By Abdul Khalique Junejo
August 21, 2014
These people encroached and occupied large swathes of land, both government and private. Most importantly, they brought with them large chunks of illegal arms also under the watchful eye of state authorities
Though the lands of Palestine and Sindh are far from each other and possess different languages, cultures and histories, they have some similarities too. During the last few weeks both have been in the news: Palestine dominating the world media while Sindh occupying the local pages. One thing remains the same for both: the problem of influx of outside people and its consequences. The intensity of the problem is different but the symptoms are the same. In the case of Palestine the problem has reached its peak while in Sindh the storm is brewing.
Owing to the history of faith-related problems (real as well as imaginary), relations between Jews and Christians in Europe were never easy. With time they became tense and, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, these relations turned into open confrontation and then the holocaust. On the basis of religion-cum-race, the Jews were oppressed, suppressed and persecuted. The search started for a destination outside Europe to re-settle the Jews. The land of Palestine was chosen by promoting faith-related factors. An interesting aspect of the story is that the very same countries/people who were responsible for the misfortunes and miseries of the Jews became their ‘well-wishers’ and facilitated their migration and settlement in the heart of Palestine as an act of compensation.
Behind this they had a dual purpose. On the one hand they tried to console their self-guilt and on the other they intended to establish an ally and a future confidant right in the heart of the Middle East. They foresaw the potential of this area as a future supplier of fuel for the whole world and also knew the importance and efficacy of an ally brought from outside in the impending loot and plunder of the resources of the indigenous people.
Hordes of Jews started coming to Palestine as victims but, as their numbers increased, their role changed and, with the connivance and patronage of their former oppressors, they themselves became oppressors of the land of their refuge. They bought some land on the cheap, while encroaching and occupying much more. They stockpiled arms and ammunition. And then came 1947 when, through a combination of intrigue, treachery and force, the state of Israel was created. With that the victim became victimiser and the oppressed turned into the oppressor. The refugees became occupiers while the sons of the soil were made refugees. The rest is history. The end result is what the world has been witnessing in Gaza for over a month. It is nothing but a holocaust.
At about the same time (1947), the Indian subcontinent was partitioned and a new country, Pakistan, was created, similarly on the basis of faith-related issues (again some real, some imaginary). Large crowds of people from different parts of the subcontinent thronged to Sindh as refugees while the people inhabiting the land of Sindh for thousands of years were thrown out of their homes and their motherland. Their homes, businesses and properties were occupied under the false and fraudulent scheme of claims, and Sindhi language was replaced by Urdu, the language of the refugees. This was done with the connivance and patronage of the people who were responsible for partition and making people refugees in the first place.
In 1948 and 1965 Pakistan went to war with India over Kashmir, resulting in an exodus of refugees, many of whom came to Sindh, particularly Karachi. During the 1980s, Pakistan, in collaboration with the US and Saudi Arabia, waged an Afghan jihad causing a deluge of refugees from across the border. The very initiators of jihad facilitated hundreds of thousands of them in Sindh, so much so that Karachi started to be mentioned as the biggest city of Pakhtuns in the world. These people encroached and occupied large swathes of land, both government and private. Most importantly, they brought with them large chunks of illegal arms also under the watchful eye of state authorities. This incited other communities, particularly the Mohajirs, to acquire arms also.
In 1971, Pakistani rulers fought a war against its citizens — the ‘infidel’ Bengalis — resulting in the emergence of Bangladesh. This brought large numbers of Biharis to Sindh, particularly its cities, in the name of religion and with the support of the same rulers. Since the country was created in the name of religion, wherever in the world there was war or a conflict such as Bosnia, Burma and Chechnya, Muslims were encouraged to come to Karachi and other parts of lower Sindh by the state authorities as well as their co-religion brethren already there. During the last decade, the war on terror and the war on jihadists have sent hundreds of thousands more flocking to Karachi (and Hyderabad) and the surrounding areas. This process of unlimited and unregulated influx of aliens into Sindh has been encouraged and facilitated by the 1973 Constitution that allows everyone from everywhere to go and settle anywhere. All this has turned Karachi, and its surroundings, into a jungle where might is right. The area is increasingly being divided on ethnic-cum-religious basis and a tug of war is going on between different groups for the domination of the city or at least the control of as much area as possible.
The symptoms of a Palestine-like situation have already started appearing. There are already voices like “Karachi Kis Ka Hay” (to whom does Karachi belong). We are already hearing demands for the division of Sindh. Some (mainly Mohajirs) ask for a separate province while others (mainly Pakhtuns) demand a share in the governance of Sindh on the pattern of Lebanon. Sometimes even people from outside join hands and ask for a share in Sindh on a non-Sindhi basis. Since the character of the Pakistani state is similar to a colonial one, which treats Sindh as a colony, all the state institutions also defend, support and promote these outsiders because they (the rulers) know that in the eventual battle of Sindhi people for their national rights and against the exploitation and oppression of the state, these outsiders would be their natural allies.
When the people of Sindh see and hear news about the atrocities against and the trials and tribulations of the people of Palestine, the comparative (recent) history of both nations can be found in the back of their minds. In the present of Palestine they fear their own future. It is in this background that they see and oppose the influx of people from anywhere and of any kind or class. It is in this context that they contest and protest against the development of new cities in Sindh like DHA City, Bahria City and Zulfiqarabad, because the case of Palestine demonstrates clearly and explains unequivocally that such an exercise is nothing but the colonisation of the land of the indigenous people.
If this exercise of occupation and colonisation of the land of Sindh is allowed to proceed and if this unlimited and unregulated influx of the people into Sindh is allowed to continue, the world may see another disaster of unimagined proportions that may engulf the entire region of South Asia as the earlier one has inflamed the entire Middle East.
This tale of two lands has a very clear and loud message for the people of Sindh: if they want to preserve their 7,000-year-old civilisation and culture, and protect the future of their incoming generations, they are left with no time to waste. They will have to stand up now and do whatever is needed to prevent the possible from becoming inevitable. And there is also a word of warning for all the enlightened, democratic, secular and progressive people of Pakistan: if they want to arrest the onslaught of religious extremism and save the region from obscurantism and the accompanying death and destruction, they should also stand up and support the struggle of the Sindhi people to preserve their identity because Sindhi culture is historically and inherently secular, inclusive and pluralistic.
Abdul Khalique Junejo is Chairman of Jeay Sindh Mahaz