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 The scope of studies, arguments and debates regarding ethnic groups and ethnic conflicts has been increasing since a very long time. Most of the world`s countries have heterogeneous societies:  out of 180 states only 20 are ethnically homogeneous (Brown 1993: 45). These heterogeneous societies comprise of different ethnic groups, which are divided on the basis of culture, history, religion, sect, race, and geographical identities. The term ‘ethnicity’ refers to relationships between groups whose members consider themselves distinct on the basis of their unique identities, which include culture, history, religion, sect, dress, and any other identity which they think is distinctive and unique. (Eriksen 1993: 06). This definition provides a range of factors which defines the term ethnicity; people who have the same culture, religion, language, sect, race or any other character which can bind them together constitute an ethnic group. The members of a certain ethnic group have strong identities, and they conceive themselves different from other groups. These strong identities of the group members often lead to conflict among different ethnic groups. Ethnic conflict can be defined as [Conflict] in which the goals of at least one conflict party are defined in (exclusively) ethnic terms, and in which the primary fault line of confrontation is one of ethnic distinctions” (Wolff 2006: 05). Ethnic conflicts adversely affect the law and order situation and become hurdle in the way of development, and may also pose a serious threat to the stability of a state. Therefore, countries with ethnic conflicts provide a deep cause of concern for their governments, who are facing serious problems to cope with them. It is important for a better and peaceful society that all the groups live peacefully and with harmony. Hence, in order to create such a society it is necessary to know the root causes of ethnic conflicts and, how to deal with multi-ethnic society and resolve these conflicts. The structure of government has a major role to play in both creating inter-ethnic harmony and in resolving ethnic conflicts. Every form of government has different policies to cope with ethnic problems, and hence; it is pertinent to know which form of government will be better for this purpose. Looking in to different forms of governments, democracy is a better form which suits to create inter-ethnic harmony and resolve ethnic conflicts. Democracy has many definitions but I’ll provide here the one that suits my area of discussion: “A form of government in which every citizen has equal rights and says in the decisions. Participation of people is the basic tool of it, which enables the people to influence any legislation or policy according to their interests” (Philips 1993: 27). This definition clearly indicates that in a democratic system every group of society gets equal rights and share in the decision making process. Hence, ethnic conflict is less likely to arise amongst two groups, as everyone is satisfied with their rights which serves as a downward force against conflict eruption. In this essay I will be focusing on the root causes of ethnic conflicts and will explain how democracy is better for creating inter-ethnicities peace and for resolving ethnic conflicts. I will be using Pakistan and India as two comparative studies for this purpose.
Research Methodology:
      I will be looking at some secondary sources to build my research on; these sources include books, magazines and articles. Secondary sources will enable me to base my arguments on and gain sufficient information regarding cases of ethnic violence, for the study of ethnic conflict is a wide field because of the sheer number of ethnic groups that exist, and hence would serve as a good way to provide me with a wide range of data on ethnic conflicts, which in other ways would not have been possible. The only problem that I see with secondary sources is that most of the articles and books themselves are written on the basis of others works, hence decreasing the credibility of the material as it changes further hands. My research is mostly based on qualitative research methods regarding different ethnic conflicts within Pakistan and India.
