Posts Tagged ‘India’

Rotten Tomatoes

November 5, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

Rather than asserting that the military and the judiciary could be criticized if criticism was merited, a distinguished minister has taken the position that parliament is just as sacrosanct and hence above being challenged.

In anticipation of what is likely to follow, this being Pakistan, one cannot afford to lose any time taking to task another minister who has asked for the treatment. I am referring to a news item in which the Minister for Industries, Commerce and Investment has informed the Punjab Assembly that there would be “no tomato import despite mafia’s manoeuvring.”

The minister is said to have elaborated that “now tomatoes from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were being sold at Rs. 70 per kilo in the city and would continue to be sold till prices get further stabilized with supplies from Sindh arriving in the local market.” The justification for the policy is contained in a direct quote from the minister: “Why pass the advantage on to foreign farmers instead of our own?” According to the minister, “an influential mafia” was trying hard for resumption of import from India which would not be allowed to happen.

This minister needs to have a whole load of rotten tomatoes thrown at his head and the party chief responsible for his appointment to the ministry needs to explain the poor selection. Imagine a modern minister for commerce who can publicly state “Why pass on the advantage to foreign [producers] instead of our own?” Just follow through with the implications of the logic — it would put an end to all international trade because the only things traded are those that are made better or at lower cost by foreign producers.

There are a whole host of other problems with the argument. First, note the irony that the statement is coming from a minister in a country where even common pins are being imported from China and garbage collection is being contracted out to the Turks. There has not been a peep about the advantage being passed on to foreigners in these and a slew of other sectors.  

Second, this new-found love of “our own” is confined to producers, setting aside entirely the welfare of consumers who vastly outnumber the former. Why? Are consumers not equally are own? And is the government not elected to enhance the welfare of the majority?

Third, what if someone extends the minister’s argument to the provincial level? Why pass on the advantage to producers in KPK and Sindh instead of our own farmers in the Punjab? Such a person would immediately be labelled an anti-national element even though the logic of the argument remains unchanged.

Fourth, who is this “influential mafia” trying hard for resumption of import from India? What does it have to gain from the import? And, if this is actually a resumption of something that was taking place earlier, why wasn’t this mafia hauled in for anti-state activities at that time? Could it not be a producer mafia trying to block imports? Would a producer mafia not be infinitely more influential than one of consumers?

The point of all these seemingly absurd questions is to highlight the mindlessness of the minister’s statement and the sheer vacuousness of the logic offered for his decision. The fact of the matter is that a blind nationalism is at the bottom of this ridiculous anti-trade stance that is hurting the budget of the vast majority of citizens who have to purchase essential commodities in the market.

At the time when tomatoes were selling for Rs. 300 a kilo in Lahore they were available at Indian Rs. 40 a kilo in Amritsar a mere 30 miles away. But a visceral Indo-phobia, shared by many of our influentials, stood in the way of consumers benefiting from the lower priced supply. It was then that another distinguished minister, the Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research said that “the government will never allow import of any vegetables, including tomato and onion, from India despite record high prices of these kitchen items in local markets due to limited local supply.” He elaborated that “this step has been taken to encourage the local farmers to grow more besides saving huge foreign exchange.”

Our ministers are not alone in articulating such puerile logic emanating from their Indo-phobia. I recall a meeting in which an ex-chief of the ISI similarly railed against trade with India because it would destroy “our own” industry. The specific example he gave was of footwear that was being produced at lower cost across the border and whose import would put Pakistani producers “out of business.” During a break, a participant jokingly enquired about the make of the shoes the chief was wearing — it turned out they were Italian.

The point to note is that this India-centric anti-trade hysteria is shared by many who have no compunctions consuming products imported from all other countries and whose income brackets are such that commodities like tomatoes and onions are a miniscule proportion of their budgets. These are people who tell their car drivers to fill up the tank without ever asking the going price of petrol. They are indulging in the psychic pleasure of “hurting” India at no cost to themselves while pushing millions of people who can afford to buy only a litre of gas at a time below the poverty line.

The ultimate irony is that such callous and shallow prejudice does virtually nothing to hurt India. On the contrary, the gap between the two countries continues to widen while our leaders make fools of themselves trying to prove to a wide-eyed world that India is the “mother of all terrorisms.” It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs and a sign of the extent to which people have given up that nobody even bothers to point out these follies before the narrow window for questioning inevitably draws tightly shut.

This opinion appeared in Dawn on October 27, 2017 and is reproduced here with the author’s permission. An Urdu translation appeared on the Dawn website the following day.

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Partition, My Father, and His Wife

September 2, 2017

By Harbans Mukhia

I was born in 1937 or 38, in a tiny village in the Gujrat district of what is now Pakistan. No one, even in Pakistan, seems to have heard of the village Allaha, though it is on my passport to this day. Our home was a nondescript one – a one-and-a-half room structure on one side of a dusty street; on the other side was a tall, white mansion-like habitat with a weather cock on top, which fascinated us kids for hours.

We moved to Delhi before the Partition – perhaps sometime around 1941. My father responded to the Quit India call and was put in a Multan prison for six months. My mother passed away perhaps in 1943 or 44, leaving behind five young children. My eldest sister, then 12 or 13, was withdrawn from school to look after her siblings. She never held it against us when grew up and found our spaces in life.

A year or so before Partition, my father married his first cousin, his paternal uncle’s daughter, back in Allaha. The marriage procession consisted of the groom and his only son, me; the bidai procession added my new mother. It couldn’t have been simpler.

On August 2 or 3, 1947, my grandmother landed at our home in Delhi and suggested that she and my mother go back to the village and escort the rest of the extended family to Delhi, and bring with them whatever savings they had. Father was aghast at the suggestion and appealed to grandma to hold on for another 12-13 days. After independence – to which he seriously thought he had a personal claim – had been celebrated, he would go there himself, instead of two women going on such a tough mission. Even at this stage, they did not suspect any great mishap in the offing. Grandma insisted and father had to give in.

The two women left Delhi for Allaha. That was the last we ever heard about them. The members of the family they had gone out to rescue, however, found their way to Delhi. Father was heartbroken. Understandably.

Then an incident brought him some hope. He was lightly educated, but was always a stickler for reason and logic for understanding and explaining any phenomenon; God had no place in his scheme. One day, he was whiling away his time on the broad street in old Delhi then called Faiz Bazaar, now Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road. A road show was on, where a boy lies on the floor “unconscious” and the master of the show keeps asking him about the problems facing members of the audience. Father was laughing away at the tamasha when suddenly the master asked the boy what his, father’s, problem was. To his great astonishment, the boy spelt out his wife’s name and announced that she was hiding in a building in our village, both of which he identified correctly without father even having to ask him to.

He was dumbstruck and his skepticism gave way to a faint hope – who knows, the boy might even be right. So he decided to take a chance. In around October, he travelled to Lahore and then on to the village. He was just short of six feet tall and, with a kullah (Afghani headgear), could easily pass off as Pathan. In Delhi, most of his friends in Darya Ganj, where we lived, were Muslims and he was familiar with their etiquette, besides knowing Urdu well. He faced no problem in looking up the particular building, but there was no trace of his young wife.

On his return, he wrote a short piece titled My visit to Pakistan, which was never published. But I remember some crucial parts of it. In Lahore he stayed with his Muslim friends from Faiz Bazar who had migrated to Pakistan. In the streets of Lahore, the real Pathans were shooting at street lights and in the air because there were no Hindus left to kill. His Muslim friends, who had given him shelter and support, risked their lives and properties for him. The slightest hint that they were knowingly hiding and supporting a kafir from India would give the Pathans the ‘legitimate’ right to wipe them out and plunder their house. But the truth remained with his hosts.

In the end, father couldn’t find his wife. But he was able to reaffirm the one faith he had: that as often as not, human relations override political, national and even religious dividing lines.

Harbans Mukhia is National Fellow, Indian Council of Historical Research. This memory was part of the Wire’s #PartitionAt70 series and was published there on August 15, 2017. It is reproduced with the author’s permission.

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Plain Truths About the Economy

July 30, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

Every so often someone promises to turn Pakistan into an Asian tiger. It is not a bad ambition but it hasn’t happened yet. Not just that, we don’t seem to be moving forward much. All the more reason for an honest examination because knowing where one is starting from is just as important as knowing where one wants to go.

With help of some illustrative numbers one can establish three points. The Pakistani economy is existing at a low level; it is in relative decline; and too many of its citizens are struggling at or below subsistence level. Getting from here to Asian tiger status would require something beyond more of the same.

First, the state of the economy. The Federal Bureau of Statistics website shows that in 2015 per capita income in current prices was Rs. 153,620 per year or about Rs. 13,000 per month (in round numbers) which is also the current minimum wage. This means that if Pakistan’s total yearly income was divided equally among its citizens, each person would get Rs. 13,000 per month – a household of four would have around Rs. 50,000 a month to live on. Add up essential household expenditures and it is obvious this is a survival-level allocation implying that the Pakistani economy in aggregate is a survival-level economy for its citizens.

Easily available data allows for comparisons with Malaysia, an Asian tiger cub, and South Korea, an Asian tiger. Adjusting for purchasing power, the respective yearly income per person in the two countries is five and seven times that of Pakistan. In other words, instead of Rs. 50,000 a Pakistani household of four would require Rs.2.5 lakh or 3.5 lakh per month to attain the average standard of living in Malaysia or South Korea. That is the difference between a survival economy and a prospering one. No wonder people would like to leave Pakistan to work in Malaysia but none would want to migrate in the other direction.

To achieve the status of an Asian tiger like South Korea, Pakistan’s income per person needs to multiply seven times. How long would that take? Even if the economic rate of growth increases from the existing 5% to 7% and is sustained year after year, it would take over 25 years to reach where South Korea is today. Getting there in 15 years would require a growth rate of 12% which is way beyond anything Pakistan has ever achieved.

Second, while the Pakistani economy is growing, it is declining relative to most other developing economies. In 1990, India’s per capita income was 40% lower than that of Pakistan; by 2009 it had drawn level; today, it is around 20% higher. China’s per capita income in 1990 was 50% less than Pakistan’s; today it is 200% higher. At these relative rates, far from becoming an Asian tiger Pakistan will soon be relegated to the status of an also-ran.

Third, if income were equally shared and every individual received a monthly amount of Rs. 13,000 the reality of the survival economy would be inescapable. It is masked by the illusion of opulence created by a highly unequal income distribution – so unequal that half the total national income goes to just the richest 20% of households.  A recent news report discussing salaries of bank CEOs revealed that Rs. 50 lakhs per month was not an outlier. With some individuals living at first world elite levels, it follows there must be others living below the average in order to keep the total income constant. In fact, the majority of individuals in Pakistan have monthly allocations well below the survival level of Rs. 13,000.

Given the extreme inequality, independent estimates suggest that over half the individuals in the country could be classified as vulnerable in the sense that any unforeseen expense can plunge them into poverty. Thus not only is the Pakistani economy a low-level economy in the aggregate, the majority of its citizens are living at well below an acceptable survival income, in fact in various degrees of deprivation.

How do individuals exist at this level of deprivation? By being poorly educated, in fragile health, increasingly indebted, and overworked because of dependence on multiple jobs. Care to follow the story of someone earning the minimum monthly wage of Rs. 13,000 and you will appreciate the real state of the Pakistani economy. Given this human capital, how do its leaders propose to turn Pakistan into an Asian tiger in our lifetimes?

Understanding our existing predicament raises the real question: How did Pakistan get left behind in this impoverished state? Obviously it is not Pakistan’s fault – nothing says this was its fated destiny – but that of those occupying the driver’s seat all these years. How come China and India starting way behind have overtaken the Pakistani economy and moved so far ahead all in a matter of a few decades? Or how a small country like South Korea became so prosperous with limited natural resources? How come Malaysia has leveraged its strategic location and managed its ethnic diversity while Pakistan has not?

As we move into the election cycle we should be asking political parties some tough questions about their visions and development plans. We should not be fobbed off with easy answers. Corruption is not a good enough reason; it exists everywhere and the sizes of scams are in fact much greater in India. Overpopulation is also an unconvincing explanation given that both China and India are six times more populous. We should also not be distracted by the promise of CPEC. Even if it comes off perfectly it will add at best another 2.5% to the rate of growth of national income without any accompanying reforms of a fundamental nature.

