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Linguistic Racism in Pakistan

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‘Every word is a preconceived judgment.’-Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All-Too-Human

There are many conflicts one can’t avoid if not on the same linguistic frequency as others. To a common man, language is basically a way to communicate thoughts, opinions, and emotions, however, if we dig deeper into this singularity; we realize that it holds the crux of our identity. It gives us a way to express our feelings, opinions, and sentiments to others. It is through the phenomenon of globalization that linguistic boundaries are crumbling all over the world. 

Language leading to communication are the basic tools necessary in education. The Language Barrier in schools sets up entire generations to live on the metaphorical sidelines. Language barriers are a common issue that all non-Anglophonic countries face. World economic conditions and globalization guarantee that no state can work in isolation which is why this limitation makes an appearance at both inter-state and intra-state interactions. Even something as simple as a change in dialect can cause waves of miscommunication. The language barrier may prove to be detrimental to a country’s progress/ development in the mid to long term. One avenue where it is particularly bothersome is in Governmental institutions. It leads to miscommunication or more often than not ‘incomplete’ communication and it can negatively impact the whole system.

The miscommunication can cause time strain, loss of funds, public scrutiny, etc. Compliance, confidentiality, and security of information are critical to interpretation for government agencies. The language barrier in a case of emergency response may also cost lives. Although Urdu is our national language, however, our colonized tongue rarely strays from English in official dealings. Pakistan itself is a multilingual/ multicultural nation with more than 6 major languages and countless regional influences. There are only two official languages used in government institutions, documentation, etc.

Those two being Urdu and English, they’ve grown to be respected and associated with a higher intellect. However, this has had an adverse effect on the other languages and their use has often been decreed as a sign of an uncultured upbringing or just a lower status in society in general. Linguistic racism in Pakistan is born out of a superiority complex that has hailed from the time of colonization of the subcontinent. It is not just a language that forms the base of such discrimination but it also stems out of the accent, modality, syntax, and variety in vocabulary. It is projected as a threat to the social cohesion of society and is often further pronounced in situations where multi-lingual individuals face multiple socio-cultural issues. This form of racism exists in several contexts, the most prevalent being its presence in the education sector of Pakistan.

A country that houses a minimum of 74 linguistically social groups (Adeel Tayyab 2021) requires more attention to be paid to its inherent multi-lingual character. Only 10% of Pakistan is fluent in Urdu (Adeel Tayyab 2021) despite it being the national language. English stands out as a powerful language and comes out on top whenever put in comparison with national or regional languages, this is mainly because of its heavy influence in our region’s past. It is considered important as the language of employment. Urdu held influence over other provincial languages because it was so wide-spread that it naturally was assumed to be everyone’s first language but in the spirit of staying democratic, it was allowed to use provincial languages where required. In the educational sector, we can easily blame the failing system to a smaller than necessary amount of funds but a major role is played by the disadvantage children have to face in regions where they have to shift from their native language such as Sindhi or Pashto to English and Urdu abruptly. If there is one student amongst forty who stutters or isn’t as assured in English or Urdu then he is marginalized. Linguistic racism is born from such conditions and carves a place in the crux of our existence.

The fate of East Pakistan pays homage to this very point. Granted the unfairness of leaving out Bengali as one of the official languages was not the only reason for dissent but it did light the spark. The issue that the Bengali had with Urdu being the national language of Pakistan was also drawn from the fact that the people who got salaries from the state or the government workers ‘salariat’ faced many challenges because Urdu was used in governmental institutions and positions of a lower level within the administration, military, judiciary, education, etc. In places of a higher power, English had taken over which left the Bengalis hung in between a colonial language take-over and a provincial language dispute. The language barrier soon became stifling. The language became a symbol of Bengali unity and once it was disregarded in the race for the national language the conflict only grew till the annexation in 1971. After the separation of Bangladesh, the Sindhi Movement rose. It gleaned inspiration from the Bengali language movement and G.M Syed brought about the idea of Sindhudesh in 1972. Its main focus was on a separate state that would protect and promote Sindhi identity, culture, and language.

