faces today in seeking to fashion a coherent national identity is the challenge of seeking to reconcile Islamic internationalism with Pakistani nationalism.
Increasingly, the Pakistani state has sought to use Islamist groups to serve its own internal and external interests. As an inevitable consequence, militant Islamist factions have mushroomed, and today threaten to drown the country in civil strife. Saeed Shafqat's essay deals with the shift from what he calls 'official Islam' to 'militant Islamism', focusing in particular on the Lashkar-i-Tayyeba, the armed wing of the Ahl-i-Hadith. Oliver Roy's essay deals with the Taliban, tracing Pakistan's role in bringing the Deobandi student militia to power in Kabul to serve its own interests, a project that has now ended in miserable failure. Gilles Dorronsoro's piece deals with the same issue and makes largely the same observations. The take-over of the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination and independence by pro-Pakistan Islamists, sponsored and armed by the Pakistani state, exhibits how Islam has become a convenient tool for pursuing strategic objectives, Sumit Ganguly argues in his paper titled 'The Islamic Dimensions of the Kashmir Insurgency'. As in the case of Afghanistan, Pakistan's deliberate use of Islam as a weapon has not only wrought tremendous destruction in Kashmir, but has also meant a radical negation of the indigenous Islamic ethos, based as it is on a generous tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Linked to the Islamic question is the manner in which Pakistan has sought to negotiate its own foreign policy. Mohammed Waseem's article traces the links between Pakistani domestic and foreign policies, focusing in particular on the Islamic dimension. The use of Islam as a means for pursuing Pakistan's own objectives in Kashmir, sidelining the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation front and, in its place, propping up a plethora of pro-Pakistan Islamist outfits, has had, as Amelie Blom writes, crucial unintended consequences for Pakistani civil society, leading to sharp sectarianism and general instability. Ian Talbot rounds off the discussion with a general discussion on the role of the army in moulding Pakistani foreign policy. If the general tenor of the articles is depressing, Pierre Lafrance's piece, the last in the volume, suitably titled 'And Yet Pakistan', ends on a more cheery note. Despite the manifold and increasing challenges that Pakistan is beset with, it has still managed to survive. But between mere survival and thriving there is more than a world of difference.