National Integration Requires Ensuring Rights Of All The Federating Units

National Integration Requires Ensuring Rights Of All The Federating Units
National integration beefs up democratic political pluralism, fortifies unity and solidarity, removes socio-economic disparity and pacifies political conflicts in both homogeneous and heterogeneous societies. It brings together ethnically diverse, culturally varied, religiously polarized, politically fragmented and linguistically dissimilar groups into a unified whole under the shadow of civic nationalism. Besides, it inculcates an unmatched spirit of national consciousness, strengthens common national identity, encourages economic development, advocates political stability, promotes social justice, resolves the issues governance and brings about unity in diversity.

This article is an attempt to critically examine the plight of national integration in Pakistan keeping in view certain historical and political developments which have caused a great damage to Pakistani state and society. It further looks into the state’s criminal indifference towards knitting together its politically fragmented, religiously polarized and ethnically diverse nation. This article aims at diverting the attention of government towards the most potential challenge of national integration in contemporary Pakistan.

Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese poet, beautifully describes this situation in his thought provoking lines that “pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.” It best describes the scourge of disintegration in Pakistan.

Sadly, a turbulent Pakistan is in the midst of innumerable challenges ranging from crippling economy to looming energy crisis, crisis of governability, political instability, growing security issues, persistent threat of climate change, fragile education system, rampant corruption, soaring inflation, pervasive poverty, religious intolerance and a formidable challenge of national integration. Unfortunately, national integration, since the inception of Pakistan, “remains unachieved or a remote prospect,” because the centrifugal forces of Pakistani nationalism are overcoming its centripetal and cohesive forces. Today, contemporary Pakistan is entangled in ethnic conflicts and sectarian violence which do not allow the centripetal forces of Pakistani nationalism to develop mutual understanding between center and the impoverished federating units to deal with the challenges of national integration. Veena Kukreja and M.P. Singh wrote in their 2005 edited book, Pakistan: Democracy, Development and Security Issues, that “the Baloch, Pashtun and Sindhi nationalists are not as vocal but they still endorse centrifugal forces due to their resentment of the ‘Punjabi hegemony’. Islam, too, has failed as a cementing force because of the increasingly violent Shia-Sunni conflict.”

The first serious crack to national integration in Pakistan came from the emergence of ethnic nationalism spearheaded by Bengali Language Movement (BLM) from 1948 to 1952 as a strong reaction to the declaration of Urdu as the only national language of Pakistan. The Pakistani academic and former Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi, Dr Moonis Ahmer, in his 2019 article, the challenge of national integration wrote that Bengali Language Movement emerged as a persuasive force which posed a potential danger for religious forces who wanted to govern the country according to the ideology of Islam rather than language and ethnicity.

Bengali Language Movement ultimately resulted into a full-blown riots that greatly challenged the domineering West Pakistan, its potent military and elite bureaucracy. Its staunch opposition to the imposition of Urdu as the national language of Pakistan ultimately succeeded in bringing Bengali language to mainstream. Therefore, Bengali was adopted as second national language of Pakistan along with Urdu in the article 214(1) of the 1956 constitution of Pakistan. But this historic development and momentous achievement of BLM did not settle the unheard grievances of Bengalis in order to integrate them in the mainstream Pakistan. As a result, the systematic segregation of Bengalis by the West Pakistan’s powerful, but myopic, leadership and elite military-bureaucracy produced an unflinching spirit of Bengali nationalism in the then East Pakistan which proved a cogent force culminated into the dismemberment of Bangladesh in the year 1971. Ironically, the dismemberment of Bangladesh was not only a serious blow to national integration but it was also a major force behind the inevitable demise of “two nation-theory” in Pakistan.

Veena Kukreja and M.P. Singh also pointed out that “the disintegration of Pakistan and the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 dealt the first devastating blow to the ‘two nation-theory’ in the Indian subcontinent. The emergence of Bangladesh proved a milestone as it reinforced the aspirations of many ethnic movements in Pakistan.”