The language movement had roots in provincial conflicts with the Punjabi population encroaching on Sindhi territory and Urdu being the national language, leading to subtle isolation of the Sindhi population and difficulty in societal integration. The emergence of Sindhudesh was from this issue that the presence of Urdu wasn’t as much of a problem on its own but what it represented, which was Punjabi dominion and superiority over the area. UNESCO itself has researched and concluded that Urdu being the only major language taught in all provincial educational institutions till Higher education where there is an abrupt change to English, is damaging the uniformity of a country. 

Way Forward:

 Keeping in view the problems/ shortfalls relating to overcoming ingress of foreign languages and number of local languages in mid to long term following recommendations are proffered:

a. As far as our number of regional languages are concerned these must be optimally used to strengthen our national fiber. These must be merged at lower levels of education and selected specialization. 

b. Above will also help in achieving inter-provincial integration and harmony at the national level, leading international image building of Pakistan as a nation. 

c. In case the ongoing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is to achieve the desired and optimum results, we must be all set to absorb all foreign languages including Chinese and languages of other members of One Belt One Road (OBOR) as required, alongside our official language. 

Conclusion:

Although linguistic racism is not a rampant issue that needs immediate attention, it is one whose roots have dug deep and taken hold in both national institutions and the human psyche. Pakistan is home to 212.2 million and promises them their safety along with constitutional and human rights. Such a feat is not possible if the language barrier remains in existence without achievable ways to dismantle it.

References:  

  • Bureau Report. 2017. “People Advised to Remove Language Barrier to Benefit from CPEC.” DAWN.COM. DAWN.COM. August 11, 2017. https://www.dawn.com/news/1350934. 
  • Eun, Ellen, Kyoo Kim, and Anna Mattila. n.d. “The Impact of Language Barrier & Cultural Differences on Restaurant Experiences: A Grounded Theory Approach.” https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1175&context=gradconf_hospitality . 
  • “Language Policy, Multilingualism and Language Vitality in Pakistan.” 2020. Apnaorg.com. 2020. http://apnaorg.com/book-chapters/tariq/. 4 
  • “Linguistic Racism: Its Negative Effects and Why We Need to Contest It.” 2020. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 2020. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13670050.2020.1783638?scroll=top&needAccess =true. 
  • Max de Lotbinière. 2010. “Pakistan Facing Language ‘crisis’ in Schools.” The Guardian. The Guardian. December 7, 2010. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2010/dec/07/pakistanschools-language-crisis-lotbiniere. 
  • Scamman, Kimberly. 2018. “Telelanguage.” Telelanguage. September 7, 2018. https://telelanguage.com/the-impact-of-language-interpretation-for-government-agencies/. 
  • TechGig Correspondent. 2020. “Understanding the Difference between AI, ML, and DL.” TechGig. TechGig. May 3, 2020. https://content.techgig.com/understanding-the-differencebetween-ai-ml-and-dl/articleshow/75493798.cms. 
  • The Nation. 2016. “Language Barrier.” The Nation. The Nation. February 21, 2016. https://nation.com.pk/22-Feb-2016/language-barrier. 
  • VimolanMudaly, and Kajal Singh. 2018. “LANGUAGE: A BARRIER WHEN TEACHING AND LEARNING BUSINESS STUDIES.” ResearchGate. unknown. 2018. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327985564_LANGUAGE_A_BARRIER_WHEN_TE ACHING_AND_LEARNING_BUSINESS_STUDIES. 
  • Zubair Torwali. 2018. “The Lure of Linguicism.” Thenews.com.Pk. The News International. February 22, 2018. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/284470-the-lure-of-linguicism.

Hafsa Ammar is an undergraduate student of Peace and Conflict Studies at National Defense University, Pakistan.

New Social Compact

Gender Pay Gaps during Pandemic: A Reflection on International Workers’ Day 2021

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Men, rather than women, have been disproportionately affected by job losses over time. Nonetheless, the harsh reality of this pandemic recession has shown that women are more likely to be unemployed. As a matter of fact, women have lost substantial jobs as a result of increased childcare needs caused by school and daycare closures, which prohibit many women from working, and as a result of their employment being concentrated in heavily affected sectors such as the services sector (hospitality business, restaurant, retail outlets and so on). According to a study by Alon et al, women’s unemployment increased by 12.8 percent during the first period of Covid-19 (from March 2020), while men’s unemployment increased by just 9.9 percent. Changes in job rates (which include transfers into and out of the labor force) follow the same trend, with women experiencing a much greater drop in employment than men during the recession. Similar trends have been seen in other pandemic-affected countries.