Pakistan’s predicament is clearly related to some very poor policy choices, badly misplaced priorities and shockingly abysmal governance. We can infer some of these from the comparative experience of China which trailed us less than three decades back and is now so far ahead that we look upon it as a saviour. Such an exploration would be the subject of a subsequent article.

This opinion appeared in Dawn on July 25, 2017 and is reproduced here with the author’s permission. The writer would like to thank the following colleagues and students for very valuable suggestions on a number of early drafts: Dr. Ali Cheema, Dr. Farrukh Iqbal, Dr. Ijaz Nabi, Dr. Nadeem ul Haque, Dr. Anupam Khanna, Mr. Shahid Mehmood, Mr. Faizaan Qayyum and Ms. Marwah Maqbool. Any residual errors are the responsibility of the author.

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India, Pakistan and Cricket: To Play or Not to Play

July 23, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

Pakistan wants to resume bilateral cricketing ties with India while India refuses to play ball. How would an alien from Mars, unaffected by nationalist biases, assess the situation?

It would be hard to dismiss the Indian position outright. Think of it this way: If you live in a community and a neighbour throws his trash over your wall you would be justified in being annoyed. You might go over once for a friendly chat but if the dumping continues you would be well within your rights to protest and break off relations. The neighbour’s invitation to a friendly game of chess will clearly smack of hypocrisy in the circumstances.

Extrapolate the analogy to India-Pakistan politics. There seems little doubt that Pakistan has been abetting incidents of terrorism in India – the 2008 attack in Mumbai was the most egregious and the most explicitly linked to Pakistan. Add to that unprovoked border incursions like the one in Kargil and one ought not to be surprised if India is riled up. In such a situation the demand to suspend sporting relations with a country exporting terrorism does carry weight.

However, extending the analogy of neighbours to countries is logically incorrect.  Neighbours are humans with agency in the sense that they can decide where and when to dump trash and whether and how to retaliate. Countries, on the other hand, are inanimate entities incapable of doing anything on their own. Rather, individuals or groups, acting in their names, carry out actions. And there is never a complete consensus on any action among the individuals or groups in a country.

The implication is that just as all Muslims are not terrorists, all Pakistanis are not guilty of instigating incidents of terror in India. At the same time, it is not possible to deny that some are and openly so. Therefore, the question to ask is whether the Indian state is justified in punishing all Pakistanis for the actions of a few?

At an intellectual level the representatives of the Indian state know that some rather than all Pakistanis are involved in the incidents of terror in their country. However, their claim is that either the Pakistani state is complicit in the actions of the offending groups or, if not, is not doing enough to put a stop to their actions. Once again, on the basis of available evidence it is hard to deny that there isn’t validity to one if not both accusations. Therefore, the decision of the Indian state to suspend sporting relations continues to merit consideration.

Does this stance hurt or advance the interests of the Indian state? It would seem the latter because although it recognizes that not all Pakistanis are complicit in the acts of terror across the border, the Indian state does not discourage its media from painting all Pakistanis with the same brush, that is, to convey the impression that Pakistan is evil as an entity. This perception generates public support for a political stance which seems to be maintained for reasons other than those of pure principle.

In support of this conclusion one can cite the fact that despite the boycott, the Indian state is not opposed to contests between the two countries in multilateral competitions such as the World or Asia Cup tournaments. A principled stance that India would not play against a state promoting terror would call for a boycott of matches in such tournaments as well. There are precedents for such principled positions — many countries participated in a boycott of sporting relations with South Africa when its government practised the policies of apartheid. Similarly, Israel used to concede walkovers in global competitions if matches were scheduled on Yom Kippur.

One could be forced to conclude that there is more to the position of the Indian state than what it professes. In a period of RSS dominance, could it be too far-fetched to presume that an ideological consideration of the Indian state might actually be to punish Pakistan as much as possible while minimizing the cost of such a policy to itself?

The contradiction in the Indian position on bilateral and multilateral sporting engagements with Pakistan would seem to support the hypothesis. At the bilateral level, global sympathies are clearly on the Indian side and the finances of its sporting bodies are much stronger than those of the counterparts in Pakistan. Thus the relative economic loss from the bilateral boycott is quite asymmetric in favour of India.

The same would cease to be true if the boycott was extended to multilateral competitions. Not only would India diminish its chances of winning such tournaments by conceding walkovers against Pakistan, it would find it virtually impossible to sustain universal public support for such a position. Thus it is not surprising that Indian policymakers refer to contests at the multilateral level as ‘only a game’ while simultaneously allowing their media to paint bilateral contests in hyper-nationalist terms as an extension of war. This allows the Indian state to have its cake and eat it as well.

The Indian state can get away with this contradictory stance as long as the world believes that the Pakistani state is turning a blind eye to the promotion of acts of terrorism across the border. Given this perception the latter’s high-minded claim that sporting relations should be independent of political considerations is rightly seen as hypocritical.

Needless to say, and quite independent of anything else, the Pakistani state should be taking a much more forthright stand on restraining agents using its soil for acts of terror across its borders. However, given the mood of the moment in India, it is not clear if that would be sufficient for the Indian state to end its boycott of sporting relations at the bilateral level.

This opinion appeared in the Express-Tribune on July 22, 2017 and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

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A History of the Left in Pakistan – 23

June 30, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued)

Formation of the Communist Party of Pakistan

The Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) was formally established in the Second Congress of the Communist Party of India (CPI) held in February-March 1948 in Calcutta It was in line with the decision taken in the central committee of the party in July 1947 when the policy switch took place between losing P.C. Joshi group and the rising B.T. Ranadive group in the party. Out of about 800 delegates to the Congress only three members represented the areas now forming Pakistan. These included Prof. Eric Cyprian from Punjab, Muhammad Hussain Ata from NWFP (now KPK), and Jamaluddin Bukhari from Sindh. Two other nominated delegates from Punjab, Mirza Muhammad Ibrahim and C.R. Aslam couldn’t attend the Congress as they were reportedly caught in the last moment organising a railway workers’ strike in Lahore. Moreover, Kanwar Moni Singh, Khokha Roy and Kalpana Dutt (69) attended the Congress together with about thirty other delegates representing party organisation in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Because of the partition and resulting transfer of population, the communist organisation in the areas of the newly established Pakistan had suffered a major set-back. In the wake of drawing arbitrary lines of partition of Bengal and Punjab provinces, cutting each into Pakistani and Indian parts, worst communal riots among Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs erupted. In these communal riots, massive killing, arson, torching of homes and commercial properties, and abduction and rape of women on unprecedented scale engulfed particularly Punjab, Bihar, and Bengal. An estimated number of about one and half million were killed, 75,000 women were raped, and about 15 million people were uprooted and crossed the border on either side to save their lives and honour. Most of the prominent CPI leaders and communist workers from Pakistani areas belonged to Hindu and Sikh religion. All of them from Punjab and NWFP barring a few exceptions in Sindh migrated to India, leaving behind a severely fractured and almost dysfunctional party in Pakistan. Western Punjab and eastern Bengal were engulfed in the flames of worst communal riots never witnessed before. The situation was equally gruesome in the Indian parts of the eastern Punjab and western Bengal. The CPI leadership, however, made efforts to reorganize the party structure with the help of local Muslim members in Pakistan including a few veterans of 1920s e.g. Firozuddin Mansoor, Fazal Elahi Qurban and Amir Hyder Khan. These local communists were gradually joined by those Muslim comrades who were immigrating into the new country from the areas now forming India. The party organization was still a part of CPI, with its headquarters in Bombay.

Ajoy Kumar Ghosh had been made in-charge of the activities of the Pakistani communists. He visited Lahore in October 1947 and re-organised the party structure with the remaining Muslim and a few Christian members of the party who opted to live in Pakistan. Punjab Provincial Committee was formed with Mirza Muhammad Ibrahim (secretary), Chaudhry Rehmatullah (C.R.) Aslam, Firozuddin Mansoor, and Eric Cyprian as members. Whereas Jamaluddin Bukhari was made secretary in Sindh and Muhammad Hussain Ata held the position of secretary in NWFP.

The Lahore District Committee had Shamim Ashraf Malik (Secretary), Abdullah Malik, Ghulam Muhammad, Prof Muhammad Safdar, and Abdul Ghafoor as members. Rawalpindi District Committee had Mirza Aziz (Secretary), Dada Amir Hyder, and Soofi Allah Ditta as members. Ajoy Kumar Ghosh was followed by Sajjad Zaheer visiting Pakistan in November 1947 to mobilize party members for the Calcutta Congress. He came to Lahore staying at 114, McLeod Road, the CPI headquarter in Lahore. He extensively toured other parts of Punjab, NWFP, Sindh and Karachi to do his spade work for the Party Congress and held organizational meetings. He also organised a conference of the progressive writers at Lahore on December 5, 1947 at YMCA Hall. He returned to India in January 1948. At the time of Calcutta Congress, the CPI had only four Muslim members in the Central Committee: Syed Sajjad Zaheer and S.S. Yousuf both from the U.P. and Muzaffar Ahmed and Ismail, both from Bengal. Sajjad Zaheer was Incharge of the Muslim front, Progressive Writers Association, and the Editor of one of the party organs ‘Naya Zamana’. Few other prominent Muslim leaders of the party attending the Calcutta Congress, included Mohyuddin Farooqi, Z.A. Ahmed, and Mehmudul Zafar from UP, and Makhdoom Mohyuddin from Hyderabad, Deccan.

The Calcutta Congress of Feb-Mar 1948 approved founding of a separate party for Pakistan namely the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP). The Congress also nominated and approved the appointment of Syed Sajjad Zaheer as the first General Secretary of the proposed party. In line with the approved B.T. Ranadive Thesis, the newly formed CPP was to organize a militant struggle to replace the weak and unstable reactionary regime in Pakistan that had just taken over the reins of power in the new country. In accordance with the party Congress decision, the delegates from areas forming Pakistan, together with few other Muslim delegates from India immediately held a separate meeting presided over by the General Secretary, Sajjad Zaheer to formalize the founding of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) in early March 1948. A Central Committee of the CPP was elected with Jamaluddin Bukhari, Muhammad Hussain Ata and Mirza Ibrahim as its members.

In terms of the informal structure of the then Cominform, most of the parties in Europe, America and other parts of the world were to seek ideological and other guidance from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Communist Party of India (CPI) was, however, not reporting directly to Moscow but to the Communist Party of Great Britain. The Communist Party of Pakistan was made subservient to CPI and was not supposed to approach directly to the British Communist Party in London. Similarly, a separate organising committee was formed for the East Pakistan with Moni Singh as its secretary, reporting directly to CPI Calcutta office instead of CPP headquartered in Lahore. On the question of providing initial support the CPI declined to provide any funds to the newly established CPP but, instead, handed it over its three printing presses, one at Karachi and two at Lahore. Peoples Publishing House at Lahore was also transferred to CPP to use its income to meet local expenses. One of the presses was declared evacuee property by the Punjab government after its Sikh caretaker left for India and the other press was taken over by the Industries department. Having not much cash available to meet daily expenses, Sajjad Zaheer decided to sell the Party’s press in Karachi for Rs. 16,000.

To bolster support of the nascent party, Muslim members of CPI were encouraged to migrate to Pakistan and work for organising CPP. Sajjad Zaheer requested his former colleagues and friends in CPI, especially Dr. Ashraf, Z.A. Ahmed, and Ismail to come to Pakistan and help him but they all politely declined. Sibte Hasan (from Azamgarh, UP), Hasan Nasir (from Hyderabad, Deccan) and few others, however, joined him and migrated to Pakistan. Hameed Akhtar who got trapped amid Hindu-Muslim riots in his home town near Ludhiana in East Punjab where he had gone from Bombay to visit his family, somehow managed to escape on a long trail of fire and blood to cross the border and reach Lahore, where the news of his death in the riots in Punjab was already circulating (70).

