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Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Volume 6, Number 3, 2005

A national culture for Pakistan: the political economy of a debate

Saadia TOOR
saadiatoor@hotmail.com
Inter-Asia
10.1080/14649370500169946
RIAC116977.sgm
1464-9373
Original
Taylor
6302005
SaadiaToor
00000September
and
& Article
Francis
Cultural
Print/1469-8447
FrancisGroup
2005
Ltd
Studies
Ltd Online

ABSTRACT This paper explores the relationship between (national) culture and state formation,
arguing that the former is effectively a field of contestation where struggles over hegemony between
various classes and social blocs are played out. Cultural nationalism has been the pre-eminent form
of nationalism in the twentieth century, particularly within the anti-colonial and postcolonial
contexts. Since this form of nationalism lends itself to moral regulation by ruling classes in a way
that civic or political nationalisms do not (given its ability to produce and manipulate emotional
affect) it becomes imperative to understand its relationship to power and to the project/process of
state formation. This paper uses the case of postcolonial Pakistan as a lens through which to explore
and analyse the complexities of this relationship during the early years of the Pakistani nation-state.
Using primary material – Constituent Assembly Debates and the texts of important intellectual
debates on culture during this period – I show the different ways in which Pakistani culture was
defined at this time, the politics and interests behind these various articulations, and their ultimate
impact on state formation.

KEYWORDS: National culture, cultural nationalism, state formation, hegemony, Pakistan,


moral regulation

No state, not even an infant one, is willing to appear before the world as a bare political
frame. Each would be clothed in a cultural garb symbolic of its aims and ideal being. Can one
predict the cultural fashions of the new states? Can one say what the nature of a nation’s
cultural raiment will be – what elements of culture will be worn by all citizens as the common
core of decency in the new national identity, what elements will be officially put forward as
that state’s special claim to respect in the eyes of mankind. (Marriott 1963: 27)
This quote from a seminal social science text published in the 1960s simultaneously high-
lights the contemporary importance attached to culture within the context of national
projects, as well as the international dimension of this desire. At the same time it also
displays a surprising lack of expectation that the link between the two is likely to be either
obvious or somehow organic or natural: which it is likely to ultimately be presented as
being. It also presents the imperative, that a nation must have a culture with which to
‘clothe’ its ‘nakedness’, as well as the choices now opened up before the nation-state, as
somehow existing outside the realm of the political. In contrast, I shall show, as we enter the
debate with the Pakistan instance, the profoundly political nature of these ‘decisions’, as
they inform the affective force of cultural nationalism.
If the nation is always the realization of a hegemonic project, then debates over
national culture necessarily provide a glimpse into the complex process of hegemony –
both the old power bloc’s attempts to maintain it, and its contestation by alliances of
different social forces. As such, ‘national culture’ is obviously a category that emerges as
important within the ideology of cultural – as opposed, say, to political or civic – national-
ism. It is fair to say that by the twentieth century, cultural nationalism had become the

ISSN 1464–9373 Print/ISSN 1469–8447 Online/05/030318–23 © 2005 Taylor & Francis


DOI: 10.1080/14649370500169946
A national culture for Pakistan 319

hegemonic form of nationalism especially within anticolonial national struggles. This was
due in part to the fact that cultural politics formed a privileged aspect of anticolonial
struggles,1 because it was so effective in creating precisely the kind of ‘emotional attach-
ment to the nation’ which I.H. Qureshi, Pakistan’s premier Establishment historian,
lamented as absent in Pakistan in the period under study – i.e. from Independence
through to the late 1960s (Qureshi 1961: 4). The ‘nation’, understood as a political and
moral community, needs to be naturalized in order to have the emotive force and inspire
the kind of passion and loyalty that is required for the idea of the nation to ‘work’. The
ideological labour involved in producing this loyalty to the nation – and by extension, the
state which ostensibly represents/embodies it – is performed through the agency of
‘national culture’. As Qureshi goes on to suggest, it can also be done by performed by reli-
gion, but only if religion itself is cast in a cultural mould.2

‘Are the Indian Muslims a nation?’


The problems, contradictions, lacunae and constraints, which I argue made it difficult to
articulate a coherent idea of Pakistani nationhood and culture, had their genesis in the
mismatch between Indian Muslim identity as consolidated during the period of British colo-
nialism and the actual territorial and demographic reality of the Pakistani nation-state. The
concept of the nation had hegemonized political and cultural discourse in colonial British
India from the 19th century on, so much so that it was on the basis of claims to nationhood
that political identities and representation came to be negotiated. More to the point, these
claims (which undergirded the ‘two-nation theory’) had been based on cultural grounds –
understood as an ethnic Muslim identity as well as a clearly identifiable cultural history;
hence, Islam in a civilizational as opposed to a religious sense,3 being simultaneously
Muslim and Indian as a claim to peoplehood separate from, if overlapping with, the sense of
belonging to a larger Islamic political community, the ummah.4
The political and cultural importance that the category of nation had come to occupy is
testified to by the ways in which claims to nationhood were made and contested and, as in
the 19th century, the contestations only reinforced Muslim claims to nationhood. The
‘nation’ thus became the site over which claims to political identity and representation were
contested. Thus, Iqbal argued that the Muslims were ‘the only Indian people who [could]
fitly be described as a nation in the modern sense of the word’ because the Hindus had been
unable to ‘achieve the kind of homogeneity which is necessary for a nation and which Islam
[had given to Muslims] as a free gift’. Thus the Muslims in India were not a minority, but a
nation (quoted in Barlas 1995: 178).
This contestation over Muslim claims to nationhood is best symbolized by an exchange
between Gandhi and Jinnah. In September 1944, Gandhi had dismissed Muslim nationalism
as used by the League, saying
I find no parallel in history for a body of converts and their descendants claiming to be a
nation apart from the parent stock. If India was one nation before the advent of Islam, it must
remain one in spite of the change of faith of a very large body of her children. (Jinnah–
Gandhi correspondence 1945 [1944])

To which Jinnah had famously replied:


We are a nation of a hundred million, and, what is more, we are a nation with our own
distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, name and
nomenclature, sense of value and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and
calendar, history and tradition, aptitude and ambitions; in short, we have our own
distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law we are a nation.
(Jinnah–Gandhi correspondence 1945 [1944])
320 Saadia Toor

The importance of legitimising claims to nationhood on the basis of existing and accepted
scientific and legal (’all the canons of international law…’) discourses was also reflected, for
example, in a series of articles carried in the Dawn during April 1947 under the general title
‘Are the Indian Muslims a nation?’ and written by someone who claimed simply to be ‘a
student of International Politics’. The argument engaged many of the contemporary debates
over nationhood, invoking such ‘authorities’ as Mazzini and Lord Acton, as well as issues
and debates over nationalism that continue in this field; the logic of the argument is thus
strikingly contemporary. Dawn made a case for cultural nationalism based on art/architec-
ture, literature/language and ‘way of life’. Crucial to this claim of a nationhood separated
from the majority ‘Hindu’ community was the fixing of a national culture that could be
specific to (Indian) Muslims. In this case, the writer’s rather sophisticated definition of
‘common culture’ – ‘developed manifestations of thought and feeling’ – serve to reinforce
this distinctiveness. Indian Muslims thought differently, felt differently, had a different and
unique history and therefore had a common purpose and interest, hence were a nation.
The relation of such nationalism to a territorial definition was at best problematic, and
rendered further complex by the unnatural division of space and communities wrought by
Partition. In one sense, territorial nationalism – in conjunction with cultural nationalism –
was a way to assert the modernity of the national community in question. It was also a secu-
lar move – and one that was recognised as such by Muslim critics of nationalist ideology
from Jamaluddin Afghani and Muhammad Iqbal to Maulana Abul Ala Maududi. On the
other hand, as Barlas notes, ‘if there was a flaw in Muslim nationalist discourse, it was not
the inability of the Muslim nationalists … to develop loyalty to a territorially defined …
[state], but their continuing sense of commitment to the Indian state’ (Barlas 1995: 176–177).
David Gilmartin writes,
Even though the term ‘Pakistan’ was coined to link together into a single territorial reference
the names of the provinces of northwestern India, there was little in the rhetoric of the Paki-
stan movement to suggest that attachment to a particular piece of territory was of critical
importance to the idea’s popular meaning. The very uncertainty as to which land was to be
that of Pakistan was reflected in the variety of possibilities appearing in various proposals
before 1947. (Gilmartin 1998: 1083)
Bengal, he further notes, didn’t even feature in these schemes, yet was a bastion of support
for the Pakistan plan. Like historians such as Ayesha Jalal, Gilmartin further suggests that
the reason for these multiple overlapping lacunae within the idea of Pakistan was that it
was never imagined as an actual independent and sovereign nation-state:
The real struggle of the Pakistan movement … was not so much to create a territorial home-
land for India’s Muslims, as it was to create a Muslim political community, to define a
symbolic center to give moral and political meaning to the concept of a united ‘Muslim
community’ in India. (Gilmartin 1998: 1071)
By August 1947, then, the Muslim ‘nation’ had a separate, sovereign state to call its own but
ironically this state resulted in a physical division of the very nation – the ‘united Muslim
community in India’ – on whose behalf it had been conjured into being. To add insult to
injury, the contours of the new nation-state effectively cut the citizens of Pakistan adrift of
some of the clearest manifestations of Indo-Muslim culture and history on the basis of
which claims to nationhood had been so eloquently made.
Examples of material culture were not the only things left behind in the other Domin-
ion. Muslim nationalism, as an ideology and as a movement had its roots in Muslim minor-
ity provinces. This meant that, except for those who managed to migrate to Pakistan, most
of the Muslims from these areas were not included in the nation-state whose creation they
had supported. Many of these Muslims who had been active in the Muslim League struggle,
including some of Jinnah’s own associates such as Ismail Khan and the Nawab of Chhatari,
A national culture for Pakistan 321

