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Karachi, Sindh - Pakistan's achilles heal?

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May 7, 2012
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This thread will take a look at what is probably the greatest threat to the Pakistan federation over the next few decades and what can be done to reduce the risks involved. I begin with a quick summary of Sindh which is a province in south east of Pakistan with Karachi as it's capital.


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  • Sindh was the crucible of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization centred around Mohenjo Daro
  • Sindh was the first region to get Islamic rule in South Asia
  • Sindh was a emirate ruled by Talpurs prior to the conquest and annexation into British India in 1843.
  • Sindh after British conquest was lumped with their Bombay Presidency.
  • Sindh got it's own identity back in 1937 with Karachi as the capital of the province.
  • Sindh assembly was the first British Indian legislature to pass the resolution in favour of Pakistan
  • Sindh was the primary outlet to global sealanes for all of Pakistan on account of having coast on Arabian Sea.

All this tells us how important Sindh was in the making of Pakistan [note it was Sindh Provincial Assembly in 1940 in Karachi which became first provincial legislature for creation of Pakistan] but also it's port on the mouth of the Indus River on the Arabian Sea was the only port for all of Pakistan going north as far as Peshawar, Gilgit, Islamabad, Lahore.

Karachi by 1940 was premier city of what would become Pakistan and had the second highest population after Lahore.
Ever since 1880s and the British rail construction that linked Karachi port with the north the city had grown in size and wealth. Grand buildings which still stand today allude to this era. It became proably the most cleanest city in British Raj.
By 1940 it had nearly 500,000 population. Various trading communities got attracted to it. However after 1947 it's population exploded with migration from India who were refugees from Hindu mobs or economic migrants and attracted to the opportunities Karachi offered.

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It is important to note that migration from India continued well past 1947. Indeed more migrants came from India post 1948 to Karachi then in 1947. In fact right till 1956 nine years after Pakistan came into being more migrants were moving to Karachi from India then internal migrants from rest of Pakistan. In the tables below please note "in migrants" means migration from within territory of Pakistan and "immigrants" means migrants from India. The total number of migrants from India in 1947 and partition was 502,000. From 1948 to 1955 [seven years after partition] over 570,000 migrants came from India. This means majority of the community today that is called Mohajir [migrants from India] moved to Pakistan after the country was established in 1947 and many came half a dozen years later. Table below annotated with period 1948-1955 in green.


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Only by 1956 nearly decade after independance do we see reduction in immigrants from India that drops below the in-migration [from native Pakistan] at 15,000 compared to 22,000. By this stage the city had gone through profound change in it's demographic make. Indian migrants in less than 3 years had become dominant in numbers. The capital of Sindh had in effect become estranged from it's own province. The scene had been set for future ethnic conflict.

It is also relevant that the mass immigrant wave from India had no intention to assimiliate within the larger Sindhi umbrella they had sought refuge under. They instead carved a 'colony' similiar to how the British used to do with their cantonments. Indeed Sindhi's were expected to follow the culture of the migrants [mohajirs] with the convenient tool of "Islam". Which all too often was a culture they defined.

This demographic 'inversion" that took place in Karachi within few years after 1947 which turned Sindh's capital into "Little India" can best be seen in the graph below which charts the general population increase of other region/cities of Pakistan. The line marked green shows quite clearly the increase is conspiciously steep in Karachi that reflects the tidal wave of migration from India. Lahore had traditionally been the largest city in the Pakistan territory. However by 1951 Karachi had overtaken Lahore to become the largest city in Pakistan a position it has retained to this day with it's population in the upper side of 15 million.


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Until 1947 Lahore was the largest city in Pakistan territory. After 1947 Lahore drops to No.2. Table below shows this change with bold black line. Before 1947 Lahore was nearly double the population of Karachi.


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Pie chart below shows that more than four-fifths of its population are migrants (also includes children of migrants born in Karachi: see glossary) from various parts of India and Pakistan. A major proportion of migrants came from India after the partition of Indo-Pakistan sub-continent on August 14, 1947. Karachi is still growing rapidly and in-migration (migration from other parts of Pakistan) is an important component of its growth. The influx of migrants, as experienced by great cities or metropolises elsewhere, is creating diverse demographic, economic and social problems.


