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Islam and National Identity: The Case of Pakistan and Bangladesh Author(s): Nasir Islam Reviewed work(s):

Islam and National Identity: The Case of Pakistan and Bangladesh Author(s): Nasir Islam Reviewed work(s):

Source: International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Feb., 1981), pp. 55-72

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Int. J. MiddleEast Stud. 13 (I981), 55-72 Printed in the UnitedStates of America














IndianMuslims have always been keenly awareof the differencesbetween their own communal group and the Hindus on the one hand, and between themselves and the Christian foreigners on the other. This awarenessof a separate Muslim identity was much stronger at the level of the elite, however, than at the level of the masses. At

times, these feelings erupted into

Wahabiand Fraizia movements. They also manifestedthemselves in the creationof religious schools, like Deoband, to preserve the Muslim way of life. Finally they emerged as the reformist Aligarh Movementto promote moderneducation, reinterpret the teachings of Islam, and secure the rights of Muslims as a minoritycommunity. In the early twentieth century, various attempts were madeto forge a unitedfrontwith the Hindusfor an India independent of GreatBritain.These attempts met with repeated failure.

calls for jihad against the British, for example, the


separate, independent Muslim state began to take

shape in the country. Allama Iqbal (I875-1938),

the poet-philosopher of Muslim

India, is

Muslim polity to the Muslim League leadership, thus giving a more potentobjective to the Muslim community than constitutional rights and representation in the civil services. Iqbal, like most other Muslim scholars, believed in the unity of an Islamic society and state, maintaining that an Islamic society could only be preserved by creating an Islamic state. This Islamic polity would unite the Muslims of India and preserve the Islamic way of life. Iqbal viewed Islam as a binding force which would integrate the Muslim communityconsisting of people of variousethnic and linguistic origins. Thus Iqbal's view of nationalismwas both ideological (creating a Muslim community on the basis of Islam)as well as territorial (bringing this community within the territorialframeworkof a polity). According to him a community basedon Islamic ideology was not possible without a polity. The following quotation from Jinnah's speech at the All India Muslim League Conferencein 1940 is a crystallization of representative Muslim thinking of that period:

"The Hindusand Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social cus- toms, literatures. They neither intermarry, nor dine together, and they belong to two differentcivilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions."'

During the I930S the idea of a

creditedwith conceiving, articulating, and finallyselling the ideaof a separate



University Press




56 Nasir Islam

At the same conference, the Muslim League adopted the famous Objectives Res- olution for the creationof a separatepoliticalentity withina loose Indian confederacy. Two key changes occurred in the Muslim Nationalist Movement in the post-1940 period. First, the objectives of the Muslim League were reoriented away from securing minorityrights and toward achieving a separate and independentpolitical entity for

a mass organization,using the techniques of mass mobilizationfor achieving its main objectives. Grass-roots organizations were created at the district and village levels, andmiddle-class leadership was co-opted to buildthese organizations withinthe Mus- lim League. Economic questions of bread and butterwere included in the Muslim Leagueprograms. Ina surprisingly shorttime, the Muslim League was ableto mobilize the Muslim masses behind the slogan of Pakistan- a homelandfor Muslims where they wouldbe ableto organize theirlives according to Islamic ideology. The emergence of Pakistanwas a logical consequence of these events. Pakistan emerged as a nation-statein 1947. But, as Keith Callard points out, it had hardlyany history of national unity. The membersof the Pakistaninationdid not speak

a common language;they did not have a homogeneousculture;they did not even have

a geographical or economic unit.2 Certainly Pakistanand its people were not a nationin the traditionalWesternsense

- a people living in a continguous territory with the same ethnic origins, similar culture, and, above all, one language. Not many countriesin the world fulfill all of these conditions except thatof territorial continguity. Belgium, Canada,Switzerland,

France,Spain, and Yugoslavia are examples of ethnic diversity and linguisticplurality. In my opinion, however, the existence of Pakistanas a nation was influencedmore by the lack of a well-articulated ideology during the preindependence era and the policies pursuedby Pakistani political elites after the independence than by ethnic differencesamong various provinces.

