14 August and nation-building
By ATLE HETLAND
on Pakistan Independence Day – celebrating the young state
and an old culture!
It is a day when all
Pakistanis should feel proud and confident about the land
and the people.
The unity and diversity of
the past and the present, looking forward to a bright
As a matter of fact,
Pakistanis are doing well and live mostly peacefully
together, often in spite of difficulties and material
shortages in many fields.
Most of Pakistan’s sunny
days are yet to come.
What else would we expect in a land of kind and clever
people, of strong believers, of farmers and practical
businessmen and women, of young people full of innovative
ideas and energy!
The term nation-building means that we must focus more on
what is positive and can unite everyone, and that also means
that sub-groups and minorities must be given space and
encouragement because there is strength in diversity and
divergence of opinions.
A healthy democracy must accept the richness of diversity as
part of the glue that binds all people in the country
Independence Day is held to
commemorating the birth of Pakistan on14/15 August 1947 when
the British Empire had to let go of it crown colony of
The independent Muslim state
of Pakistan was created to include East Pakistan, presently
Bangladesh, and West Pakistan, which is today’s Pakistan,
needless to say.
Pakistan is a large country with a population of close to
200 million people, ranking the world’s sixth most populous
The green colour in the flag,
with the new moon and the star symbolizes the Muslim basis;
yet, the white section in the flag symbolizes the religious
minorities, the Christians, Hindus and others.
Following the difficult
independence struggle, many Muslims left the territory of
today’s India to settle in Pakistan.
However, most Muslims could not move and remained where they
lived; hence, today, the Muslim population in India is
almost as large as that of Pakistan.
The largest Muslim country in the world is Indonesia,
followed by Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Two thirds of
the world’s Muslims live in South and South East Asia;
twenty percent live in Arab countries.
But Islam stretches wider, to
include Iran, the Middle East, Turkey, Egypt and other
countries in North and Central Africa. There are more
Muslims in China than in Lebanon; and more in the United
Kingdom than in Syria.
Due to recent migration,
there are today large groups of Muslims in Europe and North
America, although as percentages of the total populations
the Muslims are relatively few.
France has the highest
percentage in Europe but less than a tenth; in my home
country Norway, there are about three percent, with the
Pakistani immigrants forming the single largest group.
Religion was important when Pakistan was created, and it
remains important today in defining the land. The full name
of the country is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which in
Urdu and Persian means the ‘land of the pure’. But the role
of religion mustn’t be made more important than it was meant
It must be realized that Pakistan is a diverse country
ethnically, linguistically and in other ways, with a federal
government uniting the four provinces, the federally
administered tribal and northern areas of FATA and FANA, and
the Pakistani administered part Kashmir.
It has the fourth largest standing army in the world, and
has fought three wars with India, its larger neighbour to
the east, with which it shares colonial history. Pakistan is
the only Muslim country with nuclear-weapons.
In foreign politics it
cooperates closely with its neighbours, including China, and
that linkage is likely to grow closer; and it also
cooperates with the West, especially the United States of
America in the current time of ‘war on terror’. Pakistan is
also a founding member of the Organization of the Islamic
Pakistan is a developing country, with a GDP per capital of
some USD 3,100 per capita. The economic growth rate is lower
than that of many other countries and it has high inflation.
Pakistan has a high population growth rate.
The textile industry is
essential to Pakistan’s economy and it has the third largest
spinning capacity is Asia.
Agriculture and horticulture are essential to employment and
earn foreign currency from export. Some 7 million Pakistanis
work abroad or have immigrated to other countries, and the
money they send home is valuable to the country’s economy.
Pakistan has made its mark in sports, culture, fashion and
many other fields. In mountaineering, it is currently Samina
Baig and her brother Mirza Ali who make headlines after
having climbed Mount Everest in May 2013, and in July 2014,
they could celebrate that they had reached the summits if
the seven highest peaks on seven continents. Pakistan has in
the last decade done well in higher education, but performs
poorly in primary education for all.
One may suggest that Pakistanis are good traders and
managers, but less experienced in many scientific fields.
The civil service has many excellent staff and departments,
and is better than popular local and foreign opinions have
it, yet, corruption is also a problem.
Politically, the country has
suffered from a dominant role of the military, which in
principle should have no role in politics. The democratic
tradition and culture are yet to develop, at all levels from
top to bottom in society, including at local government
levels and in institutions.
I would like to emphasize that there is a need for
developing systems and procedures for how to debate
political issues, and that also includes finding ways for
how to proceed when there is disagreement, and how to
express alternative and opposing views.
I find the current ‘public
demagogues’ of Imran Khan and Dr. Tahir ul Qadri to go
outside acceptable forms of how to organize debates,
especially when it happens on or about 14 August, a time
which should be a neutral celebration when all ‘swords or
words are be kept in their holsters’.
Obviously, I also find it wrong to use violence to settle
other moral, cultural, religious and other disagreements. We
may not agree with each other all the time; indeed we
shouldn’t if we live in dynamic societies.
But we must find ways of living together in the new
multi-cultural, multi-political, multi-ideological,
multi-religious and diverse world and time. We must give
room, space and encouragement to all, even those we disagree
That is actually the way most Pakistanis are at bottom of
their heart. Let us express that in public, too, more often
than we do, not only today on this year’s Independence Day,
but every day. Then we would truly contribute to peaceful