ultimately could not ‘tear themselves apart from their social milieu and cultural moorings’
and decided to stay in India; those who did migrate to Pakistan, could not but do so ‘with a
sense of unease and remorse’ (Hasan 1993). Like many others, ‘they were pained to bid
adieu to the symbols of their faith [and] … no less agonized to snap their ties with Lucknow
and Delhi … or the qasbahs in Awadh which served as centres of cultural and intellectual
life’ (Hasan 1993) the home of the very civilization whose protection had been the sin qua
non of Muslim nationalism.
Thus, the very birth of the Pakistani nation-state split the ‘Indian Muslim community’
at the demographic level, but even more foundationally, it effected a contradiction within
the very heart of the discursive construct of the ‘nation’. If the majority of the members of
the ‘nation-as-community’ were only to be found, strictly speaking, outside the state which
was purportedly its embodiment, then where/what exactly was ‘the [Pakistani] nation’? On
the one hand, the discourse of the Muslim League was a triumphalist one, albeit tempered
by the tragedy that was Partition. Pakistan had been achieved and it was the Muslim
League that had achieved it. Accompanying this was the implication that what was most
needed now was not a preoccupation with the ‘other Dominion’, but a concern with the
new ‘Muslim’ state. In its essence this was a conflict between territorial nationalism and an
organically imagined community of Indian Muslims. In Virginia Dominguez’s evocative
phrase, it was ‘an ideology of Nationhood in search of content’ (Dominguez 1990: 131).
This, then, introduced a major paradox into the heart of the new nationalist project.
How could Pakistan claim to be the nation of Indian Muslims if the vast majority of its
constituency continued to live in the other Dominion, Hindustan, the land of the Hindus?
Then, there was the question of non-Muslims: despite the division of Bengal and Punjab on
a communal basis,5 and the communal riots which had accompanied Partition, the new
Muslim nation-state included a significant percentage of non-Muslims, particularly Hindus.
What was to be done with these Hindu Pakistanis who were a contradiction in terms
according to the older definition of ‘the nation’ but whose equal representation – in both
senses of the term – now had to be ensured within the new nation-state if it was to be true to
its aspirations to modernity and claims of being a modern state? It was clear that the old
discourse of Muslim nationalism would no longer serve its purpose of constructing consent.
How, then, could the various and diverse interests and identities which characterized the
new nation-state be articulated into a new discourse of nationhood?
The trauma of Partition was only compounded by the assertion of monolithic and
exclusionary national identities by both the new nation-states. As Aziz Ahmad argues,
‘[when] Pakistan came into existence in 1947, it had achieved only a political nationhood.
Culturally it was not yet a nation’: the most pressing problem was ‘the cultural counterpart
of the political problem of cutting adrift from the Hindu cultural residue of India in order to
isolate and establish the new nation’s cultural identity’ (Ahmad 1965). No overlap could be
conceded, because if ‘culture is what sets one nation … off from another’ (Handler 1988: 15),
then a shared culture with India would undermine the very raison d’être of Pakistan’s estab-
lishment. This resulted in the need to ‘homogenize’ the national space – cleanse it of those
that did not belong, and demand the return of those that did; and unsurprisingly, the crite-
rion for determining their inclusion/exclusion was to be their religious identity.
The absurdity and ultimate violence of such state imperatives can be seen in the anxiety
over the ‘recovery and exchange’ of ‘abducted’ women (Menon and Bhasin 1998; Butalia
2000). Sa’adat Hasan Manto6 satirized such attempts to forcibly cut Pakistan and India (and
their citizens) loose from one another in his oft-quoted short story Toba Tek Singh, in which
the two states orchestrate an exchange of inmates of mental asylums. Through the confusion
and ultimate tragic death of the main character, Manto draws out the coercive role of the
state, and the pathos – and insanity – of state attempts to impose a national identity on
people without their consent.
322 Saadia Toor

As to where Pakistan was located the inmates knew nothing … the mad and the partially
mad were unable to decide whether they were now in India or Pakistan. If they were in India
where on earth was Pakistan … It was also possible that the entire subcontinent of India
might become Pakistan. And who could say if both India and (Pakistan might not entirely
vanish from the map of the world one day? (Manto 1990)

This passage reveals both the actual confusion over the boundaries and location of Pakistan,
as well as the sheer absurdity of trying to enforce such ambiguous boundaries on people as
if they were self-evident truths. It also mirrors Manto’s own feelings about Partition: which
country did he now belong to? ‘When he sat down to write he tried in vain to separate India
from Pakistan and Pakistan from India’ (quoted in Hasan 1993: 31).

The paradoxes and politics of ‘Pakistani culture’


Defining Pakistani culture became something of a national pastime in the period immedi-
ately following Independence and Partition. The debate essentially revolved, for example,
around whether and to what extent Pakistani culture was or should be Islamic, and even
what exactly this meant. The various alternatives being bandied about were not neutral –
they either directly represented the interests of particular constituencies/groups or did so
indirectly by foreclosing certain political possibilities and opening up others. This section is
devoted to fleshing out an analysis of some of the most important of these periods of crisis
and contestation, among them the Bengali demand that Bangla be declared the national
language of Pakistan along with Urdu.
The particular configurations of the ‘imagined community’ which the nation-state
claimed to represent, had thus now changed. The immediate issue facing the political lead-
ership and Pakistani intellectuals was, therefore: what exactly is ‘the nation’ that corre-
sponds with the state of Pakistan? The first five years of Pakistan severely tested the
discourse of Muslim nationalism and brought out its unresolved contradictions, as well as
giving birth to new ones. The imperative of the moment was to create some kind of national
consensus since the old one – fragile and momentary as it had been – had assumed a
‘nation’ that was significantly different. The conflict between ‘Pakistani nationalism’ and
Muslim nationalism, ironically, became the fundamental issue facing the ruling elite as well
as intellectuals in the new state.
However, as Gilmartin explains:
While Pakistan had stood during the 1940s as a symbol of moral order, transcending the
divisions among Muslims, the Pakistan state that emerged in 1947 generally saw its task
not as one of integrating diversity, but rather one of imprinting its authority onto a new and
intractable territory. The elites who dominated the new state came quickly to mistrust
the particularisms of Pakistani society as a threat to the state’s own moral sovereignty.
(Gilmartin 1998: 1091)

Since authoritative claims to power in this period of world history must be made in the
name of ‘the nation’, defining the latter becomes a contest between different aspirants to
power. And since nations are defined by their unique cultures, ‘national culture’ becomes the
locus of these struggles over hegemony. This is why, although Pakistani culture – its exist-
ence, its content, et al. – has been the subject of debate at any given point in Pakistani
history, the most intense engagements and contestations can be traced to particular periods
of political upheaval – especially those that Habermas would call ‘legitimation crises’
(Habermas 1975).
As long as no national identity and culture could be identified that corresponded
uniquely to ‘Pakistani-ness’, the legitimacy of the Pakistani nation-state itself was at stake,
for after all, the authenticity of a claim to nationhood depends on the existence of a unique
A national culture for Pakistan 323

‘national culture’. Defining a national culture thus became an imperative for Pakistani
intellectuals (and the state elite) for several reasons. Not ‘having’ a definable national iden-
tity produced an identity crisis of national proportions, an anxiety palpable in the writings
of several Pakistani intellectuals over the years, as much as a concern among ordinary
Pakistanis evident from debates over national identity and culture within the public
sphere of newspapers, cultural and literary criticism and intellectual seminars. For exam-
ple, Jamil Jalibi, a prominent liberal (West) Pakistani intellectual declared that, because
Pakistan had no national culture, it was not fit to be called a nation.7 Jalibi was also the
one who, in the aftermath of the 1965 war, revealingly spoke of the absence of a defin-
able/bounded Pakistani culture as a matter to be treated on par with a breach of national
security because
[if] someone attacks our geographical borders, or occupies an area of land, we instantly
know that the frontiers of our country have been attacked, and we expend all our strength in
winning back that piece of land. But when this attack is aimed at our cultural frontiers, we
don’t even realise it nor do we experience a sense of loss [because we don’t know what our
cultural boundaries are]. (Jalibi 1964: 25–26)

For the Establishment, the lack of a unique Pakistani national culture was also a matter of
serious concern, but for other reasons. For if the party of the ruling class – the Muslim
League – derived its moral authority from the fact that it was the ‘national’ party, it
certainly didn’t help to have ‘the nation’ itself under question. These moments of national
identity crisis were also deeply connected to the centrifugal tendencies that characterized
the ‘political’ realm in this post-Independence period. Demands for regional/provincial
rights or indeed any questioning of the authority and purview of the central government
was taken as a direct challenge to the state.
The politics of this period – cultural and otherwise – can thus best be framed as a strug-
gle for control over the very terms of the nation-state, insofar as the latter represents both
the ideological and the structural (political, economic, institutional) aspects of rule.