Muslim nationalismin India was differentiative.The

two-nation theory owed its

origin to the Hindu-Muslim dichotomy. Throughout the history of their struggle for independence, Indian Muslims emphasized that they were a group distinct from Hindus.3The unity of the Muslimnationwas largelybasedon fearof a Hindu majority which was a factorexternalto the Muslim community.The leadership of the Muslim League never triedto look for the roots of nationalisminside the Muslim community.

The secondnationin Indiawas

a definitionthatdid not takeintoconsiderationthe ethnic, linguistic, cultural,regional,

and economic differences among the Muslims living in various parts of India. It was assumedthatthe larger umbrellaof Muslim identity hadtakencareof these differences. This definitionran contrary to the Western concept of nationality, which is the very

basis of a nation-state.4

Religion has always been describedas the single most important basis of Muslim nationhood, but it may be noted that Islam was employed as a means of fostering

groupidentity to mobilizethe masses in the preindependenceperiod. Theuse of

slogans by the bourgeois, Westernizedleaderswas largely a faqade. Islam as a belief system5 did not play an importantpart in the political strategy of preindependence days, except in the revival movementsof the nineteenth century. This is evident from the fact that the program of the Muslim League did not appeal to the ulama, the religious leaders and scholars. "Islamic state," "Islamic government," "Islamic

constitution," and "Islamic ideology" were the slogans of the preindependence era

simply definedas "Muslims living in thesubcontinent,"


Islam and National Identitv


and these slogans were successfully utilized to mobilize mass support for Pakistan,

but no one was distinguishing a

Muslim intelligentia did not make any seriouseffort to translatethis "ideology" into any concrete shape and spell out the future economic, political, sociocultural, and

religious organization of

During the last days of the campaign for Pakistan,the Muslim League leadership triedto co-opt some ulama and pirs (spiritualleaders) to the leadership ranks. When they could not co-opt a large numberof such people, they conferredthe religious titles

on the ordinarylandlords, thus giving themthe pretense of being spiritual and religious leaders.6 Quiad-e-Azam MohammadAli Jinnah always appeard in public meetings

dressedin a

expected to do the same. TheMuslim League made great effortsto promote the Urdu language in the congress, but failed because of stiff resistance from the Bengali delegates. And so Muslim nationalismof the preindependenceperiod remained largely symbolic and differentia- tive in the sense thatit distnguished MuslimsfromHindus.Nationalistic symbols with religious connotations were successfully employed to mobilize masses behind the demandfor Pakistan, thus creating a temporary national identity.

quite sure what they meant. The Muslim nation separate from the

the state of Pakistan.

ideology of Pakistan, apart from Hindus, at best remained vague.

sherwani, the nationaldressof Indian Muslims, andthe otherleaderswere







In hindsight, one can say thatPakistanwas bornwith a temporary sense of national identity,developed as a reactionto militantHindunationalism.VariousMuslim groups in the subcontinentwere able to suspend their regional, ethnic, and linguistic identities. -

Religion -

nationalism, other ethnic factors being temporarilypushed aside. But this certainly did not mean that regional and other ethnic identities had been assimilated by this newfoundsense of Muslimnationhood.This sense of Muslimnational identity became less important, once the objective of Pakistanwas achievedandtheexternal"enemies" of the Muslim nation- the Hindusand the Colonial regime - were removedfrom the domestic political scene. Territorially the Muslimshad achievedthe statusof a nation. But the question remained:How could a sense of national identity be sustainedin the

absenceof visible externalthreatsto the Muslimnation? During the postindependence era, the sustenanceof Pakistaninational identity andthe process of national integration

would be greatly influenced by two sets of factors: regional-ethnicdiversity and policies of Pakistani power elites.



