Enhancing national integration

Communication infrastructure, domestic tourism, undiluted provincial autonomy and bonding through the workplace play a vital role in the integration of a nation. Pakistan’s national integration has suffered immensely because these factors have never been crucially important to our leadership. Pakistan’s communication infrastructure is primitive, domestic tourism is non-existent, provincial autonomy only receives lip-service and bonding through the workplace is totally missing except in the armed forces. Uniform development across the country over the past sixty years would have solidly integrated the Pakistani nation but that did not happen due to absolute incompetence, poor leadership and corruption at all levels. The price Pakistan is paying for its neglect is in the shape of an internally disjointed nation forced to suffer the present-day indignities in the shape of terrorism and insurgency.

The political and military establishment must now understand that the military potential of any country is multiplied manifolds when it is backed by a nation that is well-integrated. An integrated nation can cover up for military shortfalls but military strength cannot cover up for the shortfalls of a nation that lacks integration and cohesion. The Soviet Union’s break-up in 1991 is an example that amply illustrates this aspect. Pakistan must, therefore, accord top priority to uniform development throughout the country in order to have a nation that can back its enviable military potential in a solid manner; if not, then all will be lost.

Nawaz Sharif deserves the credit for initiating the modern communication infrastructure of Pakistan that is so essential for the integration of a nation that lives in a country as big as Pakistan. The launching of the Lahore-Islamabad motorway by Nawaz Sharif in the early 90s was a huge step in the right direction. If the process had been initiated decades ago Pakistan today would have been a very cohesively integrated nation. I am hundred per cent sure that if someone had built a motorway connecting Peshawar, Islamabad and Swat, we would not have been battling today to restore the writ of Pakistan over Swat.

The initiative of Nawaz Sharif must now be picked up in right earnest so that within the shortest period of time Pakistan develops an enviable communication infrastructure.

Following the example of the armed forces it is necessary that Pakistanis learn to work with each other in all sectors of national life. Army units are formed on the basis of amalgamating soldiers from different areas. For example a battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment (FFR) does not consist of Pakhtuns alone but has a component of soldiers from other parts of Pakistan amalgamated with the Pakhtuns. Likewise, a Punjab Regiment battalion will always have the Punjabi component amalgamated with soldiers from other parts of Pakistan. Each unit does a three-year tour of duty at any one station and then moves to another area under a planned system which takes the unit, as an entity, all over the country and the multi-ethnic component of the unit, over a period, works and lives in each other’s native areas. Thus they become one solidly integrated entity – the Pakistan army. Pakhtun, Punjabi, Baloch, Sindhi and Kashmiri fellow soldiers posted anywhere in the country then willingly die for each other and for Pakistan; such is the level of integration. Sadly, one cannot say the same about the rest of Pakistan.

In the light of the military experience it just might be a good idea if all businesses, factories, corporate entities, service providers etc located in any province are made to follow a regulated system that absorbs people of other provinces so that a bonding interaction is brought about in the workplace. The idea, if refined, will have the people of all provinces working in a Pakistan they will all learn to love and care for. Workplace comradeship is something that truly cements people. It is essential for Pakistan to bring this about till it becomes something that happens on its own. The people of all the provinces of Pakistan must now be brought out of their segregation and made to interact and work together.

Lastly, it is time to understand that Pakistan can no longer be ruled from Islamabad by an ever-weakening, but imposingly dominant, centre. To continue doing this will be a step in the wrong direction. There is now no alternative to allowing complete, undiluted and effective autonomy to the provinces. The parting words will have to be that if we do not stop the decades-old practice of maligning the constitution and the rule of law we will fall into the big black hole that we are now looking into from the brink. Let us stop the rot while we still can and get on with the serious job of integrating our very fine nation before it gets too late.


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