“With suitable instigation, a fostered sense of identity with one group of people can be made into a powerful weapon to brutalize others” (Sen, Identity and Violence:The Illusion of Destiny, 2006)
The idea of a political community, an economic unit, which has a sense of shared vision, cuts across all realms of conception: philosophical, cultural and political. Identities are shaped by inclusion and by extension that which these inclusive groups choose to exclude – the contrasting identity that they differentiate themselves from. To bring more into focus that within themselves which they know only through comparison with another.
The construction of identity and citizenship in Pakistan has been on the basis of exclusion. These exclusionary mechanisms coupled with other factors have resulted in radicalism along religious lines that often overlap with ethnic lines.
Pakistan is a relatively new state with a long colonial history, a bloody partition and is currently the fifth most populous country in the world. Its weak institutions, handicapped democratic procedures, territorial conflict with India and a strong military-bureaucratic base results in an inefficient flow of resources, poverty, minimal civil participation and a severe power shortage. Over fifty percent of the population is under the age of thirty, and provision of state facilities is poor (Chadda, 2001). These groups of marginalization often overlap with the religious minorities in the country that make up 6 million of the population.
The formation of a cohesive Islamic national identity as led to the exclusion of religious minorities from the state narrative. Pakistan’s conception of an Islamic identity relies on religious universalism, where it looks at other Islamic states as ‘natural’ allies. The post-70s national conscience reinvention along explicit Islamic lines has succeeded in entrenching Sunni interests in state legislation and institutions. Minority narratives along with alternative Muslim narratives are not incorporated into the national vision. The subjugation and discouragement of Sufi practices and Barelvi thought exemplifies the intolerance towards counter-Islamic narratives. Furthermore, the institutional capacity of the Islamic state borrows modern apparatus to promote an authentic’ Islamic vision. (Subramanian, 2014).
A caveat of current academic scholarship is summarised in Manuel Castells assertion that ‘nationalism is anathema to Ummah.’ and this observation holds true in the case of Pakistan where nationalism is mediated through a religious lens. “It has in turn, created resistant-based identities that have evolved into disillusioned, radical fragments that look towards a global radical Islamic identity to combat the nationalism of nation-states. “Identity is the way of constructing meaning in people’s lives at a time when the raison d’etre of modern states seems to be vanishing, in this respect; people crave much more than just market economics. Indeed, the State can be said to be an agent of globalization rather than of the people. The reaction to this is an alternative construction of meaning based on identity.” (Castells, 2008) The need for social justice in a state built on exclusion, where minorities are often excluded from social decisions, is paramount. Employing mechanisms of education, media and participatory democracy that stress universal values based on human rights can bring this about.(Sen, Culture and Development , 2001)