Racism in Pakistan

By: Tarek Fatah

Zardari, after all is a Sindhi, from a people most upper class Punjabis think off as backward, lazy, illiterate serfs who are unpatriotic and thus not deserving to be at the helm of affairs. This Punjabi elite cannot get over the fact, the man they hated, from a people they despised, has ended up as the president of the country, and that too without their blessing.

Pakistan is a multi-national and multi-lingual country of diverse peoples that wraps itself in the banner of Islam. However, its elites practice neither Islam nor recognize diversity.

On the contrary, the dominant ruling elites, the Punjabi upper middle class, civil and military officers, as well as the landed aristocracy have ruled the nation for over 60 years with a sense of entitlement that bristles with racism and chauvinism.

One would have thought the Punjabi ruling classes would have learnt a lesson in 1971 after their colonialist policies in then East Pakistan destroyed the country. However, instead of facing the truth, it seems this sense of entitlement and colonial attitude has been reinforced and passed on to the next generation.

These men and women simply see themselves as the normative and all other Pakistanis, be they religious or racial minorities, as their subjects.

Only if one recognizes this internal racism of the Pakistan’s ruling Punjabi elites, including the media, can one can get to understand the near hysterical nature of the opposition to President Asif Ali Zardari that takes on a vicious personal nature.

At times it seems the hatred targeted at Zardari is sheer jealousy. More than one such gentleman has said Zardari did not deserve to have been the husband of Benazir Bhutto; a position they feel should have been reserved for them or one of their fellow Punjabis who fake colonial British accents, false Muslim bravado, but back their patriotism with genuine Canadian passports.

Zardari, after all is a Sindhi, a people most upper class Punjabis think off as backward, lazy, illiterate serfs who are unpatriotic and thus not deserving to be at the helm of affairs. This Punjabi elite cannot get over the fact, the man they hated from a people they despised, has ended up as the president of the country, and that too without their blessing”

This arrogant and racist attitude is not reserved just for the Sindhis, but also includes the Baloch, a people treated like the Blacks in America before the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Blogger Wasiq Ali captured this feeling best. On August 7, 2009, he wrote about a recent report by Transparency International that inside Pakistan the ‘perception’ is that while corruption is down in Punjab, it has increased in places like Sind or Baluchistan.

Wasiq writes:

“Quite clearly the perception creators are Punjabi chauvinists who deem the “lowly” Sindhis and Baloch more corrupt than themselves. Ironically, there is more wealth –and vulgar display of wealth in Punjab—than in Sind and Baluchistan. We must all believe, as true believers in the ideology of Pakistan, that the Porsches and BMWs of the Chaudhries of Gujarat and the Sharifs of Raiwind are all legally obtained but the Pajeros of the Baloch and Pashtun Sardars are not. And, of course, the Sindhi Asif Zardari was “horrible’ for owning horses and feeding them apples (which, by the way, all horses are fed) but the Punjabi Sharifs are non-corrupt even when they own rare Siberian Tigers [Imported from Canada].”

In a country where ordinary Punjabi military generals retire as multi-millionaires in US dollars, it is fascinating that the tarred word ‘corruption’ is associated, not with them, but is reserved exclusively for politicians from the Sind and Baluchistan.

Thus, President Asif Ali Zardari has to live with the title “Mr. Ten Per Cent,” not because he has been convicted of the charge of corruption despite being interned for over ten years, but because the phrase has a sexy rhyme to it. It is repeated ad nauseam by the media who cannot comprehend anyone outside the Punjabi framework as being independently wealthy.

Now those same elites are using Transparency International’s report on ‘perceptions’ to denigrate a democratically elected government in Pakistan that is dedicated to eliminate the jihadi threat to the country.

According to Wasiq Ali, “The words of ‘transparency’ and ‘international’ are good attraction points to draw public attention in Pakistan because of vague political landscape. Nobody knows the modus operandi and the data collation procedures of TI. Publication of these reports thus mostly serves the purpose of the opposition to taint the governments especially in third world countries. During the 1990s TI reports were used against democratic governments and eventually to justify [General] Musharraf’s military takeover in October 1999.”

He very correctly points out that “Transparency International has a local chapter in every country where it literally out-sources the task of compiling reports. The task is to interview local businessmen who first safeguard their business concerns, revitalize their vital connections, and try to milk these reports as much in their favour as possible.