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Furthermore the fertility rate for migrants from India in 1959 was higher then natives or in country migrants. This would assure that population domination captured by the Indian migrants [mohajir] in 1947 would continue for many succeeding decades.


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All this demographic inversion happened under the Muslim League rule whose senior leadership was composed of migrants from India. Karachi was made capital of Pakistan until 1959. During this period the Indian migrant community also carved a extraordinary share in jobs and economic sphers of the new country. This 'capture' only came to end in 1958 when the Pakistan Army led by Gen. Ayub took. Most of the army was composed of Punjabi/Pakhtun ethnic groups from the north. In 1959 President Ayub moved to the new capital Islamabad adjacent to the home of the military - Rawalpindi.

However the demograhic domination by the Indian migrant community continued in Karachi. By 1971 Pakistan was being ruled by Zulfiqar Bhutto a ethnic Sindhi. He attempted to pull back some of the capture that the migrants had grabbed after 1947. In July 1972 the Sindh Assembly passed the language bill declaring Sindhi as the provincial language. This was the same assembly that just over 30 years before in 1940 passed the Sindh Resolution demanding creation of Pakistan becoming the first in doing so.

Yet this event led to ethnic riots in 1972 between native Sindhi's and migrant Indians who were often known as Mohajirs [literally migrants]. This clearly showed that Islam was not sufficient medium as both parties were Muslims. One had moved from India because they could not live in Hindu majority India. Now in Pakistan they could not get along with the natives because they were differant ethnic group - Sindhi. In India they were the same ethnicity but not the same religion. Now in Karachi they were same religion but differant ethnicity.

By 1980s the Mohajir capture was coming under pressure. At heart of the issue was the sense of entitlement or exceptionalism that Mohajirs had endowed on themselves. As their extraordinary capture of the socio-economic and politcal life of Pakistan and particularly Karachi came under pressure they formed a ethnic based party to fight for Karachi which they now considered as their fief. despite the fact that Karachi was capital of a province named after it';s main ethnic group - the Sindhi.

The Mohajir Quomi Movement [Migrant nation Movement] has represented the Indian migrant community to the present. They changed the name slightly to deflect from charges of ethnic-nationalism but that does little to fool anybody. MQM has fought against the Sindhi dominated Pakistan Peoples Party [PPP] which has tried to bring in quotas to give a chance for the natives to get their share. PPP has been led by the Bhutto family who are seen by the native Sindhi's as their gaurdians. The MQM was led by Altaf Hussain from 1980s to 2016. During the 1980s and 1990s ethnic warfare flared between the two communities. This gave Karachi the reputation as the most dangerous city in Pakistan and even became notorious abroad.

At times Karachi resembled a civil war with army moving in to establish some semblance of order. Altaf Hussain ran away to London and got asylum after he was charged with serious offences. He ran Karachi from London and was called the "mafia don" of Karachi. Nothing moved in the city without his say so.

The political divide is seen in elections. Most Mohajirs vote for MQM. Most Sindhi's vote for PPP. Both communties have in effect barricaded behind their respective ethnic based parties. Elections in Sindh just reveal districts according to their ethnic profle. In fact election maps might as well be ethnic maps, such is the congruence between voting patterns and ethnic groups.

Over the last decade Karachi resembled Beirut with it's zones and suspicion that India was financing MQM and even sending in operatives who would have contacts within the vast Indian Mohajir population of Karachi. Altaf Hussain the leader of MQM was even videoed giving talk in India that Pakistan was a mistake.


Below is election map of 2018 Sindh provincial elections. The black is Sindhi dominated PPP. Karachi is like a island with MQM and other parties holding sway. This explains the fundamental demographic challange Sindh faces today that will not go away.



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MQM and the Mohajor community are pushing for Karachi to be truncated from Sindh. The majority native Sindhi people of Sindh absolutely will not accept Karachi being truncated from their province. From their perspective that would be like London, Istanbul or Dubai being truncated because of migrants who moved there now have majority. In addition the Mohajir demographic domination that they gained post 1947 during the mass migration from India is now under threat. They still are the single margest group but their share is now about 45% and dropping.

