“Keh Hum Ek Ho Jaein”
Pakistan’s social and political landscape always subsisted a dispute resting on ethnicity and identity conflicts. Balochistan, one of the most persistent subject to underdevelopment, could be considered as a residence of such clashes. In the last week of June 2020, protests stirred in major cities of Balochistan demanding identification and abolition of bogus domiciles and their holders to be removed from official posts. The campaign began in 2018 when DC Mastung issued notices to officials asking them to verify their domiciles. In the first week of July 2020, DC canceled 400 domiciles on the charge of being bogus. A trend emerged on twitter “#BalochistanRejectsBogusDomiciles” and posed the disservice of the state towards indigenous people residing in Balochistan. Conflicts on the documents that are identity markers are nothing new but the developments followed by this are unfortunate.
Intricacies of identity in periphery land, with historic demographic significance as well, draws its roots to colonial genealogy. Complexity and trouble in this regard dates back to times when Baloch and Pashtun consciousness of their ethnic, linguistic, and cultural distinctiveness stood firm against the British Raj. This entire idea resorts to the fact that ethnic coalitions in contrast with the antagonism held by them towards each other, in Pakistan, encloses one of the chronic grievances of marginalized Balochistan. Every single practice carried out in the entire process of identity markings is reminiscent of the colonial past.
After partition 1947, Premiers of nascent states signed an agreement named “The Citizenship Act 1950” according to which domiciles were to be allotted to people migrating from India while a local certificate to the people already residing in a particular area. In the case of Balochistan, this law is still in effect and domicile is allotted to people who do not belong to the ancient Baloch, Pashtun, or Hazara tribes and are called “settlers” while a local certificate is issued to the people belonging to majority ethnic tribes called “locals”. These certificates, however, certify that the person belongs to the province and would be eligible for any government job vacancy and university admission on a provincial quota basis. Certificates are issued by DC’s, a post remnant of the colonial period in itself. The problem originates when bogus and fake documents are forged and domiciles are issued to the people living outside Balochistan that gets them appointed at administration posts in federal and other provinces.
An example of this being the many Afghan refugees residing in various parts of the country having these forged documents that paved their way to business, educational and other opportunities without a check on who they actually are, due to lack of a proper mechanism. This practice even made the Quota System 1973, which aimed to eradicate dispute of unequal representations, problematic because people from other provinces easily get the certificate issued since there is no proper mechanism that regulates it but simply a DC issues it, which is then used to get jobs and deserving indigenous people of Balochistan are deprived of their due rights. Owing to the menace of these forged domicile certificates indigenous residents are becoming a minority in their own province.
Now, how this works in sustaining the ethnic divisions and conflicts and British Divide and Rule policy, either on religious or ethnic basis, is what matters. Khan Attaullah Khan, one of the most important political leaders in the Pashtun history, was skeptical of Muslim League’s inefficiencies and emphasis on religious differences. His opposition to British Raj relied on his idea of Pashtun individuality and wanted to maintain this essence. The decision of annexation with Pakistan was on the basis of religion but democracy was his demand along with the rights and individuality of his people to be acknowledged and preserved. This issue of domicile and local certificates, in the current scenario, has caused an eruption of suffering. Consequently, Punjabi and Pashtun hostility surfaced.
Balochistan is weakest in terms of political and economic infrastructure. The war for provincial autonomy and eradication of exploitative Punjabi hegemonic forces based outside the province is in series for several decades. States negligence has enhanced the underdevelopment. Unity, which is considered a raison d’etre for harmonious sustenance of a democratic state, is troubled since democracy never fully thrived in this state. Ethnicity becomes a potent force when united with the economic aspect and when a dispute like this arises it is fated to enhance the traumatic spell already cast by colonialism.
The case here is that an issue like this could be considered a minor one in contrast to the grievances, injustices that have been done to people of Balochistan on ethnic grounds but this seems more of an extension of economic exploitation. Punjabi hegemony was a recognized issue of Baloch and Pashtuns even during the colonial period. Now, when people who are residents of Dera Ghazi Khan and Taunsa, who are Saraiki by ethnicity, get domicile from Loralai and capitalize on the deserving by enjoying opportunities as both Saraiki and Baloch. “Saraiki-Baloch’s” residing in these areas have been demanding annexation with Balochistan on ethnic grounds since they were separated when One Unit ended. Gravity of complexities is enhanced further by constant negligence of state. The sense of anger and animosity developed among people is inevitable. However, the state doesn’t pay heed to issue. Neither the central nor provincial government does any legislation to bring an end to this injustice. What makes them hesitate, appears somehow, to be a fragile democracy. Pakistan’s authoritarian state devoid of democratic values overlooks such matters as minor conflicts ignoring outcomes leading to grave consequences. Political feuds and the absence of financial resources are an addition to it.
Pakistan is already an ethnically diverse but unfortunately, split country. Identity crisis in this scenario when economic injustices are already in tradition could be deadly. The state needs to address the issue to put an end to this colonial trauma imposed on the people of Pakistan. A way could be the abolishment of the entire concept of domicile and local certificates. A National Identity Card regulated by NADRA through a computerized system or PRC issued to eligible people could help. This could also assist in the distinction between Afghan refugees and their rights adequately. Exploitation of people on the basis of ethnicity is quite undemocratic. Federal and provincial assemblies should carry out the necessary legislation to shut down the exploitation of indigenous groups through the influence of power for monetary gains. The rendered quota of Balochistan in federal should be protected.
Colonialism has left Pakistan and its provinces with a strange and extremely intricate mindset, especially in terms of ethnic identities and unfortunately, it never overcame it but the state should formulate a policy to address such issues on an immediate basis because only democratic solution of this issue could decrease the tensions in ethnic communities which is inevitable to develop a sense of equality