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Oppressed Voices

Oppressed Voices

Ghazanfar Abbass is a senior journalist who has worked with Rohi TV and BBC Urdu Service. He has a long experience of working with local communities and takes a deeper interests in their issues. He will moderate this blog that would give Voice to the oppressed. We call them oppressed because they do not get as much coverage in the mainstream media as they deserve. Here we will discuss the economic impoverishment, political instability and the agendas that promote a sence of deprivation among Saraikis, Baloch, Pashtuns, Hazaras, Sindhis and the people of Gilgit and Baltistan. Each area has its own context but the over-riding arch seems to be about identity--they feel that they are not treated equally and are not given the respect and the right to decide their own affairs. We will try to find more common thread in their diverse range of deep-rooted deprivation. We shall devote this space here to have a dialogue on their long-time aspirations. You may disagree with many things published here please share your argument.  

Saraiki Identity-Centuries Journey

 

Yaqub Baloch

 

Saraikiis an ancient language having rich cultural heritage and literature. History is telling the world that Saraikilanguage is the flag bearer of indus valley civilisation and is spoken in the areas where Hakra river hadquenched the thirst of the land, Bias was the source of greenery, Sutluj and Ravi had produced gold, Love stories of Chenab emerged and up to now Sindh River isflourishing as source of life. This area is spread over Divisions of Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan and Sargodha, districts of Jhang, Okara and Sahiwal in Punjab,districts ofDeraIsmil Khan and Tonk in KPK, and in parts of the districts of Larkana, Sehwan, Nawabshah, and Karachi in Sindh Province. It is estimated that Saraiki is the mother tongue of over 60 million people in Pakistan.

It is the tale of centuries journey which Saraiki has to travel for her acceptance as a separate language literally and its speakers as a nation culturally, besides having rich vocabulary, idioms, idiomatic phrases, lullabies, folk stories, folk songs,folk literature, uniqueness, sweetness, versatile and lovely nature as a language, a large area of her speakers, totally separate culture and ancient heritage. Saraiki has beard the burnt of dominancy of Arabic during Arab invasions, Persian in Sultanate up to Mughals era as well as the gale of English literature and culture. After the creation of Pakistan, Saraikies accepted the dominancy of Urdu language in the name of patriotism. This patriotic wave in saraiki writers resulted in dominancy of Punjabi language. A time came when some Punjabi researchers declared saraiki as dialect of Punjabi which equals an adaje . Ironically another Punjabi thinker opined that Saraiki has originated from the word ‘’SARAE’’ (roadside accommodation place for travelers) and this is why it is called Saraiki. These overtures of Punjabi thinkers awoke the Saraiki writers from dream of patriotism and brotherhood. They researched day and night and wrote bundles of books proving separate identity of Saraiki as language. They have proved that Baluchki, Partake, Jagdali, Riasti, Bahawalpuri, Derewali, Multani, Western Punjabi, Lanhda, Uchi, Thallochi, and Shahpuri(Some researchers also includeHindko in this list) are different accents of Saraikilanguage being spoken in different areas. It has also been verified linguistically that Saraiki has come from the word Sauvira (Sauvira, a state name in Indus Valley Civilization, the meaning of Sau-virais the country of hundred brothers):Sauvira + Ki (an affix) = Sauviraiki. By dropping the consonant v and its surrounding vowels in Sauviraiki for the sake of simplification it became Saraiki. So Saraiki meaning becomes the language of the region which originally called Sauvirai.Now these are established facts that second elegy of the world and first of subcontinent was written in Multani accent of Saraiki in 7th Century, Noor Nama was written in Saraiki in 10th century,Multani was official Language of Soomra Dynasty of Multan in 14th century andMultaniwas mentioned in Aaeen-e-Akbari as separate in 16th century A.D.These efforts of Saraiki writers, thinkers and philosophers bear fruit and Saraikiwas declared as a separate language in 1981.

SaraikiWasaib has deep rooted vast culture with strong power of absorption. This is why all the invading cultures and languages eliminated with time and Saraiki culture re-emerged with vigor by absorbing the belligerentcultures.

On the other hand politically Saraikis are still struggling and being deprived of their identity as a separate entity within Pakistan. Historically Saraikies existed from time immemorial but the current consciousness has been shaped after the emergence of Pakistan and immigrants community influx.There is no SaraikiWasaib today, but that does not mean Saraikis never existed. Today we find some Saraiki areas incorporated in Punjab, while others are part of KPK, Baluchistan and Sindh. In pastSindhu and Sauvira were two states in the region of Indus ValleyCivilisation. The Sindhu now is called Sindh province and Sauvirathe land of Saraikistan is still to gain its identity. Later on these areas were part of one single administrative entity called Multan. Multan in history existed as an independent state, a province, a division and now as a district. It is one of the few living cities of the world which have their origin in pre-historic times. There are countless references about Multan in ancient and medieval history. In Medieval history Multan maintained the status of province in one way or the other. During the centuries which followed Multan kept on losing its territories and grip on far-flung areas.AbbasiKalhorasestablished independent State of Bahawalpur in 1802. In west and north-west Dera Ghazi Khan and Dera Ismail Khan came into existence and at times remained independent of influence from Multan. Finally, the Sikh Invasions of 1818 snatched identity of Saraikiwasaib from it and labeled the whole wasaib as Punjab. However it is interesting to note that Multan remained a separate province in MaharajaRanjeet Singh’s Punjab.The areas what now are called Pakistani Punjab and Indian Punjab were brought under Sikh rule. However Sikh rule proved to be short lived and after British takeover, the Sikh dominion became part of British Empire. This is the point where Multan’s separate identity as an administrative unit was merged with Punjab. Before British takeover, Punjab was an independent state and Multan was province. When Punjab became province of British empire, status of Multan was reduced to that of a division. Multan province was consisted of Multan, Jhang (Lyle pur as its tehsil) and Googera (spread uptoOkara) districts at the time of 1857 rebellion. British gave Lyle Pur to punjabies in the name of settlement.Central Punjab saw a massive mobilization of people at the time of the construction of canals under a scheme that the British started in 1886. A huge number of Punjabis from central Punjab were settled in the western parts of the Punjab province, mainly the present day Saraiki areas. When British felt danger from pathans and afghans, they reconciled with them by handing over Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar to them by forming a new province named NWFP in 1901.Later, the 1947 partition of India had a disharmonizing effect in the Saraiki region linguistically as the non-Saraiki speaking population replaced the Saraiki speaking population.The wasaibsagri-lands and city properties were awarded to migrants in lieu of their claims. Wasaib’s inhabitants beared all this in the name of patriotism.Even after the main migration of 1947, the internal migration of the people of Punjab to the Saraiki areas, which had already seen a large cultural and linguistic upheaval in the late 19th century, continued. In the 1950s, under the Thal irrigation scheme, hundreds of thousands of acres of barren land were allotted to Punjabi speaking migrants for cultivation. This too brought a feeling of deprivation among the Saraikis living in the districts of Muzaffargarh, Layyah and Bhakkar.As a result the migrants occupied most city areas of saraikiwasaib and got hold over all business activity.

