By M Alam Brohi
April 29, 2019
The people of Sindh find themselves politically at a crossroad where they have to take big decisions. They find themselves unable to break with their past political odyssey of 5 decades unshackling the ever strengthening hold of the feudal ruling elite overcrowding Pakistan People’s Party that bears allegiance to its founder only in name. They are also unable to chart out a new political course by supporting mainstream political parties because of the lack of confidence in non-Sindhi leaders. The apathy we find in Sindh today owes a great deal to the nationalist and provincial thinking that has taken deep roots in the province and is now inextricably intertwined in Sindhis’ political philosophy. The political demigods from the old feudal class are adept in exploiting this provincial bent of mind to excite, confuse, scare and lure voters in any election raising a parochial issue.
The Sindhis have had genuine grievances before succumbing to a nationalist approach to the politics in the mid-1950s. Since the inception of the country, they had to wage one battle after the other to preserve their identity, language, culture; the geographical integrity of their land and its resources and autonomy. The catalogue of their grievances begins from the dismissal of successive provincial governments in 1947-1948; the declaration of Karachi as a federal city; the imposition of the infamous One-Unit; the relegation of the Sindhi language from its pre-Partition position; the judicial murder of ZAB; the repeated revival of Kalabagh dam scheme; the unfair distribution of oil and gas produced from Sindh; the usurpation of their share of employment in the federal departments, corporations, oil and gas exploring companies and, above all, the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto.
Sindhis do admit that Pakistan People’s Party being in power since 2008 has inflicted more damage to the province by misgovernance, corruption, nepotism and plunder of its assets and resources unrivalled in the recent history. The provincial administration has been turned into a cesspool of sycophancy and incompetence. The district administration, police, treasury, irrigation, roads and buildings and educational officials are posted at the behest of the PPP leaders. Therefore, they do everything at their bidding. The development funds are parsimoniously used throughout the financial year. As is the practice, the last quarter of the year witnesses a flurry of development schemes and withdrawal of funds after completion of paper work.
Though Mr. Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur have tightly held the reins of the provincial administration and strengthened the PPP’s patron-client politics by generously dispensing favours through jobs, transfers and postings, promotions, contracts, the informed segments of the population have been averse to accept them as political heirs of Benazir Bhutto mainly because of the telltales of corruption surrounding them and their acolytes. Therefore, Sindhis reacted to the headway in the fake bank accounts case and the probable arrest of the duo with a palpable excitement despite strenuous efforts of the party’s media brigade to politicize it by bringing in the questions of the 18th Amendment and the winding up of the parliamentary form of governance.
Sindhis are not enamoured with the 18th Amendment because of the enormous socio-economic dividends they reaped in the subsequent years. They support the amendment as it has resolved the chronic issue of provincial autonomy or the touchy question of devolution of powers from the federation to the federating units. The small federating units’ reservation to the presidential form of governance is also intertwined with the provincial autonomy. The majority province of Punjab will have dominance in the election of the president on adult-franchise basis with its larger count of votes than the combined electoral strength of all the remaining three provinces. In the presidential government, we shall revert to the concentration of powers in the central authority. This is what impels the smaller provinces to support parliamentary form of governance.
Sindhis would not accept the repeal of 18th Amendment. They would resist any move in this direction by intensive protests which they are adept to undertake as was witnessed in the MRD agitation in the 1980s and the long marches against Kalabagh Dam in the 1990s. The presidential form of government being interlinked with the sensitive issue of provincial autonomy would, as well, create ripples in the muddy waters of Sindh and other small provinces. Any agitation on these two issues triggered by a thoughtless move of the federal authorities will come as a Godsend respite for Zardaris and their acolytes being prosecuted for corruption.
The masses of Sindh will continue to remain shackled by the power, influence and patronage of electoral demigods wearing on their brows the emblem of Bhuttos and making hay while the sun shines and keeping the common man on false promises. The present nationalist political factions have lost the trust of the common populace. The Grand Democratic Alliance, in hierarchy and leadership, is perceived no better than the feudal-dominated PPP. The people see the same feudal class overcrowding the ranks of the alliance. The politically conscious and informed class of the province is shy of going into practical politics. The situation will continue to remain so unless a few political minds from the middle class come together and rise to the occasion to provide collective leadership.
The Sindh Vision, a non-political organization, has in its ranks former diplomats, secretaries, professors, educationists, engineers, doctors and an array of politically aware and socially active notables. It has some landmark achievements to its credit that include successful conferences on the coal mining project in Tharparkar and the building of new dams. Its leaders have so far resisted the counsels for going political to provide collective leadership to the province – may be because of the lack of financial resources and the fear of incurring the hostility of feudal demigods. The fear and lack of courage have been the chronic sorrow of the silent majority and the ruin of otherwise fulfilling men. This is what the beautiful land of Sindh encounters, today.
M Alam Brohi was a member of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and he has authored two books