In Pakistan, there is an ethnic apartheid: it is Punjab versus the rest of ethnicities. Had it not been for the ethnic apartheid, it would be hard to explain how Balochistan, Sindh, South Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan have been getting devastated by climate change-induced floods for the past many weeks, and, yet, the Punjabi Pakistan’s leadership and the media is busy in the endless commentary on inter-elite power struggle.
The Punjabi supremacists have rendered those living in the peripheral regions of Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), South Punjab, and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) as invisible, they do not exist for us Punjabis. They are on the mute. Thousands from Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa go missing through enforced disappearances; it hardly raises an eyebrow of anyone in Punjab and Islamabad. Yet, the Punjabi media can be obsessed with Shahbaz Gill’s arrest and his condition either in the police lockup or in the hospital. What sort of message we Punjabis are giving to the youth in Balochistan and KP: “You do not exist for us. Your life and liberty is not important to us. Your pain has been permanently erased from the national consciousness. You live or die. Both your existence and death and your suffering is meaningless”.
The emergency and disaster mitigation response is totally missing in Balochistan. People have been left at their mercy. In Sindh, the provincial government is pro-actively trying to provide flood relief yet it requires the federal response preparedness and delivery that is not to be seen. Both the performance of the federal political government and non-elected institutions dealing with disaster mitigation is extremely poor. The proverbial “Punjab Speed” associated with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is nowhere visible. The efficiency that the non-elected institutions are known for in disaster situations leaves much more room for improvement as well. Is it because those suffering are Balochs, Sindhis and Mohajirs, Saraikis, or Gilgitis? Imagine, if such floods had caused havoc in the mainland Punjab or in the posh areas of Karachi and Islamabad. Would the response of the federal and provincial governments be equally lackluster?
The Punjabi supremacists have rendered those living in the peripheral regions of Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), South Punjab, and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) as invisible, they do not exist for us Punjabis.
The media in Pakistan is the big culprit in all of this. Imran Khan, who has been imposed on us by foreign powers, has been trying to create the theatre of absurd 24/7 every day. Imran Khan would not exist for a single day had he not been provided constant oxygen both by the mainstream and social media. Imran Khan has been busy launching psychological warfare in Pakistan through perpetuation of organised propaganda and our media is hands and glove in it. Whether the media is supporting Imran Khan and his party leaders or opposing them, it is wholly consumed by Imran Khan as if nothing else matters in the country.
The Baloch and KP youth must not get disheartened. The Baloch youth needs to give up violence unilaterally, even if the other side does not. It needs to do so for achieving progress. Those external or internal forces who are encouraging Baloch youth to indulge in violence are not their well-wishers. The Pakistani establishment is not going to let a repeat of 1971 take place. If the deep states of certain western countries or India are providing some support to Baloch youth to continue this spiral of violence that started with the horrific murder of Akbar Bugti, they are the enemies of Baloch youth and not their benefactors.
Dr Vikram Patel reminded us is a recent article on 75 years of Independence that India (and Pakistan) did not achieve independence through “waging a bloody war, but through the uniquely Indian idea of non-violence which had subsequently inspired civil rights and freedom movements that led to the end of segregation in the US, apartheid in South Africa and communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe.”
The Baloch and KP youth must fight injustice non-violently. The KP has learnt this lesson to a great deal. Pakhtun youth are increasingly getting organised through non-violent ways and are having an impact for the past few years. Recently, the residents of Swat organised protest demonstrations when they saw the return of militants in their areas, and they have been able to put the lid on agitation to some degree. Baloch youth needs to learn this.
Pursuing the path of nonviolent resistance won’t be easy for the Baloch youth. Their nonviolent struggle will most likely be met with violence, to throw them back into the cycle of violence. They must continue to persist with nonviolent resistance, even if it is countered by violence. Sometimes unilateral disarmament is the only viable strategy to achieve lasting peace.
Whether the media is supporting Imran Khan and his party leaders or opposing them, it is wholly consumed by Imran Khan as if nothing else matters in the country.
Further, they must focus on education. Balochistan is probably the only province where social indicators have been regressing instead of progressing since 1999. They must strive to make themself, their families and communities politically, socially, economically empowered. They must demand their fair share.
The Punjabi political and non-elected leadership must remember that injustices perpetrated on “others” come to haunt the tormentors as much as the tormented. They must stop treating Baloch, Sindhi, Mohajir, Saraiki, Gilgiti and Pakhtun as “others” and “outsiders”, and keep the spirit of the 18th amendment and the original 1973 constitution alive — that revolves around giving a fair share and treating the smaller ethnicities fairly. They must stop treating them as invisible peripheries.
The Pakistani media must break the magic spell of Imran Khan and his antics, and focus on the real issues that confront the people of Pakistan. They must focus on mobilising the governmental and non-governmental sectors for effective flood relief. Otherwise, the media is as much a partner in crime as the political and non-political leadership of the country — by playing with the lives of smaller ethnicities.
This ethnic apartheid must be stopped. It is not good for the country.