In Pakistan, structural oppression describes how the nation's political, economic, and social systems combine to marginalize and discriminate against particular groups of people. This encompasses people and groups based on their race, religion, social class, gender, sexual orientation, and other traits. The repercussions of structural oppression can be observed in areas including education, work, housing, health, and the criminal justice system and are felt by Pakistani citizens daily.
Economic marginalization is one of the main ways that structural oppression influences people's daily lives in Pakistan. This involves a lack of access to essential services like healthcare and education, poverty, and unemployment. For instance, the naturally resource-rich region of Balochistan is home to a sizable Baloch population who live in poverty and lack access to necessities like healthcare and education.
Discrimination and violence are two additional ways that structural oppression impacts the lives of individuals in Pakistan daily. This includes extrajudicial assassinations, forced disappearances, religious and sectarian violence, and many other forms. For instance, sectarian violence has chiefly targeted the Hazara population, a sizeable minority in Pakistan, resulting in thousands of Hazara deaths and displacements.
The criminal justice system in Pakistan is a further manifestation of structural oppression that impacts people's everyday lives. This includes inaccessibility to the justice system, police violence, and prejudice. For instance, the state and its institutions, like the police and military, have allegedly targeted marginalized communities like Pashtuns, Baloch, and Hazaras. This covers extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, targeted harassment, etc. These tools of systematic oppression are ingrained in the nation's political, economic, and social structures.
Here is the specific detailing of the victims of structural oppression in Pakistan:
Ethnic minorities: A wide variety of ethnic groups, including Sindhis, Baloch, Pashtuns, Mohajirs, Hazaras, and others, live in Pakistan. The state and its institutions, dominated by the Punjabi power structure, have frequently marginalized these communities. Baloch, for instance, has long complained of marginalization and discrimination at the hands of the Pakistani state, including forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and the federal government's theft of Balochistan's resources.
Religious minorities: Pakistan is a country with a majority of Muslims, and its constitution declares Islam to be the nation's official religion. However, there are several religious minorities in Pakistan, such as Ahmadiyya, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians. Both state organizations and members of society have frequently targeted these populations in instances of mob violence and targeted harassment by state officials. For instance, the Ahmadiyya community has experienced prejudice, violence, and persecution since they are regarded as non-Muslims by the country's constitution.
Minorities of gender and sexual orientation: Due to Pakistan's traditional culture, social views towards minorities of gender and orientation are often negative. This applies to hijras, transgender individuals, and other underrepresented groups. They deal with prejudice, aggression, and marginalization from both state institutions and members of society. For instance, in Pakistan, the government and community members mistreat and violently assault transgender persons, denying them access to basic rights.
Women: Both state institutions and members of society in Pakistan actively discriminate against and marginalize women. They experience violence daily, including domestic violence and honor killings, and are denied equal rights and opportunities. For instance, Pakistan's rape and domestic violence laws are discriminatory and ineffective in protecting women.
Pashtuns: One of the major ethnic groups in Pakistan is the Pashtun community, and they have also experienced state-sponsored violence, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. The War on Terror and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan have disproportionately affected the Pashtun people, displacing a sizable section and destroying their houses and means of subsistence.
Afghans: The discrimination and marginalization of Afghans in Pakistan's labor market are one of the main ways they have been consistently oppressed. Many Afghans in Pakistan are employed in low-wage, unregulated industries like domestic work, agriculture, and construction. They frequently experience employment discrimination and exploitation and are excluded from benefits like social security, minimum wage regulations, and other labor protections. Denying fundamental human rights is another way that Afghans in Pakistan have been oppressed regularly. This involves lacking access to fundamental services, including healthcare, education, and other necessities. For instance, many Afghan refugee children in Pakistan lack access to education, which restricts their possibilities and feeds the cycle of marginalization and poverty.
Children: In Pakistan, especially in poor and marginalized communities, children mostly experience prejudice and marginalization. They frequently face violence, including child labor and abuse, and are denied access to education and other necessary services.
It's important to note that the Pakistani government has taken action to combat discrimination and oppression against various marginalized groups. Still, the measures have fallen short and haven't addressed the underlying issues. Society must recognize and fight to change the attitudes resulting from the social structures left over from British colonial control.