They regard this as a aberration but don't see that their mass migration from 1947-1955 was also a aberration that caused the native Sindhi's to become a minority.

"MQM-P convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, while addressing a gathering in Karachi on August 21, made it clear that the domination of “Sindhi-speaking, rural PPP” will not be acceptable anymore and the only way to prevent the “total destruction of Karachi” is by declaring it as a separate province."

"The threat of ethnic violence and bloodbath in Sindh may not be a myth but will transform into a reality because Sindhi nationalists whether in the PPP, the Sindh-based Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) or the Awami Tehreek have made it clear that the division of Sindh will be over their dead bodies; that they will not tolerate and allow the separation of Karachi from Sindh."

"placing Karachi under federal control, imposition of governor rule and the MQM-P’s demand that Karachi be carved out of Sindh and declared a separate province can trigger a serious crisis and outbreak of violence."

This issue therefor will not go away. In fact it began to incubate from 1947 and slowly got more serious over the decades. It proved if proof was needed that being Muslim was not sufficient to bind divergent communities. The tragic result is that both demographics have developed a ribal instinct where they see the other as threat and are pulled toward their ethnic based parties even if they are corrupt, engage in criminal activity. They rationalize their unqualified support under seige mentality of thinking as "they are ours" good or bad.

All this might not matter to rest of Pakistan but the problem is the geography of the 220 million country and it's entire trannsport infrastructure is laid so that the entire trade of the country flows along the north-south axis. Entire countries trade discharges at the only port of Karachi and entire countries imports arive at Karachi port. Thus geography has given the port a stranglehold on Pakistan. Thus whatever happens in Karachi impacts the port which of course resonates 1,000 miles north. The country is hostage to this geography and that gives both sides in the conflict - MQM and PPP a outsized role in the politics if the country.


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So given the intractable problem of the MQM demands and PPP's position what can be done to resolve this issue before it explodes one day like Bangla 1971. History teaches us to take such problems seriously before the spark causes a explosive result. As mentioned before this problem will not go away.

So what are the solutions?
 
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masterchief_mirza

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Useful insights into the history of the problem. Having a dig at mohajirs should not be the intention though. They're as Pakistani as anyone else.

In any case, clearly MQM is a unique brand of poison. PPP is overall hardly any better, for different reasons. Disband them both and impose federal rule. The majority will support it anyway because the majority wants unity and progress - MQM fails on unity, while PPP is too corrupt to create progress.
 

PaklovesTurkiye

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You are deliberately ignoring the fact that

1. URDU SPEAKING do NOT want SEPARATION from SINDH

2. URDU SPEAKING voted in huge numbers to PTI (Imran Khan)

3. Karachi (Urdu Speaking) only wants merit/justice for them and their city.

------

We don't have problem with common Sindhis..

We have problem with their waderas who only know to LOOT AND LOOT -

Courtesy of RAWALPINDI - of course.

------

The END.
 

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MQM and the Mohajor community are pushing for Karachi to be truncated from Sindh. The majority native Sindhi people of Sindh absolutely will not accept Karachi being truncated from their province.
This is the crux of this decades old problem. Karachites that are majority Urdu speaking wants complete freedom from Sindhi feudal based PPP Dacoit party. While PPP refuses to let Karachi go because it is golden goose for not only Sindh but entire federation of Pakistan as the most taxpaying metropolitan city.
All this demographic inversion happened under the Muslim League rule whose senior leadership was composed of migrants from India. Karachi was made capital of Pakistan until 1959. During this period the Indian migrant community also carved a extraordinary share in jobs and economic sphers of the new country.
It wasn't elite capture but meritocracy. Urdu speaking migrant community was better educated and a lot more competent than ethnic population of Sindh that was used to live as slaves under their feudal lords.
 

Kabira

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Useful insights into the history of the problem. Having a dig at mohajirs should not be the intention though. They're as Pakistani as anyone else.