Like all developing countries, Pakistan too is faced with growth pangs, one them being corruption. It is the nature of the beast and even countries like Canada are not free of this aspect of the ‘free market’ principles of capitalism. Former Prime Ministers have been exposed as receiving hundred of thousands of dollars in brown envelopes. Bribes by their nature have two parties involved—the giver and the taker, both equally complicit in corruption.

The fact that the Punjabi elite dominates all major businesses in Pakistan allows for a certain ethnic chauvinism, which then affects the compilation of these Transparency International reports and opinion surveys. However, it is only downright racism that suggest when a Punjabi politician imports a Siberian Tiger, he is an animal lover, but if Sindhi politician feeds his horse an apple, he is a guilty of corruption.

As Wasiq Ali writes, “Interestingly the business elite which mostly hails from Punjab has brought the country to the brink of Balkanization by concentrating prosperity in one province while distributing misery around the country.

This elite practically controls all resources of the country, mostly resides in Northern and Central Punjab and has often been the cause of major upheavals in the checkered history of Pakistan.”

Pakistan broke up in 1971 due to the arrogance and racism of the country’s Punjabi elites towards dark-skinned Bengalis of East Pakistan. Today the next generation of Punjabi ruling class should recognize that if they do not recognize their faults, what is left of Pakistan will also splinter into many fragments leaving their prosperity landlocked and surrounded by hostile neighbours with wounded prides.

The racist nature of Pakistan’s politics. Where Punjabis govern with a sense of entitlement over Sindhis and Baloch.

(Note- Tarek Fatah is a highly respected Canadian commentator who has fearlessly confronted Islamic extremism in recent years.)

Courtesy: Averroepress.com, August 12, 2009

Source – http://www.averroespress.com/AverroesPress/Main/Entries/2009/8/12_The_racist_nature_of_Pakistan%E2%80%99s_politics._Where_Punjabis_govern_with_a_sense_of_entitlement_over_Sindhis_and_Baloch.html

11 thoughts on “Racism in Pakistan”

  1. Our NGO is in the process of registration. you may visit its website. which is still under construction please…

  2. Dear Tariq, you are very Energetic, Positive, and Inspire. I really like it.

    Muhammad Faizan

  3. Useful information. Lucky me I discovered your site by
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  4. Right from Asif zardari to justice Deedar Shah sindhis are being villified threatened harassedand malaigned with an inherrent malice nurtured in upper class punjabi hearts and minds.Zardari is being doomed as most corrupt man on purpose on the basis of perceptions without solid proof of allegations. whereas Sharif brothers who are adjudged defaulters of all major banks as per the decrees of Lahore high court worth billions of rupees are being portrayed as sieges and national heros. their cases are not being proceeded by court though their properties including ittefaq foundary are attached.the facts can be verified from the record of Lahore H C.jag punjab zindabad.


    you call thse people racist(the Punjabis) who have voted over 10 Sindhi rulers,including Zardari into power as Pakistan’s prime ministers/presidents since 1947….

    you ignore the fact that membership for the bureaucracy and military are purely voluntary.The people of the smaller provinces,excluding NWFP,voluntarily hardly participated in the institutions.One fault of the federation in this respect is that it hardly encourages the people to join…
    this is NOT because of racism even though you would love to portary it as such as there is no prohibition on anybody joining…there are plenty of other reasons
    but people like you portray all problems in light of a phenomenon you call ‘punjabi domination’…

    You say we despise Sindhis whereas I,as an upper class Punjabi,swear on my Lord’s name that we believe in the equality of all of the Muslims….ethnic minorities are happier in Punjab than they are in any other province,especially Sindh and Balochistan…For us Punjabis,rulers can belong to whatever caste,ethinicity or race(but not creed)…as long as they care of their people and actually do what they are in power for….SERVE THE COMMON MASSES!
    Zardai not one of them and it is part of an evolved phase of the Sindh card that Sindhis should back that inept leader just
    because of his ethinicity…and that Punjabis are so vocal against him just because he is a sindhi…nd just why would we care who Benazir had married?
    ….How can you say we were against Benazir marrying a Sindhi?How were we to know he would come to rule the nation?And wasn’t Benazir Sindhi too?So is it not illogical for you to say that Punjabis would object to a Sindhi prime minister having a Sindhi husband?

