Monday, December 29, 2008

Politics of Ethnicity - 2

Dr Moonis Ahmar
Pakistan: The Sindhi-Mohajir conflict Conflict Dynamics Official Conflict Management Multi Track Diplomacy Prospects Recommendations Miscellaneous
Author Moonis Ahmar Publication Searching for Peace in Central and South Asia Year 2002


Sindh is located in the southeastern part of Pakistan. This territory was called Sindomani by the Greeks, the Sundhudesha by ancient Hindus, Sindh by Arabic geographers, and Sindu by its occupants, who also used the name Sindu for the Indus River. The Partition of 1947 changed the demographic complexion of Sindh. While the Muslim Sindhis constituted a majority, a substantial number of Hindu Sindhis, Christians, and Parsis were also living in that territory, particularly in Karachi, which at the time of partition was a city of 300,000 inhabitants. After partition, more migrants from India settled in Sindh, mostly in Karachi. Sindh is the only province of Pakistan where ethnic polarization is serious because of the presence of large ethnic groups and their clashes of interests.

Before 1947, there was no record of conflict between Sindhi and Urdu-speaking populations, while feelings of Sindhi nationalism were noticeable even before the emergence of Pakistan. When Sindh was a part of Bombay, Muslim Sindhis resented the manner in which their rights were usurped by the outsiders. In prepartition Sindh, nonlocals dominated business and administrative positions. Yet the Sindhi language and culture remained superior as compared to other languages of West Pakistan and Sindhis wanted to maintain their identity. The influx of millions of migrants from India after partition changed the demographic balance of the province. From 1947 to 1955, the Sindhi cities of Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkar, and Mirpurkhas became strongholds of Urdu-speaking migrants, called Mohajirs (Mohajir in Urdu means "migrant") from India. The exodus of the Hindu population from Sindh to India and the influx of a new Muslim population from India to Sindh changed the dynamics of politics and economics of that area. The original Sindhi inhabitants came to resent the domination of the Urdu language and the culture of Muslim migrants from India and other parts of Pakistan.

The Sindhi-speaking masses were faced with double jeopardy, first by the state and second by the feudal lords of their own ethnic background. Feelings of insecurity and paranoia began to deepen among native Sindhis because of the state policy to discourage local culture and impose the Urdu language as the medium of education. With the reemergence of the provinces in West Pakistan, Sindhi leaders began to hope for a better role in their province. The general elections of December 1970 clearly demonstrated the ethnic division of Sindh: the rural areas mainly voted for the Sindhi-dominated Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the urban areas of the province voted for the Urdu-speaking candidates. The PPP and Jayae Sindh Movement managed to unite the Sindhi-speaking population of Sindh against the injustices perpetrated by the state forces led by the Mohajir-Punjabi elite.

Political, Cultural, and Social Dynamics

Politically, the Sindhi-Mohajir relations were influenced by several trends, one reversing the other. First, there was the influx of millions of Urdu-speaking migrants from India in the postpartition period. This created a political crisis in which the Sindhis felt that they were being reduced to a minority in their own land. Such fears and insecurities among native Sindhis gave legitimacy to the cause of Sindhi nationalism, which gave birth to the Jayae Sindh Movement. The PPP, which was founded by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a Sindhi leader, despite adhering to the concept of a federal structure, also became a champion of the rights of Sindhi people. The feeling of insecurity and fear prevailed among native Sindhis that their political control over Sindh was being compromised because of the Mohajir clout in the national power setup. The Mohajir community, given their better educational background and pivotal role in the Pakistan separatist movement, possessed political power. Things began to change in 1958 with the military coup and the imposition of martial law in which the Punjabi-Pathan elite began to replace the Mohajir's political, economic, and administrative influence. The federal capital was shifted from Karachi to Rawalpindi in 1959 and Karachi was separated from Sindh in the mid-1960s. A feeling of marginalization emerged within the Mohajir community, first during the martial law regime of Ayub Khan and later on during the rule of Bhutto. The emergence of Mohajir nationalism paved the way for the formation of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) in 1984. Because of its focus on protecting the political and economic rights of the Urdu-speaking migrant community, MQM emerged as a big political force in urban Sindh, capturing maximum seats at the provincial and national assembly elections held in 1988, 1990, 1993, and 1997.

Cultural and social dynamics.

The Urdu-speaking migrants from India who settled in Punjab and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) were absorbed into the local cultural setup, but in Sindh the assimilation process, particularly in urban areas, did not take place. This was because of the small number of native Sindhis living in such areas. Since the Mohajir community assumed a dominant demographic status in the urban areas of Sindh, they did not feel the need to learn the Sindhi language or get an understanding of Sindhi culture. As a result, the cultural gap between the Mohajirs and Sindhis widened, resulting in growing social tension. The 1972 language riots in Sindh were an attempt of native Sindhis to assert their culture.

While the Sindhi culture was close to rural and feudal traditions, the Mohajirs had an urban middle-class background and were against reverting to social orthodoxy. As a result, the two cultures were unable to reach a level of mutual coexistence.

Economic and administrative issues.

The Mohajirs primarily belonged to business, trade, and other professional fields. Since they had an edge in education vis-¹-vis native Sindhis, their role in administration was quite significant. Native Sindhis resented the manner in which Karachi, which was the economic and administrative center of Pakistan in its formative phase, was dominated by the Mohajirs. However, things began to change in the early 1970s when the regime of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto formulated a policy based on 60 percent rural and 40 percent urban quota in state jobs and admissions in state-owned educational institutions. The purpose was to improve the socioeconomic standard of people living in rural areas. Since the majority of Sindhi-speaking people lived in rural areas, the objective of the quota system was to benefit their position. As a consequence to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's policy of promoting the interests of native Sindhis, the Mohajir community searched for its identity, resulting in the creation of the MQM. The Mojahir leaders legitimized their quest by asking why the rights of Urdu speakers to have a separate identity were not accepted by the state. The nationalization of banks, insurance companies, and various industries by the Bhutto regime in 1972 and his administrative measures to benefit native Sindhis in employment and in other areas led to the erosion of Mohajir influence in Sindh, resulting in a sense of deprivation in that community.

Conflict Dynamics

During the first twenty-four years after the creation of Pakistan, the Sindhi-Mohajir conflict remained low-key. After the establishment of the Pakistani nation in 1947, it became clear that the assimilation process, which could have developed basic understanding between Sindhis and Mohajirs, could not take place. Mohajirs remained committed to the "Two-Nation Theory" (the theory that Hindus and Muslims are separate nations) and possessed a hostile attitude toward ethnic nationalism. They pressed for the adoption of the Urdu language as a source of unity and identity. Sindhis viewed such an assertion as an attack on their culture and traditions. Steps taken to replace Sindhi with Urdu in educational institutions became a cause of insecurity among the Sindhis, and they developed hostility not only against the Urdu-speaking migrants from India but also against the state's power. When Urdu was introduced as a compulsory language for primary classes in 1962, the decision triggered a strike in November of that year. There was a Mohajir-Punjabi nexus that was considered detrimental to the interests of the Sindhi. It was argued by the Sindhi leaders that those who had migrated to Sindh at the time of partition should assimilate in local culture instead of expressing cultural arrogance. Moreover, the Mohajirs enjoyed a monopoly in business, trade, and jobs, which created resentment among Sindhis.

Between 1972 and 1977 there were violent confrontations between the two communities, first in July 1972. The trigger was the passing of a language bill by the Sindh assembly in that month, recognizing Sindhi as the language of the province. The bill was passed despite the adoption of Urdu as the language by the provinces of Balochistan, NWFP, and Punjab. The Urdu-speaking population protested because it considered such an act a source of promoting Sindhi nationalism at the expense of the ideology of Pakistan. The language riots created bitterness and hostility between the Sindhi and Mohajir communities and divided the province along ethnic lines. The Sindhi-speaking population migrated to the rural areas that they dominated, while the Urdu-speaking population primarily migrated to urban areas. To calm matters, it was decided that the chief minister of the province would be Sindhi-speaking while the governor of the province would be Urdu-speaking. The gradual introduction of the Sindhi language in educational institutions and reserving the quota of 40 and 60 percent respectively for the urban and rural Sindh lessened tensions somewhat. But the 60 percent employment reservation given to rural areas became another source of conflict between the Sindhis and the Mohajirs.

With the dismissal of Bhutto's government and the imposition of martial law on 5 July 1977, the Sindhi-Mohajir conflict took a new turn. While the majority of native Sindhis were supporting Bhutto's PPP, the bulk of the Mohajir population voted against his party during the elections of March 1977. Agitation against the regime of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto mostly concentrated in the Urdu-speaking cities of Karachi and Hyderabad. Ironically, Mohajirs didn't benefit during the martial law of General Zia-ul-Haq because the Zia regime did not try to resolve the issues, which were central to the Mohajir community. Between 1986 and 1988 tensions between the two communities gradually diminished. With the influx of Pathans and Punjabis in Sindh and their connections with the regime of General Zia-ul-Haq, the traditional domination of the Mohajir community in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad began to erode. The taking over of the transport system by the Pathan community and the business and jobs by the Punjabis created a sense of insecurity among the Mohajirs, who feared more marginalization of their role in Sindh.

In August 1986, in a huge public meeting in Karachi, Altaf Hussain, the leader of the Mohajir community, proclaimed the formal launching of the MQM. He accused the Punjabi-dominated establishment of hurting the rights of the Mohajir community. In view of the marginalization of Sindhis and Mohajirs because of Zia's martial law, proposals for Mohajir-Sindhi unity were also presented. For the first time in Sindh's politics, there were indications of Mohajir-Sindhi reconciliation against their common enemy.

The Sindhi-Mohajir honeymoon came to an end in late 1988 when ethnic tension between the Sindhi and Mohajir communities living in the city of Hyderabad escalated over the policies of the MQM-dominated municipal body of the city. On 31 October 1988 hundreds of people were killed as a result of sniper fire in Hyderabad, resulting in bloody ethnic riots between Sindhi and Mohajir communities.