      Literature review:
             A lot of literature has been written about ethnicity, ethnic conflicts and strategies for resolving ethnic conflicts. According to Brown (1993), ethnic conflict is not a problem that will disappear but one that will continue to occur because ethnicity is something which is strongly related with one`s identity. Ethnic conflicts might not be vanished completely but it is most likely to minimize these conflicts to a certain optimal level. Ethnic conflicts mostly occur over resources, identity, patronage, political deprivation, economic disparities and other discriminative policies which tend to marginalize certain ethnic groups (Azam 1981, Brown 1993, Kennedy 1986, Majeed 2009, and Varshney 2001). When different groups in society are deprived of their due political, social and economic rights; ethnic groups switch to violence to seize their own rights. Political scholars have provided many different strategies which can help in either creating inter-ethnic harmony or ones that resolve ethnic conflicts more efficiently. According to Varshney (2001), ethnic conflicts can be decrease by promoting communication between members of different ethnic groups. Increasing contact amongst different ethnic groups leads to increased chances of peaceful negotiations between them. However; there is no clear agreement among the scholars upon a single strategy which can be devised and would enable the governments to create a better society with heterogeneous groups. Some scholars (Brown 1993 and Mann 1998) say that democracy is not better for resolving ethnic conflicts, rather it further promotes ethnic differences. According to Mann (1998), democracy is responsible for the ethnic conflicts because it has created “We” and “They”, the upper class which is ruling and the lower class which is ruled. Similarly; Brown (1993) says that in democratic government the scope of ethnic politics is dramatically increased because previously dominated ethnic groups may have resented their domination. The arguments of Mann and Brown are not convincing because as compared to democracy, other forms of government (authoritarian, military dictatorship) are much prone in creating the upper and lower class distinction on the basis of political power. Authoritarian governments reject the demands of the ethnic groups which leads to an expansion of ethnic cleavages. The presence or absence of ethnic crises in previous authoritarian regimes will affect the likelihood of serious ethnic problems faced by the new democratic government that replaced those authoritarian regimes (Isreal 1993). However, some scholars (Kennedy 1986, Majeed 2009, Tahir 1996, and Young 1998) emphasize on democratic form of government for resolving ethnic conflicts. As noted by Tahir (1996), there are two solutions for ethnic conflicts: economic prosperity and a democratic system which has the representation of all ethnic groups, which is why so far India has been good in managing because of its political system and its stable democratic credentials. Brown (1993) says that democracy is the best form of government for ethnic harmony if ethnicity is territorial based. Based on Brown’s arguments, democracy would be the best form of government for a country like Pakistan, where ethnic differences are largely territorial (Majeed 2009). Similarly,   Glazor (1976) emphasizes on coalition government as he says “an important explanation of the Indian system stability is its coalition of congress party which includes people from diverse groups of people” (Glazor 1976: 477). But, if one looks into the previous governments of Pakistan this argument seems to be not valid, as most of the time Pakistan had coalition governments, which did little to help in solving ethnic conflicts.  However; Ali (1987) is of the view that a single party with a majority is more likely to solve ethnic problems: A strong single party hold in a region is better in resolving ethnic conflicts” (Ali 1987: 78). One can argue that if a single party government has the majority of a certain ethnic group then it is most likely to discriminate against other ethnic groups, which would consequently lead to conflict between the ruling and the subordinate groups. Structurally ethnic groups are different in Pakistan and India; ethnic groups in Pakistan are mostly territorial, such as Punjabis, Pathans, Sindhis, Baluchis and Mujahirs (Kennedy 1986), while in India these groups are mainly religion based, like Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs (Eriksen 1993). The role of religion in ethnic differences is very important to know. Azam in his book ‘Political Aspects of National Integration’ (1981) says that group differences within Indian ethnic groups are based on secular aspects of social life and have nothing to do with religion. Azam`s idea of secularity clearly deviates from the fact because it`s religion which is playing an important role in ethnic conflicts and almost all of the ethnic conflicts in India are religion based conflicts, for instance; among Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. Ethnic groups have been differently defined in the constitutions of Pakistan and India. As noted by Azam (1981), the Indian constitution provides full protection to different groups that are based on race, religion, geographical location, history or culture. The most important point in the Indian constitution is the accommodation of ethno-linguistic and cultural communities, which have an important role to play in the national politics (Chadda 2002). Whereas in the case of Pakistan, the 1973 constitution does not mention ethnicity in the context of Pakistan`s political problems (Tahir 1996). Pakistan is an Islamic state and Islamic ideology stands for universal brotherhood, therefore the political elites did not consider pertinent to address ethnicities in the constitution (Tahir 1996). The mistaken idea of the Pakistani politicians that religion would bind different groups together led to serious problems of ethnic identities and conflicts, as noted by Jalalzai “religion could not prove a binding force amongst different ethnic groups” (Jalalzai 1993: 164). From the Shiia and Sunni sect conflict it becomes evident that religion has failed to keep heterogeneous groups in harmony. In summary, ethnic conflict is a complex phenomenon and one that needs to be addressed with proper attention, as there might be different solutions to it. However, democratic form of government is the best platform through which ethnic problems can be largely dealt with. In the following paragraph I will be discussing the root causes of ethnic conflicts in India and Pakistan and will try to figure out which type of democracy is good for resolving ethnic conflicts. 
