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Pakistan: The Cultural Confusion

Lt Gen CA Krishnan (Retd) writes:

Pakistan was carved out of the Indian sub-continent on 14 August 1947 solely on the basis of religion, to be the homeland of Muslims of undivided India.  Therefore, its founding fathers envisaged it as the exclusive home for Indian Muslims (henceforth Pakistanis). However, 40% of the 95 million Indian Muslims chose to remain in India as Indian citizens therefore Pakistanis wanted to forge a new identity.

But it was difficult to forge a new identity. If it tried to sever its ‘Indianness’ for its cultural identity in the immediate neighbourhood, there was a danger of secessionist tendencies becoming stronger. So, though Persian was the language of the elite for a long time in India, (later displaced by English) it never became that language in Pakistan. Pakistan shares a 900 Kms border with Iran, but the bilateral trade is a modest $ 359 million. Despite historical links, relations between the two countries are beset with irritants. Both accuse each other of cross border terrorist intrusions and in fact, Pakistan is in the process of constructing a fence along its border with Iran!  The Baluchi minority split between borders of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan is another constant source of worry. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, the problem of the Durand line is well known. Pakistan has double the number of Pashtuns than Afghanistan. Presumably they would prefer to identify themselves in their tribal identity, Pashtun identity and then Pakistani identity in that order. Some areas in the erstwhile FATA (now KP province) hold the potential to be ‘mini Afghanistan’.

Culturally, there are indications that Pakistan Government is uncomfortable with its South Asian-Indian cultural moorings and has lately developed a craving for cultural identification with Turkey. ‘Ertuzul Ghazi’ a Turkish historical fiction drama is the most popular show in Pakistan with ratings higher than in the country of its origin. Earlier it yearned to be more identified with Arabs because as mentioned above it would never want to acquire the Iranian/Afghan identity.  Its yearning for leadership and a place of pride amongst the Islamic nations is dismissed by Islamic brethren with disdain despite its ‘lone Islamic nuclear power’ claim. In its global outlook, Pakistan has shifted from being ‘West leaning’ to an important US ally to a Chinese ‘junior partner’.  Its economy is in distress with serious structural issues and unbearable debt burden. Crumbling on every front, Pakistan has now embraced China. Is this an identity that Pakistan can ever acquire? Considering that the Turkic people are of East Asian ancestry maybe this line of thinking will sow more confusion about the Pakistani identity. Recently an image showing an identity card of Pakistan, of a Chinese national, has sparked a controversy in Pakistan. Is the face in that card a harbinger of the Pakistani identity?

Lieutenant General CA Krishnan, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM (Retd), is a former Deputy Chief of the Army Staff.
Article uploaded
 on: 26-05-2021
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organisation that he belongs to or of the USI of India.

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