Long before Pakistan emerged as a nation-state on modern map, two ancient civilizations, the Persians and major dynasties in the sub-continent’s civilization were at war with each other –this continued for hundreds of years. And their boundary was River Indus.
Kings of the Mauriya and the Gupta dynasty from the sub-continent crossed the Indus River many a times and conquered large swathes of land on its west.
The Mauriya Empire of the sub-continent included entire Afghanistan and huge areas from Iran and Central Asia. But after the rise of the Turks and the Tatars in Central Asia, the Turco-Persian conquerors from the west crossed the Indus one after another and ruled the sub-continent for centuries. Historically speaking, Indus River was was the most turbulent boundary between two different races, two separate cultures, statecraftship and two distinct belief systems: Paganism and Monotheism.
The area also became a mixing bowl of old world civilizations: the natural schism between melting pot and mosaic manifestations typically witnessed in nation albeit civilizational building continued through the British Colonialism in the mixing bowl zone of the sub-continent.
In 1947, Pakistan emerged as a state right on the fault lines of these two civilizations.
The NWFP, Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan in the west of Indus river trace their cultural roots to ancient Persia and Central Asia, while Punjab and Sindh on the east of Indus river belonged to Indian heritage. Back then these regions differed in almost everything. On the west of Indus, the concept of identity is entirely based on bloodlines and tribe. You cannot become a Baloch, Barahvi or Pashhtun just by living with them or speaking their language. You got to be born in the tribe to be called a Bangash, an Afridi, a Bugti or Mengal etc. While on the east of Indus, identity comes largely from living there for long and speaking the language. That is the reason you will find many Punjabi Pathans and Punjabi Balochis. The reason is the sub-continent’s civilization has had a nature of absorbing foreign people within itself quite easily. Same is the case with Sindh. Many foreign tribes assimilated into Sindhi culture quite effortlessly.
Even the languages on both sides of the Indus river and their grammatical construction is very different from each other. Languages like Punjabi and Sindhi follow the Indian spirit of poetry and philosophy. While languages like Pashto, Balochi and Brahvi are more like Turkish and Persian in their nomadic spirit. Spiritualism thrived more in Punjab and Sindh because of its close connection with Indian spiritual traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Whereas, strict and puritanical religious discipline is observed among the Turks and Pashtuns, the very nature of which comes from their uncompromising adherence to centuries-old tribal laws. It is therefore not surprising that the number of shrines on the east of Indus far outnumber the ones you will find on the west. Take the foods from the two sides for instance: There’s heavy reliance on simple barbecued meaty dishes by the Baloch and the Pashtuns –it speaks of their nomadic past. Elaborate, spicy cuisines of Lahore and Karachi are clearly more close with the ones cooked in modern Indian cities.
The colonialists started to arrive in the sub-continent. It not only had spices. The subcontinent for centuries was the America of old world as America is in the new world
When you keep such differences in mind, only then you can truly appreciate the kind of challenges it was to create one nation-state and culture out of these two very distinct civilizations.
India remains to be the only and the largest pagan land on Earth
Pakistan as a nation-state is quite young as per civilizational timescale. 74 years is no time to assimilate such diversified groups and create a unified culture. But in these years the country has assimilated to a far greater degree. The local and regional languages have started taking each other’s words. Dresses have seen a beautiful mix of different heritages. Urdu has become a greater mode of communication among all today. “When I was a very young boy, I knew many of my relatives who could only speak Pashto. But today I can hardly find anyone in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) who doesn’t understand Urdu”.
Today the music is a fusion of singing styles of all the provinces and their musical instruments. In many ways the populace still carry their ancestral cultures within as a sign of diversity. Take the United States of America as an example. It was created on the anvil of diversity and it’s still America’s greatest strength. Mixing bowl instead of mosaic dispensation enabled the rest.
Astride one of the most eventful rivers in the world, right on the junction of two great, rich and ancient civilizations, –one following monotheism and the other paganism, Pakistan emerged as a State on the acceptance that the Two Nation theory does indeed exist in the sub-continent. The two-nation concept has no boundaries. Two-nation state has. Example: Bangladesh on the far end of the sub-continent which was heavily influenced by the Turco-Persian and Pashtun rules. Shershah Suri’s Grand Trunk (GT) road (then equivalent to CPEC) took off from Chittagong and landed in Kabul via Pakistan.
The writeup which was shared with us on WhatsApp by one of our readers has been edited for clarity with additional input.