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August 13, 2015

Mohajir politics after Independence


August 13, 2015


Urdu speaking community is facing a dilemma, perhaps, the worst since Independence. mohajir politics should not merely be seen in the backdrop of MQM, but it has its own dynamics and should be addressed in the same spirit. MQM politics may continue to have its “ups and downs,” but what is the future of “Mohajir politics.” Will this factor remain unresolved?
MQM, from Mohajir to Muttahida, are the representative voice of the urban Sindh, since 1987 local bodies elections. The day its 24 MNAs, 51 MPAs and eight Senators had resigned, it means “no representation of urban Sindh,” which could be quite dangerous. Perhaps, their resignations were taken in haste. Was that part of a new script?
Efforts should be made to keep MQM in the mainstream politics and at the same time MQM also needs to review its politics particularly the alleged militancy in the party. Now, the party which has so many seats cannot be ruled out or asked to pack up. The way their resignations were accepted within no time in the National Assembly sets an alarming precedence.
There is a need to look the Mohajir phenomena in our politics as we celebrate Pakistan’s 68th Independence Day, as why Mohajirs are still Mohajirs and why an unresolved identity crisis are getting deepen.
The Mohajir politics is as old as Pakistan itself. After the death of Quaid-i-Azam, the Urdu-speaking class in particular looked towards Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League. But the disintegration of PML and the manner in which the PML leaders from the then East Pakistan were treated, the fate of the Urdu-speaking people was clear.
Strong presence of Urdu-speaking people, who came from different backgrounds and classes, settled in urban cities of Sindh like Karachi and Hyderabad and thus could not mould themselves with local Sindhi population. The post-Ayub Khan’s era created the gap between the two strong entities.
The Urdu-speaking people backed

the joint opposition candidate, Fatima Jinnah, against Ayub Khan in the Presidential election and later also joined Bhutto’s movement against Ayub, but had they supported anti-One Unit campaign, things would have been much different for them.
However, the contribution of Urdu-speaking community to the development of Sindh and Pakistan is a matter of record but perhaps they could not get the political space after PML disintegration. Some of Ayub Khan’s decisions laid the foundation of ethnic division in Sindh. The Sindhis, who opened their heart to welcome the Mohajirs, also felt sense of deprivation and betrayal.
Three decisions of the then military establishment changed the demographic shape of Pakistan’s politics. Besides imposition of the first martial law also led to crisis in East Pakistan and Sindh.
(1) One Unit, (2) Ban on Sindhi language in schools, which particularly deprived Urdu-speaking families of learning Sindhis and (3) shifting of Capital from Karachi to a new city, Islamabad. These decisions were anti-Sindh and the worst came after the Presidential election when Ayub’s supporters opened firing in Karachi in an Urdu-speaking area in what many believe was a reaction to Karachi’s support to Fatima Jinnah.
Urdu-speaking “civil servants,” which till Ayub’s regime remained hand in glove with the military establishment got the first set-back when they lost the job quota and felt that they were cut to size.
It was at this point when a campaign for “Karachi Soba” was launched, interestingly by a left wing leader, Mahmoodul Haq Usmani, who at that time was in National Awami Party (NAP). It was a reaction to shift the capital but not on ethnic lines, though he only got the support of Urdu-speaking community and as a result his membership was suspended by NAP.
In the absence of any political force after Muslim League, where Urdu-speaking people got themselves accommodated, the middle class “Mohajirs” started joining Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) or Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) but the younger generation joined National Student Federation (NSF)— a strong student force and new political entity, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by a charismatic Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
In 1970 elections the Urdu-speaking votes were divided among PPP, JI and JUP in urban Sindh. PPP got two NA and eight PA seats from Karachi.
Bhutto perhaps missed the chance of getting the large Urdu-speaking community vote. Some of his decisions directly affected the Urdu-speaking people and anti-Bhutto forces also exploited the same like the dispute on quota system and Sindhi language bill.
In 1977 Urdu-speaking vote went to opposition led by a nine-party alliance PNA. Anti-Bhutto movement became strong in urban Sindh and when martial law was imposed, there was a growing feeling that a popular Sindhi leader was overthrown.
Urdu-speaking people once again felt betrayed when General Zia extended the quota system for another 10 years, but the urban Sindhi did not reacted on Bhutto’s execution, though a large number of PPP Urdu-speaking workers were put behind bars.
However, Zia used “Mohajir card” in the backdrop of Mohajirs’ opposition to Bhutto and in a well-planned conspiracy the Karachi plunged into ethnic and sectarian violence. The purpose was to keep Sindh divided on ethnic lines. But Zia was neither sincere in addressing the issue of “quota system” nor he accommodated the Urdu-speaking community.
Making of a Mohajir party was on the cards as they were disappointed with the role of JI and JUP. Thus All Pakistan Mohajir Student Organisation (APMSO) was formed in 1978 on the question of deprivation of Muhajir students in getting admissions. Later, APMSO became MQM but even after three decades of Mohajir politics led by MQM, the issues remained unresolved even when MQM got maximum power or was in the best bargaining position. So MQM also has to share some responsibility for failure in this regard.
But it is also a fact that successive establishments used MQM card against PPP in particular, whether it was a vote of no-confidence against Benazir in 1989 or during 1990 elections.
The same establishment later launched the operation, created split in the party, which badly damaged its structure.
Whatever shape the politics of urban Sindh will take and whatever is the fate of MQM, the Mohajir question remained unresolved and Karachi’s development should not be linked to ethnic politics.
The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.




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