On the other hand Pakistani politicians failed in managing the affairs of the newly created state and could not draft a constitution for quite a long time. They lacked political acumen, sagacity and foresightedness. They made the blunder of keeping over stretched Punjab intact, but also merged State of Bahawalpur in it.

In 1960s,Saraikies started efforts to revive their identity as a separate entity within Pakistan due to continuous deprivation from progress and prosperity, exploitation at the hands of ruling elite and refusal from accepting their very existence. One can see the government apathy for these areas from the fact that Indus river is running in between Thal and Daman areas and passes near Rohi area but these areas are still devoid of irrigation facilities while the waters of this river is being supplied to upper punjab 400 km to 600 km away from its flow area SaraikiWasaisb. On this apathy a poet writes:

Main tarissa

Maidi dharti tarissi

Tarissi Rohi jaee

Maikoon aakh naan panj daryaee

Independent studies show a wide gulf between the development of infrastructure between the Saraiki districts and the rest of the Punjab. After Multan, the most developed Saraiki district Rahim Yar Khan is rated in terms of infrastructure at number twenty-seven, which is even lower than the lowest developed district among non-Saraiki districts which comes at number twenty-one. Several comparative studies carried out by independent economists of the development of districts place most of the districts of the Saraiki speaking areas lower on the basis of development indicators than those of the Punjabi speaking areas of the upper Punjab.The same is the case with opportunities for technical and professional education: in seventeen Saraiki districts there are only four medical colleges as opposed to fifteen in the fifteen districts of upper Punjab. Although predominantly an agricultural region, there is no Agricultural and Engineering University in the Saraiki belt. Agricultural, Engineering, Information, Medical, Naval, Textile, Veterinary and Women's universities have all been set up in the upper Punjab-the non-Saraiki region This sense of deprivation continues even today which is expressed from time to time at different forums. A poet writes;

Assan konr kithoon de waasrri

Assan kaeen dharti da jam

Hoon kehri zaat sadeendrre

Te kiahai saada naan

Koi naan nahin chhukdano krain

Naan banhnia chhak di zaat

Assan bewaaris, assan autray

Naan saadi koi auqat

Saraiki nationalists jokingly call Lahore, the capital of Punjab, laahore a Punjabi phrase which means bring more'. The tale of loot reached its peak in current times when whole of the Wasaib saw disastrous floods from 2010 to 2012 and Punjabi government was spending hundreds of billion rupees on metropolitan bus and lahore ring road schemes save to rehabilitate the dieing flood drowned Saraikis. This sense of injustice and deprivation led the Saraikisfor revival ofSaraiki language as the most powerful symbol to assert their separate identity, the basic reason was deprivation either economic or lack of identity'. The radical intellectuals wrote poems showing hatred to punjabimonopoly such as:

Bhalajaedhartidharam di

Hayroondineerhazar

eindaymunhte pair punjab de

eindikandtechabhakchahkde

eendi rag ragsausau cheer

Saademunhtejandrejabr de

Saade hath karianvich band

Assanqaiditakhtlahore de

Assanqaiditakhtlahore de

In the beginning it was only a literary movement for linguistic rights. Later on it turned into a Saraiki Province Movement due to above mentioned reasons. First notion of Saraiki deprivation can be traced back to 1963 when SajjadQureshi spoke in national assembly and voiced concerns about the marginalisation of wasaib. The saraiki nationalist movement echoed time and again in 1960s and 70s. After the Zia’s takeover in 1977 it disappeared for some time. It reemerged after his death with clear cut goal to have Saraikistan Province as reality on the map of Pakistan.The services of Late Taj Muhammad Langah and AashiqBuzdar are worth mentioning here for Saraiki cause. The Saraiki Province Movement gained momentum in last era of PPPP led government from 2008-13, when PPP helped in passing resolutions in the favor of a Saraiki Province with name Bahawalpur JanubiPanjab. PML (n) government in punjabthwarted the adventure of PPP led federal government by passing a resolution in Punjab Assembly by favoring creation of two provinces in Wasaib area. This juncture of PML(N) was taken by Saraiki intelligentsia as:

Pehletu sab shareefthayhamighareebkay

Abtuijazulhaqbhisaf-e- dostaan main hai

Yarabbachana ham kopunjabikaypyar se

Rakhisskobadgumaanjokissikhushgumaan main hay

After the defeat of PPP in election 2013 it is taken for granted that Saraiki Province Movement is over. Saraikis arranged a successful conference in Multan in June 2013 in which they re-iterated their demand for province, and YousafRazaGillani’s participation was a peculiar thing. Later on PPP announced the creation of its Saraikiwasaib wing, changing from Janubi Punjab, in line with demand of conference.

Today all smaller provinces seem fed up with the politics of this big brother ‘’Punjab’’. Which in fact is not big, it derives its powers from Saraiki land and people included in it. If we listen to history and act according to what it tells us, we can get rid of lot of ominous political tensions, which are eroding very basis of federation of Pakistan.

SaraikiWasaib can act as a link between all the provinces and will be a source of Strong prosperous Pakistan. Saraiki language is and will become a link language of all provinces. The drama of creation of two provinces by PML(n) has also been exposed as a conspiracy.Historically, Bahawalpur was a part of SaraikiWasaib. Its independent history is not too old compared to its lifespan in the Saraiki region. So only a unified Saraikistan looks a viable solution to make amends for the deprived SaraikiWasaib.

The propaganda for the creation of provinces on administrative base is also a gimmik to divert attention from the real issue of identity. Only to mention in Pakistan we have to bow down before Pakhtuns in changing their province name to KPK in place of colonial legacy NWFP after 65 years of independence. Also the acceptance of Saraiki identity will ease the administrative problems.

The aurora that creation of Saraiki province will lead to ethnic divide in Pakistan is another baseless drama just to maintain Punjabi exploitation and monaply. SaraikiWasaib has its own land, rich language and culture, resources and historical background which no other entity in Pakistan possesses. In addition SaraikiWasaib is being exploited at the hands of ruling elite. Saraikis are demanding province within pakistan peacefully which is constitutional as well as moral. Their demand is not suppressing any otherentity, also they are not usurping anyother entity’s land or resources. These facts make the Saraiki province a genuine demand, unique movement different and strong from others refuting the above conspiracy.


