Pakistan Institute of Development Economics

Discourse Vol 1, Issue 2
PAKISTANIYAT: A Muddled Identity By Abbas T. Moosvi (Article)
Publication Year : 2022
Author: Abbas Moosvi

Pakistan has, since its inception in 1947, aמּempted to construct a national identity that hinges upon a collective paranoia of perpetual threat from India – equated with Hinduism, in turn equated with the force that subjugated Muslim communities pre-partition. (Khaמּak, 1996: 346) Saba Khaמּak, in her paper titled “Security Discourses in Pakistan,” outlines the major historical events that have served as national identity markers for Pakistan up until 1975 – and virtually every single one is directly linked to hostility towards its Eastern neighbor, whether it be in the context of Kashmir, India’s role in the breakup of Pakistan in ’71, or its nuclear experimental explosions in ‘74. (344)

This has naturally functioned to grant the armed forces a unique form of authority in the political domain, which it has frequently meddled in – having instigated three coups to present, each followed by a decade or so of military rule. State narratives have also evolved to project the army as the guardian of the republic and torchbearer of progress and Muslim universalism; a convenient alternative to “local ethnic, religious, and linguistic identities.” (Rizvi, 2019: 7)

The notion of guardianship largely comes from its colonial heritage – the armed forces in the subcontinent under the British had indeed been “entrusted with both external defense and internal security,” ensuring that the diversity of existing communities never challenged the hegemonic presence of the Empire. (Hussain, 1976: 929) In the words of Frantz Fanon, “The men at the head of things distrust the people of the countryside; moreover this distrust takes on serious proportions. This is the case for example of certain governments which, long aﬞer national independence is declared, continue to consider the interior of the country as a nonpacified area where the chief of state or his ministers only go when the national army is carrying out maneuvers there. For all practical purposes, the interior ranks with the unknown. Paradoxically, the national government in its dealings with the country people as a whole is reminiscent of certain features of the former colonial power. ‘We don’t quite know how the mass of these people will react,’ is the cry; and the young ruling class does not hesitate to assert that ‘they need the thick end of the stick if this country is to get out of the Middle Ages.’ But as we have seen, the offhand and way in which the political parties treated the rural population during the colonial phase could only prejudice national unity at the very moment when the young nation needs to get off to a good start.” (Fanon, 1967)

Discourse Vol 1, Issue 2
PAKISTANIYAT: A Muddled Identity By Abbas T. Moosvi (Article)
Publication Year : 2022
Author: Abbas Moosvi

Pakistan has, since its inception in 1947, aמּempted to construct a national identity that hinges upon a collective paranoia of perpetual threat from India – equated with Hinduism, in turn equated with the force that subjugated Muslim communities pre-partition. (Khaמּak, 1996: 346) Saba Khaמּak, in her paper titled “Security Discourses in Pakistan,” outlines the major historical events that have served as national identity markers for Pakistan up until 1975 – and virtually every single one is directly linked to hostility towards its Eastern neighbor, whether it be in the context of Kashmir, India’s role in the breakup of Pakistan in ’71, or its nuclear experimental explosions in ‘74. (344)

This has naturally functioned to grant the armed forces a unique form of authority in the political domain, which it has frequently meddled in – having instigated three coups to present, each followed by a decade or so of military rule. State narratives have also evolved to project the army as the guardian of the republic and torchbearer of progress and Muslim universalism; a convenient alternative to “local ethnic, religious, and linguistic identities.” (Rizvi, 2019: 7)

The notion of guardianship largely comes from its colonial heritage – the armed forces in the subcontinent under the British had indeed been “entrusted with both external defense and internal security,” ensuring that the diversity of existing communities never challenged the hegemonic presence of the Empire. (Hussain, 1976: 929) In the words of Frantz Fanon, “The men at the head of things distrust the people of the countryside; moreover this distrust takes on serious proportions. This is the case for example of certain governments which, long aﬞer national independence is declared, continue to consider the interior of the country as a nonpacified area where the chief of state or his ministers only go when the national army is carrying out maneuvers there. For all practical purposes, the interior ranks with the unknown. Paradoxically, the national government in its dealings with the country people as a whole is reminiscent of certain features of the former colonial power. ‘We don’t quite know how the mass of these people will react,’ is the cry; and the young ruling class does not hesitate to assert that ‘they need the thick end of the stick if this country is to get out of the Middle Ages.’ But as we have seen, the offhand and way in which the political parties treated the rural population during the colonial phase could only prejudice national unity at the very moment when the young nation needs to get off to a good start.” (Fanon, 1967)