In Southeast Asia, where informal workers account for 78 percent of the workforce, women make up the majority of blue-collar employees. In Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, women make up a substantial portion of the domestic workers, despite having a low contractual working status in informal settings. They are underpaid as a result of the pandemic, and the Covid-19 recession has reduced their importance in the workplace. Indonesia as one of the countries which affected by pandemic also experienced similar thing, with two-thirds of the female population in the active age group (between 15 and 64 years old), Indonesia is supposed to have tremendous potential for accelerating its economic development, but the truth is the opposite due to the never-ending pandemic. Since the pandemic began, many employees, mostly women, have lost their jobs or had their working hours shortened. Of course, their daily wages are affected by this situation. Besides, the wage gap between men and women also widens from March 2020 to March 2021, with women in the informal sector receiving up to 50% less than men, clearly resulting in discriminatory practices.Despite the fact that Indonesia ratified the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Convention No. 100 on Equal Remuneration in 1958, fair and equal salaries have remained unchanged until now, and the legislation seems to have been overlooked and inapplicable in a pandemic situation.

Furthermore, the issue is not resolved at that stage. Apart from the pandemic, both formal and informal workers are exposed to various work systems and regulations. Women may have similar experiences with low wages and unequal payment positions in both environments, but women who work in the formal sector have the capacity, experience, and communication skills to negotiate their salaries with their employers, while women who work in the informal sector do not. Women in informal work face a number of challenges, including a lack of negotiation skills and a voice in fighting for their rights, particularly if they lack support structures (labor unions). Furthermore, when it comes to employees’ salaries, the corporate system is notoriously secretive. Another issue that continues to upset women is the lack of transparency in employee wages. Despite the fact that the national minimum wage policy is regulated by the government, only a small number of female workers are aware of it.

Overcoming Gender Pay Gaps within Pandemic Condition

In the spirit of International Workers’ Day 2021, there should be an organized and systematic solution to (at the very least) close the wage gap between men and women in this pandemic situation. International organizations and agencies also attempted to convince national governments to abolish gender roles and prejudices, however this is insufficient. As a decision-maker, the government must ‘knock on the door’ of companies and businesses to support and appreciate work done disproportionately by women. Furthermore, implementing transparent and equitable wage schemes is an important aspect of significantly changing this phenomenon. Real action must come not only from the structural level (government and corporations), but also from society, which must acknowledge the existence of women’s workers and not undervalue what they have accomplished, because in this Covid-19 condition, women must bear the “triple burden” of action, whether in productive work (as a worker or labor), reproductive work (as a wife and mother), and also as a member of society. Last but not least, women must actively engage in labor unions in order to persuade gender equality in the workplace and have the courage to speak out for their rights, as this is the key to securing fair wages. And when women are paid equally, their family’s income rises, and they contribute more to the family’s well-being.

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New Social Compact

Latvian human rights activists condemn homophobia in China, Latvia and the world

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The issue of human rights of LGBT persons is like a hot potato – hard to spit it out, but also hard to swallow. Despite majority of the public having nothing against the LGBT community, people are afraid to allow them to have the same human rights everyone else has.

Governments and politicians also clash when it comes to fully recognizing the human rights of LGBT persons – and communist China is no exception. Interestingly, the Chinese Communist Party maintains a stance of double morals on this issue. On the one hand, during UN meetings China always reproaches other nations about homophobia and violations of LGBT rights. On the other hand, China has never been able to eradicate homophobia in the Chinese community, but instead has furthered it, for instance, by banning Eurovision broadcasts in China and by trying to ignore the existence of an LGBT community in China.

The Chinese Communist Party has become seriously entangled in its own ideology – as I already wrote, Chinese representatives have no shame in criticizing other countries’ discrimination of people with a non-traditional sexual orientation, stressing that China doesn’t consider homosexuality to be a mental illness. Moreover, the Chinese government has publicly stated that China supports the activities of LGBT organization. But this is simply not true! Although on the international stage Beijing acts as a protector of the human rights of LGBT communities and agitates for the equality of gays and lesbians, in China itself LGBT and women’s rights activists are being repressed, detained and held in labor camps. Thus, Beijing is doing everything in its power to suppress women’s rights and human rights in general.

