Making of a secessionist

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Only after one injustice too many

Khadim Hussain Soomro’s The Great Game and the Indus Valley is a multifaceted book. What has interested me most is the way the book portrays the development of the thinking of G M Syed after 1947.

G M Syed was an outstanding leader of the Sind Muslim League in the 1930’s and early 40’s. He was present with Jinnah on the stage in Lahore when the 1940 Pakistan Resolution was passed. He got the motion in favour of Pakistan through the Sindh Assembly. Later, Syed developed reservations about the politics of both the Congress and Muslim League. He opposed the former on account of its penchant for a strong centre and the latter for what he now considered its communal agenda that he had himself once pursued with fanatical zeal. He stood now for maximum rights for provinces under a loose federation which he feared neither the Congress nor the Muslim League was willing to concede. The issue of provincial autonomy was very much in the air in the 40’s. This explains the commonly agreed wording of the Lahore Resolution which states that “the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign”.

Syed accepted the partition of India with an open mind though. After the creation of Pakistan, he worked hard to create a countrywide opposition party to keep under check the communal, anti-federal, and undemocratic tendencies in the new rulers.

In 1948, at Syed’s initiative, a number of politicians from all over West Pakistan joined hands to form the People’s Party. Later, Syed brought together prominent politicians from Punjab, NWFP, Balochistan and East Pakistan to form the Anti One Unit Front aimed at the restoration of the provinces of West Pakistan. The Front was later merged into the short lived Pakistan National Party. In 1957, he was an active partner in the creation of National Awami Party, a broad-based all-Pakistan outfit. The party struggled for the economic and political rights of the people, empowerment of the provinces within a loose federation and an independent foreign policy. Syed and other leaders of the NAP believed in change strictly through parliamentary means.

Syed was first elected to the Sindh Assembly and then to the West Pakistan Assembly. Inside the assembly, he directed his criticism against the authoritarian tendencies that had become further strengthened with power passing over to Liaquat Ali Khan. Syed had already rejected the Objectives Resolution introduced after Jinnah’s death as a divisive measure which he said would turn Pakistan into a theocratic state. He also underlined the dangers to the unity of the federation posed by the accumulation of power in a strong centre.

The ruling elite was however deadly opposed to the enlightened views of the leaders of the new opposition. In the early years of the country’s history, the establishment t was presided over by the bureaucracy which was soon replaced by the army belonging mainly to Punjab and UP. Malicious propaganda was launched against the new opposition through an obscurantist section of the media. Leaders like G M Syed, Bacha Khan, Abdus Samad Achakzai, Bhashani and Mian Iftikharuddin were dubbed as secessionists, traitors and agents of India, Afghanistan and Soviet Union.

The propaganda coincided with repression of a most barbarous type. Bacha Khan who was a member of the Constituent Assembly remained in custody most of the time during the existence of the constitution making body. He was on a tour of NWFP in 1948 when he was arrested and sent to jails outside the province. In Charsadda, the police fired at a peaceful meeting of the Khudai Khidmatgars killing, according to an official handout,17 persons. Earlier, G M Syed had been detained fir three months. Both Bacha Khan and G M Syed spent a fairly significant part of their lives languishing in jails.

By 1973, a disappointed GM Syed bade good bye to the idea of a united Pakistan and announced support for a separate Sindhu Desh. In his words, “We have lost hope to get our national and provincial rights through parliament.” Similar experiences had earlier forced Bhashani, who had campaigned for the inclusion of Assam in Pakistan, to announce in 1970 that he was bidding farewell to a united Pakistan. Bacha Khan was so fed up with all this that he decided not to be buried in the country.

The establishment’s policies continue to turn many in smaller provinces into separatists. Khair Bux Marri and Ataulllah Mengal were doing politics in the context of a federation till the constant denial of provincial autonomy combined with successive military operations forced them into becoming separatists. Bugti who remained wedded to the idea of federation and parliamentary politics till the end was killed under the orders of Musharraf. Te tragic incident forced many Balochis to conclude that the parliament is no more than a talk shop while there is no federal institution including the courts to stop forced disappearances and killings of Balochi youth. The way the security agencies have defied the authority of the SC during the hearings in Quetta would further strengthen the alienation in Balochistan.

The writer is a former academic and a political analyst.

1 COMMENT

  1. All those leaders who were staunch Pakistani and demanded the rights of their people through democratic means were labelled as secessionists and separatists. They were oppressed by those elements who were mere opportunists. This process disappointed the local leadership to the point of no return. Alas! the people of Pakistan do not understand that Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.

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