I finally have the guts to make a confession that may infuriate our honor brigade. I don’t believe in the 2-nation theory! But I don’t oppose Pakistan’s creation, to disappoint Indian hawks too. I just think contingent rationales justify Pakistan better than this rigid theory.
Given the theory’s holy status in Pakistani ideology, opposing it even partially is risky and I thought long before doing so openly. But then I consulted the one thing which trumps Pakistani ideology even for hawks–Islamic ideology. Islam says pursuing truth comes before other loyalties. My views may not represent absolute truths but my pursuit of truth is sanctioned by Islam.
My gripe with the theory is that natural nations refer to groups i) sharing race, religion and/or ethnicity, ii) having few internal divisions, and iii) enjoying concentration and exclusivity in a region for long. Nation-states like Japan come nearest this ideal. Pre-1947 Muslims, Hindus, or obviously Indians together were not strong natural nations, given internal divisions and physical spread. Tamils, Pakhtuns, etc., were more natural nations. Thus, not the one- or 2-nation but the k-nation theory best describes ‘47 India (k in algebra is a variable with fluid value) since it housed so many natural nations.
So what justifies Pakistan’s creation then? Globally, natural nationhood is not a must for statehood. Few states are built around a natural nation. But since they have strong cultivated nationhood, most don’t fail. Cultivated nationhood exists when diverse groups live in one state despite their divisions since the state is unbiased and their combined size gives benefits. Since cultivated nationhood is based on psychic bonds, not more objective identities, it is more imagined but not imaginary. Did pre-47 Muslims possess a budding cultivated nationhood? Not in 1937 but yes by 1946, the results of two elections show. So, ironically, no ancient natural nation wanted separation but a budding cultivated one did.
Was its desire justified? We are now leaving the realms of rational scholarly analysis for the domains of subjective emotionality. Still, cultivated nationhood better justifies Pakistan than the 2-nation theory about a rock-solid natural Muslim nation. But it gives contingent support that does not fully reject other views. The earlier Muslim rule’s anti-Hindu bias, Muslim fears of higher Hindu literacy and latent religious but not ethnic biases in Congress made religion more salient than ethnicity then. Indian Muslims received two invitations of cultivated nationhood–the Congress one to Indian nationhood and the AIML one to Muslim nationhood. Both had merits and demerits. India was an existing state (but united by invaders). Breaking it required some rationale. But the sanctity of state integrity then was not as strong as today given recent UN resolutions. Muslim nationalism was cultivated and also preemptive–based on fears of future Hindu excesses given past Muslim excesses. It was lucky to succeed since many natural nations remain unfree despite long actual bias.
Neither side gave strong evidence but largely political rhetoric to convince them. Nor was it easy to show conclusively then where Muslims would do better. But actual experience shows that certainly Muslim elites (generals, bureaucrats, clerics etc.) but maybe even common Muslims have done better economically in Pakistan, given faster initial economic growth, lower population density and easier initial access to the Gulf via the Muslim nexus Bhutto cultivated. But politically, India is more stable with less ethnic tensions and extremism and is now growing faster too. Muslims face bias in India today, as even Indian reports show. But many groups face bias in Pakistan too. So, predictably, scholarship supports neither partisan position but something in between.
Cultivated nationhood is more fluid and needs more constant care than natural nationhood. So, Muslim Bengalis had cultivated more Pakistani nationhood than many others in ’47 but lost it fully by ’71 given state bias. They had more natural nationhood than ‘47 Muslims or Hindus–common identity with few divisions plus regional concentration and exclusivity. State excesses gave them the rationale for converting natural nationhood into statehood.
So, today, the one and 2-nation theories are passe, but not the k-nation theory. Both states rest on cultivated nationhood and house many aggrieved natural and cultivated nations, many of which rebel when pushed too far. In India, they are religious minorities in the northwest and northeast. In Pakistan, they are the southern Sindhis, Mohajirs, Balochis and Hazaras as its real power bases (military/bureaucracy) are hogged by northern (Punjabis, Pakhtuns and Hazarwals) elites. So, to the largely north-based honor brigade, my submission is that Pakistani cultivated nationhood is strong enough today for us to frankly and confidently discuss the gaps in our natural nationhood and the need to fill them with more cultivated nationhood through equitable policies.
The writer heads INSPIRING Pakistan, a progressive policy unit. firstname.lastname@example.org www.inspiring.pk.
Published in Dawn on December 6, 2016
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