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Ethno-nationalist narrative

August 13, 2012


THIS is apropos of the article ‘The political economy of nativisation’ by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar (Aug 3).

One of the important dimensions he describes is in the context of power and oppression and exploitation narrative in Pakistani society. Indeed, the writer’s point to highlight the ethno-linguistic divide as a challenging one in the current political scenario offers a broader, diverse and timely understanding of the growing unrest and disharmony in Pakistani polity.

On the other hand, the writer views the ethno-linguistic fault line in Pakistan to be much more politicised than class and gender.

It would be naïve to deny the importance of class and gender power relations and socio-political inequalities and oppression.

However, in the post-partition political and historical context, the ethno-nationalist narrative draws pressing attention, especially in the cases of Balochistan and Sindh where strong ethno-nationalist sentiments prevail and which surfaced during the early years of the newly-created state.

It is pertinent to note that the ethno-nationalist narrative based on the politics of cultural identity, economic oppression and exploitation is still relevant and meaningful when we look deeply at the local context of the public discourse: be it in the form of equal distribution of resources among provinces, equal share of development priorities and planning, equal participation and representation in jobs (both civil and military), sports, TV, drama, tourism, industry and corporate private sector, etc.

The strong feelings of deprivation and exploitation are reflected by the majority of historically ignored and non-mainstream youth in the form of nationalist sentiments that they have been denied their rights to equal opportunities in the economic and educational resources.

For instance, the popular Sindhi narrative of oppression and exploitation is being reflected in the public discourses of the blocked opportunities for them to get admissions to higher educational institutions of Karachi such as Karachi University, Dow Medical and NED universities.

The ethno-linguistic gerrymandering in Sindh prevails deeply in the form of clear division of educational institutions, urban centres, streets and area divisions in the same city, conflict over administration and ownership of resources, etc.

The entire scenario of ethnic divide is posing a serious threat to the harmony, diversity and social integration in society.

Strangely, the state seems ignorant of the serious issue posing serious threat to its polity.