Sindh is a land of extraordinary people. It is rich in beauty and material sources. Its people are honest, hospitable and hardworking. They value their freedom and their simple way of living in the tradition of Shah Abdul Latif – the saint of desert (Bhitai), philosopher, poet and messenger of peace, humanity, fraternity, love and care – whose teachings have left indelible imprints on their culture. Historically, they have fought heroic wars to ward off aggressions against their land. They continue to be imbued with this spirit. They have displayed it in the recent past rising against the authoritative decisions of severing Karachi from their land, merging their province in the One-Unit, relegating their well-developed language from its pre-partition status to one of the regional languages, execution of a luminary of their land, usurping their constitutional rights by the use of force and martyring the most brave and bright daughter of their soil by the forces of darkness.
Their role in the creation of this country has been much bigger than their brethren from other parts – may be matched only by the Bengali stalwarts. The All India Muslim League took strong roots in their land under the leadership of the Sindh-born Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, Sir Abdullah Haroon, Muhammad Ayub Khuhro, G.M. Syed and a string of political giants. The Pakistan Resolution was first passed by the Sindh Muslim League under the chairmanship of Sir Abdullah Haroon in 1938. This resolution with minor adjustments and amendments was later adopted by the All India Muslim League in its historic session of March 1940 in Lahore. Again, it was the Sindh Assembly which took the lead in adopting a resolution in favour of Pakistan in 1946.
The people of Sindh have always proved their credentials as patriotic Pakistanis. They have overwhelmingly rejected the nationalist or provincial politics. The results of the general elections held on adult franchise basis from 1970 have consistently shown that Sindhis cast their vote in favour of federalists – may it be the Pakistan People’s Party, Muslim League or Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf. The nationalist factions, Islamists and ethnic groups, barring a few electorate pockets, have never been able to rally the mass support of the people of Sindh. There is no doubt that after the repeated breach of their trust by the authorities that may be, they have developed razor-sharp intelligence to read the motives and will of the leaders wooing them for votes on the issues of utmost concern to them that particularly comprise their share of the waters of Indus River, divisible pool of resources, federal jobs, the oil and gas produced by their land; provincial autonomy; provincial lands, assets and properties. The parties that address their concerns on these issues reap political dividends. Having played long electoral innings in Sindh, the landlords, Syeds, sajada nashins, political activists of Pakistan People’s Party have mastered the art of rousing the concerns of innocent Sindhis on the above issues to secure their victory in the elections. What deceives Sindhis is their innocent faith that these predators of Sindhi stock would keep away the alien wolves from their provincial enclave.
There are certain genuine matters that have continued to agitate the conscious sons and daughters of Sindh for the past many years. These matters have nothing to do with the provincialism or tussle between the federal and provincial governments or the accountability of the leaders and bureaucrats from Sindh. These are lands, assets and properties belonging to the people of Sindh which have been under the continuous occupation of the federal authorities since decades. The list of such properties is long. Here are few of them which have greater importance for the people of Sindh – Jinnah Courts (hostel) Karachi, Mitharam Hostel Karachi, Radio Pakistan’s historic building, Sindh Office Building Karachi, Degree College Larkano Hostel, Phulelli College Hyderabad Hostel, Sindh University Hostel and Sindh Medical College Girls Hostel Karachi. These properties – some amongst them being iconic buildings – were serving great purposes from pre-partition years and after the independence as borne out by their names and locations before having been occupied by federal agencies.
The people of Pakistan may not be aware of a grave wrongdoing to the province of Sindh. The Chesham Palace, a London property, belonged to Sindh and was used as hostel for the students of Sindh from the pre-partition days. This property was taken over by the Pakistan High Commission during the infamous One-Unit and converted into 11 residential apartments for its officials without any compensation to Sindh. Recently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan delivered a verdict reverting three hospital of Sindh to the federal authority. The Government of Sindh (GoS) had taken over these hospitals in the wake of the 18thAmendment and invested a lot of resources and hard work to convert the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases into a state of art hospital where patients were treated free of cost. This is the only good work to the credit of the three successive PPP administrations in Sindh. Whilst the review petition of the GoS awaits hearing by the Supreme Court, the federal government has issued a notification for the takeover of the hospitals. The haste shown in the case speaks volumes about the motives of the federal government. This is tantamount to stirring the hornet’s nest or fueling an unnecessary controversy.
There are also speculations that the Sambara Inn constructed way back in the heart of Larkano – perhaps in 1973 – by PIA under orders from Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was being taken over by the federal government. The space sprawling over many acres and forming part of the most precious land near the historic residence of the Deputy Commissioner Larkano was provided for Sambara Inn by the GoS free of cost. The cost of the land of this motel will be in billions today. Also swirling around are rumors that the federal government was planning to move the PIA Headquarters from Karachi to Islamabad. This will be a coup de grace against the people of Sindh. The livelihood of thousands of Sindhis from menial jobs to mid ranking employments is associated with the PIA. The likely shifting of the PIA is not only going to deprive the mega city of Karachi of its inherent potential to become the hub of air travel, it will render thousands of Sindhi employees of the national carrier jobless.
The Sindhi print media is awash with protests highlighting concern over the unfair and the lowest allocations for the federally-funded development schemes of Sindh by the National Economic Council. The allocations for Sindh as approved by the National Economic Council in its recent session hardly average 7% of the aggregate funds for the federally-funded schemes. Being the second big federal unit of the country, Sindh genuinely deserves more funds. Some of the infrastructural projects undertaken by the National Highway Authority or GoS are of utmost importance and urgency that brook absolutely no delay. For instance, the ongoing work to make the Indus Highway a dual carriage from Jamshoro to Sehwan, rehabilitation of Manchhar Lake – the biggest lake of Asia – and renovation of Lloyd Barrage or the construction of an alternative barrage on River Indus in Sukkur. The single carriage Indus Highway from Jamshoro to Sehwan is known as the killing highway. In the past one year, it has already taken hundreds of lives in accidents. The deaths in accidents for the past five years would go in thousands. The turning of Manchhar into a brackish and poisonous water lake has been a great misfortune for Sindh. This has destroyed all the species of fish and the livelihood of hundreds of fisher families living there in boat villages. These boat villages presented a spectacular scene thronged by people for rest and recreation and feast on fish. The Lake was a great tourist attraction besides being the last destiny of the gushing flood waters. The Lloyd Barrage is in a dilapidated condition and could be washed by any strong flood drowning vast areas of upper Sindh and causing devastating losses.
The PTI as compared to other mainstream parties has the potential of making an inroad in the stronghold of Pakistan People’s Party in the province provided Prime Minister Imran Khan gives more attention to his party affairs and brings forward a leadership of new, educated and untried faces from a mélange of landowning elite and middle class and making his position clear on matters of serious concern and sensitivity to Sindhis. Irrespective of the political differences existing between the federal government and GoS, the Prime Minister would be well advised to support generously the federally-funded development projects of public importance in Sindh in the greater national interests. If there are genuine financial constraints, this needs to be explained to the people in no ambiguous terms by anyone from the host of Special Assistants which the Prime Minister has gathered around himself. No need to emphasize that any communication gap in matters of sensitive nature and greater public importance will be politically exploited by the opponents of the ruling PTI.
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