Have you ever thought about what is national integration? Why is it needed? Why has it been stressed so much that citizens of a specific country need to stay united and should own their national identity? A simple answer to all the questions asked above happens to be that national integration is pivotal when it comes to safeguarding the national & sovereign interests of a country. It is a phenomenon that promotes a sense of nationalism, national cohesion and above all, unites all citizens under one umbrella, the state.
Pakistan is a diverse country with various ethnicities, cultures, linguistics, and sectarian divides between its people. So, for such a country, having a strong national integration becomes even more important. Having enemies on western and eastern borders has not made the situation any easier for our beloved homeland and in a world of 5th Generation and Hybrid warfare, enemies will invest everything to ensure that the divide between our people remains.
History has taught has nothing, because the same thing happened before 1971 and eventually, it led to our country being broken apart. East Pakistan debacle should serve as a reminder that we are not heading on any different path. It is imperative that we counter negative propaganda and promote national integration as much as possible to preserve our territorial integrity.
If we have a look at some of the factors of divergence in this regard then we can perhaps understand how complex the situation really is. Obviously, for a country that has a diverse structural composition of society, it will be difficult to see that success lies in unity alone. Pakistan has 48% Punjabis,10% Sindhis, 2.4% Balochis, 7% Muhajir,
10 % Saraiki, & 13% Pashtuns. Dozens of languages are spoken all over the country with various faiths including Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Ahmadis, Sikhs, Parsis being practiced. Not to forget the various sectarian divisions such as Sunni, Shia, Wahabi, Deobandi, & Barelvi among others. Point is that it is very easy for such a country to ‘not be nationally integrated’ but at the same, ‘is of the highest importance that the case is completely the opposite.
What needs to be done at the earliest is that grievances of ethnic minority groups such as Saraiki, Baloch, & Pashtun are addressed. Their grievances hold a weight such as low representation in public and armed services, high handedness of center, or even the divide between center & provinces which is mostly a result of increased interference in provincial affairs. It is to be noted here that these are only a few of the issues that are fueling the fire.
Baluchistan is in a state of crisis, and people there are now easily exploited at the hands of foreign nefarious designs. The biggest example in this regard is the Baluch Nationalist Army which has been frequently carrying out attacks against our civilian and armed forces. Militant sectarian outfits operating with impunity are not new when it comes to our country but unlike the past, the need to wipe them out earlier is far greater. They are ones who would not have had this much breathing space had our country been nationally integrated. Also, when some parts of a country are more developed than others, then obviously there is reservation amongst locals that are they really less important than the rest? Baluchistan despite being rich in mineral resources lags far behind the rest of the provinces.
Another aspect in this regard that cannot be ignored is the negative side of capitalist societies, which we happen to be one, and which is leading to growing income inequality among different social classes. The rich are getting richer and the poor are left to fight for even one healthy meal a day. Worst is that the ratio of poor in our country is far greater and hence they are easy prey when it comes to molding them for personal gains. Be it political motive or any other, they can easily be used as a tool. For instance, take the example of religion, the poorer you are, the easier it is for you to be used through an ideological brainwash. The intermingling of religion with politics has also caused havoc in literal terms and it too requires the state to be divided or else why would there be people be on streets every other day, chanting and fighting for reasons that otherwise, could easily be ignored and that time, energy, and resources could have been used for more productive opportunities.
Growing hate speech and extremism in societies occur because of transnational interferences, yes, but that alone is not the cause behind it. For how long can we hide behind it? It is time that we start to understand that the fault lies not alone in others but in ourselves too. As citizens of this beautiful country, I cannot stress it enough that every individual needs to play a part. Everybody has been sent to this world for a reason and simply waiting for others to make miracles happen is the last thing that you should do.
First things first, we need to stand united with one another under our two-colored flag that represents the inclusion of all. The divides that we give importance to, will not matter at all if we will eventually end up losing the digital war which we are fighting for a long now. So, go back to your roots, own your identity and your culture, because we are all the same. The sooner you accept, the better!
The author is a working journalist, a producer, and a musician with a keen interest in socio-political challenges and non-traditional security threats including climate change. He is currently pursuing his MPhil in Communication Studies from Punjab University, Lahore.
He tweets at https://twitter.com/IsmaeelQasim