External perceptions of Pakistani politics and society are often fallacious. The analysis, policies, and decisions based on these perceptions, assumptions, and myths regarding Pakistan in the outer world are therefore often fruitless. Whilst the fallacies are numerous, by following BuzzFeed’s lead and producing a top ten list a picture begins to emerge.
There is a much touted fallacy that Punjabi is the demographic majority in Pakistan, but the demographic majority of Punjab and Punjabis are two different things. Out of 34 districts of Punjab, 14 are Siraki speaking, four are Potoharis, and the other 18 are Punjabi speaking majority districts. Therefore, Punjabi are a simple majority in Punjab and not an overwhelming majority of Pakistan per se; however these 18 district dominate and control whole Pakistan and its state and non-state institutions civil and military institutions
It is widely believed in Pakistan and abroad that Urdu speaking (1947 refugees that identify themselves as Muhajirs) are a majority ethnic group of Sindh, meanwhile some have notion that they form majority in the Karachi city. Such a tactical data manipulations of ‘demographic fallacies’ are created to underestimate the real Sindhi population, because Sindh has been dissenting Pakistani federalism and foreign policies since 1948.
According to the census of Pakistan in 1998, the population of Sindh was 30.44 million. The ethnic break-up mentions in the census document that Urdu speaking were 18 percent out of it, which means in 1998 they were 5.479 million. Mutahida Qomi Movement (MQM), the claimant of sole representative of Urdu speaking Sindhis (the claim itself is another fallacy), used to say that Urdu speaking people are a majority in Karachi, Hyderabad Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and Nawabshah. The total population of these cities, if combined according to the census of 1998, is 14.36 million. This means that Urdu-speaking Sindhis (Muhajirs) do not form majority in any city of Sindh or Pakistan.
The majority of the military generals in the Pakistan Army since 1947 have been the first or the second generation of those Punjabi and Urdu-speaking refugees who migrated from India during and after the partition of 1947, and this is a major reason that the Pakistan Army has never pushed for a real democracy. Moreover, Pakistan’s concept of security is based on geography rather than the population, which has resulted in the hatred of 1947 holding back any new India-Pakistan peace initiatives.
Islam and the republic
The constitution of the Republic mentions that the country is an Islamic Republic. However, as the history tells, Pakistan has been involved in the persecution of millions of Bengali, Baloch, Sindhi, and Pashtun Muslims in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa and Afghanistan in the name of Islam. Becoming an “Islamic Republic” and acting in Islam’s true and original sprit are two different things.
The six-decade long process of the direct or indirect military rule in Pakistan has largely militarized almost all civil departments of the government, and majority of the non-government civil institutions in terms of their culture and loyalty to the supremacy of the military. There is, therefore, no ‘civil’ or ‘civilian’ socio-political and economic leadership in the contemporary Pakistan. There are only two things: civil of the military or militarized civilian leadership. However, those who have long dissented against the military establishment or opposed the very existence of Pakistan as a country (secessionist are mostly Sindhi and Baloch) have remained out of this course of militarization of the broader civilian fold.
Salafism and religious politics
Majority of the religious-political parties of Pakistan are indoctrinated with Salafi / Wahabi school of thought, but the majority population in Pakistan is Sunni-Hanfiya Muslim. Paradoxically, the Wahabi parties are representing Sunni majority Muslims, meanwhile leadership of Sunni organizations, according to media reports, prey victim of targeted killings in Karachi and Lahore. It is the real fault-line of the religious and sectarian terrorism and violence in Pakistan.
The status of the Taliban
The Pakistani Taliban has never been and can never be the independent elements or non-state actors. They are the proxy military of Pakistan, which misusing Islamic ideology are conducting warfare and violence for the strategic interests of their masters.
The Hindus population
Most of the columnists inside and outside Pakistan quote that Hindu population in Pakistan is merely two percent, which is one of the grand fallacies about Pakistan. Hindus, in fact, are more than 5.5 percent of Pakistan. The Hindus of Sindh form roughly 5 percent of Pakistan’s total population. The problem with the official figures lies in the questions of the census, in which Hindus and Shudras (untouchables) are counted separately. The Hindus of Sindh, South Punjab, Balochsitan and a small number in Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa together make up more than 5.5 percent of the population of Pakistan.
Political tagging of feudalism
According to census reports, the large number of TV, Radio and Satellite facility holders are Sindhi households. Sindhi and Sindhi of Baloch origin today form nearly 50 percent of Karachi, beyond 60 percent of Hyderabad and more than 70 percent of Sukkur as well as around 90 percent of Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah and Larkana cities. If seen in that context, Sindhis are largest urbanized population of Sindh; however, they are new urbanites in comparison with the large number of Urdu speaking Muhajirs, Biharis, Bengalis, and Gujaratis in terms of period of urbanization.
Due to these fallacies, the perception about Pakistan has been giving a different glimpse to the world outside. It is the only reason that most of the international analysts and experts on Pakistan do not predict the situations appropriately. Besides, this is the propagated manipulation, which non-representative Pakistani establishment has been doing internationally to secure it long terms single ethnic interests.
About the author: Zulfiqar Shah a Pakistan born refugee, is an analyst and rights activist. He is a research scholar affiliated with Central Department of Political Science, Tribhuvan University, Nepal and has an honorary affiliation with ISAE, Rajasthan, India.