Shahid Javed Burki is a world renowned Pakistani economist. He has served as Vice President of the World Bank and Finance Minister, and his economic insights have been both appreciated and promoted by this blog. However, in his latest piece, the respected economist steps out of his area of expertise, and the political analysis that he offers is not only misguided, it poses a danger to national security.
Much has been said already about Gen Raheel’s statement last week about ‘non-state actors’ undermining Pakistan’s national security. However there is another point made by the Army chief about the enemy that ‘lives within us and looks like us’ that has received less attention but may actually provide the key to understanding our current trajectory.
“In the world today, security does not only apply to borders, but securing our cultures and way of life are also seen as primary security concerns.”
At first, this seems to be unremarkable, but on closer review this comment contains a clue to the root causes of our troubles: The definition of “our culture and way of life”.
‘Two Nation Theory’ has been a defining part of Pakistan since independence. The founding principle established that Muslims were a distinct nation needing their own geographic and political state separate. After independence, ‘Two Nation Theory’ took root in this soil. So much so, that 22 years later the ‘Two Nation Theory’ sprouted again, this time permanently dividing East and West Pakistan. The pain of that division was great, but the ‘Two Nation Theory’ survived. If anything, it’s roots became stronger and deeper. General Zia fertilised the roots with his process of Islamisisation, and the ‘Two Nation Theory’ sprouted new lashkars across the country. As in 1971, however, the ‘nations’ were not just Muslim and Hindu. They were Muslim and West. They were Muslim and Non-Muslim. They were Muslim and the wrong kind of Muslim. And today, as in 1971, Pakistan is being further unraveled.
In recent years, thousands of Shia have been killed by extremist militants who believe that Sunni and Shia are two separate nations. A 14 year old boy has murdered a 65 year old man because some people believe that Ahmadis are a separate nation inside Pakistan. In 2009, an angry mob burned dozens of homes and killed 8 people including small children because they believe that Christians and Muslims are two different nations inside Pakistan. What started as ‘Two Nation’ theory has become many nation theory. Pakistan was divided in 1971. It was divided again in 1974. Since then, it is being divided again and again. We are divided between liberals and ‘nationalists’. We are divided because Islamists and secularists. We are divided between free speech supporters and Geo-haters.
‘Two Nation Theory’ may have been the need of the hour in the 1940s, but today calls for a new theory: a ‘One Nation Theory’ that defines a Pakistani nation that is not founded in difference, but in what we have in common. Otherwise, we risk Pakistan becoming a nation only in theory.