– Merit is a word made completely irrelevant by the successive regimes ruling the province for several years
The Minister of Petroleum informed the National Assembly that out of 1,584 positions filled in the oil and gas public sector, only 10 had gone to Sindh. Does the news bother anyone? And does another report that only two officers from rural Sindh have been hired out of 448 positions filled during the last three years in the same ministry perturb anyone of the 180 million conscientious people living in Pakistan? Considering Sindh produces around 70 percent of the total gas and oil in the country and the majority of sites are situated in Sindh, how this is justified is anyone’s guess. Why should it bother the majority? It is happening to Sindhis. So be it. When it happened to Bengalis, we did not care. Why should we now?
About 10 years ago, during the first Nawaz Sharif term, my friend Shah, son of the legendary Sindhi poet, Ustad Bukhari, was in Islamabad. Like the multitudes of Sindhi youth roaming the streets of Karachi and Islamabad looking for the men in the assemblies to help them find a source for subsistence, Shah too, having earned his engineering degree, was in Islamabad searching for a job. One day, he was lucky to have secured a pass to enter the National Assembly. Waiting in the lobby looking for someone to beg for a job, he spotted one of the most powerful ministers of the time. Shah rushed to the minister and handing the minister his application, he made his submission. The minister sensed from his accent where he could be from, asked him if he was a Sindhi. Shah replied affirmatively. At which the minister shoved the application back into Shah’s hands and walked away saying, “Then to get a job you should wait for the ‘Peepul Party’ to come to power.”
The ‘Peepul Party’(Pakistan People’s Party) has been in power twice since. The party is in power today and so is the minister, ironically. The minister in the above story is none other than Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. Chaudhry Sahib may not remember the incident, but Shah does very well and so do all his friends, including me, to whom he related the episode. As jobless and helpless now as during Mr Sharif’s two terms, whose turn should the Sindhi youth wait for now to get jobs?
Merit is a word made completely irrelevant by the successive regimes ruling the province for several years. The Sindh Public Service Commission has not held its yearly examination for the last 10 years as Sindhi news media reported a couple of days ago. Three retired engineers have been re-hired, as if there is a dearth of capable serving engineers in Sindh, on contract basis to complete schemes worth Rs 6 billion. Where is the merit? Does re-hiring of powerful retired officers not block the recruitment of fresh blood?
Zulfikarabad is being touted as a mega-project with the potential of creating new job opportunities for Sindhis. Job opportunities this project may create, but for whom? Let it be known to the people of conscience like Asma Jahangir or I A Rehman that this government, standing on Sindhi votes, does not consider any Sindhi officer capable enough to run the project. It seems like déjà vu of Musharraf’s repeated statements that Sindhis were not capable people to run the affairs of their own province. Does this not prove the allegations made by the opposition that this government is but an extension of Musharraf’s rule? Retired General Iftikhar Shah of Kohat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has been re-hired as the managing director of the Zulfikarabad project. The director operations for the project belongs to Punjab and the other officers supervising the project, including the chief secretary and additional chief secretary are all non-Sindhis. Another example of mega projects, Thar Coal project, headed by Dr Samar Mubarakmand, has almost all non-Sindhis as officers.
For Sindhis, the situation is no different from what it was for Bengalis 42 years ago. There were only a few Bengalis in high positions of responsibility even in what was East Pakistan then. They were not considered capable enough to run their affairs, just like the Sindhis and Baloch these days in Pakistan. Since they took the reins of their country in their own hands, Bengalis fared far better than Pakistanis did. Do Sindhis want to break away from Pakistan like the Bengalis did? No, they do not, but should not the powers that matter in Pakistan learn from the Bangladesh lesson and rid themselves of the notion that some nationalities in Pakistan are more capable than others?
The question is to where Sindhis should take their case against the injustices. To the superior courts? Forget it. They tried and were muzzled. With all due respect, most of their lordships are occupying the positions of honour due to their domicile document and not because they historically belong to the province they come from. Some of them, presumably, and I beg their forgiveness in advance if I am wrong, cannot even speak the language spoken in the province. So, little wonder that the petition made little sense to them.
Even the Sindh High Court has non-Sindhi speaking judges in the majority. When the former Advocate General of Sindh, Yousuf Laghari, brought this gross injustice to the attention of the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, not only was he scolded, but told that he was spreading parochialism! The poor attorney was not only removed from the case, but he had to pay for his sin of raising his voice against an injustice dearly by losing his job. The question is why the judges should have been annoyed when the lawyer simply tried to bring a fact to their attention. Should the judges not have looked at the matter on merit and tried to correct the wrong instead of killing the messenger of the bad news?
I remember the Urdu verse, Hum ne socha tha keh munsif se karenge faryaad (We thought about petitioning the judge) but then remembering the second line I keep quiet, lest I be found guilty of contempt.
The matter of Sindhis getting a fraction of their allocated quota of 11 percent jobs does not even merit a suo moto, unfortunately. The media’s focus being attached to other more important issues, the life and death issues of Sindhis do not make a headline. Hence, judicial activism remains in slumber on this issue.
The writer is an independent political analyst based in the USA
Courtesy: Daily Times