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Cashing the difference: Mounting polarization in Balochistan

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Balochistan prides itself on a pluralistic cultural landscape. It is home to a number of ethnic groups and communities who have lived together for an extended period of time. The onslaught of modern technological advancement has, however, bellowed the airs of difference at a frighteningly radical level. This has largely been due to increasing distain for difference of opinion and a gradual gravitation towards the insidious scourge of polarization. The latter in its simplest connotation stands for a divergence of attitudes in the mass public to the ideological extremes.

Polarization is not the same as following a different school of thought, it rather strives to legitimize a particular stance at the cost of total disregard and contempt for those who may belong to a different strand of thought or ideological standpoint. Polarization is beginning to manifest itself in the ways the general public consumes their daily news content. Its ubiquitous presence has assumed a disturbing garb in Balochistan. Certain groups have willfully blinded themselves to reason and openly align themselves with extremist ideologies. They have been systematically conditioned to value news content from the media outlets that further and aggrandize their own inherent prejudice against other ethnic groups or sheer common sense for that matter.

A closer look at the major acts of violence in Balochistan in the last decade substantiate a reading of the scenario that pins ideological polarization as the major culprit. Acts of terrorism against the Hazara community in Quetta, intolerance, and hatred towards nonnative residence of Balochistan can easily be traced to an insular frame of mind that eschews difference of opinion and thrives on feeding extremist ideologies. It is becoming extremely dangerous with alarming consequences for the future, closes all the doors for reconciliation and thwarts all attempts for alternatives in the bud.

Real education and enlightenment dictates that we have to consider multiple sources and differing viewpoints so as not fall in the trap of linear delusional thinking. As people move away from traditional media such as traditional newspapers and television news, they become increasingly more likely to read only sources that echo their own political ideologies. In particular, the algorithms designed to provide people with content that is of interest and relevance to them on social media can lead to people living in a media bubble in which they are not exposed to ideas that differ from their own.

With rapid advancement in science and technology, mainstream news media has evolved into a giant goliath beyond thorough state control. Traditional media platforms i.e. print media houses and cable news channels have changed and the general public often turns toward online media sources for their daily news. This presents a new phenomenon affiliated with the authenticity of modern news sources as they often lack journalistic rigor associated with traditional unbiased news media entities. It has become particularly problematic in the face of mushrooming fake news entities that pollute the content of news. Media fragmentation has become a real threat. There are a number of groups who promote their own interests on multiple social media forums. The way modern media functions has a destructive impact on political discourse. Some groups use it as a tool to perpetuate false information aimed at creating distrust towards the state institution and they promulgate fear and hatred for the sake of their own vested interests.

In Balochistan, however, there exists unfortunately a culture of contempt for difference of opinion. We cannot be well equipped to defeat the scourge of terrorism, bastions of ethnic and sectarian divisions without considering the root causes for the increasing polarization and its accompanying ramifications. There is a kind of either/or fallacy. It upholds ones values to the detriment of the other and always considers that uncertainty is a weakness where dissidents dig points to support their views. It is well understood that geographically close communities tend to stick to similar views. Heterogeneous communities restrain group excesses while homogeneous communities march toward the extremes which really is not something Balochistan wants at the moment. We need to cross check facts from multiple sources to gauge their authenticity.

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Leena Shah Mir is a freelance analyst from Gwadar, Balochistan.

3 Comments

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    Tufail Baloch on

    United we stand, divided we fall. We need more people like who highlight the real issues in Balochistan.

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