'Deconstructing' Pakistan: A Framework of People's History
What happens when a nationalist discourse falls apart? When major events after the creation of a country are explained only in terms of conspiracy because the nationalist discourse would be challenged? Does it mean the entire narrative of creating a country is flawed? More
What happens when a nationalist discourse falls apart? When major events after the creation of a country are explained only in terms of conspiracy because the nationalist discourse would be challenged? Does it mean the entire narrative of creating a country is flawed? In the last decade of his life, the official historian of Pakistan turned against all his writings he had earlier authored as the official view, and began to write people’s history of Pakistan. The official view regards the ‘two-nation theory’ as reason for the creation of Pakistan. It implies that as a narrative center Hindus and Muslims were always two nations, hence, Pakistan’s creation was natural, predestined. From French philosophical standpoint, deconstruction, the historian’s turnaround can be viewed as a rupture in the history writing project of Pakistan’s nationalist discourse, creating a new narrative at a different center of people’s experiences. The reason for the historian’s turnaround is the reality of downward spiral in Pakistan, and personally the neglect he suffered in Pakistan as a government employee. After this rupture, a displacement of central idea of history written around the two-nation theory has occurred, placing people’s experience at the center. The two-nation theory, which explains the constitutional history of India leading to partition, becomes a subplot in this new center. The historian’s effort is significant but the new center created does not address many contours of Pakistan’s political landscape, including the recent rise in militancy. A new eccentric center must be sought.
The war of 1857 caused a reorder of Muslim society, with traditional and modern elements emerging. This division is manifest today in two distinct educational streams in Pakistan. Always at the margins of society, eventually, the traditional consciousness emerged to assert itself on all others. This was due to the state incorporating traditional structures, and they becoming linked with the war economy of the Afghan Soviet conflict. Rather than traditional elements integrating into modern consciousness, in Pakistan these two consciousnesses are developing a parallel trajectory, interacting with each other often violently. By tracing a trajectory of modern and traditional consciousness in Pakistan, this work explains many current events in Pakistan, and gives an understanding of structures which are shaping events in Pakistan.
Both Indian and Pakistani governments have failed their own people, becoming states in which elites extract resources. Words like ‘progress’, ‘development’, ‘jihad’ mean opposite of what they were supposed to mean. In India, this has caused violence to emerge in its central regions. In Pakistan the state itself has given rise to militant organizations that started ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan, extended it in Kashmir against India and now target minorities, or those who differ from their ideology, within Pakistan. At a deeper level, the issue is imagination of a new nation-state, since both Pakistan and India are products of a devolving empire with a gaping wound of Kashmir which inflected their imagination. Successive years of military rule have changed the imagination of Pakistan. In its initial imagination, Pakistan was thought as an inheritor of the great Gandhara civilization, which had social welfare as its guiding principle. With the definition of Islam in the hands of the army, it is now viewed more from a religious sense, history before the arrival of first Muslims is not even taught in schools. In 2008, Pakistan’s silent majority rose and defeated a dictator who was manipulating the judiciary to bend to his will and prolong his rule. People’s power representing modern consciousness is gradually rising in Pakistan. Elections in 2013 marked another milestone in the rise of modern consciousness when two urban based parties eclipsed political domination by feudals.