The renewed tension between Mohajirs and Sindhis was one of the outcomes of the breakup of the alliance between the MQM and Benazir Bhutto's PPP. The MQM, which had joined the Bhutto government after the November 1988 elections, left in August 1989 because of the nonfulfillment of its demands by the PPP regime. These demands centered on the repatriation of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh, ending the quota system, and withdrawal of cases against MQM activists. With the rupture of the PPP-MQM alliance, ethnic violence in Sindh claimed hundreds of lives between May and June 1990. With the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto's government by the president on charges of corruption and mismanagement, the level of violence of Sindh was reduced.

During the October 1990 elections, the Sindhi-dominated PPP was defeated in general elections. The MQM retained its electoral upper hand in urban Sindh and joined the coalition government with the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan Muslim League of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which had won the general elections. For the first time since its inception, the MQM became a strong partner in Sindh's government. But its role in the government, both in Sindh and at the federal level, was short-lived because the army—fearful of MQM's growing strength—decided to launch an operation against the group in June 1992. As a result, the MQM withdrew its support of the Pakistan Muslim League and went underground. It launched a campaign against the role of intelligence agencies in dividing the MQM and weakening its power. This situation continued until the government of Nawaz Sharif was dismissed by the president on charges of inefficiency and corruption in April 1993. Although his government was reinstated by the supreme court in May 1993, Nawaz Sharif decided to resign from the post of prime minister, paving the way for the holding of general elections in October 1993, which brought Benazir Bhutto's PPP back to power.

The MQM mobilized its cadre for agitation against the government in early 1994. The Sindhi-dominated PPP, meanwhile, blamed the MQM for engaging in antistate activities and seeking support from India for an independent homeland for the Mohajirs of Sindh, charges the MQM denied. Between November 1994 and September 1995, Karachi witnessed violent incidents claiming thousands of lives. Violence in urban Sindh continued, despite the government crackdown. The defeat of the PPP in the February 1997 elections at the hands of Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League and the retention of its vote bank in these elections by the MQM again created an MQM–Pakistan Muslim League alliance, which again was short-lived. Despite joining the Muslim League in a coalition in Sindh and in the federal cabinet, the MQM continued to complain about discriminatory policies. In October 1998, the MQM left the government and again became a target of state repression.

The present phase in the Sindhi-Mohajir conflict, following the military coup of 12 October 1999, is based on three important realities. First, high-profile tensions between Mohajirs and Sindhis have been replaced with "realistic coexistence." To the Sindhis and the Mohajirs, it has become clear that both communities cannot annihilate each other and both need to recognize and respect their interests. The MQM, which had violent confrontations with native Sindhis during 1988–1990, has also come to the conclusion that sustained conflict with them can only benefit the Punjabi-dominated military and bureaucracy. The creation of trust and confidence and the removal of paranoia between the Sindhi and Mohajir communities can help ensure political stability and peace in the province of Sindh.

Recently, one can notice some systematic effort on the part of MQM and Jayae Sindh Quami Mahaz (Sindhi National Front) to seek Sindhi-Mohajir alliances on important issues such as the fair distribution of water. For the first time in many years, one can see organized efforts by Sindhi- and Urdu-speaking leaders to remove mistrust and past cleavages so as to form a united front against the Punjabi elite.

External Factors

Before the formation and rise of the MQM, the struggle for the rights of the Urdu-speaking population in Sindh was not identified with any external hand. It was only in the course of the MQM drive for assertion and its demand for a separate Mohajir identity that the establishment began to link instability in urban Sindh with the involvement of foreign forces. Unlike urban Sindh, the Sindhi nationalist movement was believed to have obtained support from external elements.

Several conspiracy theories linking foreign elements in Sindh's ethnic conflicts have been presented over a period of years. During the Cold War days, the role of the Soviet Union and India was mentioned. After the emergence of the MQM as a strong force in urban Sindh, it was alleged by the state that the United States and India were behind creating unrest in the Urdu-speaking community and that the slogan of a separate Mohajir state composed of Karachi and Hyderabad had the blessings of Washington and New Delhi. In 1992, when the state had launched a crackdown operation against the MQM, official sources revealed that the prime objective of Mohajir nationalists was to create "Jinnahpur," which would have sovereign status with the support of India. When Karachi was in the grip of severe violence in 1994, the government asked the Indian consulate to close its operations in the city because of its alleged involvement in MQM-sponsored terrorism.

Sindh is the most ethnically diversified province of Pakistan and the two major ethnic groups, i.e., Sindhis and Mohajirs, still lack basic understanding. The third ethnic force in Sindh, i.e., Punjabis and Pathans, form another bloc. The unresolved ethnic issues of Sindh provide an opportunity for foreign elements to exploit the situation for their own interests.

Official Conflict Management

When the language riots broke out in 1972, the then government of Z. A. Bhutto tried to defuse the situation by giving concessions to the Urdu-speaking population. Although Bhutto's government had a soft spot for the Sindhi-speaking population, it realized that continuous violence in Sindh, particularly in its capital, Karachi, could be disastrous for the economy of the country. Some confidence-building measures to promote ethnic harmony between Sindhis and Mohajirs were also taken by Bhutto's government, such as keeping the post of governor of the province for the Urdu-speaking community. During Zia's time and in the post-Zia period (after 1988), official conflict management remained low-key. It can be argued that the state itself was involved in widening the ethnic cleavage between the Sindhis and Mohajirs instead of managing the conflict.

Official conflict-management activities in the Sindhi-Mohajir conflict may be seen at two levels, federal and provincial. There exists a wide belief in Sindh that most of the sources of grievances among Sindhis and Mohajirs against each other could be removed by official administrative measures both by the Sindh and the federal governments. If the quota system, which is still a major source of irritation between Sindhis and Mohajirs, is handled to the satisfaction of both communities and economic steps providing adequate development funds in both rural and urban Sindh are given, the ethnic discord in Sindh could be gradually minimized. The government can also introduce social and educational reforms so that the level of intolerance between Sindhis and Mohajirs could be reduced.

Multi Track Diplomacy

The role of civil society, state, and media in the Mohajir-Sindhi conflict is quite interesting because of their contradictory reactions. Civil society in Sindh remains weak and divided. There are a few reasons for this, but chief among them is the urban-rural divide. First, the rural population is overwhelmingly Sindhi (92 percent) while the urban population is half Urdu and one-quarter Sindhi (figures from the 1998 Provincial Census). Urban Sindh has high levels of literacy; rural Sindh has a poor educational standing. Urban Sindh is industrialized and politicized; rural Sindh lives in an oppressive and exploitative feudal structure. Urban Sindh has a strong middle class. The two faces of the province do not see eye to eye. These problems are exacerbated by a policy of divide and rule followed by the ruling elite and the absence of an assertive role of the intelligentsia and political parties of Sindh for democracy.

The state tried to deal with the issue of Mohajir nationalism by using force (particularly against MQM supporters), promoting division within the MQM, and encouraging Punjabi and Pathan settlers against the MQM. Since the state was not trying to deal with the problem of Mohajir or Sindhi nationalism in a political manner, the end result was more insecurity and ill will in Sindh against state policies. None of the mainstream political parties that have dominated the state apparatus have done anything to reduce ethnic tensions. Quite the contrary, they have been a complicating factor. The PPP is a case in point. When it controlled the federal and Sindh governments, tensions between Sindhis and Mohajirs increased because support for Sindhi nationalists had remained a hallmark for the PPP leadership since the days of Z. A. Bhutto. During the tenure of Z. A. Bhutto (1972–1977) and his daughter Benazir Bhutto (1988–1990 and 1993–1996), Sindhi-Mohajir relations were marred with violence. Given the fact that the Bhutto family hails from rural Sindh, Urdu-speaking Mohajirs held the view that they had followed a policy of patronizing Sindhis at the expense of Mohajirs. The media had a significantly negative impact on Sindh ethnic politics. The vernacular press printed stories and reports about Sindhi-Mohajir conflicts without proper investigation. The print media did not help much in creating reconciliation and goodwill between Sindhis and Mohajirs. A section of the print media was used by the establishment in order to promote a further rift between the two communities. The electronic media, which is under state control, did not help to create harmony and understanding between the two communities.

During the violent phases of the Sindhi-Mohajir conflicts, civil society generally failed to curb the level of violence and promote the process of peace between the two communities, although efforts at the community level by nonpartisan people proved to be useful in scaling down the level of violence in the two phases of active Sindhi-Mohajir conflicts. Other segments of civil society, such as labor movements, student groups, and social organizations, tried to promote ethnic harmony between Sindhis and Mohajirs but their scope was limited for two main reasons:

(1) the absence of a political process during the long spell of martial law (1977–1985)


(2) the vested interests pursued by the military-bureaucratic establishment to promote ethnic division in Sindh so as to counter the role of national political parties.

Because of illiteracy, backwardness, and other social ills, civil society could not play a cogent role in promoting a sense of ethnic tolerance in Sindh. A large section of the print media, particularly the vernacular press, acted in a totally irresponsible manner during spells of ethnic violence in Sindh and contributed to the ethnic divide.

The current absence of an active ethnic conflict between the two communities is not because of the positive role played by the civil society but because of a strong feeling among Sindhis and Mohajirs that as permanent residents of Sindh they should avoid the politics of hate and violence. Given the fact that only vested-interest groups benefit from violence, both Sindhis and Mohajirs are attempting to avoid direct confrontation with each other.


Presently, the dynamics of the Sindhi-Mohajir conflict contain not only a potential for meaningful cooperation but also the resurgence of violence between the two communities. From 1990 onwards, the nature of Sindhi-Mohajir relations has changed from overt hostility to covert acceptability. The process of assimilation, which should be a reciprocal process, has not yielded positive results because both Sindhi and Mohajir communities still possess deep-rooted mistrust and suspicions. Cultural, political, and economic cleavages between Sindhis and Mohajirs tend to discourage initiatives for ethnic harmony and cooperation in Sindh. Both state and nonstate actors need to play an active role in the prevention and management of Sindhi-Mohajir conflict in short- and long-term ways. Particularly, if the role of state is positive for promoting ethnic harmony in Sindh, much can be done to resolve decades-old Sindhi-Mohajir conflicts.

