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"When we live peacefully and respectfully as aliens on foreign lands, why can’t we live in our own land with peace, unity and respect?"
I was born in Sindh – A land of Lal Shah Shahbaz Qalander, Shah Latif and Sain Sachchal Sermast, and grew up in the windy and patchy streets of Hyderabad – A city located at the bank of the great Indus River which was used to be the capital of then greater Sindh by the founder Sarfraz Shah Kalhora in 1782 and retained the status till the end of Talpur Rulers in 1843.
Though I left Pakistan 20 years ago, yet, when the people argue on provincial identities, within Pakistan, I always claim myself as a ‘Sindhi’. I keep great admiration for Sindh, as it has given me the first identity I needed to be acknowledged in the society.
I love my native land as much as I love my parents who gave me birth in that soil. I love the culture, tradition and history, at the same time I equally pay respect to the history attached to me through my parents.
When I articulate the present day issues of Sindh, I don’t involve my parent’s background as I find them irrelevant in seeking the resolutions. Sindh has been a land for everyone who wished to settle here and merge in its fertile soil. Sindh is a land which has been welcoming people of different faith, race, culture and ethnicity from centuries.
In the last few centuries Sindh has changed a lot geographically, culturally and ethnically. In the search of history of Sindh one could go back to as early as five centuries before Christ, when Darius, the King of Iran (Persia) attacked India or as it finds in the Mahabharata where Jayadratha, the Aryan King of Sindh fought against Krishna or as it finds in the history books from the signs of civilization of Indus Valley (2300 BC - 1760 BC) or since the last historical change when it became the part of Pakistan in 1947.
Therefore, involving the changing history of Sindh, as the parameters, in seeking the solutions on political or social issues or in claiming the native relation with the soil may not help those who believe in ground realities when addressing the issues of the day.
Talking the Sindh’s grievances, I would like to confine myself since Sindh became the part of Pakistan with facts that, firstly, I have seen the political events through my eyes in the last 4 decades during my childhood, youth and mature life. Secondly, it would be unrealistic for me if I talk on the rights of Sindh and not talk about the present status of Sindh on the map of the world.
Wise people always find solutions by accepting the realities of the day. As matter of fact, for those who, today, made Pakistan responsible for robbing the rights of Sindh must know that prior to Pakistan, Sindh had an elected assembly, which took the lead in voting for Pakistan. It was a vote for freedom from British colonialism & Hindu domination and the affirmation to be a part of an independent country - Pakistan. Hence one has to be honest when condemning Pakistan over Sindh. And one has to also accept that the people of Sindh merely experienced a change of masters, with a new form of feudalism and bureaucracy since the creation of Pakistan.
I find the things very complicated here. Consequently, I may offend few when I say that in the last 50 years, on the name of social and political rights, Sindh and its people have been used by political gurus of Sindh for their own vested interest.
Today, the nationalist parties and their leaders, who talk about the self-determination of Sindh, have to clearly address their mottos when they talk about self-determination. For example;
(1) Do they want Sindh to be a separate sovereign State or do they demand for self-determination within the boundaries of Pakistan - which unmistakably sounds illogical.
(2) Are they already agreed upon the common criteria for the people to be recognized as Sindhis? When Bengalis stood for their independence in former East Pakistan, they found themselves as a single entity by history, culture, language and ethnicity. How do the nationalist thoughts identify Sindhis, for example, who they recognize as Sindhis;
(a) The ones who were born in Sindh
(b) The ones who just speak Sindhi
(c) The ones who were in Sindh prior to Pakistan, or
(d) The ones who live anywhere in the world but speak Sindhi or are natively linked to Sindh.
I am sure; the people in the favour of any of the above will have strong arguments in their support and justification.
Similarly, back to point No. 1 above; if the Sindhi nationalists want Sindh to be an independent State then this will be a clear-cut negation to Pakistan.
There is no question that since the creation of Pakistan, Sindh is the only province affected by major transformations communally, socially, culturally and ethnically compare to the pre-Pakistan Sindh.
