colonial mentality

‘‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.’’

Marcus Garvey

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Pakistan, being the fifth most populous country with a military strength ranked as 13th (according to the March 2, 2018, report of the Gulf Times) in the world and rich in natural resources such as gold, copper, salt and coal, has every chance to develop and prosper but unfortunately after passing more than seven decades, the country could not achieve what it should have achieved long ago. Among many reasons of this slow development process, one is colonial mentality of the people of Pakistan that can be observed in every aspect of the social and political life of the people of the country.

Before discussing the colonial mentality of the people of Pakistan at length, it is necessary to understand what is colonial mentality? Before independence the area of present day Pakistan was also under the control of the British Empire. The Britishers, being the conqueror and colonizers of the sub-continent, used to live in the Indian society in a way above the law. Rules for them were different from those of the ordinary Indians. They, even, cannot be impeached according to the rules of the colonial India. In short the colonial masters of the United India were untouchable. This distinction had created a feeling of superiority and disparity in the society and had led to the development of the concept of We (Britishers) and They (Indians). This duality in the behavior of the colonial masters was called colonial mentality. Understanding the concept of the term colonial mentality, now let’s discuss it in the perspective of Pakistan.

There is a difference in opinion regarding this issue. For some, colonial mentality is the sole cause of slow development process while others believe that it may be a part of big picture but it is not the whole picture itself. Those who considered colonial mentality as the sole cause, also believed that colonial mindset of some of the elite families were behind the creation of Pakistan. They think that these people wanted to both secure and acquire a dominant position in the new country’s social and political spheres. To strengthen their arguments they present the following reasons.

Colonial mentality can be easily seen in the political culture of the country. Like colonial masters, the political leaders of all political factions considered themselves above the law. To consolidate their this position, they have never missed a chance to keep the institutions of the country so weak that they could never dare to ask and sue them for their actions. Similarly the trend of multi-political factions has also hampered the political growth of the country. And this is because every landlord of the country wants to have a group of people gathered around tem and praised them for their every statement and action.

Those who considered colonial mentality is the sole cause of the slow development process of Pakistan also believed that bureaucracy is also under the influence of colonial mentality. According to them the British colonists had introduced civil services in the sub-continent as a tool for suppressing any rebellion against them and unfortunately this tradition is still in-practice in the bureaucracy. Bureaucrats, being the public servants, have often been found involved in serving specific political leaders and their political factions.

The education system of Pakistan also despite of passing more than seventy years of independence, is still under the influence of colonial mentality of the colonial era. Regardless of the emphasis of the 1973 constitution of the country, that special focus will be given to the promotion of Urdu in the education system, educational institutions of the country still follows colonial pattern by keeping English as the primary language of learning process. This has led to the development of two types of learning systems; one with Urdu language, which are mostly government institutions, and the other with English, which are private institutions. Thus most of the time, the most talented and able candidates from government institutions could not qualify because of their poor comprehensive ability of the English language. Thus this colonial mindset is destroying the overall educational system of the country.

Public offices are also not free from the influence of colonial mentality. At these offices, a clear distinction can be viewed at the time of recruitment when special attention and priority is given to those candidates who have good knowledge of English language. Similarly, every worker of a public office wants to have a special position in the society and should be respected with distinction from general public because of his or her position. This attitude is similar to that of colonists who had kept a distinct position for themselves in the Indian society. Likewise the speed of office work is also very slow. Thus it takes years to approve a development project. Reasons are lack of willingness of the people in authority plus political and social differences.

Colonizers also have left their influence in the religious sphere of the sub-continent. They introduced political culture in the religious affairs of the continent. This not only created different religious factions but also divided the opinion of religious scholars on religious matters. Pakistan has, unfortunately inherited this pattern of religious affairs of the colonial period and even today, religious leaders of Pakistan have not only difference in opinion on religious matters but they also have developed different religious factions. The effect of this design of religious system on society is that it has divided the public on religious ground as well. Similarly in European countries, Church has always been remained influential in the political affairs of the country. The political influence of Church has been copied in the political system of the country. People of Pakistan usually elect those leaders who are praised by the clergy. These problems are impeding the development process of the country in many ways.

The influence of colonial mindset is not limited to the above mentioned areas only. It can also be observed in the social life of the people of Pakistan. Unfortunately, the social system of Pakistan has divided the society into three classes which are; higher or elite class, middle class and lower class. Those families belonging to elite class do not like to set and share a company with the middle and lower class. Middle class keep similar feelings for lower class. This class distinction has created many problems in the society and hence has hampered the development process of the society as a whole. For development unanimity is necessary. It is necessary that every member of the society should put class distinction aside and should think as a Pakistani in the first place.

Those, who believed that colonial mentality is not the sole cause of the slow development process of Pakistan, gives the examples of India, China, Hong Kong and Bangladesh and so on. These countries were also once colonies like Pakistan but after independence they have progressed more quickly than our country. The reason for less or slow development of Pakistan is not only the colonial mentality but, according to them, there are also many other reasons which have been discussed in the following paragraphs.

The political system of Pakistan is very unstable. The country has been ruled for almost thirty years by dictators, thus the trend of democracy in the country could not groomed. Likewise the immature political behavior of the political leaders is also one of the causes of political instability. Our leaders usually lack tolerance and thus political differences between the factions are usually addressed on roads in the form of strikes rather than in the parliament, which is another major cause of the political instability in the country.

Another hindrance in the development process is the formulation of poor economic policies by the government. This is mainly due to the lack of political will of the leaders. An example of such lack of political will of the leaders is the appointment of such parliamentary members as Finance Minister by the Prime Minister, who even does not know ABC about economy and Economics. Poor economic policies devised by such incompatible Finance Ministers have increased the volume of Pakistan’s external debt to more than double over the past one decade. Unfortunately the leaders of the country have been observed more interested in infrastructure development than in public development. In twenty first century, the basic rule for development is the investment of more and more income in public development rather than in infrastructure development.

Rapid increase in population is another cause that is hampering the development process of the country. The population of Pakistan over the past seventeen years (2000 – 2017) has increased from 138,523,285 to 200,813,818. For a poor country like Pakistan, it is very difficult to look after such a huge population.

With high population, a high illiteracy and unemployment rate makes the situation even graver. More than 44% of the population is illiterate and the unemployment rate is around 5.9%. These indices show the real challenges faced by Pakistan.

Corruption in its all forms in every domain of life and brain-drain are the other two barricades in the development process of Pakistan. Corruption has not only made the rate progress slow but also has deteriorated the whole system while brain-drain makes the situation even more worsen.

Slow industrial growth and the lack of major industries in the country is also one of the major causes of slow development rate of the country. Due to the lack of manufacturing industry in most of the industrial sectors, Pakistan has to sell raw material to other countries at cheap prices and purchase final goods at high prices.

Differences in our society on the basis of nation, language and culture have kept our society divided since the independence. Such differences even sometimes lead to social and political riots that resulted in the destruction of infrastructure and loss of dozens of innocent lives. Similarly terrorism and war on terror has also inflicted on Pakistan billions of dollars loss in the form of destruction of infrastructure.

Being divided into groups and sub-groups and lack of federalist approach towards the development of the country has also impeded the development process of the country in one way or the other.

To conclude, in the perspective of the above discussion, we can say that the colonial mentality of both the public and the leaders has no doubt affected the country in many ways but it is true that colonial mentality is not the only cause of the slow development process of the country. For steady development process of the country it is necessary that the problem of colonial mentality should be addressed along with all the other aforementioned problems.