Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Language, Learning and Logic

July 11, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

The other day I read an article on indigenous languages. I admired its spirit but was dismayed by its logic relating language and learning.

The article mentioned there are 17 languages spoken in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of which only two, Pashto and Hindko, will be explicitly recorded in the forthcoming census. The rest will be categorized as ‘Other.’ The author feared these languages would decay and urged the government to preserve them for posterity.

So far, so good as the fate of minor languages is a global concern. But the article included a paragraph that needs to be quoted in full:

There are some experts who argue that a child should be taught in the mother tongue till a certain grade before opting for any other language at an advanced stage. The argument seems to be flawed since languages become harder to learn with age. So one has to choose from an early age which language one’s children should excel in — in a local language which does not have any worth in the job market or the one that can serve as a vehicle for the development of their careers.

This belief does not reflect just the opinion of the author. It effectively represents Pakistan’s language policy and the understanding of parents making it necessary to show why it is misleading. A minor problem is that it undermines the author’s objective. Only living languages are sustained attempts to preserve languages as museum pieces inevitably fail. Languages shunned as worthless for employment are doomed to slow death.

The major problem is the argument’s negation of evidence on linguistics and learning. First, the critical early-age decision is not choosing the language a child should excel in with a career in mind. It is choosing the language of instruction that maximizes the child’s ability to learn effectively. There is ample evidence to suggest that children learn best in their first language they pick up subjects like arithmetic better if taught in a familiar  language.

Second, it is false that children can only learn one language well because it becomes harder to learn a language with age. In fact, evidence suggests that children who begin learning in a familiar language are better at acquiring a second unfamiliar language later compared to those who start directly with the unfamiliar language. After much research the European Union has adopted the ‘mother-tongue plus two’ formula whereby children begin school in their mother-tongue and acquire two more languages before completing high school.  

Third, the belief that excelling in a language requires learning it from day one is incorrect and results from misunderstanding the learning process. Children acquire their first language effortlessly because they are immersed in it and have to survive by communicating their needs in it. This need-driven acquisition is not transferrable to alien languages. For example, in a Seraiki neighborhood if Chinese is made the medium of instruction children will not acquire it as fluently as Seraiki. Rather, they will retard their cognitive abilities struggling with an unfamiliar learning vehicle.

Fourth, adults learn foreign languages quite easily. They may lack the accents of native speakers but can be highly proficient otherwise. Observe the number of non-native scholars of Urdu in Western universities doing world-class work Annemarie Schimmel did not learn four oriental languages as a child. Adult Pakistani students in France and Germany do so likewise.    

Fifth, career decisions are not made in kindergarten. They are based on aptitude which matures later and is itself an outcome of a good education. Dr. Salam and Iqbal did not know their future careers at the start of their education nor did they start it in English. Had they done so they might have ended as babus in a British office.

The importance of language in early education has long been recognized. Macaulay introduced English as the medium of instruction for the Indian elite in 1835 triggering a wider demand because of its association with employment. However, a review of the policy in 1904 by the British themselves came to the following conclusion:

It is true that the commercial value which a knowledge of English commands, and the fact that the final examinations of the high schools are conducted in English, cause the secondary schools to be subjected to a certain pressure to introduce prematurely both the teaching of English and its use as a medium of instruction… This tendency however should be corrected in the interest of sound education. As a general rule a child should not be allowed to learn English as a language until he has made some progress in the primary stages of instruction and has received a thorough grounding in his mother-tongue.

Over a 100 years later, a British Council study in Pakistan noted “various adverse outcomes arising from negative attitudes towards indigenous languages and for using Urdu and English as languages of instruction. These included high dropout rates, poor educational achievements, ethnic marginalization and, longer term, a risk of language death.” The study concluded that “there was an urgent need for awareness-raising about the importance of the mother tongue in the early years of education.”

Parents most in need of this message, with children shortchanged by early education in poor English, do not read such studies. It is for educationists to both raise awareness and convince the authorities to respect available evidence. Note that the Chinese have made remarkable progress without using English as the medium for early education while we who have done so are left far behind. All Chinese who need to learn English to advance their careers manage to do so.

The simple message to convey is that to acquire English it is not necessary to have it as the language of instruction in early education and doing so is bad for learning. It is understandable if parents confuse the issue; for decision-makers to do so just proves that knowing English does not necessarily correlate with intelligence.

