24 February 2024
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The concept of a nation is the offshoot of an evolutionary process that witnessed the growth of consciousness of a set of people having common socio-cultural attributes.

The most credible difficulty it faced was from the established state that developed antagonism with it as the state considered itself to be all-pervasive organism consisting of different units that were multi-ethnic and multi-cultural in nature.

It was quite obvious from the beginning that the fast-mushrooming concept of nation could only survive as a geographical area whose inhabitants possessed similar attributes construed as of a nation.

Consequently, nation building reluctantly was accepted by policy makers of the state though they tagged the concept as nation-state. However, nationalism gradually emerged as an integrated ideology deriving from a national identity. National identity was taken to be one pattern of orientation within a set of multiple social identities that become relevant in different contexts.

It was held important for the cohesion of social groups and for the fostering of individual self-esteem and for this reason identities are constructed though it was also found that they may be deconstructed as well.

Historically nation building was strengthened by different waves of democratization as well as with the winds of social changes particularly after the end of colonialism. Since the concept emerged out of the traditional societies wherein political power structures were mostly oriented toward regional and local demands in relatively autonomous rural village structures, therefore, the process of nation building destroyed most of the existing clientelism and personal rule.

The result was that the cultural, social, political and economic dominance were redefined. It so happened the consolidation of state and nation, though an interlinked phenomenon, took place in a state of conflict.

It must be borne in mind that in the foundation phase of most multiethnic states, the ruling power reinforced the development of the national state by not only using oppression but also providing strong economic incentives and implementing cultural policies aimed at cultural homogeneity through language policy, religion and policies in primary and secondary education.

The problem with the transformation was that in the early phases of nation building, political elements required imposing a state apparatus for keeping the homogeneity intact and they also had to act against new social movements and groups agitating for more democratic rights and devolution.

Taking the process of nation building in focus it required devising a pattern of formation of states and this process involved social and cultural cohesion particularly by emphasising national symbolism and employ this effort to overcome ethnic and social rivalries. Nation building in this context is a cultural foundation for state building and is necessary for economic and social development but the traditional segments of state such as the establishment of Pakistan are usually against it and they resist it to their maximum.

However, nation building is primarily an indigenous process and the functional genesis of the traditional elite is very uncomfortable with it. Additionally, nation building efforts often abhor external assistance but the forces of status quo strongly dislikes it as they consider foreign help an important aspect of the policy of the state.

Nation building is related to sentiments of national identity which internally have positive effects of social cohesion by bridging and bonding but which may have negative consequences in the form of xenophobia against noncitizens.

One thing that is common between state and nation building is they both emphasise adopting aggressive posture against neighbours as an essential part of their methodology.

The main issue with nationalism is that nations are socially constructed and most of the times it remains unclear who is included or excluded. This is the reason entailing nation building to become a process of collective identity formation to assert power in a certain territory.

It refers to existing institutions, customs and traditions and it redefines national characteristics. The building of a nation is therefore based mostly on values and beliefs that enhance support for and the legitimacy of the state.

Nation building as a process of developing a national identity can be seen as the cultural foundation for the nation-state and its supra-local power structure. If this cultural projection of a nation is no longer valid, the social contract between the state and individual citizens or groups of citizens may be destroyed triggering violent upheavals.

The existence of nation-states can be seen as a safeguard for security and stability as they act as the basis for economic and social development. In this context, a national infrastructure and national space and communication between different relevant groups are required to be developed through civic education programmes and information strengthening the education of citizens and democratic nation building.

On the other hand, the process of state building depends on extraordinary emphasis on its territorial presence and sovereignty. Therefore, state building depends upon the establishment of political structure and policies in a territory. It is organised by sovereign actors as an expression of collective power without the use of coercive measures and physical force. Moreover, state building also entails interaction between different ethnic groups as this requirement is a prerequisite for a successful and sustainable nation building process.

For this reason, the social, economic, and cultural aspects of nation building are important. In this matter commonalities in state structures are looked for such as a common lingua franca, a common literature, sports events and all other such convergences. Too many cleavages however make it difficult to build a state and may even destroy the social contract between citizens and the state.

This situation makes it unlikely that government decisions will be accepted or adhered to that may lead to the breakdown of public institutions that is currently taking place in Pakistan and may ultimately bring about state failure.

Nation building in constitutional states practising democratic pattern of governance ensures basic adherence to constitutional processes that are often seen as the enshrining of political values in a document that is considered the centre of strong collective loyalties and a base for identification and identity.

In the process, older, authoritarian and traditional forms of identity are replaced and become scantily relevant though they remain constantly in the background. States may consist of different nations and there are also multination states but they find it imperative to adhere to constitutional provisions.

It is for their benefit that multinational fragmented societies like Pakistan feel it safe to aim for a broad representation and a strong devolution of power to the local and regional levels and consider it part of nation building along with strengthening the state structure.

It is currently witnessed that the process of the constitutional discourse also include traditional institutions and values that highlight the deep collective identity to enhance constitutional governance in countries like Pakistan where the imprint of authoritarian rule is very strong.

The development of nation and state, both, is required to be supported by institutional development and adequate political structures that are left on their own to devise appropriate course of action.

It proves prudent to devise a strategy of acceptance of the values of the people instead of insensitive intervention as is the case often with Pakistan and that has proved detrimental to the national cohesion every time it was resorted to.

Abdul Gh Lone

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