The First Schism

Even before its formal incorporation at Calcutta in March 1948, the Communist Party of Pakistan experienced its first leadership dispute. Shortly before partition, there already had developed two sub-groups within the Punjab Communist Party; one was led by Sohan Singh Josh and included Karam Singh Mann and Firozuddin Mansoor while the other was led by Teja Singh Swatantar and included Fazal Elahi Qurban and Abdul Qadir, with support from Qadir Bukhsh Nizamani in Sindh. Nizamani was already disgruntled with the leadership of CPI because ill treatment of him in 1941. In the heat of the partition of India and after being expelled from the party, Teja Singh formed a separate ‘Pakistan Communist Party’ in July 1947. He later migrated to India, handing over the leadership of the new ‘Pakistan Communist Party’ to his protégé, Fazal Elahi Qurban. Teja Singh, subsequently, formed an independent ‘Red Flag Communist Party’ in East Punjab in India.

The CPI’s central leadership took Fazal Elahi Qurban’s actions as a violation of party discipline and termed him as ‘disruptionist’. Ajoy Kumar Ghosh during his visit in October 1947 did his investigations and asked Qurban to repent and retrace his steps but Fazal Elahi Qurban evaded signing a statement declaring Teja Singh’s actions and the formation of ‘Pakistan Communist Party’ as ‘anti-party, anti-national and anti-working class revolt’. Ajoy Ghosh accordingly left Qurban out of the interim Provincial Organising Committee. After the arrest of leading communists in Lahore like Eric Cyprian and Firozuddin Mansoor, Qurban with the help of his supporters in the Punjab party attempted to occupy the CPI Punjab office located at 114, McLeod Road, Lahore. Sajjad Zaheer, after assuming his role as the new General Secretary of the CPP formally Issued a charge sheet to Qurban on 18 March, 1948 and finally expelled him and other ‘disruptionists’ from the party in October 1948.

This was, perhaps, the first sign of an under-current in the Communist Party reflecting the brewing conflict between the communists in the Punjab and the dominance of the leaders from other regions, particularly from U.P. The already restless communists from Punjab were even more concerned at the prospect of an impending imposition of a leadership from outside, particularly from UP. Although, Ajoy Ghosh (incharge of Punjab Party) was from Bengal but had mostly lived in the UP, Sajjad Zaheer from UP oversaw the work among Muslims and was a strong and likely candidate for leading the yet-to-be-formed new Communist Party of Pakistan. The sitting General Secretary of the CPI, P.C. Joshi, among other many leading communists, was from Almora in northern UP (now included in the newer province of Uttarkhand) had good working and personal relations with Sajjad Zaheer.

The apprehensions of the Punjabi communists turned out to be quite true with the predominant positions soon occupied by the communists arriving in large number from UP, C.P., and Deccan. With the expulsion of Fazal Elahi Qurban in Punjab and Abdul Qadir Nizamani in Sindh, Syed Jamaluddin Bukhari was hastily sent from Punjab to take over as the secretary of the Sindh Communist Party.

B.T. Ranadive Thesis

The new Secretary General of CPI, B.T. Ranadive’s aggressive policies adopted in the Second Congress in Calcutta in 1948 were soon manifested in the party activities everywhere. A spate of calls for general strikes and revolutionary fervor in trade unions in Bombay, Calcutta, Karachi, and other industrial towns was evident. The party rejected the independence as false and partition of India as an ‘imperialist conspiracy’ and exhorted the people for a renewed militant struggle for a real independence. This policy was translated into a catchy slogan: “Yeh Azadi Jhooti Hai.” (This is a false freedom!). Faiz Ahmed Faiz had put it in a subtler and beautifully poetic way:

Yeh daagh daagh ujala, yeh shab gazeeda sahar
Woh intizar tha jis ka, yeh woh sahar tau nahiN

Nijaat-e deeda-o dil ki ghari nahiN aa’yi
Chaley chalo keh woh manzil abhi nahiN aa’yi


This stain-covered daybreak, this night bitten dawn,
This is not that dawn of which there was expectation

The hour of deliverance of eye and heart has not arrived
Come on, come on, for that goal has still not arrived.


69. Kalpana Dutt was the wife of P.C. Joshi.
70. Hameed Akhtar, Ahwal-Waqyi, Book Home, Lahore, 2005, p. 360.

Chapter 4… Concluded

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A History of the Left in Pakistan – 22

June 8, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued)

Political Awakening

Like many other riverine societies, the political and economic life of Sindh essentially revolved around the only river flowing through its lands – the mighty Indus. Unlike Punjab with its multiple rivers and located inside the Monsoon catchment area, Sindh is almost out of this rain system. Its economic life is almost wholly dependent on the perennial Indus river which bisects its land and empties itself into the Arabian Sea, forming a large delta east of Karachi. Most of the population traditionally lived along the Indus cultivating only Kharif crop in summer for its living in the silt brought in yearly floods during Monsoon inundating its lands. Traditionally, there was very limited Rabi (winter) crop in Sindh. Others lived a semi-nomadic life in pasture lands. The country was poor and the life for landless peasants (Haris) was particularly harsh.

Like Punjab, British colonial administration in Sindh also intervened in its natural water distribution system by building canals and barrages, albeit on a smaller scale compared to Punjab and other parts of India. The objectives and the planning of this man-made irrigation system in Sindh had been almost identical but the method and policy of distribution of newly irrigated lands in Sindh was different. Unlike Punjab, here very little changed in the relationship between cultivators, landlords, and the state. Because of these significantly large irrigation projects the patterns of new class formations and impact on society as witnessed in Punjab are conspicuously missing in Sindh. The reason for the stark difference in outcomes compared to those witnessed in Punjab lies in selection of different class of people as beneficiaries of land grants in Sindh. Significantly large hydraulic engineering projects in Sindh (Jamrao canal, Sukkur Barrage, Ghulam Mohammad Barrage) didn’t result in any significant ‘social engineering’ of the society.

In the wake of irrigation development works in Punjab, some minor canals were initially built in upper Sindh and Tharparkar district during 1880s. Apart from other objectives, one of the consideration was to provide employment for the disbanded Sikh army after the annexation of the Punjab in 1849. The first sizable project was Laikpur canal in Hyderabad in 1890s but Sindh lagged far behind Punjab in this development work. The first big project undertaken in Sindh was the Jamrao canal in southeast of Sindh in 1899. Due to shortage of surplus Sindhi labour, the project relied on Punjabi and Baloch workers. The administration was concerned that should the Sindhi Hari was diverted from Zamindar’s existing cultivable lands to the construction project the current agricultural productivity might be seriously affected. The project was an extension and significant renovation of the existing eastern Nara Canal system providing water to 934,00 acres of cultivable land, of which only a third was cultivated each year because of limited water supplies. The Jamrao canal was designed to provide water for both Kharif and Rabi crops in a year thereby effectively increasing the cultivable land. This project for the first time brought the issue of colonization of lands in Sindh to the fore, which has since then remained a thorny issue in Sindh’s politics. Of necessity, the British policy of colonization was driven by two considerations: firstly, and foremost, the need to maintain political stability, and secondly, the promotion of modern and efficient (i.e. more productive) cultivation to make it financially viable for capital investment. The revenues from the sale of land and agricultural taxes must at least cover the project cost, and preferably, turn a profit for the government. Unlike Punjab’s clearing of mostly virgin lands or lands belonging to the local Jangli tribes who were politically very weak and marginalized, most of the land in Sindh was already pre-owned by big and locally powerful landlords and Jagirdars. The first concern of political stability resulted in “85% of available land was given to Zamindars whose estates were in or adjacent to Jamrao tract: they automatically had first right of refusal on new squares… This policy was expressed in terms of concern for the pre-existing legal rights held by these Zamindars over the land” (59). Only 12% of land was distributed to settlers from outside of Sindh, mainly from Punjab while 2% was granted to Zamindars from other parts of Sindh. However, they were required to settle on the granted land itself and were not permitted to bring any Haris with them who were already cultivating lands irrigated from government canals in Sindh: they had to recruit locally or import labour from outside Sindh. Remaining 1% lands were given on the same terms to military pensioners and few men of political significance. The Talpur Mirs, living of pensions from the British government, were one of the major beneficiaries who were encouraged to move from their ancestral lands and settle in new land grants. The Collector of Sukkur said in one of his note, “The condition of these Talpurs, gentlemen of high birth with the traditions of hereditary rule to look back upon and now often – literally – hard put to it for their daily bread, has long been well known… and this opportunity that has now been given to them to make a decent livelihood for themselves and their descendants is one which I consider should not be hampered by want to liberality” (60). The chief of Baloch Bugti tribe, Nawab Shahbaz Khan was granted 4,000 acres of land near Sanghar. Apparently, the driver of political stability had overshadowed the consideration of economic viability and productivity enhancement. The Punjabi immigrant settlers, limited as they were, were made to settle in sufficiently large groups to form autonomous communities in segregated villages having separate water courses connected to their farms from nearby Sindhi landlords to avoid possible friction over water sharing. Sufficient land parcels were also reserved for camel breeding for its regular supply to meet the expanding British army needs.

The political awakening in Sindh followed almost the same pattern as had emerged in NWFP except for one but significant difference; unlike NWFP, the urban middle class intelligentsia, business leaders and moneylenders in Sindh were in very large number either Hindu or ‘immigrant’ Goanese, Anglo-Indian, Gujarati, Memon, Khoja, Bohra, or Parsee. The first Sindhi Muslim intelligentsia had class origin in rural Sindh, mostly belonging to rich middle-peasants. They also experienced their initial political awakening in political reformation with nationalist and anti-colonial perspective. Most began their anti-colonial political activism (like G.M. Syed and Sheikh Abdul Majid) in Khilafat movement and in the struggle for separation of Sindh from Bombay to get free from the dominance of Bombay based Gujarati, Marwari and Parsee urban capitalists. The question of separation of Sindh from Bombay was the first political issue that generated an awakening among Sindhi Muslims and helped making the alignment of economic and political interests of different classes and communities clearer. With the Lloyd Barrage over Indus at Sukkur under planning with a promise of large areas of new land becoming cultivable and new economic activities to be spawned in Sindh, the Gujarati, Marwari industrialists, commodity traders, and petty bourgeoisie in Bombay as well as big landlords, rich peasants, and middle classes in Sindh and partly in Punjab were looking at Sindh with hopes of enriching themselves with the upcoming economic benefits. For this reason, while the Gujarati-Marwari capitalists of Bombay and Indian Congress as their representative was opposed to the separation of Sindh, many landlords and rich peasants in Sindh were supporting its cause. However, still many of the Sindhi landlords enjoying personal privileges in the colonial administration were also opposed to the separation believing that owing to their strong local influence and right connections in Bombay government they would be able to reap much of the benefits for themselves. The committee headed by Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto that was formed by the provincial assembly in 1928 to work with the British ‘Simon Commission’ did not support the Muslim League’s demand for separating Sindh from Bombay. Only two members of the committee dissented from the majority vote. On the contrary, Punjab Assembly committee demanded for the separation of Sindh.

Due to preponderance of Hindu Bania moneylenders in Sindh, it also suffered the similar effect of the introduction of modern British commercial laws in 1866 on its land-owning pattern as was witnessed in the Punjab. By 1892, the number of Hindu Bania owners of 200-acres or more of land by way of land transfers had reached to 1,771 from none in 1864. During six years alone between 1890 and 1896, 22% of Muslim-owned land had been either transferred or mortgaged in favour of moneylenders. In 1896, 59% of the Muslim landlords were deeply indebted and 42% of the total cultivable land had passed into the Hindu moneylenders’ ownership. After the Simon Commission report, the First Round-Table Conference was held in November 1930 in London. In the sub-committee on Sindh, Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah and M.A. Jinnah presented the case of Sindhi Muslims. Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah said, “the army that conquered Sindh in 1843 came from Bombay so it was annexed to Bombay. At that time, Punjab was not part of the British India. Had it been so, perhaps, Sindh would have been annexed to Punjab whose traditions, people’s life style, and the revenue and irrigation system are like those of Sindh… Hindus are not in small numbers in Sindh. They are about 25% of the Sindh’s population and their economic power is significant. All Sindhis are held in debt to them. These 25% Hindus own 40% of the land in Sindh and another 30% is mortgaged to them. This way, only 30% of its land is left with Muslim majority” (61). Yet, the big Muslim landlords, Pirs, and Syeds were ensconced in their paramount feudal status enjoying petty luxuries in their homes but displaying slavish subordination to the British collectors, magistrates and police officials in public life.

