By Raza Habib Raja
Any state once it is in existence strives to maintain its integrity. All the state institutions are inherently geared to ensure that the state’s writ remains effective and moreover the cohesiveness is not jeopardized.
The problems of cohesiveness and effective writ become more complicated if the country is not ethnically homogeneous. Presence of various ethnicities, keeping other things constant, would require extra care and vigilance to ensure cohesiveness as there will always be tendency to secede.
That is why states which are characterized by presence of sub state ethnicities try to promote what is known as Civic Nationalism. Civic Nationalism does not have ethnicity as its prime determinant but rather tries to subdue the ethnic identities and cultivate allegiance to the “Country” instead. Failure to do it effectively may result in the breakup of the state.
Any country which at the time of its existence is multiethnic would try to cultivate Civic Nationalism and would exert efforts to manipulate identity is such a way that people would prefer to identify themselves first as nationals and then as members of a particular ethnic group. Theoretically and for that matter even ethically, there is nothing wrong with this concept. Civic Nationalism, if CORRECTLY, cultivated would smoothen out grievances and prevent discrimination on the basis of any ethnicity from emerging.
How does that integration take place? Diverse ethnicities may associate themselves with a federation due to some common factor in the beginning but in the longer run they will associate with the federation, if they are convinced that they are getting a right mix of economic advantages and political autonomy. It has to be remembered that identity based on language and race may become dormant at times but it does not simply disappear. Whereas it is desirable that people should identify themselves with the “country” at the same time it is not possible that their ethnic identities will simply vanish.
Complications start emerging when you try to cultivate Civic Nationalism in the wrong manner. In my opinion Pakistan’s present ethnic strife lies in the way we have tried to cultivate civic nationalism. Instead of integrating diverse ethnicities in a proper manner, we have tried to whip up the only common factor, Islam and supplemented it with coercive tactics whenever any ethnicity has raised its voice.