This opinion appeared in Dawn on July 10, 2017 and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

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Pakistan and its Neighbours

July 6, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

Look at the map of Pakistan. The overwhelming length of its land border (92% of a total of 6,774 kilometers) is shared with three countries – India (43%), Afghanistan (36%), and Iran (13%). Pakistan has poor relations with each of these three neighbours.

Has anyone seriously asked the two obvious questions: Why? And, At what cost?

Before we jump on the moral high-horse and go into paroxysms of indignant self-righteousness, could we consider the following:

When George Bush asks ‘Why do they hate us?’ and answers ‘Because we are so good,’ we marvel at his intelligence. When we proclaim the same, we want to be taken seriously?

Surely, some self-reflection is in order.

Point number one: When nobody likes you, the problem could very well be with you. At the very least, intellectual honesty demands one should be open to the possibility.

Alright, there is a ready-to-serve narrative for the hostility with India. It is a Hindu country and Hindus are sworn enemies of Muslims wanting nothing better than to undo Pakistan. Ergo, we have to terrorize them from time to time lest, God forbid, they change their minds.

But what about our fellow-Muslim neighbours. Do we have semi-plausible narratives to explain our unhappiness with them?

We need to have a friendly regime in Afghanistan so we can be friends with them. Of course, this involves regime change about which we have serious qualms except when we are desperately seeking friends. And a little strategic depth won’t hurt either because when we have to pole-vault over the Indian border, we can start running from much further back.

Meanwhile, as Madeleine Albright said about the death of 500,000 Iraqis: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”

And Iran, don’t they belong to a different sect? In any case, the enemy of our friend is our enemy, isn’t it?

Okay, I am exaggerating (slightly) but could we put some more coherent narratives on the table and have a national discussion without being defensive or afraid. And, while we are at it, could we also discuss who the geniuses are who are making these brilliant foreign policy decisions because it is certainly not the citizens.

We do seem to have a surreal notion of how to resolve our issues. Instead of trying to get along with the neighbours we have, we seem desperate to relocate ourselves to another neighbourhood. If only we could become Bakistan and cuddle up to Saudi Arabia or attach ourselves to the udders of those wonderful ’Stans, or be an extension of China, wouldn’t everything be so wonderful?

Quite aside from the fact that moving a country is not quite the same as moving a family from quarrelsome Harbanspura to peaceful Bedian, the nice thing about counterfactuals is that they never need to be put to the test. Having made a hash of SAARC and RCD, we can boldly dream we would make a great success of CAP (Central Asia and Pakistan – seriously).

It does help to have a short memory. Didn’t we have a neighbour (a little more than a neighbour, actually) about a 1,000 miles to the east and what exactly did we do to it that it could not bear our embrace?

Is everyone in this pipedream too smoked up to keep track of the contradictions? We launched a jihad in Afghanistan because godless communists were being nasty to our fellow-Muslims and now our best friends (sweeter than honey, etc.) are godless communists who allegedly won’t allow Muslims in their country to grow beards or fast during Ramzan (sorry, Ramadan). We are sincerely upset about Kashmir but, please, could we sincerely avert our eyes from Xinjiang. Or else.

More and more this comes across as a melange of self-serving gibberish that just doesn’t hold together. But who is to say and we know who there is to hear?

And what about the benefits and costs? Every situation has its winners and losers and in almost every case two truths hold: The winners are few and the losers many; and, the winners convince the losers that everything is happening in the latter’s interest and is exactly as the Good Lord willed. How much better the reward when it is finally conferred in the Hereafter.

There’s no prize for guessing the winners and the losers. Just look for the folks whose lifestyle is immune to whatever happens on the borders and those who are laughing to the bank and onwards to the Bahamas. There go your winners. As for the losers, think of those for whom a few Rupees less in the price of food would mean two meals a day instead of one.

You may not be able to do much about it but I am sure you can figure it out.

This opinion was published in the Express-Tribune on July 5, 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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What Can the Social Sciences Do for Us?