Instead of healing the wounds of separation, Sindh has also experienced the monster of language riots when the Sindh assembly declared Sindhi as the language of the province in July 1972. Today, Sindhi is the official language of the province. Historically, every step leading to language riots pushed Pakistan towards the scourge of ethnic and lingual nationalism which have caused disintegration among its diverse ethnic and religious groups.

Apart from this, the state was equally engaged in unfortunate Balochistan through its oppressive tactics. On 12 August, 1947, the New York Times published an article, New Status for Kalat, which states that “an announcement from New Delhi said that Kalat, Muslim State in Balochistan, had reached for free flow of communications and commerce, and would negotiate for decisions on defense, external affairs and communication. Under the agreement Pakistan recognizes Kalat as an independent sovereign state with a status different from that of the Indian States.” According to this agreement, Pakistan had formally recognized a sovereign Baloch state in treaty relations with British Government. But later Quaid I Azam turned his heart and demanded Balochistan’s accession with Pakistan. On violation of the agreement from Pakistan, Khan of Kalat refused the accession of a sovereign Baloch state to Pakistan. On this refusal,  military rushed into the rugged terrain mountains of Balochistan and forcibly annexed an independent Baloch state on 26 March, 1948. As a consequence, Khan of Kalat was forced under the barrel of the gun to sign the accession of a sovereign Baloch state to Pakistan. On 27 March, 1948 Khan of Kalat signed the accession. The fate of Balochistan was decided which, from 1948 to till date, languishes to find place in the federal structure of Pakistan.

In addition to this, Yogeena Veena rightly observes in her 2015 article, How Balochistan become a part of Pakistan – a historical perspective that “the sovereign Baloch state, after British withdrawal from India, lasted only 227 days. During this time Balochistan has a flag flying in its embassy in Karachi where its ambassador to Pakistan lived.”

Realistically speaking, the forceful annexation of a sovereign Baloch state by Pakistan's dominant military and the state's brutal tactics of silencing critical Baloch voices have largely been resulted in utter insecurity and systematic marginalization of Balochs from mainstream political and economic developments in the country. Along with organized marginalization, unchecked exploitation of Baloch resources and intermittent military incursion in Balochistan further bolstered Baloch nationalism and insurgent uprisings in Balochistan from 1948 to till date. This act of sheer aggression on the part of the state has not only pushed Balochs out of mainstream Pakistan but also done an irreparable damage to national integration in Pakistan. Today, national integration seems to be a distant dream in Pakistan.

Another fascinating aspect of the debate of national integration in Pakistan is the systematic disbandment of National Awami Party (NAP), a leftist democratic force in Pakistan, and the political victimization of its sane leadership. Acting undemocratically, an authoritarian Bhutto had dismissed the first democratically elected coalition government of NAP and JUI in Balochistan on 15 February, 1973 on the pretext of manipulating the seizure of Russian arms from Iraqi embassy in which NAP was allegedly accused that it has link with Russian-backed insurgent groups in Balochistan. Here quoting Adnan Aamir, a Balochistan based journalist, is more relevant to advance my arguments who observes in his 2015 article, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto: the forgotten villain of Balochistan, that “Bhutto pushed Balochistan out of mainstream Pakistan and created a problem that exists till date. If Bhutto had allowed the democratically elected government of NAP to complete its term then Balochistan would have been better integrated in the federal structure of Pakistan today.”

In addition to this, NAP was, to disrupt its democratic and anti-status quo struggle, accused of having involvement in anti-state activities to destroy Pakistan. Wali Khan, among the top NAP leadership, was also accused as an enemy of Islam and traitor who, according to state's official narratives, works for the cause of Afghan movement. Therefore, the top-notch leadership of NAP like khair Bakhsh Marri, Ghaus Bakhsh Bazenjo and Attaullah Mengal were allegedly arrested in false cases. This extraordinary autocratic steps taken by an opportunist Bhutto had greatly damaged the hard won integration of Pakistan’s leftist democratic forces.

