Pakistan finally managed to give a ‘befitting reply’ to India’s recent decision to abrogate Article 370 stripping Kashmir of its special status – it has decided to observe India’s Independence Day as ‘Black Day’. Such is the seriousness of the Pakistani state towards its ‘Kashmir cause’ that it doesn’t mind calling its day of birth a ‘black day’.
For the uninitiated, 15 August 1947 is the day Pakistan became a sovereign state after the Indian Independence Act came into force with the Partition. Pakistan’s commemorative stamps launched a year later were also dated 15 August.
Not that we ever saw India’s Independence Day being celebrated with fervour in Pakistan. The motorbikes without silencers and pressure horns are the hallmarks of Pakistan’s Independence Day and music only for our own ears. Ask any teenager about 14 August and you will be told that Jinnah won Pakistan so that they could ride their motorbikes silencer-free, freely.
An identity crisis
The reasons behind Pakistan choosing 14 August as its Independence Day might be technical, but 72 years on, the only thing that matters is that the date has nothing to do with India.
After all, what business do we have with India?
And herein lies the dilemma of Pakistan’s identity crisis. We don’t want to accept our Indian roots. If history states the opposite, then be clear that us being part of those roots is a consequence of our greatness. Or at least that is what Pakistan’s parallel history has taught us in schools.
In Pakistan history begins from where we start reading.
So, never think that Pakistan has an ancestral bond with India. If there ever were a question of what came first – chicken or egg – Pakistan came first and this should settle the debate, once and for all.
For a country that keeps saying it doesn’t care, we seem to care a lot about our neighbour. Still. Wonder why that is and where this sentiment comes from. We are constantly competing with India, even if much of this competition is in our head. For instance, after the nuclear tests in 1998, then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had said that someone else (India) would be No. 7 on the list of nuclear powers while Pakistan is No. 6. History be damned. India’s 1974 Pokhran test be ignored.
When former President Asif Ali Zardari quoted his slain wife Benazir Bhutto to say that “there is little of Indian in every Pakistani and a little of Pakistani in every Indian” on 22 November 2008, no one bought his idea, which became evident from what happened in Mumbai four days later, embarrassing the civilian set up in Islamabad.
Whatever we do, we make sure to turn around and ask, “India, are you watching us?” Be it Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, or Friendship Day, we keep Indians in our thoughts. But still they are not a part of our family tree.
We take all, but one
We are told we don’t have Indian roots – similar to how the entire country is on a mission to tell the Pashtuns that their lineage isn’t Afghan.
So, where do we belong? By force, we belong to the Arab; they are our brethren by virtue of religious association. We are walking, breathing Arabs. We also belong to the Chinese by default, we are told. They are not just our friends but more – we are told blood is thicker than water.
The Chinese promised us a vibrant nightlife through an ‘economic corridor’ (the CPEC), and we offered them biryani in return. We were told our Chinese neighbours will make biryani with Shan masala and then feed the same to us in our homes. So far, the Chinese biryani remains a dream.
For a couple of years between 2012 and 2015, we felt close to the Turks as well. The influx of Turkish soap operas made all the men feel like Sultans and women fashionably straight out of the famous series Ishq-e-Mamnoon.
We belong to anyone and anywhere – except India and the Indians. Borders be damned. That’s why we also like to call our neighbouring country “Endia”.
Seventy-two years on, how do we define Pakistani identity? In stories, cauldrons are traditionally used by witches to mix things together to create magic potions. Pakistan is like that cauldron. We are adding Arab and Chinese to our identity mix just to disentangle ourselves from the subcontinent’s past and create a magical new identity. All this to achieve one goal. That we are not them.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.