Sindh: Homeless, hapless and helpless – by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

A relative who resides in Karachi recently advised obtaining national identity cards from Karachi. His logic? “Passports may soon be needed for travel to Karachi.” I regarded this as an ominous warning though others brushed it off as a joke. Urban development at the cost of rural Sindh and the consequential strain are a result of the malevolently engineered economic divide. The state also proceeded to create a vicious political divide and now Karachi is ruled by whoever has more guns. It augurs disaster and devastation.

Governance since 1947 has been heavily tilted in favour of certain ethnic, linguistic, institutional and religious sections and groups. Its outcome is the prevailing economic, political, social and religious divide that is now undoing the dream that they intended to strengthen.

In my piece, ‘Conned again’ (Daily Times, April 18, 2010), I wrote, “This increasing deprivation will certainly exacerbate the prevailing alienation and resentment among the Sindhi speaking people and could lead to a pre-independence Cyprus-like situation in the not too distant future but it seems the rulers are blind to such realities.”

Wasey Jalil, an MQM leader, demanded that the IDPs should be registered. He said, “It is our principled stand that people migrating to Karachi or any other region for whatever reason should be registered with the relevant authorities.”

The MQM’s principled stand demands that Sindhis should register themselves in Karachi, which is in Sindh since 1795 thanks to the Talpurs. Next, the Sindhis will be asked to register in Hyderabad and Shikarpur, etc. How would people react if the Sindhis took a ‘principled stand’ and demanded that all Karachites register if a natural disaster like a tsunami, earthquake or a cyclone struck Karachi? That would be termed as inhumane and ‘anti-Pakistan’, but apparently Sindhi IDP registration is kosher.

Some IDPs who came to Marwat Park were fired upon, supposedly by the land mafia but the video footage showed they were compelled to leave by the SHO Mahmoodabad. A Sindhi daily comprehensively summed up the situation, terming them as ‘homeless in their own homeland’.

I am not exaggerating the threat of a Cyprus-like situation; the recent frenzied revenge killings in Karachi and Hyderabad after MPA Haider Raza’s murder point to this grim reality. The state has allowed the MQM to accumulate power and guns because it has its own concept of nationality and nationalism, and in that frame the Sindhis count for naught.

Influential people in all provinces have been instrumental in selective breaching of embankments primarily to save their holdings. Khursheed Shah allegedly did not allow the breach of Ali Wahan embankment because he and his relatives had agricultural land there. The already deprived and devastated people have also been victims of theft and looting from their own Sindhi brethren. Morality and decency seems to have departed from the land of the Sufis as well.

You can see an endless stream of small trucks on highways loaded to the brim, taking people and their cattle to safer places. They need to have a place until the floodwater subsides and that is not happening any time soon as a second flood follows in the first’s wake. These floods have helped to highlight the extremely vulnerable and tenuous position that the Sindhis have within the state of Pakistan. Sindhi politicians have failed the people of Sindh and the present situation is an indictment of their record.

Plans are afoot to make them even more defenceless by more unnecessary urbanisation. Karachi, though prosperous, depends on the rest of Sindh for its needs, making it vulnerable to pressure. I am not an alarmist but the envisaged Zulfiqarabad is part of the grand urbanisation scheme aimed at depriving the Sindhi people of an outlet to the sea and leaving them completely at the mercy of the urban population.

A recent ordinance on Zulfiqarabad is brazenly unambiguous. It says, “The city (Zulfiqarabad), being developed as a port city, is supposed to help the government check migration of the rural population of the province to urban areas, mainly Karachi.” The Sindhi rural population’s migration to Karachi is seen as a problem but others are apparently welcome. Zulfiqarabad too will become the reason for massive dispossession of the Sindhi population in the same way as residents of the old Goths (villages) were dispossessed and displaced in and around Karachi.

Moreover it says, “Zulfiqarabad Development Authority (ZDA) will extend to such areas of Thatta district as specified by the government from time to time through notifications.” This means unbridled expansion until the aim of complete dispossession of the Sindhi people there and their relegation to second-class citizenship status is achieved.

This project is expected to utilise thousands of acres of barren land for useful purposes. By useful purpose they mean creating already in vogue DHAs. Salam Dharejo, writing in Newsline in September 2007, said, “The recent allotment of 12,093 acres to the DHA on the Super Highway adjacent to the Karachi toll plaza is the biggest-ever housing project of the DHA on agricultural land. The land in question is, indeed, ‘private’ in many respects. More than 10,000 people inhabit 15 different villages. And they are not squatters. These villages have been in existence for 600 years. Displacing people for the windfall profits is absolute injustice.”

In Zulfiqarabad, it is the DHAs and moneyed classes that will benefit and not the displaced Sindhis whose entire belongings fit in a small truck. In September 2008, the Senate was told that 881 acres of sea-front land was given to DHA on a 99-year lease at a premium of Rs 2.5 per square metre and an annual rent of 18 paisa per square metre, i.e. Rs 8.913 million as premium and Rs 641,758 as ground rent. Imagine if ever land will be given to the poor Sindhis on these terms. The Sindhis are being increasingly marginalised and are becoming homeless in their homeland. The ‘terra nullius doctrine’ is being surreptitiously implemented with the connivance of power hungry Sindhis. There is a real danger of them being relegated to Native American and Aborigine status. The Baloch would have long ago been relegated to that dishonourable status had it not been for the valour of those who gave their birthright more importance than their lives. The unchecked ascendancy of particular ethnic communities with the connivance of the state and power hungry politicians is eventually going to evoke a violent backlash from the Sindhis. Sometimes, natural calamities accentuate the sense of alienation and lead to a struggle for rights. Hopefully, the misery created by these floods will do the same.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at

Source: Dailytimes