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Interpreting Ethnic Movements in Pakistan

Soofia Mumtaz

The Pakistan Development Review, 1999, vol. 38, issue 2, 207-217

Abstract: My difficulties with this paper relate primarily to the methodology. Professor Christophe Jaffrelot has chosen to omit the section on Kashmir that figured in the version first presented at the Fourteenth Annual General Meeting, of the Pakistan Society of Development Economists. The omission reinforces the exception I have to the approach. In my comments therefore, I will include some inter-related, and overlapping dimensions of the subject addressed, the exclusion of which, to my mind, hampers an holistic analysis. I will draw attention to the ‘role of Islam’ in Indian Muslim politics before partition, and the question of national identity since the creation of Pakistan. I will also highlight some of the features of the phenomenon of ethnicity itself that help explain the dynamics of the nature, content, and process of identity formation, and hence, an understanding of the mechanics of the identity that became pertinent during the Pakistan Movement. Similarly, I will comment on the ethnic expressions (that have been defined and re-defined) within the national context since the creation of Pakistan. Professor Jaffrelot attributes ethnic tensions in Pakistan to instrumentalist strategies of frustrated élite groups in reaction to over centralisation, and irredentist tendencies. He focuses on the fifty year history of the country, and its situation at the “cross-roads” of Iran, Afghanistan, and India. Since the Baloch, the Pashtuns, and the Kashmiris are spread on both sides of the borders, the foreign policy of Pakistan is discussed as being conditioned by regional geo-politics. I agree with much of Professor Jaffrelot’s assessment. The endeavour to explain ethnic tensions in Pakistan by examining each province without referring to the larger historical background, or selectively inspecting national and cross-border aspects of the dynamic however, suggest the choice of an approach designed to establish an a priori position of the author.

Date: 1999
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