Nabeel Zafar touches upon a Distinguishing ethnic and civic nationalism
Pakistan is currently distinguishing ethnic and civic nationalism experiencing multifarious shapes and forms of nationalism that are often based upon narrow concepts of interpreting this vast phenomenon. The modern angles of nationalism are rated to be the offshoots of the break-up of multiethnic empires whose populations were culturally and linguistically so diverse that any assertion of the modern notion of popular, as opposed to dynastic, sovereignty was likely to unleash centrifugal rather than integrative forces. Because of its fascination with the idea of the nation’s organic unity, rooted in common ancestry and expressed in specific cultural forms, the first concept to emerge was ethnic nationalism that is seen as conducive to intolerant, chauvinistic, and authoritarian forms of government. Adjacent to this concept was the cultural nationalism with its myriad interpretations.
These two concepts have been found instrumental in a variety of political movements and ideas and Pakistanis are also not alien to their presence. Keeping in view the gradual socio-political and economic development in many parts of the globe that somehow disseminated multiple ideas, the concepts of ethnic and civil nationalism that emerged almost a century ago have become anachronistic. Currently these distinctions do help in providing a common framework for analysing diverse political cultures. It is invariably helpful a yardstick to gauge the placement of a nation-state and may be given due credibility. It does not serve any purpose however to bifurcate a nation-state according to ethnic or civil nationalist camps and it would be more productive to adopt the pluralistic approach that has far more chances of success.
Viewed in this backdrop, the modern concepts of civic and ethnic nationalism are quite a recent process in the annals of history and they emerged after the First World War. These concepts form an integral part of the national discourse in Pakistan where both of them are often muddled with the result that negatively affects the governance patterns. The inception of these concepts were witnessed after the hybrid empires fell and the way was given to the creation of elected parliaments, institutions whose very existence could be seen as fundamentally incompatible with the principle of monarchic authority. It may be recollected that the monarchical system was based upon gradual territorial accretion and incremental military conquest but ceased to exist after confronting the rising sentiments of civic and ethnic nationalism.
To begin with, civic nationalism includes common political culture, liberal, tolerance and respect for the rights of the individual, refers to the assertion of a population’s collective identity and of its right to political-territorial sovereignty based on its adherence to a common set of political values and on its common allegiance to an existing or prospective, territorially defined state. This concept is mostly associated with the development of West European countries that emerged out of the turmoil of the twentieth century with sturdy political-cultural moulds within which statewide national identities eventually gelled, under the impact of homogenizing forces such as economic development and commercial integration, bureaucratisation of the state, growth of public education and development of electoral politics and free media.
On the other hand, ethnic nationalism denotes the assertion of a collective identity centered around an extension of the kinship principle to a large population that treats its corollary as representing territorial sovereignty. This term also refers to any movement that focuses on common, objective cultural characteristics such as linguistic, religious or any combination thereof as the foundation of political nationhood. This concept originated among intellectual elites in nineteenth-century Central and Eastern Europe, who were alienated from imperial states and lagged behind the West European pace of political and economic modernization.
The emergence of electoral politics was one of the most visible manifestations of the process of economic and socio-political change in the Western world and slowly permeated the areas that slowly gained independence. It was obvious that such changes threatened the authority of existing institutions and undermined the stability of social hierarchies. The world was now exposed to the vagaries of global markets, attention towards economically marginalised populations and the emergence of spirited social elites that were eager to share power. The growth of a credible middle class and the rise of urban working class gave fillip to the process of change.
A powerful and abiding idea that emerged out of political modernity was the idea that the state is an expression of popular identity and that was found essential was to create an ability to mobilise the energies of society and this requirement became the cornerstone of the credibility of the modern state. In this process the arousal of patriotic emotions among the masses involved an appeal to their ethno-cultural identity though fanning such sentiments in diverse populations were not free from dangers. Pakistanis are not alien to this process and have paid quite a price for this. In the multiethnic composition of their populations, and in the consequent dilemmas and challenges that their regimes faced, many states faced significant differences in the dynamics of ethnic relations within each state and in the policies pursued by each government. This is precisely what brings up the distinction between civic and ethnic forms of nationalism and it is important to analyse the course pursued by these two valid subjects. TW