Chronicles of Pakistan: Sindh’s Ethnic Divide and its History – Part 1
The issue of ethnic divide had been simmering beneath the surface for some time and SPLGO ordinance has once again brought it out to front. The divide has been there since the creation of Pakistan but came to prominence during the 80s and has now become the most violent factor that threatens innocent lives during peace as well as troubled times. This post is first of a series that will look at how this divide came into being and will start off with the introduction of once “Sindh’s Jinnah”, Saeen G. M. Syed.
G. M. Syed is a personality that has been obliterated from the history text books of Pakistan. It is as if he never existed as far as Pakistan is concerned and modern generation has only a slight hint that he founded the Sindhi Nationalist party called Jeay Sindh (Long Live Sindh). “This simply makes him a traitor and should be forgotten” is an understanding prevalent among the youth of Pakistan and is a major source of ignorance that is threatening to destroy the province of Sindh itself. It is time to correct history where it needs correction.
G. M. Syed (Ghulam Murtaza Syed) was born on 17 January, 1904 in a village called “Sann” in Dadu district. He was the only male child of the Sadat family when his father, Syed Mohammed Shah Kazmi, got killed due to a family feud and his elder brother died at a young age. G. M. Syed was descendant of a famous Sindhi Sufi saint Syed Haider Shah Kazmi, of whose mosoleum G. M. Syed was Sajjada-Nasheen.
G. M. Syed was proficient in Sindhi, Urdu and English languages while he also had speaking proficiency in Persian and Arabic. He was home-tutored since he was the only male in the family but showed keen interest in politics, philosophy, history and religion. Following are his achievements until he joined Muslim League (Yes, he was its member … seriously).
1919: Became President of Local Board of his own Tehsil, later becoming Vice President of Karachi District Local Board.
1929: Became President of Karachi District Local Board
1930: Organized Hari Conference and became its Secretary
1937: Elected member of Sindh Legislative Assembly
1938: Joined All India Muslim League
In 1937 elections, All India Muslim League failed to win any seat and decided to embroil itself in the politics of the province to gain influence. The first three major personalities to join All India Muslim League were Hashim Ghazdar, Ayub Khuru and Sir Abdullah Haroon who were members of first ministry after the 1937 elections but were maneuvered out; the second ministry formed under Allah Bakhs had a pro-Congress stance and enjoyed Hindu as well as Congress support. Hashim Ghazdar, Ayub Khuhru and Sir Abdullah Haroon joined Muslim League in retaliation and were later joined by G. M. Syed and Pir Ali Mohammed Rashidi (both were instrumental in bringing down the first ministry).
The inclusion of G. M. Syed in Muslim League has been considered instrumental to the party’s success in the province because he had huge influence in landed gentry, particularly among Syeds and Pirs members of Sindh Assembly. On 8-10 October, 1938 Sindh Provincial Conference of Muslim League was held in Karachi by Sir Abdullah Haroon. The following members attended the conference:
Muslim League Center: Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan, Raja of Mehmoodabad, A.K. Fazalul Haq, Sir Saadullah Khan, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, Maulana Shaukat Ali, Sardar Aurangzeb, Nawab Ismail Khan, Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman
Sindh Muslim League: Allah Bakhs Soomro, Pir Illahi Bakhs, Sir Abdullah Haroon, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, G. M. Syed, Mohammed Jamal Khan Leghari and others.
The members expressed their feelings regarding Congress and growing Hindu influence on Indian politics at the cost of Muslims and their representation. One major reason why Sindhi Muslims clicked so well with Muslim League ideals was that Sindhi Muslims, despite a majority in the province of Sindh, found themselves a small minority when Sindh was part of Bombay Presidency.
(Some facts on separation of Sindh before returning to the conference)
(Back to the Sindh Provincial Conference of Muslim League)
The Sindh Provincial Conference of Muslim League held in Karachi on 8-10 October, 19378 was presided by M. A. Jinnah who accused Congress of attempting to destroy Muslim League and dominate Muslims by dividing them. In this conference a draft resolution was tabled by Sheikh Abdul Majid Sindhi in the Subjects Committee which reads as follows:
The Sindh Provincial Muslim League Conference considers it absolutely essential in the interest of an abiding peace of the vast Indian continent and in the interest of unhampered cultural development, the economic and social betterment and political self-determination of the two nations known as Hindus and Muslims, that India should be divided into two federations, namely the Federation of Muslims states and the Federation of non-Muslim states.
