thPaper Submitted for the 15 International Conference on Sindh: ““Unmasking Pakistan and the Sovereignty of thSindh.” September 27, 2003, London Organized by the World Sindhi Congress.
Charting the Course of Sindh's Struggle: Options and Strategies
Hassan N. Gardezi
The rise of ethno nationalism has been making its mark on the world scene with increasing frequency both in the East and the West, as more and more ethnic groups, that is, groups with distinct cultural and or racial characteristics, strive to assert their rights of self- determination and want to be recognized as free nations. Although attempts have been made to explain this phenomenon as a function of certain global socio-political changes, each case turns out to be unique in its history, geo-political context, and internal dynamics.
In the case of Pakistan, which itself had achieved its independence in 1947 by asserting its ethno nationalist identity, the federal structure of the state came under serious strain at the outset. The political leadership that inherited rule from the outgoing colonial power soon became dominated by the civil bureaucracy and the military. And because both these establishments were preponderantly manned by the Punjabis and the Urdu-speaking immigrants from India, known as Muhajirs, these two ethnic groups came to control the apparatuses of the central state.
Collectively this leadership became known as Pakistan’s military-bureaucratic oligarchy which gained
control over state power to make all policies concerning nation building, economic development, war and peace. It has had no regard for the great socio-cultural diversity and regional economic disparities which set apart the five original confederating units of Pakistan, namely the provinces of East Bengal, Balochistan, North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Sindh.
In the sphere of nation building a simplistic "Islamic Ideology" was constructed as a magical formula to produce a sense of national identity among all the people of Pakistan. Urdu was declared as the exclusive official language of Pakistan, despite the fact that it was not the home language of any native born Pakistani and a majority of the population spoke Bengali. In 1955 the four provinces of the western wing of the country were merged into One Unit to obscure their distinct ethnic identities and to counter the numerical strength of East Bengal.
In the area of economics, a policy of peripheral capitalist development was instituted with "economic growth" as its central objective. Much of the industrial and commercial activity became concentrated in Punjab and the port city of Karachi. There was no room in this policy for any notion of distributive justice. Dr. Mahbubul Haq, a prominent appendage of Pakistan’s central Planning Commission for almost four
decades, termed the process of economic growth as a "brutal and sordid" affair. As the growth curves of GNP began to rise, the laboring classes sank deeper into poverty and regional economic disparities became more and more acute.
As for the foreign policy, it was exclusively built around rivalry with India which was painted as the greatest threat to Pakistan. This policy served two critical purposes of the military bureaucratic oligarchy. Firstly, it gave legitimacy to huge outlays on defense spending and expanding the military's power through neo-colonial Cold War alliances with the United States, which placed a heavy burden on the revenues and resources of have-not provinces with no return benefits. Secondly, this martial project of the central state was sustained by an ideology of national jingoism used as a weapon to silence all demands for autonomy and self-determination voiced by the federating units.
thPaper Submitted for the 15 International Conference on Sindh: ““Unmasking Pakistan and the Sovereignty of thSindh.” September 27, 2003, London Organized by the World Sindhi Congress.
The Secession of East Bengal and Civilian Rule
East Bengal, demographically the largest of the original provinces, was denied its democratic right to determine state policies but nevertheless bore the greatest brunt of these policies during the initial years of independence. The result being that after a strenuous political struggle to control its economic and cultural destiny the province seceded from the federation in 1971 as the Pakistani army unleashed a brutal military assault on its own Bengali citizens at the time.
But even the loss of East Bengal and restoration of civilian rule brought no resolution to the conflict between the central state of Pakistan and its remaining federal units. In 1973 a truncated Pakistan saw its first ever democratically adopted constitution with some trappings of provincial autonomy. With a Sindhi prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in office, hopes were high that a new era was about to dawn where Balochistan, NWFP, and Sindh will share equal rights with Punjab which in addition to being politically dominant had now also emerged as demographically the largest.
However, Bhutto's rhetoric about people's power and superficial reforms of the civil service and the army high command did little to make a dent in the power base of the bureaucratic and military establishments. In the end a right wing political revolt staged by Islamist parties over the alleged rigging of 1977 elections gave an opportunity to his hand-picked obeisant Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ziaul Haq, to stage yet another military coup. Two years after his take over the General had Zulfikar Ali Bhutto executed by manipulating the higher judiciary.