June 20, 2017

By Sara Fatima

This post is in response to a recent article by Professor Mohammad Waseem (‘An ignoramus par excellence,’ The News, June 11, 2017) in which he argues that the majority of the professional, political, bureaucratic and military elites of Pakistan are uninformed about the larger issues pertaining to our social, national and global life. Some of the issues he mentions are the weakness of our foreign policy, increasing social violence, population explosion, water shortage and cultural practices oppressing women and minorities. Professsor Waseem attributes this outcome to an insularity of vision and thought which, in his view, stems from a lack of exposure to the social sciences in our educational system.

In elucidating this weakness of Pakistan’s educated elite, Professor Waseem compares the typical Pakistani school graduate with one in the West. He asserts that in the West a school graduate is introduced to the origin and history of major ideas and is equipped with the conceptual tools to perceive and understand the dynamics of the real world. The social sciences are a part of the educational curriculum even at a preliminary level. Such is not the case in Pakistan where a school graduate is not equipped with a strong foundation in the uninhibited exploration of ideas. The canvas of education is limited and insular, a weakness that is exacerbated by textbooks that are not rich enough to familiarize students with a rapidly evolving world. Nor do they convey sufficient knowledge of ancient civilizations or even of the contemporary world. The result is a myopic worldview.

This observation is quite plausible but we may question whether it is just the content of the textbooks that is source of our problems. If we replace these books with those used in the developed world, would be induce the required change in the thinking of our people? It seems unlikely because of the inadequate training of teachers and their adherence to outdated pedagogical methods.

In Pakistan, students are discouraged from asking questions in class. They cannot even think of disagreeing with their teachers who are considered as being in positions of supreme authority, a relationship that discourages critical thinking. Teachers in turn are risk-averse and prefer not to stray from the conservative norms of religion, race and gender. They are either incapable of, or deliberately stay away from, conveying a more universal humanism depriving the students from developing a tolerance of differences in attitudes and values.

Another important factor contributing to the narrow-mindedness of the educated elite is the elimination of the social sciences from professional training at advanced levels of education. This is particularly the case in engineering, medical and military training. The curriculum is confined to technical subjects leaving out the more open-ended subjects that need to be a part of  intellectual growth. This one-dimensional education is resulting in the growing fundamentalism and increasing intolerance of our educated youth.

Recent research suggests that a disproportionate percentage of students involved in violent activities have a background in science, engineering or medicine. A study conducted in the sociology department of the University of Oxford (‘Engineers of Jihad,’ 2007) confirms this hypothesis that students of the above-mentioned subjects are over-represented in violent Islamist movements. The plausible explanation given for this phenomenon is that the mindset of people with this educational background inclines them to take extreme positions on matters that may have multiple answers or causes. The study reinforces the importance of the social sciences to mould individuals who can see things in grey instead of in black and white.

Despite the above, there are some other questions that need to be raised in order to address the issues raised by Professor Waseem. We need to be sure that our elite is truly ignorant of the crucial issues as presumed by him. Could it be possible that the  ignorance is a mere pretence? Is our political elite really interested in building an open intellectual environment in our society or does the status quo better serve its parochial interests? These questions direct us to a larger debate that is probably more significant in unravelling the sociopolitical dynamic of our society.

Sara Fatima graduated from LUMS with a major in Politics and Economics. For a related article, see Education: Humanities and Science

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CSS Questions: Ideology or Science

June 10, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

In connection with the much discussed concerns with the performance of the civil service in Pakistan, I have suggested that in addition to obvious factors like the quality of education in the country and the terms and conditions of employment during service, it might be useful to look at the particulars of the selection test itself. The objective would be to assess how the test impacts the behavior of candidates and whether it encourages self-selection of particular types of candidates.

The argument can be motivated with one illustrative question from the compulsory Islamiat paper downloaded from the version of the 2015 CSS examination available on the website of the Federal Public Service Commission. The question is as follows:

“Highlight the importance of Zakat and prove that economic stability of a society can be ensured through its effective implementation.”

Now consider the implications of the question. First, note the word ‘prove’ which is generally used in the context of propositions that are known to be factually true and whose truth is to be demonstrated by empirical verification or logical argumentation. The proposition that the earth is round or that the theorem of Pythagoras holds are familiar examples. Is there really any way to convincingly prove in this sense an article of faith asserting that a religious obligation can ensure economic stability of a society? Is there really any need to prove an article of faith?

Second, assume that nevertheless an attempt is made to prove the proposition. Does the question provide acceptable clarity on what is meant by ‘economic stability of a society’ the existence of which is to be proved? What are the indicators that characterize economic stability? What is to be considered the distinction between stability and instability?

