Pakistan’s other trouble spot

There is simmering resentment in Sindh. But lack of an effective organisation has prevented Sindhi nationalists from pressuring Islamabad

Written by Alok Bansal | Updated: October 7, 2016 12:34 am
Hussain Haqqani, pakistan terrorism, India pakistan, india pakistan terrorism, india news, pakistan news Baloch nationalism is the strongest today amongst Pakistan’s ethnic nationalisms. (Source: File Photo)

For long, Talibanisation was considered the biggest threat to the Pakistani state. This perception overlooked the fact that Taliban only threatened the government, whereas ethnic movements targeted the state and eroded Pakistani nationalism. Pakistan, from its inception, has failed to build a national identity. Consequently, all ethnicities, other than Punjabis, perceive themselves as Pakhtoons, Baloch, Sindhis or Mohajirs first, and Pakistanis later. They also feel discriminated by the Punjabi elite.

Baloch nationalism is the strongest today amongst Pakistan’s ethnic nationalisms. However, the Baloch are just five per cent of Pakistan’s population. Consequently, they have been keen to create a broad front of ethnic minorities against the Punjabi elite. The alienation in Pakistan’s second most populous province, Sindh, has provided them with an opportunity to create a united front with the Sindhi nationalists. This front has been functioning quite effectively overseas: Baloch and Sindhi activists have been protesting jointly at the UN bodies and in western countries. Of late, there has been growing convergence between them, even within Pakistan.

The tumult in urban Sindh and the movement of the Mohajirs has been making the headlines for some time. What is often overlooked is the deeper resentment in rural Sindh. At the time of Partition, Sindh had enormous untapped agricultural potential. This led to its colonisation by farmers from outside the province — immigrants from Punjab or retired army officers. After Partition, Sindh was forced to accommodate another set of immigrants — the Mohajirs, who came from the rest of India. Unlike Sindhi Muslims, who were mainly illiterate peasants at the time of Partition, the Mohajirs were amongst the most educated and elite Muslims of India. They cornered most of the government jobs and private businesses in Sindh.

Sindhis perceive themselves as being marginalised in their traditional homeland. The more than 81 per cent increase in Sindh’s population between 1998 and 2011 shows large-scale migration to the province. Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur, Sindh’s three major cities, are totally dominated by Mohajirs while the fertile land of northern Sindh is under the control of Punjabis. Sindhis are scattered in the barren countryside. They constitute only 45 per cent of the province’s population. Their percentage in Karachi is even lesser. They have been marginalised in various organs of the state. Only two per cent of Pakistan’s armed forces and five per cent of federal civil servants are Sindhis. Of the around 2,000 industrial units in Sindh, only a quarter are controlled by the Sindhis.

Sindhis have a strong socio-cultural identity, rich literature and a distinct script. However, Urdu-speaking migrants to Pakistan, who controlled Pakistan in the initial decades after Partition, tried to impose Urdu in Sindh. Sindhis see this as an attempt to marginalise their culture.

The first major insurrection in Sindh erupted in 1983 against General Zia-ul-Haq, who had executed a popular Sindhi leader — Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Numerous Sindhi nationalists defied army in the interiors of Sindh to fight for “Sindhudesh”. However, without external support, the movement lost steam. Subsequently, with the rise of PPP, with its base in Sindh, as the dominant political party, local perceptions changed . However, reduction in Sindh’s share of Indus water and reduction of the land under irrigation in Sindh and the proposed Kalabagh Dam, which could further reduce availability of water to Sindh, continue to agitate Sindhi minds. With the PPP reduced to a provincial party, Sindhi nationalism has raised its head again.

In early 2005, the Sindh Liberation Army (SLA) — allied with the Baloch Liberation Army — claimed responsibility for blasts on railway tracks and other sensitive installations in Sindh. Low-level blasts continued till 2007; SLA claimed credit for most of them. However, with the return of democracy in 2008 and the PPP’s rise to power, there was a sense of euphoria in Sindh. The turbulence started resurfacing in early 2010, when numerous bombs exploded on railway tracks. The floods in Sindh and the belief that the province was flooded to avoid damage to fields in Punjab, gave a fillip to resentment in the province.

Sindhi nationalist outfits have also been expressing dissent through legitimate political means. On Pakistan Day on March 23, 2012, the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) led a 1,00,000-strong “march against slavery” in Karachi and called for an end to the subjugation of Sindhis by “a Punjab-dominated, Punjab-ruled, and Punjab-manipulated state”. Bashir Ahmed Qureshi, JSQM’s chairman called for the independence of Sindh and Sindhi resources from the whims of Punjabi aspirations. However, Qureshi died under suspicious circumstances within a fortnight of this proclamation. The belief that intelligence agencies had a role in his death, and in the disappearance of large numbers of Sindhi activists, have hardened positions even more.

Recent events show that the resentment in Sindh both amongst Mohajirs in urban centres and Sindhis in the countryside is rising. However, the lack of unity amongst Sindhi nationalists and absence of an effective organisation has prevented them from being able to force Islamabad to accommodate their viewpoints.

