The curious case of ethnicity in Pakistan has been touched upon many times before. Initially, I believe it was about identifying each other (for ease of stereotyping) but now it has gotten completely out of control. People identify themselves more with their ethnicity than with Pakistan.

When Ethnicity is Taken to Extremes

Ethnicity was the main culprit that led to the division of Pakistan in 1971 and today everyone’s talking about the same thing with respect to Balochistan. In recent days, this disease has given rise to another problem; the issue of more “suba’s” (provinces). Recent examples of this include:

  • the Hazara movement,
  • the cutting out of South Punjab into a province,
  • the calls for a separate Seraiki province being heard
  • and just the other day on a news channel people were almost ready to lay down their lives for a Bhawalpur Suba :s

Oh! And let’s not forget that a lot of people have also voiced and grafitti’ed their desire for a Karachi suba.

Is there a Genuine Need for More Suba’s?

I’m not against any movement or the idea of wanting more provinces. It’s a free country after all and people should have the right to voice their opinions. But the first question that needs to be answered is do we really need more provinces? The answer in my opinion is Yes!

Why? Because smaller provinces are in many ways more manageable and easier to administer. Yes, this is also debatable the other way, where people argue that a unity government (i.e. no provinces) will save on administrative costs, which then can be directed to public services….(please control your laughter). However, as far as the present debates about new provinces are concerned, this argument falls to pieces. The reason for this is that those fighting for a new province (or several provinces) are doing it primarily on the basis of ethnicity, not on the basis of administrative benefits (How they are going to draw a line for South Punjab based on ethnicity remains to be seen)

And the worst part is that no one steers the debate towards administrative gains. Take the Hazara for example, one of their legitimate reasons for the demand of a separate province is that they speak a different language. The issue has taken such a radical turn that when tabling the province bill, MQM leader Dr. Farooq Sattar was of the view that Balochistan could become another Bangladesh and South Punjab and Hazara another present day Balochistan, where people felt alienated and deprived.

I agree that the situation in Balochistan is precarious, and yes it seems that if the situation there is not handled with care – and soon – it could turn very ugly. BUT, south Punjab and Hazara becoming the Balochistan of the future? Maybe not.

Who is Brave Enough to Address the Real Issue?

The fact of the matter is that all this talk is purely about political gains, and there is very little in the way of sincerity involved. The people who are to benefit from the bifurcation say “we want” and the ones that are bound to lose say “we will not yield“. No one seems willing to address the critical issue: the welfare of the people living in these areas.

We were and still are divided and ruled; and if the present mindset doesn’t change, I fear we always will be. The British did it then for their own benefit and because of our ignorance and couldn’t-care-less attitude, our leaders are doing it now again for their own benefit.