In modern world, re-writing history is considered as one of the most important tools of nation building. Almost every state, especially the ones belonging to third world bend or distort historical facts to tailor a national narrative that may fit the state’s version of the ideology. It may be useful but there are always limits to everything. In the case of Pakistan, which is to say a country that has a mixture of various ethnicities and language speaking groups, the state imposes Islam to be the common denominator as majority of the population of Pakistan is Muslim.
After winning independence from the British, the leadership of the new country faced many challenges as the practicality of two nation theory was collapsing due to the violence based on language. In that sad moment, Bureaucrats and politicians of the nascent country used Islam as a combining force as a desperate move to shape the nation but this step proved to be a myopic one in the coming days of the state.
The newly tailored Pakistan ideology based on two Nation Theory, even though propagated on the peak of drum failed to impress any large chunk of population. From the very start, Sindhi politicians and leaders blamed their Punjabi counterparts for not giving them equal share in power, the Pashtuns also blamed the Punjabis for using the holy name of Islam for their unholy objectives of hijacking the state machinery. At the same time a civil war broke out in the province of Baluchistan between the already infamous Pakistan military and the Baloch separatists who still claim Baluchistan to be an independent state. The last nail in the coffin of this new Islamic Ideology of Pakistan was the Civil war in East Pakistan (Bangladesh after the fall of Dhaka in 1971), as Bengalis also alleged that Punjabi military-civil officers had left them out of power in the center, even though they were the biggest majority of Pakistan.
Due to the complexities that were either inherited or created by the myopic policies of Pakistani State, the Establishment took another childish step and started purging anything or anyone that went against its version of the history and ideology. This Pakistan Ideology project included censoring newspapers, banning books, re-writing history books and creating a stricter version of Pakistan ideology and a fictitious (based on cherry picked speeches and facts) version of events that led and followed the independence. After creating this new faltering version of historical narrative, anyone who tried to question its practicality was dubbed either as traitor or and Indian agent. To make matters worse, Pakistan’s Military who has staged four successful coups in the short life span of the young nation added their share of ideological fiction and stories about bravery during wars against india into the state’s version of the history.
Analyzing the alterations made to the history by state-actors and its impact on the mindset of the generations that followed every thinking person becomes worried and disappointed. As all the books on Pakistan’s History printed either by state Publishers or government Text Book Boards have more fiction that facts.
They completely censor the rich cultural heritage and background of all the ethnic groups. The oppression against history and culture, sponsored and enforced by state departments under the banner of Islam, unity and Islamic ideology is simply preposterous. It has created a generation of conformists and narrow minded religious bigots who sometimes backfire and cause real damage to the state itself.
People despise their culture so much – the state has indoctrinated them into thinking that it will create divisions among the nation – that they are even ashamed of speaking their mother tongue in front of their parents even. (Common among newer generations of Urban Punjabis).
The history has been rewritten so many times that it has become a farce. Instead of building a national narrative with consensus from all the groups dwelling in Pakistan, the Pakistani establishment has created one that has done more harm than good. The state should try to learn from its mistake and try to create a national ideology that goes hand in hand with cultural diversity and pluralism. It should spread the message of “Unity in Diversity” or else the state building project will falter and Pakistan might become a black comedy in the future history of world.
Blogger, Sheraz Ahmed is a sophomore in Law Faculty of International Islamic University Islamabad, Pakistan.