    Relationship amongst different ethnic groups is the main factor in staging a conflict: a cooperation based relationship will lead to a better society, whereas a relationship based on inequality leads to conflict. In order to have peace between ethnic groups it is very important that they have cooperation with each other and one way to do that is to promote links between ethnicities. Ashutosh Varshney gives a general formula for inter-ethnicities links: K = N (N–1)/2 (Varshney 2001: page). In this formula “N” is for the number of people in a society and “K” is the number of links which are needed if everyone in the society has to connect. According to this formula the number of links increases more rapidly as compared to the increase in the number of people; this means that as the population increase more links between ethnic groups are needed to keep the cooperation. Ethnic groups will live peacefully as far as there is equality among the groups and each group has the same rights: equal political, social and economic rights. As noted by Ashutosh Varshney there are likely to be conflicts over resources, identity, patronage, and policies(Varshney 2001: 366). The peaceful relationship between ethnic groups can change into a conflict if one of the ethnic groups does not get its due rights. Deprived groups in the society feel alienated hence, these groups go into conflict with the exploiter group.     
Like many other countries, Pakistan and India too have been experiencing ethnic conflicts since long. The nature of ethnic conflicts is different in both of these two countries. Indian ethnic groups are mostly divided on the basis of religious identity” (Eriksen 1993: 83). Religiously, India is a very heterogeneous country, in the total of 1028 million population 80 percent are Hindus, 13.4 percent are Muslims, 2.3 percent are Christians, 1.9 percent are Sikhs and 2 percent are other religious groups (2011 Indian census) . The constitution of India clearly provides concessions to minority groups: article 29(1) of the constitution says “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India…having a distinct language, script, or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same” (Tahir 1996: 211). This indicates that India has provided a distinct status to all ethnic groups. Ethnic conflicts in India are restricted to some certain regions as noted by Varshney ethnic violence tends to be highly concentrated locally or regionally, not spread evenly geographically across the length and breadth of the country” (Varshney 2001: 392). Therefore, in the case of India Punjab, Assam, Bihar, Mumbai, Uthar pardesh, and Gujrat are largely the regions of ethnic conflicts amongst Hindus and Muslims or Sikhs (Tahir 1996: 211). The Khalistan movement started by the Sikhs to have Punjab as a separate state for the Sikhs was very well handled by the Indian government. In the Khalistan movement, Sikhs asserted to get economic prosperity and political autonomy of their religious community (Tahir 1996: 134). The Khalistan movement was started despite the fact that in 1966 Indian government created Punjab as a separate state with Punjabi as the state language (Tahir 1996: 135). The Indian government had to response to those demands of the Sikhs and hence, the government started economic welfare projects which led to the economic prosperity of the whole Punjab: “the average per capita GDP for the Indian states was Rs.1334; that of Punjab was nearly twice as great’ (Tahir 1996: 135).  The Khalistan movement lost much of its momentum as the government efficiently reacted to the demands of the people. The Indian National Congress, which is the biggest political party in India, supported cultural pluralism, which is the main source of its success in India (Young 1998: 45). The notion that India has been better in resolving in ethnic conflicts has the basis on the fact that India has the democratic political system, which is as I mentioned earlier A form of government in which every citizen has equal rights and says in the decisions. Participation of people is the basic tool of it, which enables the people to influence any legislation or policy according to their interests (Philips 1993: 27). In democracy governments are bound to respond to the demands of every group of people as all the people have a say in democratic government. India has followed a good democracy since its birth in 1947 and it has aimed its policies at helping the socially, politically and economically disadvantaged (Young 1998: 199). Some scholars termed India as the best democratic country which is good at  solving marginalized groups problems, as noted by Rita Jalali “probably nowhere else in the world was so large lower-class minority granted so much favorable treatment by a government as were the depressed classes of India” (Jalali 1993: 113). Indian carried out many pro-minorities policies which aimed at improving social, political and economic status of those groups. According to Dunn “A danger in group based politics is that status differences within the group may not be addressed but in the case of India the government designed such policies which were directly helping the minority group; like, land transfers, scholarships for the students of minority groups and providing hosing, loans and grants” (Dunn 1993: 64).