Third, consider the question in a broader economic context. As an obligatory payment levied on wealth and earmarked for poverty alleviation, Zakat is only one instrument among many other economic instruments and policies. Is it realistic to imply that just one instrument can ensure economic stability in a society if many of the other policies are poorly conceived and implemented? Would it suffice if, say, the economy is undergoing hyperinflation?

Fourth, consider the empirical evidence. Zakat is not only widely practised in Pakistan but also compulsorily collected by the state. Many would claim it has not led to an acceptable level of economic stability, however defined, in the country. The only argument that can be advanced to defend the proposition is the counterfactual one, i.e., that if Zakat were to be implemented ‘effectively’ the objective would be achieved. This reverts to being an article of faith leaving no room to argue that a single instrument, no matter how effectively implemented, might not be sufficient to guarantee economic stability in a society.

Fifth, and most importantly, consider the dilemma of candidates faced with this question. Quite independent of their individual opinions, would anyone risk offering an answer that might be contrary to the belief of an unknown examiner? Would they jeopardise the chance of a prestigious career by expressing intelligent opinions no matter how well argued? Would there be some candidates who would balk at the need to argue contrary to their experiential understanding and what would be the price of their intellectual honesty?

What is the likely outcome of posing this type of question? Zakat is a staple topic that is repeated every few years. It has a safe and acceptable answer that is available for memorization. My guess is that the majority of the candidates would opt for a safety-first strategy and give the examiners what they presume the latter are looking for. As a result the answers would be fairly similar and standard reflecting no original thought. This contention could be easily verified by reviewing the answers to this question submitted by successful candidates.

It is possible to frame the same question in a much more neutral manner. One rephrasing could be as follows:

“Many countries rely on a wealth tax to smooth economic inequalities in society. Is there an analogous instrument in Islam? If so, describe briefly the principal characteristics of the instrument. Is the effective implementation of a wealth tax sufficient to alleviate absolute poverty in a society? If yes, describe briefly how that can be achieved in Pakistan. If not, what other measures might be needed to achieve the objective?”

Such a reformulation would allow students much more leeway to demonstrate their independent thinking and analytical abilities. The question would not be seeking a pre-determined correct answer but a broader knowledge of social issues, the mechanisms available to address them in a religious tradition, and the real-life conditions in which the mechanisms are likely to be sufficient and most effective. These qualities rather than the ability to reproduce unquestioned texts should be what is expected of the candidates inducted into the civil service.

Lest it be thought that I have chosen an unrepresentative question I am reproducing another from the same examination paper:

“Argue for supremacy of Wahi as the solution of human problems against other sources of knowledge.”

Readers will note that it is susceptible to the same limitations as the earlier question in that it leaves room for only one safe and acceptable answer. This is what is termed a loaded question and it is not considered good pedagogical practice to include such faith-based tenets in examinations.

Consider further how this question might be reconciled with the following question posed in the Islamic History and Culture paper:

“The Spanish Muslims established the foundations of Knowledge which become the mile stone (sic) of progress in Europe. Explain.”

Given that the earlier question calls for an argument for the supremacy of Wahi against other sources of knowledge, did Muslims establish Wahi as the foundation of knowledge in Spain? That is unlikely to have been the case since Europe did not rely on it as a milestone in its progress. So the real question might turn out to be about the evolution of knowledge and the reasons for it in Muslim Spain. Such contradictions are bound to emerge if faith and reason are mixed up in this unthinking manner.

The usual response to such arguments is to deflect attention from their logic and suppress discussion by questioning the nationalism or religious faith of the writer. Such a tendency which has grown manifold in Pakistan is itself an outcome of the kinds of tests of faith to which all students are subjected throughout their education. Many people, including examiners, now believe there is only one correct answer to every question and it is the answer to which they subscribe. Questioning as a quality of mind is to be weeded out rather than encouraged. It is an attitude for which society has to pay a heavy price of which one is the burden of a pliant civil service.

This opinion was published in Express Tribune on June 9, 2017 and is reproduced here with the author’s permission. It is a follow-up to an earlier article, CSS: Probing the Examination.

