I am a Pakistani. I am also a Sindhi. I have witnessed my country go through turmoil year in and year out. I grew up in Karachi, where firing was a daily occurrence, strikes were a monthly if not weekly hindrance which kept us out of school and stuck inside our homes for the day. Why are we stuck inside, we would ask? ‘Halat kharab hein’ our parents would reply, and quickly change the topic.
As I grew older, the shutter down strikes, mid-day firings and regular bomb blasts became a painful and frequent occurrence. Blood was being spilled time and time again, it seemed like it would never stop. Equally painful was the fact that many of us grew accustomed to reading about people being killed every day in the newspapers, with a small paragraph, quite matter-of-factly informing the readers how ‘Na-Malum Afraad’ had fired upon someone or the other and fled after murdering the victim. Police is investigating, the story would end. Another day, and the paragraph would return, only the location of the incident and the victims would change.
In the drawing rooms, living rooms and restaurants, we would talk about the happenings in our city. Why were we constantly living in fear? Why was there such turmoil in Karachi all the time? Why were we scared to enter certain parts of the city? Some would accuse political parties, others would call it a conspiracy to de-stabilize Pakistan’s largest city through the hands of RAW, our favorite Indian spy agency. Some others felt the instability and killings flourished due to the hidden hands in the corridors of power who wanted to use force and intimidation to keep certain political forces in check.
As young students easily influenced by sights and sounds, our parents did their best to shelter us from the depressing events that were an everyday reality in Karachi. Before the days of electronic media, 24/7 news reporting, twitter, Facebook and online reporting, we were more or less confined to the morning papers, evening dailies promoting sensational headlines, and off course our dear reliable source for all the Government’s daily activities, PTV.
Unfortunately, no one could shelter us from the ground realities. Karachi was a war-zone through most of the late 80s and the 90s, and blood stains had not spared any of Karachi’s streets.
Through this period, certain people tried to create ethnic and religious divisions in the city and promoted violence and intolerance. Shias vs Sunnis. Mohajirs vs Pathans. Mohajirs vs Sindhis.
People who did not identify with any political party or sect, were dragged into the conflict when they witnessed their loved ones fall prey to the bullets of hate. Others were brainwashed by those who were delegated to guide them towards the right path, yet chose to do the exact opposite.
Through it all, I never once found myself questioning my friends or classmates, whether they were Mohajirs or Sindhis or Pathans. Did it matter? Not to me. Not to them, either. For all purposes, we were Pakistanis first, and everything else came later. When we would visit each other’s homes, study for an exam, play cricket, go out to lunch or dinner, not once was our ethnicity or our political belief, a source of unease or tension. I was, as I am today, proud of my Sindhi heritage. My friends were equally proud of their own backgrounds and heritage. The word Mohajir was never used by us, and nor was it a source of contention.
When Altaf Hussain claims that ‘Mohajirs’ were being discriminated against, and treated as second class citizens and outsiders, I cannot help but remember my school days in Karachi when he used to say the exact same things, to incite hatred and violence. In Sindh today we have lots of problems to deal with. There is a lack of infrastructure, basic necessities, accountability and justice, however one thing that we have an abundance of in Sindh, is love and respect for one another. Sindh embraced those who migrated to this province when others were reluctant to allow them in. Sindh opened their doors and their hearts to all, and those who were not influenced by hate-mongers like Altaf Hussain, never considered someone whose primary language was Urdu, to be a child of a lesser God.
Furthermore, on the green passport that every Pakistani is entitled to there is no identification of Sindhi or Mohajir or Pathan. Nor is it imperative for any disclosure of such information to any company, department or organization. If I speak Sindhi, I do not get a VIP pass. And nor do I want one.
The reality of people like Altaf Hussain is no longer a secret. Some are still interested in continuing to humor him with false importance, and use his politics of ethnic divisions and hatred to checkmate their political opponents. Most of us however are sick and tired of people like him, who attempt to cause divisions between friends and brothers.
Those who are wise enough can see through the devious ones who use divisions to promote their own agendas. We are meant to be living in a civilized society, where freedom of speech is a liberty afforded to all, however once in a while someone like Altaf Hussain comes along and the boundaries of those liberties are stretched to their limit and beyond. Then I find myself questioning, do we really need to give people like him any liberty whatsoever? Does he really deserve it to begin with?
In conclusion, I would repeat Altaf Hussain’s claim that ‘Mohajirs’ had been discriminated against for years, and treated as second class citizens and outsiders. To Altaf Hussain, I would end with a verse from Habib Jalib as a simple response, one which the majority of Pakistanis already understand and in agreement with:
Iss khulay jhoot ko,
Zehan ki loot ko,
Main naheen maanta,
Main naheen jaanta.