Ironically, it was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was most troubled by the vision of Pakistan's further breakup. It was during his six year rule that a wide-ranging debate ensued about the nature of the Pakistani federation. An open public discussion was initiated on whether the ethnically distinct provinces of Pakistan were just administrative units of the federation or nationalities with rights of self-determination; and whether the right of self determination included the right to secede. The views of Lenin and Stalin on the subject were widely quoted and contested among the left activists of Pakistan. In this charged political environment Bhutto in 1973 dismissed the National Awami Party ( NAP) government of Balochistan which represented the ethno nationalist sentiment in that province. The NWFP government, in which NAP was also a partner, resigned in protest forthwith. These developments were followed in the same year by an armed
insurrection in Balochistan supported by NAP leaders. The Bhutto government called in the army which finally crushed the uprising in 1977 with some help from the Shah of Iran.
In the meantime, in 1975 the Central Working Committee of NAP passed a resolution to the effect that there were four nationalities in Pakistan and Prime Minister Bhutto reacted by slapping a ban on the party. Prominent NAP leaders were arrested, charged with sedition and thrown in jail. A law was also passed prescribing 7 years imprisonment for advocating the presence of more than one nation in Pakistan.
The Decline of the Baloch and Pakhtun Movements
When Ziaul Haq took over in 1977, the senior leadership of NAP, consisting of upper class Baloch sardars and NWFP khans, was in total disarray, and the militant cadres of Baloshistan Students Organization (BSO) and Balochistan Peoples Liberation Front (BPLF) who had participated in the armed insurrection were thoroughly disillusioned. The crafty General, with an eye on exploiting the grievances of the NAP leaders against Bhutto, released them from jail and also granted general amnesty to the BSO and BPLF militants. NAP Chief Wali Khan went on his one-man campaign against "Bhuttoism." Out of the Baloch leaders, Attaullh Mengal left the country ending up in London from where he issued a declaration of Balochistan's independence, Khair Bux Mari retreated to Afghanistan with his band of
thPaper Submitted for the 15 International Conference on Sindh: ““Unmasking Pakistan and the Sovereignty of thSindh.” September 27, 2003, London Organized by the World Sindhi Congress.
tribal warriors and Ghaus Bux Bizenjo continued his campaign for Balochistan's autonomy within the federation of Pakistan.
Ziaul Haq knew well that NAP in its make up was essentially a regional party which lacked countrywide support to cause him any trouble. His main phobia and fear was centered on PPP, the mainstream party to which the aspirations of the masses of Sindh were attached. This was the party he perceived as a real threat to his dictatorial ambitions and had to be destroyed through every crooked trick he could muster, whether it was the judicial murder of Bhutto, his Islamization project, his midwifing the Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz (MQM) in Karachi or unleashing down right repression on the people of Sindh.
Since Zia's coup of 1977, Pakistan has undergone certain drastic political, economic and demographic changes which have impacted differently on the ethnonationalist movements in different parts of Pakistan. The brutal repression of two major armed insurrections in Balochistan, one during Ayub Khan's military rule in 1960s and the other during the last days of Bhutto's government had already broken the back of militancy in the Baloch ethnonational movement. Many precious lives were lost during those battles giving rise to a deep sense of disillusionment among the Baloch youth, leaving them with few channels of meaningful political action. The Saur revolution in Afghanistan in 1978 and Zia's decision to plunge Pakistan into the American sponsored Islamic jehad in that country brought waves of Afghan refugees into Balochistan swelling the Pashtun population of the province and giving rise to new conflicts which sidetracked the Baloch struggle for Social justice and cultural preservation with a strong current of Islamic fundamentalism.