On the pretext of false accusations, Wali Khan was arrested on 8 February, 1975 in Hayat Sherpao’s murder case when he was in his way from Lahore to Peshawar to attend Sherpao’s funeral prayer. Two days later, NAP was finally disbanded on 10 February, 1975, all its important record was completely destroyed and its funds were frozen. The complete ban on NAP was the end of idealism in Pakistani politics as well as the death knell to the roots of liberal democracy in Pakistan. From this point on word, an unbridled rise in Islamism, in manifold shades, gained an unparalleled momentum in the realm of political and constitutional history of Pakistan.

Along with Bengalis, Balochs and Sindhis, Pashtuns have also bore the brunt of state's reckless behavior and its malicious policies in tackling the menace of terrorism and extremism in Pakistan. Since the disastrous period of Cold War, Pashtuns have given tremendous sacrifices and suffered unmatchable losses in an alien war of capitalist America and incursive Russia. After the dismemberment of the then USSR, the whole junk of terrorist organizations with their deadliest jihadi infrastructure were left at the mercy of Pakistan. Pakistan, as a result, used them to advance its strategic depth policy in crumbling Afghanistan and hapless Kashmir. These violent groups created a stifling atmosphere of fear and terror in Pakistan. It gave a relentless rise to faith based violence which destroyed interfaith harmony, enhanced hatred and produced the issue of disintegration on religious lines. More tragically, the premeditated program of Islamization by a demagogue General Zia ul Haq further intensified the chasm between ultra liberals and orthodox.

Sadly, the dynamics of the Pashtun regions have changed after the deadliest assault of 9/11 in America. The situation worsened for Pashtuns when Pakistan joined the US led coalition war on terror. Pakistan, on the demands of America, waged certain military operations in erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Swat. In these so-called operations, Pashtuns suffered irreparable losses in term of precious human lives, infrastructure losses, educational destruction, economic slowdown etc. More importantly, Pashtuns have been marginalized from mainstream Pakistan who, as a result, demanded their indispensable rights and condemned the state's oppressive policies against Pashtuns. Apart from two major Pashtun nationalist political parties, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMA-P) and Awami National Party(ANP), Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) emerged as a cementing nationalist force challenging Pakistani military. This is another devastating stroke to national integration in Pakistan.

All these injustices done by the state have greatly contributed to the monster of disintegration, rise of ethnic nationalism and the scourge of provincialism in Pakistan. Today, Pakistan's diverse ethnic groups are not in a single page to work for social, political and economic development of the state. This is because, Pakistan did not focus more on achieving national integration than oppressing its own masses. Veena Kukreja and M.P. Singh wrote that “Pakistan has not been able to develop a positive national identity but finds itself trapped in anti-Indian sentiments. Pakistan, as a state, relies more on anti-Indian nationalism than on national integration.”

In addition, “the democratic restoration under various general elections, since 1977, have established a highly puppet democracy through cosmetic civilization. It created political problems and heightened the issues of national integration and governability.” Besides these, there are innumerable other factors adding to severe differences and the crisis of national integration in Pakistan. They include, political segregation, constitutional delay, military-dominated governance, misuse of religion, delegitimizing political parties, the divisive nature of education, the growing monster of provincialism, deep-rooted ethnocentrism, inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities, absence of true democracy and democratic culture, trust deficit between center and smaller provinces, uneven infrastructural development, prevalent culture of landlordism, degradation of Pashtun and Baloch culture through biased literature and Pakistani Dramas on PTV and the mushrooming growth of sectarianism have greatly shattered the spirit of unity and Pakistani nationalism. Moreover, they also gave birth to unbridgeable differences that made us extremely vulnerable to foreign influences. Meanwhile, these factors are the real hindrance to national integration and nation-building process in Pakistan.