The events unfolding after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001 and the subsequent U.S. war on terrorism have launched a discussion in Sindh on its implications for the political dynamics of the province. Following the subsequent war in Afghanistan leading to the collapse of the Taliban regime in Kabul, the centrifugal forces in Sindh will gain ground. Steps for seeking better understanding between progressive forces of Mohajirs and Sindhis are being taken in order to deal with the threat of religious fanaticism in Sindh. If the state fails to control the backlash of events in Afghanistan on Pakistani society, there is a possibility that the nationalist forces of Sindh will rise in order to deal with religious extremist elements. In that scenario, there is also a possibility of a patch-up between Sindhis and Mohajirs because both are concerned about the rising influence of jihadi elements. In this scenario, a Sindhi-Mohajir alliance, instead of sustained confrontation, is a long-term possibility. India can certainly intervene in a subtle manner in Sindh and support nationalist forces of the province if the jihadi elements create more problems for New Delhi in its controlled parts of Kashmir.


These may be divided into short-term and long-term recommendations because the nature of ethnic divide in Sindh is such that a step-by-step approach will have to be followed in order to build trust and confidence. Given the fact that the conflict is primarily internal, it has few chances of an external intervention at the state level or by foreign organizations such as the United Nations. Based on the passive nature of the conflict since 1990, it is expected that it will not escalate and has bright prospects for resolution if short- and long-term recommendations are taken into account by the community leaders and both provincial and federal governments. They are the following.

Short-Term Recommendations

Reduction of mistrust by encouraging social contacts and interaction between Sindhis and Mohajirs. This is possible by discouraging migration in Sindh along ethnic lines.

Removal of the feeling among Sindhis that Mohajirs want to have a province at their expense. Reassurance given by Mohajir leaders that they are against the division of Sindh on ethnic grounds can help to reduce insecurity among the Sindhis. Similarly, an expression of tolerance by the Sindhi-speaking population vis-¹-vis their Urdu-speaking counterparts is also potentially helpful.

Reciprocal cultural exchange in order to bring the young generation of Sindhis and Mohajirs closer.

Long-Term Recommendations

The best prospects for peacemaking lie with effectively dealing with the ignorance and backwardness in rural Sindh that promotes feelings of ethno-nationalism and extremism. There is a need on the part of Sindhi and Mohajir groups to target real issues such as water sharing, energy, and unemployment, instead of confronting each other. Investment and education need to be promoted in rural Sindh so that the sense of deprivation in that part of the province might be reduced. The state needs to formulate policies that could bring Sindhis and Mohajirs closer instead of doing nothing against those who promote hate and paranoia between the two communities. Mohajirs need to understand that as permanent residents of Sindh they should not have extraprovincial loyalties and should seriously think of working with Sindhis for the betterment of the province.

This would require a proactive approach: building confidence between Sindhis and Mohajirs at the grassroots level so that the forces of intolerance from both sides are curbed. Most important, Sindhi-Mohajir relations could be made cordial and tension-free only if there is a political process. In the absence of democratic political processes, ethnic discord cannot be removed. The media need to act in a responsible manner because the Urdu and Sindhi press follow a totally different line while dealing with lingual and cultural contradictions. The print media of Sindh can
contribute a lot to encouraging the process of assimilation.


The author is thankful to Ms. Nausheen Wasi, Mr. Farhan H. Siddiqi, Mr. Naeem Ahmed, and Mr. Fahim Raza for providing information and going through the earlier drafts of the survey.

Source: Khan Zafar Afghani, Taasub, Tashuddud Aur Tazad, Fanaticism, Violence and Clashes, vol. 1. Lahore, Al Mustafa publishing Systems, 1997, pp. 55–86.

Source: Ibid., pp. 268–495.

Source: Ibid., pp. 553–724, 870, 1601.

Service Information

NEWSLETTERS AND PERIODICALS: DAWN/The News International, Karachi;

Naqeeb, a magazine published by the Muhtada Quami Movement (MQM);

Sindh Quarterly (stopped publishing since early 1990s);

REPORTS: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Pakistan: Ethno-Politics and Contending Elites, by Abbas Rashid and Farida Shaheed.
Discussion Paper No. 45, June 1993,
OTHER PUBLICATIONS: Ethnicity and Politics in Pakistan, by Feroz Ahmed. Karachi, Oxford University Press, 1998.

Ethno National Movements of Pakistan: Domestic and International Factors, by Tahir Amin. Islamabad, Institute of Policy Studies, 1988.

Pakistan Society: Islam: Ethnicity and Leadership in South Asia, by Akbar S. Ahmed. Karachi, Oxford University Press, 1987.

State and Civil Society in Pakistan: Politics of Authority, Ideology and Ethnicity, by Iftikhar H. Malik. London, Macmillan, 1997.

The Sindh Story, by K. R. Malkani. Karachi, Allied Publishers Private Limited, 1984.

SELECTED INTERNET SITES: (Pakistan news site); (Sindh Network); (Minorities at Risk project, info on Sindh and Mohajir ethnic groups and their current concerns); (Daily newspaper only avaliable in Sindh, Daily Kawish); (MQM's official web site); (Site of MQM International Secretariat); (Institute for Conflict Management); (Government of Sindh); (World Sindhi Congress–Sindhi Unity Forum); (Web directory of information about Sindh and Sindhis).

ORGANIZATIONS: Data on the following organizations can be found in the Directory section: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy;

Program on Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution; Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

About the author

Moonis Ahmar is associate professor at the Department of International Relations, University of Karachi, Pakistan, and director of the Program on Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. His field of specialization is confidence-building measures and conflict resolution in Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. He is teaching courses in conflict resolution and crisis management at the International Relations Department, University of Karachi. Formerly he worked at the Arms Control Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States. He was a visiting research associate with the Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, D.C.; the Middle East Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C.; and with Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He has published extensively. Recently he has been awarded an Asia Fellowship to conduct research in Bangladesh on the theme 'A Comparative Study of Pakistan and Bangladesh: Economic, Political and Cultural Dynamics'.

Politics of Ethnicity - 1

Dr Tariq Rahman

Language, Politics and Power in Pakistan: The Case of Sindh and Sindhi Tariq Rahman
Sindhi is probably the oldest written language of Pakistan. Even when Persian was the official language of the Muslim rulers of Sind, Sindhi was given more importance in the educational institutions of Sind than the other languages of Pakistan were in the areas where they were spoken. From the 17th century onwards a number of religious and other books were written in Sindhi and were probably part of the curricula of religious seminaries. It was the only indigenous Pakistani language which was taught officially by the British at various levels of education. After the influx of Urdu-speaking Mohajirs to Sindh in 1947, the teaching of Sindhi has become an ethnic, identity symbol for the Sindhi nationalists. Thus, it is promoted by the Sindhis and resisted by the Mohajirs. This article sheds light on how language-teaching, in this case that of Sindhi, can have implications for ethnic politics.
Sindhi Alphabet
I - Sindhi Ethnicity and the Teaching of Sindhi

Sindhi is one of the oldest languages of India. Indeed, the first language Muslims (Arabs) came in contact with when they entered India in large numbers was Sindhi. Thus several Arab writers mention that Sindhi was the language of the people in al-Mansura, the capital of Sind. Indeed, the Rajah of Alra called Mahraj, whose kingdom was situated between Kashmir and Punjab, requested Amir Abdullah bin Umar, the ruler of al-Mansura, to send him someone to translate the Quran into his language around AD 882. The language is called ‘Hindi’ by Arab historians (in this case the author of Ajaib ul Hind) who often failed to distinguish between the different languages of India and put them all under the generic name of ‘Hindi.’ However, Syed Salman Nadwi, who calls this the first translation of the Quran into any Indian language suggests that this language might be Sindhi.i Later, between 1020- 1030 al-Beruni visited India and wrote a book on it called Kitab Ma-li al Hind which was translated by Edward C Sachau as Alberuni’s India (1888).ii In this several alphabets of the Hindus are mentioned. Going on with his list al-Beruni says:

Other alphabets are the Malwari, used in Malwashau, in Southern Sind, towards the seacoast; the Saindhava, used in Bahamanwa or Almansura.iii

Nabi Baksh Baloch, the famous Pakistani Sindhologist, opines that Saindhava was Sindhi. In his words:

This was the Arabic-Sindhi script, the ‘Sindhized Arabic script’ or the truly Sindhi script. On the basis of indirect evidence, it may be presumed that the graphemes for the more typical Sindhi phonemes were divided by adding dots to the corresponding Arabic letters.iv
Sindhi Alphabet
But al-Beruni’s text, or at least its English translation, concerns itself only with the ‘Hindu alphabet.’ The very first thing which is said about it is that ‘The Hindus write from the left to the right like Greeks.’v After this the general characteristics of the Brahmi script, characteristics which all its derivatives share in common, are described. Then comes the list in which the word Saindhava occurs. As such, it is difficult to believe that al-Beruni was talking about a script which, being based upon Arabic, ran from right to left.

However, there is evidence other than al-Beruni’s that there was a ‘Sindhized Arabic script’ in Sind in 1020-1030 AD when al-Beruni was in India. This comes from Kitab al Fihrist, a book of lists compiled by an Arab writer al-Nadim (d. 990 AD). In this list a script using both single and double dots is recorded in Sind. Since this is older than even al-Beruni’s days, there must have been an Arabic Sindhi script during his time too. In any case, even if dots and other diacritical marks were used to show the distinctive pronunciation of Sindhi sounds, these could not have been used in a uniform standardised manner. Thus different people, generally Muslim poets and men of letters, must have used slightly different versions of the same Arabic script. The Hindus, especially business people, used derivatives of the Brahmi script.