Moral regulation and the ‘problem’ of East Bengal


One of the major pre-occupations of the (West) Pakistani ruling class during the first 24
years of Pakistan’s existence was to limit and/or undermine the influence of East Bengal
in national politics. East Bengal was demographically Pakistan’s majority province, with
over 50% of Pakistan’s total population. United Bengal had also played a crucial role in
the Muslim nationalist movement – the Muslim League was established in Dacca in 1906,
and the Muslim League leadership included many prominent Bengalis such as Hussain
Shaheed Suhrawardy. However, the Punjabi and Urdu-speaking Muhajir ruling group in
West Pakistan had no intention of sharing power, although they did initially try collabo-
ration with their Bengali counterparts; this was possible as long as the Muslim League’s
rule over East Bengal survived (which, as we shall see, was not long, given its repressive
policies). Bengalis also had a history of political awareness and activism and there was a
gradual rise in grassroots militancy and political consciousness after the establishment of
Pakistan, which threatened the West Pakistani Establishment.8 The latter thus tried all the
tricks in the book, and more besides, in order to contain West Bengal and deny it its
rightful share in power, from coming up with complex (but bogus) political formulae for
representation in the National Legislature and Assembly, to refusing to hold scheduled
provincial elections because of the very real fear that the provincial Muslim League
would be routed (it was), to perhaps the biggest attempt at gerrymandering ever, the
consolidation of the provinces of West Pakistan into a single administrative and political
unit.
324 Saadia Toor

The Urdu-Bangla controversy

The ruling elite’s first attempt at moral regulation through the rubric of national culture was
the squashing of the Bengali demand for cultural and/or symbolic representation
within the nation-state. This first manifested itself in the Bangla Language Committee’s
demand that Bengali be declared a national language of Pakistan on par with Urdu. This
seemed reasonable, given the Bengali share of the Pakistani population. However, the
central government’s intractability and intolerance in the face of this reasonable demand
turned it into a national crisis, which spread over 5 years. The five-year ‘controversy’ culmi-
nated in the tragic shooting by the police on a peaceful demonstration in Dacca on 21
February 1952 – the event, henceforth immortalised and commemorated annually as
Ekushey (the Bengali word for ‘21’), generated its own language martyrs and symbols, such
as the ‘Shaheed Minar’, and hardly endeared the central or provincial Muslim League
governments to the Bengali people. In the aftermath of this tragedy and the political furore
it generated, the central government finally declared Pakistan’s second national language.9
This concession to Bengali demands only added insult to injury by exposing the official
discourse – which had previously argued that the demands of pro-Bangla supporters were
nothing less than sedition – as being about nothing more lofty than political expediency.
The reaction to the original demand from West Pakistani intellectuals in particular, but
also certain Bengali members of the ruling elite – who were part of a pan-Indian Muslim
aristocracy whose habitus included such symbols of Persianate/Mughal high culture as the
Urdu language – was, to say the least, overwhelming. One would think, to read Constituent
Assembly reports and letters to the editor (of English, let alone Urdu, dailies!) that Bengalis
had literally committed blasphemy. The main argument presented against Bengali
demands was that only Urdu – as the symbol and repository of Indian Muslim culture – had
the right to be designated Pakistan’s national language, given that Pakistan had been estab-
lished in the name of Islam. The implication was that Bangla (metonymically standing in for
Bengali culture as a whole) could hardly aspire to the exalted role of a national language,
not being ‘Islamic’ enough. After all, went the discourse, everything from its script to its
vocabulary smacked of the corrupting influence of Sanskrit (read: Hindu culture). The
implication and the effect of this discourse was the designation of Bengali culture and there-
fore Bengalis themselves as not really ‘Muslim’ – and therefore, by implication, not Pakistani
– enough, being too in thrall of ‘Hindu’ culture and the arts given their interest and invest-
ment in such examples of the latter as classical dance, and Rabindranath Tagore, etc.10 The
subsequent demand by Bengalis for greater political autonomy was read against this sense
that they were not-really, not-quite Pakistani; this ‘common-sense’ enabled and justified the
various forms of state repression they were subjected to, up to and including the military
action in East Pakistan in 1971.11
Jinnah himself – hardly a fluent speaker of Urdu – told Dacca University students while
addressing them in the wake of the first demands articulated at the end of 1947/beginning
of 1948, that nothing could displace Urdu from its status as Pakistan’s sole national
language, and that anyone who told them otherwise was exploiting them for political ends.
Bengali demands were denigrated as examples of the ‘virus of provincialism’ let loose in
Pakistan by various Fifth Columnists (variously identified or darkly hinted as being
‘communists’, or ‘Hindu’ elements from ‘across the border’). I have argued elsewhere (Toor
c2000) that this discourse of provincialism and the progressive designation of East Bengal/
East Pakistan as a space of sedition was a crucial way in which state formation was effected
in this period. This manifested itself in the most ironic and perverse of ways in the secession
of Bangladesh.
I am not, of course, arguing that there was a direct causal link between the very idea
that Indo-Islamic culture alone could be the basis of Pakistani national culture, and the rape
A national culture for Pakistan 325

and murder of Bengalis in 1971. I am, however, trying to show – in this specific instance and
in the argument as a whole – that the ways in which national culture gets defined has mate-
rial consequences for the population being defined, and especially for the groups that are
excluded or marginalized from or placed in the liminal zone of any particular definition of
‘the nation’.

‘One Unit’ and the politics of ‘parity’


The original version of the Basic Principles Committee Report – which was understood to be
a draft document for the first constitution – submitted under the first Constituent Assembly
had proposed a legislature ‘which would transform East Bengal’s numerical majority of the
population into a minority of seats’ (Callard 1957: 92). Such efforts to reduce the influence of
East Bengal were in fact a consistent feature of Pakistani politics during the period under
study – the West Pakistani establishment had no intention of sharing power, let alone
letting East Bengal gain the upper hand. This intention was only intensified after the mass
character of East Bengali politics became evident through, first, the language movement
which later transformed into the movement for greater regional autonomy, and later, the
combination of middle class and mass rural politics under the Awami League and Maulana
Bhashani. The result of the provincial elections in East Bengal in 1954 (reluctantly called by
the Muslim League under severe pressure from the opposition) frightened the ruling clique
even more – the Muslim League was routed out of power by the United Front, a coalition of
opposition parties which included the Awami League, the Krishak Sramik Party, the
Ganantari Dal, Nizam-i-Islam Party and the Youth League. This had immediately led to the
imposition of Governor’s Rule in East Bengal.
Also in 1954–55, the West Pakistani establishment consolidated the provinces of West
Pakistan into a single administrative and political unit in order to undermine and subvert
the edge which East Bengal was bound to gain under the principle of proportional represen-
tation in the federal system proposed by the emerging Constitution. In 1954, the existing
Cabinet was dissolved, thus ending the tenure of the first Constituent Assembly, which had
proved unable to pass the West Pakistan Unification Bill. The Bill had been met with severe
opposition from East Pakistani members, as well as members of the ‘smaller’ provinces of
West Pakistan all of whom feared – and rightly – that this Bill would not only undermine
East Bengal’s share of power, but their own position. The reshuffling of the provincial lead-
ership resulted in a handpicked set of men who posed no such problems. It was hardly a
surprise, then, that the Bill was passed. But the debates over it are fascinating, both for the
glimpse they give us of the power politics at play, but also because of the discursive terrain
they chart.
Ironically, the main justification presented for the unification of West Pakistan’s prov-
inces into One Unit was a version of the ‘Indus thesis’,12 which had been long been articu-
lated by secular and Leftist intellectuals, particularly – as Mian Mumtaz Daultana13 didn’t
fail to repeatedly point out – one Mian Iftikharuddin!14 I shall provide a few relevant
excerpts from Daultana’s speech in support of One Unit, to show how the Indus thesis was
used to prove that West Pakistan had always – since time-immemorial – been an organic and
natural cultural unity. In fact, according to Daultana, this consolidation would be not just
the culmination of the Pakistan movement itself (!), but of a much longer historical process.
Brushing aside the arguments and protests of its detractors as to the manner and motive of
the Bill’s presentation and imposition, he argued instead that:
The real point which we have to consider and decide and the question on which our people
have to be convinced is whether the integration of West Pakistan is a natural culmination, a
natural fruition, a natural realization or something that is unnatural to the genius of the
people who live in West Pakistan. (Daultana 1955: 337, italics added) 15
326 Saadia Toor

But if that was not convincing enough, Daultana could invoke History to speak on his
behalf. And not just any history, it was the history of human consciousness itself, for ‘… in
the realms of the mind, in the development of the human spirit as far as the memory of mankind
can go, the history of the area of West Pakistan has been one’ (Constituent Assembly of
Pakistan Debates: 337, italics added). This glorious history was none other than that of ‘the
first traces of human consciousness in Mohenjodaro, Harappa and in the regions of Taxila’
(Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates: 337, italics added). Incontrovertible proof, once
again, argued that ‘from the very earliest time our history has been one’:
Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Taxilla, the great Empire of the Emperor Kaniska, throughout the
ages we have faced the world as one unity. Sir, we have always fought together the same
enemies; we have faced the same problems; we have made identical adjustments; we have
answered the same challenges with the same responses, from time immemorial … In fact the
unity of our valley of the Indus gave the first concept of unity to the entire peninsula of Hindusthan.
Sir, ours was the first unity that an outsider could perceive in the multifarious diversity of
the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent, and it is from our land, the land of the ‘Sindhu’ that the
word ‘Hindu’ and the word ‘India’ has been derived. It was our unity that created the concep-
tion of unity for the peoples of India. From the very beginning, from the days of Moohenjodaro
to the days of our last glorious conflict for freedom against the British, we have always,
invariably, acted as one people. We are not, Sir, a congeries [sic] of conflicts; we, Sir, are a
pattern of unison. (Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates: 339, italics added)

