ABSTRACT

The position of minorities has been a continuing theme in Pakistan’s social and political history. While the ‘core of Pakistan as a nation was defined by religion alone’, 1 it would be naïve to view the outcomes of religious mobilisation in the creation of post-colonial Pakistan solely from the perspective of the dominant narrative of Muslim political mobilisation. Minority discourse contains elements of both the dominant narrative of nationalism (with its notion of protecting a Muslim minority out of the postcolonial configuration of South Asia) as well as the idea of creating a minority status for religious Others within subsequent and contemporary Pakistan. The majority/minority dichotomy is embedded in the state’s discourse on national belonging. However, the status and stigma associated with minorities in contemporary Pakistan captures the denial and official disciplining of social and religious diversity which finds a cover in the language and discourse on minorities for the cause of solidifying an otherwise fractured and fraught national identity. This chapter explores the impact which the official streamlining of identity through the religious question has had upon the discourse of minorities. The religious question is one which has sought to construct a monolithic image of the state through the greatest common factor in state-aligned Sunni Islam which has then gone forth to label deviant others in order to construct and depict a malleable and obedient national public.