Saraikis are in control of Punjabis and reading history written either by Punjabis or by the people who don’t belong to this area. Sarakis are told that they always were part of Punjab and Saraiki is just a dialect of Punjabi or the language of Sarae. It, in fact, is a political wickedness; by doing so Punjabi ruling elite are usurpingour economic and political rights. They want to deprive Sarakis of their history and identity, because only in this way they will be able to maintain their unholy dominance on Sarakis. Because who controls the past, controls the future.

 

But it looks that the scenario is changing and this drama is not going to work anymore. Saraikiintelligentsia, political activists, civil society and especially literate youth has woke up for achievement of their goal. Only missing thing is the genuine leader, once they get the leader, they will be behind him and Punjabi monopoly will end in no time like ashes in air. One young man writes:

 

Maiday hath ich qalm, mayday zahn ich sojhla

Kia hunr v eda baghinsiawazmaidytaqattaylalach da bhala

Maikoonapreenqaum de soch, taikoonaprainraajkhasejanr da gham

Taidasijhlanhdapae, maidasijhhaehunrcharanraala

 

Why not Seraikistan ??

Shakeel Haider

“The province is a constitutional and legislative entity. It also represents, or is supposed to, the cultural, racial and linguistic homogeneity of the inhabitants in the context of a historical background. Systems or institutions to administer the province can be evolved to suit the convenience of the people by dividing the territory, howsoever sprawling or densely populated, without mutilating its unifying characteristics.” Unknown.

The present and colonial history of Punjab revolves around Lahore and Northern Punjab but Past says something else as Multan, Bahawalpur and Uchsharif were the cultural, economic and political power centres in different spans of history. Similarly, rural south Punjab is always neglected with a clear example of construction of two Barrages,Taunsa and Chashma which physically displaced the local from their ancestral lands.
The issue ofSeraikistan province is concerned with the federation, the demand for a province is being made with in geographical expanse of present country. The people of Saraiki areas are not demanding to conquer a new land and make it a province or part of present federation. It’s a fact that formation of new province will automatically increase or reform seats in National assembly as well as Senate of Pakistan but this is neither a sign of weakness for federation at all.

As far as Bahawalpur State or province is concerned this demand has little popular support and is being advocated or projected by a few political stalwarts of the area just dreaming to reach high political office in the proposed Bahawalpur province. Another fact which is also been politicised that Saraiki speaking areas of DeraIsmaeel Khan and Tank are part of KPK but people of the area want to join Saraikisitan on the basis of same distinctive Saraiki  language, history and culture. Lord Curzon, the viceroy of British India, separated Mianwali district from Bannu and joined in Punjab but detached DeraIsmaeel Khan and Tank from Punjab and attached with the then NWFP province.

. The demand of Sarakistan is vital according to me on the basis of socio-economic facts.Saraiki speaking population is dispersed over 23 districts in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkha.Saraiki areas comprise of 48.5 per cent of the total area and 31.57 per cent of the population of the present province of Punjab. It’s a fact that the funds allocation through Annual development program remained below 20 % as compared to the present population of the area. Stilla deniable fact that 43.11 % population of the area live below poverty level. WhileNorth and central Punjab has the poverty level at 27.5%.Saraiki areas or I will call it Wasaib has an agro based economy and is lagging far  behind in industrial infrastructure and set up then Central Punjab.

The youngsters of the “SeraikiWasaib” are disappointed, disturbed and confused. They cannot understand why all these untoward things are happening with them. They want to know who is to blame. Not them. No longer are there excuses with the old political masters saying that the reason why we are in this state is because we were under colonial rule for 250 years. They turn around and say that the British left us almost 65 years ago. They point to Lahore and other urban areas of Northern Punjab. They are saying; Look at the progress those areas have made. Saraikis want an answer!

The present ruling party in Punjab and Centre, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz group which was in opposition in federation in last assembly but was ruling in Punjab as it is ruling now. Its high time to refresh the resolution passed by previous Punjab assembly in which idea of two saraiki provinces was passed and made this resolution a reality. Though statement of MianShehbazshareef is pinching for me in which he said “issue of Saraikistan is dead after 2013 elections”. Its zenith of MrShehbazshareef rule and its possible that he get advice from his party stalwarts to burry Saraikistan issue .The very issue which he himself and his party found a reality and passed the resolutions in this regard. But the present ruling party in Punjab and centre should not forget that in Pakistan election mechanism is never based on developmental projects and propaganda campaigns.

Constitution of Pakistan never stops to make new provinces; there isn’t any constitution restriction to make a new province. The provincial assembly of Punjab has already passed resolution in favor of making of Saraiki province be there would be two provinces. Go ahead and do what u had promised with the people of Saraiki area. A political consensus on the part of all political parties is already there to make this task easier. The will of the people cannot be postponed or put to future as some scratches turn into scars and some scars are for life time.

.

·         

 

Endangered Civilization of Indus Valley

Seraikis one of the oldest established nations in the world with their language and culture, are inheritance of Indus Valley civilization the earliest one in the world. The “ Rig-Veda” which were written on the banks of Indus, designate intellects of seraikis too. River Indus flows quietly through seraiki lands, enriching them with fertility and cash crops. Obviously seraikis and the river Indus were mad for each other. The remarkable fortune made seraikis sane, trustworthy and humane. With vast area and big population they were essentially expected to lead multi-civilization sub continent of Asia.

Because of Indus valeey civilization, India was pronounced as “Golden Sparrow” which attracted fortune seekers of the world towards India, and so British traders came in and piled treasure cunningly here. They published bible in local languages and the one in seraiki language was on the top recognizing the civilization of Indus, however every advantage to the invaders was coupled with shortfall to Indus valley civilization. Another clear acknowledgement was from American president Bill Clinton’s short visit to Pakistan few years back. In his address to Pakistanis he told that he had come to visit the inherent of great Indus valley civilization. Due to identified reasons the speech of President Clinton was not propagated or properly interpreted.

Again it is most unfortunate on the part of Seraikis that even in the 21st century they are facing worst kind of slavery to date.

Since the great game, a matter of life and death for capitalist super powers lead to the creation of Pakistan. Punjabis played vital role for communal divide and became the darling child as being part of British army and were bestowed over the control of Pakistan by their British fathers after their departure. Instantly they took over Seraiki land and people as masters, right under the nose of super powers.