The writer is director, India Foundation and adjunct professor at New Delhi Institute of Management. Views expressed are his own

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  1. K
    Khurshid Akhtar
    Oct 8, 2016 at 8:03 am
    IT HAS BEEN OBSERVED THAT CREATION OF STAN BASED ON ISLAMIC SOCIO DEMOCRATIC STAN. OUR REGION " ISLAM " IS MAIN BACK BONE OF STAN. lt;br/gt;ALL OVER THE STAN. WHERE EVER YOU TRAVEL .. IN PUNJAB, IN SINDH, BALUCHISTAN, KPK, GAWADAR, SWAT, KAGHAN, GILGIT, KASHMIR, ... ANY WHERE IN THE COUNTRY . YOU CAN FIND ALL MUSLIMS PRAY 5 TIMES IN MOSQUES TO ALLAH SWT. --- NO MATTER--- SINDHI, PATHAN , PUNJABI, BALUCHI, --- ALL ARE MUSLIMS. AND THEY PRAY BEHIND ONE IMAM . THEY ALL OBEY TO IMAM. PRAY TOGETHER SIT SIDE BY SIDE. THUS IS UNITY . THEY MEET EACH OTHER WITH SMILING FACES . SHAKE HANDS EACH OTHER. THERE IS NO SIGN OF HATE ON THE FACES.lt;br/gt;STAN IS BASIC AN ISLAMIC COUNTRY. WE MUST FOLLOW ISLAMIC IDEOLOGY TO KEEP UNITED STAN. lt;br/gt;INDIA IS A COUNTRY. INDIA HAS ITS POLICIES BASED ON ' HATE' AGAINST STAN. SINCE VERY FIRST DAY, INDIAN GOVERNMENT AND ITS MEDIA ARE WORKING ON THE AGENDA -- TO BREAK AND WEAK STAN--. PRESS AND MEDIA ARE WRITING AND DISPLA THE MATERIAL ' ANTI STAN'. lt;br/gt;WE MUST NOTICE ALL THIS ANTI STAN PROPAA . WE SHOULD MAKE STRONG OUR SOCIAL CULTURE ACTIVITIES, PARTICULAR BASED ON ISLAMIC CULTURE. OUR MEDIA SHOULD HELP TO MAKE STRONG OUR ISLAMIC SOCIAL CULTURE BY THEIR WRITINGS AND DISPLAY ON ELECTRO MEDIA PROMOTE ALL ACTIVITIES BASED ON OUR ISLAMIC VALUES. AVOID ALL ANTI STAN ACTIVITIES AND CONDEMN ENEMY ANTI STAN PROPAA.
    Reply
    1. V
      Vishal
      Oct 9, 2016 at 7:18 am
      Nice article. Well researched and articulated
      Reply
      1. M
        MN
        Oct 7, 2016 at 8:45 am
        As there is a syaing "Charity begins at home" so be mindful and sympathetic to the people of Nagaland, Khalistan movement, illegally occupied part of Kashmir etc. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The comments also remind a saying... Baghal mai churri mou pay ram ram... ;)
        Reply
        1. H
          HASSAN SHARIF
          Oct 9, 2016 at 11:20 am
          I don't think it will be incorporated for a long time beacause of it's ideology was spineless and oligarcy strove for its own interests. Jinnah and his courtiers were paid by British Raj. They betra people in the name of religion and ficious two nation theory which proved torment for Muslim community of India.
          Reply
          1. A
            anandap
            Oct 7, 2016 at 5:22 am
            Time to India to support all anti-stan elements to counter Taliban-Alqeada-IS axis sponsored by ISI and Pak army to bleed India. This is best opportunity to counter bleed stan! friend, China can not prevent this?
            Reply
            1. M
              MAN
              Oct 7, 2016 at 8:49 am
              It's a old saying, Those living in gl houses should not throw stones at their neighbours! At any given time there are almost 20 nationalist insurgencies in India! lt;br/gt;Forget about breaking stan, it's neither Somalia nor Iraq not Syria! lt;br/gt;stan is here is to stay and no power on earth can dismantle it including any Super Power of the World (even if they desire to)! lt;br/gt;As of now India is just a quasi regional power. lt;br/gt;First you need to learn to defend your bases against 4 odd ailants and than think of bigger things! lt;br/gt;And by the way stop watching too much Bollywood, even Indian Army has started claiming illusions of 'Surgical Strike'!lt;br/gt;Times have changed, it's not 1971!lt;br/gt;stan enjoys Strategic Parity in South Asia with superior strategic capabilities and a battle hardened Army! lt;br/gt;Misplaced arrogance of Indian Media and Jingoism will only lead to a catastrophe!
              Reply
              1. O
                OP Gupta
                Oct 7, 2016 at 3:52 pm
                stan was created by urdu speaking outsiders (mohajirs) on land of those people who did not prefer for creation of stan. And stan will get fragmented not by efforts of India but by misdeeds of stan Generals as was the case in creation of Bangladesh.
                Reply
                1. S
                  Sitaram
                  Oct 11, 2016 at 12:47 am
                  If Pak does not do frequent mischief in Kashmir or elsewhere, India does not care to remember that even such a thing as Pak exists. India have their own issues to resolve an progress to achieve - and if Pak stops its nuisance India simply gets on with their own plans without distraction.
                  Reply
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