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Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Magicians And The Muffled: Will "Bhej Pagara" Ever Replace "Jeay Bhutto" In Sindh?

By: Mohammad Ali Mahar
(This article was written in December)

After King Khan’s record breaking, mind blowing Jalsa in Lahore, which opened the sluicegates for the ablution utensils from all over the country to roll over to his scrubbing place for purification from the smut accumulated in their previous incarnations, Shaikhul Islam’s politics of ‘Save the state, not politics’ has boggled the serious discerner of the Pakistani politics. Sitting 11,000 miles apart in Canada for eons, what charm was the Allama able to cast over the nation to throng the meeting place he chose for his rally in Lahore? Arranging a gathering of hundreds of thousands remotely is indeed a feat unachievable without some otherworldly assistance. Is he a magician or is he a maulana? Tum qatl karo ho keh karaamaat karo ho (are you a murderer or are you a miracle worker)?

But, be this a checkerboard set by the gurus of the great game or the patzers of the Pakistani agencies, let the players play their pawns the way they please. Let us focus on how Sindh looks at the situation.
What does the allama’s rally mean for the muzzled and muffled of Sindh is the question a Sindhi keeps asking himself. MQM’s cards are already on the board. Their ultimate goal – division of Sindh – is clear, Altaf Hussain’s ifs and buts notwithstanding.  For as long as the governments, provincial as well as federal, will keep feeding on his demands, he will not leave the government. The moment a government showed a desire to deviate, he will resort to the blackmailing. So, there is nothing in MQM for Sindhis for the one’s goals are mutually exclusive to the other.

Sindhis’ past perception about the PPP being the leadership valued their sacrifices and would return their love with love. If Sindhis suffered for the party during the ‘Dollar Movement’ of 1977, when the goons from the immigrant, abaadgaar (settler) communities instigated by the power of dollar and the invisible power instrument ransacked the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad, if they fought the generalissimo’s gestapo in 1983 and lost lives in thousands, it was because they had trust in the leadership they sacrificed for. The Bhuttos on their part for as long as they lived proved themselves worthy of every drop of Sindhi blood.

Sindhi psyche being cast such a way that it favors the underdog. Nowhere in the Sindhi folk poetry will you find a hero who is aggressor. Sindhis resist bullies and love martyrs. For example, when the rest of the Indian subcontinent was embracing Mughals as their rulers, the Mughal saw their worst resistance in Sindh everywhere but mainly by Dharejos in Bakhar and Ranas in Thar. The British had to impose the first martial law in the subcontinent in Sindh when the grandfather, and a namesake, of the current Pir Pagaro organized an armed rebellion and gave British a run for their money. Mughals could not conquer the Bakhar fort until they killed all the resisting Sindhi sardars after inviting them for talks on Quran and mixing poison in the food served to them. The English had to martyr the Pir as well as thousands of his followers to rule the province.

Sindhis have lost wars but they worship their fallen heroes. It is therefore no wonder that, right or wrong, for every life the Bhuttos lost, Sindhis felt more and more indebted to them. It is mainly for this reason that Sindhis have kept voting for the Bhuttos and their party. Another reason for Sindhis favoring Bhuttos was that they felt that for as long as the Bhuttos and their party were there, their interests were protected. Sindhis knew that the transgressions committed against them will be fixed whenever the Bhuttos returned to the power. They reposed their complete trust in the Bhuttos. The Bhuttos, in most of the cases, lived up to Sindhis’ trust.

During the nine long years of Musharraf’s rule of the country, Sindh saw its worst days when the whole province became captive to a minority holding sway over the two of its major cities of Sindh through gun power and gerrymandering. It was during this rule that Sindh got virtually divided in two parts and it became impossible for an indigenous Sindhi to enter a government job or an educational institution in Karachi.
Sindhis knew, however, that as long as Benazir Bhutto was around, the wrong would be righted whenever she returned to the power. In other words, Sindhis trusted a Bhutto more than the State of Pakistan.

The Sindhi people who believed that all the crimes committed against the interest of Sindh and Sindhis would be corrected when the PPP came to power were surprised when they saw them legalized by the regime they themselves brought to power by granting carte blanche in the polls. The current term of the PPP, is a tale of transgression, deceit, plunder and criminality against Sindh. And Sindhis, no fools contrary to the selfish leadership’s belief, saw this all happening with patience and waited for the right time to strike back.

And, then came this huge rally led by Pir Sahab Pagaro! Those present at the rally say that the 72 acres of the land holding the rally was completely jam-packed with the people, some say as many as half million in number. The PML (F) claiming the number to be 1.2 million.

After his nationalistic proclamations and refusal to team up with the reviled ruling regime, most of the Sindhis see a messiah in Pir Pagaro. However, his less than impressive past history makes him tread the tight rope more carefully than any other politician. His deceased father’s record, who sided with the enemies of Sindh whenever Sindh needed his support, makes going even more difficult for him. His meetings with Yousuf Raza Gilani and the nominated governor of the Punjab, Makhdoom Syed Ahmed Mahmood have raised many eyebrows already, the Makhdoom’s subsequent resignation from the party notwithstanding. My own excitement is giving way to suspicion.

It is too early to chant ‘Bhej Pagara’. The Sindhi people having been bitten repeatedly by the leaders they followed will take a little time before they start trusting the Pir Sahab and his party. There being still some time before the next elections, the Pir has to prove himself worthy of Sindhi people’s trust. Only then will the chant of ‘Jeay Bhutto’ will turn into ‘Bhej Pagara’.

But, what puzzles me more is the very large presence of the folks at all three rallies. Is it really that the people of the country have finally become disenchanted with the two big mafias that pass for the political parties in Pakistan? Or, is it the otherworldly powers playing their hand?

But the bigger question is: whom does the Maulana represent, really?

The writer is an independent political commentator.