By Syed Atiqul Hasan
I witnessed Jiya Sindh extremists riding in four-wheel open jeeps with weapons on Hyderabad’s busy roads on September 30, 1988. Sindhi extremists fired indiscriminately at passers-by and shopkeepers, as well as at children, adults, and women. Several hundred people were severely injured and about 300 people were massacred.
I lived a few minutes away from the civil hospital (Hyderabad). I ran to the hospital and found that families and friends carrying the dead bodies to the emergency ward. In the city, there was an uproar. Victims were filled with rage and blood, wanting revenge immediately. Before the angry mob on the streets could react, the police and rangers controlled the city, but bloody riots broke out between Muhajirs and Sindhis. People like Qadir Magsi, Zulfikar Mirza, and many extremist leaders of Jiya Sindh killed innocent people in Hyderabad, the majority were Muhajirs. These gangsters and killers were later found to be the leaders of Jiya Sindh and the so-called protectors of Sindhis. Qadir Magsi became the leader of Sindh Taraqi Pasand after full media protocol in Karachi. In fact, he is the same person who was honoured by GEO television for presenting a show on the political services of Qadir Magsi. In one of the PTI jalsas (gatherings) in Sindh, Qadir Magsi presented a tribute to Imran Khan by giving him an Agarak (Sindhi Shawl). Another killer, Zulfiqar Mirza, became the interior minister of the PPP government in Sindh. Zulfiqar Mirza openly threatened Muhajirs when was appointed as interior minister in Sindh government. Sindhi militants and their followers received 250000 weapon licenses from Zulfiqar Mirza. In the PPP federal government, Zulfiqar Mirza’s wife Fahmida Mirza served as speaker of the national assembly, and then as a senator in the Imran Khan administration. Fahmida Mirza still serving as a senator in federal senate house.
At that time, Altaf Hussain’s MQM was gaining strength in Karachi and Hyderabad. Muhajirs overwhelmingly backed Altaf Hussain. Immediately following the massacre of Muhajirs, on 30 September 1988, Altaf Hussain called a party meeting of MQM leaders in Hyderabad. Altaf Hussain instructed MQM workers not to retaliate against Sindhis. In that meeting, many hostile MQM members were upset and angry. They told Altaf Hussain to go back to Karachi and leave the matter to us. They said we would handle these killers as they knew how to handle them. The Muhajir youngsters were hostile and wanted revenge for their slain. A group of MQM members later formed their own group. In Hyderabad, dead bodies were discovered after some time among those who opposed Altaf Hussain. At that time, I suspected that there were elements behind Altaf Hussain who wanted to have clashes between Muhajirs and Sindhis on ethnic politics. The Muhajir massacre was part of a big game plan by extremist Sindhi politicians and landlords, for which Altaf Hussain was paid.
I always disagreed with Altaf’s politics using Muhajir’s genuine issues in Sindh. We were suspicious of Altaf Hussain’s strategy and involvement in Pakistani politics by cashing Muhajir issues rather than fighting for their rights from the beginning. My suspicion proved to be correct over time, as I have mentioned in several columns. I have always believed that demands regarding the problems of the Muhajirs should be limited to the issues, which was the Quota system imposed on Muhajirs in higher & technical education and government jobs. There would be no conflict between the Muhajirs and Sindhis if the quota system was abolished and merit was implemented in every sector in Sindh.
There are two ethnic realities in Sindh: Muhajirs and Sindhis. They must live together for Sindh’s prosperity, prospects, and development. In my family, I have many Sindhi friends and relatives. A natural process of intermarriages was taking place between these two ethnicities.
Due to the quota system, non-Muhajirs living in urban Sindh are also victimised. Neither higher education institutions nor government jobs are open to muhajirs. As opposed to focusing on national or provincial politics, it would have been better to address the equal citizenship rights of Muhajirs and treat everyone on merits. Muhajirs used to participate in national politics by forming political parties, prior to MQM, therefore, for Muhajirs to participate in national politics was not the issue. The Muhajirs were present in national political parties like other ethnicities of Pakistan.
When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came into power after the fall of East Pakistan, he introduced used a quota system through the parliament where Sindh was divided into Sindh Urban and Sindh Rural to gain votes from Sindhis. It has been proved today, by looking at the conditions of Sindhis in rural areas that Sindhis did not receive any benefit from the quota system.
In the urban and rural areas of Sindh, Muhajirs and Sindhis need each other. Sindh’s extremist politicians, Sindhi Quom Parast groups, and PPP Sindh politicians have victimized not only Muhajirs but also Sindhis by creating divisions through ethnic division.
However, Altaf Hussain, who was born and raised in Karachi, and his colleagues had neither knowledge nor sympathy for Sindh’s situation. For his vested interests, Altaf Hussain utilized the Muhajirs from Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpur Khas, and other cities. In order to gain parliamentary seats and ministerial positions in provincial and national assemblies, Altaf Hussain wanted to use Muhajirs’ card to strengthen MQM and bring the party into national politics. Having sold Muhajir’s votes to Asif Ali Zardari and PPP, he has made enough wealth and assets overseas. The followers of Altaf Hussain in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, and other Sindh cities are facing discrimination, torture, and victimization. Now, the first and second tiers of MQM leaders are divided into different groups. Muhajirs were left nowhere by Altaf Hussain. The Muhajir community in Sindh urban areas is the most deprived of people with no voice in Pakistani politics now. By denying basic rights to Muhajirs as third-degree citizens, Altaf Hussain damaged the entire Muhajir community.
In today’s Sindh, Muhajirs have suffered beyond the quota system and injustices. There is no social security for the Muhajirs in Sindh, and there is no future for them. Muhajirs don’t matter to the federal government, and being in the minority, they won’t be able to gain power in the Sindh government.
As a matter of fact, there is no economic conflict between Muhajirs and Sindhis. The two classes specialize in different fields. Sindh’s politicians could have made Sindh the most prosperous province of Pakistan by establishing a merit system if they were serious about stability and the people of Sindh. It is the corrupt, incompetent, and greedy politicians of Sindh who have destroyed the livelihood of the people of Sindh. The infrastructure of Sindh has been completely corrupted today. Sindh is submerged in the water due to flood today, roads are broken, educational institutions and hospitals have been destroyed, and people of all classes are unemployed. Sindhis as well as Muhajirs are worried today due to extreme lawlessness and heinous crimes. Millions of Afghans live on the outskirts of Karachi and Hyderabad, controlling Sindh and the Sindh government is incompetent and corrupt to deal with these aliens. They are involved in a variety of criminal activities. In broad daylight, these people rob citizens indiscriminately. Hence, the overall situation in Sind is now on the verge of total collapse.
[Born and raised in Hyderabad Sindh, Pakistan, the writer is a Sydney-based journalist and column writer. His email address is email@example.com ).