The Sukkur (Lloyd) Barrage irrigation system commenced operation in June 1932. This system had four irrigation canals on the right bank of Indus and three on the left bank. This increased the Indus-irrigated lands to about 7.5 million acres most of which was already privately owned. After adjustment of uncultivable lands and reservations for public purpose about 1.5 million acres were available for sale. These newly irrigated lands were in Sukhur, Larkana, Khairpur, Dadu, Hyderabad, and Tharparkar in Sindh and Nasirabad in Balochistan. A section of Sindhi Muslim intelligentsia was apprehensive that these new irrigated lands and related economic benefits might be usurped by local and outsider Hindu moneylenders and capitalists. In anticipation of the commissioning of the under-construction barrage in 1925, the Governor of Bombay, Leslie Wilson, wrote to Lord Birkenhead, the Secretary of State in London, “The political effect of the Barrage is going to cause considerable trouble. The great majority of the land in Sind is at present owned by the old Sind Zemidar, who is a fine type of the old Mohammedan loyalist, but generally out of date, and nearly always extremely lazy. This vast area to be brought under inundation by the canals from the Barrage must mean, if we are to sell the land at all, a great influx of population from the Punjab and from the north and south of Sind, with the result that the Sind zemindari will be in in a very different position to that which now occupies, and the Hindu element will be enormously increased. The Sindhi will not like this at all, but it is inevitable if the Barrage is to be paid for” (62). As before, it was a tradeoff between political stability and economic viability. But now the financial stakes were much higher than the previous occasion and the considerations of economic viability could not be simply set aside in favour of political stability. In the end, 350,000 acres, about a quarter, were allocated for subsidized grants (63) to existing landlords. Next, the Sindhi peasants were offered priority concessionary terms for sale of land on payment in yearly installments spread over 15 years up to 40 years. But the total price payable in long term installments with profit was effectively about three times of that offered to the landlords. Only Sindhi peasants were eligible for these long-term payment terms. All others were offered the market price. 10,000 acres were allocated for servicemen but on the condition of full payment.

In the year, the Sukkur Barrage was commissioned, the Communal Award legislation was enacted in August 1932. The Award distributed the provincial assembly seats in a manner that about 75% of Muslims were allocated 60% (36 seats) whereas 25% of Hindu population was allocated 40% (24 seats), significant enough to hold balancing power and with a few Muslim seats easily bought over the balance may easily be tilted against a fragmented and divisive Muslim polity. The Indian National Congress in Sindh wholly represented the Hindu moneylenders and urban Hindu petty bourgeoisie. Deeply divided along tribal, caste, and class differences and unable to put up a strong united platform, the Sindhi Muslims were, therefore, dependent upon support of Hindu parties and their strong interest groups. The Sindhi Muslim’s early political organizations were made non-communal like Sindh United Party formed in July 1936 on the model of Punjab’s Unionist Party, just in time to contest 1937 elections sending message to Jinnah not to meddle in Sindh’s affairs. All prominent Sindhi Muslim leaders at that time (64) were unwilling to side with the Muslim League till as late as 1938. None of these leaders were even ready to be included in, or associated in any manner with, the reception committee for welcoming Muhammad Ali Jinnah during his visit to Sindh before 1937 elections, seeking Muslim leaders’ interest in nomination as Muslim League candidate.

But, by October 1936, the sponsors of Sindh United Party had split over distribution of seats. Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, Ayub Khuro, and Mir Bande Ali Talpur separated and formed their own Sindh Muslim Party. In 1937 elections, Shahnawaz Bhutto of Sindh United Party lost his seat and the party could win only 18 seats. Sindh Muslim Party won 4 seats, and other independent Muslim candidates won 9 seats. The Muslim League didn’t get any seat. Despite its non-communal intents, Sindh United Party was practically reduced to be a Muslim party as no non-Muslim was elected from its platform. Indian Congress had won 8 seats, Hindu Sabha had 11 seats and the remaining 10 seats were divided among Hindu independent candidates. With the support of British Governor of Sindh, Graham Lancelot and of Hindu Sabha, Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah of Sindh Muslim Party with his only four seats formed the first provincial government in April 1937. With a wink from the governor all other Hindu and Muslim independents queued up to support the government. Despite begging largest number of seats in the assembly as a single party, the Sindh United Party was not favored for forming the government because of its somewhat radical middle peasant (G.M. Syed) and urban petty bourgeois (Hashim Gazdar) character. Unlike Punjabi Zamindars, the Sindhi landlords were unable to attract Hindus in their fold. The Hindu urban middle classes, moneylenders and business leaders remained strongly attached to the Indian National Congress. Drawn from rich peasants and small landholders and jagirdars, the early Sindhi Muslim politicians were under multiple strong pressures: the political dominance of mainly Hindu urban petty bourgeoisie, new trends of commercial economy and monetization of agricultural taxes, and resulting burdens of mounting indebtedness with Hindu moneylenders of mainly Amil Bania and Sethi castes. Increasing agricultural land transfers to city based absentee moneylenders and investors was a frightening prospect. During the times of economic hardship, faced with dwindling rent payments form their tenants but still maintaining an extravagant wasteful lifestyle, and finding no escape from payment of full taxes and water charges to the state revenue collectors, the Sindhi Muslim landowners must resort to borrowing from the moneylenders. The rivalry between Muslim Zamindars and Hindu moneylenders was intensifying and therefore the Muslim Zamindars were gradually distancing away from the Congress. By 1938, they were grudgingly compelled to seek support from the Muslim League. Well-known popular Sindhi nationalist leader G.M Syed switched side and became the architect of a revived Muslim League in Sindh in 1938. He explained his class predicament, “My dreams of a non-communal party government in the best interest of Sindh and ultimately of India were belied both in the Sindh United party which had met with such a cruel end at the hands of its own leader and the Congress party, and it was after protracted deliberation, and not without a pang of pain, that I realized that the only way of arresting the anti-Muslim and anti-masses forces in Sindh was to organize the Muslims, and do so on purely communal lines, so as to create a strong public opinion amongst them, which was so sadly lacking until then” (65). On the other hand, the Hindu moneylenders who dominated Congress leadership in Sindh also helped exacerbating the growing communal divide. Large number of Congress workers attended a conference organized by a rejuvenated Hindu Mahasabah party in Sindh at the end of 1939. The Congress also came out supporting the Hindu’s efforts to eject Muslims from the Manzilgah buildings opposite Sadhbelo, a revered Hindu temple in Sukkur (66). Admittedly, an issue was made from non-issue by certain disgruntled Sindhi Muslim leaders fully supported by the Muslim League in its bid to topple Allah Bukhsh Soomro’s ministry. Manzilgah was a set of ancient caravan inn’s buildings with a small abandoned mosque as its part that were for long in government use as a warehouse. The Muslims laid claim on the whole building as a mosque to be restored and rehabilitated for regular prayers. The demand gained support of Muslim community of Sukkur but Hindus strongly opposed the claim due to its proximity to the ancient Sadhbelo temple. The controversy led to the first serious communal riot in Sindh, in which mainly Hindus suffered significant loss of life and property. The incident played a major role in cementing the split between Hindus and Muslims in Sindh.

Although, modern education was introduced in Sindh since 1880s, the Sindhi Muslim society generally remained bogged down in pervasive illiteracy, traditional and extremely conservative customs and abject poverty. The Muslim elite comprising of big landlords, tribal chiefs, Syeds, and Mirs completely dominated the Sindh politics. Well-known Sindhi educationist and writer Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah had depicted Sindh’s life in an early writing in 1943. “Of 32 lacs (3.2 million) Muslims [of Sindh], about 300,000 live in towns… remaining 28 lacs live in rural areas and are peasants. Of these 28 Lacs Muslims, 27 Lacs are landless peasants; 14 lacs are wandering gypsies not permanently settled anywhere. They keep changing their landowner employers. Except for probably few thousand, all of those 300,000 living in cities are labourers. You don’t find non-Muslim labour in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and other towns. Of the total non-Muslim population only 8% are agricultural workers and these are also from Hindu ‘untouchable’ castes” (67). Although, not directly connected with mainstream politics of Sindh, there was a military action undertaken against a particular Sindhi community in 1940s. After British occupation of Sindh in 1843, a spiritual leader Pir Pagaro in Sanghar had declared his ‘spiritual community’ of extremely dedicated followers as ‘Hur’ (free) from the British rule. The British had declared Hurs as a ‘Criminal Tribe’ virtually confining them in their reserve or in jails and concentration camps. As the scope of Second World War expanded in Asia threatening the British India, the need for massive military buildup and logistics movement on the borders of Afghanistan and Iran were needed. The British finally removed the irritant of ‘Hurs’. Martial Law was declared in the area from June 1942 to May 1943 and a military operation was carried out against Hurs. Pir Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi II, the sixth Pir Pagaro was captured and tried in a military court. Pir Pagaro tried engaging M.A. Jinnah for defending him in the Military Court in Hyderabad but despite his many desperate messages Jinnah declined the brief. The Pir was hanged to death in March 1943. His two young sons were taken to England as hostages; Pagaro’s sons could return to Pakistan only in December 1951. The elder son, Sikandar Shah Mardan Shah II became the new Pir Pagaro in February 1952 till he died in 2012.

The Sindhi Muslim intelligentsia, with its rural and mostly rich-peasant middle class origin, generally remained isolated from poor peasants and toiling rural classes. Very few ventured to work among down-trodden Haris and landless peasants and organize them for effective class actions. The provincial politics remained mired in tribal and caste rivalries and factional feuds. The earliest communist work in Sindh, probably, was initiated by Narain Das Becher, Qadir Bukhsh Nizamani, Abdul Qadir, and Amin Khuso together with Jethmal Pursram and Abdul Qadir around 1937. Sobho Gyan Chandani, Autar Kishan (A.K) Hangal who after migrating to India later emerged as a known Bollywood film actor, Kazi Mujataba, and Pohumal were also included in the organisation with Qadir Nizamani as the Secretary. They started work in the name of Hari Committee in 1930s as part of larger network of Kisan Sabhas and Kisan Committees in Punjab and other parts of India. Hyder Bukhsh Jatoi joined Sindh Hari Committee in 1945 and led many Hari agitations. Sindh Chief Minister Allah Bukhsh Soomro is said to have sympathy with the communists and many times he had protected them. Once most of the prominent communist party leaders in Sindh were arrested from a meeting being held in Sindh Zamindar Hotel in Saddar Karachi on the charges of anti-war propaganda during the first phase of the Second World War, it was Allah Bukhsh Soomro who helped dropping the charges and releasing the activists.

Sindh Communist Party also had a distinction of being the first party organization publicly coming out in support of the World War efforts only six days after the Hitler invaded Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. The Communist Party of India together with the international communist movement at that time was still in anti-war gear, declaring it as a reactionary imperialist war. With the Hitler’s invasion of Russia, the Sindh’s Communist Party organisation came out with a declaration on 28 June that the character of the war has changed from imperialist war to a peoples’ defence war. This was, however, taken as a violation of party discipline by publicly opposing official line of CPI and the Communist International. The Central Committee took disciplinary action against the Sindh party, expelling Qadir Nizamani from the party and suspending the membership of Amin Khuso, who quickly repented and tried to shift all blame to Qadir Nizamani. After his self-criticism, he was made the secretary of the party in place of Nizamani. On the instructions from the central leadership, Jamaluddin Bukhari from Punjab visited Sindh a few times to look into the local party organisational matters. Firozuddin Mansoor also accompanied him on few visits. Later, when Communist International changed its position on the war declaring it as ‘Peoples War’ and advised all communist parties in the world to fully support the war efforts, the CPI also changed its gear in reverse. Embarrassed with its stern disciplinary action in Sindh, it finally admitted its mistake and restored the membership of Qadir Nizamani. But, by now Nizamani and few other communists in Sindh in sympathy with the rebel group in Punjab were disenchanted with the authoritarian central leadership of the party.

