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December 28, 2020

One Unit and Sindh: Part - II

Opinion

December 28, 2020

The writer holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham, UK and works in Islamabad.

Some other books that have discussed One Unit include ‘Pakistan of Jinnah’ by Ahmed Salim, ‘Pakistan in the 20th Century’ by Lawrence Ziring and ‘Federalism in Pakistan’ by Muntzra Nazir. Interested readers may also find details of the One Unit scheme in some biographies and memoirs such as ‘Mera Siyasi Safar’ by Hasan Mahmood, and ‘Daultana Dastaan’ by Wakeel Anjum – both published by Jang Publishers.

Dr Tanweer Ahmad Tahir’s doctoral thesis ‘Political dynamics of Sindh’ completed at the Pakistan Study Centre of the University of Karachi in 2010 is also a marvelous source of information on this topic. Dr Tahir has himself condensed and translated his thesis into Urdu and published it as ‘Sindh ki siyasat nasliyati tanazur mei’n (The politics of Sindh with the perspective of ethnicity). It has two chapters exclusively dealing with the making and unravelling of One Unit. Then there is also a brief article by prominent Sindhi intellectual Naseer Memon in his book ‘Hanrhoon ki Sindh ji tareekh’.

Naseer Memon’s article is titled ‘One Unit khilaf Sindh ji jaddojehad’ (Sindh’s struggle against One Unit). But as I mentioned in the first part of this column yesterday, the best book so far on One Unit is by Prof Aijaz Qureshi, a respected researcher and writer from Sindh with over a dozen books to his credit. He mostly writes on the affairs of Sindh and corroborates his arguments with historical evidence. Since he and his father both were politically active in the anti-One-Unit Movement, Prof Qureshi was an eyewitness to many of the events narrated in his book.

‘One Unit aur Sindh’ (One Unit and Sindh) – first published in Sindhi and then beautifully translated into Urdu by Aslam Khatyan – is a 465-page treatise. The first 100 pages contain well-researched articles and essays about One Unit by activists and scholars of Sindh. They include Amanullah Shaikh, Dr Dur Muhammad Pathan, Fazullah Qureshi, Mumtaz Mahar, and Qazi Fazlul Haq. They highlight the fact that the East India Company completed its occupation of Sindh in 1843 and exactly after a century of British rule Sindh became the first province to pass a resolution for Pakistan.

During that period, Sindhi leaders struggled to be separated from Bombay (now Mumbai), from where it was ruled by the British. Aijaz Qureshi notes that Sindhi activists and leaders had strived hard to gain the status of a separate province and then expected Pakistan to respect its provincial autonomy. But exactly the opposite happened when the One Unit plan was executed. During the Pakistan movement, the Muslim majority provinces were led to believe that their ethnic, linguistic, national, and religious interests were under constant threat in India and that by creating a new country they would enjoy democratic rights, and their linguistic and national aspirations would materialize.

The Muslim majority provinces formed Pakistan, and not the other way round. That means the provinces already existed and Pakistan did not create them. But now, the new state machinery led by the West Pakistani elite was bent upon dissolving the provinces and the One Unit plan was a manifestation of this. Sindh suffered the most as Karachi became the federal capital after being separated from Sindh. This was despite a resolution passed in the Sindh Assembly against the separation. The University of Sindh moved from Karachi to Hyderabad, resulting in early ethnic tensions.

And that was the time when a great leader of peasants in Sindh, Hyder Bakhsh Jatoi wrote a pamphlet titled ‘Shall Sindhi language stay or not in Karachi?’ So, who exactly was part of the elite that precipitated the formation of One Unit in West Pakistan? Some of the most prominent leaders of this elite were Malik Ghulam Muhammad, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, Mumtaz Daultana, Mushtaq Gurmani, Muzaffar Qazilbash, Mumdot, and the Tiwana family. Many opportunist leaders from smaller provinces also supported this elite – from Sindh, Ayub Khuhro, PAM Rashidi, G H Hidayatullah, Pirzada Abdul Sattar, G A Talpur, Qazi Akbar, M B Soomro, and others.

From East Bengal, H S Suhrawardy; and from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP, now KP) Abdur Rasheed Khan, Dr Khan Sahib, Abdul Qayyum Khan, and others. The One Unit plan deprived smaller provinces of whatever meagre provincial autonomy they enjoyed under the 1945 Government of India Act. Interestingly, there were some Sindhi leaders who could see through the ruse; one of them was Allah Bakhsh Soomro who had warned G M Syed of the post-division possibilities. For nearly 90 years, Sindh had remained annexed with Bombay and became a province in 1936.

Prof Aijaz Qureshi gives us the details of how a game of musical chairs started after 1947 when provincial governments were dismissed by provincial governors at the behest of the central government controlled by the elite. The elite also included a former military man Iskandar Mirza who hailed from Bengal but was totally immersed in the power politics of West Pakistan too. After Ghulam Muhammad, Iskandar Mirza continued with his musical chairs. Ghulam Muhammad dismissed the Pirzada government in Sindh in December 1954 because Pirzada was planning to pass a resolution against the One Unit Plan.

It took another year or so before the One Unit scheme finally took shape under Iskandar Mirza. Aijaz Qureshi gives details of all those who opposed One Unit even from Punjab such as Mian Iftikharuddin. After giving the historical background to the One Unit plan, Qureshi has painstakingly compiled the speeches delivered in the Sindh Assembly for and against the One Unit plan. Most other books on One Unit have just discussed its formation, but Aijaz Qureshi devotes multiple chapters to the 15-year period of One Unit, and discusses nearly all significant administrative and political developments from 1954 to 1970.

An entire chapter deals with the distribution of barrage lands that the central government doled out from the Guddu, Kotri and Sukkur barrages and allotted them mostly to outsiders. The discussion about the failure of the so-called land reforms is also enlightening. Then the discrimination in job allocation was also a cause of concern as under One Unit a disproportionate number of jobs in Sindh went to outsiders. Prof Aijaz Qureshi also outlines the struggle against One Unit both within and outside assemblies. There were multiple fronts waging that struggle, and political parties such as the Pakistan National Party and then the National Awami Party were relentless in their fight against One Unit.

Organizations such as the Sindh Student Federation, Sindhi Adabi Sangat and the Sindh Students Cultural Organisation utilized all possible means to highlight the discrimination meted out to smaller provinces under the guise of One Unit. In the late 1960s, the Sindh National Student Federation (SNSF) was formed with Jam Saqi as its president, Naeem Akhtar and Aijaz Qureshi as vice-presidents and Mir Thebo as general secretary. Finally, the Sindh United Front (SUF) hammered the last nail in the coffin of One Unit and the new military usurper General Yahya Khan was forced to dissolve One Unit and create provinces.

Perhaps the best aspect of the book by Aijaz Qureshi is that it gives us details of at least 40 prominent personalities of Sindh who played an active role for 15 years in their tireless fight against One Unit. From A Majeed Sindhi, G M Sayed, Ghulam Muhammad Leghari, and Hyder Bhakhsh Jatoi to Ibrahim Joyo, Qazi Faiz Muhammad and Rasul Bakhsh Palijo, there is a galaxy of Sindhi intellectuals and politicians who fought for democratic and provincial rights. I am not sure if there is any other book that deals with this subject so thoroughly.

There is a need for similar research in other provinces too to highlight the contributions of Baloch, Punjabi, Pashtun and Saraiki leaders who were equally, if not more, valiant in their struggle against One Unit. This research becomes even more imperative under present circumstances when the 18th Amendment is under threat.

Concluded

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