In the 16th century, by which time much was written in Sindhi, Makhdum Jafar of Dadu published an Arabic work called Nahj al-Ta’allum. It was on education and its Persian version was also prepared by the author in 1568. Both works are no longer extant but Nabi Bakhsh Baloch has published a digest called Hasil al-Nahj based upon it in 1969. According to this digest Makhdum Jafar emphasised the pupil rather than the teacher and the text. One can hardly call this a precursor of the modern pupil centred teaching methodologies but, if Baloch is right, it did lead to teaching in the mother tongue which the pupil could understand. In those days teaching was in Persian though teachers could hardly not have used Sindhi to explain the Persian alphabet and vocabulary to small children. However, in contradistinction to Punjab and north India, Sindhi became the recognised medium of instruction in Sind as well as a subject of study.

Textbooks in Sindhi, generally of a religious character, were in circulation in Sind just as similar books in other languages were in circulation in other Muslim communities during the last days of the Mughal period.

An important book in this category was Abdur Rahman’s Qawaid ul Quran which is said to have been written in the 13th century of the Hijra (which begins from November 1785) to guide students to read the Quran correctly. Muslims have always been concerned with the correct pronunciation of the Quran because, in their view, the meanings of words change if they are pronounced incorrectly. The purpose of the book, therefore, was to preserve the standardised pronunciation of classical Arabic for religious reasons. However, the book is also a treatise, albeit unscientific, on orthoepy and phonetics. The writer is concerned with the place and manner of articulation of Arabic phonemes not found in Sindhi. This makes the book one of the first, possibly even the first, treatise on phonetics in Sindhi.

The best known book in Sindhi written in the end of the 17th century is by Abul Hasan of Thatta. It is also mentioned as Abul Hasan Ji Sindhi by B H Ellis in his report on education in Sind at the time of the British conquest in Another such book was by Makhdum Zia Uddin. Like that of his predecessor, this too is known by his name—Makhdum Ziauddin Ji Sindhi. It was written in the 18th century and it explains how prayers are to be said. Since it is meant to guide children it focuses on rituals of cleanliness, times of congregational and other prayers and other such practical matters.

Incidentally, it reveals the state of astronomical belief of pre-modern Sindhi Muslims. References to planets, stars and their place in heavens is, indeed, still part of the idiom and world view of astrologers and palmists who ply their trade of telling the future in the cities of Pakistan and those who visit them in order to avert coming crises. The purpose of the book, however, is religious so that most of the space is taken up by lessons on rituals.

There are other such books too which have been edited and reprinted recently by Dr. Nabi Baksh Baloch. Among them are the Nur Nama, Meraj Nama, Munajat Nama, Hashar Nama, Qiamat Nama and so on. All the ones mentioned above, and a number of other works of this kind, have been collected together in Sindhi Boli Jo Agatho Manzoom Zakheero.vii These books are all religious and didactic. All the versions of the Nur Nama, not only in Sindhi but also in other languages, are about spiritual radiance and enlightenment (Nur = light) which follow from faith. Other books refer to prevalent beliefs about the day of judgement, salvation and other such doctrines. The important point, in our context, is the fact that these works were in Sindhi and that the language was taught.

Richard Burton, the first Englishman to write a report on education in Sind, says:

He [a boy pupil] probably is nine years old before he proceeds to the next step— the systematic study of his mother tongue, the Sindhi. The course is as follows:

1st. The Nur-nama, a short and easy religious treatise upon the history of things in general, before the creation of man. The work was composed by one Abdul Rehman, and appears to be borrowed from the different Ahadis, or traditional sayings of the Prophet…

2nd. The works of Makhdum Hashem, beginning with the Tafsir.

3rd. Tales in verse and prose, such as the adventures of Saiful, Laili-Majano, etc. The most popular works are the Hikayet-e-Salihin a translation from the Arabic by a Sindhi Mulah, Abd al Hakim; the subjects are the lives, adventures, and remarkable sayings of the most celebrated saints, male and female, of the golden age of Islam. The Ladaro is an account of the Prophet’s death, borrowed from the Habib-el-Siyar, by Mian Abdullah.

The Miraj-Nama is an account of Mohammad’s night excursion to heaven... The Sau-Masala, or Hundred Problems, is a short work by one Ismail, showing how Abd-el-Halim, a Fakir, married the daughter of the Sultan of Rum, after answering the hundred queries with which this accomplished lady used to perplex her numerous lovers.viii

From the age of nine till the age of 12 or 13, roughly about four years, the student read these works in his mother tongue. It was only then that he started studying Persian. In the rest of India, as we know already, Persian began from infancy though there too the teachers had to explain the basic vocabulary and the art of spelling and writing informally through the mother tongue.

The place of honour was, of course, reserved for Persian which was a symbol of good breeding, refinement and learning. In addition to its social significance, it had tremendous utilitarian importance being the language of the domains of power. Thus, besides the Muslims, the Hindu Amils who aspired to bureaucratic jobs under the rulers of Sind, also learned Persian. This state of affairs changed when the British took Persian down from its high pedestal and put English in its place. But for lower jobs in the domains of power, the British chose Sindhi in the Arabic script.ix

Sindhi now was much in demand not only by the British officers, who always learned and were examined in, the languages of the areas they served in but by Sindhis desirous of employment with the British. For teaching Sindhi, books were required.

The first book which was published was Hikayat-us-Sualehin (Lives of Saints). Lieutenant Arthur, who published it, also published a list of idiomatic sentences, originally written by Dossabhoy, in Sindhi.x

Hikayat us Sualehin, also mentioned by Burton, was recommended by the British, among them also Burton, as ‘a work which may be recommended to the European scholar when beginning to read Sindhi. The Arabic and Persian vocables in which it abounds will facilitate study; the style is pure, copious, and not too much laboured.’xi

However, Ellis did not approve of this book. In his report he wrote:

Even this would hardly be the work to choose as a text-book for the rising generation; and in the utter want of all elementary works, it was necessary to translate, from the English and other languages, a series adapted for school instruction. xii

The government, therefore, got a number of books, including Aesop’s Fables, translated from different languages into Sindhi. Among these were books on arithmetic, geography, drawing and history.xiii

Ground was now laid for adopting Sindhi as a medium of instruction in schools. The break from the past, when Persian and Arabic were the focus of linguistic studies, was decisive but to soften the blow the British decided not to eliminate Persian and Arabic at once. However, Sindhi was to be encouraged as follows. In the words of Ellis:

Although tuition in English, Arabic, or Persian, is to be paid for by fees, instruction in Sindhee is to be gratuitous; and I would with all deference submit that, although not in accordance with the rule as laid down by the Court, this arrangement be allowed to hold good.xiv

For the Sindhi Hindus, whom Ellis did not want to alienate from the British raj either, schools were established in which Hindu Sindhi—Sindhi written in the khudawadi script—was taught. But this script did not prosper because jobs came only by the knowledge of the Arabic Sindhi script. In short, the new language-teaching policy was to disseminate knowledge of the Arabic-Sindhi script; to make English available only for a tiny elite and to appease the Hindus by keeping up the illusion that their script too was taught. For this purpose Ellis requested funds for the establishment of schools as follows:

1. The establishment of ‘District schools, where Sindee will be the chief study; but where Persian will also be taught for a fee; and, if required, Arabic.’

2. The establishment of an English school at the head quarters of each Collectorate.

3. Hindoo-Sindhee schools, for instruction in an improved uniform character, founded on the Khudawadee.xv

This policy continued undisturbed throughout the nineteenth century and a modern literature as well as journalism started flourishing in Sindhi.

Urdu Alphabet
II - Urdu-Sindhi Controversy before the Partition

The Sindhi Muslims were backward in education especially the children of the feudal lords (the zamindars). To suggest measures to change this, a committee was appointed by the Bombay government. These were the days of the Urdu-Hindi controversy all over British India because of which Urdu had become associated with Muslims. Thus, to the members of the Commission, the teaching of Urdu was one way of satisfying the Muslims. Among these members Syed Shamsuddin Kadri was the only one who signed subject to his minute of dissent. The other five members, of whom there was no Sindhi Muslim, reached a consensus on the necessity of encouraging Urdu in Sind. The Committee, appointed in June 1913, submitted its report a year later. Among other things it recommended that:xvi

The Committee is in favour of the experiment already initiated by Government of having all teaching in Urdu schools given through the medium of Urdu, the vernacular of the district being taught to those who wish to study it. The Committee thinks that this should apply to the whole presidency, the different Urdu standards being started simultaneously. xvii

The experiment alluded to in the report must have resulted in the printing of a large number of textbooks in Urdu because the report goes on to state:

The Committee is advised that adequate textbooks in Urdu exist, and that all the subjects can be taught through this medium at once, except the geography of the province, for which special translations may be required.xviii

The Committee emphasised Urdu in other ways too: it provided grants to encourage the production of literature in Urdu and suggested that statistics about the number of Urdu schools should be provided annually to the government of India.

W H Sharp, the Director of Public Instruction who sent the report onwards to the Bombay authorities, noted that he was not convinced that it was either the desire of Muslims or in their interest to teach them only in Urdu. However, some of their representatives had urgently requested that texts should be prepared in Urdu and he had agreed to countenance the experiment.

The report was then circulated to the district officers of Sind who further asked prominent Muslims for their opinion. Among others the Wazir of Khairpur state, Mahomed Ibrahim Shaikh Ismail, commented as follows:

… to adopt Urdu as the vernacular of the Mohamedan Community in the province, in my opinion, is not only unnecessary, but may be positively harmful.

