Sorrows of Sindh

My encounters with the intelligentsia of Sindh and infrequent visits to small towns and the rural areas have led me to believe that it is an alarming situation and grievances are building up at different levels. It may be possible to compare some aspects of Sindh’s politics with the kind of discontent that has simmered in Balochistan for a long time. But Sindh is strategically located on Pakistan’s economic lifeline.

By Ghazi Salahuddin

In the fractured mirror that is Pakistan, each large fragment projects a scary image of disorder. In this flaming montage, Sindh sometimes stands out and diverts our attention from other, apparently more crucial, issues of national security. In many ways, it is the last frontier in the country’s struggle for survival.

In a column that is appearing on Pakistan Day, a ritualistic reflection on what this anniversary means may be in order. But this would be a camouflage. Yes, it would be a day of some popular rejoicing if we had won the World Twenty20 Cup cricket match against India on Friday. In recent days, nothing seems to have given us more joy than the two thrilling cricket wins against India and Bangladesh in the Asia Cup. Watching TV, one felt that we were gloating over it in a somewhat indiscreet manner.

This reference to cricket should be relevant because it triggers thoughts about various traumatic events in South Asian history and underlines the logic for new beginnings. Our relations with India, in particular, need to be rebuilt for the sake of national security. If we move ahead on this path, a silver lining could emerge on our horizon.

Meanwhile, of course, we must first put our own house in order. It is in this context that the situation in Sindh has recently become more disturbing. The latest flare-up in the saga of Sindh was the murder on Friday of two leaders of the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM). Their charred bodies were found in a burnt-out car near Naushahro Feroze.

This prompted some violent protests by the activists of Sindh’s nationalist parties in different cities. A JSQM spokesman alleged that the killings were aimed at stopping the activists from participating in the ‘freedom march’ planned in Karachi on Pakistan Day – today. Now the proposed march will begin with the funeral prayers of the two leaders.

Irrespective of how this threat to law and order is met by the authorities, it is necessary to make a proper assessment of the nationalist sentiment in Sindh and its potential in the future. The ethnic and rural-urban divides in the province and the crises of law and order and development are bound to impact regional politics though the Bhutto charisma has prevailed in this patch of the country.

My encounters with the intelligentsia of Sindh and infrequent visits to small towns and the rural areas have led me to believe that it is an alarming situation and grievances are building up at different levels. It may be possible to compare some aspects of Sindh’s politics with the kind of discontent that has simmered in Balochistan for a long time. But Sindh is strategically located on Pakistan’s economic lifeline.

In that perspective, Karachi is the linchpin and what is happening in the city is at the heart of the problems confronted not just by the province but the country too. In fact, I could be devoting total attention to Karachi and how the targeted operation against criminal outfits has progressed so far. This week, the Supreme Court also conducted hearings on Karachi’s law and order and the chief justice was very candid about how administrative lapses on the part of both the federal and the provincial governments had affected the operation. One example is the delay in the appointment of a permanent IG for the province.

It is significant that the director general of the Rangers feels that the paramilitary force is not empowered enough to bring the situation under control. He reviewed the Karachi situation at the inauguration of the new Command and Control Centre and said that the powers given to the Rangers had been limited to papers only.

While hearing the suo motu case on Karachi, the Supreme Court had granted additional powers to the Rangers to maintain peace in the city as far back as August 2011. The targeted operation was officially launched by the prime minister in September 2013 and though it has repeatedly been applauded, the situation on the ground remains quite disturbing. Killings and other violent crimes have continued and Lyari has recently seen some bloody clashes between criminal gangs.

Far from Karachi, the desert of Thar has been in the national limelight because of the deaths of a large number of little children as a result mainly of lack of food and malnutrition. Suddenly, the media attention was focused on the plight of the poor people of Thar and some coverage had the intimations of a famine. In any case, the misery of the people touched the conscience of the nation.

Essentially, Thar has certified the inefficiency and the corruption of the Sindh government. This, in many ways, is the real problem. The provincial administration is in a mess and you only have to travel to the interior to see how poor the governance has been. Why it is so is hard to believe. It should have been possible for the Pakistan People’s Party to present a good performance to be able to restore its national image.

In passing, let me refer to the murder of two women in Shikarpur allegedly on the orders of a jirga to settle a karo kari dispute. Against the backdrop of the suicide of a gang-rape victim in Muzaffargah, this prompted the chief justice to take suo motu notice of the incident. It is true that honour killings are not rare in our tribal and feudal setting but I mention the Shikarpur case to stress the fact that the PPP has failed to make any dent in the power of the feudal elite and initiate the process of social change. The irony is that its rule has betrayed the very people who are the reason for the party’s existence.

It is not possible, I know, to summarise the problems of Sindh in this space. But I would like to point out another threat to peace in the province that is on the rise, in spite of the passion with which young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had raged against the religious militants. There has been a steady growth of religious parties, with their sectarian agenda, in the land of the Sufis.

And what a coincidence it is that a temple was attacked on this day last week in Larkana, the home of the Bhuttos. The excuse was an alleged incident of blasphemy. It was so much more distressing that this attack coincided with Holi. Unlike in other parts of the country, Sindh has an influential segment of the minority community and has a tradition of communal harmony. So, Sindh is under attack from all sides – including from its rulers.

The writer is a staff member

Email: ghazi_salahuddin@hotmail.com

Courtesy: The News
http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-239837-Sorrows-of-Sindh

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