The delusion of identity

Failures as a state on many counts are enough to indicate that basic premises on which our state is erected are faulty


Adnan Randhawa February 18, 2014
The writer is an Islamabad based lawyer and is the central deputy secretary information of the PTI

Hardly would there be any other nation so short-sighted, having messed up its identity so badly, experiencing a complete disconnect from its real past and living in dangerous delusions.

Leave aside the multitudes of illiterates or semi-illiterates; do the highly-educated people of our nation have the minutest of an idea who they really are; which stock they really belong to; what are the wonders that their ancestors have done in so many fields over thousands of years? But here arises a question: Who were their ancestors? Were they Al Khwarizmis, Al Berunis or were they Mahaviras, Ashokas, etc.?

Ours may be the only nation where the sense of ancestry is sickeningly mistaken, thanks to our unbounded hatred towards everything that is Indian. Intense propaganda through distorted curricula and censored media, coupled with intellectual and moral barrenness over decades, has given rise to this sorry state of affairs. Consequently, there is a complete blackout of history spanning several millennia from the Indus Valley Civilisation to the conquest of Sindh by our textbook hero, Muhammad bin Qasim.

A marvellous treasure of preserved history containing records of wonderful philosophies, civilisations, religions, empires, belonging to the same racial stock that predominantly inhabits Pakistan and having originated from the same territories that now constitute Pakistan, has been buried far away from our collective intellect. Due to ill-perceived danger to the religion of Pakistanis, they, since the inception of the young state, have not been allowed the luxury of learning about their own history. They have been deprived of the pride of the countless glories of their past just because they belong to the period preceding the advent of Islam. A few couplets of our highly revered poet, with which it is not very fashionable to disagree, successfully diverted the genealogical lineage of all the inhabitants of the new state, including that of the poet’s own (as his own forefathers were Kashmiri Brahmins before converting to Islam) from India to Central Asia or Middle East. And that imaginary transmigration of ancestry actually did take place in the minds of fellow countrymen without any historical or genealogical basis. The irony gets even worse, when one tastes the sense of racial superiority and arrogance of the Middle Eastern and Central Asian progeny of our imaginary forefathers.

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This grossly mistaken identity is the root cause of all our confusions which have been compounding for decades. The range of confusions includes the basic questions about our own selves, the objective of our existence as a nation, the purpose of the creation of our new state, to the most recent questions encountering us like how to deal with militancy? How to inculcate principles of tolerance and coexistence to counter militancy? How to interact with our neighbours especially India, the Muslim world and the international community? All these emanate from this crisis of identity. We need to understand what is it that has plagued us when scores of other states that started off along with us in almost similar circumstances are thriving.

Our failures as a state on many counts are enough to indicate that the basic premises on which our state is erected are faulty. As they say, it’s never too late to make amends. It is time we take up the gauntlet to resolve our identity crisis before it’s really too late.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2014.

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COMMENTS (71)

Realist | 7 years ago | Reply The author is wrong is suggesting that Pakistanis hate everything Indian. Many customs that Pakistanis have, have Indian origins. For example, look at the marriage celebrations, such as, mehndi and ubtan/bhutna. So Pakistani identity has many elements, some which are diverse as relating to the regions to which they belong. There is cultural diversity. For example, the local languages are different. Customs also differ. For instance, some Pashtun, expect favors from the bridegroom and his family, whereas, in general, Punjabis, Delhiwalas, Upians, Biharis, Hyderabadis (from India) give a lot of dowry and remain beholden and obliged to give favors to the bridegroom. Despite cultural diversity the things common among the various ethno-cultural groups, is that most have some degree of attachment to Islam and Pakistan and these two too are important elements of their identity. This is not to deny that ingrained in their customs there are many pre-Islamic and non-Islamic practices, such as, the custom of mehndi, the Sindhis holding their hands together as the Hindus do when they say “nawaskar,” or “nawastay.” Pashtuns dealing in usury, many Pakistanis’ common reverence of and prostrating to graves of saints, which is reminiscent of animist practices of ancestor worship, etc. But most Pakistanis accept all these as part of their larger identity. However, in spite of all these vagaries, the majority of Pakistanis do identify themselves with Pakistan and Islam to a significant degree. So actually there is no crisis of identity as regards the majority of the people of Pakistan. Warm regards to all.
Be Careful | 7 years ago | Reply

@Rex Minor: I personally know many who came from India and trace their lineage to Pashtun tribes, such as, yousufzai, have "Khan" attached to their names but having lived in India, have adopted Indian culture. The idea was that over time culture influences identity more than racial background. You seemed to have missed the idea. Thanks.

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