Sindh Diary : Sindhi Nationalism and G. M. Syed
Born in 1904, G.M Syed was a descendant of a saint buried in his native village of Sann. He would later become one of the most controversial and paradoxical public figures of Pakistan. After founding the Sindh Hari Committee, he became an active Muslim League leader during the 1939 communal riots in SukKar for which he would later, during a visit to India in the 1980’s would apologize. Syed would later also apologize to the people of Sindh for having “moved the resolution demanding the creation of Pakistan in the legislature of Sindh before independence and partition”.
G.M Sayed was indeed one of the greatest Sindhi political visionaries ever produced. It was G.M Syed who joined Muslim League and ultimately did a lot for Sindhi Nationalism and founded Jeay-e-Sindh Movement, after the creation of Pakistan. In “The Sole Spokesman” by Ayesha Jalal writes interesting accounts of G.M Syed’s politics before the partition; that G.M Syed was in open revolt against Ghulam Hussain’s ministry whom Jinnah mistrusted and obviously there was history behind it. By September 1945 a bitter three-way struggle for League ticket had broken out between G.M Syed, Khuhro and Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah. The clash between the President of Sindh Muslim League (G.M Syed) and the Province’s premier climaxed in the former’s expulsion from the organization in January 1946. G.M Syed complained to Jinnah was that the Minister’s support of the landed elite’s interests was unpopular and was retarding the Pakistan cause. G.M Syed was obviously over-shadowed.
In 1947 post-partition, Syed had founded the Sindh Progressive Party (SPP) which laid down the foundation of Sindhi nationalism. From the very inception, the SPP opposed the two-nation theory and initially sought great provincial autonomy for Sindh; a very constitutional approach. In subsequent decades, Syed would demand independence of Sindh out of frustration and nothing else. By 1953, Syed consolidated Sindhi nationalist groups like the Sind Awami Jammat, Sindh Jinnah Awami League, Dastoor Party and Sindh Hari Party to form the Sind Awami Mahaz which became the fore-runner to the creation of the Jiya Sindh Mahaz (JSM) which was formed in the 1960’s.
The religious aspects of G.M Syed’s politics had widely been ignored. He was secular to the core and mocked mullah’s hijacking of Islam and was a victim of many fatwa’s in return by the hard-line mullah’s. He was not only a political giant but preached religion too claiming to be a descendant of the Prophet because of the “Syed” linage. S.M Syed took his inspiration from a range of men he considered prophets of mysticism including Bhudda, Christ, Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and even Gandhi, the philosopher Ibn Arabi and Rumi the poet who was executed for his famous theosophical, “ I am God/ Truth” (Ana’l Haq). G.M Syed is in fact one of the main persons who turned Shah Abdul Latif Bhati of Bhit Shah into a Sindhi National poet.
The politics of Syed was evolutionary ; the program of Sindhi Awami Mahaz was the de facto recognition of separate nationalities in Pakistan an for full provincial autonomy, leaving only defense, foreign affairs an currency with the centre which now most of the political parties had embedded into there manifestos. The Mahaz started an agitation on one of the most popular issues which had hurt the national pride of the Sindhis i.e, against the separation of Karachi from Sindh arguing that the central government had taken a decision on this without the consent of the people of Sindh. Obviously G.M Syed’s championship of the cause of the Sindhi oppressed classes didn’t win many friends and G.M Syed’s demands were seen as treason against Pakistan.
Interestingly, Altaf Hussain the then leader of Mohajir Qaumi Movement (now Muthida Qaumi Movement) representing the New Sindhis aka Mohajirs in Sindh the second majority ethnicity of Sindh was cordial. G.M Syed and Altaf Hussain’s first meeting was when G.M Syed approach Altaf Hussain to condole on the death of Altaf Hussain’s mother in late eighties and with Altaf Hussain’s visit to the leader when he under-went a major surgery. G.M Syed although had some grievances but largely acknowledged the role of Mohajirs in developing Sindh and referred Altaf Hussain as his own son. A lesson for the new faction of Jeay Sindh who is racist to the core. Altaf Hussain would later write in his book defending G.M Syed ‘s call for full provincial autonomy and numerous exchange’s between the two leader. Altaf Hussain writes “Safer-e-Zindagi”, “G.M Syed is misunderstood; there is a reason as to why a person who had advocated for Pakistan, now want’s a Sindhudesh.
The Establishment should come forward and listen to his grievances at-least ; he is a great leader”. Altaf Hussain would later call, “Karachi” as the capital and inseparable part of Sindh apart from sturdily supporting Sindh Cause too.
The 1973 Constitution had promised provincial autonomy which G.M Syed had always wanted but the domineering policies of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto scuttled provincial autonomy. This made GM. Syed lose all hope within the framework of Pakistan and he began to take a harder line. He proposed the formation of “Sindhu Desh”. However, the regimes of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Mohammad Khan Junejo and Benazir Bhutto (All Sindhis) weakened the movement of Sindhi nationalists.
In later days JSM under G.M Syed reached the pinnacle of it’s prestige and power during this period inviting a sense of importance from General Zia who used the Sindhi nationalities to douse the flames of anti-Islamabad feelings. The establishment also played her role in actually promoting violence between the two biggest ethnic groups in Sindh which were obviously failed by some-what understanding between G.M Syed, Altaf Hussain and Benazir Bhutto during that time. Karachi Declaration was signed apart from calling of restrain and peace by all sides in Sindh.
The death of G. M. Syed has left a void in Sindh. He was the last prominent figure hailing from the era of freedom struggle who believed in standing by his principle. G. M. Syed, the only other Gandhian and Pakistani politics, the first being Ghaffar Khan, will be remembered for making the ethnic Sindhis aware that Pakistan was created for the social, political and economic domination by a few minority groups and religion was merely a tool to legitimize this domination.
The coming together of Sindhi nationalists groups under one umbrella after the death of their guide and teacher, G.M Syed in April is an important development in Sindh. During his life time, his Jiy-e-Sindh Movement had split into many factions; all with the various versions of G.M Syed’s ideologies forgetting G.M Syed’s real goals of peace and non-violence being a Gandhian and peaceful co-existence with honor.
[Please note: The writer has a political affiliation with MQM and believes in Sufism (humanity)].
Courtesy: chowk.com, January 21, 2010