Owning diversity is the key to unity
It has been sixty-eight years since the birth of Pakistan. Pakistan’s successive governments have failed to ingrain the concept of ‘unity in diversity’ among Pakistanis by developing policies whether educational, related to economic development, preservation and enhancement of culture, or any other. This diversity in unity is confirmed by many articles of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 whether it is Article 19 that awards freedom of expression and speech to all its citizens or the chapter of Fundamental Rights or many, many others all of which cannot be recounted in this limited space.
Where is Jinnah’s Pakistan? The shape and form of which he declared in his speech of 11th August, 1947, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State. Even now there are some states in existence where there discriminations are made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no discrimination between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.”
Why does then Pakistan lie today riddled with hatred, sectarian and religious violence eating away at its innards? Is this the work of common people like you and me or a certain group of people within? One Facebook user commented thus, “This is not the mindset of general Pakistani population… look around you… how many among you are inter-community hating people? But there are a few present in all societies and communities. When exploited by enemies of this nation, then these things happened irrespective of community… Christians are also part of this nation.” (March 16, 2015)
The above quoted comment came on the heels of a recent ugly incident. Reportedly, 17 people were killed and over 70 sustained injuries when two Taliban suicide bombers targeted churches in Lahore on March 15, 2015. The area chosen was Youhanabad, a neighborhood housing roughly 100,000 Christians. The question posed is: Is this to be seen as Christian persecution per se? I think not. How can then one describe “the killing of 61 people in a suicide bombing at an imambargah, as southern Pakistan shut down to mourn the nation’s worst sectarian attack in nearly two years.” (The Newsweek,January 31, 2015) How does one describe the Peshawar attack on APS on December 16, 2014? How does one describe innumerable similar incidents on people of different ethnicities and religious beliefs?
According to SATP, figures of fatalities in violence in Pakistan from January 1, 2015, till March 8, 2015, are 732 in number and from 2003 till March 8, 2015, a colossal 567,44. A horrifyingly painful article in The Times of India titled “Terror attacks drive Pakistan coffin boom” states, “Coffins are not part of traditional Islamic death rites in Pakistan where corpses are normally bound in a funeral shroud and laid upon a rope-cord bed at the time of burial. But when it comes to the mutilated victims of gun, suicide bomb and IED attacks, whose bodies are often in pieces, there is often little choice but to gather the remains in a box.” (January 20, 2015)
The question that one is faced with is: Are we misguided into thinking that these attacks are persecution of one particular sect/religion? It is a mixed palette of ethic terrorism, religious terrorism, domestic terrorism, global terrorism, jihadist terrorism so on and so forth. One overlaps with the other at some point and sometimes it does not.
A very brief mention of some more recent events mentioned make it clear that this is not the case though it may seem so at times. However, these terrorist attacks point towards one thing: undermining the writ of the state. The reasons of terrorism in Pakistan are briefly touched upon by Muhammad Irshad in his essay “Terrorism in Pakistan: Causes and Remedies”: “Issues like poverty, unemployment, lack of health related facilities, illiteracy and lack of justice are considered to be some of the major causes of militancy in Pakistan and elsewhere. According to a World Food Programme study, around 89 of Pakistan’s 112 districts are facing many problems including food insecurity and diseases. The diminishing public expenditures on education and health have forced a sizable population to seek the services of Islamic charities for their basic needs which make them extremely vulnerable to the various forms of vicious terrorist propaganda. Internally, Pakistan’s complex socio-cultural makeup presents a conducive environment for ethnic and religious/sectarian polarisation greatly eroding national cohesion, where each group enjoys transnational affiliations and sponsorship to flex its muscle at home. Due to the slow moving judicial system, anti-state forces feel encouraged to undermine the writ of the government. Similarly, Pakistan inherited a weak political structure. The problem was further compounded when Pakistan’s founding father died before a political structure could get some maturity. In the absence of mature/visionary leadership after the Quaid’s death, Pakistani nation lost their true direction. Inefficient and highly corrupt successive administrations ruined the basic foundations of the country.”
How does one overcome this state of affairs? Obviously military handling of the issue itself is not enough. Addressing issues at grass root level can no longer be avoided. What we also need to understand as a nation is that ‘Pakistan Ideology’ is a fusion of different religions and the multi-ethnicities that form Pakistan. USA, according to a map by the Census Bureau, has Germans as by far the largest ethnic group with 49,206,934 in number. This is followed by others like Africans, the Irish, the English and others. Yet this did not stop them from thinking and acting as Americans first and foremost. We have been Pakistanis since 1947 yet we have allowed ourselves to continue, constitutionally and effectively, being anything but Pakistanis. The Act of India 1935 divided the area today known as Pakistan into various ethnic regions. To this division we have subscribed with each succeeding constitution. What is needed to understand diversity is our unity. I believe we are different on a cultural level; we have no reason to be the same. Like many other countries we are a fusion of different cultures. The beauty of us Pakistanis is the divergent cultures that converge to make Pakistan. Let us celebrate our differences, enjoy them and respect them. As we should respect the different religions within.
The State must nurture and honour cultural programmes, and develop love and appreciation between different cultures via its policies. Simultaneously, it should handle terrorism with an iron hand.
Was it not Pope Francis who said, “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassinations, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities”?