The conditions prevailing in this province are vastly different from those obtaining in the Presidency proper. The Sindhi language is as much the Vernacular of the Moslem Community as that of the Hindus of Sind; besides the Court language is also Sindhi. If Urdu is to be taught to them as compulsory language, instead of Sindhi, which is the language of the Province and the mother tongue of the Mohamedan Community, in the Primary and the Anglo Vernacular Schools, the Community will be forced to impart to their children education in two foreign languages, which to an ordinary scholar will appear a troublesome task to accomplish.xix

Khan Bahadur Allahando Shah of Nawabshah also said the same (Letter of K B Syed Allahando Shah to the Collector of Nawabshah, 11 February 1915. English translation of the Sindhi letter in the Collector’s Letter to the Commissioner in Sind, 11 February 1915, No. 292). The district officers themselves also held similar views. At last the Commissioner sent the following views to the authorities in Bombay:

On one point there is entire unanimity of opinion, amongst officials and non-officials, namely on the necessity for the encouragement of Urdu in Sind; as Government are doubtless aware Urdu is not the mother tongue of the Sind Mahomedans; his vernacular is Sindhi and he would be much embarrassed if Urdu were
forced upon him.xx

The Commissioner also suggested that another committee—this time consisting mostly of Sindhi Muslims and Englishmen working in Sind—should be appointed ‘to consider for Sind the whole question of Mahomedan education.’ This committee was appointed in 1915 and submitted its report a year later. Among other things it recommended that the teaching of Persian and to a lesser extent Arabic, be encouraged but it decided not to take up the vexed question of Urdu again.xxi As such Sindhi continued to be the medium of instruction at the school level as before.

III - Sindhi Teaching in Pakistan

In independent Pakistan the only provinces in which the indigenous languages were the media of instruction in the non-elitist state schools were Bengal and Sind. In both, therefore, the resistance against perceived domination by the centre came to be expressed primarily through linguistic and cultural symbols. In Sind the feeling for Sindhi was high because it had already been part of the struggle against the administrative domination of Bombay. Although an administrative matter on the surface, the issue had the overtones (and hence the stridency) of a Hindu-Muslim conflict. The Muslim leaders wanted Sind to be separated from the Bombay presidency on grounds of Sind being a separate entity, a cultural and linguistic whole with its distinct identity.

The Hindus felt that this would create a Muslim majority province and, therefore, have the effect of increasing Muslim power at their expense. Sindhi was very much part of the struggle, the Muslims claiming that it gave Sind an identity distinct from Bombay while the Hindus said that this argument would sub-divide Bombay along other linguistic lines as well. (Proceedings of the Third Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Sind, 14 January 1931.xxii) Eventually the Muslims won and Sind became a separate province in 1930.xxiii

One of the consequences of this separation was the establishment of the University of Sind. Although the medium of instruction at the proposed university was not to be Sindhi, it was mentioned as an entity in need of development which only a university could do. Dr. Gurbakhshani wrote a note arguing:

Sind is an old province, perhaps the most ancient in India. It has a history, traditions and a culture of its own. Its soil and stones could be compelled to reveal movements and geological formations of the hoary past. Its races and its language possess a distinct Oriental bias. All this remains unexplored and no attention paid to the systematic study of Arabic, Persian or Sindhi with all its philological wealth.xxiv

The University was established in 1946 in Karachi, only a year before the creation of Pakistan. Thus, on the eve of the partition, the position of Sindhi was strong. It was the medium of instruction in state schools; it was to be promoted by the university; it was a subject of study at various levels in educational institutions. Above all, and what made it popular, was the fact that at the lower level of the administration and the judiciary as well as in journalism, it was in demand. Thus someone who had acquired it could get jobs. This position was not enjoyed by any other language of (West) Pakistan at that time because neither Punjabi nor Pashto nor Balochi, the major languages of this area, were used in the domains of power at any level.

The coming in of the Urdu-speaking Mohajirs from India challenged this privileged position of Sindhi. According to the 1951 Census the Mohajirs constituted about 57% of the population of Karachi and dominated other Sindhi cities too: Hyderabad (66.08%); Sukkur (54.08%); Mirpurkhas (68.42%) and Nawabshah (54.79%).xxv The consequences of this in linguistic, cultural and educational terms were profound.

Above all, it meant that Sind was a divided province. Its cities were predominantly Urdu-speaking while its villages were Sindhi-speaking. This, in turn, implied that the Sindhis would be disadvantaged not only culturally and socially but also educationally and economically because they would have to compete with mother-tongue speakers of Urdu for jobs in the cities which would now be available at the lower level in Urdu and at the higher in English.

The psychological trauma of this cannot be adequately comprehended by non-Sindhis. But the feeling that one has become disadvantaged, and what is worse, one’s self-esteem has been lowered in one’s own country must have been very galling for the emerging Sindhi middle class. Language and culture are intimately linked not only with jobs and power but even more importantly with self-esteem. To feel that one’s language is regarded as a rustic-tongue; an uncouth jargon; is to feel humiliated. The dominance of Urdu, which was seen as the language of sophistication and civilised intercourse, was in itself a source of humiliation for the Sindhis. Moreover, the Mohajirs made little effort to conceal the fact that they looked at Sindhi culture as a rustic, and hence less sophisticated, culture. Thus, they felt no psychological need to assimilate with this culture and learn Sindhi.

Looking at this issue from the Mohajir point of view one finds an alternative version of reality. Urdu, as we know, had replaced Persian as a symbol of elitist, educated Muslim identity in north India during the 19th century. The Hindi-Urdu movement hardened attitudes both among Muslims and Hindus so that Urdu became more closely associated with Muslim identity, and Hindi with the Hindu one, than ever before.xxvi So, the Mohajirs assumed that Pakistan would be a place to preserve and promote Urdu. The idea of reducing its importance for the sake of the indigenous languages went against everything they had heard for more than a century in favour of Urdu being the language of all Indian Muslims. Even more importantly, the Mohajirs were mostly urban people and were now living in urban areas again. Urban people do look down upon rural people not only in South Asia but almost everywhere in the world. Thus, the Mohajirs had a prejudice against Sindhi which made them resistant to learning Sindhi.

Above all, the state’s policies did not force the Mohajirs to transcend or suppress their preconceived attitudes and learn Sindhi. At least in the cities, where most Mohajirs lived, the business of life could be carried on in Urdu. Cultural life, as Feroz Ahmedxxvii and many other Sindhis pointed out, was so dominated by Urdu that one did not feel that the cities of (West) Pakistan used any language in the streets other than Urdu. The music, the films, the popular magazines, the newspapers, the conversation— all were in Urdu in the cities of Sind. In the villages and towns Mohajirs did learn Sindhi even if they never stopped believing in the superiority of Urdu; but most of them lived in the cities. They did not feel inclined nor did they need to learn Sindhi. Indeed, they could not even if they wanted to because all business, formal and informal, was carried out in Urdu and not in Sindhi. Thus the Mohajirs remained a non-assimilationist , urban and privileged minority in Sind—a fact which made the teaching of Sindhi part of the ethnic politics of Sind.

As the present author has referred to the role of language teaching in the ethnic politics of Sind with special reference to the Sindhi language movement,xxviii there is no need to repeat the details.

However, some repetition is inevitable considering that the teaching of Sindhi is an important issue in Pakistan. Briefly, then the first shock for the Sindhis was the removal of the Sindh University from Karachi to Hyderabad. Writing on this issue Feroz Ahmed says:

The creation of Pakistan coincided with the decision to set up Sindh University in Karachi. The Pakistan government packed off the new university to Hyderabad to vacate the room for Karachi University, which was supposed to be an Urdu-speaking refugee university in which there was room for even a department of the Sindhi language. While Karachi University remained a more or less exclusive preserve for the Urdu-speaking intelligentsia, no such exclusive policy was adopted in the hiring of faculty at Sindh University.xxix

As Karachi was made the federal area, the new university was not even part of Sind in name and was seen to be antagonistic to Sindhi. Thus, when in 1957-58 the University of Karachi forbade students from taking examinations in Sindhi, the Sindhi nationalists protested strongly. Among others, Hyder Baksh Jatoi, president of the Sind Hari Committee, said that the new order was a signal to Sindhi students to: ‘Leave Karachi, go to Sind if you want to retain Sindhi, Karachi is none of yours.’xxx

In 1954 Sind became part of the one-unit (of West Pakistan). Ayub Khuhro, the then premier of Sind, argued that Sindhi language and culture would be preserved as follows:

So far as culture and language is concerned, Sind has done its bit. Our Legislature has passed an Act appointing a statutory body which goes by the name of Sind Cultural Advancement Board to look after the development of Sind Culture. Sind Government has made an endowment of 25 lakhs we have given for the library, art and art gallery and the development of oriental and Sindhi literature and its preservation. It is hoped that in the future set-up, Sind’s interests regarding its culture are fully preserved.xxxi

But, in fact, such puny efforts were of no avail. In the one-unit Sindhi was relegated to a regional, hence peripheral, language. In 1957 the Sindhi Adabi Sangat, one of the several bodies which had sprung up to defend the interests of Sindhi and Sindhis, said that the Sindhi-speaking people would be handicapped as far as the race for jobs is concerned if Sindhi is not ‘made to serve as an official language at least for Sind and its adjoining areas.’xxxii

Even worse, in 1958 one-unit came to be backed by Ayub Khan’s martial law. The tide was now even more against the teaching of Sindhi. There are anecdotes about how General Tikka Khan, then part of the martial law machinery in Sind, stopped the teaching of Sindhi in parts of the former province. However, evidence does not support these stories. There is no doubt, however, that the military, being centrist and highly distrustful of ethnic movements, did want to suppress the teaching of Sindhi. This is borne out by the Education Commission which submitted its report in
1959. After having said that Bengali and Urdu, the national languages, would be encouraged, the report points out that in West Pakistan Urdu is, indeed, the medium of instruction from class VI onwards. Indeed, even up to class IV, it was the medium of instruction in the Punjab, most parts of the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), Balochistan and Azad Kashmir. In Sind alone was Sindhi, rather than Urdu, the medium of instruction even after this level. To the centrist members of the commission this could prevent the Sindhis from being `nationalised.’ Hence, they suggested, that `Urdu should be introduced as the medium of instruction from class VI from 1963.’xxxiii

But such a radical change in the position of Sindhi could not be accepted by the Sindhi nationalists. Hence, despite the repressive nature of the state, the Sindhis took out processions throughout the province and finally Ayub Khan decided to let Sindhi alone.xxxiv

