Sunday, May 20, 2012

On the Demand for Muhajir Province

A dormant phenomenon has recently became active — The movement for a separate province for the Muhajir[1] people. The movement is being patronized by the Mujhair Raabt'a Council (Council for the relation of Immigrants), a political movement which formed in Hyderabad, Sindh.

A historical analysis is needed to understand the recent phenomenon.

The activism for separation started after the fall of Dhaka (1971). Formerly, East Pakistan used to balance the power equation with the Western Wing. In the post-1971 Pakistan, Punjab became the centre of power. Even today, Punjab hold 148/272 (54.4%) seats while the smaller provinces make up the the remaining 46%. In those days, Pakistan's closets analogy was that of USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic), where Russia controlling all the satellite states around it. The centralist attitude by the Czars of Punjab, escalated the voice for separatism and fuelled nationalistic tendencies in other communities of Pakistan.

A sense of deprivation has always been in the smaller communities of Pakistan. Mujahirs being an important community in Pakistan's struggle and development also felt the aforementioned pressure. In Ayub's era, 313 civil servants were removed on ethnic bases. Bhutto took out 1300 civil servants. So in a period of nineteen years (1958-1977), more than 1600 civil servants were removed on ethnic grounds. The case was similar in Pakistan Army. In his famous book, 'The Pakistan Army', Stephen Cohen writes that 75% of all ex-servicemen come from 3 districts in Punjab ( Rawalpindi, Jhelum, and Campbellpur) and 2 adjacent districts in Kyber Phaktoonkhaw (Kohat and Mardan). It should also be noted that these five districts make up only hold 7% of Pakistan's total male population. The disapproving attitude from the civil and military bureaucracy made many communities - including Mujhairs - to ask for their basic rights in a more undemocratic fashion.

It should be noted that is not just the Muhajir community who are asking for their rights. Pakistan's history in loaded with separatist tendency right after 1947. An excellent research is present by Muhammed Waseem in  paper titled "The Political Ethnicity and the State of Pakistan" (for reference, see The Idea of Pakistan by Stephen Choen, pg. 207). M. Waseem talks about the separatist tendencies which grew in the Baloch, Sindhi, Muhajir, Bengali, and Pashtoon people of Pakistan. He outline their aims and what was achieved.

It is only in this background the Muhajir province movement evolved. The Muhajir Raabt'a Council has published a new map and hold large rallies for the disintegration of Sindh:

Muhajir Sooba Map by MRC
The map includes all the important districts of lower Sindh, including Karachi, Hyderabad, Thatta, and Mirpurkhass. These distincts are the economic engine of Sindh and worth its weight in gold.


Is the Mujhair province feasible in the present conditions? I don't think so. 

The centralist attitude by the Czars in Punjab is now not a major problem. The country is not like the old federation , where the centre had all the power to decide what's the best for the country. In this way, Punjab always had the veto power (holding 54.4% seats) in all nationalistic discourse. 'The Ideology of Pakistan' was defined by the centre, and unfortunately, by a single province. Today, this is not the case. The 18th amendment has changed the political balance of power. The concurrent list has been shorten, the NFC (National Finance Commission) awards have been announced, the federal divisible pool has been curtailed, and provinces now have the power to impose taxes. Recently, Chief Minister of Sindh, Mr. Qaim Ali Shah, spoke on implementing an agricultural tax on farm income. This is a revolutionary statement in a feudal society. 

It is only economies which keep nations together. It's not religion, love or language. The Mujahirs won't gain new taxes by carving out a land for themselves. The feudals would still control the assemblies and agricultural heartlands of Pakistan. The economy will remain in their hands. The Pakistani middle-class and lower middle-class (the 99% in Pakistan) don't have a voice in this economic system. The need of the hour is to change the economy rather than geography of Sindh.

The call for a separate province might lead to ethnic killings in interior Sindh. A large Mujhair community living happily with the Sindhi speaking community in those region. I, myself, am a testimony to this good relationship. Most people are living there after they migrated from India in 1947. A second migration inside Pakistan would only create excessive bloodshed. 

The major part representing the Muhajir community, MQM, is against any territorial redistribution of Sindh. A province can only be made if the provincial assembly of Sindh accepts a resolution on the creation of a new province. MQM has never filed in a resolution, signalling it will never support territorial redistribution. The MQM's Chief, Mr. Altaf Hussain, said in a public address:
"Karachi was the capital of Sindh. Karachi is the capital of Sindh, and will remain the capital of Sindh".  
When the 3rd largest political party of Pakistan and the largest party in Karachi is speaking against the idea of a new province, it can easily be deduced that the idea has no political support.

The idea of provincialism might face the same end as Napoleon faced in Orwell's Animal Farms! Most great revolutions end the same ways as Orwell's revolution ended. Hitler spoke for the Deutsches Lebensraum (German's Living space), he conquered Poland, Hungary, Austria, France, and Denmark. But in the end, he was killing the common Berliners and ended in the breakup of Germany into a west Germany and East Germany. Lebensraum for Muhajirs will only end up in identifying pure (Haqiqi)  Muhajirs and impure Muhajirs.

The armed forces have also opened their doors for the smaller communities of Pakistan. Recently, there was an intake of 5,000 Baloch cadets in the Pakistan army. Again, an unprecedented event in Pakistani history. Overtime, this racial imbalance will reach an equilibrium, that's how history works.

Summing up, the call for a separate province is more of a divergence tactic rather than an answer to the real problems facing the Pakistani society. After the 18th amendment, innovative ways should be sought to tilt the balance of power towards Sindh. This will help all communities and naturally, the Muhajir people also.


[1] I've used the word Muhajir for the 'Urdu-Speaking' community. Ali Chisti wrote an excellent article on the Muhajir Indentity.


  1. A well researched, refferenced and conclusive article. Nicely written: presents a systematic, corelational and a historical analysis.
    Excellent piece of writing kumail!
    Keep up the work



  3. muhajir province if it came into being then just tell me what is left in sindh larkana will remain only city capable of becoming provincial capital and it is not even civilised city