OCCUPIED SINDH AND HUMAN RIGHTS

by
Zahid Makhdoom(1)
Copyright 1996
All rights reserved.

"Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people."
                              -  Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Introduction
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During the past several months, we have been constantly bombarded by the news about "ethnic" strife in Karachi. Every week several people are reported killed, scores of houses burnt, buses attacked or car bombs exploded. A litany of accusations and counter-accusations often follow these events. We hear of the government position and the "anti-government position." The people of Sindh occupy the centre-stage in this brutal drama. Yet we never hear about their position. Sindhis are silently suffering, thousands have been killed by the fascistic "troops" of the Muhajir Quoumi Mahaz (MQM).(2) Hundreds are thrown behind bars by Ms. Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP). Sindhi intellectuals are subjected to constant harassment. Thousands of Sindhi books and periodicals are banned. Even Sindhi translation of the works of international repute such as Pablo Neruda's poetry are proscribed.

Background
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In 1834 Sir Charles Napier "sinned" by conquering Sindh. Although this South Asian nation had for centuries followed non-violent path of peaceful coexistence, it was often subjected to imperial designs of outsiders. Sindh was conquered by the Arabs in the "name of Islam" in the 12th century, and by the Moghuls in the seventeenth century. Through consistent struggle for freedom, Sindhis maintained their status as an independent entity and played a significant role in the promotion of peaceful coexistence. By 1897, Sindhis decided to embark upon an armed struggle against the British. Sindh saw the first Martial Law in 1899. Several thousand Sindhis were thrown behind bars and when the jails could not accommodate more prisoners, the British decided to convert entire villages into prisons. They would put barbed wires around a village, disarm all inhabitants of that village and post a few sentries who supervised the agrarian subsistence activities of the villagers.

To paraphrase Nehru, on midnight of 14 August 1947, while South Asia was having a "tryst with history," Sindh was engulfed into the deep darkness of internal colonialism, pillage and loss of identity, land and resources. In 1947, the British "handed over" Sindh to the "Brown Sahibs", that is to the Muslim League and rulers of a new country - Pakistan. The dark clouds of "internal colonialism" descended in earnest and Sindhi people's right to self-determination was squashed under the heavy boots of Pakistan's fascistic military and its "partners" - the British-trained bureaucracy (almost exclusively non-Sindhi), rising capitalist class, and feudal lords. The Sindhi language which was the "first language" of over 90 percent people living in Sindh before 1947, was taught in schools and had an extremely rich literary tradition. By 1950, teaching of Sindhi language was deemed a crime; by 1952, several Sindhi writers and intellectuals were thrown behind bars; by 1954, Sindh even lost its provincial status and was amalgamated with the other West Pakistani provinces. So much for freedom. The make-shift "barbed-wire" prisons created by the British during the first three decades of the 20th Century were "dismantled" 11 years after the so-called liberation of Pakistan in 1958.

In July 1970, Sindh regained its provincial status but by this time the damage was done. A majority of refugees who migrated from Muslim minority provinces in India to Pakistan were settled in Sindh. Although an exchange of population took place in Punjab and Bengal as well, these entities experienced the least linguistic or cultural damage. Essentially Punjabi-speaking Sikhs were replaced by Punjabi-speaking Muslims in Punjab and Bengali-speaking Hindus were replaced by Bengali-speaking Muslim in Bengal. In Sindh, Sindhi intellectuals and literati, who happened to profess a unique brand of Hinduism(3) were replaced by Urdu-speaking Muslims. These refugees were neither spiritually, culturally nor linguistically compatible with Sindhis. But they were allied to the ruling parties and formed the core of the military-bureaucratic oligarchy that came to rule Pakistan.

In the recent years, hundreds of Sindhis have been brutally killed by the fascistic gangs of Urdu-speaking fundamentalist Muslims whose activities are somehow unnoticed by the successive Pakistani governments - military or civilian. Currently, although prime minister of Pakistan is a Sindhi woman - Ms. Benazir Bhutto. She has demonstrated very little understanding of the dreams, desires and aspirations of the Sindh people. Ms. Bhutto has also proven to be an outright opportunist who would much rather curry favours from John Majors or Bill Clintons then to worry about people of Sindh or other dispossessed Pakistanis.

Fascism in Pakistan
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Culturally and temperamentally, Sindhis are incompatible with political, economic, cultural, spiritual and social values and practices of the post-partition Muslim League leadership, the military-bureaucratic oligarchy and its capitalist, feudal and religious allies. In the forty eight years of its existence, Pakistan has experienced at least three military coup d'etats resulting in the direct military rule for over 25 years and "indirect" military rule for 23 years.

Direct Military Rule
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The period of "direct" military rule is characterised by a military general being the head of state. The military directly ruled Pakistan from 1958 to 1971 and 1977 to 1988. During these times, the military abrogated three Constitutions, imposed a serious restrictions on civil liberties and opened up Pakistani "markets" to the multi-national corporations (MNCs). General Ayub Khan's dictatorship from 1958-68 was characterised by the processes of "concentration" and "militarisation". During this time almost 80 percent of Pakistani wealth became concentrated in the hands of 22 families - all having strong links to the MNCs. Military expenditures reached unprecedented heights. As well, several industrial units were established by the military thus "militarising profits" from the hitherto civilian goods and services producing sector. Mr. Bhutto was General Ayub Khan's foreign minister.

General Yahya Khan's military rule was short but saw the birth of Bangladesh after the attempted genocide of Bengali people by the hands of the Pakistani military. His period also provided an opportunity to Mr. Bhutto to build a strong relationship between the PPP and the Pakistani military.

General ZiaulHaque's period coincided with serious global changes. The United States came to be ruled by the ultra-right wing Republican President Reagan; a fundamentalist religious group came into power in neighbouring Iran; and, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. General Zia established a fascistic state. The 1972 Constitution was put "in abeyance', all civil liberties were "suspended", academic freedoms were dismantled, and Islamic Shari'a law became the cornerstone of the Pakistani judicial system.

Indirect Military Rule
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The period of "indirect" military rule, however, has several characteristics. Here is the brief review of the various periods of Indirect Military rule in Pakistan: 1947 to 1958

During this period, Pakistan had no constitution. A Governor General and then a series of prime ministers ruled this new country and presided over a Constituent Assembly whose mandate came from the elections held in 1945 under the British rule. A large number of the members of the Constituent Assembly were elected in the areas outside of the newly created country - Pakistan. The military influence on Pakistani politics became evident from early 1951 when the then "General Officer Commander" of Pakistani army Ayub Khan travelled to Washington and signed a bilateral agreement with the United States. Neither his trip to Washington nor an agreement were "pre-approved" by the Prime Minister. The agreement nevertheless was ratified by the Prime Minister. Soon after, Pakistan became a fully fledged member of the Western "collective security" arrangement of SEATO and CENTO.

The government move towards silencing all voices of dissent during 1950's had an eerie resemblance to McCarthyism in the United States. In their quest to silence all voices of opposition, the Muslim league rulers and their "sponsors", banned the Community Party in 1952, promulgated One Unit Ordinance whereby four West Pakistani provinces were amalgamated. During this time, military expenditure constituted over 50 percent of Pakistan's entire federal budget.

December 1971 to July 1977
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Four days after Pakistani armed forces surrendered to the freedom-fighters of Bangladesh and Indian Army, Mr. Z.A. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) came in power on 20 December 1971. Mr. Bhutto, himself a scion of a powerful Sindhi feudal family, was a strong proponent of "strong Pakistan" and believed that a "strong military would help build strong Pakistan." He sanctioned military intervention in politics when he dismissed the duly elected National Awami Party (NAP) government in Baluchistan and a coalition government in North West Frontier Province (Pushtoonistan). Both these governments were able to provide a viable alternative to Mr. Bhutto's populism - a true social democracy. During his first six years, Mr. Bhutto tried to dismantle all vestiges of social democracy in Pakistan. He brought in some of the worst labour legislation, banned NAP, made overt statements that the military has a place in politics, banned hundreds of Sindhi books and periodicals, waged an active "war" against Baluch, Pushtoon and to some extent Sindhi people. He also brought in thousands of pro-Pakistani "refugees" from Bangladesh and ensured their settlement in Sindh. He pointedly refused to restore civil liberties, introduce policies to promote female participation in work place and other walks of life, abolish child labour practices and renegotiate federalism between four provinces - Sindh, Baluchistan, Punjab and Pushtoonistan. His last year in power he spent appeasing fundamentalist and fascistic religious groups and came out with legislation which effectively made Ahmadiyas(4) second class citizens, banned liquor and introduced the "Shari'a(5)" laws. December 1988 to date

Two prime ministers have governed during this period: The Late Mr. Bhutto's daughter Benazir Bhutto leading PPP government and Mr. Nawaz Shareef leading a Muslim League government. Although following a different ideological perspective, both of these prime ministers have shown a remarkable uniformity of "vision" and have tried to "outshine" one another when it comes to quelling public protests, opening up Pakistan to the pillage of the multi-national corporations, limiting civil liberties, appeasing Pakistani military, or denying Sindhi people the right to self-determination. They also have shown a tremendous capacity to allow violence against Sindhi people and have constantly appeased MQM.

Concluding Remarks
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The experience of Pakistan has shown that the successive Pakistani regimes - directly or indirectly military, have systematically violated human rights of Pakistani people in general and of Sindhi people in particular. We have been rendered third and fourth class citizens in our own country. Our rights as citizens have been brutally violated. All political, social, legal, cultural, theological and economic institutions of Pakistan have become "repressive state instruments" vis-=E0-vis Sindhis. In sum, we Sindhis cannot co-exist with a fascistic state.

The political philosophy, economic goals and social values of Sindhi people are guided by our unique historical, cultural and linguistic experience. We are different within a vast sea of different nations and peoples of the South Asian Sub-Continent. We respect other people's difference and are seeking such recognition for ourselves. We have no desire to impose our language, culture, spiritual beliefs, socio-political values or economic agenda on any other nation, we only aim to be allowed to thrive and develop within Sindh without any threat to our national existence, sovereignty or human rights.

Human rights are not crumbs that ruling classes or entities throw at people to keep them at bay. Recognition of human rights is the fundamental acknowledgement of the existence of an individual or of a collective. As a Sindhi intellectual I am seeking acknowledgement of Sindhi people's collective right to self-determination and their individual right to survival, safety, as well as to cultural, spiritual, political, economic, social and legal freedoms. We want to build a Sindhi society where everyone will have the right to life, liberty and security. Where we will have open and accountable political and economic institutions. The role of the government in Sindh will be to ensure that human rights, as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, of every citizen are respected. We would like to build a Sindh where children are recognised as persons and their rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are respected. Our Sindh will provide equal opportunity to all citizens regardless of their gender, age, sexual orientation, religious belief, political ideology, or caste. A society with fair and equitable taxation system and employment rights for all citizens. A society free of fundamentalist and bigoted versions of Islam. A society where Sindhis can dispense education in the Sindhi language and sing verses by Sachal Sarmast or Shaikh Ayaz without fearing imprisonment.

Sindh wants to emerge as a global partner in peace. We need help from all freedom-loving people all over the world. Sindh is screaming for help. Sindhis are begging to be noticed.

End Notes



Peace and Love,
Zahid Makhdoom

email: zmakdoom@kootenay.awinc.com
home phone: (604) 489-5476 voice/fax
work phone: (604) 489-2464
cell phone: (604) 489-8981
FAX: (604) 489-5760

"self-determination is a primary human right...subjugation of
people in the hands of other people is an act of war crime..."


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