Pervez Hoodbhoy, Nuclear Physicist
PAKISTAN URGENTLY needs an identity transplant. In 1947, it was created on the basis of exclusiveness. Jinnah’s two-nation theory assumed that a common Muslim identity would automatically allow Muslims to live together. That turned out to be false.
Pakistan must now re-conceive itself as an inclusive secular State. The Muslim-majority State must give equal rights to all citizens, irrespective of religion. The army must abandon proxy war in Kashmir and give up its desire to acquire strategic depth in Afghanistan.
The proof of religion being insufficient is everywhere. Bangladesh broke away in 1971 and has never wanted to return. One sees ethnic and sectarian hatreds ripping apart Pakistan’s social fabric. In Karachi, the conflict between Muhajirs and Pathans dominates. In Balochistan, there is an unending bloody war between nationalists and the State. The jihadis have turned against their former mentors, and today the army deeply fears the Frankenstein’s monster.
First, the State should focus on domestic issues. Human development has been utterly ignored. People need electricity, education, clean drinking water, employment, etc. It must be left to the Kashmiris to deal with the Indians; we must forget about getting Kashmir through force. I don’t agree with India’s forcible occupation of Kashmir, but it’s not for Pakistan to seize Kashmir either directly or by proxy.
Second, a different federal arrangement is needed. The Baloch and the Sindhi are deeply alienated from the Punjabi centre. A new federation is needed where provinces have maximum autonomy. On this there has been some formal progress — the 18th amendment to the Constitution earlier this year was a step, but structural problems have made its implementation difficult.
Third, the enormous economic disparities must be decreased. Since the pie is not growing, inflation is making it impossible to feed families. Deprivation increases the pool of potential terrorists. Madrassas, for example, offer free boarding and lodging but their products are dangerous to society. The State needs to fulfill the social contract. Disasters like floods or earthquakes find government agencies absent or ineffective, while the jihadist parties and charities are superbly organised and often the first to help.
A nation state cannot live on charity alone.
As Told To Kunal Majumder