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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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CSS: A Summing Up

June 2, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

A diagnosis of the alleged ailments of the Central Superior Services (CSS) requires an evaluation of three independent but interrelated aspects: the quality of the pool of candidates interested in the service; the test that identifies the qualifiers for the service; and the working conditions of the selectees once they join the service.

The average ability of the intake pool is obviously a function of the general quality of education in the country which is considered to be declining. However, given Pakistan’s large population, there is little doubt that more than a few thousand outstanding students graduate each year from the leading educational institutions. This number greatly exceeds the three hundred or so places to be filled in the CSS per annum.

The real issue is that these outstanding graduates are no longer attracted to the CSS. There used to be a time, till almost the end of the 1970s, when the CSS was the most prized career option in the country. This is no longer the case partly because the set of attractive alternatives has expanded greatly over the years. At LUMS I reviewed the career preferences of recent graduates; only two percent wished to join the public sector. The majority aspired to go abroad for education or to join MNCs, international agencies, and global NGOs. Thus the pool of candidates willing to join the CSS is a residual. This is by no means a universal phenomenon; in many countries the civil service continues to remain attractive to top-ranked graduates.

Now consider the second aspect, the selection test that determines who qualifies from among the given pool of applicants. There is a simple criterion by which to assess its effectiveness: Does it identify the most suitable candidates from this pool? The selection can be extremely rigorous and completely meritocratic but the outcome depends entirely on the attribute that is being sought in the ‘most suitable’ candidates.

A stark illustration can highlight the significance of this distinction: When ZA Bhutto was selecting a COAS, was he seeking one most qualified to lead the armed forces (as he should have) or one who would be most subservient to him (as he seemed to do)? It is unlikely the two criteria would have identified the same individual.

The question to ask is whether the CSS selection test places more weight on ideological conformity and pliant behavior than on critical thinking and intellectual independence. And, also, whether the association of competence with knowledge of the English language is excluding otherwise more suitable applicants. These questions can be answered easily by a transparent review of recent examination papers and a random sampling of answers submitted by those taking the test.

Once the most suitable candidates are selected from the available talent pool, their subsequent performance depends on a set of independent factors related to conditions of work. Are civil servants facilitated to perform their assigned responsibilities at their maximum potential? It is almost universally acknowledged that conditions of work have deteriorated over time with civil servants in Pakistan losing the autonomy and constitutional protections shielding them from political pressures. Performance has deteriorated because survival and promotion have become more dependent on pleasing political bosses than on proficiency in the real task of delivering services to citizens.

One can also see how the three aspects discussed above are inter-related. The degrading conditions of employment act to turn away from the civil service many future applicants with a sense of integrity and self-respect. They gravitate to other careers where merit and hard work are better recognized and rewarded.

The establishment, in turn, uses the selection mechanism to attempt to screen out candidates likely to challenge the status quo and ask difficult questions about the prevailing norms of governance. Consciously or unconsciously, adherence to political or ideological positions begins to influence the selection process more than raw talent – loyalty trumps merit. This selection bias, in turn, carries implications for the ability with which the selected civil servants can fulfill the tasks assigned to them.

This review suggests the elements of a comprehensive reform package that could address the problems of performance attributed to the civil service in Pakistan. First, the quality of general education has to be improved so that the pool of applicants to the civil service is better qualified. Second, the prestige of the service has to be restored so that it becomes an attractive career choice for the best graduates. Third, the selection process has to ensure that the most qualified applicants are picked from the available pool of applicants. And fourth, the conditions of service have to be such that civil servants can discharge their responsibilities honestly and efficiently without political interference or intimidation.

These steps are by no means impossible to implement. They imply a reversal of the weaknesses that have undermined the reputation of a service that used to be held in much higher regard in the past.    

This opinion was published in Dawn on May 29, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author. It sums up the arguments presented in three earlier installments: CSS: Danger Alert, CSS: Why English?, and CSS: Probing the Examination.

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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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CPEC: The Case for Full Disclosure

May 19, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

I am now less interested in CPEC, which is unstoppable, and more fascinated by how people think. Conventional wisdom has individuals using reason to objectively weigh the costs and benefits of an option and then choosing it if benefits exceed costs. More and more evidence on actual behavior suggests that individuals start with their minds already made up and then pick and choose arguments to support their positions.