However, Urdu was encouraged and Sindhi discouraged during the Ayub Khan era—a fact which led to much resentment among the Sindhis. Although Sindhi was still the medium of instruction in schools (rural schools generally), Urdu was taught as a subject. Sindhi nationalists sometimes objected even to this arrangement. One of them (probably Ibrahim Joyo?) wrote as follows:

In Sind, Sindhi-medium children read Urdu compulsorily from class IV to class XII. The Urdu medium children have not to read Sindhi correspondingly. This imposes inequality of burdens, inequality of opportunity, and social and cultural inferiority on the Sindhispeaking children, and is the greatest discrimination against a free people in a free country.xxxv

A number of Sindhi-medium schools closed down in the urban areas probably because urban people were either non-Sindhis or people who wanted their children to acquire Urdu for utilitarian reasons.xxxvi The anonymous ‘publicist,’ whose article has been referred to above, reported the establishment of Urdu-medium schools in Mirpur Khas and Khairpur Mirs in order to seduce Sindhimedium students away from their own

When Ayub’s rule ended, the Sindhis felt relieved. Although martial law was imposed once again by General Yahya Khan, the one-unit was abolished and the Sindhi nationalists felt that their language would be given the importance it had before the one-unit days. However, the Yahya government’s educational policy, issued under the chairmanship of Air Marshal Nur Khan, laid even more emphasis on the national languages—Bengali and Urdu—than the Ayub Khan one. Once again the indigenous languages of the people of Pakistan, called the ‘regional languages,’ were to be marginalised. xxxviii

Again the Sindhi nationalists protested saying that they desired that Sindhi should be taught more widely.xxxix

For them the teaching of Sindhi was part of Sindhi identity and ethnic assertion.

IV - Language Riots and Sindhi Teaching

Ethnic assertion, as the present author’s previous bookxl suggests, is a consequence of many factors. In the case of Sind instrumental factors—lack of jobs, lack of access to power commensurate with the rise of the population and historical position of the Sindhis, growth of the middle class wanting a role in the salariat—contributed to the ethnic assertion and language was the symbol which expressed it.

However, the actors in language movements—the educated young men and members of the intelligentsia— are not motivated by such factors alone. In the heat of the moment they feel as if they are striking a blow for their language i.e. their heritage, their identity, the very essence of their nationality. Thus, one has to take the sentimental reasons of both Sindhis and Mohajirs to understand language riots. The riots, however, have been explained earlier. Let us see what role languageteaching played in it.

In the January-February 1971, language-teaching led to riots because it was resisted. One reason why the situation became explosive was because the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE), Hyderabad, resolved on 21 December 1970 that Mohajir students be examined in Sindhi in the Secondary School Certificate examination of the year 1972.xli

Nawab Muzaffar Hussain, leader of the Mohajirs at that time, decided to resist this decision and brought out processions in Hyderabad. Soon other cities became influenced and the Mohajirs clashed with the Sindhis in Nawabshah, Mirpur Khas, Hyderabad and even in Karachi. Indeed, in Karachi the situation became very violent by the end of January and the army had to be called out.

In July 1972 there was a replay of this bloody drama once again. This time it was the Sind (Teaching, Promotion and use of Sindhi Language) Bill of 1972 passed on 7 July 1972 by the Sind Legislative Assembly, which created the problem. Although what caused extreme apprehension among the Mohajirs was clause 6 of the Bill according to which Sindhi could be used in the domains of power (offices, courts, legislature etc), the language-teaching provisions too were controversial. The language-teaching provisions provided for the teaching of both Urdu and Sindhi as compulsory subjects from class IV to class XII. On the face of it this was only just but in 1972, when a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government was in power both in Sind and the centre, the Mohajirs of Sind (especially those of Karachi) felt completely alienated. They had voted against the PPP and they felt disillusioned with the loss of East Pakistan. They felt that they too, like the Urdu-speaking Biharis of East Pakistan, would be ‘thrown out into the sea’ if Sindhis came to dominate Sind.

The Sindhis, including Mumtaz Bhutto and later Z A Bhutto himself, explained reasonably that Urdu was the national language of Pakistan and that the purpose of the bill was merely to secure the position of Sindhi which one-unit and martial law had harmed. But the question was really one of power in Sind, and language was the apparent bone of contention. The Mohajirs, as non-assimilationist as ever, had converted Sind into a bilingual province. They wanted the Sindhis to recognise this reality. The Sindhis did not. Indeed, they could not without also recognising that Sind had, indeed, been partitioned.

As such there was a compromise after the bloodiest language riots in Pakistan’s history took place in the fateful summer of 1972. The extent of the loss, as reported in the national assembly, was staggering.xlii

But, more ominously, the bitterness of the conflict led to the rise of militant ethnicity among the Mohajirs which led to Karachi becoming a battlefield from 1985 onwards. The compromise solution, issued by the Governor of Sind on 16 July, gave a twelve-year reprieve to the Mohajirs but, in fact, no government dared make only Sindhi the language of state employment in Sind. This means that, like before, urban Mohajirs get away without learning much Sindhi while Sindhis have to learn Urdu so as to prevent being locked out of the domains of power in Sind.

However, the fact that Sindhi is more convenient for those whose mother tongue it is, is borne out by the following statistics of the preference of school students in the 1981 matriculation examination.

Medium of Examination (Percentage)

Urdu Sindhi English

Karachi Board 97.90 % Nil 2.59%

Sukkur Board 21.13 % 78.62 % 0.23%

Hyderabad Board 50.80 45.23

Source: Gazettes of the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Sindh.

V - The Teaching of Sindhi at Present: Higher Studies in Sindhi

Sindhi was used both as a medium of instruction in Sind and was taught as a subject. Masters courses were offered in it at the University of Sind when it was at Karachi. When the university moved to Hyderabad, the Masters classes were suspended but were continued once again in 1971.xliii At the newly established University of Sind in Jamshoro, the MA in Sindhi was started by Dr. Nabi Baksh Baloch along with his colleagues in the early 1950s.xliv

The MA is important as a symbol of the development of a language in Pakistan. Thus the Sindhi nationalists point out with pride that their language and literature were developed enough to justify teaching at such an advanced level. The products of the post-graduate departments of Sindhi do better than those of Pashto, Punjabi, Balochi and Brahvi because there are schools and colleges where Sindhi is compulsory and they can find jobs. Thus the MA in Sindhi is the most successful MA among all the other MAs in the indigenous languages of Pakistan.

Apart from the MA, higher research is also available in Sindhi language and literature. The University of Sind (Jamshoro) and the University of Karachi both offer research courses leading to the MPhil and PhD. The University of Karachi has both a Department of Sindhi and the Shah Abdul Latif Chair. The presence of such academic programmes has had a multiplier effect on academic and creative writing in Sindhi.

Thus, there are many books on the historical and linguistic aspects of Sindhi among which the works of Nabi Baksh Baloch and G A Allanaxlv are well known. These books are in circulation because students in colleges and universities need them. This demand encourages publishers to publish and authors to write more books thus resulting in the establishment of Sindhi as an academic language in addition to being a language of journalism, literature and administration.

After the rise of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Karachi and Hyderabad in 1984, language has become a secondary issue in Sind. It was, in a sense, a secondary issue even earlier because the primary issues even then were power, goods and services and shares in employment. But language, being an ethnic symbol, stood for the Sindhi and Mohajir community’s consolidated power as a pressure group. Moreover, language was seen as a repository of culture and, therefore, worthwhile in its own right and not only as a symbol of identity. This gave language far more prominence than it enjoys today.

This decrease in the significance of language is the direct consequence of the rise of militancy, chaotic conditions and a sense of emergency in Sind—especially in Karachi. Even so, the Sindhi nationalists do emphasise their language and insist that its teaching should be improved. The eleven prominent members of the Sindhi intelligentsia I interviewed in 1997 agreed that the Mohajirs and Sindhis could integrate if Sindhi was taught more effectively to all of them. However, one of them did point out that integration would require other inputs as well.

During the Zia ul Haq era (1977-88), Urdu was encouraged as a centrist symbol. Although no ostensibly anti-Sindhi steps were taken, the emphasis on Urdu and Islam discouraged the expression of ethnic nationalist (and, hence, pro-Sindhi) views.

Moreover, the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) became so powerful in Sind that it almost took on the semblance of a civil war. In February 1988, however, a Sindhi Adabi Conference was held at Jamshoro. Among the resolutions it passed, one was that Sindhi should be taught in the cities.xlvi Later, the Sindhi Bolo Sath and other organisations worked to get Sindhi adopted as the sole official language, and hence a major instructional language, of Sind.

Speaking at a conference of the Sindhi Adabi Sangat on 17 August 1996 at Hyderabad, Ibrahim Joyo blamed all state functionaries, including those who were Sindhis but collaborated with the centre, for neglecting Sindhi. Among other things, a resolution was passed to ensure the publication of Sindhi books for the Urdu-speaking students of class XI as agreed upon earlier in the 1972 language agreement. Moreover, it was also resolved that Sindhi be introduced in all the English medium schools of the province.xlvii

Thus, the idea was to expand the domain of Sindhi-language teaching.

Apart from the Sath and the Sangat, other bodies [such as the Servants of Sind Society (SSS)] also kept urging a wider dissemination of Sindhi. The president of SSS, Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah who is a well known Sindhi nationalist intellectual, said:

“Those who do not speak Sindhi and have no pride in being Sindhis, have no right to be included in the population of Sindh.”xlviii

This statement was issued in the context of the census which was to be held in January 1998. Committed Sindhi nationalists still keep lamenting the state’s alleged apathy towards Sindhi.

VI - Conclusion

The teaching of Sindhi has two points of significance for Sindhi-speaking people. First, it has utilitarian value as a language of the lower salariat. In this capacity it has been used since British days and, despite the domination of the Urdu-speaking Mohajirs in the cities of Sind, continues to be useful for Sindhis even now. Secondly, it has symbolic value as a marker of Sindhi ethnic identity. In this capacity it has become the most important icon of Sindhi identity since the nineteen fifties when the Sindhis first started feeling alienated in their own land because of the domination of non-Sindhis in the cities; the high handedness of the central ruling elite (which was mostly Punjabi) and policies which reduced their power as an ethnic group. For both reasons, but especially because of the second, the Sindhi intelligentsia responded by promoting their language as an identity symbol.