The migration of people from various parts of India to Sindh in result of the partition of India in 1947 brought a major change in the ethnical environment of Sindh. The immigrants who mostly came from Northern, Central and Upper Provinces of India brought with them their own culture, traditions and language. Instead of merging with the locals they regrouped and settled in urban areas of Sindh and survived to retain their ethnicity due to their size and established social background which was contrary to the locals.
The local Sindhis who divergent to the other provinces had their own strong Sindhi language found Sindhi language superceded by Urdu. The Sindhi-speaking parents admitted their children in Urdu-medium schools. I had my Sindhi-speaking school friends during my school time.
The military coup of 1958 shifted the balance of power away from Karachi, later the capital of Pakistan was transferred to Islamabad from Karachi. The periods of military rule under General Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan and Zia-ul-Haq have essentially meant colonial status for Sindh given that Sindhi representation in the armed forces is, at best, negligible; particularly in the commission corps.
Even the current military ruler General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, when took over the country’s charge, could not find a officer which belonged to Sindh of requisite rank from the army to appoint as a Governor of Sindh and had to settle for an air force officer Air Marshal Daudpota. Here, bear in mind that in Pakistan, politically and traditionally only those people are considered Sindhi who speak Sindhi and were living in Sindh prior to Pakistan’s existence.
Frequent dissolution of the constitution in Pakistan by army chiefs has brought tyranny to the provincial system. Even the civilian governments have made liberal use of the constitutional provision to dismiss provincial governments and install administrations of the centre's choice.
Colonization of land in Sindh has continued unabated. Federal agencies routinely acquire land from the Sindh government on the pretext of executing development projects and then disposed to private parties. The army has also consistently acquired lands in Sindh. Some of the best agricultural lands in Sindh have been allotted to military officers as a retirement reward.
In federal government facilities located in Sindh - Ports, Airports, Railway Outlets, Oil and Gas fields, Steel plants, etc. non-Sindhis can be found in large numbers, while Sindhis are found at a negligible proportion. Unfortunately, the political leaders of Sindh were never found serious in uniting and bringing the entire people of Sindh together on the issues of Sindh.
In today’s perspective the biggest dilemma in Sindh is the division among the people on the name of language. In the last 50 years the two main linguistically divided people of Sindh – Sindhi-speaking and Urdu-speaking - have been exploited by their leaders on the name of political, democratic and social rights.
In the Urdu-speaking court, the political and religious based party leaders never promoted the Sindhi nationalism among Urdu-speaking, instead made them a separate rival community.
On the other hand, the feudal of Sindh who are the biggest landlords in Pakistan never found sincere with the interest of the people of Sindh. Even the most powerful politician and the first Sindhi Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his daughter former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto when came in power never looked back to the problems of the common people of Sindh. Instead, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, on the name of benefiting Sindhi-speaking introduced Quota System in the establishment and higher education which has eventually dropped the level of education and raised discrimination and ethnical division among the people. The fact of the matter is that the people are still bondage in private jails being operated by renowned political elite cum feudal.
Before talking about the Rights of Sindh, the people of Sindh are required to be as one community. There is a need for social unity. The national goals cannot be achieved by the politics of division. The ethnical hatred has not served anything in the last 50 years.
The grievances of Sindh cannot be addressed until the issues don’t have 100% mandate of all the people of Sindh. Obviously, 100% mandate cannot be achieved until the people are not united as one entity. To achieve all this strong and fair leadership in Sindh is needed who can unite all the people of Sindh on a common agenda and make them realize that a strong and united Sindh is in the interest of everyone.
Crises are normal in the life of any society. Some crises are caused by natural factors, and others are man-made. Sindh is also no exception. In Canada, a nation is linguistically divided but still stands united as one nation. When we live peacefully and respectfully as aliens on foreign lands, why can’t we live in our own land with peace, unity and respect?
Before raising slogans of Rights of Sindh, there has been a lot more needed to promote the unity among the people of Sindh. They have to unite as a single entity, accept each other, respect each other and think as Sindhi. One cannot change the past but makes the difference to the present.
by courtesy & © 2004 Syed Atiq ul Hassan