Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ethnic Conflicts

A Research by Fahad Jawed

An ethnic conflict or ethnic war is a war between ethnic groups often as a result of ethnic nationalism. This can be due to any particular reason such as the lack of resources. They are of attention because of the obvious occurrence since the Cold War and because they often result in war crimes such as genocide. Intellectual debate has also focused around the issue of whether ethnic conflict has become more prevalent since the end of the Cold War, and on devising ways of managing conflicts, through instruments such as consociationalism and federalization.

Anthropologist Charly Gabriel Mbock cautions that there is more to ethnic conflict than meets the eye. He says:

"Most of the so-called ethnic conflicts are the consequences of poorly-studied and poorly-resolved social problems. The conflicts, before they are called ethnic, are initially -- and remain essentially -- social.”

According to him the seeds of ethnic conflicts are not ethnic but social.


To get my findings I questioned a lot of people and gave questionnaire to IBA students. I also personally interviewed people to get their finding about the current ethnic situation in Karachi.


1. To which ethnic group do you belong?

2. Do you think that ethnic hostility is present in Karachi?

3. If the answer is yes then the groups which are involved in this ethnic hostility?

4. To what lengths will they go in this ethnic hostility?

5. Who do you think started it?

6. When did it start?

7. What do you think might be the reasons to this ethnic conflict?

The questionnaires were extended to 30 people and interviews were carried about through personal exchange of questions and view points. Also I did a research with the help of the internet and the newspaper to get a through background about the roots of ethnic violence.


The findings, as expected, were varied and the various ethnic groups had suppressed hostilities towards other ethnic groups. They were also hesitant to admit the fact that their group was indeed involved in any kind of ethnic violence. The participants were quick to regard the other group as the one involved in any kind of violence.

The people had come from various ethnic groups such as the Mohajirs, Pathans, biharis etc.

Everybody from the participant agreed that there were indeed ethnic conflicts among different group members especially in Karachi which is inhabited by different ethnic groups.

As mentioned above almost all the participants said their group was not involved in any kind of ethnic conflict but most of the participant who were not Mohajirs and Pathans said that the majority of the ethnic conflicts were between Pathans and Mohajirs.

This question received the most controversial answer. Many people were of the view that the groups could go to any length to win this contest and would resort to violent conflicts.

Most of the people had a divided view on this. Some said the pathans and the rest termed the Mohajirs as the culprit.

Most people were of the view that this immediately started after independence.

The people cited many reasons such as the will to dominate one another, lack of housing and lack of resources in Karachi. Many people also called the government’s inability to distribute the nation’s wealth.


The data suggests that there are definitely ethnic differences and hatred present deep in Karachi’s society but the data also suggest people are reluctant to admit that they have ethnic hatred present in them by the fact that they do not believe that their groups are the one involved in any kind of hatred or ethnic conflict.

Many people were of the view that the rift actually existed between the Mohajirs and the pathans. They were not the original inhabitants of this city but migrated as the city grew. Some analyst put the growth of Karachi as 432% which is the highest record for a city to grow ever in history. With such tremendous development it was naturally expected that there was a wave of immigrants which diversified the already present population of the city. Therefore it was natural that the city experienced tremendous pressure on its meager resources

The kind of thinking prevalent is that the groups can go to any lengths in ethnic violence. The operation conducted in 1991 was specifically against this ethnic violence which led to thousands of people killed. Ethnic violence has its roots deep in Karachi. The rift started when the respective groups tried to dominate each other and establish their stronghold. This had already started after independence and continued to grow.

Due to limited resources and the high generation of revenue many groups tried to dominate the economic hub. Presently the transport industry is dominated by the pathans. On the other hand major industrial areas are dominated by the Mohajirs.

These has always been a source of confrontation to the rival groups and as the respose was these groups indeed have gone to many lengths to out smart each other. In the 1980’s these hostilities reached its extreme when there were gun battles between the various groups. The operation conducted in 1991 was specifically against this ethnic violence which led to thousands of people were killed.


It is imperative to realize that the bases of ethnic conflicts are no different in Karachi than they are in London or Lagos. Hatred, deprivation, dissatisfaction and greed are some of the universal seeds of conflict and violence that lie dormant to varying degrees in all human beings everywhere and throughout history. No person or a city or a country can claim that it has no ethnic violence. What, however does differ is the level of discipline a person or a society has. Personal actions depend on education and inheritance; social interaction is based on the level of civilization attained by a society. In primitive societies like Pakistan, practices like karo-kari and blood feuds go largely unpunished, but in more evolved ones, they are neither tolerated nor condoned. Therefore while the seeds of ethnic conflict In Karachi’s case, hospitable factors have been provided by neglect, bad governance and prejudice, to name only three.

However, the dimensions of the Karachi conflict go far beyond the MQM or any other political party. Eventually the struggle is only on the wealth of the country’s economic hub. Almost every minority thinks that it has not been given its proper share. Irrespective of the statistics, this perception has gained so much currency over the years that it is taken for granted in all the minority provinces. In a sense, the Mohajirs of urban Sindh have a sense of double deprivation: on the one hand they feel they have been marginalized at the national level; on the other they think they are getting a raw deal in Sindh in terms of government jobs and college admissions.

An element fuelling the Mohajir’s sense of deprivation and frustration is of a cultural and psychological dimension. Today there are Mohajir activist just around in their teens. How on earth can they remember their ancestral house but have been fed on the steady information that there were good days back then. This is expected immigrant psychology except for the fact that often these people get absorbed by the community through marriages but in this case this was not possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment