Social Protection Resource Centre

Social Conflicts and civilizational aspirations: State of play in Pakistan, India and China and the way forward

A maxim popular in the literature on the rise and fall of civilizations is that this was possible that there are people who are called a civilization but are not very civilized and there may be people who are not a civilization but they may be very civilized. If a society, big enough economically and population-wise, for a long enough period of time, succeeds in managing internal dissent with dialogue and interstate relations without violence, they can legitimately call themselves a Civilization and history respects it. Being civilized is an aspiration of self-aware societies. This aspiration was very marked in Pakistan till early sixties with a clear-eyed imagination of the future of Pakistan as a civilized society internally and a stable component of inter-state system. Co-existing peacefully, externally. If we divide the socioeconomic development in four stages, the last being the development of a peaceful international order and first as basic economic struggle, Pakistan appears to be sliding back from the third stage, where reliable institutions help the cities work well for everyone, to the second stage, in which the cities are very much present, due to the intensification of production and exchange but the affairs result in chaotic frictions. History tells us that all the societies contain the four stages at any point of time in varying combinations. Counter-intuitively for many of us these days, Hodgson consider 945 AD to 1500 AD as the ‘classical’ period of Islamic civilization in Muslim lands.  It is the quality of the collective will of the people and the geo-strategic context which can help it rise or take it down to levels one and two or between 3 and 4. Can Pakistan bounce back closer to stage 4? Social Protection Resource Centre has decided to launch a Research and Development Program to study the subject and cluster with the organizations, groups and individuals who would like Pakistan to address the internal and external challenges impeding our way from becoming a middle-sized state which find its sue place in the international community with internal strength, capable of negotiating asymmetric inter-state relations, to its values and intellectually sustain an inter-state civilizational space.

The people living in Pakistan these days have partaken in so many historical civilizations from Mehrgarh to Mughals. If we agree that this is the test of the ‘civilizational development status’ of the concerned society, in a diverse polity, that the last-stage civilization can only be realized once it passes this test within the internal polity. It is sad that the Mughal Empire passes this test and both India and Pakistan of today fail. EU and China pass this test to a large extent, but both are being severely tested these days. Pakistan seems to be currently facing a triple challenge: Developing her own country/civilization internally first on her own value and values; save herself from the large neighbour, India which is shedding its civilizational pretences fast and deal with a China, which is still evolving, civilizationally. We feel, had Pakistan not situated the way we are, it would have been easier to develop a robust internal inter-ethnic prosperous coexistence practicing high standards of civilization. We propose to delve deep to fathom in what sense is this challenge an opportunity? We feel that the thinking minds in Pakistan are fully aware that Pakistan is intensely connected to 4 powers [US, China, India, EU]; not only in terms of knowledge and goodwill exchange but also as conduits of power and profits. They also realize that in many cases, we could be exposed to less civilized forces who care little of our civilizational aspirations vis a vis their profits and desires of power.

But we have been there too before also; in fact, multiple times and bounced back. With very old historical settlements of cities and fertile lands, the traditional culture in Pakistan is constitutive of the social. A changed social life might bring such frictions and conflicts which, culturally sanctioned conflict resolution practices are unable to resolve. This particularly is the case where the driver of change is a non-traditional political authority introduced by colonialism. Being somewhat over-globalized, our social conflicts now are marginalizing huge swaths of population in need of social protection, something which is eroding our civilizational credentials. Pakistan however is not the only country in such a situation. Our research program aims at studying in depth Pakistan’s case in the light of quality insights being produced on the rise and fall of civilization over the past centuries and the ongoing struggles in many countries. In order to galvanize right kind of organizations and individuals around the research program and further fine tune the research agenda and lay down the way forward, SPRC intends to hold a Conference in August 2024.

Draft Conference Panels:

Civilizational aspirations of Pakistanis in art and literature over the past 100 years

International imperative in Pakistan’s development: A boon or a bane

Social Conflicts in Pakistan: exploring the nexus between social protection and culture as a civilizational resource

India and China: ultra-nationalist empires masquerading as civilizations?

In the second stage of our Program, we hope to produce the research studies, which would enable us to launch Inter-civilizational dialogues on the Right to civilizational development of Pakistanis among the competing visions of regional and global civilizations. SPRC would welcome individuals and organizations to join us to pursue the common cause.

For further information
safdarsohail@sprc.org.pk