Besides these underlying causes of national disintegration, 18th Amendment was a landmark achievement in the realm of political and constitutional history of Pakistan which brought about a new life in the dead body of center-province  relations in Pakistan. It gave hope to the impoverished provinces, achieved minimum, if not complete, national integration, ensured provincial autonomy and created federation envisioned in the 1973 constitution.

But the incumbent government of Mr Khan is bent on rolling back the historic 18th Amendment, a significant milestone and tremendous achievement of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which blocked undemocratic forces to intervene in political affairs of the state and tear off the constitution of the country. The current government utterly blames the 18th Amendment for the economic slowdown and economic deterioration of the country. Therefore, it is backing strong center to uphold the whole power in its hands. But the government seems to be reluctant or unaware about the adverse effects of the revisiting of the 18thAmendment.

Realistically speaking, the undoing of 18th Amendment greatly shatters the spirit of federation, creates center-province animosity, destroys provincial autonomy, augments the sense of inferiority among the smaller provinces, deteriorates law and order situation and damages national integration in Pakistan.

Instead of revisiting the momentous 18th Amendment for mere economic revival, the incumbent government should act religiously to wipe out the menace of rampant corruption, eliminate favouritism and nepotism from state's institutions, bring about women in development process, attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), boost up tourism sector for revenue generation, encourage Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME), restore friendly relations with neighbouring states to enlarge trade activities, strengthen agriculture sector and improve security situation. If the government succeeds in these areas, it will produce a handsome amount of revenue which will help Pakistan to solve the daunting issues of its crumbling economy.

Furthermore, no curse of any sort can parallel the curse of disintegration. Today, among other challenging issues, one of the most formidable challenges of modern day Pakistan is its disintegrated nation divided on ethnic and religious lines. It is an existential threat to Pakistani state, society and polity in one way or the other. Because, it has encouraged an unparalleled division of society both vertically and horizontally and polarized society between ultra liberals and orthodox. Moreover, it is also a potential threat to social justice, political stability, economic growth and infrastructural development. Other unfavourable implications of national disintegration are the growing monster of provincialism, the scourge of ethnic nationalism and vulnerability of ethnic and religious groups to both hard and soft foreign influences. Besides, national disintegration encourages regional political parties, strengthens hard-core nationalist movements, undermines the unprecedented role of state's institutions and leads the state towards social, political and economic backwardness.

Undoubtedly, our survival is only in our unity and peaceful co-existence. For achieving national integration, the state should adopt concrete steps leading to permeation of common and cohesive education system, promoting true federalism, democratization of society,” “demilitarization of the state,” “de-feudalization of politics,” granting due shares to marginalized provinces, promoting Urdu language and common culture, ensuring equal distribution of resources and opportunities, “systematic weakening of military-controlled governance,” assimilation of all stakeholders, including women, in development process, mainstreaming other local languages, curbing the monster of provincialism, ethnocentrism and sectarianism, discouraging selective development, promoting free and fair elections, highlighting the need of inter-province cultural exchange programs and promoting democratic political pluralism.

To add more, the Pakistani state should focus on the issue of national integration through assimilation approach. Assimilating all stakeholders, including a vast junk of women population, in mainstream Pakistan is the only panacea for the long-lasting disease of national disintegration in Pakistan. Therefore, it is important to highlight that diverse ethnic, linguistic and religious groups cannot be merged through mere rhetoric, national slogans and beautiful and fancy songs rather they can be incorporated through social justice, quality education, equality before the law, fair treatment of minorities and economic development. For example, the progress and development of nations is solely dependent on good governance, rule of law, respect for democracy, political stability and viable economic growth rather than on mere speeches and resolutions.

