Rao Tashfain talks about changing political orientation in Pakistan
The Issues of identity gaining ground in Pakistan successive political slogans have revolved around emphasizing issues related to ideology as the conventional wisdom was that this was the required glue to keep the nationhood together. However, since the last few years many leading politicos have started to veer into the complex territory of issues of identity. Many of them now profess to emphasise the recognition of identity as the essential prerequisite of realisation of national goals of human empowerment. The shift in the political orientation of leading politicians has given rise to the old debate about the parallel political concepts of ideology and identity and which concept holds superiority over the other. Modern politics is an amalgam of both the concepts though the identity factor is gradually gaining upper hand in contemporary politics.
The example of Issues of identity gaining ground in Pakistan regional and provincial leaders insisting on identifying themselves with their areas of abode is apparently in direct contrast to the perception of a unified national identity though it is often forgotten that such regional alignment is always professed within a large Pakistani context. However, it may also be taken into account that such minority regional aspirations do entertain some grave reservations about the process of devising a centralised identification system in which their regional identities are forcibly submerged. The politics of identity also appears dominant in wider angles of largest Pakistani province where a large segment of population inhabiting southern Punjab has equally showed strong reservations about being identified as Punjabis and the rising sentiment there is for recognition of their separate Seraiki identity and provision of a separate province.
It is imperative to view the issue in the light of the fact that political scientists started defining politics as divided into two specific domains termed as ideological politics and politics of identity. Politics done on ideological basis was more sweeping in its context and possessed the ability to envelope ideological groupings rising from time to time. Periodical changes in political beliefs were accepted and channelised as conservatism, liberalism, socialism etc. and contained broader principles of political adjustment. They were considered bases for devising political models for emerging nation-state phenomenon.
In contrast politics of identity is limitation-oriented as it stresses on explicit recognition and its authentic and wide acceptance. The current political phenomena provide substantial evidence of political practices veering towards specific identities that are increasingly been considered as normal grounds for political maneuvering. The complexity of globalised society puts a strong premium on clear and separate identities to be recognised for global transaction. The last vestige of politics of ideology disappeared with the dissolution of the Soviet Union a quarter of a century ago giving rise to nation-states formed and recognised on their historical identity perspectives. It is often pointed out the current age is post-ideological age that defines political surroundings in terms of their specific attributes. Classical ideological political movements called for sacrificing the present for the attainment of the grand goals in the future in a perfect society. It is often argued that pursuance of ideological politics with its attendant economic system failed to deliver. The emergence of liberal democracy and capitalism are not considered the adequate replacement of traditional principles of ideological politics as every nation state interprets its national priorities according to its indigenous requirements.
Pakistan could not remain aloof from the changes in perceptions regarding political practices. The additional factors that have crept in the Pakistani pursuance of identity politics pertain to religious interpretation of culture, religion and customs. The Pakistani political system therefore is caught up in contrasting processes of religious orientation of politics and ethno-nationalist definition of national identity. The absence of a political grouping that holds a nation-wide acceptance has given rise to religious elements trying to fill the vacuum but the differences between religious beliefs of religious groupings has further complicated the scenario. The rise of establishment-sponsored political groups has also aggravated the national political scene as it is completely devoid of any ideological or identity narrative and is essentially a reactive force against the real or imaginative excesses committed by successive ruling dispensations against the people of Pakistan.
The situation in Pakistan is also not very conducive for ethno-nationalist groupings as they have failed to muster enough public support for the causes they espouse. They do possess some peripheral influence in smaller provinces but their presence is not very decisive. Since after the emergence of Pakistan ideological orientation of politics has hardly made a difference as problems associated with political process never allowed such politics to prosper. Even the politics of identity has failed to achieve much for the country as the citizenry has been progressively gripped by mounting difficulties. The only way forward appears to be utility-oriented political groupings that develop capacity to deliver basic needs to people. The issue is not ideological or identity but transparent and good governance. TW