In any case, clearly MQM is a unique brand of poison. PPP is overall hardly any better, for different reasons. Disband them both and impose federal rule. The majority will support it anyway because the majority wants unity and progress - MQM fails on unity, while PPP is too corrupt to create progress.
This worked so well since 1947. Instead of asking muhajirs to assimilate in Sindh you ask Sindhis to assimilate in to alien culture.

But Sindhi muslims too are hypocrites. Before 1947 they worried about Sindhi hindus domination and pushed for Pakistan before Punjab and KPK. After 1947 they became Sindhi nationalists just like Bengalis.
 

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However the demograhic domination by the Indian migrant community continued in Karachi. By 1971 Pakistan was being ruled by Zulfiqar Bhutto a ethnic Sindhi. He attempted to pull back some of the capture that the migrants had grabbed after 1947.
Bhutto didn't try to reverse this alleged capture as there was none to begin with. Until Ayub Khan Pakistan's bureaucracy was run by the universally accepted principles of meritocracy. This naturally led to good paying jobs going to Urdu speaking migrant community because ethnic Sindhis were just not competent for the jobs. So Bhutto instead of educating Sindhis to help them compete with Urdu speaking migrants, instead came up with anti meritocracy laws such as disastrous quota system. Which effectively destroyed all merit from Pakistani state institutions and departments. It led to overstaffing and political appointments instead of meritocracy rule. And this is the main reason why all Pakistani institutions and departments to this date can't function as they do in other countries.
 

PaklovesTurkiye

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This is the crux of this decades old problem. Karachites that are majority Urdu speaking wants complete freedom from Sindhi feudal based PPP Dacoit party. While PPP refuses to let Karachi go because it is golden goose for not only Sindh but entire federation of Pakistan as the most taxpaying metropolitan city.
PPP can be easily arm twisted by establishment......PPP fears army. Establishment can cut a deal with PPP whenever it suits her but never made a deal with PPP for Karachi.....

This itself tells how biased establishment is towards Karachi.

PPP is not culprit

ESTABLISHMENT IS CULPRIT HERE.

Karachi is waking up to this fact.

The same city was progressing under Musharaf rule with era of Mustafa Kamal.

Nothing is complicated unless made into one.
@Taimoor Khan
 

Norwegian

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ESTABLISHMENT IS CULPRIT HERE.
Of course. Establishment needs PPP to rule Sindh in order to suppress real Sindhi nationalists. If they awake, they will cause more damage and harm than Baloch or Pashtun nationalists. It's necessary evil as PPP is the only party that can brutally suppress genuine Sindhi nationalists.
 
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Useful insights into the history of the problem. Having a dig at mohajirs should not be the intention though. They're as Pakistani as anyone else.
Let's not get embroiled in any agenda I might have. Every gawd damned thread on PDF has some ulterior driver behind it with a axe to grind. Rather, can we please address the issues I raised from reliable sources. The fact is simple.

Sindh is Sindhi majority. Sindhi's overwhelingly stand behind PPP and there is not much me or you can do about that. Irrespcive of corruption etc. This also applies to the Mohajir community who are gathered around on the other side of the pole. As we saw despite claiming to be middle class and educated for decades they stood behind Altaf Hussain despite his connections to murder and Indian RAW.

Unfortunately both sides are dug in and will not change. Any attempt to carve Karachi out of Sindh or attemp to truncate it would result in a catastrophic reaction from all Sindhi based parties. We all know what happened in Bangla 1971.

Thus rest of Pakistan is hostage to this fragile situation. I can't see any solution but for sake of rest of the 170 million people of Pakistan - the vast majority who are held hostage to this situation a insurance policy needs to be built up.

By that I mean Gwadar must be built up fast. A Western Corridor needs to be quickly laid out. Trade from up country must have alternative to use Gwadar. National entities like PIA used by all of Pakistan need to shift to Islamabad. With this contingency in place at least rest of Pakistan will have insurance should doomsday or Bangla V2 repeat itself and Sindh blows up. Again India would be drawn into this by supporting one group against another. But if things do go badly Pakistan can survive if Gwadar is functioning and fully connected to the north.

