The Concept of Na-Pak or Im-Pure – The Real Problem of Pakistan

We often use words or names without pausing to wonder the meaning behind the names.  Perhaps, we are all Shakespearian in our “what’s in a name” nonchalance.

But sometimes, a name carries tremendous meaning or baggage, especially when a name is given to a emotive issue. This baggage can last for decades as both the Pakistani Army and the Taleban demonstrated a week ago. According to media reports, the Pakistani Army began an image war by distributing pamphlets accusing the Taleban of receiving funding from Israel, India and Al-Qaida. 
In response on Friday, March 5, the Taleban distributed pamphlets calling the Pakistani Army as a “Na-Pak” Army.  This is not a simple media fight. There is no greater insult in Pak-i-Stan than being termed as ‘Na-Pak”. It is tantamount to a call of excommunication and banishment. That is not just theological reasoning on our part. It is the unfortunate history of the Pak-i-stani regime. A quick primer:

  • In 1947, Mr. Jinnah spearheaded a movement to create a breakaway regime for Muslims of united India. He succeeded. A large piece of land was broken out of India as a separate homeland for some of the Muslims of India.
  • What should this breakaway land be called? Mr. Jinnah could have called it Muslim-i-stan but that simply was not emotive enough. It was also not correct because a larger number of Muslims remained in India.
  • Mr. Jinnah could not use the standard nomenclature of the region such as Afghan-i-Stan, Tajik-i-Stan (Sanskrut word “sthan” or its Persian simplification “stan” means a place, abode or land) etc, because his new breakaway regime had 5 different ethnic groups.
  • So Jinnah, a non-religious man, called his breakaway regime with a highly charged & emotive name, Pak-i-Stan or the Land of the Pure

By doing so, we think he essentially doomed his new regime. 

Once a regime calls itself as the Land-of-the-Pure, they put upon themselves a sacred burden to keep purifying the land. Wikipedia describes purification as “the process of rendering something pure, i.e. clean of foreign elements and/or pollution”. These foreign or polluting elements are termed as “Na-Pak” or simply Im-Pure.

This burden has been the bane of every Land-of-the-Pure regime since its creation. A regime that views itself as a Master Race may actually tolerate the existence of other races because the Master Race does need other races to serve them. But a Land-of-the-Pure cannot tolerate the existence of any Im-Pure elements at all. Because, by their very presence, they threaten the purity of the land. This simple concept explains the violent actions of the Pak-i-Stani regime since its establishment.

  • Soon after its creation, the regime turned on the Panjabi & Sindhi Hindu minority that had lived in the land for thousands of years. The Hindus in Pakistan were harassed, killed and banished for all practical purposes. This was the first act of Purification of the Land-of-the-Pure.
  • Then, the Pak-i-Stan regime turned its attention on Ahmadiya Muslims, the indigenous Muslim movement that was born in the region. This is tolerant, peaceful branch of Islam. Some mainstream Muslims do not consider Ahmadiyas as real Muslims. According to wikipedia, Ahmadiyas reside in 195 countries in the world as Muslims, except in Pak-i-Stan. Why? Because the Land-of-the-Pure has a Law that legally prohibits Ahmadiyas from claiming themselves as Muslims. This was another act of Purification of the Land-of-the-Pure.
  • Then the regime turned on Bengali Muslims, a different ethnic race that lived in East Pakistan, over 1000 miles to the east across the mass of North India. The western or Panjabi Pakistanis essentially treated the Bengali Muslims as inferior and tried to impose the western Urdu culture on Bengali Muslims. In response, the Bengali Muslims of East Pakistan rebelled and embraced their own culture that was derived from Sanskrut. Ironically, the Bengali of Muslim East Pakistan became more Sanskrutized than the Bengali of West Bengali state of India. 
  • The response of the Panjabi Land-of-the-Pure regime was as violent and Nazi-like. The revolt by Bengalis ended up in the 1971 war between Pakistan & India. Pakistani lost that war and East Pakistan broke away to become Bangla-Desh. Now the Land-of-the-Pure regime became more racially pure.
  • Then, the Land-of-the-Pure regime turned on its Shia Muslim community. The Shias of Pak-i-Stan remain disenfranchised and suppressed.
  • Today, the Land-of-the-Pure is beset with a struggle by the Baloch people for autonomy in Balochistan, a geographically large province of Pak-i-stan, a province with oil and gas reserves. The Sindhis of Sindh, the business province, are increasingly restive.

But, the biggest fight of all is being waged between the Pashtun or the Pakhtoon community of Southern Afghanistan (called the North Western Frontier Province by Pakistani regime) and the Pakistani Panjabi army. The predominant group of the Pakhtoons is the Taleban.

This fight is not just regional or ethnic. It is increasingly a fight for the support of the poor people of Pak-i-Stan. The Pakistani Panjabi Army is run by wealthy, elite, non-religious Generals while the Taleban is run by common fighters, religious leaders or Talebs. This is why the Taleban issued the ultimate religious insult by accusing the Pakistani Army as being “Na-Pak“.
The meaning is clear. A “Na-Pak” organization can have no standing whatsoever in a “Pak” land. The Taleban has essentially excommunicated the Pakistani Army by the Na-Pak description. Clearly this is a media declaration and one without any military repercussions. But it seems to us that, given the history of Pak-i-Stan, the Army cannot allow the “Na-Pak” label to gain credence and it might have to demonstrate its “Pak” status in some way.

This state of affairs should dishearten any one who desires peace and stability in Pakistan. A fight over who is more “Pak” is a regressive battle to the bottom. It is not the stuff that promotes inclusivity and without inclusivity there is not stability.

This fight over who is “Na-Pak” should be a wake-up call for people like David Ignatius of the Washington Post, his colleagues & sources who hope to exit a stable Af-Pak by 2011 and to so many wistful thinkers in India who keep expressing hopes for peace with the Land-of-the-Pure. The dreamer Indians seem particularly hapless because they simply don’t get the basic fact that they are the ultimate “Na-Pak”.

Jettisoning purity as a goal is a necessary condition for co-existence with impurity. In the same way, peace with India requires Pak-i-Stan to jettison its pursuit of the “Pak” goal. Discarding the “Pak” in its name will allow the regime to discard its horrible history of the past 60 odd years.

Unfortunately, we see no sign whatsoever that the pursuit of “Pak”-ness will be given up by the Pak-i-Stani Army or the Taleban. That is why we see absolutely no sign whatsoever that the region will see any stability or peace over the near future. 

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