In a clever move, the Awami National Party (ANP) leader Shahi Syed played the convenient but dangerous Sindh card while addressing a rally in Hyderabad late Friday night. He then went on to completely contradict himself.
“Sindhis have the first and foremost right over their land and all others [ethno-linguistic groups] come after them,” declared the senator at the Bacha Khan Chowk, near the railway station, at ANP‘s ‘peace and democracy’ event.
This potentially incendiary remark would have found resonance with the nationalists of Sindh. But it would have irritated other parties who have been stressing over an end to divisive politics, which can often spill over into violence.
Shahi Syed’s goal, it appeared was to warm up for an election year. He openly asked the people who had gathered to vote for the ANP for Sindh Assembly seats. In 2008, the party first made its inroads in Sindh’s house of elected representatives by winning two out of 168 seats. However, given the size of Karachi’s Pakhtun population, the ANP has its work cut out for it.
In Hyderabad, however, the Pashtun and Afghan population, who are considered potential voters, are predominant in areas such as Hala Naka, Pathan Colony, Railway Station and Fateh Chowk, along with the suburbs.
Shahi Syed also strangely looped around his own rhetoric and contradicted himself by saying that attempts to provoke ethnic disharmony in Sindh were weakening the country’s roots. “Pakistan is sliding towards a weaker federation due to political compromise,” he said in an apparent jibe at the Pakistan Peoples Party’s reconciliation policy with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
Shahi Syed scoffed that the party which bears the trademarks of “bhatta, thappa and bori” but was campaigning for the rights of the business community. He did not name the MQM as he was speaking on ground considered one of its urban strongholds. Indeed, he spoke on the eve of a province-wide strike against extortion and street crime called by the MQM.
Shahi Syed once again spoke of his party’s demand for legislation on de-weaponisation and an across-the-board operation in Karachi which does not target any particular ethnic, sectarian or religious community.
He rejected the recent house count and demanded that a population and house census should be carried out under the army in Karachi and Hyderabad.
The ANP party leaders appeared in high spirits over their recent success in the senate elections. “It has been a long-time dream of the party to represent all the provinces,” said its provincial minister, Ameer Nawab.
Despite Shahi Syed’s earlier comment, ANP’s Sindh general secretary, Bashir Jan, also contradicted the party line and warned against conspiracies to divide the province. The ANP would be first in the line of defence against the enemies, he said.
The party’s central vice president Lala Aurangzeb, labour leader Khamus Gul Khattak and other ANP leaders also spoke. The gathering passed resolutions demanding an end to drone attacks and the expulsion of illegal immigrants from the tribal areas, and supporting the international community for Afghan peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2012.