By Raza Shahani
Although the coercive apparatus of state enabled and facilitated Imran Khan to come in power, to carve out niche in the crowded world of the Pakistani politics, Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned politician, railed against corruption of the deeply rooted political parties, especially Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party; and, in the process, he offered jobs and houses to the needy people. His rhetorical cries-like speeches against corruption and the offer of jobs and houses fell on the attentive ears of the downtrodden and the young. However, just after coming into power, Khan scraped plans of across the board corruption, jobs and houses from his future scheme of things and resorted to what is a bomb shell on Pakistan.
Khan, an admirer of the Chinese Communist Party totalitarian model and the Taliban, showed little regard for the parliament. Not to mention, he resorted to the presidential ordinances rather than laws passed in the parliament after following the rules of scrutiny, debates, discussions, and, etc. Thus, he reduced the parliament, the most powerful representative institution, to the non-existence. In fact, Baluchistan, where insurgency is intensifying with each passing day, has only 17 members (five percent representation) in the National Assembly. Bringing ordinances, Khan excluded even that five percent representation of Baluchistan from the policy and decision making national forum. Moreover, even having majority in the Senate, the opposition parties could not remove Khan-liked chairman Senate as he manipulated the no-confidence vote with the help of ‘pouvoir occulte’ (Hidden Powers) . So, Senate, an institution safeguarding interests of the federating units, was the next which became the victim of Khan’s institutions-damaging spree. Thus, provinces, especially small provinces, have lost trust in the Senate that it can defend their interests.
In the next but dangerous move, Khan attacked the constitution – the supreme law of the land. Although PTI of Khan made the government in the Center, the Punjab, and KP and got share in Baluchistan, he wrongly interpreted the 232, 233 and 234 Articles of 1973 constitution to topple the elected government of the Pakistan People’s Party in Sindh. When failed, he resorted to yet gravely dangerous scheme, which was to vivisect Sindh by separating Karachi from it and giving its control to the Center. Karachi is the capital city of Sindh, without which Sindh is just a rump-hinterland. On this scheme, the reaction of the PPP and the people of Sindh were as dangerous as was the scheme in itself. Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, son of Benazir Bhutto and maternal grandson of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the PPP chairman, repeated the war-cry of Hush Muhammad Sheedi (Popularly known as Hosho) Marsoon Marsoon Sindh Na Dasoon (Will die but will not give Sindh). Husho was a mid-19th century commander of Sindhi rulers, Talpurs, who died fighting British colonizing army. Interestingly, Imran eulogized Ertugrul Gazi of Turkey and suggested the People of Pakistan emphatically to watch Turkish-produced drama Ertugrul, in which Jihadi cutthroat culture is idealized and advertized. On the other, Bhutto-Zardari dug up Hemo Kalani, an indigenous Hindu-Sindhi hero who too had fought British to liberate Sindh.
Though Imran withdrew the remote-controlling scheme of Karachi, he showed sympathy with the desire of the splinter group of Muttahida Qaumi Movement to separate Karachi from the rest of Sindh and make it a separate province. This time Bhutto-Zardari openly threatened to secede from the federation of Pakistan and make Sindh Sindhu Desh (country of the Sindhi people), an old demand of the Sindhi Nationalists. The PPP aside, the ethno-Sindhi people by and large expressed extreme indignation against the central government and resorted to the social media – Twitter, Face book, Whatsapp, YouTube, etc. to express disapproval of Khan’s intentions of making Karachi a separate province. They will launch a twitter trend every day, which praised Sindhi nationalist leaders like G.M Syed, Basheer Khan Qureshi, Rasool Bux Paleejo, and even Raja Dahir, a Hindu ruler of Sindh who died defending the occupation of Sindh by Arab commander Mohammad-bin-Qasim in 712 AD. Besides, launched a twitter hash tag #SindhKisiKiColonyNaheen (Sindh is not the colony of anyone) on the eve of Imran’s visit of Karachi in the wake of the devastating monsoon Karachi rains.
Furthermore, Imran attempted to incite the Muhajir population of Karachi by saying that Karachi does not develop because Sindhis from interior Sindh are ruling it. It was, in fact, Khan’s ‘divide and snatch’ policy, which Karachities and the people of the rest of Sindh foiled. Had he succeeded in creating wedge between the old and the new Sindhis, there would have been bloodshed in Karachi and in rest of the urban centers of Sindh.
Although the PPP is a national-level party, its core-leadership is Sindhi and its major vote bank is in Sindh. If it compromises on the vital interests of Sindh in the times of social media revolution, it will lose home ground and will be, in process, obliterated from across the country, as Ayub Khuhiro agreed to the one-unit scheme in 1955 and today his family, historically a mighty political force of Sindh, is nowhere. Thus, the unconstitutional and unilateral autocratic moves of Imran with regard to Sindh have further polarized already polarized Pakistani politics and society.
In fact, it is the PPP which has blunted the edge of the Sindhi nationalism for more than half of the century. Surprisingly, only two years of Khan have pushed the PPP to the Sindhi nationalists’ narrative the same it has been countering successfully.
Moreover, in his latest move Imran got passed a presidential ordinance to launch the residential construction on the Karachi coastal Islands. Construction would bring investment, labor and revenue but the ethno-national Sindhis regard it as a colonizing project, as non-ethnic Sindhis would be settled on those Island residences. Initially the PPP seemed agreed to the construction scheme but when the sea of opposition on the social media and physical protests and sit-ins to the scheme from the Sindhi people broke out, the PPP quickly withdrew its consent. To win the sympathy of the Sindhi people, Bhutto-Zardari in his speech in the mammoth political gathering in Karachi organized from the platform of the Pakistan Democratic Movement formed recently asked the Sindh government to pass a counter-ordinance resolution in the Sindh assembly and it did.
Thus, Khan’s singling out of Sindh for his unconstitutional and autocratic adventures have put the PPP in a disturbing position. The more Khan is pushing the PPP to the wall in the matters of Sindh, the more PPP is leaning towards Sindhi-nationalistic position. The PPP’s nationalistic recourse is, in fact, justifying and emboldening Sindhi nationalist parties in Sindh and centrifugal elements in Baluchistan and KP as well.
*Raza Shahani, Teaches at Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, Sindh, Pakistan