For much of its history Pakistan has been searching for a national identity. Following partition, India lay claim to the rich cultural legacy of the Mughals, leaving a historic void behind the story of Pakistan’s origins. In the 1972 post-war soul searching, Zia claimed that Pakistan was made in the “name of Islam, will continue to survive only if it sticks to Islam”. Since then, the development of every institution, social, political and economic, has been deeply intertwined with our evolving interpretation of Islam. Banks were made interest-free, night-clubs were shut down, and female TV personalities were forced to wear Dupatta. In a turn that has given fodder to neo-liberal leaning orientalists and Christian theologians for decades, it was these very institutions that lagged behind relative to those in closely situated regions like China and India. Of course, they overwhelmingly blamed Islam. Pakistanis however, continue to overwhelmingly blame our failure to truly live up to the spirit of Islam. We’ll try to answer that in a minute. What unfortunately goes missing in this discussion are Pakistan’s deep social and religious tensions; our complete intolerance to sharp religious differences that have seen violence against Christians, Ahmadis, Shi’ites, and Sikhs. Pakistanis have been in the habit of either denying national problems entirely, or thinking that they are not important enough to warrant attention. From Church bombings to regular target killings of Shi’ites and Ahmadis, to destroying a whole place of worship under the watchful eyes of local police, to murdering a Sikh man whose only crime seemed to be that of organising interfaith iftaaris; our short-term memories seem to fade everything to meaninglessness. Why could having the same discussions that revered Ulema had for centuries, cost you your life today? The answer is our deep discomfort with conflicting opinions.We are too predisposed and rigidly set in our beliefs to have genuine discussions — we wish to never be wrong. In extreme cases, we are willing to kill to prove our point. If our national identity was indeed truly based on Islam, perhaps none of this would have happened. Orthodox Islam demands the protection of minorities; their right to be able to freely worship as they please. The Medina Charter, the Pact of Umar in Jerusalem, and the Ottoman Empire are glaring examples of Islamic pluralism. The fact that the Golden Age of Judaism in the Middle Ages came under Muslim rule is telling. Of course, Muslims find such a discussion too discomforting. In fact, defending non-Muslim rights by arguments informed by established Islamic principles can cost you your life. What changed, then? Why is it that having the same discussions that revered Ulema had for centuries, can cost you your life today? The answer is our deep discomfort with conflicting opinions. Pakistan’s Army perhaps has not been all good, our biggest enemy perhaps is not India, women have a much harder time than men in Pakistan. We are too predisposed and rigidly set in our beliefs to have genuine discussions – we wish to never be wrong. In extreme cases, we are willing to take lives to prove our point. It seems, rather disappointingly, that the only thing that unites us in our national identity is our anti-Indianism. We unite in our deep desire for beating the ‘hindus’, whether that is in cricket, war, or general measures of national well-being, it does not really matter. Perhaps then our national identity is not based on Islam, and is influenced more by a deep desire to other-ise, whether that of an ethnic, religious, national, or sectarian nature is purely based on our context. Unless we find a way to root our national identity in principles of inclusion and self-awareness, we will, continue to remain adrift, just as we were post-1972. The writer, is the CEO of WordSmith and has an MA in Liberal Arts from DartMouth. He can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, September 8th 2018.