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Identity Crisis

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Having cut itself off from its civilisational roots, Pakistan is suffering another existential crisis, a periodic event since 1947. The recent rebuff from Saudi Arabia because the Pakistani Government sucked up to rivals Turkey and Iran, has disturbed the national psyche, which is being reflected in a furious political and media debate there. Having lived off KSA’s largesse in terms of charity and loans, Pakistan had the temerity to suggest setting up a rival alliance to the Organisation of Islamic Countries. As a result, not only is the Pakistani leadership persona non grata in Saudi Arabia’s corridors of power, it has been asked to pay back the outstanding loans, particularly painful in the present economic context. This situation has also led to realisation that the relationship with other countries is purely transactional; there are no ‘familial’ loyalties. So, it is natural now for them to look askance at China’s supposed generosity with CPEC, etc. What might be expected in return in the days to come? And how much will Pakistan have to compromise on its self-respect to deliver?

It is an old problem. During the time of the Sultanates and the Mughal Empire in India, court intrigues used to centre around rivalries between the ‘Iranis’, ‘Turranis’ and ‘Hindustanis’. The Hindustanis would be greatly miffed by the fact that some noble needed only to arrive from Iran, Central Asia or Turkey to be accorded not just a grand welcome, but also be appointed to some high position. Many of these dynasties ruled in India but looked to acknowledgement from their lands of origin, some claiming even to be ‘representatives’ of the Khalifa in one way or another. It may be noted that the Arabs, on the other hand, had historic ties with the sea-faring peoples on India’s western coastline. In many ways this continues till today.

History is replete with imagined ancestries, because it provides some kind of continuity in the mind. The Muslims of South East Asia, for instance, retained their indigenous cultures, names, etc., so do not suffer so much from the identity crisis. The obsession these days, among the Pakistanis, with Turkey’s glories of the past and present has to do with this search for significance. On its part, Turkey, having failed after trying to become part of the European Union for decades, has fallen back on revisionism. Pakistan is willing to share in whatever glory that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may achieve by turning the clock back on Ataturk’s westernised secularism. If in the process, it becomes another victim of the thousand years plus struggle for domination of the Muslim world, so be it. Better than acknowledging its sub-continental roots!