A Pakpotpourri Exclusive

Editor’s note:The dilemma pointed out here by KHZ lies at the root of the Identity Problem faced by Pakistan. Please also read: “Do we need more provinces?”

By: K. Hussan Zia

Like so many other notions based on questionable motives, parochial politicians in Pakistan from time to time claim nationhood based on provincial boundaries but not as Pakistanis as such. The provinces were created by the British for administrative convenience. NWFP was traditionally a part of Punjab until the turn of the last century. The Pathans are a proud people, intensely tribal in nature and very far from becoming a separate unified nation. Sind did not become a separate province until 1935, when it was detached from the Bombay Presidency.

The father of Sindhi nationalism G. M. Syed, as the name implies, has to be the descendant of immigrants and could not claim to be pure lin ethnic Sindhi in the strict sense. It may come as a shock to some but well-known and proud Sindhis like the Shar, Magassi, Kulachi, Dodai, Chandio, Kaisarani, Jaskani, Gurchani, Shambani, Leghari, Bhutto, Nutkani, Khoso, Mahr, Gopang, Khoro, Quraishi, Punwar, Buladhi, Hasani, Lund, Lashari, Korai, Bhatti, Mirrani, Parihar, Almani, Umarani, Gabol, Jakhrani, Rind, Pitafi, Talpur, Jatoi, Bozdar, Mazari, Bijarani, to name a few originated from Punjab and their parent tribes can still be found there (please see the three volumes of Sir Denzil Ibbetson’s and the Honourable Mr. E. D Maclegan’s census reports of 1883 and 1892 entitled ‘ Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province’.
Apart from sharing the same piece of land and a rudimentary language, there is not very much else common among the people of Punjab either. Even the Hindus and Sikhs across the border stake the claim to being Punjabi. Living in the same proximity does not make a nation nor does speaking the same language. The north-western reaches of the province are mostly inhabited by ethnic Pathans. A large part of the population in the cities of Sialkot, Gujranwala and parts of Gujarat and Lahore is Kashmiri. The south-west is composed of mainly Baluchi and Seraiki speaking people that overlap into Sind.
Majority of the people of Sind belong to Baluchi tribes that migrated from Punjab and Baluchistan. The boundaries of Baluchistan were not drawn along ethnic lines by the British either. It consisted of two separate political and administrative entities —- the princely states Kalat, Mekran, Kharan and Lasbella and a British administered zone in the north and east inhabited by various Pashtoon and other tribes. Baluchis do not constitute the majority of the population of the province. It is also true that there are as many, if not more, Pathans as Baluchis living in the province today. Certainly, there are more ethnic Baluchis living in Punjab and Sind than there are in Baluchistan.
To cap it all, a separate nation has also been claimed in the name of immigrants from various parts of India now living in different areas of Pakistan. It makes one wonder considering that some, if not most, of the outfits now staking claims to separate nationhood inside Pakistan were quite happy to merge their identity with a united India before independence and in the last case, as late as 2004 (see report by Amrit Baruah in The Hindu, 7thNovember 2004).
Much of the confusion results from translating the word ‘nation’ into Urdu as ‘kaum’. The two are not the same. The latter is simply an ethnic identification not tied to a common territorial location or political ideal. There is no precise equivalent of the word ‘nation’ in the vernacular because the institution itself is alien to it. The British in India often equated kaum with ‘caste’ in Hinduism, although the latter is better described as ‘zaat’.
Having said this, the people in Pakistan have a lot more in common with each other when compared with the inhabitants of most of the other countries in the area. The country is unified and rendered indivisible economically by the River Indus and its tributaries that help sustain its life. There is a common history extending back more than five thousand years to the days of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
With the exception of one or two small groups, like the Brahvis and Makranis, almost all of the people are descended from the same Aryan stock. They are culturally very similar; the vast majority of them have the same religion and a common language they all understand. There are few social taboos and they readily intermarry. These are the primary attributes that form the basis of a nation. The rest is only a matter of time.
People often differ in their views, politicians more than most. It is healthy as long as the basic principles and common aim are not compromised. It was the exaggeration and exploitation of differences carried too far by myopic and unscrupulous politicians that snow-balled and led to the alienation of East Pakistan. They seem to have  learnt nothing from the tragedy and continue to create divisions where none need exist, even fanning the flames of religious and sectarian fires —- a sin if there was one (Holy Koran, 2:62; 2:256; 29:46 and 42:15).
Divisions in any country, be they religious, ethnic or linguistic can be exploited by those who do not wish her well. This is evident from the study entitled, ‘US Strategy in the Muslim World After 9/11’, carried out by the Rand Corporation for the US Air Force that recommended ways to ‘identify the key cleavages and faultlines among sectarian, ethnic, regional and national lines (among the Muslims) and to assess how these cleavages generate challenges and opportunities for the United States’.
A country or a nation can be likened to a tree. From time to time it may be necessary to prune the dead wood to maintain its health. However, digging at the roots will almost certainly kill the tree itself. Sadly, there are many politicians who have yet to realize that we are all in the same boat and stand to sink together if they kept drilling holes in the bottom of the ship that is Pakistan.
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  • Salim Ullah  On December 30, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    A well-researched, objective and analytical piece. My compliments.