The idea was to preserve, or create, the consciousness of the Sindhi identity in the Sindhis and bring about the assimilation of the non-Sindhis. In this process a large body of creative and academic writing was produced which has made Sindhi one of the richest languages of Pakistan. However, Sindhi is far from being the major language of instruction for all the inhabitants of Sind for both utilitarian and political reasons. The non-Sindhis (Mohajirs, Punjabis and Pashtuns) resist it because they can get jobs through Urdu and English and there are no utilitarian incentives to learn Sindhi. Moreover, for them Sindhi is the major symbol of an identity they do not wish to adopt. In the case of Mohajirs, indeed, it is an identity they have often struggled not to assimilate into (at least in the urban areas).

Thus the teaching of Sindhi remains a politicised issue—politicised because it is so deeply connected with power and identity.

Tariq Rahman is Associate Professor of Linguistics, National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i- Azam University, Islamabad.


i. Syed Salman Nadwi, Arab o Hind Ke Taluqqat, Karachi, Kareem Sons Publishers, 1972, pp 241-242.

ii. Edward C Sachau, Alberuni’s India: An Account of the Religion, Philosophy, Literature, Geography, Chronology, Astronomy, Customs, Laws and Astrology of India, Vol. 1, 1888. Reprinted Lahore, Sheikh Mubarak Ali, 1962.

iii. Ibid., p 232.

iv. N B Baloch, Sindhi Suratkhati e Khattati, Hyderabad, Sindhi Language Authority, 1991, p vi.

v. Sachau, op.cit., p 231.

vi. B H Ellis, 1856, ‘Report on Education in Sind,’ Nabi Baksh Baloch (ed.), Education in Sind before the British Conquest and the Educational Policies of the Government, Hyderabad, University of Sindh, 1971, pp 1-44.

vii. N B Baloch (ed. & comp), Sindhi Boli Jo Aganhro Mangzum Zakhuro, Hyderabad, Sindhi Language Authority, 1993.

viii. Richard F Burton, 1851, ‘Muslim Education in Sind’ in Baloch (ed.), op.cit., 1971, p 48. Language, Politics and Power in Pakistan: The Case of Sindh 33

ix. Tariq Rahman, Language and Politics in Pakistan, Karachi, Oxford University Press, 1996, pp 103-108; Hamida Khuhro, The Making of Modern Sind: British Policy and Social Change in the Nineteenth Century, Karachi, Indus Publications, 1978, p 257

x. Ellis, op.cit., p 14.

xi. Burton, op.cit., p 65.

xii. Ellis, op.cit., p 21.

xiii. For the list see Ellis, ibid., p 21.

xiv. Ellis, ibid., p 26.

xv. Ibid., pp 29-30.

xvi. ‘Report of the Committee Appointed by Government Resolution No. 1788, Educational Department, dated June 23rd 1913, to Report on the Measures to be taken for the Promotion of Education among the Mohamedan Community of the Presidency Proper,’ Karachi, Printed Typescript, Sind Archives, 1913.

xvii. Ibid., para 6.

xviii. Ibid., para 7.

xix. Ebrahim Shaikh Ismail, Letter to the Assistant Commissioner in Sind, 14 May 1915, No. 1806, Educational Department. Copy in Sind Archives, Karachi, 1915.

xx. ‘Memorandum from the Commissioner in Sind,’ 26th May 1915, No. E-239, Educational
Department. Copy in Sind Archives, Karachi, 1915.

xxi. ‘Report of the Committee Appointed by Government Order No. 2157 of 24th July 1915, Educational Department, to Consider the Question of Mohamadan Education in Sind,’ Karachi, Sind Archives, 1916.

xxii. Hamida Khuhro (ed.), Documents on Separation of Sind from Bombay Presidency Vol. 1, Islamabad, Institute of Islamic History, Culture and Civilisation, 1982, p 416.

xxiii. Hamida Khuhro, Mohammad Ayub Khuhro: A Life of Courage in Politics, Lahore, Feroz Sons (Pvt) Ltd., 1998, pp 87-110.

xxiv. Ibid., p 116.

xxv. Census of Pakistan 1951, Pakistan; Report and Tables Vol. 1, Table 2, Section 2&3 and District Census Report by E H Slade, Karachi, Manager of Publication, 1951.

xxvi. Christopher R King, One Language, Two Scripts: The Hindi Movement in Nineteenth Century North India, Bombay, Oxford University Press, 1994.

xxvii. Feroz Ahmed, Ethnicity and Politics in Pakistan, Karachi, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp 77-78.

xxviii. Rahman, op.cit., Chapter 7.

xxix. Ahmed, op.cit., p 78.

xxx. Hyder Baksh Jatoi, Shall Sindhi Language Stay in Karachi or Not? Hyderabad, Sind Hari Committee, 1957, p 13. 34 Rahman

xxxi. Khuhro, op.cit., 1998, p 422.

xxxii. Sangat, n.d. Declare Sindhi as Official Language of West Pakistan, [Pamphlet] Karachi, p 7.

xxxiii. Report of the National Education Commission, Karachi, Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Education, 1959, p 284.

xxxiv. Rahman, op.cit., p 116.

xxxv. Publicist, Problem of Languages in West Pakistan, Khairpur Mirs: Saleem Ahmed, 1967, p 19.

xxxvi. See LAD-S Legislative Assembly Debates—Sind LAD-S, 29 May 1974, p 30 for a statement about the schools which had closed down.

xxxvii. Publicist, op.cit., pp 3-4.

xxxviii. Proposals for a New Educational Policy, Islamabad, Ministry of Education and Scientific Research, 1969, pp 3-4.

xxxix. M Yusuf Talpur, A Memorandum on Proposals for a New Educational Policy and Sindhi Language, Hyderabad, Jeay Sind Najawan Mahaz Publication 3, 1969, p 8.

xl. Rahman, op.cit., pp 121-122.

xli. Resolution No. 21 ‘Resolution about Sindhi and Urdu Language Teaching,’ Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, 21 December 1970.

xlii. Legislative Assembly Debates—Pakistan, 28 August 1972, p 506.

xliii. Interview with Dr. Saleem A Memon, Chairman, Department of Sindhi, University of Karachi, 2 March 1999.

xliv. Interview with Dr. Nabi Baksh Baloch, Professor Emeritus, University of Sindh, Hyderabad, 1 March 1999.

xlv. G A Allana, Sindhi Suratkhati, Hyderabad, Sindhi Language Authority, 1993.

xlvi. Frontier Post, 5 February 1988.

xlvii. Dawn, 18 August 1996.

xlviii. Dawn, 26 August 1997.

NOTE: Pictures of Sindhi and Urdu Alphabets are inserted in the article.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hamid Mir Calamity & Geo TV.

Military Dictators particularly in Pakistan always survive through exploiting imaginary and concocted fears. General Zia ul Haq had survived by exploiting the fear “Islam is in Danger” and Maudoodi’s Jamat-e-Islami and other Deobandi-Wahabi-Barelvi Mullahs helped General Zia in his every dirty effort to exploit Islam for the sake of perpetuating his Ruthless Rule to achieve a bigger goal for the Americans that was routing Communist USSR in Afghanistan once and for all. The day the Communists left Afghanistan General Zia and lackeys in Religious Mafia of Afghanistan and Pakistan lost all viability in the eyes of US Military Industrial Complex and came ‘Divine Intervention’ of 17 August 1988. Now almost after 16 years the Pakistan is again under the Military Dictatorship courtesy USA and again imaginary Fear and Terror threat from so-called Al-Qaeda. Musharraf had said somewhere between 12 October 1999 to 2005 that Pakistan was about to be declared ‘Terrorist Rogue State’ and allegations were all over the place that Pakistan is not a responsible state and believed to be involved in Nuclear Proliferation to other Rogue States around the world. Whereas such rogue States like Iraq and Iran amongst those nations who received Weapons from USA in their time of ‘distress’ Iraq {during Iran-Iraq War from USA, Europe and Saudi Arabia} and Iran {during the same war from USA remember Iran-Contra Affair}.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed [Former Federal Information Minister and Ex Federal Minister for Railway under General Musharraf's Martial Law Regime]

In 2005 the then Pakistan's Federal Information Minister Sheikh Rashid had said in an interview that;

"Pakistan: Khan Gave Nuke Material to Iran Thursday, March 10, 2005,2933,149995,00.html

"Dr. Abdul Qadeer gave some centrifuges to Iran," the minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "He helped Iran in his personal capacity, and the Pakistan government had nothing to do with it."

In a seminar arranged by Mir Khalil ur Rehman, the federal Information Minister Sh. Rasheed said:

Information Minister Sheikh Rasheed says that Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, disgraced scientist dubbed the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, provided Iran with centrifuges that can be used to purify uranium for nuclear weapons.

In the same seminar the Minister said Qadeer did this without the involvement of Pakistani govt, means govt. is not involved but Qadeer did on his own. Isn't it strange after all Nations top scientist is always under tight security. Who is Rasheed trying to fool or save? Is this technology like a peanut, which you can sell anywhere you want. If the govt. doesnot know about this then these Security Agencies in Pakistan must be taken to task for the security lapse. These Security Agencies never fail to break any elected popular government through cloak and dagger, yes they never failed in doing so since the 'death' of General Ziaul Haq through a divine intervention. Since 1990 till 12 Oct 1999, these very Security Agencies conspired against every Civilian Government of Pakistan elected by the people but it is amazing the real job which they were responsible for was not done et all. I am not buying the Ranting of Sheikh Rasheed.