The Pakhtun nationalism in NWFP has also met a similar fate, albeit through a somewhat different trajectory of change. While the politics of Islamic fundamentalism intensified by Pakistan's Afghanistan policy seriously jeopardized the ethnonationalist movement led by NAP it was already in decline for other reasons. To begin with, the Pukhtuns had a modest but significant representation in the central civil service and the military as well as among the industrial and commercial sectors of Pakistan's economy from the inception of the new state. This representation continued to grow over time. In the army Pakhtuns comprise 15 to 20 percent of all ranks, while they constitute only 13.5 percent of Pakistan's population. A fairly large number of military installations are also located in NWFP which translate into jobs for Pakhtuns and a share in the huge military expenditure of the state. Since the Zia takeover there has been a rapidly growing injection of military personnel in the civil service, semi-government corporations and the army's own expanding network of industrial enterprises. As Pakistan's army men have generally benefitted from this bonanza, so have the Pakhtuns.
The participation of Pahktuns in the industrial and commercial sector has also been significant and growing. A noteworthy feature in this respect is that the enterprizes in which they are involved as owners, operators and workers extend out of NWFP into the rest of the country. The long distance road transport in Pakistan is heavily owned and operated by Pakhtuns. Around 80 percent of all factory workers in Karachi are estimated to be Pakhtun as are large number of dock workers and transport drivers. The not so underground drug trade estimated to be worth about $3 billion in 1980s also originates in NWFP. All these factors have contributed to a steady decline of support for NAP, reconstituted as Awami National Party (ANP), and its Pakhtun nationalism among all classes of NWFP who have developed a stake in economic and social integration with Pakistan.
The October 1999 military coup of Gen. Pervez Musharraf and events that followed in rapid succession have brought the enthnonational movements of Balochistan and NWFP to their vertual demise . Musharraf's volte face on Pakistan's policy of fueling Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan, abandoning the Taliban and joining the American "war on terrorism" in September 2001 has greatly inflamed politics of religious fundamentalism and counter terror inside Pakistan to the detriment of Baloch and Pashtun nationalist movements. This political change is reflected in the results of the 2002 general election.
Balochistan's traditional nationalist parties were badly routed in this election, while the ANP was unable to win a single seat in the federal parliament and elected only 8 of its candidates to the 92 member NWFP assembly.
The Siege of Sindh and Sindhi Nationalism
All this is in contrast to the ethnonationalist movement in Sindh which has never subsided. The beginning of this movement in the post independence era can be traced back to 1948 when the central government decided to separate the port city of Karachi from Sindh and make it a federally administered area as the capital of Pakistan. This was the beginning of a process of internal colonial appropriation of Sindh. A few years later in 1955 all the present provinces of Pakistan were merged into One Unit to be administered as a single province from the Punjabi metropolis of Lahore. This was seen by the Sindhis as well as the Baloch and Pukhtuns as a gross attempt to erase their distinct historical and cultural identities. Sindhis feared in addition that this was a ploy to facilitate the allotment of thousands of acres of the newly irrigated barrage lands of their province to non-Sindhis, something that did eventually happen.
The indigenous population of Sindh has in fact derived few benefits of independence from the British colonial rule while suffered most as a result of painful disruptions caused by the partition of India. Nearly one million Sindhi Hindus left for India soon after partition and were more than replaced by mostly Urdu speaking immigrants from across the border. This shift of population continued with the influx of Punjabis and Pushtuns into Sindh during the following decades, reducing the population of Sindhi ethnic population to less than half in their own province. Today over 50 % of Sindh's urban population is composed of Muhajir immigrants, with fewer than 7 % of Sindhi speakers left in Karachi, Sindh's largest city.
It is Ironic that over half of Pakistan's industrial production and commercial enterprise is located in Sindh, yet Sindhis have nominal participation in these sectors of the economy. The civil and military bureaucracy posted in Sindh is largely non-Sindhi and so are the police forces and the ever-present paramilitary Rangers who have made life miserable for ordinary citizens with their oppression and extortion. Almost all of Sindh's newly irrigated lands have been allotted to the Punjabi military and civil officers. It is also for the benefit of these settlers in northern Sindh that the Greater Thal Canal is being built. A majority of the Sindhi rural population lives in dire poverty even by Pakistani standards, and the new canals and dams promise to make their lives more miserable either by driving them off their lands or depriving them of water.
The only time in Pakistan's history that the federal government paid any attention to these stark inequalities was during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's PPP rule when steps were taken to increase the appointment of Sindhi officers in Karachi and rest of Sindh, the teaching of Sindhi was made mandatory in Sindhi schools and more development resources were allocated to Sindh compared to the previous central administrations.
