Whenever the Pakistani nation becomes united in its thinking, it is punished. The last time it was united in West Pakistan after the 1970 election, the country broke apart. It was like Germans feeling the same way collectively under Hitler, or the Serbs under Milosevic. Nations seem to suffer when their minds become duplicates of a single doctrinal template.
Under democracy, difference in thinking is basic; otherwise there would be no opposition in parliament. French magistrate De Tocqueville, on a tour of a newly freed United States, was put off by most Americans ‘thinking alike’ because he thought it might make the country more despotic than democratic. Under President Bush, America ‘thought alike’ on Iraq despite democracy.
Why is uniformity of mind favoured by the state before it becomes democratic? In fact, the state creates nationalism — another name for thinking the same — either to defend itself or to attack a neighbour. Today, a more wary world calls this uniformity of thinking the ‘national narrative’. The highest form of nationalism is called fascism. The state needs everyone thinking ditto before it fights its ‘just war’.
The ideological state ,too, believes in uniformity of the collective mind. It took no time for European philosophers like Hannah Arendt to diagnose that Nazism and Stalinism were both fascist, although opposed in the battlefield. The Soviet Union installed a political system where there was no opposition to the communist party. Iran, too, has no political parties and no opposition in parliament.
General Ziaul Haq was told by Maulana Zafar Ahmad Ansari, in his Ansari Commission Report, that Pakistan should have no opposition. The 1985 election, therefore, was ‘partyless’ but the parliament that came into being after the election decided it wanted opposition and not ‘uniformity of mind’. When the state becomes shy about regimentation, it raises the flag of ‘unity’. This is the coercive need of a scared or aggressive state.
Pakistan is ‘united’ over its ‘ghairat’, which has been violated by America. This mindset is created by the media which is moulded by state agencies. Writing in Jang (March 28, 2011) Haroon Rasheed stated that the media had been in thrall to governments in the past but was now free — trying to be as balanced as possible. But there were still men inside the media who protected interests of certain parties and agencies, and some were under threat from certain elements that could cause them harm, thus making them fall short of balance.
Urdu expresses Pakistani nationalism much better than English. In renegade English, the national narrative does not read well. The nation is, however, united under anti-Americanism in a world where ideological divides are disappearing because of globalisation and its interdependencies. Where will our ‘uniformity of mind’ take us? The ‘lesser’ (sic!) minds who think of the national economy and not of national honour (ghairat) say the state’s ‘failing’ aspects may be enlarged further.
The Pakistan Army has decided to ‘follow the people’ after the state agencies have funded the uniform mind till it looks menacingly monolithic. The GHQ by the same token has said goodbye to ‘wisdom’, which aims at survival, and has embraced ‘national honour’, which aspires to martyrdom. The Americans are shameless. They have chosen Obama after Bush to roll back the ‘consensus’ over Iraq. We are made of sterner stuff. We will not roll back our India-centrism and its ancillary requirements in Afghanistan.
If we don’t succeed in squashing the alternative view by calling it ‘bought by America’ (pith-thoo), we might survive when ‘uniformity of thought’ brings us close to self-destruction.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2011.