Grasping the reasons for the Pakistani tendency for paranoia and violence requires assessing its troubling present in the light of a troubled past… (7)
Besieged by enemies within and without, television’s spin-doctors, impelled by the state’s intelligence agencies, attribute Pakistan’s multi-faceted problems to the machinations of invisible external hands, as opposed to historically verifiable causes of internal decline and decay. Call it paranoia, denial or intellectual paralysis, but If India’s hegemonic designs are not hindering Pakistan at every step, American and Israel are believed to be hatching plots to break up the world’s only Muslim nuclear state. Pakistan’s deeply divided and traumatized people are groping for a magical formula to evade collective responsibility for their failure to gel as a nation (7-8, emphasis added).
A psychologically introverted national mindset resistant to critical self-reflection tends to be suspicious and paranoid. … the idea of history as a study of the past through rigorous investigative methods of critical enquiry has suffered from willful neglect in the interests of promoting new-fangled ideologies defined by regimes pursuing the politics of self-perpetuation. Instead of history, Pakistanis are given emotive lessons in ideology, along with a compendium of selective facts, which instead of opening up minds, parrot the “truths” of hastily constructed national myths … Shorn of a history, people living in myths are just that – a mythical people whose thoughts and actions lack credibility and substance, a frustrated and depressed people (8, emphasis added).
History has been reduced to a jumble of cliches by official hacks expounding the improbable versions of Pakistan’s much-touted Islamic ideology…Forced to imbibe official truths, the vast majority of literate Pakistanis take comfort in ignorance, skepticism and most disconcertingly, in a contagion of belief in conspiracy theories. The self-glorification of an imagined past matched by habits of national denial have assumed crisis proportions today when Pakistan’s existence is under far more serious threat from fellow Muslims than it was in 1947 from rival non-Muslim communities (10, emphasis added).
Without a credible history, a people cannot develop a historical consciousness, much less a national one. By devaluing history for political and ideological reasons, Pakistan has found it difficult to project a national identity that can strike a sympathetic chord with its heterogeneous people. Sixty-three years after independent, Pakistan is trying to define the inner contours of its national identity. The dilemma flows from a stubborn refusal to accept the more awkward truths about the historical circumstances surrounding its birth (11, emphasis added).
Written by Ayesha Jalal (selections by Randeep Purewall)
Selections from Ayesha Jalal’s essay “The Past as Present” in Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State (Rupa & Co., 2011), edited by Maleeha Lodhi, pp. 7-20.