At this time PML supporters are convinced CPEC is a game-changer while those opposed to the party believe it is a recipe for disaster. The former claim Nawaz Sharif is an astute industrialist and China a trusted friend. The latter argue Nawaz Sharif is corrupt and is using hype to distract attention from his troubles. Supporters are not willing to consider that their party can make bad decisions; opponents are unwilling to concede the the PML could get something right. No one is basing their position on factual information which remains irrelevant to the debate.   

Such attitudes make it difficult to convince anyone that their views might be mistaken. Objectively speaking, everyone should be neutral on the CPEC at this time as enough reliable information is not available to evaluate costs and benefits within reasonable bounds. The rational individual should be withholding judgement and demanding the numbers. Instead, stormtroopers on both sides are frothing at the mouth, ready to dismiss all contrary arguments as treason.

Although I am convinced that few minds are likely to be changed by my opinion, I still feel a responsibility to present the case for neutrality till more data is available for credible analysis. I believe my argument will make sense even to those lacking the expertise of  economists and financial analysts.

The starting point is the acknowledgement that $56 billion is a significant amount of money in the Pakistani context and that an infusion of this magnitude has the potential to do a lot of good. The big question is: Will the potential be realized?

Instead of answering this question on faith, I suggest participation in a thought experiment. Imagine your family is facing financial hardship and everyone you have approached has turned you down. Now someone comes along offering a loan of a million dollars, an amount that can solve all your problems and change your life. Would you accept the money with your eyes closed?

I am hoping you will ask for the terms of the loan. Suppose you are told you would be expected to convert to another religion. Or that you would have to indenture your children in case you fail to meet the repayment obligations. Would you accept the money on such terms?

These are hypothetical examples. I am not saying the Chinese are asking Pakistanis to give up their religion or indenture future generations. The extreme examples are only meant to dramatize the essential point that only a very foolish or reckless or desperate person would be willing to sign on the dotted line without knowing the terms of the deal. Is that an unreasonable conclusion?

Let us return to CPEC assuming the Chinese would not be asking for any such thing. But let us think of what the Chinese might ask for. Suppose they ask that whatever we buy with the money must be purchased from Chinese suppliers. Would you accept such a condition on a personal loan? If not, would you not worry if the nation is being asked for such an arrangement?

Consider the personal risks of accepting such a demand. The lender could sell you second-rate goods at above-market prices. Any tied arrangement would deprive you of better alternatives available in the market. At the national level, sole-sourcing would eliminate the efficiency gains resulting from procurement of supplies via competitive international bidding. Therefore, we should be reluctant to accept loans conditional on sole-sourcing.

The Chinese may not insist on sole-sourcing but ask instead for guaranteed charges and exorbitant rates of return on the investments independent of whether the projects are profitable or not. Many people know someone unfortunate enough to get enmeshed in exploitative arrangements with loan sharks and are aware of the consequences. This kind of outcome is not to be taken lightly.

These examples are speculative and may appear outlandish and I have no idea if CPEC involves anything of the kind. But that is exactly the point because such examples are by no means purely a figment of the imagination. Readers are well aware that usury, the charging of exorbitant rates of return on loans, is prohibited in most religions for good reason. They know that bonded labor still exists in some industries. Some who know their history would recall that the British passed an act in 1938 to rescue the heavily indebted Punjabi peasantry from the clutches of moneylenders. And there are records of violent opposition to alleged attempts by missionaries to influence people by offering them material temptations.     

The bottom line is that it is never a good practice to accept loans without full knowledge of the terms and conditions, more so when one is desperate for financial assistance. Readers would do well to read Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice to reinforce this conclusion. And, if convinced, wouldn’t it be ethically wrong to urge the country to accept something that one would personally reject? You should not do to others what you would not do to yourself.

Intellectual honesty demands a stance of neutrality on CPEC till the terms and conditions are disclosed without which one cannot arrive at an objective assessment of whether it could be potentially beneficial for the country. Only then could one move to the next stage of appraisal knowing that even potentially beneficial projects of this magnitude depend for their success on many other factors. Asides from the truly random and uncontrollable ones, these would include the implementation capacity of Pakistani governments whose probity and track record is not one to inspire confidence. What would we need to do to hold the government’s feet to the fire and prevent another Reko Diq?

This opinion appeared in Dawn on May 15, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author. See also, CPEC: Lessons from History and CPEC: Questions Persist.

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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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