Pakistan, Sindh, Sindhis and New Great Game

by: Professor Aftab Kazi, PhD (Pittsburgh)

… The concern about provincial rights, feudalism, civil society and expectations and achievements from the PPP government are justified.

Considering the nature of some conspiratorial mindsets in North America, I must first explain that my current position at NDU was not realized through political connections, but pure merit. Higher Education Commission does not appoint everyone, particularly in social sciences, who applies. It was a complex process and finally the selection committee was convinced that I deserve appointment as HEC foreign professor. .. .I belong to the Faculty of Contemporary Studies, which has recently started functioning as the civilian wing of the university to cater educational services to civilians otherwise in this basically Armed Forces institution. I am very happy being here and the fact that no one interferes with my work. I have been in Islamabad approximately ten months by now, but have never visited any single politician, minister, president, etc. Outside NDU, I only attend some embassy receptions, not governmental ones yet this moment. However, by mid-September I will be initiating such high level meetings for my own research and will also take the opportunity to discuss some Sindhi problems as well. Having explained this, now I turn to the concerns many folks have expressed.

1. In my opinion, most Sindhis based overseas hardly have any idea how politics in Pakistan functions. It is easy for them to pour out with Sindh related concerns, without realizing that sociopolitical circumstances all over Pakistan constantly keep changing, particularly in Sindh being the coastal region. I already know the mindset of some Sindhis in Washington sporting the nationalist/ sub-nationalist perceptions originating from the 1950s, and who keep no secret to receive funding from Indian sources to engage in anti-Pakistan and anti-Sindh activities. Last October, visiting Sindh University for a conference, during a meeting with one of the civil society advocates, I realized that similar perceptions occupied the mindset of some Sindhis, who can only speak loud from comfortable homes, but will never dare to speak about political stratification. My greatest disappointment has been that none of those perceptives demonstrated any understanding of the constantly changing sociopolitical culture in Sindh province and all over Pakistan. Not a single one of the Sindhi groups has had any idea, particularly Washington based pro-Indian Sindhi sub-nationalist propagandists that the concurrent Sindhi problems are not isolated, but a consequence of the geographical location of the Indus River Basin that they exhibit a historical continuity, hence are a part of the larger geopolitical issues now being played under banner of the New Great Game (NGG did not begin with the dissolution of the USSR, but started with the Cold War itself). The breaking point came around 1977 before the start of Anti-Soviet Afghan Mujaheddin war plans initiated with the overthrow of late Z.A. Bhutto and General M. Daud followed by the expulsion of the late Iranian ruler Reza Shah. Things will never be the same again as the post-1977 era has unleashed simultaneously myriad issues combining serious demographic, geopolitical and geoeconomic changes. I can still remember explaining on these lists ten years or so ago about what is coming, only to be a victim by some satanic ‘civility’ mindsets amongst the sub-nationalist and SANA groups who instantly attempted to isolate me in Washington and North America and literally threw my name out of SANAList and SANA (irony is that I happen to be among the few original members and its early vice presidents), echoed by some Washington Sindhis by excluding me from their get togethers. It did not effect me much as I have always driven my strength from my professional strength, not community, and simply stopped attending their functions, unless someone amongst them with a neutral stand insisted. I have cited this because some mails under subject refer to ‘civil society’! Having that explained, now let me explain my perspective over issues under discussion.

1. Civil Society: most NGOs worldwide and in Pakistan, particularly Sindh province, often apply the term in a fashionable way on par with civil societies in the advanced industrial societies. Briefly, ‘civil society’ requires certain levels of ‘civility’ in political culture, which in Sindh is minimal; hence applications in Sindh on par with AIS are bound to be ineffective at the gross-root levels, only marginally fashion the mindsets of a few NGO related individuals. The fact that the civil society applications must confirm to the existing levels of sociopolitical culture is missing, thus leaving applied efforts futile.

