Pakistan: Ethnic Fragmentation or National Integration?

Author: Feroz Ahmed
Publication Year : 1996

In light of the current ethnic polarisation, this paper briefly enumerates the elements of ethnic conflict in Pakistan. It, then, discusses the economic, demographic, political, and cultural developments taking place in Pakistan which tend to affect the inter-relationships among ethnic communities and between society as a whole and ethnic communities. Evidence is presented to support the argument that despite surface tensions and confrontations, there is an unmistakable trend of greater inter-dependence which can contribute to national integration. The paper further analyses the relationship between ethnicity, class, and the state. It identifies military, bureaucracy, capitalists, and landlords as the principal elements of the “ruling class”, and shows that the different ethnic groups have different class structures and differential participation in military and bureaucracy. It points out the near absence of “cross cutting cleavages” which tends to turn the class and power conflicts into ethnic conflicts. In conclusion, the paper, while underlining the shifting definitional boundaries and relative demographic and cultural homogenisation of the population, argues against the redrawing of provincial boundaries and constitutional recognition of “nationality rights” of fixed ethnic groups. However, it makes a case for the recognition of ethnic diversity in Pakistan, equal treatment of all ethnic groups, and protection and promotion of the languages and cultures of the different ethnic groups. It argues that national unity, security, and integrity will be achieved if the primary emphasis is placed on promoting equity and harmony rather than on suppression of ethnic differences in the name of unity.