Ethnolinguistic crisis of Pakistan: Causes, Impacts, and Way Forwards

Ethnolinguistic crisis of Pakistan: Causes, Impacts, and Way Forwards

CSS and PMS Solved Essays | Ethnolinguistic crisis of Pakistan: Causes, Impacts, and Way Forwards

Safina Naz, a Sir Syed Kazim Ali student, has attempted the CSS essay “Ethnolinguistic crisis of Pakistan: Causes, Impacts, and Way Forwardson the given pattern, which Sir Syed Kazim Ali teaches his students. Sir Syed Kazim Ali has been Pakistan’s top English writing and CSS, PMS essay and precis coach with the highest success rate of his students. The essay is uploaded to help other competitive aspirants learn and practice essay writing techniques and patterns to qualify for the essay paper.

1-Introduction 

2-Comprehending the term “Ethnolinguistic”

3-Pakistan under the radar: A cursory glance at the ethnolinguistic divide

4-What are the pertinent factors responsible for the ethnolinguistic crisis in the country?  

  • Inequitable distribution of resources 
  • Case in point:  According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan, “Baluchistan is the largest but poorest and underdeveloped province of Pakistan.” 
  • Poor and little essential services provided to ethnic groups
  • Case in point: According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan, “Punjab gets 50 per cent of the jobs in federal services, depriving the other provinces of their due right.” 
  • The persistent problem of identity crisis
  • Case in Point:  According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), “Around 80 per cent of Afghan refugees in Pakistan are Pashtuns, and the majority of them live in Baluchistan.”

5-What are the repercussions of the ethnolinguistic crisis on Pakistan?

  • Increasing demand for new provinces based on ethnic lines
  • Case in point: According to the International Area Studies Review, “Saraiki are demanding the division of Punjab province as they constitute majority in South Punjab.”
  • Decreasing national integration
  • Case in point: Rameez Ahmed, a PhD scholar, elaborates it as “Hazarewal people demand a new province for securing the lingual and cultural identity of an overwhelming minority of Hindko speaking people.” 
  • Mounting ethnic violence
  • Case in point: A report from the Pakistan Institute of Peace and Security report (PIPS) explains, “Baluchistan national organizations carried out 81 terrorist attacks in Baluchistan in 2021.”

6-Which movements have started owing to the ethno-linguistic crisis in Pakistan?

  • Saraiki movement
  • Hazara province movement  

7-How can Pakistan effectively deal with the ethnolinguistic crisis?

  • By resolving the clash of resource distribution among provinces
  • By ensuring the provision of basic service in remote areas
  • By devolving power at all levels through local government
  • By uniting the people under the umbrella of national integration through education 

8-Critical Analysis

9-Conclusion

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Diversity is the rule of nature, and ethnicity and language are followers of the very rule. Undoubtedly, countries with ethno-lingual diversity are affluent in multiple cultures, and people of different cultures stand out for a uniform cause, thereby strengthening national integration. However, for countries like Pakistan, ethnic and linguistic diversity have proven to be a nightmare as the country faces threats to its national integration owing to the ethno-lingual divide. The divide has multiple root causes, such as unfair distribution of resources and discrimination among provinces. Unfortunately, Pakistan is facing grave consequences of the ethnolinguistic divide in the form of the increasing demand for new provinces and increasing insurgency by different ethnic groups, leading to security issues in the country, especially in Baluchistan. Nonetheless, there is always room for betterment. Therefore, overcoming the gap in resources, providing essential services, and devolving power through the local government system can help Pakistan turn the tide of the ethno-lingual divide. This essay sheds light on the factors responsible for the ethno-lingual crisis, their impacts and possible measures to curb the menace. 

      Understanding the term from the broader prism, ethnicity and language are two fundamental strands of a diverse nation. Ethnicity refers to the cultural background, traditions, and customs of people of a particular area. Conversely, language is the means people of a specific area use to express their feelings, thoughts, and ideas to one another. Hence, both are straightforwardly linked, forming the ethno-lingual diversity of a country. In some countries, ethno-lingual diversity strengthens national integration; in others, it is negatively affected by weakening national integration through ethnic conflicts. Hence, the role of ethno-lingual diversity varies from country to country.