Only after the Congress-backed government of Allah Bukhsh Soomro resigned in 1942, the Muslim League’s supported factions could form their government under Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah. In March 1943, in line with the Muslim League’s 23 March 1940 resolution at Lahore, G.M. Syed moved a resolution in Sindh Assembly opposing a central unified government and demanding for separate states for the Muslims of India. The resolution was almost unanimously approved by the Muslim members, except for Allah Bukhsh Soomro who was absent and 3 Hindu votes against it. Other Hindu members decided to walk out. This was a unique and first of its kind resolution of a provincial assembly in India. In June 1943, G.M. Syed was appointed president of the Sindh Muslim League by Jinnah in place of Ayub Khuro in Muslim League’s bid to win over Muslim middle classes towards the ideal of Pakistan.

But with the rise of Muslim League’s fortunes and the Pakistan movement gaining significant strength and an unprecedented resurgence by 1945 it was keen to finally win over big and influential

Zamindars and landlords in its fold to make a decisive strike for an independent Pakistan. It was also necessary to support its claim to be the exclusive universal representative of all Muslims in India. In this backdrop, the central Muslim League leadership at that stage was not prepared to let the small group of Sindh’s rising middle & rich peasant class disrupt the balance of power in Sindh by factional in-fighting between them and the powerful landlords represented by Ayub Khuro and Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah. When, because of these internal feuds and clannish conflicts G.M. Syed lost support of most of the big landlords of Sindh in his opposition to the Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah’s ministry, he raised the flag of ‘Sindhi nationalism’ and the cause of poor Haris. G.M Syed also agitated against government’s decision in Nov 1945 to allot lands developed after clearing of Lakkhi forest to Punjabi ex-soldiers. These lands were recovered after recent cleansing operation of Hurs in their strongholds. This anti-Punjabi position in Sindh was also counter-productive for a larger ground swell in Punjab for a united front for Pakistan. In his local power contest, G.M. Syed sought support from the central Muslim League leaders in his attempt to overthrow the sitting Muslim League government. Due to their own class interests, the Muslim League leaders were by no means interested in this ‘national’ and ‘people’s’ cause. Secondly, Muslim League’s primary objective at that critical time was to maintain unity of all factions of Muslim interests under its flag at any cost to strengthen its case against the Congress as the only representative party of the Muslims in India. The central leadership of a confident and resurgent Muslim League finally expelled G.M. Syed from Muslim League in January 1946. There was hardly a significant protest on his expulsion. By now, almost all leaders of Sindh had fallen in line for following the commands of Jinnah. In December 1946 elections of the Sindh Assembly, Muslim League won 35 seats, and Congress won 19 seats. G.M. Syed’s group could get only two seats with G.M. Syed himself losing contest against Muslim League candidate Qazi Akbar by a wide margin. The new Muslim League government (12th government in 10 years) of Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah passed ‘Landholders Mortgages Bill’ imposing restrictions on the transfer of mortgaged lands to moneylenders. It also passed the ‘Sindh University Bill’ for setting up a Sindh’s own university and restricting educational institutions of Sindh to have affiliation with any university outside of Sindh. The Indian Congress and an All Sindhi Hindu Conference held in April, 1947 in Karachi strongly opposed both new laws asking Hindu graduates not to accept fellowships in the proposed Sindh University and requesting universities of Bombay, Banaras, and Delhi for extending affiliations to their educational institutions in Sindh. At this stage, Rahim Bukhsh Soomro, a son of former Chief Minister Allah Bukhsh Soomro raised demand of an independent state of Sindh. Jinnah was not in favour of this idea, though, he had supported the similar idea of an independent Bengal and had, in fact, encouraged Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy to work for it together with Sarat Bose. But soon this issue was killed with the Mountbatten’s decision in Shimla in May that under any circumstances India will not be divided into more than two parts. It is reported that Talpur ruler of Khairpur state had also requested for accepting its accession to India instead of Pakistan but Nehru declined the offer (68). Sindh University Act came into force on 2 June 1947 and affiliation of all educational institutions of Sindh to the University of Bombay ceased to have effect. The Sindh Minister Pir Ilahi Bukhsh issued a statement on 11 June in Delhi inviting Muslim industrialists and investors to come to Karachi for establishing their industry and businesses. He even suggested them to come and take possession of buildings vacated by Hindu businessmen and start their businesses right away.

With the partition of India and the transfer of power from the British Indian government to the new governor-generals of India and Pakistan, a new state of Pakistan emerged. It inherited the fractured state apparatus of the British India in its areas of jurisdiction.


59. Commissioner-in-Sind James to Secretary to Government of Bombay, 08.10.1896, quoted by Timothy Daniel Haines, p. 55.
60. Quoted by Timothy Daniel Haines, p. 59.
61. Zahid Choudhry, Pakistan ki Siyasi Tareekh (Political History of Pakistan), Vol. 6, Ed. Hasan Jafar Zaidi, Idara-e Mutala-e Tareekh, Lahore, 1994, p. 58.
62. Quoted by Timothy Daniel Haines, p. 107.
63. Land grants for existing Zamindars were offered at Rs.15 per acre against a capital cost of Rs. 30 per acre.
64. These included G.M. Syed, Abdullah Haroon, Mir Ghualm Ali Talpur, Pir Ilahi Buksh, Hashim Gazdar, Ali Muhammad Rashdi, Hatim Alavi, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto and Bande Ali Talpur.
65. Syed Nesar Ahmed, p. 213.
66. Nandita Bhavnani, The Making of Exile: Sindhi Hindus and the Partition of India, Tranquebar Press, Chennai, 2014.
67. Quoted by Zahid Choudhry, p. 93.
68. K.R. Malkani, Thrown to Wolves in SindhiShan, Vol. 7, Issue 3, Jul-Sep, 2008.

Chapter 4… To be Continued

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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: A Look into the Underbelly of Modern India

June 3, 2017

By Kabir Altaf

Ever since The God of Small Things was published to great acclaim in 1997, Arundhati Roy’s fans have been eagerly awaiting her next novel. It was a long wait—two decades—as Roy transitioned from being a novelist to being an activist and a non-fiction writer. Now, the wait has finally ended with the publication of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

The novel focuses on several characters, most of whom are outcasts from the new rising India. They include a hijra named Anjum, a Kashmiri separatist (or freedom fighter) named Musa and Tilottama, the Malayali woman who loves him. Over the course of the novel, these disparate characters encounter one another and their stories intersect, sometimes in surprising ways.

Much of the novel is set in the Kashmir Valley during the 1990s—at the height of the insurgency against the Indian state—viewed by many Kashmiris as an occupying force. Musa’s wife and daughter are killed in crossfire between the Indian Army and Kashmiri militants. Tilo herself is harshly interrogated by the Indian Army and is only let go because of her connections to an old college friend, who is high up in the Intelligence Bureau. In this section of the novel, Roy evocatively describes the brutality of life in Kashmir and the impact it has on those on both sides of the ideological struggle.

Those who have followed Roy’s non-fiction will find many resonances in this novel. Asides from the Kashmir conflict, the plot touches on rising Hindutva, the Maoist struggle in the forests of central India, and Dalit assertion against upper-caste violence. One consequence of such a large canvas is a certain fracturing of the narrative. For example, when the narrative moves to Kashmir, Anjum has to be abandoned in Delhi. Although Roy convincingly brings the characters together at the end, there is a sense of disconnect while reading the story.

At times, the overt political focus detracts from the literary quality of the novel. Roy seems less interested in portraying her characters’ inner feelings than in using them to develop a polemic against what she sees as the dark side of contemporary India—increasing religious intolerance, casteism, and human rights violations.

There is no inherent reason that such an intense political focus should detract from literary accomplishment. Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance deal powerfully with subjects such as Partition and Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. Roy’s own The God of Small Things is equally political, focusing on inter-religious and inter-caste relationships as well as untouchability. However, in these novels the story is primary and the politics emerges organically from the plot. The characters are fully developed and one feels the authors are invested in their lives. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, in contrast, is much more polemical. The plot seems to be an excuse for Roy to express her ideas on the subjects that have consumed her for years. An ambitious and honest portrayal of the heart of darkness at the center of contemporary India, the novel is likely to underwhelm many readers who are not Ms. Roy’s devotees.

Kabir Altaf graduated magna cum laude from George Washington University with a major in Dramatic Literature and a minor in Music. He is a freelance writer and editor.

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A History of the Left in Pakistan – 21

May 31, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued)

Sindh – Developing a Rural-Urban Divide

In early 1840s, the British had finally conquered Sindh to clear the way for their undisturbed approach for military expeditions to Afghanistan and Iran via Balochistan for countering the threat of Russian Czar’s southward thrust in the Central Asia. First, the British military vessel Wellseley took control of Manora and the small harbor at Karachi on 1 February 1839, without a gunshot being fired. Manora had a small fort and a few rusty canons brought from Muscat were installed there. Unfortunately, Talpur rulers of Sindh at Hyderabad (160 Km north-east from Karachi) were sunk in deep torpor, unable to even fully appreciate the implication of this British move. Since the end of Sindhi ruling dynasty of Kalhoras (1701-1783), this area had been essentially a lose confederacy of powerful Talpur Baloch tribes. For centuries, the Sindhi society was stagnating under decadent but highly oppressive class of big landlords, tribal leaders, Syeds and Pirs (revered religious leaders who had acquired large tracts of land in grants from corrupt rulers). Most of these big landlords were descendants of Baloch or Pukhtun tribal chiefs who over a period entered Sindh had occupied large tracts of land and had permanently settled here. The tribal social system was on similar pattern as Sardari system in Balochistan, at least in the Baloch dominated areas of northern and western parts of Sindh.

Sindhi rulers didn’t have a trained army. They only had some ill-equipped Lashkars (armed bands) of unruly tribesmen primarily for settling scores among themselves in their unending tribal feuds or to suppress their Haris. These ill-organized tribal armed bands were hardly capable of defending against a trained regular British army. No wonder, in the final battle with the British at Miani, near Hyderabad in January 1942, the British General Charles Napier could rout Talpur’s Lashkar in one day with over 5,000 Sindhi Baloch killed against only 257 casualties on the British side. Karachi was made an army town and a military cantonment was established. Lines were laid to bring water supply from Damloti in Malir to Karachi town. Basic modern police and judicial system was built for the first time. After four years in 1847, the strategic administration of Sindh was appended to the British residency at Bombay from where the Napier’s forces came to subdue this part. The extremely conservative tribal-feudal Sindhi society outside Karachi was, however, left practically undisturbed in its harsh traditional bonds.

In mid-1850s, from a purely military perspective plans were made to lay a railway line from Kotri to Karachi, connecting its sea port with the nearest inland waterway on the Indus River flowing down from Punjab and north-west. This railway link was to be extended up to Quetta in Balochistan. The Karachi harbor at Keemari was improved and it was connected with the mainland by building a Mole (causeway) across Chinna creek. The Karachi-Kotri rail link was completed in 1861, after a brief interruption due to 1857 mutiny in the northern India. On a short inaugural drive of a locomotive engine carrying departing Sindh Commissioner Bartle Frere to Keemari port for his voyage to Calcutta, John Brunton, the Scottish Chief Engineer of the ‘Scinde Railway’ wrote in his diary, “The native of Scinde had never seen a Locomotive Engine, they had heard of them as dragging great loads on the lines by some hidden power they could not understand, therefore they feared them supposing that they moved by some diabolical agency, they called Shaitan [Satan]. During the Mutiny, the Mutineers got possession of one of the East Indian Line Stations where stood several Engines. They did not dare to approach them but stood a good way off and threw stones at them!” (56)

During construction of this railway line, it was also suggested to detach Sindh from Bombay bringing it under Punjab’s unified administration but the proposal was not implemented. At this moment, due to an event, otherwise entirely disconnected with Sindh or India, taking place in faraway America the Karachi-Kotri rail link turned out to be an extremely useful and timely investment for the British Raj. The far-reaching impact of these developments elsewhere played a crucial role for a paradigm shift in the life of Karachi and consequently of Sindh, which remains largely unnoticed. In the American Civil War (1861-1865) seven major cotton producing southern states of USA rose in rebellion and declared independence from the northern federation. It caused a major disruption in the supply of American cotton to the thriving British textile industry. Over 80% of its cotton was imported from the USA. The British textile industry (the world’s largest at the time) faced a historic ‘cotton famine’ and closure of over 2,000 mills, threatening employment of over 360,000 textile workers in Lancashire alone. Alternate sources for immediate supply of cotton were identified in Egypt and India. While Lancashire industry focused more on the Egyptian supplies, the Scottish textile industry in Glasgow relied heavily on Indian cotton. The Glasgow and Lancashire Chambers of Commerce jointly demanded from the Secretary of State for India that “India make good the [cotton] shortfall to protect the livelihood of the 4 millions of our people who are directly or indirectly dependent for their daily bread on our cotton manufacturers” (57). In addition to supplies from Surat, the cotton produce of recently conquered Sindh and Punjab regions was also proved critical. Immediate logistics arrangements for regular supply of cotton via shortest route from Karachi to reach England were made. Cotton from Sindh and Punjab was brought via Indus River on barges to Kotri and transported by train to Karachi for swift shipment to the ports of England. The opening of transport route via Karachi port considerably reduced the transit time for cotton and other agricultural produce from Punjab compared to the long and arduous transportation across whole of north India to Calcutta in the north-east or Bombay in the south-west. The critical time-sensitive commercial transportation needs necessitated rapid development of logistics and trade services infrastructure at Bombay and Karachi. The Government of India directed “those provincial governments with substantial cotton-producing regions to report immediately on what needed to be done to improve the lines of traffic between the cotton producing districts and the ports of shipment” (58). This development suddenly catapulted Karachi town from an obscure position to become a key staging station in the modern global commercial sea lanes.