The most pathetic thing in all this is that Beijing has always voted against all UN initiatives and resolutions that concern the recognition and establishment of human rights for LGBT persons, as this would draw even more attention to the violations of human rights in China itself.

In this regard, in solidarity with Chinese LGBT representatives the leading protector of LGBT human rights from the party Latvian Russian Union (LKS) Aleksandrs Kuzmins and one of the LKS’s leaders and MEP Tatjana Ždanoka have expressed concerns over the recent homophobic attacks in Latvia and are urging citizens from Latvia and around the world to attach a rainbow flag next to the ribbon of St. George during the upcoming 9 May Victory Day celebrations, thus commemorating members of the LGBT community that died during World War II.

Kuzmins stressed that during WWII members of the LGBT community also fought against Nazi Germany, adding that it’s no secret that in the Soviet army there were hundreds and thousands of gays and lesbians who fought shoulder to shoulder for the freedom of their motherland. These people were, however, repressed and exiled to Siberia after the war by the Stalin regime. Most of them were tortured to death in gulags, which is confirmed by information recently acquired from Moscow’s archives.

Human rights activists from the LKS believe that it’s time for people to change and openly talk about the mistakes that were made in the past – we don’t live in the Middle Ages anymore and we should get rid of ancient dogmas and stereotypes about the LGBT community, lest more people fall victim to the intolerance and hate.

On the eve of the Victory Day, the LKS urges global leaders to admit the severe mistakes that have been made and to end the repressions against their own LGBT communities.

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New Social Compact

Farveez Maharoof explains the importance of spreading social awareness via cricket

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Image source: skysports.com

Cricket legend Farveez Maharoof recently played in the Road Safety World Series to spread awareness about road safety. The Road Safety World Series was being played in Raipur to spread awareness about road safety in India. Modern Diplomacy talks to Farveez Maharoof about why cricket is a good platform to spread awareness about social causes.

Why is cricket a good platform to spread awareness about social causes?

Cricketers have a huge following specially in Asia. Both India and Sri Lanka have a very high number of cricket fans. When cricketers speak about an issue, their fans and viewers listen to them. Moreover, it is the social responsibility of people with a platform to spread awareness for causes. Personally, I have been a part of many social campaigns in Sri Lanka. I think it is my duty to raise awareness about social issues. The Road Safety World Series spread awareness at a more global scale.

What was your most inspiring moment during the Road Safety World Series?

 Personally, I was inspired to play in the Road Safety World Series even after retirement because the series is being played for a cause. Road Safety impacts people across the world and I think it is important for people to take it seriously. I feel strongly about the issue of road safety because I lost my uncle in an accident. It affected my family deeply. I want to spread awareness about it so that others are more careful when on the roads.

Did you campaign for road safety via your personal Instagram too? How did your audience respond?

 I was not required to campaign on my social media. I did because I felt strongly about the issue. Moreover, because I have a decent number of followers on Instagram, I thought it was a good platform to spread awareness about the cause. When many cricketers post about the same issue together, it gets more highlighted in the audience’s mind. I personally use my social media for raising awareness about issues in Sri Lanka as well.

Why is road safety important to you at a personal level?

My family lost my uncle in a road accident in Canada. My mother was affected very deeply by the incident. The effects of the accident were long lasting on my family emotionally. I have always been very serious about road safety after that. The reason I played for the Road Safety World Series is because I felt strongly about the issue and wanted to play for the cause of road safety.

How is playing a series during the pandemic different from pre pandemic times?

 Playing cricket during the pandemic is very different. We are not used to being in bio bubbles and staying quarantined at the hotel. There has been a shift in the way we have to live during the tournaments. Moreover, there are many COVID safety protocols to be ensured while we are travelling. These protocols are essential and should be followed.

The Road Safety World Series was actually being played in Mumbai last year. However, when COVID hit, the series had to be paused and postponed in between. After almost one year, the series resumed in Raipur. Hence, COVID has affected sports deeply.

What are other social causes that you are passionate about?

I am passionate about social causes which affect Sri Lanka. In the past, I have campaigned for many causes in Sri Lanka including breast cancer. I am someone who likes to stay connected to my roots. I want to give back to the community in every way I can because I have been blessed with their support. I will continue with social work and I will continue spreading awareness about causes.

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