Sindhis as ‘an Indo-Pak bridge’

Across the Wagah : An Indian’s Sojourn in Pakistan

by Mohammad Ali Mahar, Austin, TX

… an interesting book, ‘Across the Wagah : An Indian’s Sojourn in Pakistan’. The author of the book, Maneesha Tikekar, a Marathi professor, spent almost all her time in Pakistan — which was not more than only a few months — in Islamabad. However, her study of the life in Pakistan is astounding, to say the least. Even though the book has other areas dealing with different parts of Pakistan, including Sindh, the following piece exclusively deals with Sindh.

“During the British rule, Sindh was reduced to the backyard of the Bombay Presidency. It remained poor and backward except for Karachi whose prominence increased after Sindh’s separation from Bombay. Sindh’s fortunes changed little after the creation of Pakistan for, it has been made to play the second fiddle to Punjab.

Contours of the Sindhi society have been shaped by three major forces; a handful of biradaris like Chandios, Jilanis, Talpurs, Khuhros and Bhuttos; powerful landlords, waderas, whose stories of exploitation of women and repression of the poor farm labour, haris abound in Sindh; and the Pirs of Hala and the most (in) famous Pir of Pagara. Urban Sindh has been dominated by mohajirs. Ethnic conflict in the southern province of Sindh between indigenous Sindhis and Urdu-speaking mohajirs, claimed hundreds of lives during the 1990s. Traditionally the Sindhi Muslim was poor, backward and uneducated and the middle class barely existed. At the time of independence Sindh ‘was beset with extremes of wealth and poverty. Since the creation of Pakistan Z.A. Bhutto was the only Sindhi leader who had stirred the masses so deeply that they rose above biradari links and voted for him and his party. The disciples of Pir of Pagara are reported to have said, sir Saeen da, vote Bhutto da meaning ‘our life is for the Pir but vote for Bhutto’.

Hindu-Muslim relations in Sindh were cordial and they have survived the trauma of the partition. It is the Sindhi Sufi tradition that bound the two together. Sufi poet saint Shah Abdul Latif is revered by both Muslims and Hindus alike. Despite the fact that Pakistani establishments kept the communal equation unsettled in Sindh, the bonds between the two communities have not been snapped altogether. If along with the Mumbai-Karachi ferry service, Munbao-Khokrapar (Rajasthan-Sindh) rail link is also revived as proposed by India in October 2003 as a part of the package of confidence building measures between the two countries, then it will be a double bonus to the Sindhi community living on either side of the border. Saeed Naqvi, a noted Indian journalist describes Sindhis as ‘an Indo-Pak bridge’.”

One may or may not agree with the observations made in the above piece, it is interesting to know how the world sees us, Sindhis.

August 20, 2010

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