    Also,Zardari is more under attack as he is ruler of Pakistan…and the Sharifs simply did a better job at covering up their corruption…I,for one,did not know they had imported Siberian tigers…

    You fail to understand,or rather you hde the fact,that nationalists are scoundrels who don’t really care about the ‘nations’ they claim to represent…an example is of the Sindhi nationalist leader
    Sir YOU are the racist ones who condemns us Punjabis as ‘children of the damned’…calling us bigots…the common people of the Punjab do not even know Zardari is a sindhi…and the only reason they hate him is for the damage he has caused the country…

    moosa soomro
    what credibility d we have of your experience?I am in the same field of work as you but i have not chanced to hear such words being uttered even once…but rather the opposite as people express sorrow that you people feel that way and the mismanagement at the center is partly to blame for this…


    TF and all such journalists of his kind are main tools for engaging in psychological warfare…they are a shame to journalism and spit out suppositions without proof of merit (see how Zardari’s well known crimes are mitigated in this article)
    These are the people who only a short while ago said that the taliban were just about to take over pakistan…and the same people who try to portray Pakistan as an all Punjabi state wuth no room for other nationalities,and who interpret
    current issues in the light of such a portrayal…PLEASE DO NOT LET THEM SUCCEED…

    1. I am an urdu speaking from Karachi, some of my relatives are from Punjab, though every time i talk to a Sindhi i feel like i am an intruder who is eating up indigenous resources though me and my parents are all Sindhis by birth, my relatives in Punjab never felt that way.

      Though a lot of notions are put in our heads about Punjabi people but I think they are the most generous and hospitable people in Pakistan and sheer incompetence of other ethnicities should not be blamed on Punjabis

  6. Justice for All not for only Zardari.
    Es hamam men dosere bhee haen….why not trial of corruption and mis-use of powers of shareef brothers of Lahore, Pervez Musharef & Company , Choudris of Gujrat, Altaf Hussain, MQM & others etc…. the reply is only simple ………Are they First class citizen of this country …..only we sindhis & baluchis are second class citizen…no doubt Zardari is president of second class citizens …therefore, he shall face all these hardships….
    I humbly request to the Peoples Party who belongs to sindh & baluchistan and all over Pakistan….this is a time to awake from deep sleep and deligate the powers & rights to Sindh and baluchistan…otherwise historty will never forgive you….you Have two ways one road goes to doulah darya khan., hoshoo shedi, Hemoon kalani….and other road …..Now decision is in your hand ..time & ties no wait for one……
    regards Abuzarjan

  7. “GOD give you this best opportunity to serve the Nation in real means” .
    I humbly request the Policy makers of Pakistan Peoples Party and leadership of PPP…subah ka bhola ager sham ko ghar lot aae to us ko bhola nahee kahtae…..come to the house and get Loving hug of Sindh Mother land…remove the sorrows & despiration of 62-years of dharti Mata Sindh Aman..give him his right of water.., right of land & revenue.., right of Love and peace, right of provincial Autonomy.., right of constitution…..every right which he deserve because he has given birth to this country …absolutely He is Mother of Pakistan….respect Sindhi Nation in real manner … dont make mockery / sharpnees with the sentiments of Sindh mother land and dont misuse Sindh card for own interest/self interest… Utilize sindh card for the rights of poor peoples of Sindh & sindhi nation.

    May Allah give you guidance & right path for services of this Nation.
    AL_HUB-ul -WATEN minul-Iman.
    with regards,

  8. Asif Zardari is our Hero, an intellect who flopped many conspiracies made to belittle him, heavy pressure of various pressure groups created for him and information war/psy ops planned and prepared by the main brains of agencies have done a lot.

    Puppets of media are also making all out efforts to fail him. No positive criticism is made. Everything is obvious to be a racist one.

    Mr. Zardari needs attention and support of Sindhi civil society.

    Moosa Soomro

  9. Dear Tariq, you are absolutely right, i’m amazed to read the same words which I had been listening in the officer mess, corridors and offices of my colleagues while serving various Intelligence agencies and the apex anti corruption agency NAB. They never bear any Sindhi to come face to face with them. I can never forget a sentance of one racist person “Sindhis don’t deserve to be in Islamabad.” I chave a lot to say, but I am working to eliminate such social evils including corruption. I suggest all the friends to visit my blog at http://www.discoverngo.blogspot.com

    Moosa Soomro

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