Politically fuelled movements for the creation of Hazara and Seraiki provinces have emerged in recent months. The latest to join the fray are the Mohajir Sooba Tahreek (MST), a movement calling for the creation of a separate province in Sindh for the Mohajir people.
The group made its official debut at a protest at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday, March 6. But unlike the dozens of protests that take place outside the press club on a daily basis, this was marked by anonymity and little clarity.
Those at the protest were reluctant to discuss their demands, and anyone trying to do so was asked to hold their tongues by men whose eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses.
“Our ancestors sacrificed for the creation of Pakistan and what we are given today? We just want our own province and nothing else,” one man told reporters. While he wanted to talk at length, another angry man pushed him back and whispered into his ear.
“At least we should have our own chief minister,” another protester said, but a couple of men took him away.
The emergence of the MST, coupled with graffiti that has popped up recently across the city demanding the creation of a Mohajir province, has inevitably raised questions about the group’s origins. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was born as the Mohajir Qaumi Movement from the sense of discrimination the Mohajir community faced in Karachi. But the MQM denies it has anything to do with the movement, even though text messages advertising the protest came from members of the party. The MQM has supported the creation of a Hazara and Seraiki province, and moved legislation in the National Assembly on the issue, which sparked a row when Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, questioned the MQM’s motives. The MQM has also moved legislation for the deletion of Article 239 (4) from the constitution, which deals with the assent needed to create new provinces. That move has met with consternation from nationalist parties in Sindh, who have turned against the PPP for not opposing the MQM’s proposal at the outset.
One man, who was distributing placards and posters, also refused to share his name. “I am from Liaquatabad and our organisation is the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and I belong to unit 158 of the MQM. We are with the MQM and Altaf bhai till our last breath but our leaders are unaware of this protest,” he said. He told The Express Tribune that the protesters were demanding a separate province because Mohajirs are not given any share in government jobs and are discriminated against at educational institutions. “The Awami National Party’s (ANP) men don’t allow us to get an education and jobs in Karachi while nationalist parties are hindering our ways in rural Sindh,” he said.
“It is our right,” a young man in his thirties said. “We’ll take revenge,” he said, and disappeared into the crowd.
“We want our own province. There can be no other compensation. We have been tortured, humiliated and killed for years,” was the impassioned plea of a young attendee.
Pamphlets were being distributed on the street corners by men who directed the protesters not to speak to anyone. “Just chant slogans,” he instructed attendees.
“We need the Mohajir province in Sindh,” said one. “Everyone is demanding provinces, why not us? You can’t imagine how people will join us… but this is not a protest for today. Such protests will be organised in the days ahead. If rulers can’t understand our issues they should leave us alone.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2012.