With partition of India the miseries of Indus Valley civilization were enhanced many folds. USA and UK had to single out the civilization falling in Pakistan due to their political motives, but successors Punjab plus army were more loyal to the king then the king.  They were confident that Pakistan was handed over to them for elimination of Indus Valley civilization. The job is being done well and the connivance of super powers still prevails.

Anti-Punjabi sentiment was hatched in Seraikis due to century’s old divide between Indus Valley Civilization and usurper militants. They were unaware of conspiracy of Americans and Punjabis rather they were stuck to their ancient civilization confronting the Punjabi-American move. Continuous anti Seraiki steps are growing to the point of extremism.

Thinkers in pursuit of peaceful world and its ancient heritage must ponder.

Abdul Majeed Kanju

Seraiki National Party

 

Ockham's razor on Saraiki province

Ockham's razor on Saraiki province

 

  HaroonRasheedBaloch

Haroon Rashid

PPP government completed its five years term in office this year. Its constitutional bill tabled and passed in both houses of National Parliament to carve out a new Saraiki province out of Punjab at last came to a dead end. The PPP government had earlier formed a parliamentary commission, in pursuance of a reference sent to the speaker by President Zardari.The commission under the chairmanship of Senator Farhatullah Babar prepared the draft of the constitutional amendment bill. The well-intended move of PPP government to form a separate province for Saraiki people met with stiff opposition from PML N which passed a resolution in Punjab assembly rejecting the parliamentary commission. Support of PML N dominated Punjab government was vital according to Article239 of the Constitution which prescribes the procedure for the creation of new provinces. The article says that a bill to amend the Constitution, which would have the effect of altering the limits of a province, shall not be presented to the president for assent unless it has been passed by the provincial assembly concerned by the votes of not less than two-thirds of its total membership. Necessary support of Punjab assembly wasn’t forthcoming and effortsof the PPP government were further constrained by the fact that it didn’t have two-thirds majority in National Parliament to pass this amendment.

The cause of Saraiki province has now received another fatal blow. PML N is to be solely held responsible for successfully foiling and thwarting PPP government’s last ditch effort for the creation of Saraiki province. The issue wouldn’t be taken up at all if PML N forms the next government at the center. All is lost but at least some insight gained, some access gained into the minds of those who took up the hardest stand against the formation of Saraiki province.

 

An intriguing question remained throughout as to why all hell broke loose when the issue of Saraiki province was first raised in the parliament by the PPP government? Why much ink was spilled in print media, hours of talk time consumed on prime time TV screens by so called experts, spin doctors, anchorpersons, and politicians putting in use carefully crafted nuanced arguments against the creation of separate geographical unit within Pakistan?

 

Ockham's razor is a principle that states that in philosophy and science assumptions introduced to explain a thing must not be multiplied beyond necessity, and hence the simplest of several hypotheses is always the best in accounting for unexplained facts. When Ockham’s razor is applied to give simplest explanation for the totalhostility which the idea ofdivision of Punjab met then it offers one simple explanation: the opponents of Saraiki province don’t want to see geographical size of Punjab province dwindledand their hostility towards Saraiki province is driven by their   emotional attachment and patriotic love for the Punjab province, kind of feelings whichone usuallyhas for one’s own country.This is the simplestexplanation, rest of reasons cited by the opponents of Saraiki province are mere hogwash.

 

                   As a matter of fact the province of Punjab has a dark side to it. It is controlled by itsinvisible custodian class, its Punjabi speaking politicians, its bureaucracyboth civilian and military, and its intelligentsia.This class would see the boundaries of its fiefdom, the province of Punjab expanded rather than shrunk.Creation of a province of Saraiki by carving out Punjab simply goes against the grains of this custodian priestly class. The outcry, sense of outrage, and backlash at the mere mention of Saraiki province needs to be seen in this perspective.  Hence to outmaneuver and outwit those who espouse the cause of Saraiki province   the custodians  of Punjab line up in close formation to stifle any voice , to block any move for the formation of a province for Saraikis. This class hiding its real nationalistic fervor for Punjab province expresses its displeasure and disdain towards the idea of its division by citing various misleading arguments.

                       One such argument contends this will create a province on the basis of language, implying as if other provinces are not language and culture based, in fact they are. Balochistan takes its name from Baloch people, a specific language group; Sindh though name of a river crisscrossing whole Pakistan has come to be associated with a specific people who speak Sindhi language. Punjab, a word meaning land of five rivers is home to a specific language group which calls itself Punjabi. This is time tested truth, or else PML N wouldn’t have raised the slogan “Jag Punjabi Jag”. Khyber PakhtoonKhwa is home to Pashtoons. We don’t deny that there are other sizeable minority language groups in all four provinces of Pakistan but every single province contains biggest number of language group after which the province takes its name.

Another argument put forward in opposition to Saraiki province runs like this: Pakistan is already beset by many problems, why amidst the storm of mounting problems take another step that further divides Pakistan? Argument is clumsy, shallow and easy to be dismissed. A country like Pakistan is facing numerous challenges. These need to be tackled simultaneously; policy of sweeping some problems under the carpet and minimizing their magnitude isn’t a wise one. The smaller linguistic groups harbor a sense of grievance against Punjab because of its   sheer size, its unbridled powerand paramountinfluence in country’s affairs.Their skepticism didn’t originate out of thin air, it was based on some tangle facts and realities andsoonthey began accusing Punjab for being the leading cause of their backwardness and deprivation. Nothing but ill will and malevolence towards Bengalis would have justified the principal of Parity between East and West Pakistan before 1971 when the former comprised 55% of Pakistan’s population. Punjab’s dominance cost Pakistan the huge price of seeing it dismembered in 1971.

 

                             Another objection raised against the Saraiki province is that this province with all the apparatus of separate province will be a drain on the country already dwindling resources. It is questioned how the creation of a separate province would benefit a poor Saraiki? The clear cut answer isthat it would give them identity; it was after all the pursuit of identity distinct from Hindus which underpinned the struggle for the creation of Pakistan. Some of the readers might object that struggle of Pakistan and that for a Saraiki province are not one and same thing, but let us not forget Pakistan is a multi-ethnic-lingual state where after decades of gross injustice perpetrated against powerless language groups and smaller provinces Islam lost its potential to actas the only force binding all diverse people together.

 

The most lethal argument in the arsenal of the opponents of Saraiki province is based on the denial of Saraiki as a separate language. Now the question is why on earth a group of people should be denying another language the status of a language? There might be some purpose, aim or motive behind the move. As we dig deeply and look more closely, the motive for declaring Saraiki as a dialect of Punjabi emerges as a sinister and evil one. If Saraiki is striped of the status of a distinct language, then logically the demand of separate province on the basis of distinct language and ethnicity will also go down the drain.

