Diversity in Pakistan: A strength or weakness

Ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity might sound a bit problematic initially, as managing and uniting people with diverse ways of living and wide-ranging beliefs may be a problem. Still, if handled correctly, diversification is a fruit enriched with all possible nutrition. Diversification has played a vital role in developed countries. The core advantage of diversity is that it provides various economic benefits as diversification helps bring multiple skill sets and ideas to one place, benefiting the economy. Developed countries have successfully utilized diversification to their advantage. As we can see in countries like the UK, Canada, Australia and the United States, people from around the world show up to live and work in these countries, especially from Asia and Africa.

In this regard, Pakistan was and is very fortune to have ethnic, cultural, and religious diversification since its independence. Pakistan is home to around 70 different language-speaking people, divided into culturally driven provinces, each province home to different sub-cultures. But, since Pakistan’s independence, ethnic diversity management has been a critical cause of worry and, on various occasions, has created problems and an anarchical situation in the country.

In Pakistan, inter-ethnic violence has led to a fragile political system and has destabilized the state’s foundations. Inter-tribal fighting in tribal regions, Sectarian violence, forced conversations, Shia-Sunni cruel and regressive actions and Political exploitation have all become commonplace in Pakistani society. Till what we have seen in Pakistan, of course, anyone will say that ethnic diversity has caused problems for the country. But deep analysis clearly shows that such issues are caused by bad decisions and policies made by our respective leaders over time.

So why things went wrong for Pakistan? This is the major question which needs to be addressed by solving problems like, Sectarian violence is a form of communal violence that can be characterized as discrimination among different groups between various factions of a specific ideology or religion within a nation/community. Sectarian violence is commonly fueled by religious segregation. Sectarian violence is one of the main issues in Pakistan and, over the years, has created various anarchical situations in the country.

Secondly, the killings of Shia Muslims and Hazaras from Baluchistan are another cause of concern for Pakistan. Shias account for around 15–20% of our population, the largest outside Iran. Unfortunately, Sunni — The Shia conflict also leads to deaths and violence.

Armed Organizations like Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and Baluchistan Liberation Front (BLF) have been hyperactive in Pakistan since 2004, claiming responsibility for multiple Terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. These organizations have become stronger and more organized while their terrorist activities have intensified in Pakistan. 2018 Terrorist attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi, an Attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in 2020, and a series of suicide bombing attacks on Civilians and the Pakistan Army are some recent examples of what these organizations are up to.

Every citizen will wonder why Pakistan could not function as a single machine. The answer to this question is that Politicians never allowed it to be.

Politicians use Ethnic diversity to gain power. For example, the electoral process is one of the primary factors that might influence the participation of various caste groups in politics. Instead of opposing this trend, some politicians exploit it for political gain, deepening the roots of ethnic hatred. In Pakistani politics, the caste system is more important than political parties.

Today, we can see that Sindhi will vote for only Sindhi representatives, Baloch for only Baloch representatives and the same goes for Pakhtoon people. This exploitation of caste and cultural identity systems by political parties to gain power is one of the main reasons why ethnic diversity in Pakistan has caused problems and why the gap between people has not been reduced. The reason is simple, the politicians and responsible people wanted to use this division of people for their interests and personal gains.

In my opinion, ethnic diversity can be a strength for Pakistan, where people with different thoughts or ways of thinking and provinces providing additional natural resources and expertise can significantly boost Pakistan’s growth. Still, unfortunately, we are unable to unite and bring the best out of the diversity we have in our country. Baluchistan, which is enriched with natural resources and is the largest province of Pakistan, contributes the least to the GDP of Pakistan, whereas if utilized to its maximum potential, it can solely uplift Pakistan’s economy.

Khizra Mushtaq
Khizra Mushtaq
I am Khizra Mushtaq student of Government and Public Policy at National Defense University Islamabad, Pakistan. The program has helped me to get a better overview of international and national affairs. I have keen interest in government and public policies, instance regulations, policy formulation and implementation with special context to Pakistan.