Thus, not only is the case made for the historic unity of West Pakistan, but it is asserted that
it was this unity that inspired the idea of a unified India. This led an Opposition member from
Bengal to later interject that this was nothing short of a recap of the idea of Akhand Bharat and
a clear abrogation of the two-nation theory. But it is when Daultana proceeds to talk about
the ‘realm of the very highest traditions of the mind’ that things become even more interesting:
Here again, from the very first day, the people of West Pakistan have always accepted the
same spiritual heritage, the same mental direction. I do not speak of today or of the seven or
eight hundred years that have passed, but even before the glorious advent of Islam, the philoso-
phy and thought of West Pakistan has been one. (Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates:
339, italics added)

And here is where Daultana makes the most interesting move of all, coming from a Muslim
League politician:
It is West Pakistan which gave to the entire Hindu religion its first great mystic vision, the Rig Veda.
When these first spiritual stirrings decayed and lost direction in a morass of ritual and super-
stition and the time ripened for the teaching of Gotham to come upon the world, we took
them to heart, not through the imposition of Asoka but during the glorious age of our own
Kaniskha. (Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates: 340, italics added)

It is difficult to understand the importance of this statement unless one recalls that Islam
had always been the sine qua non of the Muslim League’s line on Pakistani nationalism.
Recall, for example, the crux of the central government’s official discourse on the Bangla-
Urdu crisis: that the basis for Pakistan was Islamic culture and civilization and Bangla was
thus disqualified from being considered Pakistan’s national language because it was not
Muslim enough. The historical narrative expounded by Daultana finally got to Islam, but
only after a detour through the influence of the Greeks:
… in the final fulfillment of our existence, in the final development and culmination of our
thought, when our ears heard the noble message of Islam, we accepted it, not with hesitation,
not through conflict, but all the areas of West Pakistan accepted it as if at one moment of illu-
mination, within the first century of the advent of Islam. And once having accepted Islam,
despite the various conflicts that have taken place, despite the innumerable vicissitudes and
A national culture for Pakistan 327

tribulations to which this area, being at the very hub of world civilizations, has been
subjected we, Sir, have always held to it steadfastly, we have never resiled [sic] from it, we
have never compromised it. This indeed is the great and noble heritage of which today
we are proud. Therefore, Sir, in culture and spirit and mind we have always, not today, from
the very beginning of time been one indissoluble integrated unity. (Constitutent Assembly of
Pakistan Debates: 340).
This sounds like the assertion of a national identity rather than an argument for what was
essentially a bureaucratic move (even if it had enormous political import). Not only was this
an incredible statement to be coming from the representative of a government who cried
‘provincialism’ at the slightest hint of a justified regionalist demand, if the assertion that
West Pakistanis formed an ‘indissoluble integrated unity’ in ‘culture and spirit and mind’
were to be accepted as true, then where did that leave East Pakistan? And, in fact,
Daultana’s open adulation of a pre-Islamic – and specifically Hindu – past as a legitimate
part of Pakistan’s national cultural heritage, led Opposition members to shocked retorts that
this sounded no different from the discourse of the Indian nationalists:
Sir, I was wondering whether I was listening to our friend Mr. Mumtaz Muhammad Khan
Daultana in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan delivering a speech on the indivisibility of
West Pakistan or I was listening to Dr. Rajendra Prasad at a Congress session at Delhi
propounding the theory of indivisibility of Mother India!’ (Constituent Assembly of Pakistan
Debates 1955–56: 368)
And compelled a passionate outburst from another member from East Bengal:
Sir, if I may be permitted to say so … if everybody in the House closes his eyes and the name
of Mian Mumtaz Daultana is effaced from the records and either the name of Sardar Patel …
or even that of Gandhiji is substituted in his place and the words ‘One Unit’ are dropped and
the idea of Akhand Hindustan16 is placed in its place and if the whole speech is read in a
meeting of Hindu Mahasabha, I think the entire Hindu Mahasabha will rise and sing
Halleluiah to our Mian Mumtaz Daultana … Where is that Islam in him or in Sardar Amir
Azam.17 If you look into his speech, to his references to a civilization which was here
supposed to be 4000 B.C. you will see that he is proud of that. His references to Mohenjo-
daro, his references to Harappa, his references to Ashoka, you look at them. If you belong to
that civilization then why are you here. Go where the Ashoka Chakra is flying over the beau-
tiful mosque built by Shah Jahan… His references to these things have really pained me very
much. (Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates 1955–56: 571)
As I pointed out earlier, by undermining the Islamic basis of the ideology of Pakistan,
Daultana’s discourse left no place for East Bengal within the Pakistani national project. If
what united the people and land of West Pakistan was an extra-religious history, and one
that, it was argued, was a natural and organic fact, then what bound East Bengal to West
Pakistan? Clearly the basis of their unification as part of one nation-state could not but be
read as something less than natural and organic. As one Bengali member put it:
Your existence may have resulted from that culture [i.e. the Indus Valley civilization], but I
wonder where does East Pakistan stand after the exposition of this theory? Is this talk of
unity between East and West Pakistan all empty? … What would then bind East and West
Pakistan?’ (quoted in Malik 1963: 267)
East Pakistanis could not help but feel that their regional, cultural and historical traditions
were slighted by Daultana’s claim of the antiquity of West Pakistan. Noor-ur-Rahman contin-
ued his critique by saying that ‘we have our own history and heroes. Raja Ram Mohan Roy
was one of them. We all, Hindus and Moslems, are proud of his great deeds’ (quoted in Malik
1963: 267). It may have been more pertinent to have mentioned Tagore, given the treatment
he had suffered at the hands of the Muslim League government in East Bengal as well as their
attitude of scorn towards Bengali culture due to its supposedly ‘Hindu’ influences.
328 Saadia Toor

In his response to Daultana’s speech, Iftikharuddin cannily admitted that the latter’s
historical-cultural argument in favour of the unification of West Pakistan was in some ways
a restatement of his own: ‘…my brilliant friend from the Punjab has been guilty of plagia-
rism by stealing all the arguments that I have been giving for the last four years for the
unification of West Pakistan’ (Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates 1955–56: 608). This
turn of events was astonishing, he stated with some sarcasm, given Daultana’s past record –
among other things, signing both versions of the Basic Principles Committee Report
(Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates 1955–56: 608).18 In any case, there was an important
caveat to the claim that Daultana was simply repeating Iftikharuddin’s own thesis. The
crucial difference lay in the political projects they were being articulated with, and the form
this unification should take, specifically
whether to unify West Pakistan on a federal or unitary basis. My submission is that a federal
unity will be more lasting, will be far more democratic, as compared to a unitary unity. That
is the difference. (Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates 1955–56: 609)
Needless to say, this was hardly a trivial point of difference!19
An important part of Daultana’s speech was devoted to pre-emptive damage control –
answering the anticipated (and justified) charge that this was a cynical and politically
opportunist move. Opposition to One Unit did not just come from West Bengal, even
though it was an open secret that undermining its numerical majority was the reason
behind this scheme. The elites of the various ‘smaller’ provinces of West Pakistan were not
interested in being subsumed under a unitary Punjabi-dominated provincial administra-
tion. Daultana had to address both these charges. The assertion that One Unit was a way to
assert the hegemony of the Punjab over the other nationalities was simply untrue, he
declared. In fact, it was simply not possible because there was no such thing as ‘the Punjab’.
(Rule of thumb: the ruling class has no overarching attachment to its ‘own’ culture and will
happily disavow it should that help its project of rule.)
… Sir, the Punjab which we fear so much is not an ethnic entity. It is also not a linguistic
entity … Again, Sir, Punjab is not a complex of distinct and desparate [sic] historical experi-
ence … Therefore, Sir, what is the Punjab? This Punjab is a term of convenience. This Punjab
is in effect a geographical expression… The moment the boundaries of the Punjab cease to
exist, there remains no entity that you can distinguish as the Punjab. (Constituent Assembly of
Pakistan Debates 1955–56: 355).

An entity that did not exist, according to this logic, could hardly be accused of trying to
trample on the rights of the other provinces and nationalities. Quid pro quo. Not only that,
but the consolidation of the different provinces of West Pakistan should actually be seen as
the way to resolve once and for all the mistrust of the Punjab.
… Sir, this Punjab of which one is often so frightened, really represents nothing. In fact those
who hate the Punjabi; those who find that the Punjabis represent something perverse in the
life of the nation, for them the real solution is to take away the boundaries of the Punjab…
(Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates 1955–56: 356)
As further proof that this was not a Punjabi conspiracy, Daultana pointed out that under the
provisions of the proposed Bill, ‘the people of the Punjab’ (who had, of course, not been
consulted and so had no idea what was being done or said in their name – as various oppo-
sition members pointed out) had ‘graciously conceded to accept 40% representation’ rather
than the majority which was their due by dint of population. (Of course, this was to be the
case only for 10 years). Daultana presented this as a ‘gift’ to the people of the other prov-
inces, and especially to East Bengal, as well as, modestly, ‘the most patriotic concession in
the history of political thought’ (Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates 1955–56: 356). By
this logic, the consolidation of One Unit was – far from being a conspiracy against the
A national culture for Pakistan 329