The Conference, therefore, recommends to the All India Muslim League to devise a scheme of constitution under which Muslim majority provinces, Muslim Indian states and areas inhabited by a majority of Muslims may attain full independence in the form of a federation of their own, with permission to admit any other Muslim state beyond the Indian fronttiers to join the Federation, and with such safeguards for non-Muslim minorities as may be conceded to the Muslim minorities in the non-Muslim federation of India
This was the first draft to actually demand separate state for Muslims clearly and is much specific than Lahore Resolution which is murky at best, with no clear indication of the term “states” which could either mean several countries or autonomous provinces under Indian federation. Moreover, the resolution was presented by Bengali Nationalist, Fazal-Ul-Haq, which hints that creation of East Pakistan was not part of the plan.
The text of Lahore Resolution is fully reproduced as follows for comparison.
While approving and endorsing the action taken by the Council and the Working Committee of the All India Muslim League, as indicated in their resolutions dated the 27th of August, 17th & 18th of September and 22nd of October, 1939, and the 3rd of February, 1940 on the constitutional issue, this session of the All India Muslim League emphatically reiterates that the scheme of federation embodied in the Government of India Act 1935 is totally unsuited to, and unworkable in the peculiar conditions of this country and is altogether unacceptable to Muslim India.
It further records its emphatic view that while the declaration dated the 18th of October, 1939 made by the Viceroy on behalf of His Majesty’s Government is reassuring in so far as it declares that the policy and plan on which the Government of India Act, 1935, is based will be reconsidered in consultation with various parties, interests and communities in India, Muslims in India will not be satisfied unless the whole constitutional plan is reconsidered de novo and that no revised plan would be acceptable to Muslims unless it is framed with their approval and consent.
Resolved that it is the considered view of this Session of the All India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principles, viz., that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of (British) India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.
That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in these units and in the regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them and in other parts of India where the Muslims are in a minority adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards shall be specifically provided in the constitution for them and other minorities for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them.
The Session further authorizes the Working Committee to frame a scheme of constitution in accordance with these basic principles, providing for the assumption finally by the respective regions of all powers such as defense, external affairs, communications, customs, and such other matters as may be necessary.”
One major reason why draft resolution of Sindh Provincial Council was not acceptable to the leaders of Muslim League was that it envisioned Pakistan without Muslims from minority provinces. The resolution was rejected.
G. M. Syed was invited to a conference held by Jinnah on 8 October, 1938 with Muslim members of Sindh that decided that all Muslim members of Sindh Assembly should join Muslim League Assembly Party. Allah Bakhs Soomro’s group refused to join. The group was formed in Sindh Assembly with Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah as leader and Bandeh Ali Talpur as Deputy Leader, both of them later joining Allah Bakhs Soomro’s group at a crucial time that left Muslim League Assembly Party stranded during no-confidence motion.
On October 1, 1939 Satyagrah (civil disobedience) movement was launched by G. M. Syed along with Sir Abdullah Haroon, Ayub Khuhro, Wajid Ali Sheikh, Mohammad Hashim Ghazdar, Qazi Fazalullah and Pir Ghulam Mujaddid Sarhandi. Hundreds of Muslims had courted arrest while many had occupied Manzalgah Masjid. Riots in Sukkur resulted in the death of 151 Hindus and 14 Muslims. This resulted in Hindus agitation and they presented 21 points for Allah Bakhs ministry, that included Joint Electorates instead of separate, which he refused. Muslim League group agreed and with support from Hindu members of Sindh Assembly, Allah Bakhs ministry was dismantled. Mir Bandeh Ali formed new ministry with G. M. Syed, Ayub Khuhro and few others as ministers.
The communal tensions could not be resolved by the new ministry and G. M. Syed proposed to either group all Muslim members as a front to force some concessions out from Hindus or go to the masses, organize them and educate them so that they could eventually influence the government. Both suggestions were ignored and Maulana Azad was invited to intervene who used his influence to bring both Hindus and Muslims together and ultimately form a pact, called Azad Pact. This pact was disliked by Jinnah.
In 1940 Lahore Resolution was passed that is considered first recognition of Pakistan, but that is not true. The idea of separation was first mooted in Stockholm Conference of the Socialist International in 1917. In 1924 Maulana Hasrat Mohani presented idea of separation of sub-continent on bi-communal basis. In 1927 Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi proposed re-dsitribution of India’s boundaries into North-Western, Eastern and Southern zones. North-Western zone comprised of present day Pakistan. In 1928 Sir Agha Khan suggested ‘Association of free states’ based on religion, language, nationality and race.