      Since the beginning, Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual state containing a blend of cultures. At present, different ethnic groups in other provinces are living together, forming the 224.1 million population of the country. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, ethnic groups, including Punjabi, Pashtuns, Sindhi, Muhajir, and Balochi, contribute to the country’s population with a percentage of 44.7, 15.4, 14.1, 8.4, 7.6 and 3.6, respectively. The massive contribution of ethnic groups to the population depicts that ethnic groups have a prominent say in the country’s social, economic, and political development. However, the recent clashes between ethnic groups have left the country in a chaotic situation. Hence, the current situation is portraying a gruesome picture of the country where ethnic groups are breeding their interests and leading towards an ethnolinguistic crisis. 

      Moving forward, it is imperative to shed light on the causes of the ethno-linguistic crisis in Pakistan. To begin with, the long-standing issue among ethnic groups of different provinces is the allocation of resources. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan, Baluchistan is Pakistan’s largest but poorest and underdeveloped province. This persistent renunciation of the due share is why Baloch ethnicity shows excellent resentment. In addition, most of the ethnic groups experience the feeling of marginalization, particularly the Muhajir community in Sindh. Furthermore, there is a constant tussle between Sindhi and Punjabi on water and resource distribution. Therefore, the unequal distribution of resources has proven to be a setting ground for the ethnolinguistic crisis in Pakistan. 

      Moreover, poor health facilities, low job opportunities, and sub-standard education in remote areas have exacerbated the ethno-lingual divide. Deprivation has created hatred for other ethnic groups in provinces. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan, Punjab gets 50 per cent of the jobs in federal services, depriving the different provinces of their due right. It is evident that substandard education has prevented the students of remote areas from competing with the students of Punjab, who get more jobs than the students of other provinces. Therefore, a sense of inferiority has been created in the people of remote areas, especially Central Punjab, Baluchistan, and Hazara regions. As a result, the people of different ethnicities demand separate provinces due to prevailing differences.

      Another important factor responsible for the ethnolinguistic divide is the identity crisis in provinces. Multiple groups consider themselves marginalized in their provinces. For a case in point, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), “The Afghan refugees in Pakistan are around 80 per cent Pashtuns, and the majority of them live in Baluchistan.” Hence, the abundance of Pashtuns in Baluchistan has created a fear for the Baluch community of becoming a minority in its province. As a result, despite being a majority in Baluchistan, Baluchi faces an identity crisis. Similarly, Sindhis fear being suppressed by the Muhajir population in Sindh. 

      Therefore, the intra-provincial identity crisis owing to the presence of different ethnic groups has escalated the ethno-lingual turmoil in the country. 

Having discussed the causes behind the ethno-linguistic crisis, it is high time to disband the impact of the ethno-linguistic divide on Pakistan. First, the ethno-lingual turmoil has brought the demand for new provinces to the table. According to the International Area Studies Review, Saraiki is demanding the division of Punjab province as they constitute a majority in South Punjab. Saraiki is demanding political autonomy due to the unequal distribution of resources, and above all, language is the prominent reason. The demand for a separate province by the Pashtun belt of Baluchistan has also appeared on the table. Hence, the demand for new provinces depicts the divide prevailing among people based on ethnicity, language, and culture, threatening the country’s national unity. 

      Further, different ethnic groups operating for their interests have started demanding new provinces, decreasing national integration. Instead of thinking as Pakistani, people have started thinking with a mindset of being Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi, Pushtun, and Saraiki. Rameez Ahmed, a PhD scholar, elaborates that the Hazarewal people demand a new province to secure the linguistic and cultural identity of an overwhelming minority of Hindko-speaking people. It indicates that people are uniting on an ethnic basis and dividing on national grounds. This ethno-lingual divide has jolted the unity of the nation. Therefore, ethno-lingual differences in provinces have weakened national integration and made the country prone to many external threats. 