 Creation of Saraiki province is also objected on the grounds that if Punjab is to be divided for the creation of separate province than same should take place in other provinces. Such an argument ignores the fact that it is not smaller provinces but the Punjab which committed the original sin, its predominance resulted in fraying of national fabric, it was the sole reason why East Pakistan parted ways in 1971and separatist movements like those for Sindudesh, Pashtoonistan, and Free Balochistansprang up in Pakistan

                            The real fact is that reasons cited against Saraiki province are mere smoke screens, easily to be dismissed and brushed aside with logic and reason. Behind the determined and vociferous opposition to the idea of partitioning of Punjab lurks a mindset, a thinking pattern which wants to keep Punjab predominant in country’s affairs. Out of its emotional love for the province of Punjab, this mindset overrides its attachment for larger Pakistan, and undermines Pakistan as federation   which is supposed to be an equal home of all who lived in it, irrespective of their language or ethnic background.

Why the priestly custodian class guarding the interests of Punjab doesn’t give the whole matter a calm consideration?  Why it reacts in such hysteric manner when the idea of a Saraiki province is floated at national level? As things stand now, for it the notion of the division of Punjab is nothing short of a treason and blasphemy against Punjab, the land of five rivers. Instead of considering their province as a mere geographical expression and administrative region of Pakistan, Punjabi intelligentsia thinks that provincial lines of Punjab are set in stone, never to be revised, never to be altered. Yes the boundary lines of Punjab could be extended like that of a nation state as these were enlarged over time after merger of Mianwali district and Bahalpoor state into Punjab proper. Hence to block any move for Saraiki province, the invisible guardians of Punjab   through stealth and secrecy hatch up plans to put an end to very basis on which Saraiki province could be founded. The educational syllabus mentions Saraiki as dialect of Punjabi, Saraikis who are perhaps the biggest linguistic unit of Pakistan, in national censes are relegated to the top down linguistic groups. Rich Saraiki land is allotted to retired mostly Punjabi generals. Punjabis are settling in droves to the Saraiki region, putting Saraiki language in grave risk by diluting it with Punjabi words. Saraiki language, nowadays in places like Mianwali is spoken with distinct Punjabi accent. Punjabi settlers gaining prominent position among the Saraikis get elected to the national and provincial assembly seats. The settlers set them aside as superior caste treating native Saraikis as Spaniards treated the Indians of the New World.

Saraikis eventually will not be able to withstand the pressure of Punjabi settlers and their language will at last be dispossessed of all the distinctive marks of a separate language. Saraikis would lose the  raison d'être  of being a separate nationality.  This will be a dream coming true for those for whom the whole idea of Saraiki as a separate language and Saraikis as distinct linguistic group is an anathema

                     Saraikis themselves live in utter ignorance of these gathering storms and conspiracies plotted them. Unknowingly they await a grim destiny and a bleak future; they are likely to trudge wearily till a time when their whole existence as a separate linguistic group will be put in serious jeopardy. Instead of  considering themselves as a collective group with a shared language, culture and claim to a piece of land they are split on numerous lines. Except for their small hardcore nationalist, Saraikis are quite ignorant fellows on the questions of nationalism. They abhor Saraiki nationalism; they should be more appropriately categorized as self-hating Saraikis, for whom Saraiki identity is a badge of shame and a proof of their village roots.  Pride at Saraiki language, self-esteem and self-honor in their collective psyche is conspicuous by absence. The kind of Pashtoon chivalry and tradition of fighting with the invaders has never remained part of their folklore. All this makes the recipe of a kind of slave mentality which doesn’t arouse struggle for one’s rights or the impulse of putting up a stiff resistance against the oppressor. It only results in a stoic resignation even in the face of gross injustices.

Consequently Saraikis suffer from an acute sense of inferiority. In public sphere it manifests itself in hiding their identity as Saraikis, in forcing their children to speak languages other than Saraiki, i.e. languages of the powerful and most importantly in blending with those who inwardly harbor hostile intentions towards them as a distinct linguistic group.

This attitude of self-loathing as Saraikis poses a serious obstacle in the evolution of a distinct Saraiki nationalistic ideology. For Saraiki province to take shape it is highly necessary that Saraikis cultivate a sense of being wronged and then should strive to reverse the tide of forces arrayed against them. 

                  This author doesn’t envisage a Pakistan in which its people driven by their murderous high pitched hatred and hostility continue feuding each other all time. Far from it we should see a Pakistan where its citizens in a spirit of fraternity and brotherhood live in peaceful coexistence. But the fear is that province of Punjab undivided with its predominance in country’s affairs will further unleash the forces detrimental to the very same idea of a united Pakistan. Now Baluchistan province is in the throes of a low level insurgency and hatred against The Big Brother is all time high there.

                We have been on the wrong side of history for so long. Now we stand in dire need to correct ourselves for our continuity and perpetuity as a sovereign nation in future.  It is the time to atone for this original sin: this hegemonic Punjab, this Juggernaut,this Leviathan, this sin perpetuated against other ethnicities, linguistic and racial groups of Pakistan. We await a justice, atonement this time in which instead of innocent the guilty one is sacrificed. Punjab needs to be divided to create a Saraiki province for the future survival of Pakistan; this is the only penance for this great wrong. If this doesn’t happen then definitely the land of Pakistan will not be at peace , anarchy will descend and the dream of a united Pakistan will yet again turn sour.

 