way of


had become the predominant force as a basis for







Pakistanas createdin 1947 was a state sui generis. Here was a nationunited by the

commonbelief of its people in the religion of Islambut at the same time a fragmented

conglomeration of people speaking different languages;following

and traditions;belonging to differentethnic groups and even living in geographically noncontiguous territories.Its "absurdities," "anachronisms," and "contradictions"

havebeen enumeratedtime andtime again. The physicalseparation betweentheeastern and the western wings of the country, with a thousandmiles of hostile territory in

different customs

58 Nasir Islam

between, gave Pakistan a unique character.Economic, demographic, cultural, and climatic differences between East and West Pakistanhave been mentionedtoo often to deserve repetition here. As opposed to the culturally and linguisticallyhomogeneous East, West Pakistan is very heterogeneous, with its five major languages, various dialects, complex castes, and tribal differentiation. Various component groups of Pakistaninationhave stronglinguistic andculturalaffiliationswith groups outside the nationalfrontiersof the country. Inview of these differences, it is only naturalforthevarious groups to have regional- ethnic identities in addition to their national identity. Individuals are members of

various social groups:family, tribe, caste, regional, and linguistic, as well as being membersof a Muslim nation. "Which of these identitiesaffects a person's action will depend on the situationin which the person finds himself."7 This element of multipleidentity in a multiethnicstate is often ignored. In Pakistan it seems that it was taken for granted that the religious national identity of being a Muslim would always prevail in all situations. The elections in East Pakistan in

1954 and the elections in both wings in I970 proved to the contrary. During the

I970 election, the right-wingpolitical parties which emphasized Islam as the bond of

unity and which went

formed miserably. In the East wing, the Awami League won with an amazingly overwhelmingmajority, on the basis of a program of regional autonomy, and in the West, the People's Party of Pakistanwon an absolute majority on a socialist program.8 It may be noted, however, thatboththe Awami League andthe PPPwere also Muslims

andhad equal claims to Islamic ideology. An EastPakistani journal, which represented the views of the intellectualelite and Awami League leadership,commenting on the election results, wrote: "Until 7 December religion was meantto be the cement which held Pakistantogether. Withthe political annihilationof those forces who campaigned on this assumption in both wings, the quest for identity continues."9

Manyotherfactors mayexplainwhy Islamic appealsgradually lost theireffectiveness for the purposes of national integration.First, until recently, Pakistani political elites hadneverbeen committedto the actualcreationof an Islamicstate. As Myron Weiner has pointed out, "The Westernized, largely non-relgious leadership which led the

preindependence movement

Muslim majority, free from what they said would be the dominationof the Hindu majority in India. They had no desire for an Islamic state."'? Except that symbolic use of Islam was no longer adequate for mobilizing the masses. The Muslim political elites employed Islamto mobilize masses behindthe Pakistan movement. But their purpose was simply to create a group identity against Hindus, ignoring the socioculturaldifferences among the Muslims. The Muslim League lead- ership was largely innocentof Shari'a - the Islamic code. Neitherdid they lead their

everyday lives in accordancewith the principles of Islam, nor did they accept Shari'a to serve as the basis for organizing the Pakistanistate. As anotherastuteobserverof Muslim history in Indiahas pointedout, "the Westernized leadership was modernand

and therefore

therefore capable of creating a viable state, but it was not religous

incapable of creating an Islamic state."1' Because of this attitudetowardIslam, Muslim political elites made no significant effortto spell out the details of Islamic ideology which at best remainedrather vague.

to the polls with programs based on

"Islamic ideology" per-

was primarily concerned with creating a state with a

Islam and National Identity


Consequently, after the creation of Pakistan, there was no modern interpretation of Shari'a to provide a basis for a Pakistaniconstitutionthat could be largely accepted by all political groups. Instead, Islam became a hurdlein developing a constitution. During the early period of Pakistan'sexistence (I948-I958), the ulama found it par-

ticularly difficultto agree on what an Islamic statewas.12 At various stages of the constitution, the documentsrevealeda consensuson declaring Pakistanan

republic and includeda few very general and ambiguous"principles" in the preamble

which were supposed to be Islamic. During the Ayub era (1958-I967),

bureaucraticelite shiftedthefocus from ideological-religious issues to economicissues.

