Identity Crisis of Pakistan

Posted by Magellanic Cloud on August 19, 2006

Identity Crisis of Pakistan


§ Historical factors which brought about ‘Muslim’ identity to the territory of present day Pakistan.
§ Emergence of Muslim society and culture in the sub-continent.
§ Downfall of Muslim rule and culture.
§ Muslim mind-set under the British rule.
§ Demand of Pakistan on the basis of ‘two nation theory’.
§ Identity crisis after independence.
§ Issue of national language.
§ Issue of one unit.
§ Separation of East Pakistan mainly because of identity crisis of Pakistan.
§ Importance of National Identity.
§ Contemporary crisis of National Identity.


Pakistani territory has been home to one of the most ancient civilizations (i.e. Indus Valley Civilization) of the World. The Indus Valley civilization flourished in period 2500-1700 BC. It is generally believed that Indus Valley Civilization was destroyed by Arian invaders. Originally those Arians were not accustomed to civilized way of city life and they only could establish many small village oriented states that were run by many Rajas etc. Later on, most of the Pakistani territory has been a large province of world’s earliest imperial power i.e. Iran. Afterwards, Alexander put an end to the Iranian rule and he invaded the Pakistani territory also. Alexander then went back but died in the way. But Iranian imperial rule and the type of Alexander’s vast scale military achievements drew profound impressions upon the political set up of the sub-continent. Chandar Gupata Moriah, following the Iranian imperial type political model, brought about most of the territory of northern India into a single political regime, which was later on further extended by his grandson Asoka.

But that large political set up could not last for long time period and the sub-continent was again divided into many small kingdoms of Hindu Rajas. A major political change, which shaped the identity of present day Pakistani territory was the event of 711AD when an Arab Muslim military commander, Muhammad bin Qasim, invaded the territory of Sindh, defeated the Hindu Raja Dahir and thus annexed the area of Sindh to the Muslim imperial rule of Umayyad Caliphate. Emergence of Muslim rule resulted in fundamental changes in the civil society of this area in a way that vast local population embraced Islam and thus acquired their identity as ‘Muslims’. After about three centuries, other Muslim invaders of Turkish origin managed to bring most of the northern Indian Territory including almost whole territory of present day Pakistan under the Muslim rule. Muslim society flourished under the Muslim rule because Muslim culture had focused, formal and consistent cohesive and adhesive societal approach than the culture of Hindus, who were in majority but largely had unfocused, less consistent, informal and scattered forms of culture preservation approaches. Muslim culture and society got its own distinct identity, which was quite different to the identity of majority Hindu culture. Muslim political rule continued over centuries until eighteenth century when signs of the decline of Muslim rule began to appear and many turn of events resulted in the shift of locus of political control in the hands of a British origin business oriented establishment which was doing business in the country in the name of British East India Company.

After the war of 1857, the political control over India formally shifted to the British Crown. British government introduced democratic type limited self-autonomy in India. Under this type of government, Muslims would have gone under the Hindu political control in case the country got freedom from Britain.

The two world wars made Britain so much weak that now it could not hold on its many colonies including India. It became apparent during the Second World War that sooner or later Britain will have to announce freedom for India.

Indian Muslims were already concerned about the future of their separate identity as a ‘Muslim Culture’ and a prominent Muslim leader Sir Allama Iqbal already had proposed the establishment of a separate Muslim state within India where Muslims could preserve the separate identity of their culture.

But it was during the second world war when top Muslim leadership first time realized that Allama Iqbal’s proposal could become the real motto of Indian Muslim’s struggle for independence from British Rule. So Indian Muslims demanded for a separate homeland i.e. Pakistan for them. The basis of this demand was the ‘two nation theory’. The themes of this ‘two nation theory’ was that Indian Muslims were not just a minority community in India but were having a distinct complete culture of their own and so were a separate nation. The underlying idea was that future of India should be decided by not considering Indian Muslims as just minority community but should be decided while considering Indian Muslims as a complete nation, which should be given a separate homeland where they could preserve their distinct culture.

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah did lot of effort to persuade British rulers and Hindu leadership about the truth of this ‘two nation theory’ so that they may accede to the Muslim demand of a separate homeland for them. Quid-e-Azam succeeded in his efforts and so ‘Pakistan’ came into being as a homeland for Muslims who were having their own independent culture which was quite different from the majority Hindu culture.