Khalid Niazi Mysticism and the Seraiki national question

Mysticism and the Seraiki national question

Khalid Niazi

For centuries now, the Seraiki belt has been home to different religious, ethnic and sectarian groups, who have lived alongside each other in harmony. This was perhaps because of the influence of the poets and saints of this area who coloured the ethos of the place - Muslim mystics who taught the sense of oneness of all people and living creatures, a message of peace and harmony. 
Muslim mysticism traces its history back to centuries-old tenets of Islamic thought, philosophers such as Hazrat Bayazid Bastami, Junaid Baghdadi, Ibnul Arabi and others. In the Indian subcontinent, different currents of mysticism merged with the living philosophy of Islamic mysticism. Muslim Sufi saints from Central Asia, Iran and the Arabian Peninsula had made their pilgrimage to the subcontinent, some of them settling along the winding river Indus with its trickling streams.
They lived in harmony with other faiths, learning much from the mystical traditions of the Buddhists, the Jain, and from Hindu masters who came before them, and blending and evolving ideas into a homogenous culture of mutual love and co-existence. The earlier faiths that relied heavily on respect and love of nature were supplemented by these new currents of spirituality. The mystics then gave shape to a new way of being where all were one and one was all, and anyone could adhere to any faith, following any custom or ritual. 
A living example of what these ancient philosophers, saints and poets achieved is visible in the shrines or mausoleums, locally known as khanqahs or peer khanas that stand alongside Jain or Hindu temples. There are many such khanqahs in the Seraiki region, giving the place a different sensibility, signifying religious harmony.
Muslim mysticism acknowledged the rights of other sects and faiths to flourish alongside each other and there was no concept of conversions. The Khanqahi nizam still encourages people to choose the path of gentleness and peace, open to the many ways of loving God. There are several shrines belonging to different venerated men of learning.  One of them, the shrine of Hazrat Shah Eisan is located next to a Hindu temple of Thalla Kevil Ram at Balot Sharif and the grand mausoleum of Hazrat Bahauddin Zakria stands next to Purbaland Mandar, an ancient Hindu temple. 
It is not only people of different faiths but those of different sects who visit these shrines with much reverence and love. Both Sunni and Shia come to pay tributes to their spiritual healers and there is no sect-based distinction or bias towards anyone.
Such harmonious living may also be attributed to the fact that there was no private landownership in the area till the time the British colonised the Punjab. People worked the lands collectively on agricultural land that was naturally irrigated by the Indus and by primitive hydraulic construction. The alluvial deposit of the river was the main source of fertilising the land. The canals colonies came much later, introduced by the British. But the people, by and large, maintained their quiet demeanour and ability to live with difference whether faith based or linguistic and ethnic. Strife was not common to the people of this area till very recently.
To this day, the Khanqahi nizam is the main source of social groupings comprising opposing communities who may stand against each other at the time of election in the country. The caretakers of the shrines are always present for dispute resolution in small domestic matters, including grave violations like adultery, and to resolve problems of moral ambiguity. The results are seldom punitive and mostly aimed at restoring harmony to a social group. Even criminal cases are resolved in this manner before the matter escalates and is taken to the courts in the cities. 
It may be claimed that Seraiki constitutes a different cultural ethos, one that is built on the harmony taught since ancient times by wise men of learning and culture who promoted good will, patience and mutual understanding so that people did not find enemies in each other but worked with nature for the good of all. Such a culture has made it possible for different ethnicities to live together and yet call themselves Seraiki – people from different parts of Punjab, Sindhi, Pashtun, Urdu-speaking, Baloch and, of course, the indigenous population.
They share a common temperament and a distinctive culture which separates them from people inhabiting other parts of Pakistan while uniting them as one with each other where they live. The ethos of peaceful co-existence is the governing principle of the Seraiki people who ask to be recognised as a separate political entity on the grounds of a different cultural and political history, not merely as an administrative entity, the fifth federating unit of Pakistan.

The writer is a freelancer

Dance of deception

Dance of deception

Jan Sher

With respect, my friend, the author of an analysis ‘Digerian are not welcome’, needs to pay attention to the ground realities. Being a member of the Seraiki people, I find it really hard to accept this highly stylised yet subtly vicious concept of inflicting shame towards a set of community on geographical or ethnic grounds.
Anyone, who is not naïve enough to start thinking in a classical arrogance-laden pseudo British style, will clearly understand that all the inhabitants of this belt, regardless of the difference of dialects, clearly and historically are free from the stated behaviour of segregating any group from themselves and totally disagree with the concept of superiority or inferiority on these grounds.
I would like to know the source of this idea of ‘Ryasti vs Digerian’. Being a Seraiki, it was a shock for me until I realised that this was nothing more than a strike from the media wing of avaricious political parties eyeing gaining power by manipulating the emotions of innocent people.
Divide and rule has always remained a favourite tool of the kings and they are not reluctant using it in the Seraiki region once again, thanks to the greed of some of our fellows.
We need to be very focused on our targets lest we fall to the solutions that do not serve anyone but the politicians. All the Seraikis’ stand united during current tough times. The political parties’ representatives, whether they are Khosas or the so-called PPP leaders, have just their own intoxicating political interests, which is to achieve power in south Punjab and they are driven by their own desires. Unfortunately, they are fighting for their own agenda instead of the people’s betterment.
The question is if the people of Seraiki belt need to have their own identity, then why the mercenary politicians and malevolent bureaucrats are not accepting this reality. If the Pakhtuns, Balochs and Punjabis can have their own identity, then why the Seraikis cannot inspire for the same?
One thing in this scenario is clear that these hedonist political leaders are just playing politics on the Seraiki province issue. When the crafty representatives of PML-N and PPP give their statements on the matter, I think they are doing so only on the directives of their respective parties’ chiefs.
People from south Punjab belt do not want pandemonium, as altruistic minded populace of the region are only begging for their right. The Seraiki belt is also rich having fertile land and rich in minerals. Hence, there is no doubt that it provides a substantial chunk of the GDP. The ‘Takht e Lahore’ and the federal capital have to be meticulous on this issue instead of giving i cursory look.
No more manipulation gentleman, as people are no more a simple commodity.

Why not globalisation?

Culture is not something static. In case it is, then all the forms narcissists, like Taliban, are justified in pressing their case.