    Commenting on India’s demographic diversity, the famous English social scientist, D.H.Cole wrote in detail about its “150 main languages each as distinct from the other as the languages of Europe”. The signboards in Jullundhar make no sense to a visitor from Madras and vice versa. And yet, it must be said to the credit of Indian leadership – Nehru downwards – that they worked hard to build ‘unity through diversity’.

    Chaudhry Mohammad Ali, the late prime minister of Pakistan and the architect of the1956 Constitution staunchly opposed provincial delineation on linguistic rather than administrative basis. He laboured hard with the Leader of the Opposition, the late Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, to evolve two wings on the principle of parity, merging provinces in West Pakistan into ‘One Unit’ and devolving governance into administrative units of divisions and districts. “Otherwise”, he warned on the floor of the House, ” You will have new provinces on each road bend and street corner”.

    Those were giants among leaders. Alas, they were followed by pygmies.


  • Willy  On December 30, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I found the study referred to in the next-to-last
    paragraph here, YAA:


  • Muhammad Aslam Durrani fsicsc  On December 30, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Manfi’at eik hei is qaum ki nuqsan bhi eik

    The West is working on a certain strategy of disintegrating Muslim nation states into smaller racial/sectarian fragments. Mr K Hussan Zia has alluded to a study carried out by Rand Corporation in its second last paragraph of his essay (highlighted).

    All our ethnic groups are facing the same threat from the same enemy.


  • khan saheb  On December 30, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Dear Yasmeen,

    Thanks for forwarding an article that spontaneously propped a couplet on the screen of my mind.

    I will omit its first line as a respect to the author of this article:


    “Kuchh Na Samjhay Khuda Karay Koi”


    Rashid Latif Ansari

  • FB Ali  On December 31, 2011 at 1:22 am

    A very good article, pointing out the hollow basis upon which self-serving politicians seek to widen divisions between the people of the country. Pakistan has enough problems to deal with without adding this to the list.

  • parvezamin  On December 31, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Brilliant and useful.

  • MAB  On December 31, 2011 at 3:44 am

    KHZ should know that tribes of Indus are predominantly from the Scythian race not Aryan.

    Some of the Baluch tribes are Parthian in origin.


  • Mohammad Chaudhry  On December 31, 2011 at 3:45 am

    A good,educative and enlightening piece,forewarning the consquences of building self-interest and exploting the cleveges of ethnicity,language and sectarianism and awareness about the ulterior objectives of the vested interest and foreign powers to make use of such cleveges. Enough food for thought for patriotic elements.

  • Sohail  On December 31, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Salam alaykum.
    I agree with K. Hussain Zia to the extent that provincialism has been one of the major causes for Pakistan failing to become a nation.
    I don’t think the article is meant to be read to find faults on the origin of the various tribes/people, one should take from this article the important message of us starting to look at ourselves as Pakistanis before we look at our ethnic origins.
    I am reproducing a paragraph from my email of June – I strongly believe we will correct the situation in Pakistan to a great extent if we can achieve the national identity – which is PAKISTANI.

    Excerpt from the June email:

    “I was born and brought up in Karachi, my teens being in the mid-60’s and, in honesty, do not ever remember identifying my friends and classmates by their province. Unfortunately, the politicians have derived benefit from exploiting this point and creating a divide between the people. WE HAVE TO START SPREADING THE FEELING THAT WE ARE ALL PAKISTANIS FIRST AND ANYTHING ELSE, SECOND.”

    With best wishes,

  • Syed Wajahat  On December 31, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Sohail Sahib

    The process of connectivity has already begun. It is forums like these and people expressing their
    most personal thoughts is what creates intimacy and dispells the demons of mistrust amongst
    each other. We begin to discover that the person who lives in the mountains of Hindu Kush
    has same fears and desires as the wadera who owns a district in Lower Indus valley or the billionaire in Karachi
    who runs mega businesses or the Engineer in Sui Gas who struggles to get gas to consumers or
    the laborer in Gujranwala who carries 150 pounds of wheat on his back so it gets distributed to households.

    We learn that we all do what we do for our survival. This allows us to drop all our fears and
    go directly to the all consuming Muslim embrace when we meet each other. Then finally,
    endows us with the desire to worry about each other’s welfare, much the same way as
    neighbors in a community care for each other.

    These are the steps that lead eventually to a national identity. Let us stay on
    this path it leads us directly to peace, prosperity and happiness.

    syed W Hussain

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