But whatever gains the Sindhis made during the Bhutto rule were reversed after Zia came to power. By February 1978 some 1,748 Sindhis were thrown out of the prvincial service alone. The General's openly anti-Sindhi policy combined with the judicial murder of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and large scale victimization of PPP workers contributed to a great buildup of resentment and anger against his military rule. When in 1983 the opposition alliance, the Movement for Restoration of Democracy ( MRD) issued a call for a country-wide civil disobedience, rural Sindh responded with a furry which came as a stunning surprise both to the military government and the MRD leadership. Huge processions appeared spontaneously in the countryside attacking and demolishing the symbols of central state authority, the prisons, Police stations, courts, banks, communication and transportation networks. It took a long time for the Zia regime to crush the uprising with a brutal military action, strafing villages with helicopter gun ships, killing
hundreds. Entire male populations of some villages were rounded up, interrogated and detained in concentration camps.
The woes of Sindhis did not end here. Following the birth of MQM in 1984 bitter ethnic strife broke out in Karachi and Hyderabad. For several years MQM fought turf wars with Sindhis, as well as Pukhtuns and Punjabis. After Zia's death, the eleven years of civilian rule that alternated between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif under the shadow of the army high command and the Presidency, Sindh never saw a stable government. Although the people of rural Sindh continued to return majorities of PPP candidates to the Sindh assembly, no provincial government was able to function effectively as a result of paralyzing intrigues hatched by the army, its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) wing, the Zia remnants and the MQM, in collusion with the unscrupulous landlords and peers (religious guides) of Sindh. Same was the fate of Benazir Bhutto's two incomplete terms served as Prime Minister at the center.
The pattern has continued after the Musarraf coup of 1999 and the elections engineered by his military regime in October 2002. The PPP has remained the target of heavy handed manipulations which prevented it from forming the government of Sindh despite the fact that in the said elections it won the largest number of seats in the provincial assembly, although not a clear majority. Whether the PPP can or will do anything for the people of Sindh is a separate question. The fact remains that as far as the electoral politics of Pakistan is concerned, the aspirations of Sindhis for a better future are overwhelmingly attached to this party and any attempt to subvert this party and persecute its leaders adds to the feelings of discrimination and deprivation that Sindhis have suffered since the creation of Pakistan.
Sindh's Ethnonationalist Movement and its Options
Sindh's experience as a federating unit of Pakistan very briefly sketched above tells us why the ethnonationalist movement in Sindh has continued to intensify rather than diminish in comparison to the other two minority provinces since the creation of Pakistan. It also tells us why the whole hearted support of this movement cuts across all classes of Sindhis, the opportunism of certain feudal politicians notwithstanding. What this movement has lacked so far is a clear vision of its goals and a consensus on what it should exactly be striving for without which little can be achieved by way of concrete results.
The phrase "ethnonational movement" implies a collective and organized endeavor on the part of an ethnic community to be recognized as a nation, whether with or without a sovereign state of its own. However, once the ethnicity of a group is politicized to the point of developing consciousness of its collective identity as a nation, the achievement of separate statehood is not altogether absent from the group's political agenda. In fact it can be used as a leverage in negotiations by a minority ethnic community in a multiethnic state to further its demands for greater autonomy and right of self determination. It is not uncommon today for multi-ethnic states to condone the self definition of a component ethnic community as a nation so long as it does not pose a real threat of secession. In Canada "First Nations" is the official designation given to the aboriginal peoples of the country who do not have their own states but have acquired a fair degree of autonomy and right of self-determination. Even in Pakistan the unitary, authoritarian state has learned to soften its attitude to the point of allowing public functioning of an organization which calls itself Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement ( PONM).
In the case of Sindh, given its history of disillusionment with the central state of Pakistan on many grounds indicated above, the demand for separation from the federation has been articulated explicitly by a section of radical Sindhi nationalists. Organizationally this demand has been spearheaded by the veteran Sindhi politician G. M. Syed's Jiye Sindh movement calling Sindh to secede from Pakistan and form its own sovereign state of Sindhudesh. Before further comment on Saeen Syed's movement, let us examine if secession is a realistic option at the moment in the light of a few preconditions that must be met.