2. Feudalism is is part of the Sindhi society ever since Milena. The English utilized feudalism like previous rulers did for their own imperial goals. Luckily, since the early 1960s, first the Basic democracy program under General Ayub Khan (Khan hit yet collaborated with feudals for his perceptive order) and second by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto under his PPP actually hit the bottom of feudal phenomena albeit with cat and mouse tactics, but surely with good results. Bhutto certainly gave confidence to every single man of his importance in society. Things started worsening under Zia. That phase continues. Although the local Nazim system introduced by General Musharraf can be ideal for any given ‘civil’ society, its implementation under relatively different circumstances has not only been decadent, but in fact has introduced Neo- Feudalism, worst form that Sindh has ever experienced. Since being declared an outcast by Sindhis in north America, I rarely offer opinion on these lists, but sometime read through mails. Most articles in Sindhi press and viewpoints on these lists lament injustices, I have yet to see a single article or opinion exhibiting practical prescriptive utility. Why? Because the Sindhis partially lack the collective consciousness. Why not? if at least somewhat partial collective consciousness exists? The answer is that earlier feudalism largely consisted land-owners or pir etc., the neofeudalism includes new businesses, related middle classes acting in colonial ways (Some NGOs are offer example of this behavior) and those who seem to be rising from earlier middle to relatively upper class status. Briefly, the so called elite mindset, which loves to talk about sorrows of Sindh, but don’t have any idea of operating environment and possible actions moving with flow and influence under specific political and geopolitical cultures. This is true of Sindhis in Sindh as well as abroad, particularly in UK and NA.

Even mails below with well-expressed concerns lack ideas about practical prescriptive utility that might help address the concurrent issues (I will not go in details, but farther in mail may highlight some issue areas where progress turning negatives into positives might be possible; the art of politics that unfortunately our majority of ordinated inept politicians lack and those who understand remain un-influential) . Organization of a conference is certainly an excellent idea, yet I wonder if the proponents actually know the dissemination processes. I mention this because, many such past conferences have ended up in futility as pieces of propaganda, hurting Sindhi cause more than helping it. Even some senior highly respected political activists still seem to be dominated by their more than half-a-century old articulated jargon; and some NGo oriented Sindhi activists have failed to conceptualize actual realities. How and what different these folks would have done for Sindh under the domestic, regional and international geopolitical circumstances and difficulties that PPP is helplessly facing these days? Critics have nothing to show even in terms of capability. Unfortunately, many political activists in Sindh often have portrayed as politicians, when none seem to have had actual experience in politics and/or policy level (this makes me admire Barrister Abdul Hafiz Pirzado, who despite effective political experience told me fourteen years ago during a London visit that he is a political activist, not a politician, although he is surely one by definition).

3. PPP criticm is justified to a considerable extent, but it is also relatively less-educated. Indeed, PPP have failed Sindhi expectations. Sindhis cannot find jobs or seek opportunities in areas most otherwise would have had. Encountering some Sindhi folks in Islamabad yesterday, I learned that they were here because someone had promised to get them orders for some job with a payment of 15 lack rupees. I did not bother to ask the name of that intermediary, but surely some Sindhi folks are trying to loot other Sindhis. These folks were asked to pay an initial cash deposit of Rs. 5 lacs before the job order could be arranged, which they declined pleading that first the job order and then money. By the evening that Sindhi intermediary disappeared. I am the kind who never believes in sifarash, but under family pressure sent a letter to a Sindh minister whom I thought was an old college days friend, to appoint two of my youngest and certainly talented nephews. He never replied. Nevertheless, I learned through the press about “intermediaries” able to arrange jobs through commission. My nephews are a part of the crowd of thousands of unemployed Sindhis. It doesn’t matter, upon return from my USA-Europe visit in September, I will approach those for the jobs of my nephews and some other capable Sindhis, whom the Minister friend would have three times to think before refusing. It is a small thing.


“If you’ve become a popular politician, so what?

Even an insecure restless billionaire, so what?

Money and power never help anyone escape Death!

Accomplishments always tell Aftab, so what?”

Criticism of PPP government is justified to a considerable extent. Expectations of many Sindhis and other Pakistanis have not been achieved. However, considering the nature of chaotic politics in Pakistan particularly multi-ethnic one in Sindh can be confusing for any governing group, you name one. It is easy to criticize governance (another neo-con term replacing administration) without actually realizing how it works. I ask every critic in these mails on the subject, what alternative to PPP do they have in mind? The answer is ‘nothing’. I can sympathize with their confusion. Last May, while in Islamabad on a research trip, I encountered a Sindhi from somewhere in Sindh who happened to be one of the vice presidents of Muslim League-N in Sindh, who happen to be staying in the same guesthouse I was staying in. He told me in clear words that he in in ML-N because when PPP won’t be in office he and his other colleagues can represent the interests of Sindh. There are some people in Sindh who think in practical term, unlike many of our friends from NGOs. The PPP government has lots of problems. I cannot cite some incidents because it will be unwise. It is not easy to govern Pakistan these days.

