by Manzoor Chandio, email@example.com
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday broke the tradition of speaking national language during official ceremonies and made his speech in Seraiki at the ground-breaking ceremony of the Multan Airport’s upgradation.
PM Gilani even doesn’t shy speaking Seraiki in the PM house with all delegations from south Punjab. PM Gilani and President Zardari also communicate in Seraiki which is mother tongue of both of them.
This assertiveness on the part of the head of state and the head of government should be a lesson for all Sindhi ministers who have inferiority complex of speaking
Urdu during such ceremonies.
Let me also share with you a useful debate going on Facebook about intensifying demand for a Seraiki province.
Seraikis’ mandate, who overwhelmingly voted for the PPP, is not being recognised in Punjab by the PML-N chauvinists. The PML-N is a party which not only stands for the status quo in Pakistan but also wants perpetual deprivation of the Seraiki belt. The past PML-N governments in Punjab did nothing for the Seraiki districts, paving way for recruitments of jihadi militants among Seraikis.
Now the PML-N chauvinists want to push the PPP against the wall in Punjab only to punish the Seraikis for continuously voting for the PPP.
Facebook participants were of the view that Seraiki is the largest spoken language in Pakistan. Seraiki is also the representative language of ancient Indus valley civilization.
The Seraiki area has been a separate administrative region for centuries (before the British rule in India) and has a separate cultural identity from Punjabi culture. However, after the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the area was made a part of Punjab province.
Unfortunately, the Seraiki area has been severally neglected in last 60 years and no significant work has been done to preserve Seraiki language or culture. There is a few or no representation of Seraiki language and culture on the national media (despite the fact that Seraiki is the most widely spoken language in Pakistan).
Administratively, Seraiki districts are far away from the capital of Punjab i.e. Lahore and this makes it difficult for the Seraiki people to access the provincial resources.
It is an irony that the biggest nationality of Pakistan has no geographical identity. Seraikis comfortably outnumber Punjabis in Punjab.
The only language which is spoken in the four provinces of Pakistan (consider Hindko as a version of or at least in close proximity to Seraiki has no official status.
One friend said the Seraiki case has been weakened by Seraikis themselves, who are fighting on the would-be capital of the province. Some want Multan and others want Bahawalpur. And also they always vote for those, who never had nay interest in the separate province.
On Baloch friend vehemently opposed the inclusion of Dera Gazi Khan and Rajanpur in the proposed Seraiki province. He was of the view that both districts belonged to Balochistan. He was so aggressive that even he did not hesitate to blame some Sindhi friends of not having any sense of nationalism.
My reply to him was: “You must know that present boundaries of historical Baloch lands were drawn by Western colonialists with no concern for ground realities.
They divided and sub-divided Baloch lands as suited them. Sir A. Henry McMahon illogically drew the McMahon line (the Afghan-Iran border) in 1896, giving Baloch lands to Afghanistan. Today, three Baloch provinces are under occupation of Afghanistan.
Perhaps that is the reason again Western forces are coming to Baloch territories in Afghanistan to correct the mistakes they committed during the colonial era.
The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade under the Obama plan is being stationed in Lashkar Gah to control Farah, Helmand and south towards Garmser.
The Goldsmid Line (the Iran-Pakistan border) divides Pakistan-controlled Balochistan and Sistan-Balochistan.
Sindhis wish that Baloch divided in three countries must unite because they were separated illogically. This is our sense of nationalism.
But you’ll have to recognise a historical fact that Dera Gazi Khan and Rajanpur are historically Seraiki lands where Baloch came during the Mughal era.
Some participants were afraid of further disintegration of Pakistani provinces if Seraiki province is created.
The creation of a Seraiki province is not the question of fragmentation but integration of a nation and renaissance of Seraiki province dream realised.
For centuries, Seraiki areas were part of Sindh. Multan was a separate pragna (province) during the Mughal era. It was Rangit Singh who occupied Seraiki lands and inlcuded them in Punjab. The British included Dera Ismail Khan with the NWFP. There is no wrong if Seraikis have their own province in Pakistan.
Definitely, Seraikis will benefit from their own province. The area is not as industrialised as the central Punjab, but it contributes most of the raw material (cotton) for Pakistan’s main exports …fabric, yarn and garments.
The area is also rich in mango orchids. Mangoes from Seraiki province are exported across the world. Above all Seraiki area is the heart of the country.
The creation of a Seraiki province should not be seen in the context of separation. Punjab gets a major share of revenue from the federation on the basis of its huge population but in return it does not spend on the development of Seraiki areas.
Punjab has heavily industrialised only the central districts, depriving Seraikis of prosperity. With the creation of a Seraiki province, they would get their own share of revenue which would ultimately result into their prosperity.
Some of the participants were thinking that the creation of a Seraiki province would further strengthen feudal hold in the new province.
My reply to them was: Two centuries back there were four to five empires in Europe. These empires were run by aristocrats. Europe was at perpetual war and people entangled in the web of abject poverty. Today there are 50 states and no aristocrats in Europe and the continent is the most prosperous in the world.
All over the world, only the smaller states are happy and prosperous– Singapore, Switzerland, Ireland, Hong Kong, etc… Big states face big problems like India, China, USSR (already shattered), USA etc.
There is no wrong if a province is carved out of a big province according to the wishes of Seraiki people who historically own this land. The demand for a Seraiki province is not tantamount to grabbing others’ land but Seraikis are demanding the revival of an administrative unit which existed there since time immemorial.
Actually, smaller administrative units empower people and the empowerment of people would ultimately end feudalism.
PS: Some Seraiki groups and civil soceity ogranisation have organised a two-day conference in Islamabad on April 19-20. The theme of the conference is: “the question of creating a Seraiki province”.
Friends living in the capital may pariticiapte in it.
Venue: National Press Club, Judicial Town, F-6/1, Islamabd.