1. Concentration in a geographical area: Sindhis meet this condition, but as noted earlier, they are no
longer a demographic majority in all parts of Sindh. They have been reduced to less than half of
the population of urban Sindh and a small minority in the metropolis of Karachi. If the secession
of Sindh is the primary goal of Sindhi nationalist movement the ethnic Sindhis will either have to
take the Urdu speaking Muhajirs on board with them or part with Karachi and possibly with some
other territory of what has been historically the land of Sindh.
2. Proximity and alliance with other similarly motivated ethnic minority groups: The Sindhi
nationalist movement can make a common cause with the contiguous Balochi and Seraiki
nationalists, who share with them the feelings of political alienation from the Punjabi dominated
central state. There is possibly a role that PONM can play here. However, all this remains only
theoretical unless seriously tested in practice.
3. Support from co-ethnics living in other countries: Sindhi nationalists outside Pakistan are perhaps
the most dedicated and well organized among the South Asian diaspora after the Shri Lankan
Tamils. But it is doubtful that any significant number among them consider secession as a
realistic objective for the Sindhi nationalist movement to pursue at this time. There is also a large
population of Indian Sindhis at home and abroad with historical and cultural affinities with
Pakistani Sindhis, but given the state of Indo-Pakistan relations, it will be highly counter-
productive to involve them in Sindh's ethnonationalist movement at this stage.
4. Support from foreign powers: Some Sindhi nationalists have expressed hope that the objective of
separation from Pakistan can be achieved with foreign aid, particularly the aid of the United
States as the sole superpower. This appears to be a very naïve expectation, firstly because the
international legal and political conventions do not recognize secession as a legitimate act,
although there are a few precedents where the international community has given recognition to
defacto secession. The nation state both in the East and West is typically a multi-ethnic state
reluctant to set a wrong precedent which might encourage its own ethnic minorities to follow. The
United States, despite its rhetoric of "liberating" the people of other repressive states has its own
dismal record of propping up repressive regimes to serve its self interests. In the case of Pakistan
it has always been part of the problem of internal repression than a solution to the problem.
5. Armed Struggle and guerrilla warfare: Armed action to achieve independence from a mother state
is not so uncommon in recent history and has even been witnessed in Pakistan itself. But to
successfully launch such actions a host of strategic factors have to be assessed. These include, the
suitability of the terrain for guerrilla warfare, the military power of the central state and its
propensity to use that power against the seceding ethnic community, the social structure and
leadership of the seceding community, the strengths and weaknesses of the central state forces,
including the possibility of defections from the other side and so on. Without such careful
assessments with certain amount of expertise, the call to arms would be sheer adventurism for the
Sindhi nationalist movement.
There is little evidence that G. M. Syed's movement has thought carefully about all the above
preconditions for a successful execution of its separatist agenda. Saeen Syed did at one time address point
1 above concerning the demographic change in Sindh after the partition. In 1970 when the One Unit was
being dismantled and the original four provinces of West Pakistan were being restored, he is reported to
have sent a message to the Muhajir leaders of Karachi to opt for their own province from within Sindh for
later it would be impossible for them to live with Sindhis peacefully in the administrative unity of Sindh.
There will be a sharper clash of interests leading to bloodshed. The Muhajir leadership at that time was in
the hands of Muslim League and Jamat-e-Islami the two parties pledged to Pakistan ideology and Islamic
nationhood and therefore they gave no importance to Syed's advise. Being aware that Jiye Sindh's
secessionist agenda had little chance of implementation through peaceful democratic means, G. M. Syed
and his followers adopted the unfortunate policy of subverting the PPP involved in the electoral
parliamentary politics of Pakistan and making unscrupulous alliances with hatchet men like Jam Sadiq
Ali and MQM, the Muhajir supremacist party.