The Ayub regime preferred to use bureaucraticmechanismsratherthan ideological- political meansfor national integration. Thusthe creationof an Islamicstatewas again postponed. During the Bhuttoregime, the People's Party triedto develop a melange of socialist economicsandIslamic religion underthe vague titleof IslamicSocialism. The emphasis

was on


had some initial successes in using this populist egalitarianconcept of Islam. The political frameworkcreatedunder Bhutto, however, was not an Islamic state in any real sense of the term. Thus as has already been pointed out, although Islam served as an effective instru- ment to differentiatethe Muslims from the Hindus, it did not mean that the entire Muslim nationsharedan identicaloutlook on how to organize the future society - the Stateof Pakistan.Thereare fundamentaldifferenceswithin Pakistanon the social and political implications of Islam. The elites and masses differ in their concepts of the Islamicstate or ideology. The ulama, belonging to differentMuslim sects and schools

of thought, presentwidely divergentinterpretations of "Shari'a".'3 Consequently, a vague Islamic ideology has not been translatedinto a concrete framework largely acceptable to the people for solving the common differences and the allocation of power and resources.

The ulama never really supported the cause believe in the "symbolic" use of Islam as did

them had even opposed the Pakistanmovementon the grounds that nationalismand Islam were incompatible. 4 The Quran does not permitpolitical boundariesbetween the various groups of believers. It speaks of a united"nation" of believers- the millat or the umma. An individualwho believes in the divine law of Allah - the Quran - and owes allegiance to Allah and his prophet is a memberof the millat, irrespective of his color, race, nationality, or citizenship.'5 The Islamic nation does not, strictly speaking, have territorial limits; it is rathera Diaspora. Thus the ulama were not sympathetic to the Western concept of nationalism which leads to division in the Islamicmillat. They would not preach to the commonmanthathe develop his identity with a Pakistanination.



the military-

a pragmatic and popularconception of Islam as opposed to ritualistic, theo- and juridical concernsof orthodox groups. Bhutto's ideologues andhis regime

of Muslim nationalism. They did not the nonreligious elites. A majority of


I strongly believe that ethnic differences or similarities per se do not lead to balkanizationof a multiethnicstate. They are a necessary but not


a sufficient

60 Nasir Islam

condition of dismembermentor disintegration of a country. The set of intervening variablesthat does play a very significant role is the policies of the governing elites, both at the nationaland regional levels. Thus, if one looks at the political system as

an independent variable and sees how the strategies and policies of the leaders

dominant and dominated groups influence the process of national integration and development, one may arrive at a better explanation of changing national identities

and disintegration. There is, however, a generaltendency to view the leader's strategy

as a

It is now a well-documentedfact thateconomic policies of variouscentral govern- ments in Pakistanled to a sharp increase in regional and social disparity. Business interests, civil servants,landlords, andmiddleclasses benefitedfromnationaleconomic policies. Agriculturalworkers, landless peasants, andindustrialworkerswere excluded from sharing the benefits of the developmentplans. Most of these people were con- centratedin relatively backward regions of the country - particularly in the Eastern Wing. Raunaq Jahan gives a well-documentedaccountof economic disparity between the Eastandthe West giving statisticsof allocationof expenditures in the publicsector, private investments, and growth in GDP in both parts of the country.'7 Within the Western Wing, as a result of the economic policies of various governments, wealth was concentratedin a few hands. These policies createdserious problems not only for

regional integration but also for elite-mass integration. There seemed to have been a direct relationship between the economic disparity betweenthe two wings andthe demandfor regionalautonomy. As the disparitybecame greater, thedemandfor autonomygrew stronger. The students,politicians,economists, the press, and the intellectuals effectively utilized the economic argument to mobilize mass support for regional autonomy in the East Wing. The elitist political system of Pakistanwas hardly responsive to the growing unrest and the demands for sharing economic and politicalpower. It may be notedthatthe dominantelites largelybelonged to West Pakistan. They always reacted with selective coercion or bureaucratic per- suasionbut never by political accommodation.Thus conflicts anddistrust,ratherthan compromise and confidence, markedthe political process. The effort of the CentralGovernmentto impose Urduas the national language and the denial of representation on the basis of populationby the West led the Bengalis toward a complete distrust of the central government. Thus the Bengalis began to makedemandsfora weakercenterandfor strongerprovinces in thefutureconstitutional