people of East Bengal – in fact nothing less than an attempt to ensure East Bengal’s rights!
This was a clever sleight of hand, since it was the combined population of the various West
Pakistani provinces which would be used to counter the demographic dominance of East
Bengal, so the population of the Punjab was never the real issue. In an even more astonish-
ing and shameless move, the case for One Unit was actually defended ‘as a deliberate
attempt to meet the national demand of Bengal for provincial autonomy’!
It is clear – and it was clear to everyone in the Constituent Assembly then – that the
consolidation of West Pakistan was not about culture, or history or geography. It was, as
Corrigan and Sayer remind us, what integration in the context of the nation-state is essen-
tially and always about: enforcing rule (Corrigan and Sayer 1985: 6–7). In this case, it was
about changing the political landscape of Pakistan per se and constraining the political imag-
ination of ordinary Pakistanis. Moreover, the One Unit Bill was not just concerned with the
actual administrative consolidation of the territory of ‘West Pakistan’ as its full title made
clear: ‘The Establishment of West Pakistan Bill: The Bill to provide for the Establishment of
the province of West Pakistan by integrating Provinces and States and for other purposes
connected therewith’ (my emphasis). Indeed, among the ‘other purposes’ of One Unit was the
counterposing of this new province of West Pakistan to the officially renamed province of
‘East Pakistan’ within a system of ‘parity’, thus effectively neutralising any danger of East
Bengal’s dominance. The truth was that without the consolidation of West Pakistan, East
Bengal would dominate national politics because of its share of the total population;
combining all the non-Bengali provinces (serendipitously, they were all in West Pakistan)
ensured that this would not be the case.
Since this move on the part of the West Pakistani establishment was bound to be under-
stood by its detractors in terms of a framework of ‘Bengali’ versus ‘Punjabi’, an interpreta-
tion which Daultana’s ‘clarification’ affirmed, Mian Iftikharuddin was forced to clarify in
his response that the people of the Punjab were an entity separate from the West Pakistani
ruling elite. Thus, the political intrigues of the West Pakistani establishment should not,
under any circumstances, be associated with the people of West Pakistan. In fact, if their past
treatment at the hands of the ruling elite was anything to go by, no benefit was to accrue to
them. Iftikharuddin reminded the House that, in crucial ways, the people of West Pakistan
were more deprived and suffered greater repression at the hands of the West Pakistani estab-
lishment than those of East Bengal. Among other things
civil liberties enjoyed by the people of East Pakistan, even under present constitution, are
denied to us in West Pakistan. Why is this? … The reason is very clear. It is here that the
present clique wishes to rule. It is through this base that they want to maintain their position
for the present and their position in the future… Sir, my Bengali friends … will pardon me
when I say that they have completely misunderstood and unconsciously misrepresented to
themselves, the position of the present leadership vis-à-vis the people of the Punjab. They
have confused in a most dangerous manner the present clique which has ruled over us with
the people of Punjab. People of Punjab have no enmity, have never had any enmity with the
people of other provinces … Please do not mix the present leadership with the people of the
Punjab. In fact, nobody has been a great [sic] enemy of the people of Punjab than the present
ruling group. Nowhere have civil liberties been denied in the way that they are denied to us
in the Punjab… They adopt special repressive methods to maintain their present power
there. If they lose Punjab as their base they will be nowhere. (Constituent Assembly of Pakistan
Debates 1955–56: 633– 634)

By dissociating the Punjabi people from the ruling elite, Iftikharuddin undermined the rhet-
oric of Punjabi nationalism, as well as the tendency to assume a corporate interest based on
a shared regional/ethnic identity.
Just how much respect the civil-military bureaucracy (which, it has been convincingly
argued, has always been the real base of power in Pakistan from the latter’s very inception)
330 Saadia Toor

had for the democratic process and constitutional niceties is evidenced by the fact that
before the debate on the One Unit Bill was concluded, the Governor General dissolved the
Cabinet and disbanded the Constituent Assembly. A state of emergency was declared, and
the announcement that the provinces of West Pakistan were to be merged into one adminis-
trative unit followed soon after.

Muslim nationalism versus nationalist Muslims: progressive Muslims and the idea of
Pakistan
The engagement of the Marxist Left with nationalism has always been a complex one,
fraught with ambiguities and tensions. However, the terrain of nationalism was a particu-
larly slippery one for Pakistani Leftists – particularly the communists – to negotiate. Despite
the official blessing conferred on Muslim nationalism and the demand for Pakistan by the
Communist Party of India (CPI) prior to Independence, the vast majority of Muslim
communists and sympathisers, especially those in the leadership of the Progressive Writers
Association (PWA), tended to be nationalist Muslims rather than Muslim nationalists – i.e.
they privileged the Indian rather than Muslim aspect of their identity. Many were, of course,
atheists and so this was hardly surprising. Many looked on the Muslim League as a party of
reactionary interests, and the demand for Pakistan as communalist in nature, or at least
likely to exacerbate communal tensions. Of course, many well-known Muslims in the PWA
also switched their affiliations away from the communist party and/or Indian nationalism
to the Muslim League as the political situation became more polarized in 1946–47.
However, since communalism was one of the main issues which the Progressive
Writers Association was devoted to addressing, many shared the opinion that the Muslim
nationalist ideology of the Muslim League was based on communal sentiments, and so felt
strongly that it should not be supported.20 Hardliners within the PWA such as Ali Sardar
Jafri were critical even of the great Faiz Ahmad Faiz, without doubt the most influential
Urdu poet of the contemporary period, because Jafri felt that his poetry allowed for too
much ambiguity and could as easily be appreciated and appropriated by Muslim Leaguers
as by communists. In his attack on the Progressives immediately following Partition,
Muhammad Hasan Askari spilt much ink on what he called the particular (and tragic) case
of the Muslim Progressive as one who is forced to renounce that which forms the basis of
his identity – i.e. the history of Muslim culture and civilisation, the basis of Muslim nation-
alism – so as to avoid the possible charge of being communalist.
After Independence, when – under the influence of what has come to be known as the
‘Ranadive line’, the CPI (and hence the Communist Party of Pakistan) took a radical left
turn; existing differences within the Progressive movement became more sharply delin-
eated and took on new meaning.21 As I argued above, the relationship of Pakistani Leftists
to Muslim nationalism and especially to the ‘Pakistan Movement’ had been ambiguous at
best and suspicious at worse. However, this was clearly not a sustainable position to take if
they wished to work within Pakistan; the degree to which the idea of the nation had been
naturalized is testified to by the fact that politics – whether of the Right or the Left – had to
be articulated within the terms of a nationalist framework; there could be differences over
how the nationalist project should be defined, but the idea that something called the
(Pakistani) nation existed was not up for contestation. Moreover, given the centrality of
the debates over Pakistani national identity and culture, the Left could not afford to ignore
the issue. It was imperative, then, that the Left not only not ignore this ideological struggle
for the soul of Pakistan, but take it seriously. In particular, because the cultural sphere was
precisely where the Left was likely to have the most influence given its historical success
within cultural politics in the subcontinent and the political realities of Pakistan. It is also
possible that even the hardliners within the All Pakistan Progressive Writers Association
A national culture for Pakistan 331

(essentially the locus of the Marxist cultural Left in Pakistan at this time) recognized the
Janus-faced nature of nationalism and saw that the actually existing reality of Pakistan – as
a multireligious, multicultural state without a defined nationalist ideology – opened up
political possibilities.
It is thus not surprising that Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Pakistan’s premier Progressive poet,
prominent Left journalist and an active member of the Communist Party of Pakistan until it
was banned in 1954, was one of the first and certainly the most prominent intellectual to
participate in the national debate over Pakistani culture. During the 1950s and 1960s, Faiz
wrote a series of essays on the topic and gave a number of public lectures; he also took part
in a broadcast debate on the topic with other prominent intellectuals, such as Jalibi on Radio
Pakistan. In the late 1960s, Faiz accepted the invitation to chair the government Commission
on Culture and the Arts. His report was unfortunately submitted at the same time as the
popular agitation against Ayub Khan reached its climax, and was thus temporarily shelved;
however, it formed the blueprint for Pakistan cultural policy under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in
the 1970s.
In his introduction to the Report, Faiz defined culture as comprising both material and
ideological elements besides having both spatial/territorial and temporal/historical
aspects. On the other hand, he argued, ‘its ideological component may include extra-territo-
rial and supra-temporal elements’. This was, of course, his way of offering a definition of
Pakistani culture that could simultaneously accommodate the history of Muslim national-
ism and the reality of Pakistan’s cultural geography; this meant simultaneously acknowl-
edging the possibility that some part of Pakistan’s national cultural history could be shared
with India, and accepting the cultural traditions indigenous to the land that comprised
Pakistan even if they had little to do with Islam or the high culture associated with Muslim
civilization in India. Just how difficult a task this was can be adduced from the semantic and
intellectual acrobatics he had to perform.
He began by reiterating an accepted truism within Pakistani intellectual circles:
Before the inception of Pakistan, there was, understandably, no such entity as a Pakistani
nation. [… there was political community, but no ethnic and geographic unity… ]. Under-
standably, therefore, the culture of the new Pakistani nation when it emerged was not a
finished, ready made unified entity … but a composite of diversified patterns. (Faiz 1968: 15)
Here we see his attempt to set up the national(ist) project as something open, rather than
closed and bounded. ‘Nevertheless’, he continued,
these people in all parts of Pakistan shared a common historical experience as well as those
common ethical and cultural mores which originated from the religion that they professed.
(Faiz 1968: 15–16)
Moreover, there was
considerable difference of opinion on how precisely this culture should be defined. There
appears to be some agreement … that the culture of Pakistan includes everything which has
been integrated into the bloodstream of our people:
a) religion of Islam which provides ‘the ethical and ideological basis for the people’s way of
life’
b) indigenous cultures of various linguistic regions
c) elements of Western culture absorbed since the days of British occupation.
d) distinct cultures of minority groups who form a part of the Pakistani nation.’
(Faiz 1968: 16)
At this point he takes on the contemporary debates over national culture in Pakistan
directly, asking rhetorically whether ‘Muslim or Islamic culture’ wasn’t ‘an adequate defini-
tion of Pakistani culture’ given that Pakistan was an ‘ideological state and its ideology [was]
332 Saadia Toor

