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Friday, February 24, 2012

Sindh Being Taken Away From Sindhis

By Aziz Narejo

Sindh is home to the Indus Valley Civilization with thousands of years of glorious history behind it. It has its own distinct culture, language, literature, heroes and villains. It has remained an independent country for hundreds of years during the known history. It has also been invaded and occupied at times. At all the times, Sindhis have owned, protected and promoted their distinctive social and cultural values, language, music and common heritage. They have resisted invaders and jealously guarded their identity throughout the history. Their heroic struggles in 1930s for the separation from Bombay and the anti-One Unit movement during 1950s and 1960s for the revival of the provincial status are but just a few examples.

When a resolution was presented by G.M. Syed in the Sindh Assembly in 1940s to become part of Pakistan, a number of Assembly members had resisted it fearing that Sindhis will lose their basic rights, language and culture as they will be a voiceless minority in the new country. They had instead favored a Dominion status for Sindh with an eventual independence.
G. M. Syed
They were assured by Syed and other pro-Pakistan leaders of that time that Sindh will have complete sovereignty over its territory according to the 1940 Lahore Resolution (also known as Pakistan Resolution) and all of its rights will be fully protected. It is most unfortunate that the fears expressed in Sindh Assembly in 1940s have come true and Sindhis have suffered immensely since the creation of Pakistan, as their life, culture, language and common heritage has been under an unprecedented and continuous attack and their lands, properties and resources have been encroached. 

The aspirations of Sindhis who participated overwhelmingly in the struggle to end the British rule in the earlier half of the 20th century were dashed soon after the “independence” in 1947. They had hoped to regain their lost glory at the end of the British rule but instead were enslaved by the immigrants and the rulers of the newly established country. They have since then faced state terror, aggression, suppression, murder and incarceration of their leaders, loss of political power and continuous denial of their basic rights. It is most tragic that they have endured the worst kind of violence and brutality in Pakistan.

It is a historic fact that the movement of population on a mass scale was not foreseen at the time of the partition nor was it part of the plan announced on June 3, 1947 for the division of India. Nonetheless, a huge population movement took place and Sindh was inundated with a sea of refugees. Taking into account the impacts of the migration on such a large scale and the bloodshed accompanying it, the leaders of the two countries signed an agreement in 1950 aimed at stopping the movement of population. It is regrettable that the immigration has continued unabatedly since then raising the fears in Sindh that Sindhis may lose majority in their own province in near future.
M. Ayub Khuhro (first from left) seen with M. A. Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan & other Muslim League leaders during the  ML Working Committee meeting in Bombay in 1942
It may be noted that the government of Sindh’s Premier Ayub Khuhro was dismissed in 1948 mainly because he refused to take more than 150,000 refugees and also because he had refused to handover Karachi to the Center and had intervened personally in the provincial capital of Karachi to end the violence against the Hindus, a religious minority in Sindh. It was said at the time that the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, an immigrant from India, and his supporters had instigated the riots to force the religious minority of Sindh to migrate to India.
Liaquat Ali Khan
It is also said that the leadership of Pakistan at that time had planned to settle a large number of refugees in Sindh to establish dominance over the province. In this context a conversation between Altaf Gauhar, information secretary in Ayub regime and Chaudhry Mohammad Ali, ex-prime minister of Pakistan on 15th March 1969 on the grievances of the people of Sindh is most revealing. Chaudhry Mohammad Ali in the conversation, as quoted by Altaf Gauhar said, “The Sindhis were extremely unhappy about the growing presence of “outsiders” in the towns of Sindh. The Muhajirs had taken over the whole of Karachi, the Punjabi officials had acquired the large tracts of barrage lands and the Pathans had acquired a monopoly of all transport and construction business”. Muhammad Ali thought these worries were all unnecessary because his “government in the 1950s had foreseen the problem and had planned the induction of Muhajirs into Karachi and other major towns of Sindh to forestall Sindhi nationalism”. (Please see pages 466, 467 of “Ayub Khan” by Altaf Gauhar).
Chaudhry Mohammad Ali
It is indeed part of the history that new laws were formed and immigrants were settled in the urban and rural areas of Sindh on a large scale. No verifications of claims were made for the allotments of evacuee properties and agricultural lands. Similarly no verifications were made for degrees or certificates of education for the employment of refugees. Simply a claim or a letter by the applicant cosigned by an officer, both immigrants, was deemed enough for allotments of lands, properties and employment.
Altaf Gauhar with president Ayub Khan & a civil servant M. H. Shah on the morning after 1965 presidential elections
On the other hands Sindhis were virtually banned from buying urban properties and agricultural lands in their own province. Later on when barrages were constructed to irrigate more lands in the province, the advertisements for the allotments of lands were published in the Punjab and the people from that province and every where else where encouraged settling in Sindh.

The practices have continued depriving the indigenous people of the opportunities in their own province and elsewhere in the country. They have been denied political power since the early days of Pakistan. They have been denied the basic democratic right to self rule and the access to their share in the economic development in the country.

Independent studies and surveys show that poverty in rural Sindh has increased manifold since 1947. It is said that the gross income in the rural areas has decreased since the independence. Experts and historians believe that if the income of a person was Rs. 50 at the time of partition, it has been reduced to Rs. 25 today if one takes into account the respective monetary value.

The indigenous people of Sindh have been made alien to the decision-making bodies in Pakistan. They don’t have their share in the civilian and military bureaucracies. No Sindhi has crossed the threshold of a Brigadier in the military since 1947.

The language, culture and the common heritage of Sindh have suffered the most. A vastly developed Sindhi language has been denied its rightful place in Sindh and Pakistan. The demand to make it a national language of the country has been continuously denied giving that status to a language spoken by a small but very powerful minority in the country. Peaceful Sindhi culture and way of life have been sidelined and an alien and mostly jingoistic culture has been imposed in the province.

Sindhi language has been virtually banned from the urban areas despite laws to the contrary and the doors to education opportunities have been closed on the indigenous population. Sindhis have been denied admission to colleges and universities in Karachi. Similarly laws have been made to refuse employment in Karachi to Sindhis from outside the city. A planned campaign is underway to settle outsiders in Karachi and other urban areas while demolishing old villages of Sindhis in Karachi and Hyderabad. Illegal aliens are being issued national identity cards and migration from India, Bangladesh and other countries is being encouraged to establish an artificial majority in the urban areas of Sindh in order to eventually force partition of Sindh.

Such policies of the Pakistani establishment aimed at denying the genuine rights of the indigenous people of Sindh and efforts to bring demographic changes in the province will cause unprecedented catastrophe and will result in more bloodshed and civil strife. One hopes sense will prevail and the leadership will stop its short-sighted policies.

The article was published in the June 2007 edition of quarterly "Sangat" edited by the author. 

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