A few days before our 64th Independence Day a prominent television channel aired a talk show in which the question Is Pakistan a nation was discussed. Two very senior Pakistani journalists were on the panel; one forcefully saying that we are not a nation, while the other was of the opinion that we are a nation that suffers from a cancer-like ailment. I could not follow the entire programme due to electricity outage, but it left a painful feeling. If 64 years, and three generation down the timeline, we still voice doubts about our nationhood, then there is something drastically wrong with the way we have conducted the business of the State. The Pakistan Movement was politically planned and conducted on the basis of the Two Nation Theory; the Muslims of India being one nation that sought and struggled for a homeland. If now despite being Muslims we are thinking on regional identities and ethnic realities, we need to determine where and why we went wrong. Unfortunately, the prominent leadership of the movement hailed from the feudal elite of the subcontinent whose political objectives and psyche differed from the masses. For the first 10 years of its existence, Pakistan was ruled by a mixture of these feudal and bureaucratic elites. The commonality in these two segments of society is a bloated ego that demands absolute obedience and loyalty that sets them apart from the common man. What they think and do is the only right way and those who dare to differ with them are dubbed either miscreants or traitors. Thus, they demanded absolute obedience and used force with those to make them fall in line. They were certainly happy with the dominion status under the legacy of the past allegiance to the British Crown. Pakistan did not develop a Constitution, which could have sowed the seeds of national cohesion in the masses, by consensus. The federating units that became parts of Pakistan were all demarcated on linguistic boundaries and still exist today. The pattern of governance set by the rulers in the past remains in practice even today, regardless of whether the country was ruled by civilian or military leadership. This pattern calls for a strong central authority with absolute compliance with the system. Our ruling elite forget that the people living in the federating units have their hopes and aspirations for economic progress and well being. The ruler-ruled relationship is conducted by mutual consultation and dialogue, whereas our successive rulers believed in dictation and direction that often went against the local and regional thinking and aspirations. Relations based on dictation breed resentment, and continuous resentment breeds discontent and even hate, but the psyche that believes I am right does not bother about it. A brief look at our history may illustrate this point. Successive governments in Pakistan have conducted military operations in Balochistan. The Khan of Kalat had acceded to Pakistan. Though he nurtured the hope of an independent state, he was convinced politically to join this country. However, when he developed some differences, the best way out was political dialogue; instead, the central authority opted for military action. The Khan and the Baloch tribes, who professed loyalty to him, have suspected the Centres intentions ever since. A Baloch nationalist leader had once said: I was born a Baloch; then someone said the Azan in my ears and I became a Muslim; in 1947, I became a Pakistani; my allegiance runs in the same priority. Instead of asking him to justify himself, he was dubbed a traitor. Besides Balochistan, the governments conducted military actions against the petty rulers in Dir and Bajaur and other places. Had the central authority at Pakistans inception established a well-thought-out political relationship with these small time nawabs and rulers, the need of military operations would not have arisen. A better option was an absolute abolition of small principalities, but the then rulers being feudal could not act against their own class. Yet, they desired an absolute submission that they obtained through force. Often military operations against own subjects breed doubts and misgivings, which linger on and become strong beliefs with the passage of time. Also, the political system in Pakistan though is party-based, is autocratic in thought and application. Military rules in Pakistan were autocratic and did not like political dissent, but martial laws and military rulers do not tolerate opposition to their authority that is understandable. Governments by political parties, despite calling themselves democratic, also conducted the affairs of the state in an identical manner. The leaders belong to urban and rural elites and run their parties on dynastic lines. The system works on the principles of personal ambitions, patronage and protection. All the political parties in Pakistan do not hold internal elections, and when they do go through the exercise, the founders of the party or their progeny are nominated for the top slots. Party bosses do not encourage or tolerate difference of opinion in internal party matters. Such leadership is always self-centred and when placed in a position of power is indifferent to the needs and aspirations of the public and tends to impose their own subjective agenda. Nationhood is a sense of belonging. This sense demands that the country to which people belong helps them realise their dreams and aspirations, which certainly are fairly simple and manageable: Access to basic and essential secondary level education, job opportunities, healthcare, cheap and affordable justice, and security of life and property. They are common to all irrespective of domicile, ethnicity, language, culture or creed. This sense of belonging impacts on the leaders and the led equally. Our leaders own estates that provide them a luxurious upbringing. They maintain a calculated social distance from the masses. Most own estates, residences, businesses, and bank balances abroad where they have the right of indefinite stay or even hold foreign citizenship. They come to Pakistan when in power and go in exile when out of power. They do not share the miseries and hardships of the masses. When in power, they do not try to identify with the masses, rather love to take luxurious trips abroad, while the masses suffer death, destruction, and loss of property due to floods or earthquakes or any other misfortune. The continuous denial of basic necessities and the indifference of leadership set in an acute sense of deprivation, and the people tend to take matters in their own hands. Some resort to armed uprising that the Bengalis adopted and then broke away, some organise national army like Baloch BNA and embark on low intensity insurgency; others resort to violent demonstrations and inflict damage to private and public property that we witness almost daily, and some adopt the political route as the Seraiki populace has done. Nationhood is also the trust between the leaders and the led. Trust is built top down where leaders strive to better the lives of those whom they lead. They come out clean and tell the masses frankly what they can do and what is beyond their reach. They share the hardships and miseries that the masses face. In Pakistan, however, it has not happened in the past and even does not happen now. While the people suffer, our leaders indulge in mega corruption scams, and then go all-out to protect the corrupt. This lack of trust shakes the faith of the public, and they tend to behave in a manner that casts doubts on the nationhood. Whether Pakistanis lack the sense of nationhood or suffer from a malady, the causes lie with us. A people that stood united like a solid rock against a powerful adversary in 1965 has the ability to rally back. All they need is a leadership that emerges from within its middle classes and identifies with them in good times and bad, and resolves to rise and fall together. Instead of hurling criticism, our intellectual elite, and senior journalists should help identify and throw up such quality leadership. They have the power of media at their back, and they should use it to this end. n The writer is a retired brigadier and political analyst.