     In addition, political, social, and economic inequalities among ethnic groups have given birth to ethnic conflicts in the country. The conflicts between ethnic groups are based on language, attire, and customs. For example, a report from the Pakistan Institute of Peace and Security report (PIPS) explains that Baluchistan national organizations carried out 81 terrorist attacks in Baluchistan in 2021. The vested interests of ethnic groups in Baluchistan have hampered the peace and resulted in increased violence in the region. Moreover, the ethnic violence is prevalent in Sindh. With the ongoing ethnic violence, interference from neighbouring countries, India and Afghanistan, has further increased ethnic violence, thereby deteriorating peace in the country. 

      Discussing the multiple separatist movements started in the country due to the prevailing ethnic divide, the Saraiki movement is one of the movements. Saraiki-speaking groups are the major linguistic groups of South Punjab. The agenda behind this movement is that the southern part of Punjab is relatively under-developed, downgraded and neglected. Further, socio-economic grounds and language allow Saraikis to desire a separate province. However, the Saraiki movement lost its demand over time. Still, after the passage of the 18th constitutional amendment, the movement gained momentum again to create a new province for Saraikis. 

Second, the Hazara province movement is the movement started by the Hazarewal people. Hindko-speaking people, Hazarewals, are the second largest majority in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). According to Pakistan Social Science Review, in the Hazara region, 86 per cent of the population are Hindko speaking, and the remaining 13 per cent are from other ethnic communities. The movement got impetus with the killing of seven people in 2010 who were demanding separate provincial status for the Hazara division. Since then, the supporters of the Hazara movement have started protesting the biased policies of KPK towards the rights and status of the Hazara region. Therefore, Hazarewals justify the demand for a new province based on the policies of KPK and being the major ethnic group in the Hazara region. 

      Sadly, the current situation is portraying a gloomy picture of Pakistan. However, concerted measures can make a difference. First, resolving the issue of resources can bottle up the jinn of ethno-lingual crisis. Allocating a sufficient budget for the remote areas of Baluchistan, South Punjab, and the Hazara region is fruitful for resolving the issue. All ethno-lingual conflicts have roots in economic disparity. Therefore, overcoming the problem of the economic divide will surely help the country in solving the puzzle of the ethnic divide. 

      Second, providing essential services in remote areas to address the ethnic crisis is the need of the hour. For instance, the people of South Punjab blame other parts of Punjab for getting more privileges in terms of education, health, job opportunities and other essential services. Therefore, the government should provide primary education and better health facilities to all parts of provinces equally. Moreover, provinces must work for the upliftment of backward areas to address the issue of ethnic minorities.

      Third, the state must give provinces their due right to solve the provincial problems. Similarly, provinces must devolve the power at the lowest level through local government as the locals can readily solve the issues in an area. The demand for creating a new province appeared on the table in the Hazara region, and the provincial government denied their due rights. So, devolving the power and making changes at the administrative level can help overcome the crisis. 

      Lastly, educational institutions can play a crucial role in teaching ethnic tolerance to students. Educational institutions, schools, colleges, and universities are platforms for building students’ perspectives. Hence, these platforms can play a positive role by uniting the nation under the umbrella of national integration and culminating the mindset of Sindhi, Punjabi, Baluchi, and Saraiki. Moreover, the problem of language superiority can also be curbed by inculcating the soul of unity in students through education. 

      To evaluate critically, Pakistan has been grappling with an ethno-linguistic crisis for many years. The crisis got impetus after the 18th constitutional amendment, and as a result, different ethnic groups started demanding separate provinces to enjoy equal rights and opportunities. However, creating new provinces on ethno-linguistic lines will likely tarnish the country’s image internationally. Hence, specific workable solutions can help curb the menace of ethno-lingual crisis. 

      In a nutshell, Pakistan is a multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual country. However, the clashes of multiple ethnicities have left the country in a chaotic state, weakening national integration. Ethnic groups in different provinces are demanding the creation of new provinces against the ideology of Quaid-e-Azam. Therefore, Pakistan must find a middle way, such as addressing the demand for resources and devolving the power to the lowest level through the local government system. These measures can help Pakistan overcome the building challenges, march towards an era of national integration, and stand out in the community of nations.   

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