By Haider Nizamani
The killing of Sindhi political activists in Karachi on May 22 by masked gunmen laid bare the fault lines that may define the future political landscape of Sindh. That the violence against peaceful demonstrators was not followed by attacks on Urdu speakers in various towns of Sindh shows the perpetrators of violence are still on the fringes.
Politicians issued customary condemnations and formed committees. Some spoke of creating a new province in Sindh, while others vowed never to let that happen. It needs a deeper understanding of the issue by Sindh’s politicians and intelligentsia to tone down the rhetoric that emphasizes differences between Sindhi and Urdu speakers.
Sindh can easily do without antics such as Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s statement that Nawaz Sharif is responsible for the killings carried out by trained snipers in Karachi. The allegation is a dangerous mix of political expediency, incompetence and insensitivity that neither helps us understand the dynamics of politics in Sindh nor instils confidence about the government’s ability to apprehend the real culprits behind the killings.
What happened in Karachi on May 22 indicates enduring features of the city’s politics, but this time it can have repercussions well beyond the metropolis. It was yet another proof of an increasing trend of instantaneously resorting to violence to make a political point.
The rally was called Mohabat-e-Sindh (Love for Sindh) and the participants were unarmed. The stated objective of the rally was opposing the demand for dividing Sindh on linguistic lines and expressing solidarity with the people of Lyari, Karachi’s predominantly Baloch locality. Groups that do not carry weapons are an easy target in Karachi’s violence-ridden political milieu. The message is loud and clear: get armed or get out. The space for nonviolent political expression is fast shrinking. In that way, the attacks on late Benazir Bhutto’s rally in October 2007 and the violence against the supporters of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on May 12, 2007 were not very different from the May 22 Napier Road incident.
The level of political mistrust between Sindhi and Urdu speaking communities is also very high. Ignoring this reality by meaningless rhetorical statements of an imagined unity will not resolve the problem. What is required is a higher degree of political acumen to bring the two communities together because their fate is conjoined whether they like it or not.