Nationalism is a sense of belonging, loyalty to a nation state. It is synonymous to upholding the values of the state and propagating these as the core distinguishable features. It is around these principles that one formulates their consciousness within that particular society. This can be religious, political, cultural or a combination of all these.

Through understanding, one realises that nationalism in this case runs deep within how we, individuals, in a particular society are rooted in its principles. In ensuring greater absorption of these ideas the role of language is also very important. It is with this that ideas are transmitted from one generation to another and become the norms. Thus, it is easier for many of us to think that culture and cultural practices would have the most profound effect on the way we think.

Pakistan also received its elaborate form of culture when it was created. This culture isn’t unique to only Pakistan but to the entire region of sub-continent. What sets Pakistan apart, however, is its idiosyncrasy towards the religion Islam. The Islamic culture acts as a harbinger of Islamic brotherhood with other Muslim countries. This is because unlike most countries, Pakistan was created on the basis of an ideology. The ideology of Islam in sub-continent-to give to Muslims the right to practice and profess religion openly; and fostering greater political mobilisation. It is labelled as the most important institution of the country amongst many others and has allowed the utilisation of the state’s agencies.

The process of culturisation is facilitated by the use of symbols and institutions. Institutions help the inculcation of an agenda while symbols help in familiarisation with the said agenda. For many, political socialisation is also a matter of nationalism as it allows people to align with a different version of the same nationalist agenda.

Then there’s Pakistan Army that many, including myself strongly believe in. It is probably the only institution that has managed to thrive. It is both a symbol and an institution of nationalism. Various realists in Pakistan strongly associate themselves with the military might of the country that is able to protect them against any aggression. Their belief in this institution thrives any challenges it is faced with.

The miraculous creation of Pakistan has engendered a culture of political mobilisation as well that has facilitated the process of political awakening. This political culture still in infancy, exhausts and replenishes the spirit of various young’uns’ and keeps them set on the vision for a better Pakistan, feeding their brand of nationalism.

Then come the symbols. People are more receptive towards these as compared to the institutions. Symbols are with what people have formed associations. These symbols are idealistic and represent one set philosophy, unlike institutions. These associations run deep and are a means of bringing people together. For example the country’s flag, national anthem, national songs etc. The green-white flag remains the strongest symbol with which most of us associate ourselves most dearly, however, at Independence Day or any national day, mainly. It remains the most important symbol till today.

Another very important symbol is the Parliament and the Supreme Court. These affirm our beliefs in the system of governance and give a direction to our nationalist ambitions.

The list for these would further include Independence Day, Defence Day Parade, country’s heroes, heritage sites etc. These are only some of the symbols for Pakistanis to associate with.

However, the culture we deem of is slowly fading. We are becoming a cultured nation but as the world steadily globalises, nationalist forces are weakened for external ones to gain power. The culture that the Pakistanis seem to be trying to save has weakened at the core, we seem to be holding on to the fragments of this superlative phenomena. To say that it has completely disappeared would be a gross exaggeration. Elaborate displays of exuberance can be seen on social events (mainly weddings), as a tool for political mobilisation at rallies and/or protests and in some forms of art. Each particularly selling a brand of nationalism that they see fit. Even our religion hasn’t been spared. These symbols that have historically been used to create oneness are creating one of the worst divisions amongst the people and the repair is beyond any one particular person or institution.

From this two points can be drawn, i) as culture (uniting factor) recedes from people’s grabs, they have nothing but to notice the mere thing that separates them; ii) unity amongst the masses is no longer a pre-requisite for mobilisation, the mere divisions between a people strengthen the political agenda for many. 

The question remains, whether or not we are becoming more nationalist? The branded nationalism in the absence of any concrete definition has brought everyone to each other’s throats. It is also because of the rapid politicisation of every symbol and institution.

The political landscape between Pakistan has been less about reformation and more about the scarcity debate between the Haves and Havenots. Rather it hasn’t been this way. It’s been more about how a fixed size of pie has been exploited by one for his people, rather than for the entire country. The cycle has been persistent and vicious.

As is the case for most developing countries, Pakistan has also a fair share of political radicalisation in the country. The multi-party system is a stepping stone towards democracy and a hard hit against unity and nationalism. Rather than being a society that celebrates diversity, we have become one that feeds on these.

What’s a form of nationalism for some is a matter of catastrophe for many other. Though not all wrong, these brands of nationalism aren’t being celebrated as well as they should be. The fear of them causing a rift amongst people does more damage than causing an actual rift might. We wouldn’t know, for this country has refrained its people from having dialogue.

The main problem arises when most of us think of culture as a stagnant phenomenon when in reality it is a dynamic concept that is to change with time because of various other factors that it comes in contact with. It is a highly reactive metal which when exposed to external environment, changes its form. Like mathematical equations, if we keep one side of the equation (culture) constant, then we have to assume that the other side (nationalism) too is constant. If one changes then in order to maintain the synonymity of the equation, the other should change too. We don’t realise but as our societies change, our systems also change affecting our affiliations. It is only when we change with them that we can integrate new ideals into our nationalist perspective with which most of us can relate to.

Resultantly, there is no fixed definition of nationalism in Pakistan, ours has become a rather fragmented approach. Without understanding culture and nationalism we as a nation can’t move ahead as a cohesive unit.