Tribalism in Pakistan

Tribalism is the state of being organised for tribes and tribal lifestyle. It is an attitude that relies on loyalty to one’s group, caste, creed and colour. It divides people as the other, leading to conflicts and disputes. One of the worst massacres in modern history is of the Rohingya in Burma, by the Burmese military, which is continuing till date. More than a million Rohingyan Muslims have lost their lives.

In Pakistan, the hold of tribal values is strong, to an extent people violate rule of the country and prioritise their own norms, and laws. In most cases, the value system is oppressive towards its women, and substandard in nature. The rigidity in attitudes and actions is defended through the village elders, who want to retain control over the entire society.

In our country, major political parties also manifest a type of tribalism, where the interest of one family, or person is prioritised to the wellbeing and interests of the rest of the country. Regardless of their blunders, they receive blind support by their followers. Tribal politics and its dire impact on people can be observed in the conditions of Karachi. There was a time in Karachi when no one was safe. Mafia control was at a record time high. The Bhatta system was prevalent, and no one could do anything about it. I had a chance to interview a few of the followers of Altaf Hussain in 2017, and for them, the latter’s identity: mohajir was enough to garner their support.


Such a mindset divides the nation into “us vs them”. Many members of my family also migrated at the time of independence. They moved to Pakistan and became Pakistanis. For them, the title of mohajir is no longer applicable, since they consider themselves Pakistani. Tribalism excludes individuals and takes them away from their rights, independence and opportunities. Furthermore, social media has made it easier to propagate tribal ideologies, making it easier to engage young minds, and distort their logical approach. The need for Pakistan is to infuse a sense of one nation among all and sundry. It is time to respect nationality instead of respecting emotions. Merit based opportunities in schools, colleges and workplaces can help people escape the fetters of tribalism. 




By Amna Sheikh


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