New province in Sindh? - Karachi

Within a few hours on Sunday, graffiti appeared in different parts of Karachi in favour of a Mohajir province. Mobile phones bleeped as sms messages started to announce the holding of a protest near Orangi town to demand a separate province for Mohajirs, the Urdu-speaking community.
With the country already in a domestic and international crisis, it is a highly inappropriate time to demand a separate province.
The development could possibly mean that the residents of Sindh should brace for a political showdown on the ethnic battlefield between the two top political stakeholders in the province, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. This is not the first time that there have been calls for a separate province. The creation of Bangladesh in 1971 was immediately followed up by calls for a “Sindhu Desh” in Sindh, but the cause never gained momentum.
Leaders of the MQM accuse Sindhis of refusing to accept the Mohajirs who arrived from India after 1947, and not letting the immigrants assimilate with the local population. Sindhis rubbish this accusation by saying that, of all regions of what is now Pakistan, only the residents of Sindh who welcomed the new arrivals with open arms.
It is as if those who sprayed Karachi’s walls with graffiti to demand the separate province believed the recent killings in Orangi, in the northern outskirts of the city, were aimed at exterminating the Urdu-speaking community in the city.
Advocates of a new province accuse the law enforcers of apathy in the pursuit of the armed elements who carried out the killings, and say this alleged reluctance is a sign of some deep-seated grudge against Urdu speakers.
However, the MQM is against the division of Sindh, although it does favour formation of new provinces in other parts of the country. The PPP and Sindhi nationalist parties are also against the idea of splitting the province. So who could be behind this idea? Is it the “third element” that Interior Minister Rehman Malik talks about so often?
Great! Punjab for Punjabis, Sindh for Sindhis, Balochistan for Baloch, Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa for Pakhtuns and “Mohajirabad” for Mohajirs, or whatever the name chosen for that new province. But those who demand the creation of new provinces in Pakistan on the basis of ethnicity forget that, regardless of their respective ethnicities, the people of all parts of the country share a common culture and history.
Despite a sense of alienation that some Mohajirs from different parts of India might have in Karachi, they have far stronger bonds with Pakistan now than they have with the country of their ancestors. This is natural, because most Mohajirs are second- or even third-generation Pakistanis.
Let us assume that this is a demand that is worthy of consideration. But then the aspect of demographics comes in, and unless that critical element is taken into consideration, the demand would at best be a non-serious one. In addition, no discussion of Karachi’s demographics can be complete until it involves the city’s steady ruralisation, especially in the last three-and-a-half decades. Ever since independence there has been an influx from all part of Pakistan of rural poor seeking work in the country’s industrial and commercial hub. The same applies to Sindh’s other urban centres, which also have large Mohajir populations.
A population census is now overdue. But according to estimates the population of Karachi is around 18 million. Of the major ethnicities populating this microcosm of Pakistan, Pakhtuns are three million, Bengalis two million and Sindhis one million. The bulk of the rest of its population are Mohajirs, who are an estimated six million.
Since 1988 the MQM (then named Mohajir Qaumi Movement) has made an impressive showing in Sindh Assembly elections and local bodies polls in Karachi and in Sindh’s other urban centres. On that basis it claims the right to rule and represent Karachi and urban Sindh.
Devolution of ministries took place after the promulgation of the 18th Amendment, but the implementation of measures related to devolution seems to be faltering, especially in Karachi’s case.
Karachi, being more than one-third the population of the whole province, must have its own police force, composed mostly of those settled in Karachi. This could prove to be the most effective measure for the improvement of the law and order situation. A policeman with a local background is likely to be more effective against crime and violence than one with his roots elsewhere in the country.
As for the latest bout of violence in Karachi, it is strange that the two largest political forces in Sindh decided to make things even worse for residents by their actions. The leaderships of the PPP and the MQM must keep the precarious situation of the country in mind before taking rash decisions.

Copyright TheNews 13.7.2011
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