by Bina Shah
I woke up this morning steeling myself for a grim kind of day: It’s Benazir Bhutto’s 5th death anniversary, and the mourning had already started since last night. We have all keenly felt her loss, and nobody loved her more than the people of Sindh, from where she came. “I am the daughter of the Indus, the daughter of Taxila, the heir of this 5000 year old civilisation” was a quote that I was seeing on Twitter to remind us of the legacy of this remarkable woman.
So imagine my dismay when I looked at the newspaper and on the front page of the main section I see this headline:
For Sindh’s Feudals, Karachi Lives Come Cheap
I mean, really?
The story is about a young man who was killed after returning home from a valima in a personal enmity between him and another young man, who is apparently the son of a petty landlord from Sukkur. An appalling crime indeed, and the young man fled into the interior after committing the murder, and is using his connections to escape the consequences of his crime.
But according to the Express Tribune, this murder means that Sindh’s feudals come to Karachi and kill the non-Sindhi people of Karachi for sport. If that isn’t a clear sign of anti-Sindhi racism on the part of the newspaper’s staff, I don’t know what is. It’s quite obvious that most urban residents of Karachi display a corrosive hatred of Sindh’s feudals, resenting them for the stranglehold they imagine the feudals have over the hapless peasants of the countryside. I’ve written before about how that is a distorted picture, and that very few people from Karachi bother trying to gain a more balanced perspective. I won’t win that battle anytime soon – I’ve come to accept that.
What dismays me about this headline and article is how it is attempting to stir up the same anti-Sindhi hatred all over again. It makes the assertion that Karachi is not part of Sindh, and that the upper classes of Sindh, some of whom are feudal and some who are not, do not belong in Karachi. That they treat the non-Sindhi people of Karachi as their prey, and Karachi as their hunting ground.
Find me any young man, Sindhi or non-Sindhi, feudal or non-feudal, whose father or uncle or brother is “someone important”; and who doesn’t swagger around like a power-drunk fool, fighting, shooting, getting into car accidents, taking lives. This is what Pakistan has become, and the young men know it.
But all is not as simple as it seems: the fight broke out because “the latter’s servant teased his sister” (teasing being a euphemism for sexual harassment here in Karachi). But why write the story as if nobody can understand what happened, unless your aim is to give it a slant that portrays Sindhi feudals as mindless, maddened killers?
The truth is that Sindhis, feudal and non-feudal alike, have been a peaceful part of Karachi’s social fabric for decades. Sindhis with ties to the interior love Karachi as much as any other ethnic group living here. They have brought their families here, contributed to Karachi’s economy with their agricultural activity, added to the diversity that is part of our great city.
There is certainly a group that finds the lives of Karachi people very cheap, and kills them with impunity. They use their contacts to escape the consequences of their crimes, and flee into the interiors of their strongholds after they’ve killed. But this group is not ethnically Sindhi, nor are they feudals. Why don’t you put that headline on your front pages, Express Tribune? While you mourn the death of Benazir, who was the daughter of a Sindhi feudal, why don’t you consider a headline about Sindhis who are killed – something like, “In Karachi, Sindhi lives come cheap”? Or Pathan lives? Or Baloch lives? Or any life at all?