The Only Way Forward for Pakistan is to Become Truly Federal and Secular State

Daily Times: True federalism or secularism? Or both? — Shahid Ilyas


Pakistani leadership since the initial years of the country’s creation has followed a self-defeating policy with regard to the ‘linguistic’ issue

Some fellows are against both linguistic and Islamic identity in Pakistan. They fail to understand that Pakistan without linguistic and Islamic identity is left with no identity at all! For if you deny it its Islamic identity and at the same time deny linguistic identity to the different peoples inhabiting it, you are left with no identity. Or do we want to invent a new one? One doubts if that indeed is possible at all. Attempts at inventing one so far have proved disastrous.

Let us demonstrate intellectual honesty, rise above our wishful thinking and vested interests, and state this: Pakistan is a multi-national state like Canada and Belgium are and Yugoslavia was once upon a time; and that it is inhabited by four distinct nationalities. These include the Baloch, Punjabis, Sindhis and Pashtuns. Please note that Pashtuns among all stand out to qualify the most to be called a nation given its very distinct culture, language and history. Sindh and Punjab have a number of similarities, including cultural, linguistic, historical and racial. This diversity of peoples with distinct languages and cultures has the potential — if the diversity is used wisely and towards achieving positive outcomes — of taking Pakistan to great heights of advancement, as well as it can put the country on a path to total destruction, depending on how the policy makers handle it. One hopes (against hope) it is not handled the way they did in the former East Pakistan, which resulted in grave consequences.

For Pakistan to survive and emerge as a successful state, two fundamental reforms have to be introduced, and sooner than later:

First, these four nationalities must be recognised as such and true federalism introduced. In the Pakistani context, true federalism can be nothing less than rewriting a new and drastically different constitution wherein all powers, except the printing of currency, matters related to defence, and the formulation of foreign policy, are returned back to these nationalities, their languages declared as state languages and their children allowed education in their respective mother tongues. That is how precisely countries with more than one nationality do. Belgium has Dutch, French and German as its official languages while in Canada English and French are the official languages. Dari and Pashto are the official languages in Afghanistan. So what makes Pakistan different than these countries?

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