National integration is the process of achieving harmony, devising a common identity and a national consciousness among the masses and constituent units of a state. It is a psychological and educational process for the development of common feeling of unity, solidarity and cohesion. To achieve national integration, the factors like; religion, language, culture, tribes, casts and ethnicity though play significant role, yet need harnessing under a single factor; the nationalism. The creation of Pakistan, though propelled by ideological factor, yet Pakistan has people from other religions, who lived in harmony with the Muslim for decades now. Indeed, people from all religions, casts, creeds, different ethnic backgrounds have worked together for a cohesive society and a harmonious state.
Indeed, after its independence in 1947, there has never been a crisis, based on religions or ideologies, though isolated incidents did take place occasionally, which at time were given religious dimension. The ethnicity at times and indeed misuse of religion by non-state actors did create problems for the state and society of Pakistan. This misconstrued ideology, indeed, the negative usage of religion is being done by TTP and many other so-called religious elements for promoting their brand of Islam. This usage is against the essence of Islam and the ideology of Pakistan. Whereas, Islam promotes peace, harmony, mutual respect and sacred nature of the life of every human being, these militants do exactly the opposite.
Every year, March 23, the Pakistan Day, reminds us the spirit of 1940. It was truly the spirit of being different and unique in united India, which encouraged the founding fathers of Pakistan to demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims of Subcontinent. In the historical perspective, the uniqueness of the Muslims in subcontinent becomes more pronounced after dethroning the last Muslim Emperor, Bhadur Shah Zafar. Since they snatched the power from Muslims, therefore considered them as their enemies, thus isolated and discriminated this religious entity. While Muslims were discriminated, the Hindu got the opportunity to come closer the colonial power. This process continued until end of the British Colonial rule in 1947.
Many factors serve as the base line for the promotion of national integration. In fact, it was Urdu as a language, which became the identity of the Muslims in united India. In 1867, the Urdu-Hindi Dispute, appeared as the first indicator, which gave Muslims a realisation the their future is unsafe in India, thus ambassadors of Hindu-Muslim unity like; Sir Syed Ahmed Khan were compelled to think differently. Today, we can make use of the same factor for the national integration of Pakistan. Since Urdu is our national language, therefore, must be used as a factor for the national unity and integrity. The Pakistani culture, though there is diversity in that, yet can serve the cause of national integration. Besides, the national and religious occasions/ festivals like Pakistan Day, Independence Day, Eid Days and other occasions should be celebrated with a national spirit and fervour for the promotion of national integration. Our national symbols like National Anthem, sports, National Flag, common heritage and history must serve the purpose of national integration.
The National and private media, both electronic and print must realise its responsibility towards promotion of national integration. Except PTV, the Pakistani media has generally been found lacking in the promotion of national cause and national integration. There is a strong need that, PEMRA should allocate special and dedicated hours in each media house for the promotion of national integration through nationally motivated narratives and programmes. The media is indeed the most significant pillar, which can promote the national cause and harmony.
Apart from the mainstream electronic media, social media must be used for promotion of social and political integration. Pakistan politicians and religious scholars must made their discussion centred around themes of national integration. This class of society if play a constructive role; away from political hate (provincialism) and sectarianism can contribute a lot for the promotion of national unity. Provincialism and various schools of thoughts can serve unity in diversity, since Pakistan is a federation and in such a system, there has to be strong centre with various federating units.
The best way forward for the promotion of national harmony and integration is through Good Governance, indeed, the essence of all. For the decades now, Pakistani state and society is suffering because of the poor governance and ill management both at the federal and provincial level. The issues like timely provision of justice or the social justice, education facilities and health facilities are most important to be addressed on priority. Through good governance, these crucial aspects can be tackled, to end the social unrest, prevailing in Pakistani society. There is a strong need that ruling class should adopt the people’s centric approach, rather using the government authority for their personal gains or to benefit their political party. A merit based system achieved through competence and justice would greatly help in overcoming the internal conflict, found in Pakistani society.
In summary, there is a strong need for a harmonious and integrated Society in Pakistan. Apart from the ruling class, the media, academia, the intellectual class, civil society and the political and religious leaders must play their part in the construction of national narratives. A well build national narrative and a cohesive society would greatly contribute towards national integration of Pakistan, indeed the sole strength and the defence of the state. Let us mark the beginning of this national campaign from Pakistan Day, March 23, 2016.
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.