National heritage

The way through which Akram Shahs of our time are elected as leaders is purely a masterly intervention by the British.

Rasul Bakhsh Rais June 17, 2013
The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

The burning of Ziarat Residency, a national heritage and symbol of honour for many of us, which was the last place where the founder of the country rested before death, came as a big shock. For those who understand the character of the several streams of violent groups, some of which are ethnic, some purely criminal, others merely fronts of political parties and several more, shaped by distorted visions of Islam and religious extremism, anything can be expected from them. They have committed massacres, ethnic cleansing and have fuelled religious hatred and conflict. We have now witnessed thousands of acts of terrorism, religious and political violence, in which the targets are innocent civilians. They present real and grave challenges to national security, the state and to the fledgling democracy in this country. The question that we need to think about, and think really hard, is that are we, as a political community, unified enough to face the challenge of terrorists of all creeds and violent pursuits?

My tentative answer is that we are not. We just look for scapegoats and foreign conspiracies. The first step will be to acknowledge that something has gone wrong in the society and there is a lot more wrong within the Pakistani state, in terms of its direction, dominant ideas and undemocratic pursuits of our ruling groups. We have new governments by new political groups in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and in the federation that promised us peace and prosperity — perhaps, everything man can aspire to. It is too early to hold them responsible but let us see how they will be different from those who ruled us for five years, mostly leaving the country on autopilot.

I felt a great shock on June 17 — more than the one felt due to the burning of the Residency itself — arising from a comment made by the central secretary-general of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Akram Shah. Referring to the burnt Residency, he said “The house always reminded the Baloch and Pashtuns of the long period when they were the slaves of the British Empire in the Indian subcontinent”. None of us can defend British colonialism, not even the modern-day British gentlemen can, but the idea of Baloch and the Pashtuns being slaves of the British is incorrect and obnoxious. This really shows how our contemporary political leaders and representatives are ignorant of history, society and even politics, which they practise more for power than any principle or public interest.

The question is, how free were the Pashtuns and the Baloch before the British stepped foot on our lands? If being a subject was slavery, then they changed their masters with the changing fortunes of Afghan, Mughal, Persian and local tribal and caste chiefs. The social conditions of this part of the world where the Residency was built were more oppressive and inhuman than we found them to be under the reform process by the British in education and in developing and enforcing civil law, courts, bureaucracy and the economic and institutional infrastructure of the state. The way through which the Akram Shahs of our time are elected as leaders, through an electoral or democratic process, is purely a masterly intervention by the British. Slow they were in these reforms, but they routed the idea of constitutional rule and freedoms. Let political rhetoric and selfish motives not distort history and our imagining of the self.

What is a national heritage? It is everything of cultural and social value or any worth that stands on a territory. We are rich in our heritage. So many religions, cultures, thinkers and visionaries have shaped our civilisation for thousands of years. With all the faults of the principle of colonialism, it must be recognised that the British pushed the subcontinent into the modern age.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2013.

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nadeem shah | 11 years ago | Reply

Mr Rais you are arguing with illterates, you are absolutely right, these are the same backward thinkers who think Bamiyan Buddhas were unislamic, these people suffer from low self esteem and jealousy and convert it into nationalism and pride, they are confused people, they are destroying their own heritage to make some useless point.

nadeem shah | 11 years ago | Reply

@Ali tanoli: that isthe fault of Baloch.....they have money to live in luxury and 4wd vehicle convoys, and guns, then spend money on education, truth is Baloch sardars I know, have said to me personally, we dont want an educated populace, they will stand up to us then. I was disgusted to hear that, but the baloch sardar seemed proud of his statement.

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