Some folks have discussed IDPs from Swat, but we have in Sindh IDPs from the Kashmir quake as well. Demographic ratios often change constantly in geographically convenient areas through natural disasters, internal wars, internal migrations and trade, etc. The trend will continue. No one can stop is as long as the New Great Game in the region continues. Obviously Sindhis will be increasingly turned into a minority into their own province, like many other kingdoms and civilizations and their races historically did. This is a challenge as well as an opportunity. I will not offer my views how to do it, but I would like to hear from every one on the subject who seem to carry the burden of Sindh’s concerns. Mind you, under the concurrent circumstances talk about autonomy under 1940s resolution is futile. This is an entirely new political scenario that demands concurrent strategies to the resolution of conflict. NGOs and other some groups simply cannot send democracy and human rights down the throats of many Sindhis.

My greatest disappointment from Sindhi politicians and those NGOs who express such concerns is that they are not perceiving Sindh from the concurrent lenses. Perceiving Sindhi issues with the lenses of 1950s or 1960s is in fact a slow poison to the very Sindhi and Pakistani cause. All those concerned need to emphasize upon the concurrent problems on additional IDPs and the processes of their socialization inside Sindh. In my opinion, the most important cause for those who like to cry for Sindh is to force Sindh Education Department and the universities and colleges in Sindh to stratify their education at the highest levels of learning; these NGOs and other concerned must seriously start campaigns forcing Sindh University to upgrade its educational standards at the global level. I mention this because the ongoing problems, including democracy and human rights are a direct consequence of poor education. The system will not change without having a functionally effective educational system. Sindh University is not alone. Most Pakistani public universities are facing similar problems. QAU was indeed a very good federal institution of higher learning in mid and late 1970. Six months spent at QAU made me realize how poor and ineffective education it now offers. My final semester M.Sc students had no idea how to write a research paper. In Central Asia, while at the American University in Bishkek, I taught Bachelor’s degree students (AUCA does not offer Master degree programs other than MBA. Gradually they will). My third and Fourth year students were able o write excellent research term papers, so much so that I was learning from them. In fact, I have brought along with me some term papers of my AUCA students for the information they provide about their societies.

The point is that the existing university educational system is furthering the already existing educated-illiterate culture in Sindh. It is not the same university where I once studied. During various trips o Hyderabad, Karachi, Matiari and Bhit Shah over the last ten months, I came across some enthusiastic talented young minds, who want to be scholars or attain some levels of societal development (not the so-called sustained development many NGOs often cite), but they simply cannot, because the existing ineffective educational system does not equip them with necessary tools to achieve progress.

Even if the PPP government has not been able to totally satisfy Sindhi expectations, it is certainly releasing huge amounts in budget of various ministries and the universities. Well-wishers of Sindh, if the truly are, should actually be emphasizing the correct use of that money in local educational and social projects. Proper education can solve many problems which are more important than “politicized” demands of provincial autonomy. Those who desire independent Sindh must realize that it will be subservient to India and be exploited more from outside than inside. The point is that geopolitical circumstances are not viable of independent Sindh. Sindhis must learn to accept Pakistan as Greater Sindh, which is a historical reality as well. Mere provincial independence will not lead anywhere, only brand Sindhis further as trouble makers within the political framework of Pakistan which lives.

Briefly, my point to the concerned folks of these emails is that they must start thinking about Sindh as a New Sindh, because the concurrent Sindh does not even resemble with the Sindh of 1948. We have many more new urgent problems. Yes, indeed demand about share of jobs in the center, demand about rights over natural resources within the Federal bounds, demand about serious educational reforms, etc. These are legitimate concerns. Indeed, demand about the educational and political socialization processes for IDPs and other non-Sindhi speaking populations to learn both Urdu and Sindhi; a timely need that is likely to address the long term oriented psychological sensitivities about being converted into a minority. Have the new comer become Sindhis so that the cultural infusion is not felt. But these are cross-generational problems and Sindhis must maintain patience until the cultural fusion is materialized….

Aftab Kazi, PhD (Pittsburgh)

HEC (Higher Education Commission) Foreign Professor

FCS, National Defense University of Pakistan

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Our source for above article- Above article of Professor Aftab Kazi has published at Sindhi e-lists/e-groups on May 24, 2009

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