set-up of the The Muslim

election it was completely wiped out by the UnitedFront Party which won the election

on a program of regional autonomy. The central government did not approve of this program and the popularly elected Ministry of the United Frontwas dismissed by the governor-general. '8

regional conflicts. The major

conflict was between the West and the East -

WithinWest Pakistantherewas an acute rivalry between Panjab andthe other regions. The central government counteredthe regionalism with political centralizationwhich

led to furtherresentmentin the provinces, particularly East Pakistan.


dependent variableand ethnic differences as an independent variable. 6.

country. This was the beginning of the demandfor regional autonomy. League gradually lost support in East Pakistan. In the 1954 provincial

The firstdecade of Pakistani politics was marked by

chiefly between Panjab and Bengal.

Islam and National Identity


Because of the regionalconflicts, it took Pakistannine years to framea constitution. The agreement between the East and the West was finally achieved by the formulaof "'parity" whichmeant equalrepresentation of boththe Wings in thenational legislature. Hence East Pakistan's majority in the national legislature was transformed into an equality. It may be recalledthatwhen Pakistancame into existence, the firstconstituent Assembly (and National Assembly) had 44 seats for East Pakistanout of 79.19 The Muslim Leaguedisintegrated into manyregionalgroups. All the politicalgroups operated on regional bases. After the death of Jinnahand Liaqat Ali, no Pakistani leader could claim support of a national majority. The politics became fragmented, particularly in West Pakistan, where the landlordshad extended their funds to the provincial and national political arenas.20 Ayub believed that the sole cause of Pakistan's problems was corruptpolitics. His attempts at eliminatingpolitics ended in bureaucratization. During the Ayub regime,

the military-bureaucratic elite became entrenchedin the Pakistani political

They not only monopolized the governmentalfunctions,they also tookoverthe political functionsof interest aggregation, interest articulation, and political socialization. But

they were far from being qualified to promote national integration.They formed a socially isolated class which did not have any roots in the mass cultureof Pakistan. Their education, training, status, and even language set them apart from the people they were supposed to mobilize behind the national objectives, determined largely without any referenceto political participationby the people. The only supportthey got was from the industrialelites.

By eliminatingpolitics, Ayub also eliminatedthe politicalrepresentation which was availableto East Pakistanin the pre-I958 period. The military-bureaucratic-industrial complex thatbecameall powerful in the Ayub erawas largelyunrepresentative of East Pakistanis. Naturally, the people of EastPakistannevertrustedthese groups.21 Instead, bureaucracy and army became the symbols of Western domination over the East. During the Ayub era, the demandfor regional autonomygrew stronger and stronger


and finally culminated in the 6-point program of Mujibur-Rahman. The six


included two separatecurrencies, provincial control of foreign exchange, no


power for the center leaving only defense and foreign affairs for the central govern-

ment.22This was, of course, unacceptable to the military-bureaucratic-industrial com-

plex of West

behindtheir program failed miserably.Widespread unrestand violence in both Wings of the countrybroughtAyub's downfall and finally led to the Bangla Desh independ- ence.

Pakistan.Half-heartedeffortsof the elite groups to moblize mass support


Neville Maxwell pointed out thatPakistanwas pregnant with Bangla Desh fromthe

moment of its own Ayub and birthwas

analogy is well taken but it seems to assume the inevitability of the birthof Bangla Desh. This view is based on the strength of ethnic differencesbetween the people of East and West Pakistanand a separatefeeling of Bengali identity.

birth. Labor was brought about unexpectedly by the decline of achieved by Caesarian section, India acting as the scalpel.23 The

