Seventy years ago, certain social and political ground realities existed which resulted in the political movement that created this country. I am not questioning the motivations or the historical environments which preceded the formation of our proud nation. However, it is also undeniable that since the past 70 years the regional and global order has undergone evolutions that have created new social and geopolitical realities that call for an evolution of our strategic and theoretical thinking to match.
Just as a person must evolve and adapt to take his proper place in the community when he ages, nations and societies must also evolve and adapt otherwise they will be unable to properly achieve their rightful place in the global community. What was necessary and proper 70 years ago has been established just as one’s culture and personality are established as one matures. However, one is not the exact same as he was even 10 or 20 years earlier but rather becomes more complex even as he is still grounded in his past.
Recent events have made clear that we have entered a new era in which the religious nationalism that may have made sense in the past is no longer sufficient to guide us in the new millennium. This has become increasingly obvious with the troubles of our participation in the Saudi military alliance, which was presented as a ‘Muslim NATO’ but was soon exposed as a dangerous experiment that threatens our own national security. The stakes were raised once again when a Saudi-led alliance of Arab states announced cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar and closing borders, putting Pakistan squarely in another bad position.
While alliances with Muslim allies are causing no end of uncomfortable situations for Pakistan, it is ironically the atheist China which is proving to be more sensitive to our own needs. Where Saudi has given some loans that must be repaid, China is investing billions in infrastructure and resources that will advance Pakistani businesses and develop our own economy. It is not just economically that atheist China has proven a strong ally, but also in terms of respecting Pakistan’s positions in global forums such as the UN. Even on Kashmir, China has respected Pakistan’s position but not from any religious motivation as China is not Muslim proving that religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together.
Just as religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together, also it is not the only bond that can unite our own nation.
Now imagine a Pakistan that would have embraced its diversity instead of treating it with fear and loathing. Imagine a Pakistan that would give equal rights to all its citizens without considerations of religion or gender. Imagine a Pakistan that would not be held hostage by its religious clergy and where the rulers would refuse to be blackmailed by these contractors of faith. Pakistan as a territory blessed with geography, relief, natural resources and a rich cultural heritage.
If its leaders had any vision it would be the magnet for the world both for business and for tourism. The tourism potential alone should have been enough to transform us rapidly into a rich and prosperous nation.
As an example, we can see India is being torn apart by religious chauvinism and majoritarianism. We cannot allow ourselves to fall further into the same trap. Now is the time for an updated nationalism not based on our differences but on our diversity which is our strength.