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 International Relations
 
Pakistan's identity crisis root cause of its troubles
The Hindu, India Friday, June 12, 2009


Pakistanis feel humiliated when their country is mocked at as a “failed state”. For all its afflictions, Pakistan (a functioning democracy, however flawed, with a free press, an independent judiciary and a vibrant civil society) is by no means a failed state. A new book, Making Sense of Pakistan (Hurst & Company, London) by Farzana Shaikh — a highly regarded UK-based Pakistani scholar and Fellow of Chatham House — argues that there is no hope for Pakistan unless it sorts out its identity crisis, writes Hasan Suroor in The Hindu.

Pakistanis feel humiliated when their country is mocked at as a “failed state”. For all its afflictions, Pakistan (a functioning democracy, however flawed, with a free press, an independent judiciary and a vibrant civil society) is by no means a failed state. A new book, Making Sense of Pakistan (Hurst & Company, London) by Farzana Shaikh — a highly regarded UK-based Pakistani scholar and Fellow of Chatham House — argues that there is no hope for Pakistan unless it sorts out its identity crisis, writes Hasan Suroor in The Hindu.

 

 

Arguably 60 years are not a long time in the history of a nation but by 60, even a country with a troubled past such as Pakistan, is expected to at least start making sense of what it stands for and where it is heading, however fuzzy the direction. And when it continues to flounder — like Pakistan — lurching from one crisis to another, it becomes a liability not only to its own people but also has implications for the wider international community, especially its neighbours — in this case India.

 

Pakistanis are a proud people. They feel humiliated when their country is mocked at as a “failed state” and routinely mentioned in the same breath as the pirate-infested Somalia which does not even have a properly functioning capital. For all its afflictions, Pakistan (a functioning democracy, however flawed, with a free press, an independent judiciary and a vibrant civil society) is by no means a failed state.

 

Not yet. But signs of a meltdown are all too evident and there are genuine fears about its future. One view, of course, is that the West will not allow it to fail for its own strategic reasons. But that is hardly very reassuring.

 

 

A new book, Making Sense of Pakistan (Hurst & Company, London) by Farzana Shaikh — a highly regarded UK-based Pakistani scholar and Fellow of Chatham House — argues that there is no hope for Pakistan unless it sorts out its identity crisis which, it says, is the root cause of the country being such a disaster. Indeed, in order to make sense of Pakistan, it is important to make sense of its identity crisis first.

 

 

But nowhere is Pakistan’s self-inflicted identity crisis more evident than in relation to India, according to Dr. Shaikh. Because of the nature of its creation — a secessionist state born in opposition to the Indian nationalist movement — Pakistan was lumped with an identity, defined in terms of what it was “not” (it was “not India”) rather than what it was.

 

 

Ever since its formation, Pakistan has struggled to overcome this negative identity. Its search for what it regards as legitimacy has, in fact, been the “defining feature” of its policy towards India, especially the Kashmir issue, and is at the heart of its quest for military parity with a neighbour “almost seven times its size in population and more than four times its land mass.”

 

 

As much as the national interest, it is Pakistan’s compulsive desire for parity with India (an extension of its efforts to assert its “independent” identity) that has shaped much of its foreign policy leading it to seek help from foreign powers. Take its alliance with America which, the author points out, has been motivated as much by security considerations — a protection against an attack from India — as by its “need for validation and its desire to win recognition of its special status.” Being a “strategic partner” of the world’s only superpower is seen in Pakistan as a boost to its “global image” to match India’s global status.

This article was published in the The Hindu on Friday, June 12, 2009. Please read the original article here.
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