On October 29, 1930 Allama Iqbal in his presidential address at Muslim League’s Allahabad session proposed idea of making a single federation of Muslim majority areas in the North-West India, within or without the British Empire. What is comical is that, despite proclaiming it as a vision that led to the creation of Pakistan in history books, it was not the first time envisioned nor was it supported by Muslim League. The proposal was termed “Chimerical” and “Impractical” by the party, a fact that has been conveniently left out from the history books.
Now G. M. Syed was strong part of Sindh Muslim League and this helped Muslim League to reach to grassroots of Sindh, among the Haris and common masses. In 1943 G. M. Syed became minister in Sindh Assembly and moved resolution in support of Pakistan:
No constitution shall be acceptable to them (Indian Muslims) that will place the Muslims under a central government dominated by another nation as in order to be able to play their part freely on their own distinct line in the order of things to come. It is necessary for them (Indian Muslims) to have independent national states of their own and hence any attempt to subject the Muslims of India under one central government is bound to result in civil war with grace and unhappy consequences.
This resolution was passed by 27 members (from 60) of which 24 were Muslim members. Thus Sindh Assembly became the first provincial assembly to support Pakistan’s cause.
On June 13, 1943 G. M. Syed was elected President of Sindh Provincial Muslim League. He was chairperson of All India Muslim League annual session held at Karachi on 24 December, 1943 where he expressed his line of thinking in the welcome address:
I welcome you all to the land of Sindhu. By Sindhu I mean that part of the Asian continent which is situated on the borders of the river Indus and its tributaries. But as time went on the name began to connote a smaller and smaller area, until now it is assigned only to that part of the land which is watered by tail end of this great river. Today again fully aware of this fact, we are moving to weld together these different parts into one harmonious while and the new proposed name, Pakistan connotes the same old Sindhu land…. From now on well-to-do Muslims of Hind should please direct their activities in the field of trade and commerce to this land, so that it may in future, become economically independent and self-supporting… If people from Gujrat and Bombay could go out to the Frontier to establish Hindu dominance there, could we, too not repose some hope in you friends? The inhabitants of this land mostly belong to the agricultural profession, and are very backward in trade and industry. Your money and experience could remove this drawback. We are prepared to afford every facility for this with a view to making your task easier”
G. M. Syed’s proposal was answered after 4 years when millions migrated to the newly created state of Pakistan and One-Unit was proclaimed after 11 years, neither happened the way G. M. Syed had envisioned. Under bliss of not knowing the future, he got re-elected as President of Sindh Muslim League in 1944 and under his Presidential terms, Muslim League’s Sindh membership grew up to 3 lakhs.
G. M. Syed Vs. M. A. Jinnah
G. M. Syed, being a strong nationalist, expressed priority to his province and resolve conflicts or bring changes which suit the needs of Sindhi people, particularly Muslims. Jinnah, on the other hand, was core member of All India Muslim League at the center of Indian politics and his priorities were different. The central group of Muslim League was heavily dominated by Muslims from minority central Indian states (U.P, Bihar, Assam etc) and their core policies were directly in contrast to those of Muslim majority provinces. That was a major reason why G. M. Syed developed serious disagreements with Jinnah over the course of time.
After Sukkur riots, Hindus had presented Allah Bakhs ministry with 21 points that included introduction of Joint Electorates which he refused. G. M. Syed, on the other hand, agreed and together with Hindus he forced a no-confidence motion in Sindh Assembly. Allah Bakhs could not show the required strength and his ministry was dissolved and new ministry under Mir Bandeh Ali was formed that included both Muslims and Hindus. Jinnah was not in support of this alliance but initially concurred. The problems arose when Joint Electorates were adopted through an act and that was directly against Muslim League’s policy, even though Hindus had allianced on the condition of Joint Electorates. This caused agitation in Muslim ranks and fueled communal instability that eventually led to the arrival of Maulana Azad and agreement for the Azad Pact.
Bandeh Ali’s ministry soon fell and Allah Bakhsh was brought back as premier with the help of Congress. Jinnah had a dislike for Azad Pact and in 1940 he suggested to the Sindh Assembly that all Muslim members should join Muslim League Sindh. If that doesn’t happen, all League members should resign. Allah Bakhs group refused to join and League members ignored Jinnah’s suggestion for resignation.
