Unity in diversity

Published: October 25, 2017
The writer is a youth development expert with over 12 years of experience in the social development sector

The writer is a youth development expert with over 12 years of experience in the social development sector

Pakistan takes pride in calling itself diverse with different languages and a rich culture. But can unity without inclusivity bring peaceful human coexistence? Can we enforce uniformity and peace without respecting diversity?

Whenever it comes to patriotism in Pakistan we uphold the symbols of uniformity, such as Jinnah’s cap and Urdu as the national language which, however, only represent a fraction of the people of this country. Rest of the country has to constantly prove their patriotism. Whereas the people speaking Balochi or wearing a turban, a Peshawari chappal or Sindhi ajrak or even a dhoti bear equal loyalty to this country. The range of spoken languages in Pakistan is approximately 20-25 along with over 70 dialects, but none of them are officially recognised. There are more than 10 types of cultural dresses which people love to identify with and a wide range of food items signifying different regions. In fact, people with names like Varun, Joseph, Singh and Kashif carry an equal sense of nationalism and ownership for Pakistan. But the country fails to identify them all as equal. Recently, a Hindu Pakistani friend of mine was wrongly identified as Indian only because of his name. Besides, it took 70 years for Pakistan’s transgender community to get NICs and be recognised as Pakistanis. The country also fails to recognise Holi, Diwali and Christmas as Pakistani events, while the majority of its Muslim population is even unaware of festivals like Nauroz and Chilam Joshi that are regularly celebrated in different parts of the country.

If we look at the world order, the Americans are united with diversity as one of their core values. The EU countries speak French, Spanish, German, Dutch and a wide range of languages in official capacity and remain united. Switzerland is a small country of approximately a population of 8.4 million, even fewer than Lahore’s, but has four official languages. Our neighbouring India too has 22 official languages.

We need to be reminded of the fact that Pakistan is a federation that is a theoretical example of diversity in which a province is a unit. In a diverse country like ours recognising multiple languages will only build trust among the citizens and strengthen nationalism. Diversity should be enshrined in the constitution which will open avenues for investing in it for peaceful coexistence of the people.

Manifesting diversity at the state and government level will eventually bring in resources to improve employment opportunities for the people. It also has direct relevance with economic uplift and social outlook. Examples can be quoted from nation models where local languages are recognised at state level, resultantly generating employment for the masses. Considering that a language is a medium of instruction and learning, and communication is a vital tool of networking and connectivity, people brought up and raised in local languages when asked to work in a different language altogether results in jeopardising their efficacy, trust in the system and self-confidence. It alienates citizens from the state and society and the government.

Coexistence rather than breeding social monopolies will help us counter intolerance, social unrest and trust deficit as a society and nation. The fact that we fail to reach a national consensus on nearly anything, depicts our poor state of nationalism.

Unity is not having a uniformed syllabus, uniformed patterns of living or a similar outlook. The idea of unity is to be united where there is an equal space for exhibiting one’s individualism and multiplicity by various social groups. It is time to redefine unity by distinguishing between unity and uniformity.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2017.

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