I say this because I cannot see any government having the political strength to resolve this issue. That includes political or even a military government. The situation is too entrenched and problem too large. Over the next decade construction of and re-orientation of trade corridor to provide a alternative so the country cannot be held hostage. At least restof Pakistan will be insulated from any madness in Karachi.

Gwa 2.png
 

Norwegian

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You are deliberately ignoring the fact that

1. URDU SPEAKING do NOT want SEPARATION from SINDH

2. URDU SPEAKING voted in huge numbers to PTI (Imran Khan)

3. Karachi (Urdu Speaking) only wants merit/justice for them and their city.

------

We don't have problem with common Sindhis..

We have problem with their waderas who only know to LOOT AND LOOT -

Courtesy of RAWALPINDI - of course.

------

The END.
Summarized the problem perfectly ❤❤❤
 

Kabira

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Bhutto didn't try to reverse this alleged capture as there was none to begin with. Until Ayub Khan Pakistan's bureaucracy was run by the universally accepted principles of meritocracy. This naturally led to good paying jobs going to Urdu speaking migrant community because ethnic Sindhis were just not competent for the jobs. So Bhutto instead of educating Sindhis to help them compete with Urdu speaking migrants, instead came up with anti meritocracy laws such as disastrous quota system. Which effectively destroyed all merit from Pakistani state institutions and departments. It led to overstaffing and political appointments instead of meritocracy rule. And this is the main reason why all Pakistani institutions and departments to this date can't function as they do in other countries.
You sound stupid as usual. Sindhis were not incompetent, just not good at urdu which is foreign language for them. But as I said they cannot complain now because they knew what they were getting in to.
 

masterchief_mirza

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Let's not get embroiled in any agenda I might have. Every gawd damned thread on PDF has some ulterior driver behind it with a axe to grind. Rather, can we please address the issues I raised from reliable sources. The fact is simple.

Sindh is Sindhi majority. Sindhi's overwhelingly stand behind PPP and there is not much me or you can do about that. Irrespcive of corruption etc. This also applies to the Mohajir community who are gathered around on the other side of the pole. As we saw despite claiming to be middle class and educated for decades they stood behind Altaf Hussain despite his connections to murder and Indian RAW.

Unfortunately both sides are dug in and will not change. Any attempt to carve Karachi out of Sindh or attemp to truncate it would result in a catastrophic reaction from all Sindhi based parties. We all know what happened in Bangla 1971.

Thus rest of Pakistan is hostage to this fragile situation. I can't see any solution but for sake of rest of the 170 million people of Pakistan - the vast majority who are held hostage to this situation a insurance policy needs to be built up.

By that I mean Gwadar must be built up fast. A Western Corridor needs to be quickly laid out. Trade from up country must have alternative to use Gwadar. National entities like PIA used by all of Pakistan need to shift to Islamabad. With this contingency in place at least rest of Pakistan will have insurance should doomsday or Bangla V2 repeat itself and Sindh blows up. Again India would be drawn into this by supporting one group against another. But if things do go badly Pakistan can survive if Gwadar is functioning and fully connected to the north.

I say this because I cannot see any government having the political strength to resolve this issue. That includes political or even a military government. The situation is too entrenched and problem too large. Over the next decade construction of and re-orientation of trade corridor to provide a alternative so the country cannot be held hostage. At least restof Pakistan will be insulated from any madness in Karachi.

View attachment 716340
Well I knew this was where you were heading and I don't disagree about Gwadar.

Gwadar isn't simply an insurance policy though. You're interpreting this in as pessimistic a way possible.

Competition stimulates change, even in deep seated corrosive mentalities. The presence of Gwadar will actually force all of them to realise that they're on a playing field with others now. They can't just throw tantrums and hold everyone hostage. So rather than being an insurance against the collapse of Sindh, Gwadar will force them all to stop squabbling and actually compete within a free market - efficiency, standards and quality of life must improve in Karachi and Sindh, otherwise businesses and labour will shift to Gwadar.
 
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