Celebrations for a country still divided

Pakistan 50 years on: Despite decades of political strife, people still came together

A small crowd at Islamabad's folk festival, held to celebrate Pakistan's 50th independence anniversary, watched as two horses danced to a folk tune. A group of youngsters joined the dance while others clapped to keep the beat. All were dressed in traditional costumes, but those who watched them were wearing blue jeans, fashionable western trousers and shirts. Unlike the craftsmen, who spoke one of Pakistan's four provincial languages, they spoke a mixture of Urdu and English, the two official languages of the country.

But not all in the crowd were alike. Those from Islamabad looked cleaner and had a fresh, confident look. Those from the adjacent city of Rawalpindi looked a little different. They were not as fresh as the other group and did not use English.

Those from the nearby villages were different from both the groups. Wearing long cotton shirts and trousers, with little cotton scarves around their shoulders, they gave a distinct rural look. It was a vivid illustration of the different faces of Pakistan, 50 years after independence.

Not all of the country has welcomed the celebrations of the past two days. "All this dancing and singing is a sin, we should not allow this in Pakistan as it was created for Islam," said Naveed Ahmad, a student from a local college and a supporter of the Islamic militant Islami Jamiyat- i-Tulaba group. The group is affiliated with Pakistan's Jamaat-i-Islami party which opposes such displays of popular entertainment. "While people have little to eat, our rulers are wasting money on bringing dancers and singers to Islamabad to celebrate the golden jubilee. This can't be permitted," said Jamaat's leader, Kazi Hussain Ahmad, while addressing an independence day rally in the north-western city of Peshawar.

In the northernmost corner of Gilgit, police arrested 16 students for allegedly desecrating the national flag. The people of Gilgit, a semi- independent principality until 1947, have not been fully merged with the country because Gilgit was technically a part of the disputed Kashmir territory. In the south, a small group of Sindhi nationalists refused to participate in the national celebrations because they claim that the government was turning the native Sindhis into a minority by settling people from other areas in Sindh.

The other largest ethnic group in Sindh is that of Mohajirs, the Muslim immigrants from India who dominate the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad. Although they came to Pakistan 50 years ago, these people are still struggling to find an identity in Pakistan. They are still called "Mohajirs" which means "refugees" in Urdu and Arabic.

The religious divide has pitched Pakistan's Sunni majority and its small but powerful Shiite minority against each other. Hundreds of people have been killed in religious and ethnic violence in Pakistan during the current year.

Then there are those who see Pakistan as part of the Subcontinent and thus sharing a common culture with India. There are others who see Pakistan as integrated with the greater Muslim world of Central Asia and the Middle East and don't want to hear about any affiliation with India, even if only cultural.

There is a third group of intellectuals, who claim that Pakistan has existed as an entity separate from India even 3000 years ago, when the Indus valley had its own identity.

Fifty years of political instability and economic deprivation has further complicated the scene. There are more than 20 political parties in the country which keep wrestling with each other for power. This continued bickering has allowed few elected governments to complete their tenure, and the army has ruled Pakistan for 25 of its 50 years of independence.

This is what the intellectuals in Pakistan describe as the country's identity crisis. But somehow these crises only seem to bother the country's politicians and intellectuals. Most Pakistanis have learnt to live with their country's complex and often confusing cultural, ethnic, religious and political divides.

Abdul Huq, a senior accountant at a multi-national company, said: "I live in Islamabad which is a modern city. I work on computers. Surf the Internet. Exchange business messages with Europe and North America every day and yet when hear the call for prayers, I turn off my computer, move my face towards Mecca and say my prayers. I see no conflict between my faith and my work."

Voices
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his speech at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spring Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland April 12, 2014.
voices
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
weird newsMan live-photographs cracking of mysterious locked box on Reddit
Sport
Oliver Giroud kisses the Arsenal badge after giving the Gunners the lead
sportArsenal 3 West Ham 1: Two goals from the German striker and one piece of brilliance from Giroud puts the Gunners back above Everton
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
weird news
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
filmAs 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star James Dean perfected his moody act
News
Obesity surgery in rats has been found to change the way the body processes alcohol
news
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
artThe Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
Life & Style
US Airways has been at the centre of a Twitter storm after it responded to customer complaints with a graphic sexual image
techUS Airways takes an interesting approach to customer service
Arts & Entertainment
Philip Arditti as Yossarian and Christopher Price as Milo Minderbinder in Northern Stage's 'Catch-22'
theatre
Arts & Entertainment
The Purple Wedding: Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell tie the knot
TV The second episode of the hit series featured a surprise for viewers
Life & Style
Back to nature: women with body issues have found naked yoga sessions therapeutic
lifeDoing poses in the altogether is already big in the US, and now it’s landed here – in mixed classes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Move from Audit to Advisory

£45000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Move from Audit to Advisor...

Management Consultancy - Operational Research Analysts

£35000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: You must ...

Secondary Teaching Assistant

£60 - £70 per day: AER Teachers: THE SCHOOL: This outstanding Secondary School...

Application Support Analyst (MS SQL, java based webserver, batch scripting)

£36000 - £40000 Per Annum On call allowance.: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?