Unprogressive mindsets of the masses and intolerance for social diversity: a development challenge for Pakistan
Just as Pakistan’s economy is grappling with the limited natural resources, the social structure is also struggling with the issue of intolerance. The coreissue is the lack of meaningful education leading to lack of tolerance resulting in extremism in every sphere of life. Pakistan’s population is highly driven by religion, also being an extremely patriarchal society, the true value of religion has been lost in the cultural norms and the teachings of religion have been manipulated.
Pakistan is a country rich in diversity, it is home to people from different religions. Yet, it is dominated by Islamic extremists, who fail to accept that every person has equal rights, regardless of gender, colour, creed, cast, religion, and ethnicity. The people of Pakistan are divided in the name of provinces, religion and status quo as well. They have strong ethnic attachments and are intolerable towards diversity of culture. According to Max Weber’s Modernization Theory, every country needs to go through a process of modernization in order to achieve development. Pakistani society is highly critical of the modernization process which it believes interferes with the country’s traditions and cultural practices. The critics of modernization theory may be right in their own context but it will not be wrong to say that the unprogressive attitude of the Pakistani society is the greatest hindrance to the process of development in the country. There is a clear-cut division of liberals and extremists in the country. This duality in the society hampers all sorts of growth processes; economic and social. The characteristics of the society decide the future of the State. An important question that arises here is that, where does culture appreciation stop and culture appropriation begin?
The feeling of a nation needs to be engraved in the individuals, and openness of culture should be embraced as a norm of life because nothing can remain constant, every living thing needs to go through the process of change
Where the world is said to be in a transition phase, moving towards a post-modern society, Pakistan is still questioning the pros and cons of modernization and development. In this new millennium, creating the capacity to deal effectively with this development challenge and other conditions associated with the dual processes of under and over development stands as one of the greatest challenges for those who profess a commitment to modernism’s promise of ‘progress’ with respect to improving human well-being. The first and foremost step is to enlarge the thinking capacity of the population, which can only be possibly done by the right kind of education. This is the failure of the state and its institutions that have failed to tackle the problem of unprogressive mind sets of the masses by providing quality education and creating enough jobs to utilize the youth in order to make them productive and keep them away from extremist ideologies and activities.
Pakistan needs to go through the social change process for development in its true essence. Most importantly, the society needs to open itself towards change, and give up the cultural norms which keep the society backward, restricted and restrained. We are living in the era of globalization, where anything in one country effects millions in the other country, state boundaries have been blurred in this neoliberal system. Freedom is everything, most superior of which is the freedom of thought and choice. Our society needs to treat men and women as equals and stop curbing women by making them economically self-sufficient, this not only is beneficial at the micro level for the household but equally beneficial at the macro level for the country as a whole.
The country faces an unequal distribution of wealth, which is another cause of growing intolerance among the masses. The problems that Pakistan is confronted with arise from fundamental socioeconomic and class inequalities which have allowed the ruling classes to espouse, promote and encourage orthodox, rigid and fundamentalist versions of religion, as opposed to the more tolerant, peaceful ones that the dispossessed classes reflect.The local bodies system from Article 140 of the constitution states that power should be transferred to the lower levels of government. When this transition finally occurs, it will improve the condition of the public as well. So, it is extremely important that the government provides mechanisms for indulging the youth bulge as well as the structurally unemployed into the employment cycle.
The time has come to support the long overdue goal of a ‘Naya Pakistan’ in which people from all walks of life can play a dynamic and meaningful role in national life. Naya Pakistan needs new, reformed, modern, progressive approach and mentality of the majority of the population, which is open towards development and social change.
A serious revamping of socio-economic structures of the country is required. Policies that are comprehensive and well-planned as well as sustainable and have long term objectives are seriously needed in this time without any doubt. Quality education plays the most important role in creating tolerance and acceptance for diversity. There is need for changes in the educational system, it should be made uniform across the board and teachings of peace and acceptance for heterogeneity of population should be promoted through education. By meaningful education Pakistanis can rethink their identity and look at themselves as “Pakistanis”, instead of being divided in the name of religion or region. The feeling of a nation needs to be engraved in the individuals, and openness of culture should be embraced as a norm of life because nothing can remain constant, every living thing needs to go through the process of change.
Education, without doubt will play the most important role in reconstructing the social structures. But there are other factors which cause intolerance in the society mainly because of income disparity which need to be tackled with institutional changes.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.