Accelerated foreign trade operations from Karachi brought in their wake significant growth in port assets and a network of leading British (mostly Scottish) trading companies, banks, clearing & forwarding agencies, stevedores, civil contractors, food and commodity supply contractors, wholesalers and retailers in the market. Karachi and Bombay were connected with a direct telegraph link via a new submarine cable laid to link with an Aden-Malta cable to London. The first telegraph message from India to London was sent from Karachi in 1864. With the opening of Suez Canal in 1869, the sailing time from Karachi to European ports was further reduced from a long three-month journey around Africa via Cape of Good Hope. Within a short period of about ten years, a sleepy fishing Goth (hamlet) of Karachi grew into an important commercial town where hundreds of Europeans, Marwari, Hindu, Parsee, Jewish, Memon, Khoja, Bohra, and Chinioti investors and traders from London, Calcutta, Kanpur, and Bombay arrived. With them thousands of Anglo-Indians, Jews, Goanese, Punjabis, North Indians, and Gujaratis flocked into the city to service the unprecedented rapid growth of a thriving modern town. This sudden rushing in of people from outside of Sindh caused a significant impact on its demographic composition. Old inhabitants of Karachi—the Kutchis, Baloch, Makrani, and Sindhis were simply overwhelmed and marginalized by the new wave of energetic and skilled ‘foreign’ settlers. This unprecedented phenomenon taking place in Karachi on the outskirts of Sindh’s traditional rural life in 1860s and 1870s was, incidentally, to be repeated on even larger scale in about 90 years.

In 1878, the Karachi-Kotri railway line was extended to connect with Delhi-Punjab rail link at Multan in the north-western Indian railway system. During railway line construction, it was again proposed that for military strategic reasons Sindh should be attached to Punjab instead of Bombay for a unified north-western command. The Sindh’s separation from Bombay and its attachment with Punjab was in principle approved in London to take effect from 1 January, 1880 but due to the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880) it was deferred indefinitely. Karachi Port Trust was established in 1886 and the East Wharf was built at Keemari port and a public tram service commenced from Saddar to Keemari harbor in 1900. By 1914, Karachi had become the largest grain exporting port in the British Empire and in 1924 the first aerodrome was built near Malir making Karachi for a long time the first airport of call for airliners coming from Europe for entry into the Indian subcontinent. These developments brought Karachi in sharp contrast with the rest of Sindhi society.

The first modern but informal school was built for the children of few English families in Karachi in 1847 and the first proper English school was opened in 1854. But the introduction of modern education in Karachi town practically had no impact on Sindh’s traditional rural life. According to the Education Commission Report of 1882, among the list of all graduates of Bombay University (of which Sindh was a part) there were two Muslims with bachelors’ degree and only one had a masters’ degree. Though, it is not known from where these Muslim graduates originally belonged but it is highly unlikely that any of them was from Sindh. With the spreading influence of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s Muslim educational movement at Aligarh, Syed Amir Ali, president of Muhammaden National Association of Calcutta arrived in Karachi in 1882 and a Muhammaden National Association of Sindh was established with a Sindhi Muslim lawyer Hasan Ali Effendi as its first president. This Association established the first school— Sindh Madarsat-ul Islam in Karachi in 1885. The Sindh Arts College (later converted into D.J. College) was established in Karachi in 1887.


56. ‘John Brunton’s Book—The Diary of John Brunton, Engineer, East India Company’, Cambridge University Press, 1939, Reprint by City Press, Karachi, 1997, p. 96.
57. ‘Chasing Commodities Over the Surface of the Globe – Shipping, port development and the making of networks between Glasgow and Bombay, c.1850-1880’ by Sandip Hazareesingh in Commodities of Empire Working Paper No.1, The Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies, The Open University, Milton Keynes, 2007, pp. 11-12.
58. Ibid, p. 12.

Chapter 4… To be Continued

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A History of the Left in Pakistan – 20

May 13, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued)

Balochistan – A Tribal Rebellion

Among Muslim majority areas of British India and the princely states inside Pakistani territory, Balochistan occupied a unique position. It was neither a wholly British Indian province nor a subordinate princely state like Kashmir, Bhawalpur, Junagadh, and Hyderabad. Its relationship with British India evolved differently and this factor has continued to mar its relationship with Pakistani state till today. As a separate political entity in history, Balochistan evolved as a Rind-Lashari tribal confederacy, first established by Mir Chakar Rind in late 1400s. It comprised of a large swathe of mostly barren land, stretching from Kirman in the west (in present day Iran) to Derajat on the right bank of Indus River in the east, including Kalat highlands and the fertile areas of Kacchi and Sibi. It had united all Baloch inhabited areas in a political entity for the first time. The confederacy was centered around two most powerful Baloch tribes of Rind and Lasharis, each in turn constituting loosely organized federations of several lesser tribes. During his peak, Mir Chakar also advanced into Punjab, taking over Multan and southern parts of Punjab in the early 1500s. The 16th century saw not only the rise of Safavid power in Iran, but also the Mughal power in India, and the arrival of European ships in the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf. Towards the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese found their way to the region and captured several places along the Makran coast. In 1510 AD, they occupied the small port of Gwatr (not Gwadar), east of Chahbahar in western Balochistan. Later, they also occupied two other larger coastal settlements of Gwadar and Pasni further east. Thus, the conflict of interest between these three external imperial powers (the Persians, the Mughals and the Europeans) continued to influence the internal politics of the Baloch. Portuguese were soon replaced by the British. The first Baloch confederacy did not survive long. Mir Chakar Rind died in 1550 and lies buried at Sahiwal in Punjab. After witnessing periodic border expansions and contractions by the time British arrived in the area, the nominal seat of Baloch tribal confederacy was based in Kalat. Mir Ahmed Khan I established the dynasty of the last Khannate of Kalat in 1666 and since then the ruling family has been known as Ahmedzais.

The Baloch Confederacy had treaty obligations with Afghanistan (1758) from the time of Mir Noori Nasir Khan. In its ‘Forward Policy’ for securing the western borders of India and for resisting the southward push of the Russian Empire in the Central Asia, British needed to keep Afghanistan and Iran under its influence, or, at least, ‘neutral’ to serve as buffers between the two expanding European empires. But the British supply routes to Afghanistan and Iran could not be safeguarded without securing Sindh and Balochistan. For this reason, the British advanced into Kalat as early as November 1839. The reigning Khan of Kalat, Mehrab Khan was killed in the battle. His minor son was installed in his seat and a regent was appointed to oversee the British interests. To serve their military strategic interests, the British parceled out the Baloch country. The Derajat, Khangarh (now Jacobabad) and Kacchi area were detached from Balochistan and annexed to British India. Quetta and Mastung were given to a pliant ruler of Afghanistan, Shah Shuja in a treaty with Afghanistan. The British signed their first formal treaty with Kalat in 1854. Recognizing Khan of Kalat’s nominal sovereignty over Baloch areas, an annual subsidy was agreed to be paid to him in exchange for his loyalty. British expansion towards Afghanistan continued and it annexed its Pishin, Zhob, and Loralai regions. Meanwhile, taking advantage of the situation now Qajar Shahs who had in the meantime replaced Safvi rulers of Iran also captured parts of western Balochistan and included them in their territory.

In 1876, Britain signed a new treaty with Kalat as an independent state but under protection from Britain and the British troops were stationed in Kalat. The establishment of the Balochistan Agency with its headquarter at Quetta followed in early 1877. In the same year, Scottish General Robert Sandeman was transferred from the post of Assistant Commissioner Punjab to Balochistan. Having experience of working as district officer of Dera Ghazi Khan, he was appointed Agent to the Governor General (A.G.G) and Chief Commissioner of the Agency for Balochistan. Under an agreement with the Khan of Kalat in 1883, the British obtained Quetta, Nushki, Bolan Pass, and Nasirabad areas on lease from Kalat and attached them with the British controlled Pashtun regions renaming the area as the ‘British Balochistan’. With a view to lure Afghanistan and Iran away from Czarist Russia, the Britain unilaterally ceded some parts of Baloch areas of Kalat State territory to Iran and Afghanistan. Thus, the Baloch country was arbitrarily divided into several parts. Initially, Khan of Kalat was included in the border negotiations but later he was excluded from the process and unilateral boundary decisions were taken by the British (44). Under a British-Iranian agreement the ‘Goldsmith Line’ drawn in 1871 as border between Iran and British interests, large parts of the western Balochistan were ceded to Iran. Similarly, a little later the ‘McMohan Line’ drawn in 1896 demarcating boundary between Afghanistan and the British Balochistan left a northern portion of Baloch area with Afghanistan. Large tracts of eastern Balochistan including Kacchi, Sibi, Jacobabad and adjoining areas together with Quetta and other Pukhtun areas remained with the British administration under long term lease contract. The rest of the Baloch territory was left in possession of the Kalat State. Thus, the Baloch territories were divided among three states – India, Afghanistan and Iran. In India, the Baloch areas were sub-divided between British Balochistan (areas under direct British rule) and the State of nominally independent Kalat. In theory, Kalat was a sovereign state, much like Nepal and Bhutan and was different from other Indian Princely States. The responsibility for its defence and foreign affairs were handed over to the British Crown based on mutually agreed friendly treaties promising British support to Kalat in case of need in the maintenance of a just authority and protection of territories from external attack. The Kalat state was further carved into the agencies’ territories of mainly Pukhtun belt and the federation of Baloch States (Kalat, Makran, Kharan and Lasbela) with the Khan of Kalat as the head of the federation. The Khan of Kalat was, however, traditionally bound to consult the Jirga (Council) of main tribal Sardars (chiefs) on all important social and political matters. During First World War, some tribes of Marri-Khetran and Mengals revolted against conscription and British interference in their areas but the revolt was crushed and some tribal leaders, including Misri Khan Baloch, fled to Afghanistan and to the newly established Soviet Union for assistance (45).

Over time, the Baloch tribal system, unlike the Pukhtun tribal system, had ossified into a highly oppressive feudalistic Sardari system, giving near absolute control to the Sardar (Chief of tribe) over life and death of its subjects, perpetuating their abject poverty and deprivation. The Kalat Confederacy was not exactly a princely kingdom in its strict sense either. It evolved differently. Nina Swidler of Fordham University, New York, a pioneering scholar on the subject completing her doctorate thesis on The Political Structure of a Tribal Federation in 1969, succinctly explains the characteristic of the Confederacy thus, “Even though the Ahmedzais consolidated a new order of structure, they did not integrate Kalat into one uniformly administered territory. Although a central bureaucracy developed, the khan never succeeded in incorporating the tribes economically. No revenues of any kind were exacted from them. Each tribal constituent of the Khannate was internally and territorially autonomous. The khan had no access to the tribes except through the chiefs…The autonomy of tribal constituencies in the Khannate is based on the authority of the sardar, which is largely a result of Brahui tribal structure” (46). The nature of a despotic Sardari system developed in Balochistan may be adequately depicted by an observation by Sylvia Matheson in her book The Tigers of Balochistan (1967) recording the remarks of a typical representative of Baloch Sardars, Tumandar Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on a question to him during her interview sometime in 1948 about his plain admission that he had killed the first man when he was only 12, he said, as he sipped his tea, “Oh that! Well that man annoyed me. I’ve forgotten what it was about now, but I shot him dead. I’ve rather a hasty temper you know, but under tribal law of course it wasn’t a capital offence, and, in any case, as the eldest son of the Chieftain I was perfectly entitled to do as I pleased in our own territory. We enjoy absolute sovereignty over our people and they accept this as part of their tradition” (47).