Identity Crisis After Independence:

Muslims as a whole really were quite different from Hindus but within Muslims, the society was divided into many sub groups. As already has been mentioned that society of sub-continent has been a product of firstly the struggle between local Dravidians and Indo-Arians, secondly the struggle between Indo-Arians and Persian as well as Greek invaders, fourthly the political dominance of Muslims which effectively lasted up till eighteenth century and lastly the British rule and its downfall. Due to such a nature of historical events, the present day Pakistan’s society is ethnically diverse. Pakistanis trace their ethnic lineages to many different origins, largely because the country lies in an area that was invaded repeatedly during its long history. Migrations of Muslims from India since 1947 and refugees from Afghanistan since the 1980s have significantly changed the demographics of certain areas of the country. The people of Pakistan come from ethnic stocks such as Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, Greek, Scythian, Hun, Arab, Mongol, Persian, and Afghan. The people follow many different cultural traditions and speak many different languages and dialects. At the time of independence, Pakistani territory was divided into two wings i.e. East and West Pakistan, which were separated by a distance of 1000 miles. West Pakistan corresponds to present day Pakistan whereas East Pakistan became independent country of Bangladesh in 1971, mainly because of the identity crisis of Pakistan. Originally, West Pakistan consisted of four provinces i.e. Punjab, Sindh, N.W.F.P and Balochistan. East Pakistan was a single province, which had its population greater than all the four provinces of West Pakistan combined. Pakistan faced its first identity crisis when government adopted Urdu as national language. Although Urdu was not just a regional language and was widely understood among the people of different provinces and so could better serve the purpose of inter-provincial communication but this language had not any deep roots in the East Pakistan, the largest province of the country. People of East Pakistan protested against the decision of making Urdu as national language and they raised the demand of making Bengali as a national language as this was the language of majority population of East and West Pakistan combined. But this demand could not be acceptable to the people of any of the provinces of the West Pakistan because Bengali language had no roots at all in any of the provinces of West Pakistan. Urdu language, finally became the official national language but without happy consent of the largest province of the country. Obviously, country was divided into many sub-cultures who had their own languages and they did have emotional attachment with their own regional languages also. Our early leaders however were trying to identify the country as a uni-lingual one but this was not the on ground reality of course.

Secondly, our early leaders also tried not only to conceive, but also to practically make the whole country a cultural unity. They abolished the provinces of West Pakistan with the view to make it one cultural unit. This was an attempt to eliminate the regional cultures of different provinces in order to promote the idea of a one single culture. The underlying purpose however was political in nature whose aim was to bring West Pakistan at the level of political parity with the otherwise more populous East Pakistan. Political benefit was going in the favour of West Pakistan but even then people of different provinces of West Pakistan protested against this new scheme and insisted on the separate distinct identities of regional cultures of the provinces. It means that people of country had strong emotional ties with their regional sub-cultures but our leaders were not ready to accept this fact. This thing created a grave unrest among the people of East Pakistan as the new scheme had put them on politically disadvantageous position. Since our leaders failed to apprehend the plural nature of the culture of country and since they did not identify the true national identity, so the consequent identity crisis at last resulted in the Separation of East Pakistan in 1971.

How a country identifies its National Identity is important because it is actually the comprehension of a country about the composition and structure of its own society and culture. This National Identity not only determines objectives and goals for the people and leadership of the country, it also determines the type of relationships with other sovereign countries of the world. Secondly, National Identity of a country is not any rigid or fixed entity, as its various aspects always remain in the process of change and developments as a result of the changes that occur in the political and cultural environment of the whole world. Pakistan’s National Identity also has gone through many such changes. Before the separation of East Pakistan, the main outstanding issues were those, which mainly related to the interrelationships of different provinces. Loss of East Pakistan resulted in somewhat reduced burden of this type of issues and so rest of the Pakistan successfully resolved the matters relating to interrelationships of the remaining provinces, in the form of unanimous constitution of 1973. With the passage of time however, those issues are again getting significance and so there is need to re-identify the current composition, structure and kind of country’s society. Country has also got the experience of both civil democratic political set-ups as well as various Martial Law regimes. But we still are in need to identify which form of government best suits to the taste and needs of our society. On the international environment, due to many factors, image of Muslim societies is being negatively projected. Mass international media is projecting that Muslim societies are the supporters of terrorist activities on the global scale. Muslim societies are being labeled as ‘extremist societies’. Pakistan is also one of the victims of this wrong media projection. Under these current crisis, we are in need to evaluate our true identity i.e. whether we, as a nation, are extremist people or are enlightened, moderate, balanced, peace loving, and at the same time, brave people. Now we are also a nuclear power nation and so we should identify ourselves as more balanced and more responsible nation than before.


14 Responses to “Identity Crisis of Pakistan”

  1. Zeeshan said

    “Urdu language, finally became the official national language but without happy consent of the largest province of the country.”
    —————-Actually , both Urdu and Bengali became official language of Pakistan.

    “but Urdu language had not any deep roots in the East Pakistan”
    ————- Urdu did not have any kind of root among Bengalis in entire east pakistan wherees only migrated Biharis used to speak Urdu.

    “East Pakistan became independent country of Bangladesh in 1971, mainly because of the identity crises of Pakistan ”
    ———— Bengalis protested against monopoly of West Pakistanis but they were definitely in favor of pakistan. In ‘popular vote’ of 1947 they voted 56% for pakistan while Punjab voted nearly 50%. Even in March, 1971 Sheik Mujib asked to form a federation instead of separation but Bhutto rejected to form the federation.

