How Sindh Has Been Shielding Democracy In Pakistan
Nobody can overlook the fact that the Sindh Assembly was the very first provincial legislature which passed a resolution presented by GM Syed on March 3, 1943, demanding creation of Pakistan four years before inception of the present day Pakistan. It also got the honour to became very first provincial assembly that joined Pakistan’s constituent assembly in June 1947. This is also a fact that the Sindh has always remained at the forefront when it comes to safeguarding or fighting for democracy in the country. Historically, whenever the dictators tried to strangle democracy in Pakistan, it has always been Sindh which always leads resistance.
Many of us might have also forgotten the fact that when Governor General Ghulam Muhammad overthrew the democratic government of Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin in 1953, it was the same Sindh that faced up to the coward dictatorial act. The then Sindh chief minister, Pirzada Abdul Sattar, with the support of his counterpart in East Pakistan Nurul Amin presented an amendment in the constitution regarding blocking the odd powers of governor general.
Amid this situation, when the largest province of the West Pakistan (Punjab) thought that if province of West Pakistan with the help of East Pakistan can bring amendment in the constitution, it can also capture the political power in the country in the future. Hence, the then Punjab chief minister Feroz Khan Noon through his members in the Constituent Assembly gave an ultimatum to the governor general, which was even more dangerous than the six-point ultimatum of Shaikh Mujeeb.
Through that ultimatum it was demanded that the central government can only hold charge of defence, foreign affairs, international business and currency, while rest of the powers should be transferred to the provinces. The demand also included that there would be no amendment in the constitution for the next 10 years, until it wasn’t approved by a two-third majority in all the provincial assemblies of the country at the same time.
On such discomfited stance of Punjab, Ghulam Muhammad dissolved the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan which has been considered as the very first attack on democracy in the newly-established country.
After that when Punjab was being given dominance among the provinces by splitting the country in to two parts (East and West), it was again Sindh that first stood up against such vicious scheme of One Unit and declared it a conspiracy to loot Sindh’s rich resources.
In November 1954, the imported prime minister from America, Mohammad Ali Bogra, announced the One Unit scheme, giving a justification that there is imbalance of governance as well as inequity of resources in the country, as, on one side, there is only one province (East Pakistan) while, on other, we have four provinces (West Pakistan); that’s why all the four provinces of West Pakistan should be merged into one province. He also said that Khairpur and Bahawalpur states should also be included in this one unit scheme. After such an announcement, Mohammad Ali Bogra called a meeting of Sindhi leaders and intimidated/threatened them all to obey this decision otherwise (if not then) be ready to pay the piper.
Bogra became successful in magnetizing the mind of Muhammad Ayub Khuhro in favour of One Unit because Khuhro at that time was facing disqualification as per PRODA (Public Representative Offices Disqualification Act) and had been given an option that if he was successful in crushing the opponents of one unit in Sindh, the decision regarding his disqualification will be turned down/overruled by the government. After that offer, Khuhro and Pir Ali Muhammad Rashidi started controlling the confrontation against one unit in Sindh. In that regard, two famous Sindhi newspapers ‘Alwaheed’ and ‘Daily Karwaan’ were banned. As a result, a powerful citizen-led movement against One Unit was launched in Sindh which was led by GM Syed, Sobho Gianchandani, Hyder Bux Jatoi, Ghulam Muhammad Leghari and others prominent Sindhi leaders.
Khuhro wanted to pass a resolution in favour of One Unit from Sindh Assembly but it wasn’t as easy as he was thinking. It was even impossible to hold meeting in the assembly building so Khuhro called the meeting in Hyderabad’s Darbar Hall. The Hall was all surrounded by policemen so that not a single opponent could come inside.
When Mir Ghulam Ali Talpur, who was one of the bitterest opponents of One Unit, came to join the meeting, he was arrested and sent to Tharparker (Mithi) on camel where he was imprisoned. In the same meeting, Abdul Hameed Jatoi, Ghulam Mustafa Bhurghari, Pir Elahi Bux and Shaikh Khursheed Ahmed severely opposed the One Unit bill but on October 14, 1955, the One Unit was imposed.
After that when Dictator General Zia’s cruel regime started becoming insufferable for people of Pakistan, it was again the brave daughter of Sindh (Benazir Bhutto) who challenged the tyrant and kicked off the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in the country. It was again only Sindh that was active in such a difficult period and resultantly Zia had to send 45,000 military men to Sindh for crushing the movement.
Millions of people took part in the mass protests and strikes throughout the province. More than 200 people lost their lives, while around 15,000 were arrested but the movement didn’t stop. Finally Zia had to play the same old trick for defaming the movement by announcing that India is involved in supporting it. Though the regime forcibly was able to control the movement for restoration of democracy but could not be able to control pro-liberal soul of Sindh.
Finally Zia played a gamble and decided to hold referendum in the country for lengthening his rule as people were asked to vote for him if they really want to see Islamic system in the country. But the turnout remained only 10 per cent hence Zia lost the game. Without any doubt the credit of that victory goes to the people of Sindh who resisted the regime, which actually provided power to the people of Pakistan.
Today, if anyone wants to forget all those efforts of the Sindhi people purposely, he or she may but the history can’t wipe the fact out!
(The writer is a freelance contributor and he can be reached at [email protected])