62 Nasir Islam

Ethnic differences between the people of Bangla Desh and West Pakistanare too well known to be given in detail here. We contend, however, that these differences accountfor only a necessary conditionof eventual separation of Bangla Desh and not

a sufficientone. Ethnic identity is not a functionof racial, linguistic, religious, or otherdifferences per se, but of whetheror not this difference is considered socially significantby the ethnic groups concerned.Thereis enough evidence to prove thatthe Bengali Muslims considered the religious differences as socially significant ratherthan racial charac- teristicsor linguistic differences, particularlyduring the PakistanMovement. In spite of their ethnic affinity, the Bengali Muslims were alienatedfrom Bengali Hindus, as shown earlier. This alienationresultedfrom a naturalsentimentof resentment against the Hindu landlordswho had exploited the Muslim peasants all through the British occupation of Bengal.24 Consequently,they did not support the militant Bengali Nationalist (Hindu) Move- mentto annulthe partition of Bengal. Bengali Muslims supported the IslamicRevivalist Movement in the nineteenth century, participating in the struggleagainst the colonial government as well as the formationof the Muslim League. They supported the idea of a separate Muslim state and finally the Muslims of Bengal voted for Pakistanin a large majority. Religion as a principal source of Bengali Muslim identity retainedits importance during the pre-Pakistan as well as post-Pakistan era at least for the masses. A survey done in I963-I964, using a sample of I,OOIfactory workers and peasants in East Pakistan,showed that48 percent of the respondents identifiedthemselvesas Pakistanis whereas only II percent consideredthemselves Bengalis. The rest identifiedwith their village or district. Another survey done in a technical college in Dacca revealed that

74 percent of the respondentsregarded themselves as Pakistanis,only 24 percent as

Bengalis. It may be concluded that, even as late as the middle sixties, there was no

awareness by the ordinary man in East Pakistanof a basic conflict between Bengali and Pakistani identity.25 Schuman in his analysis of the rise of nationalismin East Pakistancontendsthattherewas no awareness by the man-in-the-streetin EastPakistan of any conflict between his identity as "Bengali" and his identity as Pakistani.26

Bengali nationalism grew in response to the changing natureof ethnic-group inter- relationsin Pakistan.It originated as ethnicconflictaimedat changing the "dominant- subordinate" relationship between East andWest andthe distributionof power within the society. It began as demandsfor languagerights andeconomic equality as a reaction to the central government's policies to impose Urduon Bengalis, to reduce Bengali representation(both political and administrative)in the central government, and to increaseeconomic disparity. Pakistani government wantedto have Urduas the only state language of Pakistan. Jinnah,the fatherof the nation, and the firsttwo prime ministers, one of whom was

a Bengali, openly declared their support for this

the National Assembly and led to a strong language movement in East Pakistanin favor of Bengali as one of the state languages of Pakistan.The early fifties witnessed

seriousdisturbancesandriotson this issue. The provincialgovernment triedto suppress the movement and a numberof studentswere killed during the language protests in Dacca. It may be noted that Bengali was the language of an overwhelmingmajority

policy. It sparked a controversy in

Islam and National Identity 63

in East Pakistan. Only a small remnantof aristocratic elites, some urban groups, and refugee settlers from Bihar spoke Urdu. Even in West Pakistan,only 7-8 percent of

the populationspoke it. In spite of the fact that Bengali was recognized later (1956) as one of the official languages, the central government from time to time kept proposing to Islamize the languageby changing its script or eliminating certain letters, with a view to bringing it closer to Urdu.A large numberof non-Bengali civil servantswho came to administer the province tendedto use either English or Urdu. This was perceivedby the Bengali

population as some sort of conspiracy to impose Urdu upon The language movement sparked a renaissanceof Bengali

on secular ideas as opposed to Islamic ideology.27 Bengali intellectuals began to produce literature emphasizing the distinctionbetween culture, religion, and politics. They took to preachingrational,liberal, and secularideas. They began to reinterpret the history of the nationalistmovement emphasizing its class natureratherthan its religious foundations.The Muslim League was looked upon as a politicalorganization

of landlords, the two-nation theory was refuted, and lack of participation on the part of Muslims of Bengal in the Bengali NationalistMovement in the firstdecade of the

