An essential problem hindering Pakistan’s progress is the lack of protection of ethnic minorities like Balochis which tears at the very fabric of the national identity. While many lament that Pakistan’s downfall is an anomaly of history, they do not realize that the United States was in a far worst position after the end of the Civil War, a war that fractured the nation into two warring factions. However, at the end of the bloody conflict, the United States passed constitutional amendments to ban slavery and prohibit discrimination against minorities. Similarly, Pakistan requires fundamental laws that end feudalism and prohibit ethnic discrimination through a judiciary and executive branch that is willing to execute such a plan.
The first parallel one can draw between America’s Civil War and Pakistan’s War on Terror is that both nations dealt with radical anti-state militants who challenged the writ of the Union or Federation. During the American Civil War, the Southern states wished to secede from the United States because they feared that slavery, which they believed was central to their way of life, would be abolished. Similarly, groups like the Tehrik-e-Taliban challenge the writ of a secular democratic state because it offends their way of life which is connected to a medieval concept of Islamic rule or socialism for Balochi nationalists.
However, beyond the similarities of a subversively violent enemy within, there exists a common conflict at the center of both anti-state movements: the legal rights of minorities. African-Americans were exploited as sub-humans through slavery and the Northern states fought to allow them rights as common men. While no such pattern exists in Pakistan, the government’s acceptance of oppressive feudalism imposed on ethnic minorities, like Sindhis, fosters an environment for the growth of anti-state groups. This feudalism is perhaps far less brutal than the slavery inflicted on African-Americans. Yet, modern international treaties and the U.N. Commission on Human Rights include feudalism in the definition of slavery.
The United States realized the difficulties presented in abolishing slavery, because it was a practice so normal and central to the life of Southern States, much like the landholders in areas like Sindh and Balochistan who believe they can exploit indefinitely. However, by passing the 13th Amendment during the Reconstruction period following the War, the United States slowly realized the significance of protecting minorities as a means to long-term national stability.
The same must occur in Pakistan wherein an amendment should be passed to outlaw feudalism in all forms. However, the preservation of minority rights can only come when there is a functioning executive and vigilant judiciary, which took generations to develop in the United States. Further, it will require Parliament to create ordinances for land reform on a large-scale level- a phenomena which is long overdue in the budding democratic nation.
However, the end of slavery was not enough for the leaders of the Reconstruction era in American history who envisioned that the newly freed slaves would be discriminated against, and thus passed the 14th Amendment to eliminate discrimination based on race. This amendment was subsequently utilized by minorities who requested the court to correct injustices incurred on them by either the federal or state government. The issues decided by the court concerned civil rights and the court actively prohibited discrimination in schools, housing, employment, etc. Had these amendments not taken place, racists would have been able to continue the second-class treatment of minorities and perhaps these minorities would have taken arms against the state.
This is exactly what is playing out across the tribal region through Balochistan where minorities whose rights have been violated or ignored by the state are joining with anti-state forces. The continual exploitation and non-inclusion of the ethnic minorities by the central government have been the central turning point for many Pakthuns and Balochis to join militant movements that challenge the state.
Without a legal recourse to be able to assert their rights, these infringed minorities will continue to join militant groups that limit Pakistan’s security and more importantly, its ability to create a national consensus to move the nation forward. The passage of a minority-protection amendment will allow for those who have been ignored by the government to petition the courts to pursue equal rights to housing, education, employment, and property. The amendment should be broad enough to include a prohibition on nepotistic dominance by Punjabis in both civilian government and the Army. This amendment would protect minorities to reconstruct the nation with the inclusion of those groups who currently challenge the very existence of the state through violence.
As the world continues to watch Pakistan seemingly crumble upon itself, one should not focus on the symptoms of the disease, the rise of the anti-state groups, but rather the root cause, ethnic discrimination. Anti-state militants have gained their greatest foothold in areas populated by ethnic minorities who have treated as second-class citizens by the leadership in Islamabad. Much like the United States during its Reconstruction period after the Civil War, Pakistan faces a crossroad. Steps can be taken to end feudalism and ethnic discrimination. Otherwise, the nation can fall further into a tailspin with increasing dissidence and violence toward the state.