Unity in Diversity?

Written By: Obaid Patel

Amrika ( America), ke na Japan ke, Hum tou hain diwanay Multan ke ( Neither America nor Japan, we are in love with Multan) – Sanwali Saloni, Vital Signs.

As the great man (Junaid Jamshed) once said, before he went ‘extreme’ that is, America and Japan is all right but its Multan where it’s at. The epitome of this nationalist notion, while commendable for its noble intent, is mind boggling. The simplest reason for that is the insurmountable diversity that exists in our society.

Calling pre-partition Hind a melting pot of ethnic and cultural diversity would be an understatement; perhaps it would be much more prudent to compare it with a dormant volcano. With a multitude of languages, cultures, geographic regions, lifestyles and religions, it is no surprise that it was called the Sub-continent. Naturally Pakistan since birth has inherited some of that legacy and is an integration of some or more of those elements.

Balochistan possesses a variety of minerals, undiscovered oil and large natural gas reserves. Sindh is home to Karachi, the most business friendly city in Pakistan and perhaps the economic hub of our nation. Punjab has arguably the best arable land in Asia and is the bread basket of Pakistan, whereas N.W.F.P has a fantastic mountainous terrain and large water reserves. In short, all the provinces have their own importance and unique identity.

Pakistan’s geographic diversity would prove to be a discoverer’s paradise. Going north from the coastal areas of the Arabian Sea, towards the Karakoram Range, one would see a profound blend of plains and deserts, forests and hills, plateaus and mountains. Our wonderful geographic location also provides us with a smooth coastline, which is approximately 1046km long and kisses the Arabian Sea. In addition to providing us with a natural sea trade route, it also has unique marine life. These calm waters can be developed into an Asian hub of water sports and beach activities.

Our nation not only has a naturally diverse terrain but also a very colorful mix of language, culture and lifestyles. With nearly 70 major and minor languages and around 13 ethnic groups, the land of the pure surely inculcates many diverse identities in its soil. These Pakistani cultures have been greatly influenced by many of the surrounding countries' cultures, such as the Turkish, Persian, Afghan, and Indians of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

With such imbalance, understanding every culture becomes imperative. What might be acceptable or even encouraged in one ethnic group, might be severely looked down upon in others. For example, music is despised in certain areas of the NWFP but acceptable and enjoyed in other parts of Pakistan.

The question that now arises however is, whether Pakistan for all its diversity, has that one uniting factor that overlooks all other differences. What is it that that keeps us together and helps us maintain our cohesion? Is it language or religion? Is it culture or years of close existence?

Pakistan is a gifted country and can overcome grave disorders if and only if, correct policies are made and implemented and all Pakistani’s accept the idea of celebrating differences with open arms. The only solution that can work in uniting the vulnerable and often explosive population is extreme nationalist fervor and spirit. How can it be brought about when only 8% of the population actually speaks in Urdu and the rest speak in their regional languages.

Urdu cannot be expected to unite, when all our politicians encourage voters to elect them on the basis of language. This is only going to sub-divide our already culturally confused country even more. Also the creation of any other province in Pakistan, will only add fuel to this ethnic nationalist fire.

If the argument that all Pakistani’s are one because of our shared religion is valid, then the partition of East Pakistan would never have happened. What indeed holds true is that there existed huge cultural and administrative clashes between the two wings which resulted in bad blood. Critics of the two nation theory hold this partition against it, which nullifies the very basis upon which Pakistan was built.

The only way for Pakistan to move forward is to increase education and spiritual enlightenment amongst the masses. The end result or objective should be to harness the seeds of tolerance and patience in our masses. Tolerance is a virtue, which makes co-existence of human beings easier and less violent. This educational reawakening will set the foundations for nationwide patriotism triggering much better interprovincial relations as diversity will be celebrated in favor of national interest.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was adamant upon the need for Muslims in Hind to get educated. Even analyzing all developed countries’ today, would show us high literacy rates because it is a natural prerequisite for any society aspiring to develop and prosper.

All of Pakistan’s resources and natural endowments will remain unexploited, if the nation does not on a whole want to reorganize and create a better image of Pakistan on the world map. The Pakistani people are non-violent, moderate and humble except for a few elements, which seem hell bent upon not letting us show the positive side of us.

Conclusively it should be noted that extensive long term investments and sacrifices have to be made by the current government and our generation, so that our following generations can shine and build a Pakistan where the cliché, Pakistan has resources but poor management ceases to exist. Celebrate life, celebrate diversity!

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