twentieth century was

versity students, professors,journalists, writers, and artists played an important role in reviving the Bengali cultureas a reactionto the government'spolicy to impose Urdu or Islamizationof the Bengali language. The nationalist slogan of "Jai Bangla" was coined during this renaissance period. Whenthe petit-bourgeoisie andintellectualswere trying torevivethe Bengaliculture, literature,and secular outlook, their representatives in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistanwere trying to develop a viable constitutionfor Pakistan.The chief obstacle in the way of constitution-making was the quantum of representation in the National Assembly of Pakistan.Between 1950 and 1958, five differentconstitutional proposals

emerged.29 All but one of these gave equal representation to East Pakistan in the National Legislature in spite of thefactthatthe province hada majority of the population of Pakistan. Bengalis were infuriatedwhen they saw theirnumericalelectoral majority beingreducedto parity withWest Pakistanin the futureNational Assembly of Pakistan. The I962 Constitutionof Ayub Khan maintainedthe principle of parity between the two wings and gave East Pakistanonly 50 percent of the total seats in the National Legislature. Bengali representation in the national bureaucracyremained extremely weak. Ac- cording to one estimate, nine years after the creationof Pakistan,only 51 top level policy-makingpositions were occupied by the Bengalis in the CentralSecretariatout of a total of 74I such positions. Bengali representation in the army was minimal -

98 percent of the officer corps of the army, navy, andair force was composed of West


Big business, industrial,andcommercial entrepreneurswere concentratedin Panjab andKarachi.Those who migrated fromIndiain 1947 chose to settle down in Karachi. East Pakistani representation in industrialand commercial elites was virtually non existent. A large majority of head offices of big business concerns were located in Karachiand Lahore.31 During the early 1950s, the Muslim League - the party that had createdPakistan

them. cultureand an emphasis

attributedto their lack of educationand backwardness.28Uni-

64 Nasir Islam

- stood in

1954 provincial elections by a UnitedFront consisting of four politicalpartiesincluding

the Awami League. The UnitedFronthadwon its victory on a program of land reform, nationalizationof jute trade, making Bengali the second official language, free edu-

cation, and provincialautonomy. The United Front government was dismissed by the central government and this really infuriatedthe Bengali elites. The 1950S saw the birthof Nascent nationalist ideology. Emphasis on Bengali as

a symbol of unity andas an instrumentof mobilization, a renaissanceof Bangla culture

and literature, demandfor provincialautonomy to modify the structureof power, and an awareness of internalcolonialism and regional economic disparity were some of the ingredients of this secularnationalism.It was still, however, a nationalist ideology without a mass movement. It did not have the support of the peasantry or the urban workers. It was largely a movement of petit-bourgeoisie and intellectualsled by fac- tional political groups. The Bengali Nationalismof petit-bourgeoisie became a mass nationalistmovement during the period of Ayub Khan, and during the late sixties, it assumed a radical character. During the Ayub era, therewas no safety valve of parliamentarydemocracy. Bureaucratizationof politics concentratedthe decision-makingpowers in the handsof the bureaucracy and the army which had very little roots in East Pakistan. The economic policies of the Pakistani government concentratedwealthin the hands of small industrialelite based in West Pakistanand transformedEast Pakistaninto a captive market for West Pakistani manufactured products. This virtually created a situationof internalcolonialism, leading to a vertical ethnic stratification,by which

a class characterwas imposed on ethnic differentiation.It thus became easy for the intellectuals, studentleaders, and petit-bourgeoisieto mobilize mass supportbehind the Bengali autonomy movement. Demand for independenceand radicalizationwas just a step down the road, in reactionto the militaryrepressionby the West Pakistani government. Duringthe post-independenceperiod, Bangla Desh's problem has been an ideolog- ical differentiationas opposed to ethnicdifferentiation.A homogeneousBengali iden- tity did not prove to be a potent tool for coping with post-independenceproblems. As Rashiduzzamanhas pointedout, "Bengalis demonstrateda separatistnationalismfed

complete disarray. It was discreditedand eventually defeated during the

by the economic grievances against the Federal government.

