The ongoing debate on the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) brought forward many arguments but one of them was against the basic essence of Pakistani identity. Those who opposed the merger argued that this merger would prevent the dream of greater Pashtunistan from happening in future and hence it should be opposed.
Pakistan is considered to be among few countries in the world that were established on the basis of an ideology. A piece of land was carved out of the Indian sub-continent and was named Pakistan. There was no Pakistan before 1947 and thus a country with a new came into being and it was also birth of the Pakistani identity.
It was a fragile country for them outset. Newly established Pakistan was home to multiple ethnic communities who didn’t have much in common. That resulted in a political tug of war from the day one and political leaders of Punjab, who have always had the control, delayed constitution formulation and created one unit system, to protect their interests. Their lust for power eventually led to fall of East Pakistan in 1971.
However, things begin to improve and the real the Pakistanisation of Pakistan kick-started in July 1970 when one unit was abolished and provinces were restored. After that came the constitution of 1973, then 18th amendment to the same constitution in 2010 and the 7Th NFC award in the same year. All these landmark achievements strengthened the Pakistani identity and made it more comfortable for the people of smaller provinces to better integrate into the federal system of Pakistan.
Still, there are different forces and interest groups who don’t believe in this identity and think against the sanctity of this identity. These interest groups are the ones who use ethnicity as a means of attaining political mileage and safeguarding their self-interests. They are also barriers in allowing the common people of smaller provinces to fully adopt their Pakistani identity.
Glimpses of this line of thinking were observed during the debate on FATA reforms issue. Those who opposed the merger of FATA in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province put forth an argument that if the present status of FATA is allowed to continue then in the near future it can be used as a triggering point for carving out areas from Pakistan and make them part of greater Pashtunistan. This might be a sound argument in case of a heated debate but it’s not only unethical but also irrational. How can one have any designs that are against the territorial integrity of the country where one lives?
The same is the case with some of Baloch separatists who have similar ideas in mind about greater Balochistan. Those leaders who have enjoyed privileges in Pakistan now want to disintegrate the same country to serve their current political interests. This is also as unethical and irrational as the case for greater Pashtunistan, Sindudesh or the Jinnahpur for that matter.
Furthermore, the thoughts against not accepting the Pakistani identity are born due to the grievances factor, which is genuine. It’s a fact that the people of FATA and Balochistan have been deprived of their due rights since the inception of the country. However it’s not the common people who harbour such thoughts but the political elite who has never been deprived but been a major beneficiary most of the times. So, it’s the political elite of Balochistan and KP who derail their people and use them as cannon fodder for their political vested interests. Losses suffered by the Baloch people in the ongoing but diminishing phase of insurgency is a perfect example.
In the dynamically changing world of the 21st century there is no acceptability for anationalistic rhetoric is based on opposing an existing nation-state. Such dreams or desires cannot be turned into reality. However these can still be used to canvass support among the people and further one’s political motives. This is exactly what majority of the so-called nationalists in Pakistan are doing.
In this context, the people of Pakistan, especially in Balochistan and FATA, have to be smarter to survive. They can’t afford to dance at the tunes of their so-called leaders who only use them to safeguard their own interests. They have to realise that it’s in their best interests to accept the Pakistani identity wholeheartedly. They can live better lives and secure the same for their generations to come if the country remains intact and strengthened. Pursuing the unrealistic dream of a greater Balochistan and greater Pashtunistan will lead them into oblivion.
At the same time, the state needs to do a lot on its part to dismantle the grievance factor. It needs to provide more to FATA and Balochistan, even more than their share to compensate for the injustices in the past. Bringing FATA into the mainstream is a step in the right direction to achieve that end. The Federal Government wants to establish a special development fund for FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan but wants provinces to share the burden. This would be unjust to Balochistan and KP. The Federal Government should sacrifice its own share of the federal divisible pool for this purpose. In the case of Balochistan, the state also needs to change its approach. It should invest in the common people and not in the opportunistic political elite.
Lastly, benefits of CPEC, which has become a national anthem, must not be diverted to just one province or else it will strengthen those who negate the Pakistani identity for their vested interests.