Another option that has emerged from sections of the Sindhi nationalist movement and merits
consideration is the demand for change from the unitary federal structure of the Pakistani state to a
confederation. The outline of such a confederation was drawn up by its main proponent Mumtaz Ali
Bhutto and reads something like this:
The confederation will consist of an elected federal government and "autonomous and sovereign" states. The
authority of the federal government will be restricted mainly to subjects of defense, foreign affairs, currency,
interstate trade, communications, and economic coordination. The states shall have all authority and power
which has not been expressly and with mutual consent surrendered to the federal government. The office of
the Prime Minister shall rotate among the states. In the event of any subversion of the constitution, usurpation
of the federal powers and interference with the autonomy and sovereignty of any state by the armed forces or
any other individual or agency, the concerned state or states shall have the power to separate from the
confederation and declare independence.
There is no hard and fast model of a confederation and few examples exist in practice to tell us how it works. One reason for lack of precedents is that all stable democratically functioning multi-ethnic states use the flexible principles of a federal form of government to solve their problems of national integration. Pakistan has obviously failed to do so which explains why confederation appears to be the only
framework to some within which Sindh can maintain its ties with the central state of Pakistan.
Mumtaz Bhutto's enunciation of the confederal model can certainly be a subject for negotiation, but it is not clear between whom? Presumably, his proposal is to be implemented through constitutional changes
carried out by the parliament, yet neither he nor any of his political followers seem to be involved
anymore with Pakistan's electoral parliamentary politics. The support for the confederation option as a solution to the problems of Pakistan's minority ethnic groups or nationalities has been strong among
prominent Sindhi academics and intellectuals. Its roots and historical justification go back to the landmark Pakistan Resolution of 1940, stipulating "autonomous and sovereign" status for the constituent units of Pakistan. But unless there is a clear idea of the mechanisms through which the confederation scheme is to be negotiated and implemented, it will only remain a subject of academic debate.
While the above two options prioritize separatism as the primary means of redressing the wrongs that
Sindh has suffered and the protection of the rights of Sindhi people in future, a third approach would make the Sindhi nationalist movement part of a the broader struggle for equality, freedom, democracy,
rule of law, peace, tolerance and secular humanism. Not all the elements of this approach have been tied together into a coherent agenda, but some are articulated in the platform of Awami Tehrik led by Rasul Bux Palejo which gained considerable media attention in Pakistan by courting arrests of its workers
during the MRD's civil disobedience campaign against Zia's military rule. The Tehrik does not shun
electoral politics and has been active in the political mobilization of Sindhi workers and peasants. It believes in the greater autonomy and rights of Pakistan's minority provinces, and finds no contradiction between affirming Pakistan's statehood and the existence of four nations within it . It pleads that the provinces should have full control over the resources - water, land, minerals, fisheries, forests and ports etc.- that were there at the time of the establishment of Pakistan, however the fruits of economic
development and the ongoing material and cultural progress should be shared equally by all the people of Pakistan. It stresses the importance of forging a wider common front of pro- democracy and anti-
imperialist forces within Pakistan. Palejo maintains that the problem of national oppression in Sindh has a
structural basis, which requires struggle against feudalism, military-bureaucratic hegemony, neo-colonial alliances with the imperialist countries etc. The problem will not go away simply by blaming the Punjabis.
These are in bare outline some of the major pathways, with many offshoots and nuances, through which the Sindhi nationalist movement has meandered for almost half a century, generating more emotional anguish than concrete results. The reason for this anomaly is that there are some hidden pitfalls in these approaches which are seldom examined critically by the activists in the movement and their sympathizers. Some of these pitfalls are examined below.
The Shortcomings of the Sindhi Nationalist Movement
Perhaps the greatest limitation of the Sindhi nationalist movement is the uncritical overemphasis on separatism. It has produced inward looking narcissistic tendencies which have seriously hampered the capacity of the activists in the movement to organize wider and more effective political action in cooperation with other progressive elements within and outside Sindh against the oppressive and authoritarian Pakistani state. This state power structure is no doubt dominated by Punjabis. But this state shows no less a propensity to brutally crush the just demands of Punjabi peasants and workers as it does in the case of Sindhi or Balichi under- classes. This was starkly demonstrated recently when the Punjabi army brutally crushed the mass resistance of Okara peasants against evictions from the crown lands which they had been cultivating for almost a century. As Saeen Palejo has said, during his political imprisonments in Punjab jails and conversations with fellow inmates, he discovered that there is also a Punjab that is struggling for social justice and fundamental rights of people. These people, one would think are the natural allies of the oppressed Sindhis. It is disappointing that Sindhi nationalists not only ignore these potential allies in Pakistan, but some of them even ignore the global mass movement that has erupted in all continents in support of the human rights of all the oppressed people. It is indeed baffling to be advised to wait in obeisance for the US State Department to come and "liberate" Sindh as it has liberated Afghanistan and Iraq. It is also interesting to see that some of the Sindhi nationalist friends look up to Hindu rashtra fanatics in India for moral support because they happen to be of Sindhi origin, when their cause could be far better served with the blessings of that woman from Kerala, the tireless crusader against mega dams and a delightful George W. Bush basher - Arundhaty Roy. It is surely prudent to chose our battles carefully, but shouldn't we chose our friends carefully as well?