Islam’? This was a question which came up repeatedly in public debate, and showed how
sticky the connection between Islam-as-religious-identity and the idea of Pakistan was
proving to be despite the fact that the discourse of Muslim nationalism had relied on a
cultural rather than a religious idea of Islam.
As a Leftist, Faiz’s answer to this question was, obviously, no. But he could not leave
Islam out of the equation entirely. His solution was thus to argue that Islam was an impor-
tant element in Pakistan’s national culture but was not everything; i.e. that it was a neces-
sary but not sufficient condition of Pakistani nationhood because it was not unique to
Pakistan. By definition, a Pakistani must have something that was his/hers alone:
[as] Muslims the people of Pakistan naturally share with other Muslims, apart from a
common ideology, many elements of a common cultural heritage, collectively called Muslim
culture. But as Pakistanis they also possess distinctive cultural traits of their own which distin-
guish them as a society and a nation from their co-religionists elsewhere. (Faiz 1968: 17)
Second, this assertion that Islam was the only basis of Pakistani culture ‘ignore[d] the politi-
cal reality of “nationhood”’ which
embodies in itself the political reality of independent existence. It is synonymous with the State.
It is the identity with which people are recognized in the community of nations. Nationhood may be
a good thing or a bad thing but as long as it exists as a political reality, a national of Pakistan
remains a Pakistani… (Faiz 1968: 17)

and would/could not, unless he changed his nationality, become something else.
What sets him and his nation apart from the Sudanese or the Indonesian, therefore, must be
something other than religion. This something else is his nationhood and his culture which are
two sides of the same coin. (Faiz 1968: 17–18. My emphasis)

By asserting that ‘nationhood and culture’ are ‘two sides of the same coin’, which set one
‘Muslim’ nationality apart from another, he deals a blow to religion as the sole legitimate
basis for collective identity in the contemporary world. In fact, the centrality he claims for
cultural nationalism would have been – and was, as we shall see – anathema to the likes of
Maududi for whom nationalism was nothing less than a Western (or even Hindu/Indian)
conspiracy to destroy the unity of the Muslim ummah.
The other – and related – issue which preoccupied Pakistani intellectuals at this time
(and was actively used by the Establishment) was the issue of ‘national integration’ and its
nemesis, ‘provincialism’. As I have shown, demands for regional autonomy, even purely
symbolic ones, were instantly labelled ‘provincialism’ by the government and its organic
intellectuals and treated as nothing less than seditious. Ayub Khan took advantage of this
anxiety over regional demands by turning issues such as ‘national integration’, ‘national
culture’ and other such ‘national’ crises into a veritable cottage industry for Pakistani intel-
lectuals. As part of his social engineering efforts, he set up the Bureau of National Recon-
struction, which came under the purview of the Ministry of Information. Herbert Feldman
tells us in his largely laudatory contemporary account of the first four years of the regime,
that
[by] national reconstruction was meant the inculcation of ethical and civic values; the devel-
opment of a character-pattern; a raising of the cultural and intellectual level, assisting
women to overcome the social handicaps that confronted them; encouragement of a healthy
national spirit; the elimination of sectarianism, regionalism, and provincialism, and the
teaching of simplicity, frugality and good taste in living standards. (Feldman 1967: 84)
The Bureau, often in conjunction with the semi-private Pakistan Council on National Integra-
tion and the Pakistan Committee of the Congress for Cultural Freedom,22 organized seminars
and conferences on the above-mentioned topics. In contrast to the constant handwringing
A national culture for Pakistan 333

and self-criticism by liberal intellectuals (safely contained within such seminars) about the
lack of national integration in Pakistan and the necessity of taking even the most drastic of
measures to achieve it, Faiz argues that such an integration could not be either imposed or
orchestrated.
Even as he built up a case for the importance of art and culture to national integration,
and for the involvement of the state in promoting it, Faiz was careful to state that a ‘national
culture’ could not be evolved ‘from above’ but must come about gradually through a dialec-
tical process determined in large part by the relationships between the different groups of
people who made up Pakistan. Cultural problems, according to Faiz, ‘form an integral part
of the basic structural socio-economic problems of every society’, and their solutions there-
fore lie ‘with the solutions of those problems’ (Faiz 1968: 3). Thus, the idea of a unitary and
shared national culture could not be a wielded as an ideological weapon to enforce national
unity in the face of glaring social, economic and political inequalities: ‘to evolve a common
or unified culture for such a society must presume the evolution of a unified and equitable
social structure’ (Faiz 1968: 3). This point is of course is tragically brought home with the
secession of East Pakistan in 1971. No amount of seminars on national integration could
paper over the cracks created by a development project founded on the twin doctrines of
‘functional inequality’ and the ‘social utility of greed’23 – not to mention bad governance by
a cynical political elite bent on holding on to power at all costs.

The religious right claims its due


The idea that ‘Islam’ was the basis of Pakistan may not have been meant to convey or legiti-
mate the idea of a theocratic state by the modernists in the Muslim League, but that did not
prevent it from discursively opening the gates to just such a normative vision of Pakistan.
The Jama’at-i Islami of Maulana Abu Ala Maududi was one major player within the political
and cultural sphere, which selectively interpreted the mainstream/official discourse that
Pakistan was a Muslim/Islamic state to mean that it was – or should be – a theocracy.
Maududi himself had been highly critical of Muslim nationalism and the Pakistan
movement during the 1930s and 1940s, and had had some choice words for the modernist
Muslims who made up the leadership of the Muslim League in its second phase, including
Jinnah.24 Maududi’s critique of Muslim nationalism was that it privileged an essentially
secular locus of identity and allegiance (i.e. ‘the nation’) which undermined the Islamic
community or ummah, which could be the only basis of Muslims’ collective identity. The
democratic state, which was the privileged political form within modern (’Western’) nation-
alist discourse also posited ‘the people’ as sovereign, which undermined the Islamic injunc-
tion that God alone was sovereign.
In his early political ethnography of Pakistani society, W.C. Smith found Pakistanis
from all walks of life espousing the idea that Pakistan was a Muslim state; however, by this
they generally meant a state of/for Muslims rather than a theocracy (Smith 1962). The same
study showed that the desire for an ‘Islamic state’ and/or society, which was similarly ubiq-
uitous in the discourse of Pakistanis, actually amounted to nothing more than the desire for
a ‘good society’ and a ‘moral’ state. When probed further, it became clear that for the major-
ity of people this meant, in essence and aside from the ‘Islamic’ label, a democratic, welfare
state. However, Maududi’s Jama’at-i Islami in alliance with other Islamist parties, success-
fully lobbied the government – which had its own agenda – to introduce the language of
‘Islamic state’ within important pieces of legislation such as the Objectives Resolution and
the first Constitution. That the Maududi version of Islam was not the same as that of the
Pakistani Establishment – or that the corporate interests represented by the Jama’at’s constit-
uency sat uneasily with the interests of this ruling establishment (until the martial law
regime of Zia ul Haq) – is clear from the fact that Maududi was jailed for sedition under
334 Saadia Toor

more than one government, for arguing that their policies undermined the aspirations of the
Pakistani people for a ‘truly’ Islamic state and society.
Faiz and other Leftists tried to claim for territorial and cultural nationalism a privileged
place in understanding and defining Pakistani national identity. The sine qua non of Leftist
politics in Pakistan also became the defence of regional claims of autonomy from the centre.
Faiz even claimed that art was an important moral social force insofar as it ‘prescribes the
good and bad in taste, the ‘cultured’ and ‘uncultured’ in personality and behaviour,
the beautiful and ugly in material surroundings’, and so ‘profoundly influences both value
judgments and social behaviour within the community’ (Faiz 1968: 6). All this was bound to
get a rise out of the Religious Right, given that it arrogated to itself the exclusive right to
speak on issues of morality.
For Maududi and the Jama’at-i Islami’s intellectuals, the very concept of ‘culture’
became an anathema during this period. They understood it, correctly, as a secular substi-
tute for religion and their response was to denounce it as seditious, and to posit a purely
religious conception of Islam. However, the hegemony of cultural nationalism was such
that even these arguments had to be cast within a ‘nationalist’ framework. As Bruce
Kapferer (c1988) has persuasively argued through a comparative study of Australia and Sri
Lanka, and pace Anderson (Anderson 1983) and other literature on the subject,25 nationalism
need not be thought of as a universal and monolithic form. The discursive framework of
nationalism is capable of accommodating a diversity of political and ideological projects,
and cultural codes.26 The Jama’at’s ‘nationalist ideology’ was essentially a religious national-
ism that was based on Maududi’s own particularly reactionary understanding of Islam, and
aimed explicitly against the cultural nationalism that was hegemonic during this period. In
their writings and speeches, the idea of ‘culture’ was directly correlated with communism,
and declared a ploy by which to undermine the Islamic foundation of Pakistan.27
So strong was this connection in the minds of these Jama’ati intellectuals, that in the late
1950s Naseem Hijazi, a prominent member of their fraternity, wrote a serialized radio play
satirizing two hapless ‘comrades’ deputed by their leader to go to the villages to ‘discover’
Pakistani culture. In his preface to a collected edition of these plays, Hijazi explained that the
‘Progressives’ (read: communists) had, c1956, taken on the ‘mantle of culture’ as a result of
their literary activities being curtailed (a reference to the banning of the PWA) and also
because they had found it to be the most effective weapon in their assault on Pakistan’s
Islamic foundations. As he recalls, the plays were structured around a group of communists
and ‘exposed’ their designs on the ‘Islamic’ basis of Pakistan through the agency of ‘culture’:
… this was the time when an army of so-called progressives had declared war on the fortress
of the moral and spiritual values of Pakistan through the front of ‘culture’. Those same ‘great
artists’ who earlier used to conduct a trade in obscenity in the name of ‘literature’ [i.e. the
Progressive Writers], had now, disappointed by the lack of interest shown by the people,
taken on their ‘delicate’ shoulders the weight of the service of culture. (Hijazi 1978: i–ii)
But, argued Hijazi, one should not be fooled by this shift in emphasis:
Their goal was still the same as before – only their method had changed. The political
circumstances of those years require no paraphrasing or analysis. Our every step [as a
nation] was towards decline and degeneration, but despite this, these ‘artists’ realised that
there was a strong guard of moral and spiritual values on the national fortress of Pakistan
without removing which they could not hope to create a conducive environment for them-
selves. In this mission these spirited ones threw away their pens and took up dhols and
tablas28 instead. It was not mere accident that in this mission our progressives had the coop-
eration of those enemies of national unity who thought regional cultures were the easiest
means with which to awaken regional hatreds … [this was the time when] our respected
Progressives thought that the beat of tablas and the tinkling of ghungroos29 was enough to
shake the foundations of this neophyte nation-state. (Hijazi 1978: i–ii)
A national culture for Pakistan 335