  2. @Zeeshan

    It was Not Bhutto infact the root cause, instead was Iskander Mirza, the source of this disintegration, and lately Ayub Khan.


  3. Saira said

    A point on Urdu

    I don’t understand why is Urdu still our national language although it is spoken by only8 percent people. It is infact great injustice to other languages. We are loosing our natives languages. Why dont we adopt a policy followed by developed countries like Switzerland, Austria or Belgium where many languages are spoken and all are considered official languages in the respective areas.
    Most people consider Urdu as a sign of unity for us, but believe me it has caused more destruction than construction. One example being my self. The consiousness of the insult to my mother tongue has transformed me from a right wing patriot to an extreme left wing person who don’t care anymore about many points in the ideology of Pakistan.

  4. khuram said

    Importance of Urdu is not in its being primary spoken language. This language is serving the purpose of inter-provincial communication. Secondly the best literature of our recent history is available in this language. But to make it “official” language has ever been an issue of contention. Anyways thanks for highlighting important points related to this issue here. Voice of you people will obviously be conveyed to other readers of this blog.


  5. Mustafa said

    Urdu has been imposed on Pakistan by the Muhajirs from India. I respect them and dont object to them speaking Urdu, but thanks to Urdu being our national language, Pakistanis are absorbed up into Indian Movies, Indian Media, Indian Dramas and me living in the west, everyone think we are same, since we speak Urdu and the Indians who speak Hindi can understand that. Persian should have become Pakistan’s national language, it would give us a seperate identity from India, our arch rivals and bring us closer to Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Pakistan’s film industry and media could make lots more money. If Persian is not made Pakistan’s National Language son then in a few years Pakistan will become completely “Indiansized” and people will wonder why we ever creaed a seperate state. It saddens me to see things here in the West, to Indians and so many others we are all “Desi”, which really ticks me off. We are racially different than most Indians and share more in common with Iranians and our neighbours to the north west. Please do all you can to make Pakistan’ National Language Dari/Farsi aka Persian

  6. Faisal said

    Urdu, being an Indo-Aryan language has more roots in Pakistan then it does in India. Urdu is a western Indo-Aryan language dereived from Sanskrit which thrived in the heart of Pakistan. Hence I support reviving Sanskrit and making it the national language of the country.
    Sindhi for example, on the other hand has picked up alot more foriegn influence form Dravidian and Semitic languages. Linguists have also spotted semitic grammer in the language which is strong evidence it’s loosing it’s originality.

  7. Faisal said

    I agree with Mustafa this term “desi” is nonsense. A Kashmiri is strangely a Daesi like a Tamil but a Pakhtun who is closer to a Kashmiri in everyway is not.
    But to make Persian a foreign language that has no roots in the country. It’s absurd.
    The Persians occupied and invaded our people why make THEIR language our national language? Becaus eit was spoken there? So why not just adapt to English it was spoken there too.
    No NIETHER Farsi nor Arabic has place in our country. Sanskrit is the solution.

  8. kavan said

    “Muslim society flourished under the Muslim rule because Muslim culture was more progressive and tolerant than the culture of Hindus, who were in majority”

    Is there any historical evidence for this broad claim?

  9. hamza said

    what ever pakistan is now buttttt i still love and proud to pakistani

  10. Maz said

    With new constitutional ammendment, the issue of languages(urdu, english or the regional languages) has become a non-issue now. The education is a provicial subject in the ammended constitutuion and provinces are at full liberty to develop and teach any syllabus and language( regional or international). This decentralization has put the onus of responsibility on the federating entities(provinces). I wonder when some body, now says that urdu is a cause of the backwardness of regional languages(I am not an urdu speaking). It is over all decline in all the fields, which occured when we ignored education as our national priority.
    Secondly, may i ask a simple question. Suppose i am a Pushtoon and goes to Sindh or Punjab( or do a business call on cell phone), How the hell we two Pakistani brothers will communicate with each other. Should we ask help from America to lend us the support of their english language?
    We need a common shared language to smoothly function in our day to day routine.
    Moreover, why only language is being focussed, why not the real issues like the unjustice being done with my baloch brothers. is it not important to focus on just distribution of economic resources and treating all the people with respect nad dignity as proud pakistanies.
    Please answer from your hearts which do not understand double standards.

    Thank u.
    A proud pakistani.

  11. Maz said

    For Mr. Kavan.

    Muslim culture strongly believes in equality of all the people and abhors any material limitations, or dividing humans into various superior/ inferior Classes. Black or white, all are entitled to equal rights in islamic culture. Muslims are practicing these principles for past 1300 years. Please consider these aspects initially. For further details i would love to recommend few swlected readings and books of authentic scholars, which will help u to clarify these important questions raised by u. Thank u for thinking critically and raising logical questions.

  12. Maz said

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Identitiy issues and ethnicity are the topics which interests me. would some body like to share his/ her valuable ideas with me . i have read multiple literature on these topics.
    Waiting .
    best wishes.

  13. Maz said

    for Hamza,

    Well done Hamza. Keep the Pakistani Flag always high.

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