Due to arid lands, stagnant repressive social conditions and little agricultural and commercial opportunities coupled with religious persecution (Shia rulers persecuting mostly Sunni Baloch) in Iranian parts of western Balochistan gradual migration of Baloch population from both eastern and western Balochistan into Sindh and Southern Punjab resulted in more Balochs living in Sindh and Punjab than in Kalat itself. Many of these migrating Baloch settled in Karachi making it the largest Baloch urban centre. Balochistan in general and Kalat confederacy remained one of the most under-developed and poor parts of India. There were almost no modern schools. In 1903, there were only 21 schools in Balochistan with 800 students, mostly children of non-Baloch servicemen of British Administration in Quetta. To move its part of Balochistan away from Persian influence, British made Urdu as its official language replacing Persian. The first newspaper ‘Balochistan’ was started in 1927 by Abdul Aziz Kurd and Master Pir Bukhsh. Inspired by the bold ‘modernist’ political developments taking place in Turkey (Mustafa Kamal) and Iran (Reza Shah) in 1920’s, the earliest Baloch political activists included Yousuf Ali Magsi and Abdul Aziz Kurd who established an underground organization ‘Young Baloch’, which was later converted into an open ‘Anjuman-e-Ittehad-e-Balochan’ (Baloch Unity Organization) in late 1920s. This Anjuman marked the beginning of modern Baloch middle class nationalist movement. Yousuf Magsi was the scion of Nawab Qaisar Khan, the Chief Sardar of Jhal-Magsi area in Balochistan, who was made to abdicate and exiled to Punjab by the British-appointed Chief Minister of Kalat. In his youth, Magsi lived in Multan and Lahore and was influenced by the then Indian independence movement. Aziz Kurd was the son of a middle class civil servant of the Khannate of Kalat. Karachi, having the largest Baloch urban population, also played an important role in the development of Baloch nationalist movement. A ‘Baloch League’ was founded in Karachi with Ghulam Nooruddin as president (48). The Baloch League held its conference in Karachi in 1930. After graduating from Aligarh College, noted Baloch nationalist leader Ghaus Bukhsh Bizenjo also first joined the Baloch League in Karachi. By early 1930s, Anjuman-e Balochan was demanding political reforms in the Khannate of Kalat, reunification of all Baloch territories in one political unit and the establishment of a united independent Balochistan. The demands of political reforms included establishment of an elected parliament and a cabinet under the Khan of Kalat. A Baloch Unity Conference was held in December 1932 at Jacobabad. The Anjuman’s weekly magazine ‘Al-Baloch’ from Karachi also published a map of ‘Greater Balochistan’ showing the State of Kalat together with British leased and Iranian occupied parts of Baloch territory, including large parts of Sindh and the state of Bhawalpur as a united Baloch political entity. The Khan of Kalat, Muhammad Azam Jan, died in 1933 and his young son, Ahmad Yar Khan, 31, ambitious for a Greater and United Balochistan took over the reins in his place. He sent Yousef Magsi of Anjuman Balochan to London in 1934 as his personal representative for pleading the case for Balochistan’s sovereignty but the mission failed as the British Government in London did not pay serious attention to the Baloch pleadings and refused to introduce reforms in Balochistan. At this stage, Magsi is also said to entertain the idea of seeking help from the Soviet Union and start an armed struggle but it seems no meaningful step was taken in this direction. Magsi was killed in the severe Quetta earthquake in 1935.

In 1937, the Anjuman was converted by its left-wing workers influenced by the socialist and communist ideas led by Mir Ghaus Bukhsh Bizenjo, Gul Khan Naseer, and Abdul Aziz Kurd into Kalat State National Party seeking constitutional rule in the Khanate and founding of an independent Balochistan after British leave from India. The principal objective of the nascent middle class and petty bourgeoisie of Balochistan was to get freedom from an overbearing traditional Sardari (tribal chief’s) system of oppression, which was supported and perpetuated by the British and the Khan of Kalat in their own interests. Unlike Muslims of other parts of India, the Baloch intelligentsia was not threatened by the Hindu domination and, therefore, did not find Muslim League’s struggle in British India for ‘protectionist’ rights of Indian Muslims attractive for itself. Herein lied its predicament; on the one hand, it was seeking more political and economic space for itself from the oppressive Sardari system with Khan of Kalat as the overlord of the whole system, and, on the other hand, it was rallying around the Khan in his ambitions for getting full independence from the British rule. The Khan of Kalat was not interested in relenting any democratic rights or equal economic opportunities to the Baloch people. He never allowed even those limited political and democratic rights that were granted in the British Balochistan and neither did he promoted any social or educational development of people in his Kalat state. But, he was keen to exploit the political activism and popular appeal of the middle class nationalist leaders in his grand monarchical designs. In return for some pep talk by the Khan and few symbolic gestures by him in theory (nothing changed in practice) like announcement of abolition of Bigar (free compulsive labour) and other illegal taxes, the National Party gladly conferred the title of ‘Khan-e-Muazzam’ (the Great Khan) on the Khan of Kalat in 1938 as a gesture of party’s full support and loyalty to the Khan. The British government through its political agents was adept at using the self-centered tyrant tribal Baloch Sardars and Pukhtun tribal leaders to put pressure on and keep the Khan of Kalat under check. The strong opposition of Kalat National Party frustrated British efforts at obtaining Jiwani port on lease from Kalat. Unhappy over the Kalat National Party’s increasing activities and Khan’s tacit support to it, the powerful Sardars with a wink from the British retaliated against the party. On 6 July, 1939, a tribal Lashkar (armed band) attacked the National Party convention at Mastung and dispersed the gathering. On the demand from Sardars, the National Party was banned by Khan of Kalat and its leaders were expelled from the state, and strict restriction was imposed on its newspapers and literature entering the state from British Balochistan. As a measure of delimiting Khan of Kalat’s influence and cut him to size, the British government had also ‘encouraged the vassals of the Khannate in Makran and Lasbela to emerge as separate protectorates and thus there was a practical administrative trifurcation of the Khannate even within British India, i.e. the British India, the Khannate and independent princely states of Makran, Kharan, and Lasbela, and [Pukhtun] tribal territories’ (49).

With the Pakistan movement gaining traction and the transfer of power from Britain to one or two independent governments in India becoming imminent, the Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, made efforts to obtain full independence for Kalat state. His argument was based on the fact that unlike other 560-odd Princely States of India, the state of Kalat as a sovereign state had special treaty agreement (1876) directly with the British government in London as the paramount power, and not with British Indian government in Delhi. Therefore, with the withdrawal of Britain from India the state of Kalat together with its leased territories like Quetta will legally revert to its original position before 1876 and it will be released from all treaty obligations and lease contracts; that no government in India, as successor to the British Indian government, can inherit that role. Khan of Kalat also engaged M.A. Jinnah as his lawyer in this regard who apparently agreed with this legal position. Khan of Kalat also presented a Memorandum to the visiting Cabinet Mission of the British Government in March 1946 through M.A. Jinnah as his lawyer. The Kalat state’s case was prepared by I.I. Chundrigar, a noted lawyer from Bombay and a future Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sir Sultan Ahmed, a noted barrister-at-law of India, and Sir Walter Monkton, an influential British lawyer and the Solicitor General in Winston Churchill’s caretaker government of 1945. The Khan of Kalat also sent Abdul Samad Achakzai, a member of All India Congress Committee, to plead his case with Nehru, and Ghaus Bukhsh Bizenjo, the head of Kalat National Party, to meet with Indian Congress President Abul Kalam Azad. But Indian Congress was mute and avoided coming out in Kalat’s favour fearing creation of a bad precedent for similar counter moves by the Muslim League in the matter of the states of Junagadh and Hyderabad inside the territory of India. This way, Indian Congress implicitly conceded the right of contiguous successor state of British India over Princely States falling inside its territory. Similarly, on 27 March, 1947, V.P. Menon was reported in an All-India Radio broadcast that India has declined repeated requests of Khan of Kalat for accession of his state to India instead of Pakistan. Although, subsequently this report was denied by Nehru (50) but the message to Khan of Kalat was clear that India may not help him at that stage. The Marri-Bugti Baloch tribal chiefs, Sardar Doda Khan Marri and Sardar Akbar Khan Bugti are reported to have sent memorandum to the British government for joining with the state of Kalat. Similarly, Sardar Jamal Khan Leghari, the father of future President of Pakistan Farooq Leghari, together with few other tribal chiefs is also reported to have sent a memorandum demanding their separation from Punjab and joining with the Kalat state. But, the British government ignored these requests.

Meanwhile, as far as the British-controlled part of Balochistan was concerned, as per the local tradition, an assembly of Baloch & Pukhtun tribal leaders of the area (Shahi Jirga) was called on 29 June, 1947, which voted in favour of joining with Pakistan. The Municipal Council of Quetta also voted for Pakistan (51). However, in a round-table conference held in Delhi on 4 August, 1947 attended by the Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, Khan of Kalat, his Chief Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, Sir Sultan Ahmed, as advisor to the Indian Chamber of Princes, and M.A. Jinnah as Khan of Kalat’s legal advisor, it was decided that the Kalat state would become independent on 5 August, 1947. Subsequently, the rulers of Kharan and Lasbela were informed by the British government that control of their regions together with the Marri and Bugti tribal regions under British control had been transferred to Kalat State. After a series of meetings held between the leadership of Muslim League, including M.A. Jinnah, and Khan of Kalat, the Muslim League signed a joint ‘Stand-Still’ statement with Khan of Kalat on 11 August, 1947 saying, “The Government of Pakistan recognizes Kalat as an independent sovereign state; in treaty relations with British government, with a status different from that of Indian states. Legal opinion will be sought as to whether or not agreements of leases made between the British government and Kalat will be inherited by the Pakistan government” (52).

On Friday, 15 August, 1947 Khan of Kalat declared full independence of the State of Kalat, which was immediately ratified by the Kalat State parliament that was hurriedly elected only a few weeks before. The traditional flag of the state in green over red colour and the crescent and star in the centre was hoisted and a traditional Khutba (religious address) was read on the day in Khan of Kalat’s name in Friday congregational prayers in the Jamia Masjid of Kalat. The Khan of Kalat offered to negotiate a special relationship with Pakistan in the spheres of Defence, Foreign Affairs, and Communications. But, the Pakistani leaders promptly rejected Kalat’s declaration of independence and its offer for negotiation on its relationship with Pakistan, triggering a 7-month row over Kalat’s accession to Pakistan. In the changed circumstances, Jinnah in his personal capacity also advised Khan of Kalat to join with Pakistan but the Khan evaded the issue. Feeling the increasing pressure from the government of Pakistan, he also sought help from outside. He instructed Kalat’s army commander-in-chief, Brigadier General Purves to prepare for armed resistance and arrange for weapons and ammunition. Brigadier Purves approached the British Commonwealth government in London in December 1947 for supply of arms to Kalat state but the British government refused the request without the Pakistan Government’s approval (53). There were also reports that Khan of Kalat was seeking support from the Indian government and the Afghan King but with no success. Nehru, however, denied these reports (54). The rulers of Kharan, Makran and Lasbela, being too timid to side with Khan, voted to join Pakistan on 18 March, 1948, immensely weakening the Khan of Kalat’s position. Finally, after a Pakistan military action in Kalat, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan also signed the instrument of accession to Pakistan on 27 March, 1948. The state of Kalat as legal entity was abolished and merged with Pakistan. Most of the members of a short-lived Balochistan cabinet were arrested or exiled from Balochistan (55).


