As young cadets at Pakistan Military Academy we learnt that “history is a record of omissions and commissions for the posterity to take lessons from.” Our history lecturer Major Farid with tears running down his eyes made many passionate statements for Pakistanis, who sacrificed everything for the creation of Pakistan and rot in India and Bangladesh. “A nation that abandons its citizens shall deplete its nationalism and ultimately be hounded by forces of secession.” Then he would go on to say that all Biharis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis must be repatriated to West Pakistan. He insisted that this symbolism was crucial to avert a crisis of federation in the future. “Just like a shepherd, who never abandons his sheep, a nation must never abandon its citizens.” Pakistan has repeatedly done this.

This was 1972 and we were the first group of gentlemen cadets, who had volunteered to join the army after the tragedy of 1971. We had that temperate will, the vigour of emotions and that sentiment to avenge. Pakistan had been cut to half, 93,000 prisoners were in Indian jails and pro-Pakistani groups in Bangladesh being hounded and massacred each day. Efforts into their repatriation remained lukewarm and were finally abandoned after a high court ruling in Pakistan stating: “Love, affection, and relation are not grounds for granting citizenship.” The reconstruction of a Pakistan of our dreams faded away and was replaced by one bidding for others. A generation of our cadre is now nearly lost.

If this not, what makes a loyal citizen, and what made the ‘Idea of Pakistan’ and the ‘Two Nation Theory’ attractive? Pakistan has not only repeatedly abandoned its citizens, but also displays an endemic lack of moral courage and ownership of its founding convictions. It has repeatedly failed to speak up for rights under laws of Pakistan till the creation of Bangladesh at international and bilateral forums. The conviction of Professor Ghulam Azam, the Amir of Jamaat-i-Islami (Bangladesh) East Pakistan, a staunch supporter of the federation and reunification reminds us of the expedient nature of Pakistan’s politics, propensity to abandon its flock and accept incompetence-led failures as fait accompli.

The rise of MQM from its ethnic roots did not help either. Proliferation of weapons and violence in Karachi dampened any motivation that some elements in Pakistan had for accepting these stateless people. They rot in the slums of Bangladesh hoisting Pakistan’s flag every year on August 14, while groups in Pakistan take down and desecrate the national flag each day.

This is a paradox. All India Muslim League established for the rights of Muslim minorities in Hindu dominated areas ultimately accepted a partition plan on the basis of Muslim majority areas. In the eagerness to carve a new Muslim state (states), the future of these deprived people was ignored. As the future of the British colony changed to dominions, these hapless were abandoned to a dangerous migration resulting in the worst genocide of its time. The 1971 and events thereafter affirm the perpetual disconnect between the state and people. Post 1971, Pakistan became home to diverse strains of militancy in the name of Islamic jihad fuelled by Western money and Arab oil. As these vicious leftovers and their converts eat into the state, Pakistan’s own are abandoned to exploitative forces.

Pakistan’s north western regions renamed Khyber Paktunkhwa and Fata are the worst affected by militancy. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan opened doors to religiously led militancy that transcended international borders. In order to secure bases, sanctuaries and supply lines, the writ of the tribal Maliks and political agents was gradually surrendered to militant groups, mullahs and intelligence agencies. Post 9/11, when an opportunity to eliminate these groups arose, there remained no supporting system. Rather, policies hidden in top secret dossiers resulted in the proliferation of violence in entire Khyber Paktunkhwa and Pakistan.

Pakistanis from Fata and many parts of Khyber Paktunkhwa have become refugees in their own country. When Pakistani establishment talks of a pervious Durand Line, President Barack Obama’s AfPak sounds an ironic synonym. Over 30 years of violence in the region, influx of Afghan refugees and creation of Pakistani refugees has widened psychological scars in a region historically exposed to crosscurrents of invasions. I dread if recent events become a continuation of Pashtun folklore. Feeling betrayed and deprived, the educated classes have already started re-evaluating the logic of the NWFP referendum versus Bacha Khan’s concept of Pakhtunistan. As mentioned in my articles of the past, these are ripe grounds for a romantic notion of Pashtunistan to breed.

As political parties begin the evaluation of the counter-terrorism policy, it is mandatory they pay due attention to these scars to renew nation building. The biggest responsibility and burden to give hope and doorstep delivery to the people lies on the shoulders of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) supported by the federal government. Imran Khan has no choice, but to become a proactive leader of the people and the singular rallying point for nationalism. Internal reforms within PTI are crucial to its credibility, positive impetus and integrity of the state. The federal government has no option, but to enforce complimentary policies in Fata as a single cohesive and integrated issue of good governance and reforms. Any disconnect implies a serious crises of federation.

Balochistan crisis cannot be resolved by Punjab centric thinking. It joined Pakistan for reasons different to Pakistan Movement. The federal and provincial governments have to revisit these instruments of accession and address the promises made with the people of Fata, Bahawalpur, Khairpur, Swat, Chitral and Balochistan. Neutralisation of tribal Maliks of Fata fresh in our minds, sidelining Baloch sardars from provincial and national politics will be a non-condonable blunder. Socio-economic conditions in this potentially rich, but economically deprived region have not reached a crescendo for urbanised devolution. It needs a hybrid of tribal culture and modernity, more so, because of long distances, wide expanses, underdevelopment, non-sustainable housing units and institutionalised corruption.

Karachi in the past 40 years has become a melting pot of cultures, violence, crime, militancy and opportunities. Amazingly, it also accommodates a sizable population of legalised and illegal Bengalis in contrast to Pakistanis living in ghettos of Bangladesh. Every street and ghetto reflects the diversity of Pakistan; good and bad. Karachi needs a counter-terrorism, counter-violence and law and order plan of its own supported by affirmative political action.

The next five years for the present government in Pakistan are crucial. If the diversity within PML-N, PPP, PTI, MQM and smaller parties combine to become strength, then imaginative and forceful steps can be taken to strengthen the federation. If they resort to the traditional, the lack of actions on the issues discussed in this article will lead to serious crises of the federation. Given the circumstances, they have no other option.

The writer is a retired army officer, current affairs host on television and political economist.