By Rahul Kumar
New Delhi, May 21: Pakistan is ravaged by a thousand mutinies. Almost all of its local but culturally diverse communities are battling the Pakistani army and the country's feudal mindset.
India Narrative speaks with Zafar Sahito, Founder and Central Chief Organiser, of the nationalist Jeay Sindh Freedom Movement (JSFM) about the continuing Sindhi nationalism and whether Pakistan is running out of favour with the West.
Sahito says that the people in Sindh are fighting Pakistan as they do not want Islamist influences to pervade their land.
Q: Why do the people in Sindh want an independent nation - Sindhudesh? The Sindhi people share a distinct religion, identity and geography with Pakistan, so why the need for independence?
Sahito: Sindhudesh has a history of 7,000 years while Pakistan was created by the British just 75 years back. When the Arabs invaded Sindh in 711, Sindhudesh was an independent country and Maharaja Dahir Sen was our king. Even in 1839, when the British invaded South Asia, Sindh was an independent country.
Our geography, demographics, religion, culture, traditions and identity have been forcibly converted to an unnatural new identity of being Pakistani which is not acceptable to the historical Sindhi people at any cost. We want our Sindhudesh to reclaim our history, roots, culture and the Indus Valley civilisation.
Q: Is it true that the Sindhis feel alienated in Pakistan? Is it because of a cultural disconnect, or under-development or is it because of poor political representation in running Pakistan?
Sahito: The people of Sindh agreed to join the newly created State of Pakistan on the basis of the 1940 resolution of Lahore which clearly stated that Sindh will be a sovereign and autonomous state. But, later, the Pakistani-Punjabi military establishment changed the soul of the resolution and a federal administrative "one unit" was imposed on the small provinces. Our Sindhi secular values, ways of living, language, culture and traditions were more inclined towards India.
Also, a huge population of Sindhi Hindus - nearly 26 per cent of the total population at the time of creation of Pakistan was in Sindh - was with the RSS. It is for these reasons that the Punjabi-Pakistani military establishment considered the Sindhis as an enemy from day one. To me, it is just like the discrimination and condensation shown to the Bangladeshi people, and that behaviour still continues.
Q: How strong is the voice of Sindh nationalism now? Many say that the demand for an independent Sindh is no longer as powerful as it was earlier?
Sahito: The nationalist thought and ideology is stronger now than it was at any other time. You might be surprised but after 75 years of failed policies, political suppression, thousands of missing persons and extra-judicial killings of our nationalist leaders, there is much pain among the common Sindhi people. A fire is raging inside people waiting for right time to ignite.
Q: Do the people in Sindh also suffer from State-sponsored abductions and human rights violations by Pakistani security forces as we see in Balochistan?
Sahito: Till now, 57 of our top leaders from nationalist organisations have been killed by Pakistani intelligence agencies for demanding the right to self-determination. There are hundreds of "enforced disappearances", thousands of our political workers are in Pakistani prisons and we daily grapple with military raids on the homes of political workers. Sindh is governed by paramilitary forces.
Q: Why is it that the Sindh province is at the forefront of religious conversions? We see it through the daily kidnappings of young girls, conversions of minorities and forced marriages of minor girls.
Sahito: Pakistan was created on the ideology of an Islamist State - a State only for Muslims, a State only for the pure people. Before the 40s' ties, Sindh was a major state populated with Hindus.
It has been the policy of Punjab and the Islamist groups, supported by the federal and military establishment, to force Hindus of Sindh to migrate so that they can change the demographics. Also, Sindhi Hindus owned a lot of businesses and agricultural lands which the Pakistani-Punjabis have been looking to grab. It is a process which is still continuing.
Q: There are allegations that Pakistan is settling people from Afghanistan and other parts of the country in Sindh. What is the reason behind this and how are the Sindhis affected?
Sahito: Since the creation of Pakistan, the military establishment has engineered a demographic change to make the Sindhis a minority in their motherland. Pakistan itself is standing on false history, fake national identity and unnatural State values. The Pakistani-Punjabi military establishment knows that if they allow Sindh to become strong, Pakistan will no longer exist. Because of this fear, the federal government is continuously settling Islamist migrants in Sindh. In 1947, non-Sindhis constituted just 13 per cent of the total Sindh population but now they are as high as 47 per cent.
Q: The Sindhi civil society has also said that Pakistan is giving away lands, particularly islands, to China for development. Is that true?
Sahito: Let's look a few decades back. In East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, from the fifties to the seventies, the Punjabi-federal-military establishment looted the national resources. The land belonging to the Bengalis was sold to international investors as Bangladesh was considered to be a colony of Pakistan.
Similarly, Sindh is a colony. Our national resources are to be given to the military establishment. The Sindh government is an elitist feudal set-up. Therefore, they are giving away our land, step-by-step to China. The 97-mile coastal belt has been given to China so that feudal lords and the military men can live lavish lives. No money is invested for the local people. People in Sindh fear that if the Pakistani-Punjabis do not return the debt to China, Sindh will be sold and we will become a permanent colony of the Communist Party of China.
Q: How is that despite Pakistan harbouring Osama bin Laden for nearly a decade, and its open support to terror, it has not been sanctioned by the West. How is it that Pakistan gets away so easily?
Sahito: Pakistan is the king of terrorism. It is a nursery for producing terrorists. Till now 97 terror attacks have been carried out globally by elements that have been trained and backed by Pakistani military intelligence. With a web of 54,000 active madrassas, Pakistan is producing hundreds of thousands of terrorists every year.
Even today, 54 international wanted terrorists are living a lavish life in the safe haven that is Pakistan. Even though the West, the UN and other international organisations know about Pakistan's strong links to terrorism, they are not taking action because Pakistan owns nuclear weapons.
The Pakistani military establishment and people are complete maniacs and can destroy the whole world if they are pressurised, but it is critical to neutralise Pakistan which is only possible by Balkanising this unnaturally fundamentalist country.