By collapsing the defence and promotion of performance art forms – folk and classical (as
symbolized by the dhol and the tabla respectively) – by the Progressives, with their support
for regional rights (particularly East Bengal), Hijazi discredits both in one fell swoop.
Support for art – and ‘culture’ more generally – becomes synonymous with sedition in his
discourse! (1956, it must be kept in mind, was also the year that saw the consolidation of the
provinces of West Pakistan into the infamous ‘One Unit’).
In Act One, Scene One of ‘Saqafat ki Talash’, the second-in-command is briefing his team
on the strategy of the communists:
Comrade Alif30 says that we have to change our modus operandi because we have been
unable to win the people over … we should have realized that the people of Pakistan will
refuse to accept any philosophy which is explicitly against the ideology of Islam. We should,
instead, try to incorporate entertainment for the people into our slogans. Instead of trying to
present communism in opposition to Islam, using culture to lead these simple people astray
would be easier. For instance, we could explain to the people that despite being Muslims, it
is their duty as human beings to keep their cultural traditions alive … we should make them
feel that culture is something without which human beings cannot remain human. Muslims
hate dance but tradition and culture are terms with which we can easily lead them astray…
(Hijazi 1978: 1).

Since some of Faiz’s essays which I reference here also date from the mid to late 1950s, it is
hardly a stretch to read Hijazi’s satire as a critique of Faiz in particular, especially since he is
quite clear that his target is the ‘Progressives’ of which Faiz was the most visible and iconic
figure.31 Faiz strongly attacked this reactionary approach to culture in his Report to the
Commission on Sports, Culture and the Arts, arguing that ‘[t]here is a school of thinking
which holds that all cultural activity in general and the performing arts in particular are
immoral and anti-religious’ (Faiz 1968: 8), and pointed to the political expediency behind
such ways of thinking:
Since independence, these anti-attitudes inherited from the past have been seized upon by
certain factions in the country for topical political ends. They first sought to equate all culture
with music and dancing and then to equate all music and dance with the lewd vulgarizations
of these arts by inept professionals. From these premises, it was easy to proceed to the
conclusion that, as has often been done, that all art is immoral, hence anti-religious, hence
ideologically unacceptable. (Faiz 1968: 9)

When Maududi and his intellectuals did use the rubric of ‘culture’, it was, unsurprisingly,
as ‘Islamic culture’. But their use of the term was different from that current among main-
stream Muslim intellectuals, i.e. the sum total of the artistic, literary, architectural artefacts
produced either by Muslims or during the various Islamic empires, which together consti-
tuted an Islamic civilisation. Nor even the different popular forms of Islam and the literary
and artistic works they inspired. No – by ‘Islamic culture’, Maududi meant, simply, the
Islamic religious creed as embodied in the Quran, reflected in the shariat [Muslim law], and
the rituals of prayer, fasting, alms-giving, sacrifice and Haj which the creed enjoined upon
Muslims.
It was this definition of ‘Islamic culture’, especially vis-à-vis Pakistani nationalism –
that Faiz seems to have encountered frequently during his lectures and radio presentations.
Faiz’s aim was to define, pin down, and put in its place this ‘Islamic’ aspect of Pakistani
culture, lest it lead to a theocratic meaning à la the Jama’at-i Islami. However, Faiz’s nuanced
engagements with the complexities of Pakistani culture and his sensitivity to issues of exclu-
sion and marginality did not always appeal to those who were looking for a simple answer.
This is evident from the transcripts of radio presentations and the odd university lecture,
where he was invariably – and often frustratingly – asked variations on the same question:
‘Can we not say that Pakistani culture is Islamic culture?’ (Faiz n.d.: 21). In such situations,
336 Saadia Toor

Faiz drew on the accepted idea that a national culture had to be unique to the nation-state
and could not be solely based on something that was shared with other nation-states, in
order to strategically articulate an idea of Pakistani culture which could not be read as
endorsing the Jama’ati position.32
For example, in response to one such question, he replied:
There are aspects of Islamic culture [articles of faith] which are internal and there are some
external forms of these which are national in their historical and geographical contexts. This
doesn’t mean that they are separate, but that both these aspects combine to make what is
called a ‘national culture’. Thus Pakistani culture is only limited to Pakistan, and Islam is not
limited by nationalism…but is universal…thus that which is Pakistani culture will be Islamic,
not non-Islamic. In fact, you can call it Pakistani Islamic culture. You cannot just call it
Islamic culture because you don’t have a monopoly on Islam. (Faiz n.d.: 21, italics added)
The query which followed this one enquired whether ‘…[i]f the culture of every Islamic
country is engendered by its specific geographical context, and cannot be Islamic, then that
means that there is no such thing as Islamic culture’ (Faiz n.d.: 24). To which Faiz
responded:
Since Islam is a universal faith, therefore the culture of every Muslim nation is Islamic
culture … but alongside this, every Islamic country has its own national culture as well.
There is no contradiction in these two things. (Faiz n.d.: 24)
Here Faiz paused to illustrate the point with the example of Iran, which held on to both the
Islamic and the pre-Islamic aspects of its culture; arguing that it was the synthesis of the two
which made Persian culture unique.
just like this, Pakistani culture will be both Islamic and Pakistani, but you cannot say that the
culture of any one nation is Islamic such that it is the culture of the entire world of Islam…
(Faiz n.d.: 24)
In answer to a question by a student as to whether it would not simply be easier to think of
Pakistani culture simply as ‘Islamic culture’, Faiz declared
… we cannot completely fit the culture of any one nation with the culture of another nation
even if their faith and many other characteristics are shared. For this reason, we should either
not use the term Pakistani … but if we do, and we accept Pakistani nationality then obvi-
ously you will have to create a separate culture for this nationality if it doesn’t exist, and if it
does, then you will have to own it. Pakistan is not Islam, Pakistan is geography, it is the
name of a country, not the name of a faith. If you don’t call yourself a Pakistani, and deny
your nationality, then it is possible, but if you insist on nationalism, then you have to be
persistent about national culture as well, then you cannot consider this national culture part
of some other national culture. (Faiz n.d.: 35)
What we are seeing here is the attempt to displace a religious worldview and an essentially
religious understanding of political and social order (which interpellates religious identi-
ties), in favour of the more secular project of nationalism. The fact that this is an intensely
difficult and immensely political process – despite the hegemony of the idea of ‘nation’ – is
evidenced by the resistance displayed by the students who comprised Faiz’s audience for
these lectures. Here Faiz is trying to disarticulate religion from (national) culture to the
extent possible, in response to the argument that Pakistani and Islamic culture were not just
related, such that the culture of Pakistan was not one manifestation of the essentially multi-
various nature of Islamic culture, but were one and the same thing. The implications of impos-
ing such a limited and unitarian definition of Islamic culture, especially in the context of a
diverse nation-state such as Pakistan could only be disastrous.
But eschewing Islam as a basis for Pakistani nationhood had implications for how to
justify East Bengal as an ‘organic’ part of Pakistan. In answer to a question as to why East
A national culture for Pakistan 337

and West Pakistan should stay together, given his definition of Pakistani culture, Faiz was
forced to admit that ‘firstly there is the shared religion, which is the biggest reason’ but
backed it up by stating that it wasn’t the only relationship between the two wings. But the
alternatives he came up with were rather unconvincing. There was, for one,
the historical connection – for ages we have been associated with the same government and
state. Then there is the cultural connection – our mosques and tombs look the same, our
learned men and their learned men have gone back and forth… So lots of connections with
them that we don’t have with other Muslim countries. (Faiz n.d.: 49)
But if religion were to be eschewed as the (sole, or even main) basis of Pakistani national
identity – and the ‘Indus thesis’ made the assertion of a shared culture and/or history
between East and West Pakistan, that would imply that the only relationship between the
two was a political one. And this would truly be heretical. Moreover, reference to these
connections opened up once again the great unsaid: the ‘culture’ and ‘history’ which were
shared with India, and hence the impossibility of justifying the establishment on Pakistan
purely on the basis of culture.