A very senior journalist from Karachi, Late. Mr. Shabbir Durrani , had once said to me; “do whatever you want but don’t ever try to work with Jang Groups of Newspapers, Pakistan {Owners of GEO TV and The News International}”, he had further advised that it would be much better for you to do labour at dockyards as Jang Groups and their Executives are worse than [no offence to Jews and Hindus] Shylocks {more crudely Baniya (Hindu) Money Lenders}. That was his statement about Daily Jang and their owners, the sad thing is that Daily Dawn {sometimes} and its management is not far behind in this dirty game. Daily Dawn Pakistan which otherwise is least sensational and scandalous but sometime plays to the tunes of Vested Interests even without checking the credentials of the Journalists filing the story. In November 2001 a reporter cum analyst cum biographer i.e. Mr Hamid Mir {Now in GEO TV of Jang Group of Newspapers Pakistan} filed a story in Daily Dawn that “Osama Bin Laden said he had nuclear and chemical weapons and was ready to use them” [For complete story click the links below]. The most pathetic thing is that nowadays nobody questions the story, you can file anything you like anywhere.

People have short memory because after 4 years in the same Daily Dawn one of the most serious and senior journalist and that too amongst the senior editors Ms. Zubeida Mustafa opined in her columns that “Stephen Hess and Marvin Kalb write in their book The Media and the War on Terrorism about the "CNN effect" (a term now applied for all television channels), "In 1992, President George H.W. Bush saw television images of starving children in Somalia and he felt obliged to send US troops there to distribute food."

They add, "Less than a year, later President Bill Clinton saw television images of Somali fighters dragging the desecrated body of an American soldier through the streets of Mogadishu and he felt obliged to withdraw the troops." She further wrotes, “With more serious implications has been the media's propensity to project an image which may actually misrepresent the truth. The images could be positive or negative, but not accurate.” Since there is no professional check - an editor for websites, a code of ethics for television and radio - just about anyone can acquire a medium and put anything up there. All the information so released becomes an article of faith because it has been well presented and is believed by the gullible reader/viewer/listener.” I wonder was there any professional check on Mr. Hamid Mir (now in GEO TV) when he filed that story in one of the most ‘prestigious’ newspaper of the country and shamelessly the editorial executives are now advising all and sundry to check and cross check before filing any story. Did they ask from that reporter that Atomic/Nuclear devices are not that kind of devices, which can be carried away easily like .22 caliber pistol? Yet they published Hamid Mir’s story as headline in Daily Dawn as a gospel truth.

It’s a separate debate whether Al-Qaeda/Taliban was involved in 9/11 or not but still after thoroughly bombed and destroyed Afghanistan, the most high tech US Intelligence apparatus couldn’t ‘succeed’ in nabbing the Bearded Bandits i.e. Osama, Zawahiri and Omar {seems to be the disciples of Hassan Bin Sabbah of Nazari Community of Qila Al Amut, Khorasan} but isn’t it strange that these wanted persons are being sought after by CIA, NSA, DIA, FBI etc.etc. but a petty reporter of Pakistan not only knows where he was right after 9/11 and that was not the end, the reporter also declared himself as an un-official biographer of Osama Bin Laden.

Mr Hamid Mir, Geo TV Host/The News International Correspondent

Osama claims he has nukes: If US uses N-arms it will get same response By Hamid Mir

November 10, 2001 Saturday Shaba’an 23, 1422

KABUL, Nov 9: Osama bin Laden has said that “we have chemical and nuclear weapons as a deterrent and if America used them against us we reserve the right to use them”.

He said this in a special interview with Hamid Mir, the editor of Ausaf, for Dawn and Ausaf, at an undisclosed location near Kabul.

This was the first interview given by Osama to any journalist after the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

The correspondent was taken blindfolded in a jeep from Kabul on the night of Nov 7 to a place where it was extremely cold and one could hear the sound of anti-aircraft guns firing away. After a wait of some time , Osama arrived with about a dozen bodyguards and Dr Ayman Al-Zuwahiri and answered questions.

Hamid Mir: After American bombing on Afghanistan on Oct 7, you told the Al-Jazeera TV that the Sept 11 attacks had been carried out by some Muslims. How did you know they were Muslims ?

Osama bin Laden: The Americans themselves released a list of the suspects of the Sept 11 attacks, saying that the persons named were involved in the attacks. They were all Muslims, of whom 15 belonged to Saudi Arabia, two were from the UAE and one from Egypt. According to the information I have, they were all passengers.Fateha was held for them in their homes. But America said they were hijackers.

HM: In your statement of Oct 7, you expressed satisfaction over the Sept 11 attacks, although a large number of innocent people perished in them, hundreds among them were Muslims. Can you justify the killing of innocent men in the light of Islamic teachings ?

OBL: This is a major point in jurisprudence. In my view, if an enemy occupies a Muslim territory and uses common people as human shield, then it is permitted to attack that enemy. For instance, if bandits barge into a home and hold a child hostage, then the child’s father can attack the bandits and in that attack even the child may get hurt.

America and its allies are massacring us in Palestine, Chechenya, Kashmir and Iraq. The Muslims have the right to attack America in reprisal. The Islamic Shariat says Muslims should not live in the land of the infidel for long. The Sept 11 attacks were not targeted at women and children. The real targets were America’s icons of military and economic power.

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was against killing women and children. When he saw a dead woman during a war, he asked why was she killed ? If a child is above 13 and wields a weapon against Muslims, then it is permitted to kill him.

The American people should remember that they pay taxes to their government, they elect their president, their government manufactures arms and gives them to Israel and Israel uses them to massacre Palestinians. The American Congress endorses all government measures and this proves that the entire America is responsible for the atrocities perpetrated against Muslims. The entire America, because they elect the Congress.

I ask the American people to force their government to give up anti-Muslim policies. The American people had risen against their government’s war in Vietnam. They must do the same today. The American people should stop the massacre of Muslims by their government.

HM: Can it be said that you are against the American government, not the American people ?

OSB: Yes! We are carrying on the mission of our Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him). The mission is to spread the word of God, not to indulge massacring people. We ourselves are the target of killings, destruction and atrocities. We are only defending ourselves. This is defensive Jihad. We want to defend our people and our land. That is why I say that if we don’t get security, the Americans, too would not get security.

This is a simple formula that even an American child can understand. This is the formula of live and let live.

HM: The head of Egypt’s Jamia Al-Azhar has issued a fatwa (edict) against you, saying that the views and beliefs of Osama bin Laden have nothing to do with Islam. What do you have to say about that ?

OSB: The fatwa of any official Aalim has no value for me. History is full of such Ulema who justify Riba, who justify the occupation of Palestine by the Jews, who justify the presence of American troops around Harmain Sharifain. These people support the infidels for their personal gain.The true Ulema support the Jihad against America. Tell me if Indian forces invaded Pakistan what would you do? The Israeli forces occupy our land and the American troops are on our territory. We have no other option but to launch Jihad.

HM: Some Western media claim that you are trying to acquire chemical and nuclear weapons. How much truth is there in such reports?

OSB: I heard the speech of American President Bush yesterday (Oct 7). He was scaring the European countries that Osama wanted to attack with weapons of mass destruction. I wish to declare that if America used chemical or nuclear weapons against us, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as deterrent.

HM: Where did you get these weapons from ?

OSB: Go to the next question.

HM: Demonstrations are being held in many European countries against American attacks on Afghanistan. Thousands of the protesters were non-Muslims. What is your opinion about those non-Muslim protesters ?

OSB: There are many innocent and good-hearted people in the West. American media instigates them against Muslims. However, some good-hearted people are protesting against American attacks because human nature abhors injustice.

The Muslims were massacred under the UN patronage in Bosnia. I am ware that some officers of the State Department had resigned in protest. Many years ago the US ambassador in Egypt had resigned in protest against the policies of President Jimmy Carter. Nice and civilized are everywhere. The Jewish lobby has taken America and the West hostage.

HM: Some people say that war is no solution to any issue. Do you think that some political formula could be found to stop the present war ?

OSB: You should put this question to those who have started this war. We are only defending ourselves.

HM: If America got out of Saudi Arabia and the Al-Aqsa mosque was liberated, would you then present yourself for trial in some Muslim country ?

OSB: Only Afghanistan is an Islamic country. Pakistan follows the English law. I don’t consider Saudi Arabia an Islamic country. If the Americans have charges against me, we too have a charge sheet against them.

HM: Pakistan government decided to cooperate with America after Sept 11, which you don’t consider right. What do you think Pakistan should have done but to cooperate with America ?

OSB: The government of Pakistan should have the wishes of the people in view. It should not have surrendered to the unjustified demands of America. America does not have solid proof against us. It just has some surmises. It is unjust to start bombing on the basis of those surmises.

HM: Had America decided to attack Pakistan with the help of India and Israel, what would have we done ?

OSB: What has America achieved by attacking Afghanistan ? We will not leave the Pakistani people and the Pakistani territory at anybody’s mercy.

We will defend Pakistan. But we have been disappointed by Gen Pervez Musharraf. He says that the majority is with him. I say the majority is against him.

Bush has used the word crusade. This is a crusade declared by Bush. It is no wisdom to barter off blood of Afghan brethren to improve Pakistan’s economy. He will be punished by the Pakistani people and Allah.

Right now a great war of Islamic history is being fought in Afghanistan. All the big powers are united against Muslims. It is ‘ sawab ‘ to participate in this war.

HM: A French newspaper has claimed that you had kidney problem and had secretly gone to Dubai for treatment last year. Is that correct ?

OSB: My kidneys are all right. I did not go to Dubai last year. One British newspaper has published an imaginary interview with Islamabad dateline with one of my sons who lives in Saudi Arabia. All this is false.

HM: Is it correct that a daughter of Mulla Omar is your wife or your daughter is Mulla Omar’s wife ?

OSB: (Laughs). All my wives are Arabs ( and all my daughters are married to Arab Mujahideen). I have spiritual relationship with Mulla Omar. He is a great and brave Muslim of this age. He does not fear anyone but Allah. He is not under any personal relationship or obligation to me. He is only discharging his religious duty. I, too, have not chosen this life out of any personal consideration.


The flip side of information By Zubeida Mustafa