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March 15, 2019

‘No harm in a single person’s multiple identities’

Karachi

March 15, 2019

There is no harm in a single person having multiple identities, such as ethnic, religious, sectarian and professional identities. But when certain groups are excluded economically or politically, they can resort to achieve a singular identity, which can lead to identity politics and even conflict.

These thoughts were expressed at a two-day discussion on “Coexistence with Multiple Identities”, organised by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), with a select group of experts, academics, lawyers and social scientists from Balochistan and Sindh. PIPS Director Muhammad Amir Rana moderated the sessions.

Journalist Wusutullah Khan likened identity to an onion, in which the topmost layer is of personal identity, the next layer pertains to faith, ethnicity, the other to national, then global, and so on. “It is up to us which identities we strengthen and which we ignore,” he said.

Renowned scholar Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed said that every individual had different identities, such as ethnic, religious, sectarian, but they were not contradictory and could exist at the same time.

It is only when some people feel excluded economically that identity comes to the fore. Specifically, when a state does not bestow rights upon some people, a feeling of discrimination will make way, he said, adding that in this case, a person from the excluded group will start wondering if he is excluded because of what his ethnicity, religion or mother language is. Only then are identities used to advance one’s goals. Participants shared how in different circumstances their different identities came to the front, agreeing to the observation that context was the key.

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