Conclusion
Speaking ‘in the name – and language – of the nation’, as Corrigan and Sayer point out,
‘both denies the particularity of what is being said (and who is saying it) and defines alter-
natives and challenges as sectional, selfish, partial, ultimately treasonable’ (Corrigan and
Sayer 1985: 195). When this language of ‘nationhood’ is combined with that of ‘culture’, we
get a potent mixture, which explains why ‘national culture’ – far from being an integrative
force – is all-too-often a space of intense contestation within nation-states. In Pakistan,
defining a national culture has been similarly important both for the Establishment and its
detractors precisely because of its double-edged nature. Boundary-definition is also a
powerful form of rule – who gets to be within and who is designated outside the nation is
strategically important, as important as what alternatives – political, economic, social – are
designated to be acceptable or unacceptable given a certain definition of ‘Pakistan’.
It is obvious from the case of the controversial One Unit Bill, and the changes it
wrought, that the need to hold on to power can over-ride the imperatives of ‘nationalism’
and nation-building for the ruling establishment. So much so that in order to undermine
East Bengal and neutralise the rising mass politics of the region, as well as quell dissent in
West Pakistan, the establishment did not hesitate in throwing out the two-nation theory and
its assumption of Muslim nationalism as the basis of the Pakistani nation-state when it
suited them.
As Faiz pointed out, ‘cultural problems do not relate to the arts alone’ but were inti-
mately tied to the very structure of society, especially its socio-economic aspect (Faiz 1968:
3). Social equity – or, the resolution of the ‘basic structural socio-economic problem[s]’ – of a
society was thus the only way of ensuring a just and permanent resolution of the problem of
cultural integration. Since the lack of national integration in Pakistan was taken as a cultural
rather than a socio-economic or political problem, even the most culturally sensitive initia-
tives could finally achieve nothing in the face of the persistent inequalities between the West
and East as well as the unresolved political demands of the East Pakistanis, which increas-
ingly became couched in the language of ‘internal colonialism’. The state’s violent attempts
at suppressing these demands – and by so doing, attempting to suppress the differences
and inequalities themselves – ultimately resulted in a bloody pogrom against the Bengalis
and the secession of East Pakistan. The secession and subsequent establishment of
Bangladesh is often referred to as an example of a failure of national integration, but as
Corrigan and Sayer so eloquently put it,
338 Saadia Toor

Social integration within the nation state is a project, and one in constant jeopardy from the
very facts of material difference – the real relations of bourgeois civilization – whose recogni-
tion official discourse seeks to repress. (Corrigan and Sayer 1985: 197)
Thus, no amount of cultural initiatives and other attempts at national unity – even the brief
moment of consolidation and national solidarity during and immediately following the war
with India in 1965 – could ultimately paper over or make up for the glaring inequalities
produced by the economic policies pursued by various administrations, culminating in
Ayub’s ‘Decade of Development’ and embodied in various Five-Year Plans. People may not
live by bread alone, but without bread they cannot live at all.

Notes
1. See, for example, Chatterjee (1993, 1989).
2. As both concept and phenomena, ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ are often so deeply articulated in real life that it
becomes difficult if not impossible to separate their effects; this overlap and ambiguity it produces
enables many slips within nationalist discourse in Pakistan, as I argue in my work.
3. On this, see Aziz (1967: particularly pages 8 and 123).
4. Up until the mid-1930s, Indian Muslim intellectuals understood themselves as having two separate iden-
tities – Muslim and Indian – which they did not see as mutually antagonistic. Even the creation of
Muslim homelands proposed by Muhammad Iqbal as a solution to the communal problem was pitched
as a move that would simultaneously preserve ‘the life of Islam as a cultural force’ while strengthening
Indian Muslim loyalty to the Indian state. Thus Muslim nationalism had not and was not automatically
articulated within the framework of separatism.
5. Under the original terms, the whole of Bengal and Punjab were to be part of Pakistan as Muslim majority
provinces; their partition was the result of pressure from militant Hindu nationalist groups.
6. Manto was and remains one of the most popular and controversial Urdu writers of his time, and also one
of the most relentless chroniclers of the violence – physical, symbolic, psychological – of Partition.
7. In this essay, Jalibi features as a representative liberal modernist Pakistani intellectual of this period; Faiz
represents the Marxist, and Hijazi the religious Right.
8. For instance, East Bengal instituted far-reaching land reforms in the early 1950s which scared the West
Pakistani ruling class.
9. This remained pretty much a formality, as various speeches by Bengali members to the Constituent
Assembly in subsequent years testify to.
10. Tagore was officially banned from the airwaves in East Bengal and it was considered seditious activity to
play or sing his songs. East Bengalis considered Robindroshongeet (or the songs of Tagore) to be an inte-
gral part of Bengali culture, whether Muslim or Hindu.
11. The attitude of the West Pakistani elite towards Bengalis also became increasingly more racialised over
time, which enabled the horrific actions of the West Pakistan army during the civil war of 1971, in
which, among other things, the rape of Bengali women was justified on the basis of ‘purifying’ their
‘race’.
12. Focusing on the Indus valley civilization as an important – indeed, the distinguishing – aspect of
Pakistani culture was a familiar secularist move by Leftist and liberal Pakistani intellectuals. The place
of this ancient civilization, and that of the Gandhara period within Pakistani culture, was the subject of
much debate from the very beginning.
13. Daultana was the main protagonist from the Government side, and widely known to have been the
architect of the Bill. Daultana had been Chief Minister of the Punjab when the anti-Ahmediyya riots
racked the province in 1953, and was held accountable for them by the Report of the Commission of
Enquiry into the Punjab Disturbances.
14. Mian Iftikharuddin was himself a social democrat, but was nevertheless the most important patron of the
communist Left in Pakistan, especially through the platform (and employment) he provided them
through the Progressive Papers Ltd. The various publications of the PPL were extremely influential in
Pakistan, and the most important platform for Leftist views, which was the reason staging a takeover of
the PPL was one of the first things which Ayub ordered after his coup d’état in 1958.
15. All references from the Constituent Assembly debates including quotes from speeches of particular
members such as Daultana are cited collectively in the bibliography under the general head of Constituent
Assembly of Pakistan Debates (1955–56).
A national culture for Pakistan 339

16. Akhand Hindustan: literally, ‘United, Indivisible India’. It was the slogan used by the Indian National
Congress to counter the Muslim League’s demand for a separate state. It also became associated with
militant Hindu nationalist outfits like the Hindu Mahasabha.
17. The actual mover of the Bill. Daultana strategically chose not to introduce it himself.
18. Both versions of the BPC report were criticized by East Bengali Opposition members as proposing a
legislature which reduced East Bengal’s majority to a minority in the House, and also reiterated that
Urdu was to be the only state language, a slap in the face of the Bengali language movement. Iftikharud-
din’s jibe refers to the centrality given to Islam as the basis of the Pakistani nation-state within both these
versions.
19. Iftikharuddin’s amendment highlights the fact that intentions and interests and effects cannot be read off
from the cultural content of particular nationalist discourses. For that it is important to pay attention to
who is articulating these discourses and the political projects they are being harnessed to.
20. This undermines the general understanding of the PWA as somehow completely and directly under the
control of the CPI. It must be remembered that before Partition the CPI supported the Muslim League’s
demand for an independent state on the basis of the nationalities thesis.
21. See Coppola (1975), especially Chapter V, ‘The Progressive Writers’ Association in India and Pakistan:
1947–1970’.
22. This was the local chapter of the Cold War cultural organization, the Congress for Cultural Freedom.
23. Both of these were the declared assumptions underlying the economic policies of Ayub’s notorious
‘Decade of Development’ instituted under the tutelage of the consultants from the Harvard Advisory
Group. The good people from Harvard are also credited with being behind Ayub’s system of ‘Basic
Democracies’.
24. The Progressive intellectual Safdar Mir used this historical record of Maududi to good effect in his attack
on the Jama’at-i Islami in the late 1960s.
25. Some representative examples are Hobsbawm (1990), and Gellner (1983).
26. For example, Kapferer found a nationalism based on a historically grounded egalitarian code, as
opposed to the Sri Lankan one, which rested on a deeply embedded sense of hierarchy.
27. In part because communists such as Sardar Jafri and Faiz Ahmed Faiz had consistently articulated a
materialist – and hence necessarily secular – understanding of culture.
28. Traditional percussion instruments.
29. Dancers’ ankle-bells.
30. Alif is, of course, the first letter of the Urdu (as it is of the Arabic and Persian) alphabet. This is a sly refer-
ence to Mian Iftikharuddin – whom we encountered earlier – whose name in Urdu begins with Alif.
31. For this he was made the victim of much red-baiting at the hands of the Jama’atis during the mid to late
1960s.
32. These complex counter-arguments also point to the difficulty – and often impossibility – of separating
the ‘religious’ from the ‘secular’. At the same time, Faiz’s continuous attempts to do so point to the neces-
sity from a secular/liberal/Leftist perspective of drawing a distinction between these two or at least
expanding what is meant by ‘the religious’ aspects of culture.

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Author’s biography
Saadia Toor teaches Sociology at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island. She is a develop-
ment sociologist and recently completed her doctoral dissertation on the relationship between national
culture and state formation from Cornell University; this paper is a revised version of a chapter from this
dissertation. Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, she has been active in progressive politics both in Pakistan
and in the US. Her research and political interests include the politics of culture, globalization, feminism and
nationalism.

Contact address: Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, Building 4-S Room 223, College
of Staten Island, 2800 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10314, USA; Email: saadiatoor@hotmail.com