“Pity the nation divided into fragments,

each fragment deeming itself a nation.”’

–Khalil Gibran

Following insinuations made by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari about the MQM’s workers and followers in the October 17 public rally in Karachi, the MQM has formally demanded the formation of a Mohajir province by dividing Sindh. Under the circumstances, Bilawal’s remarks were uncalled for. The act has further deteriorated troubled PPP-MQM relations in Sindh as well as the general law and order situation in Karachi. This is not the first time that MQM has demanded a separate Mohajir province purely on an ethno-linguistic basis. In the past, it has also been making similar demands time and again.

According to UNHCR estimates, around 14 million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs were displaced during the partition of the British Indian Empire in 1947. It was the largest mass migration in human history. Roughly 6.5 million migrants came to West Pakistan (now Pakistan) at the time of partition. Out of this massive influx of people, around 5.3 million were settled in Punjab while some 1.2 million were settled in Sindh. In this way, the province of Punjab absorbed approximately 82% of the total Mohajir population of that time. Over a period of time, this large segment of migrants has been integrated into the Punjab culturally and ethnically. Now these people proudly call themselves Punjabis. There is no local-Mohajir division in the Punjab.

At the national level too, there is no significant discrimination against so-called Mohajirs. The first Prime Minster of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, migrated from India to Pakistan at the time of partition. Likewise, former rulers like Iskander Mirza, Gen Zia-ul-Haq and Gen pervez Musharraf were also born in British India. In fact, the so-called Mohajirs have been ruling the country for a longer period than did the native inhabitants in Pakistan. Both the incumbent President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan are also of Mohajir origin. Owing to certain reasons, local Mohajir integration could not be effectively materialized in the province of Sindh. It is quite unfortunate that the word Mohajir significantly exists in the provincial lexicon of Sindh even 67 years after the creation of Pakistan.

At present, we witness a significant rural-urban division of the Sindh province on an ethno-linguistic basis. Myopic policies adopted by successive rulers are responsible for the entire ethnic cleavage in this province. The quota system was introduced in Pakistan through the 1973 constitution. Resultantly, the seeds of the rural-urban quota system were also sowed in Sindh’s land, which has now turned monstrous, challenging the very existence and composition of this province. Urban-rural disparity can be observed throughout the country but it is only in the Sindh province where it has taken a volatile and destabilizing expression. This is the very reason that we heard the slogan of ‘one province, two systems’ on the issue of local government elections in Sindh some months ago.

Despite its apparently liberal ideology, the MQM hasn’t been successful in overcoming its inherent tendency of demanding a province based on ethno-linguistics. It portrays and propagates its political agenda that includes the policy of encouraging the middle class leadership, and opposing the arbitrary feudal culture in our country. But, at the end of the day, this political party seems only the representative of a specific linguistic class living in urban Sindh. On the other hand, the largest political force in Sindh, the PPP, also seems reluctant to play a positive role in the integration of Sindh by eliminating this rural-urban division. Instead, it can be seen promoting the culture of rural Sindh and symbols associated with it.

Sindh acquired its current provincial status in 1935 when it was separated from the Bombay Presidency. Since then, its population has increased many times. We have failed in introducing any effective and vibrant local bodies’ institutions in Pakistan after independence. Resultantly, the state’s powers and authority have been concentrated at the federal and provincial levels. In Sindh, things have got worse as there is an inactive octogenarian Chief Minster managing the affairs of such a large province. Therefore, just like other provinces in Pakistan, there is a dire need for dividing this province too on administrative grounds. After creating smaller administrative units in Sindh, respective provincial governments would be in a better position to effectively govern backward areas like Tharpakar and a large city like Karachi.

Almost all political parties have significantly politicized the issue of the administrative division of Sindh. By supporting the idea of a ‘united Sindh,’ they are trying to consolidate their political support base in rural Sindh. The PPP has absolutely overruled this option. Favouring in principle, the creation of Saraiki, Hazara and Bahawalpur provinces in Pakistan, the PML(N) has also publically vowed to safeguard Sindh against any attempt to divide it. Likewise, PTI has politically rejected the demand for the creation of a new province in Sindh. Ironically, both the forces of the status quo and the forces of ‘change’ look equally determined to preserve the ‘unity of Sindh’ at all costs.

Overreacting to the statement of Bilawal Butto Zardari and Opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah, MQM has chosen to play its old ‘Mohajir card’ in Sindh as usual. As a matter of fact, it has not yet been successful in diluting the general perception that it intends to fortify its political position in Karachi in the name of creating a province for the ethnic Mohajir population in Sindh. Presently, people from almost all provinces and bearing diverse ethnicities, live in Karachi. Any demands for a new province, purely on an ethno-linguistic basis, would serve no purpose except further complicating the affairs of both the province and this mega city. As the division of Sindh and other provinces in Pakistan is essentially an administrative issue, political parties must treat it as such.

The writer is a lawyer.

mohsinraza.malik@ymail.com

@MohsinRazaMalik