To conclude, Ian Talbot wrote in The Punjabization of Pakistan: Myth or Reality that “Punjab can be seen both as the cornerstone of the state and as major hindrance to national integration.” Therefore, it is imperative to mainstream all other impoverished and smaller provinces to deal with the challenges of national integration and relieve their discontent towards Punjab, a dominant player in Pakistani politics. Moreover, contemporary Pakistan, under the leadership of Imran Khan, needs to improve its governance indicators, show respect for democracy, strengthen civilian supremacy, control widespread corruption, pacify ethnic and religious conflicts, de-politicize judiciary and bring about idealism in politics in order to heal the monster of disintegration in the country. Ultimately, these measures can lead us towards real prosperity, relative harmony, peaceful co-existence and help us to grow an unshakable spirit of common identity and achieve infrangible unity to promote national integration in Pakistan.

United we stand, the divided we fall.




[1] V. Kukreja and M.P. Singh: Pakistan: Democracy, Development and Security Issues (Paramount Publishing Enterprise, 2005) p. 20-28

[2] Ian Talbot: ‘The Punjabization of Pakistan: Myth or Reality’, in Christophe Jaffrelot (edited) Pakistan: Nationalism Without a Nation ( Manohar Publisher, New Delhi, 2002) P. 51

[3] H. Khan: Constitutional and Political History of Pakistan ( Oxford University Press, 2001) P. 97-112

[4] Y. Samad: A Nation in Turmoil: Nationalism and Ethnicity in Pakistan, 1937-1958 ( Sage Publications, 1995)

[5] A. Dixit: Ethno-Nationalism in Pakistan: Delhi Papers, (Delhi: Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, January 1996)

[6] T. Amin: Ethno-National Movements of Pakistan: Domestic and International Factors. ( Islamabad: Institute of Policy Studies, 1988)

[7] Ibid.

[8] N. Alvi: Rise and Fall of the First Political Government of Balochistan ( Sardar Attaullah Mehgal’s Government). (Journal of Punjab University Historical Society, Vol. 29, No.1, Jan-June, 2016) P. 140

[9] I. Hussain: The Dilemma of National Integration in Pakistan: Challenges and Prospects ( Institute of Strategic Studies Research & Analysis (ISSRA) Papers NDU, 2009)

[10] S. J. Shah and W. Ishaque: Challenges of National Integration in Pakistan and Strategic Response ( Institute of Strategic Studies Research & Analysis (ISSRA) Papers, 2017)

[11] A. Khan: Renewed Ethno-nationalist Insurgency in Balochistan, Pakistan: The Militarized State and Continuing Economic  Deprivation ( Asian Survey, Vol, 49. No. 6 November /December 2009, University of California Press)

[12] Ibid.

[13] The challenge of national integration: Dr. M. Ahmer ( Dawn, August 14, 2019).

[14] New status for Kalat: ( The New York Times , August 12, 1947).

[15] Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto: the forgotten villain of Balochistan: A. Aamir ( The Nation, April 3, 2015).

[16] How Balochistan become a part of Pakistan: A historical perspective: Y. Veena ( The Nation, December 5, 2015).

[17] Ibid.

[18] The first left: Nadeem F. Paracha ( Dawn, November 9, 2014).

[19] NAP was banned twice by Yahya and Bhutto: S. Shah ( The New International, May 3, 2015).

[20] The road not taken in Pakistani politics: T. Kamran ( The New on Sunday, August 2, 2020).

[21] 18th Amendment unhappiness: F. Bari ( Dawn, November 2, 2018).

[22] Debating 18th Amendment: Z. Hussain ( Dawn, February 6, 2019).

[23] Undoing the 18th Amendment: Editorial ( Dawn, October 29, 2018).

[24] Revisiting the 18th Amendment: A. Syed ( Dawn, May 2, 2010).

[25] Reversing the 18th Amendment: K. Hussain ( Dawn, March 22, 2018)

Najeeb Ur Rahman is a freelance writer and contributor. He has interest in religion, history and politics. He can be reached at