By : Muhammad Daniyal Khan
“All men are equal”.
The region of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan dwells in such a geographical quadrant where no single ethnic or racial group can make up a clear majority. This is where several ethnic groups collide to make up a nation. Towards northwest of Pakistan lies a small part of Afghani people. Afghani nationals reside in, not surprisingly, Afghanistan with a small magnitude in Pakistan and Iran. Up north, Gilgiti people share a lot in common with Tibetans. This even includes, to a certain extent, physical appearance. Perhaps that is the case due to which if you travel up north Chinese inspired architecture in Shangrilla or even thin eyed people would be a common sight. Baluchistan is partially in Pakistani territory but a large chunk is in Iran known as Sistan. You might have heard of growing protests in Quetta, which initiated as a result of ban on travelling to Iran. Half of Punjab is in India and Sindh shares common culture with neighboring Rajasthani people.
The wave of west-inspired liberalism, which entered Pakistan in 90s, incepted this idea to every mind, “ALL MEN ARE EQUAL”, with no regards to their ethnic or racial background. Therefore, the question that we must ponder upon is whether that is actually true?
Among the Pakistanis there are numerous stereotypes regarding different ethnicities and races. Pathans, for example, are stereotyped to be generally slow in terms of mental sharpness. It is also a widely held belief that they are short tempered and a mere cuss word is all that’s required for them reach for your collar. However, for them there is nothing known as physical enervation. Where the strength and energy of a normal person ends is where a Pathan’s starts. Why is that? We all have been told this repeatedly that all humans are born equal and that belonging to a certain race or ethnicity does not matter at all. This is by all means a clichéd belief. People who live near seas inherently have broad chests, earning their livelihood through sea by swimming of course, and those who reside in mountains naturally have strong legs. Is that biased now?
The strengths and weaknesses of a particular communal group are tremendously influenced by its geography and the culture it follows. In ancient Sparta, a warlike culture was practiced and as a result a bellicose, belligerent and brutal aspect became an integral part of their society. Tibetans on the other hand profess a peaceful culture and religion and that is why their movement for self-determination never turned violent. So will Tibetans ever be successful if they were to become soldiers? In order to reduce the severity of my content, let us assume that generally, it’s the case.
This exact concept can be brought to Pakistan where myriad cultures and customs bring different strengths and weaknesses to people. Sindh and lower Punjab is often known as the land of Sufism and Sufis are by default believed to be a peaceful people. When this gradually inlets general population, the result is the present day Sindhi who is usually excessively sharp when it comes to using logic and reasoning but indolent when it comes to actual physical exertion. A Sindhi even to this day can meditate for weeks but will never be a good soldier. Such is the case with Siraikis who generally lack ambition along with alacrity. That’s why they have been down trodden for decades and even in cities they are either contractor or beggars. They justify this by calling it “Bekhudi” or selflessness- pretty much related to Sufism.
Balochis have a history of their devotion to their tribes. Such decentralized systems always lead acrimony to prevail amongst each other. When this acrimony turns violent then an extreme of feudalism is established. It is also said that Balochis were bandits for centuries. Peter Hopkirk mentions in his book ‘The Great Game’ that the first time Britain sent an expedition to Iran via Balochistan, they assumed that to exit Balochistan unmolested would be a miracle. Thus when the extremes of feudalism and violence are merged, a characters like Akbar Bugti or Asif Zardari take power, who were, arguably, evil geniuses, they never let any chance to make quick money at cost of personal conscience slip away.
Rivers play a key role in the development and progression of any civilization. History has taught us that some of the most advanced communities had a river attached to their lives. Be it ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, or Indus. That is why Punjabis enjoy predator status in Pakistan. Belonging to plains, they received natural diets for centuries and have characteristics of surrounding ethnicities. They have relatively sharp minds, good physiques and more than all notoriety that runs in their veins. A common Punjabi is generally malevolent to other ethnic groups. Their discriminative attitude towards Bengalis and Balochis are reflective of this. The trends of centralization and decentralization through time made hatred instill within these Punjabi sub ethnicities such as Arain, Janjua or Kayani etc. But fairly obvious is the fact that northern Punjabic races make up a large part of the Army. On the other hand, the weakness of Punjabis is lies in their tendency to succumb to superstition. The religion of Sikhism and even the multiple sects within Islam took their toll in Punjab. The presence of cities such as Amritsar, Qadian or Multan is evidence of this argument and with passage of time we might witness history repeating itself whereas an individual like me being is accused of stating the stereotypes.
Belonging to certain race or ethnicity therefore has a determinant role in pursuit of success. The physical superiority of Pashtoons makes it clear that there couldn’t be better labor force than from Afghani ethnicity. Moreover their turbulent nature makes them skilled, stoic soldiers. Fact: the only 5 star general in the history of Pakistan, Field Marshal Ayub Khan was a Pathan. The mental ferocity of Sindhis makes them domineering force in Pakistani bureaucracy and skilled diplomats. Fact: Z.A. Bhutto, with acceptance of his enemies as well, was the wittiest diplomat of Pakistan. Punjabis being inclusive of several various traits makes them good soldiers, diplomats etc. Karachites will know that Memons are excellent entrepreneurs. Ethnicity after all does have a good role in determination of success and success is what shapes domination. Therefore, I propose to make the alteration that, “Some people are more equal than others.”
When Pakistan was created in 1947, it was a blow to all those who believed that nations are only created on basis of nationality. But Pakistan has been desperately trying and is still trying to make racial and ethnic coexistence possible. That is where urbanization comes in which gradually refutes all inherent skills and more or less gives everyone an equal line to start their race to prevail, be it diplomacy, military or labor. Sadly, the existing trends are not taking Pakistan down the right path. Ethnic and racial distances are engulfing and rather than using strengths or weaknesses of each other’s strengths, personal hegemony is given precedence. I believe it is quite obvious that racialism is Achilles’s heels of Pakistan but it very well could have been a pillar of strength.