But Bengali leaders

failed to develop any sound political organization."32Even seven years after inde- pendence, Bangla Desh remains a country without established political institutions. Bengali Nationalist ideology was articulatedin the so-called "Four Pillarsof Mujib- ism" - secularism, democracy, nationalism, and socialism. Mujibism temporarily

raised popularexpectations for improvement in the daily life

"However instead of reform the population saw political tyranny and economic chaos." 33 The guidingprinciples of Mujibism have undergone a substantial change over time. Anti-Indian feelings had led to a change in the emphasis on secularismeven during Mujib's regime. Since the coup and particularly under the Zia regime, the Islamic ideology and identityhave been reinstated.Awami League's socialism remainedrhet- oric ratherthan substantivepolicies. The Awami League was basically a reformist ratherthan a socialist party. Some industrieswere nationalized by the Majibgovern-

of the toiling masses.

Islam and National Identity


ment. However, their management has caused enormous problems. Since the death of Majib-Ur-Rehman,private investmenthas received substantialincentives.34

It has been pointed out that although the

separatistBengali Nationalismhad suc-

cessfully helped sustain Bangla Desh in its efforts to differentiateitself from West

Pakistan, it has also raised new questions about this sense of national identity. Does

separate national identity of its own which differentiatesit from

Bangla Desh have a

West Bengal?35 It may be pointed out that the only significant difference is Islamic ideology which was rejectedby Bangla Desh intellectualsas a basis of Bangla Desh nationalism.


Far from leaving the West a homogeneous, ethnically integratednation, the sepa- rationof BanglaDesh, in fact, accentuatedthe subduedethnicdifferencesand reopened

the question of nationality in Pakistan. The four remainingprovinces each have a distinctcultureanda predominantlanguage. The languageis, in fact, a culture-medium. In spite of distinct linguistic differences amongstthem, the substantiveculture- the fundamentalvalues and belief system - does not seem to be so distinct as to justify

the label of four different nations. The people of each

regionalidentityparallel to otheridentitiesthat they possess. In certainsituationsthis regionalidentitymay dominatethe others. Any federal government or dominating elite has to consider this fact while making policies. The province of Baluchistanhas produced the most violent separatist movement so far. The vanguard of this movement has been the National Awami Party, the Balu- chistanFederationof Students, and variousSardarsand theirtribes- primarily Marri and Mangal. The NAP support of Baluchistanwas only partial, having won only 8 of the 21 seats in the Provincial Legislative Assembly in the 1970 elections. The rest

were won by Independent Sardarsor membersof Jamiat-e-Ulmai-Islam, a right-wing conservative party. This only goes to show the tribalnatureof politics in Baluchistan.

province certainly do have a

Baluchistan politics are still very much

dominated by tribal politics

controlled by

tribalSardarswho maintaineda traditionalmedieval system of justice and authority

over theirfollowers. Baluchistanreceived provincial status only

advent of real civil government is only a few years old.36 The extension of civil government andthe recentabolitionof the Sardari System threatensthe traditional way of life and has posed a seriousthreatto the power of Sardars.Their opposition is very natural.The Bhutto regime might have had a point when it argued that the so-called Baluchi Nationalist wanted to maintaintribal autonomy in the guise of regional au-

tonomy. The demand for regional autonomy in Baluchistanis based on the arguments of economic disparity, Panjabidomination, and general regional distributive justice. It has been pointed out by some Baluchi leadersthatthe Baluchi Sui Gas is being used at a cheap cost by the people of Karachiand Panjab. Since the treaty with India, the Indus water is largely used by the farmersof Panjab and Sindh. Baluchi nationalists argue for strong provinces and strong nationalities. They look at Pakistanas being composed of four nationalities based on ethnic differences ratherthan as a nation

in 1972, andthus the

66 Nasir Islam

composed of four provinces. They would like to reorganize the boundariesof the four provinces according to linguistic demarcation.37