Raja arsalan khan

Pakistan is a country where people are still unable to decide whether to live in the past or be a part of the time and space the world is in. And a ‘holy invisible’ alliance between the ‘progressives’, foreign-funded NGOs and right-wing against globalisation is complicating the affairs, as the critics in Pakistan forget that our basic problem is the feudal and tribal mindset and repressive structures and not the processes like globalisation that can be the best available engine for a real change.
As narcissists and their militant manifestations – al Qaeda and Taliban – arguing their case on the basis of protecting the ‘sacred life style’ and resisting the influence of Western adulteration, the progressive circles have always denounced the any change in means of production and portrayed the West as an evil. My simple question is: Is culture a static thing? Do they really believe in human rights and individual freedom, as suggested by their sermons? If yes, how can the present social relations absorb such ‘alien concepts’?
Like any developed western country, people eating and wearing something branded, McDonald and Levi’s, are no more a surprise in Pakistan. Comprehensive nature of globalisation can be gauged by the fact that the jihadi leaders roaming around the FATA region are also using the satellite phones to contact satellite TV channels to go global.
This has changed the equation between state and society, state and individual as well as individual and society, where society is transforming (swiftness depends upon many variables) in such a way where a citizen is not supposedly affiliated to his motherland and society as a whole.
This scenario generated a debate around the world about the future of indigenous cultures, as the globalisation, a process, is affecting each and every inhabitant on the earth.
The relationship between globalisation and culture is complex and multi-dimensional because of the very nature of globalisation. It is simultaneously economic, social and political where so many factors and characters are involved. In our country, there are many who fear the Western cultural imperialism and Indian influence along with monoculture.
As globalisation is cutting across the territorial boundaries tearing apart the traditional relations erected to sustain the given economic, social and political structures during the course of a long and eventful human history, any individual or community cannot stand aloof to the changes occurring around. It is all-inclusive, working at different tiers demanding diminution or elimination of state-enforced restrictions on exchanges across the borders responsible for an increasingly integrated and complex global system of production and exchange. Some perceive it as a flattening of the globe while others describes it as a neo-liberal form of economic globalisation for the benefit of corporate sector and MNCs with very little interest of individual or people at large.
Given the magnitude along with the horizontal and vertical penetration that the process is making, it is very difficult for any culture to remain in its puritan form. Culture being an all-encompassing phenomenon originates, develops and sustains habits, attitudes and beliefs of a group of people that define their general behaviour and way of life.
Culture is not something static but an accumulation of socially accepted norms and traditions ritualised during an evolutionary process. It depends upon means of production and relations of production. As such, the main thrusts behind globalisation are the banking sector, media and information technology.
In the past, different cultures were able to survive at a time because there was very little and limited interaction between the societies while they were self-sufficient. It is impossible to imagine that any culture with all its traits could remain stagnant.
One can easily say that no single group or community in the human history has ever decided in favour of accepting nomadic life instead of civic one demonstrating an inherent urge to live according to a more developed lifestyle.
History shows that only those civilisations and cultures can prolong survival, which are adaptive according to demands and are responsive to those ‘external invasions’. For example, Urdu is a product of different languages and still expanding but it is not competitive enough in comparison with English.
Some years back, UNESCO declared 2500 languages as endangered, a third of the total languages being spoken around the world. The list also includes 27 from Pakistan such as Balti, Brahvi and others. Interestingly, almost all these languages or dialects are or were spoken in remote, far-flung areas. Again the simple question is: why so many languages had emerged or developed over the thousands of years? I try to give an answer in the second part of this article.

 

Every culture must adapt to changing times. People adhering to it religiously are condemned to live in the past

Raja arsalan khan

In the previous part of this write-up, I had posed a question: why so many languages had emerged or developed over the thousands of years?
The answer is simple. These communities were separated due to lack of means of communication and survived more or less independently. At the same time, other features of cultures were not so much different because of the common environment and natural topographic factors. Given the changing needs accompanied by more and more interaction with outer world, these underdeveloped languages having limited vocabulary were unable to survive the hostile and unfavourable conditions caused by economic and social advancement. Hence, these people willingly or unwillingly, intentionally or intentionally started choosing words and expressions from other languages that intruded their lives. And in the end, the mother tongues were useless to them.
It is impossible to think saving 6,000 languages and dialects that are feared to become extinct before the end of present century. The attempt would imply to ensure that these people remain the same; that these groups or communities should relinquish their right to enjoy the benefits of present-day development; accepting exploitation as rule by giving licence to those who have resources to use them according to their wishes and without competition; legitimising and regularising caste and tribal systems that are existing even today.
Naturally, in the relationship between a developed and an underdeveloped or primitive culture, it is the former which dominates. In ‘good old days’, when a powerful nation overwhelmed others the local cultures were either eliminated or were injected with the dominate values and customs. But, in case of conquering nomadic tribes or nations it was vice versa. These conquerors were to become part of culture(s) followed by the settlers but did introduce some refinements, like language and some customs. Thus, any developed culture or civilisation can only be replaced by a modern and egalitarian one. This is the reason why the Western culture is more dominant and flourishing day-by-day while consuming others.
But in Pakistan, the ‘powerful circles’ are portraying the ‘passive forces’ like the Taliban as heroes and do not hesitate to depict persons criticising Taliban as infidels because they are a collection of all the forces who hate the very terms things like social mobility and social change, while many of them want to practice the past in the 21st century.
For a better understanding of western cultural dominance, one must remember the fact that only those cultures tend to reach the status of civilisation that produce and uses most developed forms of technology during their respective eras. This provides them an opportunity to merge or consume lesser cultures. Hence, Babylon was destroyed but influences of Iranian, Egyptian, Chinese and Roman civilisations are still felt around the world. 
Again, it was the non-availability of communication facilities that made it possible for these civilisations to survive at the same time. In fact, these were immune from external interferences because of weak neighbours, which is impossible now.
The economic, political and cultural aspects of globalisation are interrelated; therefore one must study the concepts of mono- culture and civil society together. Present development has created a class around the globe enjoying access to modern amenities and resources for utilisation, although the right phrase would be for exploitation. 
It is responsible for a digital divide not only among the states but also between different segments of a society. Traditionally speaking, it was the elite classes, which were at good terms with western or ex-colonial powers. But the globalisation has the remaining lot, especially in urban centres.
Diverse cultures may seem romantic to those who want entertainment. But leisure at the cost of poor humans is something that needs to be avoided. Globalisation introduced information and knowledge along with better living standards and ideals like democracy and human rights. The basic problem is how to eliminate or minimise the digital divide by removing all those barriers that help in exploitation.
Just to repeat and sum up my argument, the problem with insisting on preserving any culture in a puritan form is that it restricts an individuals and a people’s ability to learn 
and adapt to the emerging challenges. As it keeps the people out of 
the mainstream economic activity because of multiple factors, the net result is that the social structures 
and norms become the main source of repression, where rebellion is considered a ‘blasphemy’ even by 
the exploited.
For me the worst effect is an inward society and narcissism that creates a limited personal, societal and world view. And we can’t afford so.
Globalisation may have bad contents but it has many positives too. It is an evolutionary process and so are the cultures. Let the time decide who fits into the future.
By the way, do the critics have any option, other than globalisation, to bring a meaningful change in social relations, individual mindset and collective behaviour? Isn’t the globalisation the best choice to get rid of outmoded means of production? Redundant and devastating ideologies like pan-Islamism and socialism can never resolve people’s real issues.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @RajaArsalanKhan

 

 

