Minorities under attack: Altaf lines up police, agencies, clerics, judges, army and… fires
By Saba Imtiaz
Karachi: In an impassioned speech that included critiques of clerics and the judiciary, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain asked the Pakistan Army, Inter-Services Intelligence and other agencies to shut up shop if they could not “protect people”.
“Leave them,” Hussain said before turning to his audience, “You have a right to defend yourself by any means.”
Altaf’s speech at an interfaith conference organised by his party in Karachi came after a series of statements by him and other party leaders on the increase in the number of attacks on Shias throughout Pakistan. Several clerics from Karachi as well as other cities of Pakistan such as Quetta, Lahore and Chakwal, were in attendance.
SINDH has no equivalent of Saadat Hasan Manto as a chronicler of Partition. And the absence of a Manto-like figure in Sindhi literature on that count is good news. It shows the resilience of Sindh’s tolerant culture at a time when Punjab had slipped into fratricidal mayhem.
While Amrita Pritam called out for Waris Shah to rise up from the grave to witness the blood-drenched rivers of Punjab, Sindhi woman writers such as Sundari Uttamchandani were not forced to ask Shah Latif to do the same.
The tragedy of Partition inflicted different types of pain on the Punjabi and Sindhi communities and these peculiarities shadowed and shaped post-Partition communal relations between people of different faiths who traced their roots to these regions. What Manto endured and witnessed in 1947 and afterwards, became, through his eloquent writings, simultaneously an elegy and indictment of Punjab losing its sense of humanity at the altar of religious politics. The political air in Sindh was filled with religious demagogy but it did not turn into a communal orgy.
Urdu literati and historians interested in Partition and its impact on the subcontinent have used Manto’s birth centennial, that was recently observed, to remind us of his scathing sketches of lives destroyed by Partition. Ayesha Jalal in her essay ‘He wrote what he saw — and took no sides’ published in the May issue of Herald, writes Manto “looked into the inner recesses of human nature…” to “fathom the murderous hatred that erupted with such devastating effect” …in “his own home province of Punjab at the dawn of a long-awaited freedom”.
There was no eruption of murderous hatred between Sindhi Hindus and Muslims. They did not lynch each other en masse as was the case in Punjab. The violence against Sindhi Hindus and their mass migration to India was a tragic loss scripted, orchestrated and implemented by non-Sindhis in Sindh. As result of varying trajectories of interfaith relations during the Partition period, the intelligentsia of Sindh and Punjab evolved and adopted different views towards Hindus and India.
The collective memory of the Partition days in Punjab is marked more by the stories and silence of the victims and perpetrators of violence. Even the journey towards the safer side was fraught with danger. People who survived had bitter memories of the ‘other’.
The Sindh story is not the same. Ram Jethmalani, a leading lawyer in India today and a member of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was a young advocate in Karachi in 1947. His senior partner was none other than A.K. Brohi, a right-wing Sindhi lawyer who became federal law minister during the Zia period.
Jethmalani has no compunction in saying that there was no love lost between the two because of Partition. Jethmalani stayed back in Karachi and only left for Mumbai in 1948 when Brohi told him he could not take responsibility for his safety as the demography of Karachi had changed with the arrival of migrants from the northern Indian plains. That arrival was accompanied by violence against Sindhi Hindus.
Kirat Babani, a card-carrying communist, chose to stay in Sindh after 1947 and was thrown in prison in 1948. Released 11 months on the condition of leaving Karachi within 24 hours, Kirat took up a job with Comrade Hyder Bux Jatoi, pioneer of the peasant struggle in Sindh. The administration pressured Jatoi for harbouring an atheist. Jatoi advised, much against his desire, Kirat to go to India. Even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that groomed L.K. Advani, a native of Karachi who later became India’s deputy prime minister, acknowledges that Sindhi Muslims did not push Hindus out of the province.
London, UK, 19 march 2011: Press Release – A delegation of World Sindhi Congress (WSC) comprising of Dr Hidayat Bhutto and Dr Lakhu Luhano participated in the 16th session of UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. WSC delegation made statements at events organised by Interfaith International and RADDHO (Rencontre Africcaine Pour La Defense des Droits de L’Homme).
The delegation also met with numerous ECOSOC NGOs, human rights defenders from South Asia region and from nations oppressed by Pakistan and with the office of UN’s Special Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. In these meetings, the delegation had detailed discussions about the worsening situation of human rights for people of Sindh.
In his statement, Dr Hidayat Bhutto presented detailed views about the worsening human rights situation in Sindh. He mentioned the recent killings of Sindhi political leaders Zulfiqar Kolachi, Yonus Khaskheley and Haji Khan Noonari. He said that the disappearances of political activists continue to occur in Sindh where currently 39 Sindhi people are missing believed to be kidnapped by the agencies. He informed the international community about the second-time disappearance of one of the most prominent Sindhi leader, Muzaffar Bhutto, in daylight by the agencies. He requested the UN and the international community to press upon the agencies for the release of all kidnapped Sindhi and Baloch people. Dr Bhutto mentioned that the agencies are illegally settling people from Punjab and Pakhtunkhwa to colonise Sindh and enhance religious extremism. He detailed how Sindhi people are being systematically denied their social, cultural, political, educational and lingual rights by the Pakistani establishment. He said that the international community to be aware of these issues and requested to support people of Sindh in their struggle for their genuine historical and human rights including right to self-determination.
Dr Lakhu Luhano in his statement said that the Pakistani state is practicing a systematic policy of fanning, patronising, training and funding the violent religious extremism not only for their regional strategic extension but also to suppers, subjugate and colonise Sindhi and Baloch people. This policy has huge and serious implications for regional and global security and peace and for viability and continuance of tolerant Sindhi nation and society. He requested the international community for an immediate, effective and urgent action before it becomes too late. He warned the price for the entire humankind of the spread of this disaster would be unimaginable.
The other delegates at the events extended their support to Sindhi people in their struggle for their human rights including right to self-determination.
A broader meeting of political parties and civil society activists from across Sindh held in Hyderabad, which after a detailed discussion over the peace and interfaith harmony and tolerance issues in Sindh as well as in the country took following consensus decisions:
– Formed Movement for Peace & Tolerance (Aman Rawadari Tahreek) initially by 51 representatives of political parties and civil society activists, which selected 15 members Coordination Committee.
– The proposal of Peace Long March was approved by the participants, however, it was consensually agreed that civil society and political parties activists from Punjab and Islamabad should be taken in the loop; and if they support in facilitation and organization of the initiative in the Punjab and Islamabad, it should be carried from Karachi to Islamabad, otherwise the march should be carried from Karachi to the shrines of Sachal Sarmast in Khairpur district or Bhagat Kanwar Ram in Ghotki district.
– District level rallies, marches and Seminars / Jalsas should be organized in Sindh, – Meetings should be organized in Sukkur and Karachi for above proposals, – Meetings should be held with political parties, trade unions, students, intellectuals and academia.
Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists, Sun, February 13, 2011
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