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Dire need for national integration

“We are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, value and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendars, history and tradition, aptitudes and ambitions; in short, we have our own distinctive outlook of life and on life. By all canons of international law, we are a nation.” This was said by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his presidential address on the occasion of Pakistan resolution on 23rd March 1940. Quaid had a clear vision of Muslim nationalism in the subcontinent and he presented it in crystal-clear words.

As we celebrate the 14th of August as Independence Day to commemorate the great struggle and sacrifices of the Muslims for an independent and sovereign state, we direly need to fuel the feelings of national integration in Pakistan. The country is facing grave challenges both on internal and external fronts. We face security threats on our eastern and western borders. India has escalated tensions after it revoked the special status of Kashmir this month. The skirmishes on line of control and exchange of fire has become a routine. India from across the LoC used cluster bombs against Pakistani civilians that caused multiple fatalities and injuries.

The terrorists and the anti-state elements have increased their subversive activities to destabilize the country. Last month, ten military personnel were martyred in terrorist attacks in North Waziristan and Balochistan, which share borders with Afghanistan. thousands of civilians have lost their lives in terrorist attacks across the country. We are virtually in a state of war against the anti-state forces both internally and externally. We need to stand united today as a nation to cope with the internal and external security challenges.

National integration is rooted in the ideology of Pakistan, which is based on the Two-Nation Theory – the proposition put forward in pre-partition India that the Hindus and the Muslims were two separate nations, and so should be able to live in separate homelands. The theory united the Muslims into a strong pressure group and forced the hand of the British into partitioning the subcontinent in 1947. By invoking the ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ to portray Muslims as a monolithic group, the State has ensured that being a Muslim becomes simultaneously an individual and a collective identity, one that transcends all class, race, ethnic and even national boundaries.

The Muslims of the sub-continent unanimously struggled for a separate homeland where they could flourish their distinctive national features, as given by Quaid-e-Azam. The national integration is in fact a force, which emanates from these distinctive features and binds the Pakistani people speaking different languages and belonging to different ethnic groups, into a compact body.

Political disharmony and tussles between the provinces and the Federation are detrimental to national integration. The major grievance of the smaller provinces against the centre has been about transferring the subjects on the concurrent list to the provinces. Over-centralism, unitary type of governance and arbitrary nature of decision-making has actually alienated the smaller provinces and strengthened their demand for provincial autonomy. The undue centralism is repugnant to the spirit of the historic Pakistan resolution presented on March 23, 1940. The resolution endorses that strong federating units can only strengthen the federation. The historic Pakistan resolution presented in Iqbal Park Lahore declared, “No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary. That the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign”.

Fortunately, the situation has improved after the approval of 18th constitutional amendment and reconstitution of National Finance Award. But, there has been a tussle between center and the provinces on the issue of provincial autonomy since the creation of Pakistan. All the powers, which the constitution had given to provinces, were vested with the centre. This power grabbing by the centre weakened the provinces and strengthened the central authorities. Balochistan presents a classic case of a small and impoverished province, which remained at the mercy of centre for meeting its financial needs and obligations. It was because of the dominance of central authorities in the National Finance Commission that the province felt stronghold of the centre over its natural resources.

Balochistan is still facing a law and order problem in some of its remote areas due to separatist groups, who are engaged in a violent struggle against the state and its institutions. Some separatist elements backed by foreign forces have been trying to ban singing the national anthem or hoisting national flag in schools. Though situation has changed and is more better today, yet a need is direly felt to address the root causes of Balochistan conundrum. The factors that fueled feelings of discrimination and alienation in the province also include the denial of provincial autonomy for a long time, discriminatory policies and a military approach of the rulers in Islamabad to resolve the problem in Balochistan. The province has witnessed at least five insurgencies since the creation of Pakistan. Military operations launched to quell these insurgencies intensified the sense of alienation in the province. The Baloch nationalists have been demanding their economic and political rights, as enshrined in the Constitution of 1973. Today, the separatists, who are pursuing their agenda outside the country’s constitutional framework, are fueling the fire of a struggle for independent Balochistan.

The nationalism must replace sectarianism and parochialism. Similarly, peace and tolerance should replace terrorism and extremism. These miracles are possible if all segments and institutions of society stand unanimous and united on one national agenda of strengthening Pakistan. The country needs to activate the forces of national cohesion and weaken the forces of national disintegration. We need to think and act like Pakistanis. We need to put aside our petty issues on ethnic or sectarian lines and behave like a nation to face the enormous challenges.

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