A well-known television programme’s discussion on the pros and cons of dividing Sindh has incurred the wrath of the nationalists in the province.
The show debated the creation of Mohajir province for the Urdu-speaking people who moved from India to the newly created Pakistan at the time of Partition. The topic is a sensitive one given the recent killings in Karachi and the appearance of grafitti calling for a Mohajir province. “Could this channel have dared to discuss the division of Pakistan the way it discussed this for Sindh?” asked Haider Shahani of the Sindh Tarraqi Passand Party (STPP) at a press conference held on Sunday to condemn it.
The STPP and other nationalist parties have banded together to threaten the private media group with a complete boycott of its television channels and newspapers in the province if it does not apologise. The nationalists have given the channel’s management two days to either apologise or be prepared to face province-wide protests and a subsequent boycott.
Hours after the programme was aired, nationalists organised protests in several cities and towns including Hyderabad, Thatta, Badin, and Mirpurkhas. Pakistan Peoples Party leaders and coalition partners in the Sindh government joined the chorus. The PPP has been battling escalating violence based on this issue in Karachi. Just a week or so ago, one of its ministers, Zulfiqar Mirza, unleashed a torrent of controversial statements on the arrival of the Urdu-speaking people in Sindh. He also commented on the programme.
“The channel should avoid airing ethnic and hate-based news and shows,” said Mirza while addressing a public meeting in Matli on Sunday. However, by now his words were less controversial: “Sindhi- and Urdu-speaking people are brothers and there is no discrimination between them.”
Another minister chose to comment as well. “Only the enemies of Sindh can talk about dividing the province,” remarked minister Jam Madad Ali while talking to reporters at Bhitshah.
The nationalists have long nursed a grudge that Sindh has not been given its due share. “Like every nation, Sindhis are very sensitive about their motherland’s integrity,” said the STPP’s Shahani. He advanced the argumet that Sindh was not created as an administrative unit as was say the Punjab or Hazara. “It has thousands of years of cultural, linguistic and geographical history.”
Muzaffar Kalhoro of the party said that today’s protests in Sindh and the press conference were a “spontaneous’ reaction”. “All nationalist parties are united on this issue,” he said.
And indeed, the Awami Tehreek party’s Rasool Bux Palijo issued a statement blaming the channel for running a series of programmes against Sindh, its people and culture. “Yesterday’s programme was tantamount to [declaring] enmity with Pakistan and Sindh,” added the party’s Muhammad Khan Bhurgari.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2011.