44. Balochis of Pakistan: On the Margins of History, The Foreign Policy Centre, London, UK, 2006 [henceforth FPC UK Report], p. 14.
45. Taj Mohammad Berseeg, Baloch Nationalism-Its Origins & Development,, p. 211.
46. Nina Swidler, The Development of the Kalat Khannate, monograph in the Journal of Asian and African Studies, p. 118.
47. Quoted in The Tumandar of the Bugtis by Ardeshir Cowasjee, Daily Dawn, Karachi, 3 Sep, 2006.
48. Waja Omar Bukhsh, Maulvi Muhammad Usman, Mehrab Issa Khan, Allah Buksh Gabol, and Abdul Samad Sarbazi were among its other leaders.
49. Balochis of Pakistan: On the Margins of History, p. 15.
50. FPC UK Report, p. 24.
51. Ibid, p. 16.
52. Ibid, p. 21.
53. Taj Mohammad Berseeg, p. 250.
54. FPC UK Report, p. 18.
55. Taj Mohammad Berseeg, p. 253

Chapter 4… To be Continued

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A History of the Left in Pakistan – 19

April 27, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued)

A Complex Knot

Indeed, for CPI it was highly complex and difficult situation. As soon as it was visible that the scepter of the foreign rule over Indian political horizon will not last for long, the ‘national question’ in its naked form in India overshadowed the ‘class question’. The Indian National Congress was started as a political party of the national bourgeoisie, the aspiring middle classes and petty bourgeoisie of the whole of India. CPI’s support for National Congress in its fight against British colonial rule, big absentee landlords, traditional Jagirdars, and Nawabs and Rajas of the princely states for a national democratic revolution was a progressive policy in the right direction, provided it had maintained its political independence and had built and maintained its organizational capacity for simultaneously pursuing its long-term goal of a peoples’ democratic revolution. But, confronted with the growing aspirations of other religious and national minorities and long suppressed Shudras and outcaste Achuts (Untouchables) of India, the National Congress had quickly reduced and crystallized itself into a representative party of upper caste Hindus, the big bourgeoisie, and the middle classes only. Failing in subduing the increasingly powerful Muslim identity and separatist movement led by its intelligentsia and financed by Muslim businessmen of Bombay and Calcutta, the big Hindu bourgeoisie was losing its patience for a protracted and, in their eyes, quite ‘useless’ negotiations with Muslim League. In fact, many of them realized the potential value and ‘political and electoral benefits’ of getting rid of ‘undesirable Muslim irritants’ in their future governance of Indian state. The big bourgeoisie was impatient, frustrated and worried about the stalemate. Powerful Indian industrialists such as G.D Birla were seeing in the plan of loose confederating units— as was proposed in the Cabinet Mission plan— all their dreams for a strong, centralized India coming to a naught. These industrialists and influential upper caste Hindu middle classes were hoping for a powerful central government in free India, footing the bill for capital-intensive projects, paving the roads, transmitting electric power and pumping the water supplies to develop new domestic markets that Indian business desperately needed. The Viceroy of India, Lord Wavell, after a meeting with Indian leaders, noted in his diary, “The Congress premiers of Bombay, UP, Bihar, Central Provinces and Orissa pressed for the establishment of a strong centre and said that the Muslims had been given far more concessions than they were entitled to” (42). The prospect of a large restive Muslim minority and particularly an army with dominant Punjabi Muslim recruitment was an undesirable ‘irritant’ for them to carry forward for vague emotional reasons. Without publicly admitting and taking blame for it in public, they were, in fact, quite willing or even encouraging to let these irritants cut away from the body politics of an independent India. But in an emotionally charged situation expected to develop because of the great human tragedies that were bound to follow this amputation the blame of the vivisection of the ‘Mother India’ was needed to be put on someone else’s doorstep.

On the other hand, by 1945-46, with the prospect of an ‘independent’ India becoming a reality getting brighter every day, the big Muslim landlords and Jagirdars of Punjab were getting fearful of Congress’ avowed policy program of radical land reforms. Failing to stem the tide and the great resurgence of highly charged and increasingly radicalized Muslim middle classes and peasants, they swiftly changed side and threw their weight with Muslim League to secure their position in its leadership and protecting their class interests in a free Pakistan. With this shift taking place in Punjab, the fate of a united India was completely sealed and Pakistan becoming a reality was almost assured. The joining of the big landlords and Jagirdars of the Muslim majority areas in an essentially a Muslim middle class movement for Pakistan sowed the seeds of strong undercurrents and intense conflicts in the factional politics of Muslim League in future in post-independence Pakistan.

Evidently, due to its lack of clear understanding of the conflicting class, social and national interests, and therefore, its inability to put forward bold political formulations for satisfying the political needs of all national and religious minorities and oppressed castes of the traditional Indian society in its confused bid of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds, the CPI was discredited among Sikhs and the oppressed ‘scheduled’ castes alike. The Sikhs, particularly, faced a bitter prospect of getting nowhere. In a communally charged atmosphere of imminent partition of their homeland, Sikhs didn’t have the majority in any part, neither in east Punjab (to be part of India) nor in the west Punjab (to be part of Pakistan) where many of their revered religious centres were located. With an acute feeling of being loser on both sides of the divide, most of the Sikh Communists tended to take up independent Sikh ‘national’ cause with a new vigour as now Akalis were seen more committed to Sikh self-determination than either the Congress or the Muslim League. A CPI leader, Harkishan Singh Surjeet who later became a prominent CPI-M leader, described the helplessness of communists in Punjab, “if the ‘Peoples War’ line had meant that the cadre were working with their hands tied behind their backs, the vacillation on the nationality question tied up their feet as well and whatever success they achieved was remarkable considering they achieved it by crawling on their bellies” (43). The Kirti Communists, in particular, who had earlier grudgingly submitted to the discipline of CPI in 1941, were again restless. They were the mainstay of the communist party in Punjab. In the Kirti Kisan Party elections in 1946, Kirtis took most of the seats; Out of 258 delegates to the state conference, 229 were Kirtis while only 29 were from ‘CPI group’. Owing to their intransigence and formation of an independent group in the party in Punjab, CPI finally expelled Teja Singh Swatantar, Bhag Singh, and Ram Singh from the party in 1946. Teja Singh even formed a parallel Communist Party in Punjab but due to the eruption of extensive bloody communal riots in Punjab in 1947, Teja Singh and other Sikh communists were compelled to cross the border. They later founded a parallel Red Communist Party in January 1948 at Nakodar, Jalandhar. This was perhaps the first ever split in the CPI due to policy differences. Red Communist Party in Punjab also adopted aggressive radical policies and raised its military wing for carrying out direct armed revolutionary struggle. It exhorted peasants to refuse sharing of crops with landlords and paying water charges and other taxes. It also engaged in armed clashes with state police. In 1949, during an armed encounter with police at Kishangarh in Bhatinda a police inspector was killed and the police contingent was forced to take flight. Finally, the state government sent in army units to quell rebels and the Red CPI soon surrendered, with six of militants killed and 26 arrested.

NWFP – ‘The Pukhtun Question’

Unlike Punjab and Sindh, NWFP and Pukhtun parts of Balochistan, which were arbitrarily separated and made part of Balochistan in 1901 for administrative reasons, were a predominantly Muslim area with a remarkably egalitarian social structure and traditions of communal land holdings. The society was, however, divided along Pukhtun clans and tribes with Maliks as their tribal leaders among equals and traditionally bound by the decisions of a rudimentary democratic form of Jirga (a tribal council). All were, however, not equal. Few, like ‘settlers’ from other tribes and areas, menial service providers (shopkeepers and artisans) of village society, and Fakirs— landless peasants did not enjoy the privilege of a full member of the tribe. Syeds, Mullahs and religious leaders were traditionally allowed a degree of social respect and some share in the agricultural produce for their upkeep and occasionally some paltry land grants for the purpose. The Mughal Kings and subsequently British colonial administrators had given large land and cash grants to some prominent and powerful Maliks and bestowed titles upon them thus creating a thin top layer of Nawabs and Jagirdars, usually entrusted to collect and remit land revenues, keep their tribes under leash and main communication highways open for royal army movements, and provide soldiers when needed. The advent of modern commercial life and socio-economic interaction slowly gave rise to a Pukhtun intelligentsia of rural background, essentially belonging to rich peasant classes, which showed the first signs of ‘national consciousness’ and ‘political activism’ for socio-economic reforms in the Pukhtun society in the beginning of the twentieth century.

For the rising Pukhtun intelligentsia in its conflict with the traditional Nawabs, Jagirdars, big landlords and moneylenders of NWFP who were mostly Muslim here, the vehicle of Islam as a rallying tool was not useful at all. Therefore, the politics of Muslim League struggling for the Muslim minority rights had not much attraction for it. The Muslim League was unable to establish its provincial organization in NWFP till as late as 1937. But the contradiction of the Pukhtun intelligentsia and enlightened rich peasants with the colonial rulers in its bid for greater share for itself in civil services and government contracts was more direct. The British government in collaboration with the Punjabis dominating and holding the best jobs in the province were clearly seen as ruthless defender of an oppressive ‘colonial social order’. The early reformism of Khan Brothers of Uthmanzai near Peshawar—Dr. Ghani Khan and Abdul Ghaffar Khan and their ‘Khudai Khidmatgar’ (Servants of God) movement in late 1920s necessarily assumed a strong ‘anti-British’ and ‘anti-Punjabi’ Pukhtun nationalist colour. Although, located on the fringe of India and otherwise isolated from the mainstream Indian politics in large measure, the Pukhtun nationalism soon became a strange bed partner of the Indian National Congress. The absence of the push of anti-Hindu socio-economic compulsions in his homeland endeared Ghaffar Khan with Gandhi and Nehru rather than with a Muslim’s leader M.A. Jinnah, winning him the sobriquet of ‘Frontier Gandhi’. In their bid for independence from British rule, the budding Pukhtun middle class was eyeing for possibility of uniting all Pukhtun tribes on both sides of the Afghan-India border in a united ‘Pukhtunistan’ either as an autonomous federating unit inside a free India or as a separate state outside of it. The Durand Line was drawn as a border in 1894, between Afghanistan and British India, cutting across vast tracts of Pukhtun lands and splitting their tribes between Afghanistan and India. In India Pukhtun tribes were further divided between NWFP and Balochistan. The Khudai Khidmatgars gained significant support among Pukhtun middle classes and rich middle peasants in their rising ambitions. It could form provincial governments in coalition with Indian National Congress both in 1937 and 1946 elections. But, a rapid change in the political dynamics of Muslim majority parts of India in 1940s and an independent Pakistan as a separate country of Muslims becoming a reality the gradual political isolation of Ghaffar Khan and his party from the Muslim masses was becoming obvious and the going for it was getting increasingly tough.

Although, Muslim League had lost 1945-46 elections in NWFP it was still able to mobilize many people to gain support for its movement. The political influence of the Khudai Khidmatgar movement that was led by rich middle peasants and supported by the Congress was clearly on the wane. The failure of its government in bringing the promised change in the lives of poor peasants or providing any significant relief to them in reducing peasant debt and rent burden was slowly taking its toll. The few tenancy regulations that were introduced helped only an elite group of rich tenants. Though, CPI organization in NWFP was very weak and rudimentary but any attempt to organize the working class and poor peasants was suppressed by the Khudai Khidmatgar-Congress joint provincial government with colonial firmness. The best jobs in the province were still going to more educated Hindus and Punjabi and other settlers. Meanwhile, the top landed aristocracy of NWFP in the footsteps of big landlords and Jagirdars of Punjab was also getting fearful of the radical rhetoric of Congress and was gradually moving towards Muslim League. As the independence of India and the partition of Punjab and Bengal on religious lines was getting closer, the Red Shirt government demanded that instead of only two options of either joining with India or Pakistan in the proposed referendum to be held in NWFP, an option to secede and form an independent Pukhtunistan be also granted. But having this option been flatly denied by the British government and, consequently, in the face of clear prospects of most people opting for the only practical option of joining with Pakistan, Ghaffar Khan and his party decided to boycott the referendum. Obviously, the results of the referendum were almost assured; the overwhelming majority (98%) of those who casted votes (over 51% of registered voter turnout) opted for Pakistan.


42. Yasmin Khan, The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan, Yale University Press, 2007, p. 59.
43. Mirdula Mukherjee, op cited, p. 219.

Chapter 4… To be Continued

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