As the 69th Independence Day is just a few days away, I’d like to reflect on some aspects of the great land of Pakistan. For a few weeks, young men have set up stands on street corners, selling flags and various regalia; bikes and motorcars fly the Pakistani flag in green and white, and some blow trumpets or car horn or just rave the driving machines for action. By now, we are all getting into the festive mood that the 14th of August deserves.

I am glad it is happening; that people feel and express belonging to Pakistan, for fun and because they have deeper feelings for the land, more or less well articulated.

I hope party politics is kept away around the Independence Day, and also other things that can divide people. Because the day is the single day every year that everyone should reflect on and show happiness for belonging to the land, irrespective of place in society.

Pakistan was established as a land for Muslims. Yet, I also hope and believe that Christians, Hindus and people of other religious faiths can also celebrate with the Muslims. When Pakistan was created, Muslims were in minority in British India, feeling discriminated against and worrying for the future after independence. A land for Muslims was created. Today, that should also remind Muslims that their land is indeed for Muslims, but not only for Muslims. Pakistan, as any other state, must always be for everyone, including members of any faith association, ethnicity, creed and colour.

Remembering the history of the creation of Pakistan, we should be particularly sensitive to the needs of those who are today in minority in the country. That is what history should teach us. It doesn’t make the majority religion smaller; it makes it bigger – and from its strength position it can afford to include others, in the true spirit of Islam and other religions, and the hopes of the leaders who created the land.

Let us also ask: how important is it for people to live in a land and in communities where most people are the same – speak the same language, worship in the same houses, eat the same food, retell the same tales and dance to the same melodies, have the same history and the same present day, and so on? Are these things important for people to live in relative harmony and peace? Or, is it also possible to live together just with a few of the commonalities? Can differences and multiculturalism rather make a land stronger, not weaker, if the pros and cons are talked about and agreed up? Yes, Pakistan has a majority religion, but isn’t it otherwise a diverse country, contributing to dynamism and progress?

Being a foreigner in Pakistan, yes, a Norwegian from a little, homogenous land till the 1970s, I notice more diversity in Pakistan than in my childhood homeland, which had state institutions and civil society organizations, including a state religion, that did their best to make us all the same and equal. In addition, we all took upon ourselves to make sure that nobody strayed too far away from the mainstream. Good and well, yet, also poor and bad. Below, I’ll say a bit more about such thinking. And it can have a few lessons for Pakistan, too.

Historians, theologians, geographers, political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, and experts in the humanities and arts explain the advantages of be alike to live well together. And it is true that old nations, even new ones, often have natural borders, such as rivers, mountain chains or deserts; that people who live in an area have common history, religion, language, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and more. Sometimes, though, a country can be made up of groups of people with some of the characteristics, but not all, and sometimes, there can be several ‘nations’ within a country.

Not all countries, indeed very few, are like the United States of America, made up of immigrants from all over the world, who have settled and claimed a geographic area which was earlier sparsely inhabited by the red Indians, which we today call indigenous Americans. Most countries have such indigenous people who lived in lands that later were inhabited by immigrants from outside, through wars, or more gradual, natural immigration and people movements.

In Norway, and in neighbouring Sweden, Finland and northern Russia, the Same and Lappish peoples are the indigenous inhabitants of the lands. All the others came from somewhere else, mainly the nearby countries further south, east and west, who settled there over the recent couple of thousand of years. Even the newcomers were already mixed, but over time, they developed fairly homogenous characteristics, first, in smaller sub-groups and later in larger groups and a nation.

Yet, military, secular and religious leaders fought wars, often for territories, people, and resources, and borders were again drawn and peoples with common characteristics were split into several lands. Thus, people who are very similar may live in separate states. That is the case in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Northern Europe, for the example. There are many different states, but people are closely related and can travel easily.

The Same people in the far north of Europe have in the last generations established a ‘Same Council’ cutting across the borders of four countries, with the right to make decisions of local importance, and the right to be heard and express opinions in many more issues of concern to them as ‘nations’.

If we look back in time, we will find that people have migrated throughout history, but there is usually a majority ethnic group in each area, such people with Germanic heritage in Scandinavia. Yet, it is neither as pure, nor as distinct as we make it up to be; far from all Scandinavians are blond and have blue eyes! Now Pakistanis, south-eastern Europeans, and others have immigrated to those lands in the recent decades, and also refugees have come, from Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere. The newcomers make up ten to twenty percent of the populations in those ‘cold lands’, we can no longer use physical appearance as indicators of who people are, and not religion either. All of them are no longer Protestant-Lutheran Christians; some are Muslims, too; and they may have brown eyes and (more beautiful) darker skin. Yet, they are also Norwegians!

There is a majority culture in most lands, and over some generations, newcomers will adopt part of, or all of the majority culture. Typically, newcomers will adopt the language/s of the new country; and they adopt many of the social and work habits of the majority. Intermarriages, which begin to take place over some generations, will again integrate and assimilate the newcomers. But it is also important for the newcomers to keep some of the habits and identity of their ancestors.

Even in USA, where almost everybody comes from somewhere else, it is important for people to know where their ancestors lived. They wouldn’t therefore feel and be less American. Sadly, for African-Americans, who originally didn’t come voluntarily, it is difficult to trace their roots. We human beings seem to find it important to know our roots to understand more about who we are. It is also a human right for an adopted child to know who his or her parents are, and if they are from abroad, they child has a right to learn that language and culture. In practice, though, we rarely keep that right, as we are more concerned about the child being integrated and assimilated in their new land, as e are about adult newcomers.

And then: do Pakistanis feel they belong to their quite young country? Yes, as for the general nation building, I believe the country has been successful, although some religious and other minorities may not feel quite as good as the majority. But they still feel proud of their land.

I am more worried about the deep class, economic, social and educational differences in Pakistan; many in the upper and upper-middle classes do not share resources and world outlook with the rest, and they are often not quite loyal to their land. I am also saddened when I meet Pakistanis who want to emigrate; it is alright to work abroad for some time, but not leave for good. Indeed, I am worried about the situation that some become extremists, terrorists and engage in crimes and antisocial activities, partly because they don’t feel real belonging to their land. It is mainly the responsibility of the majority, but also the minorities, to do more to integrate all, to contribute and receive as the land progresses. Yet, I am optimistic on behalf of Pakistan; step by step, the best days are yet to come.

May I be allowed to wish all Pakistanis Happy Independence Day.