This article suggests ways to increase national integration and cohesion in Pakistan.
Like other developing states, Pakistan also has been facing problems associated with the enhancement of national integration and cohesion since day one. Pakistan saw the biggest setback to its national integrity when it was dismembered in the Indo-Pakistan war in 1971. The factors responsible for the breakup of the country were chiefly the issues of provincialism and external enemies. Pakistan still faces issues related to national integrity because of the authoritative central government, assimilationist approach of the state, sub-nationalist tendencies, inequitable resources/economic distribution, religious intolerance, and terrorism.
What are the ways to increase national integration and cohesion in Pakistan?
The following can be the ways to increase national integration and cohesion in Pakistan:
1. Strong provinces
As administrative units of a federation, the provinces in Pakistan should enjoy internal autonomy except in matters related to defense, foreign policy, and currency. This will empower and enable provinces to make use of their resources for the socio-economic development of their people. Moreover, the decentralization will act as a bulwark against an authoritarian approach from the center. Similarly, it will reduce insecurity among different ethnic groups in the country, which has been one reason for ethnic movements challenging the country’s national integration over time.
2. Adoption of a pluralistic approach
The state has been adopting a policy of assimilation as part of its efforts to enhance national integration. A dominant culture, religion, language, and other cultural traits are promoted to such an extent that the small communities, nationalities, cultural and ethnic groups become indistinguishable.
As an extreme form of acculturation, the assimilative approach has proved counter-effective in Pakistan. Therefore, the state should adopt a pluralistic approach rather than an assimilationist strategy to achieve national unity, security, and integrity. National unity is possible only by emphasizing the promotion of equity and harmony rather than suppressing the smaller groups.
3. Promotion of dialogue with the disgruntled regions
Sub-nationalism and militant culture have evolved in different regions, especially in Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, threatening the ideological and territorial integrity of the state. Oppression, economic neglect, unjust resource distribution, political underrepresentation, etc. are responsible for these sub-nationalist tendencies.
It is important to adopt a policy of reconciliation and dialogue with the disgruntled people rather than oppression and use of force. History is evident that oppression was detrimental to the country and responsible for national disintegration in 1971. Thus taking a lesson from history, the state needs to promote dialogue with forces fighting against the state in Balochistan, tribal regions, Gilgit-Baltistan, etc.
Acceptance of economic, social, and political rights and interests of diverse groups as part of a multicultural, multi-ethnic, and diverse Pakistan is the only guarantee for a prosperous, peaceful, and strong Pakistan.
4. Equitable distribution of resources
One of the reasons for the resentment in Balochistan, KPK, GB, etc. is the inequitable economic distribution. This has led to economic disparity in Pakistan and related problems i.e. provincialism, compromised national unity, etc.
Hence. it is very important for the state to ensure equitable economic distribution to increase economic opportunities and take people out of extreme poverty in such regions. Equitable resource and fund allocation will ensure even development and build a sense of belonging to one country and one nation.
5. Promotion of interfaith harmony
Since the start o the Islamic Jihad against the Soviet Union, Pakistan has been a victim of polarization on religious and sectarian lines. To give an example, the act of promoting religious seminaries aimed at producing Jihadists against Soviets also has sowed seeds of sectarianism within Pakistan.
Religious intolerance continues to this day challenging national integrity. Thus to enhance national integration and cohesion, the state should take steps to promote interfaith harmony. Those exploiting religious sentiments against opposite faith should be dealt with hardhandedly.