Pakistan too is composed of several ethnic groups which are language and territorial based: Punjabis 54%, sindhis 23%, Baluchis 5%, and Pashtoons 13%. All of these groups are divided on the basis of language and geographical settlement (Pakistan Ministry of Population). A fifth group, which is called Muhajir (migrant), is made up of those people who migrated to Pakistan after the partition in 1947. From the very beginning, Pakistan has failed to address the issues of its ethnic groups, which was one reason for the separation of East Pakistan after 24 years of its birth. The constitution of Pakistan did not address the problems of different ethnic groups, as noted by Tahir “the constitutions of 1956 and 1962 did not reflect the desires of all the regions while the constitution of 1973 failed to ensure provincial autonomy and national integration” (Tahir 1996: 213). In the case of Pakistan most of the ethnic conflicts are regional based: between Punjabis, Pathans, Sindhis, Muhajirs, and Baluchis. The main issue factors of these ethnic conflicts are the disparities of ethnic groups: political, economic and social disparities. As noted by Hamza Alvi “the bureaucracy and military in Pakistan historically have been disproportionately dominated by Punjabis” (Alvi 1987: 23). The under-representation of Sindhis, Balochis, and Pashtoons in military and bureaucracy is creating a sense of alienation in those groups; this in turn is a providing ground for conflict between these groups. Along with this, another important factor for the widening gap between ethnic groups is the military dictatorships which further worsen the ethnic cleavages. The military dictators press the demands of ethnic groups, which might cause problems for their government. As noted by Majeed “The era of Ayub Khan (1958-1969) especially harbored an ethnic bias. In this era twenty two families controlled two-third of Pakistan’s industries assets, 80% of banking and 70% of insurance companies, majority of them were from West Pakistan” (Majeed 2009: 56 ). Ethnic cleavages reached to further height in Zia`s regime, who perceived such policies which made the ethnic conflict situation worsen. Islamization of Zia gave birth to sectorial violence between Shias and Sunnis, as noted by Zahab “Zia`s implementation of Islamic law greatly changed relations between Sunni and Shia, Zia used religion to acquire domestic legitimacy and counter Shia dissent which implied economic and political patronage to Sunni extremists” (Zahab, 1997: 01). Implementing policies which widen the gap between ethnic groups adversely affected Pakistani society. According Waseem “Zia`s quest for legitimacy through a vehement program of Islamizing laws, institutions, economic politics, moral and manners, as well as education, led to sunnification, disturbing every minority” (Waseem 2010: 24 ). Hence; it was mostly because of military dictator that gap between ethnic groups became wider over the years.
      In conclusion, ethnic groups are based on strong identities of culture, history, religion or sect. Conflicts between ethnic groups are more likely to emerge if there is an imbalance in status and rights. Most of the countries are heterogeneous and have more than one ethnic group. In the same way India and Pakistan are also heterogeneous countries and both the countries have been facing ethnic conflicts since their birth. However, after comparing the strategies of both countries for creating inter-ethnicities harmony or resolving ethnic conflicts, it becomes evident that as compared to Pakistan, India has been much better in handling different ethnic groups. An obvious reason for this is the democratic system of India which has been prevailed since 1947. In democracy every group is permitted to foster their culture, religion and territorial identities. A negotiation is an important element in democracy and one that can be used to resolve ethnic conflicts. Also, democratic government provides equal rights to everyone which ultimately leads to ethnic groups’ harmony. Similarly; in the case of Pakistan, democracy has never been flourished, rather it had more than two decades military rule which led to the worsening of the relationship amongst various ethnic groups. A military government rejects changes and demands of people which leads to an expansion of ethnic cleavages. Hence, it is safe to say that inter-ethnic harmony and conflict resolution is most likely to occur in a democratic form of government.

Written By: Masood Khan ( LUMS )

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