Separatism has also isolated Sindhi activists from other critical struggles which have direct bearing on Sindh's nationalist struggle. For example, without the success of the peace movement in Pakistan, (and elsewhere), the non-Sindhi military establishment of the country will continue to swallow two thirds of the government revenues and from what is left over, for federal transfers, Sindh's share will remain a pittance, even if these transfers are equitable.
Take the example of struggle for democracy. Sindhi separatists see no point in being part of the national struggle for restoration of parliamentary democracy in Pakistan as they believe it to be a form of Punjabi majority rule. Some separatists, Jiye Sindh leadership as noted earlier, have even tried to subvert the system. But whatever its distortions and drawbacks, for 11 years of democratic rule from 1988 to 1999, the construction of Kalabagh dam was staved off, the reason being that even under a quasi-democratic rule, there is some room for negotiations, alliance formation and regard for public opinion which is missing under one man arbitrary rule. That explains why Musharraf thinks he can arbitrarily go ahead with the construction of widely opposed Kalabagh Dam as well as the Greater Thal Canal.
There are a number of other critical struggles from which the Sindhi national movement cannot afford to isolate itself, but without prolonging this discussion, we will conclude with a brief personal note.
Sindh is an ancient country that has existed as the homeland of a cultural and linguistic community long in the making in a unique geographical setting. The history of this land and its people is preserved in the chronicles of Chinese, Greek, Persian and Arab travelers and historians that go back to several millennia before the advent of the Christian era. The 18th and 19th century European and English merchants found Sindh to be a "coveted land; a fruitful and pleasant country, rich and fertile. ... in the middle of which flowed the "King River," shahdaryia. There is an imagery and long cultural history of this land etched in the collective identity of the indigenous Sindhis in the form of myths, memories, symbols, rituals, folk tales, mysticism and the language which cannot be erased easily. The Muhajirs, despite the overwhelming numbers with which they have settled in Sindh and Karachi can neither subvert the Sindhi primordial identity nor the Sindhi language and culture. They may have resisted acculturation in the Sindhi way of life for the last fifty years but that is only a drop in the ocean of time. Urdu speaking parents in Karachi are already complaining that their teenagers are not singing Urdu songs. What they are singing is a Jazzier version of what Sindhi and Siraiki singers Abida Perween and Pathane Khan have sung. As far as the politically dominant Punjabis, they have failed to launch a single mass circulation daily news paper in their own province, while Sindhis have a vibrant journalistic tradition, with several mass circulation daily news papers in their own language.
Sindhi and Siraiki areas are the natural heartland of Pakistan physically, culturally and spiritually. Politically, ideologically and militarily an alien system has been imposed on Pakistan to contain and deny its cultural diversity. This semblance of national unity maintained with the use of brute force and violence cannot last long. Sindhi nationalists have to decide whether they want to reclaim Pakistan by leading the struggles of the people, Sindhis and non-Sindhis, or fight an expensive battle for separation which may turn out to be unnecessary after all. No modern multi-ethnic state can survive for long without democratically instituted mechanisms of power sharing and equitable distribution of resources across all regions and levels of government. Instead of following these elementary principles of building a nation, the ruling oligarchy of Pakistan has been obsessed with building a powerful unitary state. The edifice of this state based as it is on the physical power of the armed forces and glued together with "Islamic ideology," which is manifesting itself in mounting bigotry and violence, is bound to collapse under its own weight.