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."

Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
Sport
Vincenzo Nibali rides into Paris on the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France
Tour de FranceVincenzo Nibali is first Italian winner since Marco Pantani in 1998
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Sport
Red Bull Racing's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo (C) celebrates with Scuderia Ferrari's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso (L) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton
sport
Arts and Entertainment
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmComedy was dominated by the romcom at its most insufferable
Sport
Tour de France competitor Bartosz Huzarski’s legs have highlighted the gruelling nature of the race, after he posted a picture on Facebook showing extremely prominent veins stretching from his feet and all the way up his legs
Commonwealth Games
Life and Style
Elle Kaye demonstrates the art of taxidermy
food + drinkFood revolution taken a step further in new ‘edible taxidermy’ class
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
Halsall broke her personal best in the 50m butterfly
Commonwealth GamesEnglish swimmer is reborn after disastrous time at London 2012
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Voices
The Express offices in the 1930s when writers (such as Orwell) were paid around £2 weekly
voicesWebsites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
A cut above: Katy Guest at The Ginger Pig
food + drinkThe Ginger Pig's hands-on approach to primary cuts
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Analyst

£30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried