The hinterland Sindh and the city of Karachi, produce about seventy per cent of wealth of the country. Despite such an abundance of resources, Sindh has a strong segment of the poorest people, living mainly in its rural areas.
The past and present political situation in Sindh
Since 1947, the Bengalis constantly complained that by imposing an over-centralised form of the government on the country, the West Pakistani autocrats violated the Pakistan Resolution of 1940. The leaders of Sindh and Balochistan also joined this chorus. So much so that, G. M. Syed, the leader of Sindhi nationalism, said that by tabling the above-mentioned resolution, he committed the biggest blunder of his life. Due to the acrimony between the Bengalis and the West Pakistani elite, the former created their own state, Bangladesh in 1971. Indeed, India supported Bengalis against Pakistan for its own strategic objectives.
From 1971 onwards, Sindh and Balochistan continue to complain about their economic and political deprivation. Resultantly, there are markedly strong nationalist feelings either for attaining maximum autonomy or complete secession from Pakistan. However, during the same period, many Sindhis, also manifestly remained supporters of the Pakistan People’s Party(PPP). It was the Sindhi vote which helped enormously to bring about Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to power in the ’70s and the ’90s. And since then, Sindh, along with the Seraiki speaking Southern Punjab has remained the vote bank of the PPP.
Since 2008, Sindh and the centre are being ruled by the PPP, led by President Asif Ali Zardari. There are two opinions about the popularity of the PPP in Sindh. Firstly, the PPP rule gives a token representation to the Sindhis in the federal structure. Secondly, an emotional attachment with the Bhutto family. Let us briefly evaluate these propositions. Sindhis didn’t vote PPP because of its slogan of ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan’ or now the arcane concept of ‘reconciliation’, but because of an emotional attachment with Bhuttos, who delivered some trivial benefits to them.
President Zardari neither has the Bhutto charisma, nor has he delivered anything substantial to Sindhis. Unlike a statesman, who has a long-term planning for his nation, Zardari is like an acrobat, who bemuses the spectators by outwitting his adversaries with his tricks. The children of late Benazir Bhutto do not know the ground realities of Sindh, nor are they as popular as their mother. Thus, the People’s Party is almost a leaderless organisation.
Above all, in Sindh province the PPP has broken all the previous records of bad governance and corruption. Sardar Saifullah Dharejo, the provincial minister of irrigation has accused his cabinet colleague, Pir Mazharul Haq, minister of education, of selling even the posts of peons in his department. This example indicates the level of corruption during the PPP rule in Sindh. It is observed that like kleptocrats, the PPP leaders know that it may be their last chance to make money and run away.
The PPP government’s plan of building coastal town, Zulfikarabad, in the Thatta District, with the Chinese collaboration is vehemently disapproved by Sindhis. The proponents of this project, including President Zardari, argue that since Karachi cannot accommodate the surplus populations, thus, there is a need of construction of a new nearby town with amenities of modern life. These circles suggest that the life-style and jobs of the locals will be guaranteed.
Moreover, the opponents of the project argue that after its completion, more than three lakh local Sindhis will be dislocated. And there will be a devastating environmental degradation of Sindh. Thus, PPP and the nationalist parties are at daggers drawn on this project, which markedly affects PPP’s popularity. The Sindhi nationalists have strongly advised the masses to boycott Chinese products, and if it happens, it will certainly hit Chinese market in Pakistan and affect the Sino-Pak relations.
In order to make a foothold in Sindh, the leader of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan, visited Hyderabad in June, and addressed a public meeting mainly attended by the (mureeds) followers of Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi who has joined the PTI. Mr. Khan spoke on the issues like corruption, election of the new prime minister, bad governance, nuclear deterrence, etc. But none of these issues has any direct bearing on the problems of Sindh. Sindhis prefer to listen to the issues like the fair inter-provincial distribution of water and other resources, or the rehabilitation of the people affected by the super floods and rains of 2010 and 2011, respectively. Moreover, a common Sindhi regards Imran Khan as an ally of the army and a clean-shaven mullah. It was not a good idea address a jalsa of the masses in Urdu, which is not the language of people. Thus, a sufi Sindhi has no attraction for Mr. Khan, and he will not cut much ice in Sindh during the next elections to be held in March 2013.
The Functional Muslim League of Pir Pagara is getting popularity in Sindh. Previously, it was confined to the areas inhabited by the Hurs, followers of Pir Pagara. It was also considered the proxy of the army. But the new Pir Pagara is bringing it closer to other Sindhis. The Hurs have been instructed to wear Sindhi caps and turbans, which were banned by the previous Pagara. Moreover, the Functional Muslim League addresses the issues related to Sindh. It takes stiff stand against the MQM’s strong armed tactics. Thus, it is making gain in the whole Sindh and it may win more seats in the next elections.
The Future Scenario
Like the SNF, many Sindhi nationalist parties, including late G. M. Syed’s grandson, Syed Jalal Mahmood Shah’s Sindh United Party (SUP) has also formed an alliance with PML (N). His party is a member of a nationalist conglomeration, the Sindh National Alliance. The other members of the alliance have criticised Jalal Mohammood Shah for not informing them in advance about his arrangements with the PML(N). But Dr. Qadir Magsi and Ayaz Palejo keep their channels open with it.
It is quite probable that these nationalists may return to the provincial assembly. If so, they may form an alliance with the PML (N), which will auger well for the future of Pakistan in wake the precarious geopolitical situation around it. In that case, they may press for the replacement of the 1973 Constitution with a new one, quite similar to the ideals of the 1940 Resolution. Otherwise, the Sindhi separatist forces in alliances with their Baloch cousins may gain ground in non-parliamentary political canvass of Sindh, which will be harmful for Pakistan