Ethnic Conflict in Sindh and Time for healing

Time for healing

By: Zubeida Mustafa

AN article, ‘Rapprochement is possible, by Abrar Kazi and Zulfiqar Halepoto of the Sindh Democratic Forum in this space on Aug 21 was an invitation for a rapprochement between the “progressive Urdu-speaking” people and the Sindhis to join hands and make the province an ideal homeland.

The writers deserve kudos and our gratitude for what can be termed their common sense, humanism and courage.

What they say is something that every right-minded person — irrespective of the language he or she speaks — living in Sindh has known for long. The two communities are conscious of the importance of coexistence. Then how has this rift divided the province?

The fact is that politicians, military leaders and feudals who have always had a stake in consolidating their hold on power have played on the sensitivities of the people in the garb of promoting the interest of their communities. Some went to the extent of setting up political parties on ethnic lines and creating a power base not on the basis of political and economic programmes but on the ethnicity of their supporters.

For a population living in destitution, it was easy to succumb to the politics of ethnicity that brought jobs, favours and political influence. It also gave rise to a virulent form of ethnic nationalism that has led to confrontation and alienation. The fact is that the playing field has never been level for all people not just in Sindh but everywhere in Pakistan. People of all ethnicities have lacked equal opportunities at all times. Over the years, a stage came when economic class divisions crept in.

With them came the social divide. It would be wrong to attribute the privileged status of a section of the population in the province to their ethnic affiliations or the language they speak.

The dynamics of power have worked differently. In a society so badly stratified and devoid of democratic structures, the fault line should have been between the haves and the have-nots. Ironically, the intelligentsia became so focused on the ethnic/linguistic background of the governed that it failed to notice that the majority of them lacked control over their own lives and were victims of oppression.

But that is not strange. Pakistan has never been a democracy even though governments — including military dictatorships — have felt constrained to legitimise themselves by demonstrating their following. What better way was there than for them to appeal to the base instincts of people and divide them to strengthen those at the helm?

When the situation became really bad, many people, who had nothing to lose as they already were so downtrodden, found security in numbers by clustering together in their own community. That is what the political leaders wanted and thus a vicious cycle set in.

Mercifully, there are still many people in the province from both communities who see through the strategems of selfish and fascistic leaders who have their own games to play. The members of the SDF who wrote this article are right when they say that “such politics tend to paint all Urdu-speaking people with the same brush although most are progressive and liberal and desire peace and integration”. …

Read more → DAWN.COM

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