At a jewelers shop in Liberty – one of the popular markets in Lahore – a customer and the shopkeeper were engaged in a futile argument. The reason being, the customer had asked the shopkeeper if the gemstone was of original quality from Sri Lanka, as she wanted to ensure she wasn’t purchasing a fake item. To her questioning, the Pashtun shop-keeper took a serious offense and replied, “We are not Punjabis; we don’t lie. Telling lies is the inherent birthmark of Punjabis.”

The woman confronted him for his indignant remark and what he meant by suggesting the above. To this, he began glorifying a few popular figures of his clan and resorted to coining witty answers and comebacks to the customer.

His statements were brash and tinged with unapologetic righteousness.

The shopkeeper went on to express how much anguish it had caused him when he was stopped and interrogated by the police and given a small card stamped by a local police station. They said this is your passport to remain here, keep this with you at all times.

He stretched and twisted the issue, making a mountain out of a molehill. The woman carried on with her rhetoric in a manner similar to his, throwing comebacks at him with certitude; naming Punjabi scholars, artists, and political leaders who had contributed towards the betterment of Pakistan. 

Ethnic barriers, supremacist ideologies are further segregating the internal fabric of our society which is already multi-layered.  Ethnic groups have left no stone unturned to proliferate ideas by blowing the flute of bigotry and prejudice; by weaving the two together to form layers of superficial differences.

At crucial times when we should be in search of common grounds to stand upon for the sake of peace and sanity of this country, we prefer to boast out loud the idiosyncrasies that divide us.

I am unable to comprehend why certain ‘right wingers’ are so outraged by the execution of policies that the American president, Trump’s regime has enforced towards specific Muslim countries and why they oppose his discriminatory strategies when those elements are already an embodiment in our own fragmented country. The recent contention arising in the wake of racial profiling caused a huge outcry – especially on social media- amongst persons of Pashtun origin.

Making a mockery out of their bruised sentiments will only ignite further disharmony and worsen the situation by adding more fuel to already blazing fires.

The controversy of racial profiling deemed to jeopardize the rights and civil liberties of a specific ethnic group – the Pashtuns – who were held accountable for terrorism acts, without any investigation or entitlement to due process of law, whatsoever.

It's ironic how we refuse to judge ourselves along the same parameters when we hold prejudices based on physical features, racial profiling, and stigmatize an entire diaspora residing here, yet on the other side, we are aggravated by any similar stance the Trump regime opts to legitimize.

Cultural differences despite the progression of time still are ailing us; time has not eliminated the divide between human creeds.

Why should a particular ethnicity/race be considered any less human, less of a creature than the rest? Are we all not divine beings, the offspring of Adam and Eve? Despite being in the midst of the 21st century we are still trying to win a battle of which among us is of superior race/ethnicity/owns the supreme religious scriptures.  Certain things we stand for, and believe in, with passion bring out undeterred enthusiasm in us and we succumb in a deep clouded well, wherein, floats the pretext of a false sense of pride, that is justified by maligning another’s race.

This could be the most powerful weapon to destroy us internally, as at the very core it pulls on vulnerable strings; they touch the wrong chords, the wrong keys, forming a rhythm of chaos, and madness. I term it as the ‘racial strings.’

It produces a similar sound to that of an aching violin, which is not in tune; one that is screaming in agony when played in the hands of an amateur artist. And the sound exuded, is one of screeching echoes that are deplorable and excruciating to be heard by the ears.

Nothing conducive to social integration can be attained from indulging in such baseless arguments and accusations. People do not bother to question what is right and wrong, how they have fathomed these implausible ideas which are actually a result of cultural insemination, and indoctrination. Moreover, they are a byproduct of governing tactics that are fostered and instilled in us.

Why are ethnic groups adamant that their beliefs are more prestigious than those of the rest; as though their beliefs were carved in stone, and thus finger pointing, hate mongering, and insanely out of line judgments begin to envelop us in a vicious cycle that ceases to come to an end. This cannot be taken lightly and there is need to strictly curb such tendencies.

Were these indoctrinations injected by our ethnic ancestors and our cultural traits open for discussion? In midst of current hostile scenario, presumably, it’s unlikely.

Why do ethnic groups set themselves apart, to pursue their distinctive identities and interests and agendas? The news targeting Afghani’s on the sole basis of suspicion has reopened a Pandora’s Box full of rotten worms, out into the open.

Will such a state, brewing with hostility become a norm? I wish to revel in the idea that we are Pakistanis first and foremost. Insulting a race, ethnic background, whether Balochi, Punjabi, Sindhi, Seiraki or the rest, should be condemned, since all are an essential part of this land. The ‘hypocrisy of rights of humans’ should not become a trademark we are be defined by.

Our current plight to a certain extent has slight resonance with the Apartheid movement during which the white supremacy prevalent in South Africa – 1948 to 1991- that was opposed by Nelson Mandela, resulting in the biggest mass movement and protests initiated in the last century.

Pakistan is a diverse land, in terms of cultural, religious, and racial aspects and ‘identity politics’ cannot be operated within its boundaries.

Six million Jewish people were ethnically cleansed and wiped out during the Holocaust because they were deemed an inferior race.  Africans were bought and sold into slavery, shunned and oppressed because they were considered an inferior race that should be subjected to the gallows of torture.

Is ancient history not where one looks in times of turmoil to reflect and learn from past mistakes?

Or maybe the Japanese could serve as the right example to be scribed here. I am still learning from the tales narrated, jotted down, passed on to us throughout the history of mankind’s rivalries on earth. From the pre-Islamic era when clashes amongst various tribes grew to extremes, to the British colonialism, from the horrendous aftermath of 9/11 catastrophe that resulted in the stereotyping of a whole population of Muslims based on their religious faith.

Wait a minute, perhaps we could turn our heads to the left, and glance towards Bangladesh that was once a part of us, but sadly, parted from us on not so good terms.

Maybe history has nothing left in it. Nevertheless, we restlessly turn to it, we cite the greatest men of ancient times; the torch-bearers who laid the foundations of Greek philosophy, without bidding adieu to its profound knowledge, as it’s deemed to be an epitome and turning point of the evolution of human intellectual thought. We carry on quoting ancient scholars, reliving the gravest battles that were fought throughout the east and the west, from those erupting from shores of the Ottoman Empire to the one’s resulting in the French/American revolution.

Even though history may be an embodiment of suffering, its pages bleak and full of human sacrifice, wherein waging crusades of political nature and holy wars undermine the ruthless slaughter of innocents, and epitomize the glittery crowns carried from one emperor to another. Leafs of history transmitted across time immemorial are not mere pages but are pages covered in crimson color’- of heart-wrenching tales. Some tales consist of sacrifices, and at the other end of its spectrum are fables of power and victory.