Shakeel Baloch-Changing Balochistan

Shakeel Baloch

The government led by Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani was a crippled, insensitive one that could not deliver anything to the people. Billions of rupees piped in from Islamabad were embezzled instead of being channeled into the much-needed development of the province. Instead of improving the standard of living of the poor, it made the ministers multi-millionaires. There was some relief when the Raisani government was dismissed and with the imposition of Governor’s Rule on 14 January 2013, it was hoped that some constitutional obligations may be met.
But will these criminal elements – the mullahs, sardars, and smugglers – return to power in the forthcoming general elections? There is general apprehension that this may be the case ever since the JUI-F began protests against Governor’s Rule for the restoration of the dismissed chief minister and it seemed like the federal government was beginning to listen to their noise. 
If these pressure tactics succeed and the federal government decides to restore the provincial assembly, then it seems obvious that the parties of the erstwhile coalition government will split with mutual consent into two. Two of them will be in the opposition while the rest will form the government with the consensus of the leader of the house and leader of the opposition. A care-taker chief minister of their choice will then be nominated to form a care-taker government of their choice. Elections in the province will then be engineered to bring back the old guards and there will be no change in the status quo. This is a bleak prospect indeed for the people of the province.
The long history of neglect and discrimination of the province and military operations time and again have made the province the most sensitive area of Pakistan today. According to the Islamabad-based policy research institute Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Balochistan has the poorest per capita income with 52 per cent people living below the poverty line.
The province has a small population, with the biggest land mass that is rich in mineral and in oil and gas resources. Its 770-kilometre coastline also provides it with an ideal trade route leading to the Middle East and to Europe which makes it of strategic importance too. It is difficult to understand then why there has been systematic neglect of its people.
The extent of exploitation and neglect of this province can be evinced from the fact that, in 1952, when natural gas was explored in Sui, the rest of the country was provided with natural gas but the people of Quetta had to wait till 1984 to get this facilioty. And this too came with the help of Kuwait who funded the project. The capital of the largest province of Pakistan received natural gas 32 years after it was discovered.
Only after much the hue and cry by the people were the other four districts of Mastung, Kalat, Pishin and Ziarat connected to natural gas supply recently. The other 25 districts still await the facility, even the district of Dera Bugti where the gas wells are situated and where poor people still use timber for fuel.
In the reign of General Pervaiz Musharaf, a great deal of publicity was created over the launching of the mega development project of the Gwadar Port.  The port was built with three berths but with no ware-houses, and no connection to the railway line or to the highways. Such a grand scheme did not think of how clean drinking water would be provided to the inhabitants and today the people of Gwadar are compelled to drink contaminated water. A large port with no supporting infrastructure did not bring any relief to the local people.
Propaganda of this port of international standards was aimed at inviting expatriate communities to invest here. This meant the business community of Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore and their relatives living abroad, businessmen like the owners of KASB bank, brokers of the Karachi Stock Exchange, federal and provincial ministers of Balochistan and local bureaucrats made billions of rupees through the real estate business in Gwadar in the period between 2002-2007. The standard of living of the local people is the same as it was before 2002.
Due to the negative policies of Islamabad, the province still suffers from under development and unrest. The way in which political people and the intelligentsia are being killed or kidnapped has aggravated the sense of desperation in the province and made people feel that all representative voices of Balochistan will be silenced. Those brought into power to represent their interests will be the same old corrupt and criminal elite of the past.

The writer is a former MNA from Makran and is a senior leader of National Party

Amir Hussaini-Why Seraikis demand a separate province?

Amir Hussaini

I belong to an Urdu-speaking family that migrated from India at the time of Partition, but I too feel the victimisation of the federal and provincial establishment due to my domicile in the district of Khanewal in Multan Division.
I was reading Punjab Under Imperialism from 1885 to 1947 written by Dr. Imran Ali who teaches at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. In the book, he has analyzed the history of canalization and colonization by British rulers in six districts of western Punjab that brought demographic changes in those six districts where the native population was given a bad name of “Barber” or “Jangli” by the British colonials. They registered a majority of these so-called barbers as a non- farming caste, thus depriving them of cultivated agricultural lands. 
Instead of the native population, other castes were brought in and resettled from eastern and central Punjab which changed the demography of these districts. Okara, Sahiwal, and Jhang were totally changed, with new towns and new villages being established in which settlers were privileged over the resident population.
In my view, this may have been where the seeds of a different cultural identity were sown for Seraiki-speaking people, although at the time no such distinguished cultural entity existed. It was due to the social engineering of colonial masters, although crushing the cultural identity of this region was not the objective of the British rulers but only a secondary result of their engineering. The British were re-designing the administration system of all of India for reasons of control to better extract cotton which was the need of the newly developed textile industry in Britain.
But the effect of this colonial policy was the backwardness of the Seraiki region. I call this process the “red indianization of the Seraiki people”. The British redrew the boundaries of the provinces and carved out a new province of the Punjab from what was formerly Multan. The British helped the Nawab of Bahawalpur to re-consolidate his princely state to control Sindh and to teach a lesson to rebellious Rajasthanis who were creating problems for the colonial masters.
During the Sutlaj valley project in 1922, the British again redistributed cultivated agricultural land to settlers from eastern Punjab.  Seraiki-speaking people had entered late into the formal education system, so they could not get a share of jobs in government. They had no share in the Indian Civil Service compared to those who could speak Punjabi. After the British, the industrial infrastructure of the newly-born State of Pakistan was weak in general but particularly so in the Seraiki region, so the infrastructure of civil service had an imbalance in terms of ethnicity, language and cultural identity with the new ruling class comprising Punjabi and Urdu speaking officers.
There was no attempt to redress the balance and improve the representation from other parts of the Punjab. Instead, it deepened over time, especially when General Ayub imposed One-Unit system which favoured those already within the power nexus. The objective of this act was to counter the majority of Bengalis, but again its side effect was undermining the Seraiki region.
Today, Punjab has nine divisions with 96.6 million people, including 32 million people residing in three divisions of the Seraiki belt. It is 31.26 per cent of the total population of the Punjab, but their share in federal services is just nine per cent. There are 1086 officers from the Punjab in the All Pakistan Unified group, including 338 from Lahore(31 per cent), 149 from Gujranwala, 146 from Rawalpindi, 129 from Faisalabad, 105 from Surgodha, 63 from Sahiwal, 73 From Multan (the third largest populated division of Punjab), 43 D G Khan and 73 from Bahawalpur. 
Three divisions of Seraiki belt have just 157 officers out of 1086 which makes it 14.5 per cent instead of the 31.26 per cent it is entitled to. In the provincial government services, nine divisions have 127,876 government employees. Six divisions have 109,505 government employees but only 18,131 are from three divisions of the Seraiki region. These figures have been taken from reports of the establishment division and policy research wing of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, and they highlight the imbalance in representation in federal and provincial services.
My friend in Multan, an information officer, says that the seniority list of officers from these three divisions has changed and many of them are likely to be promoted soon if new provinces are established. He believes that the demand of a Seraiki province is not only on the basis of cultural identity etc. but must also be seen in the context of promotions and seniority lists. This includes people who live in these areas but are Punjabi or Urdu-speaking with domiciles in the 11 districts of these three divisions. This may be one reason why we hear a united voice for new provinces.

The writer is a freelancer

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