Ethnic Discontent In Pakistan Dr Qaisar Rashid
The question is, if religion is failing in overcoming the ethnic divide in Pakistan, whether democracy is also failing in playing its role of introducing inter-ethnic harmony
Ethnicity conveys a sense of relatedness. The reference of kinship may be a common language, skin colour, geographic origin, or mode of livelihood. Ethnicity is an expression of human endeavour to live together as a community – a closed one. Ethnicity is also a source of identity: the communion should be expressed in one common avowal.
This is no denying the fact that the ethnic make-up of Pakistani society is diverse in nature. Presently, all four provinces have been experiencing ethnic discontent articulated in political language.
In Sindh, the Urdu-speaking community has recently been successful in introducing a local bodies system of their choice in the urban areas that are under their sway. Against that act, among the Sindhi speaking community especially in the rural areas there is disquiet. In Balochistan, the ethnic Baloch apprehend their marginalisation at the hands of non-Baloch, whether local or foreign. Consequently, an insurgency has been fuelled demanding a separate state of Balochistan. In Punjab, the inhabitants of South Punjab bear a grudge against the rest of Punjab for depriving their area of development. They demand that their area should be awarded the status of a separate province. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the Hazaras deem that after the change in the name of the province, they have automatically lost their identity. Hence, either the name of the province should be changed once again or they should have a separate province of their own. In short, the phrase ‘ethnic discontent’ is couched in the word ‘separate’ and actuates ethnic nationalism.
In a way, ethnic discontent in Pakistan – a federation – in not a phenomenon taking place spontaneously between different ethnic communities but it is owing to the actions of the state. Misplaced priorities, concentration of legislative and financial powers in the Centre, and intervention in provincial affairs by the state have played a major role in promoting ethnic discontent in Pakistan. The question is, whether the emergence of ethnic discontent is degenerating or rejuvenating Pakistan.
In the ethnic context of Pakistan, one thing is positive: the chances of ancient hatreds bequeathing from the time before 1947 do not exist. Nevertheless, signs are there that after 1947 ancient hatreds are being produced. For instance, the six points articulated by Sardar Akhtar Mengal depict that an ancient hatred has been piling up between the ethnic Baloch and the rest of Pakistan. The trend is perilous and omens bad for Pakistan.
It is surprising to note that people (representing different ethnicities) living together for years, if not for centuries, forget their coexistence and resort to ethnic hatred, which is later on translated into ethnic violence. Different countries have tried to tackle ethnic discontent in different ways.