Because of G. M. Syed’s efforts, the resolution in support of Pakistan was passed from Sindh Assembly and under his leadership Sindh Hari Committee had joined Muslim League (providing great access to massive Sindhi peasants that formed the bulk of Sindhi Muslim population) and Communist Part of India had endorsed the demand for a separate nation for Muslims. Because of this, Jinnah insisted in G. M. Syed’s nomination as President of Muslim League Sindh when the post was vacated and he became President in 1943, a position under which he chaired the All India Muslim League’s annual session in Karachi in the same year.
The provincial Muslim League had a strong tussle between Syed group and Mir group, the former enjoying a stronger position in the party while the latter holding the ministry. In a political clash between these blocs in 1944, the matter was referred to the Muslim League’s Working Committee for resolving. Jinnah had expressed his anger over G. M. Syed on grounds that he was causing a rift between League’s provincial ranks and was using unconstitutional methods for his personal politics.
Jinnah’s bitterness over G. M. Syed had many reasons. He was not happy with Syed’s proposed amendment to League’s working committee’s resolution on June 16, 1942 where he suggested greater understanding and cooperation between All India Muslim League and Congress. He was also not happy with the coalition Syed had formed earlier with Hindus that eventually led to the passing of Joint Electorate act. The tussle between them slowly increased and got severe when Syed’s supporter, M. H. Ghazdar, was dismissed from the Sindh’s ministry arbitrarily.
The final showdown came when in a no-confidence motion, Syed’s group defeated Ghulam Hussain’s ministry but despite defeat Ghulam Hussain managed to outmaneuver Syed and stayed in power. Jinnah reacted strongly and blamed Syed for rift in the ranks of Muslim League members, breaking party discipline, undermining the objectives of the league and shaking solidarity of Sindhi Muslims. Syed offered full cooperation and even led to more Muslim leaders to join Muslim League Sindh, including Ghulam Hussain (who did it to save his ministry). Despite late joining, Ghulam Hussain received great approval from both Jinnah and Muslim League but the person who made it all happen, G. M. Syed, had became an eye-sore for the same people.
As things heated up, in 1945 Syed disagreed with Muslim League Center’s practices and called on them to not be so authoritative as to leave provincial groups impotent to important matters and decision making. This matter escalated in the Working Committee’s meeting when Syed criticized the Central committee’s leadership and suggested them to cooperate with Congress to put joint pressure on Britishers. Jinnah refused bitterly for any concession to Congress and despite Syed group’s opposition, the powers of Central committee were increased dramatically to completely centralize Muslim League’s parliamentary machinery functioning in various provinces.
This decision had far-reaching impact on the upcoming elections. Three major factions had emerged amongst the Sindhi Mulims for Muslim League tickets. One was Syed group, one was Mir group and third was Khuhro group. On Jinnah’s advice, Syed initiated Provincial Parliamentary Board to resolved differences among warring factions and Jinnah selected board members. They were G. M. Syed, Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, M. A. Khuhro, Agha Gulam Nabi Pathan, Pir Ilahi Bakhs, Mir Ghulam Talpur and Sayed Khair Shah. This put Syed against four ministerial groups who, despite having differences, were united against Syed. Realizing that he cannot get League tickets for his group because of serious minority position he received as a result of Jinnah’s selected of Board members, as President of Muslim League Sindh he suspended the proceedings and adjourned the meetings. Liaqat Ali Khan, Hussain Imam and Nawab Ismail immediately came to Karachi and blamed Syed for all the mess.
Of all the seats, 10 were disputed for the tickets and Central Committee decided to award three of them to Syed group. When Jinnah called members of the suspended Parliamentary Board and asked them to give in writing to uphold the verdict of high command, Syed not only refused but also renounced his membership from Working Committee of All India Muslim League and his membership from the party was suspended. He was supported by Mohammad Ali Shah, Sayed Khair Shah and Pir Bahadur Shah of Hala. They decided to contest elections independent of Muslim League, under the banner of Progressive League.
In 1946 elections, both All India Muslim League Sindh and Progressive League placed big landlords and tribal chiefs as candidates while Congress brought forward candidates belonging to middle class. It is ironic to see these big landlords and tribal chiefs being depicted as villains in history books, cinemas, movies and urban youth of today consider them biggest enemies of Pakistan while the reality is that Pakistan owes its existence to these very people. If it was up to middle class population, Pakistan would not have have formed in 1947.
Following was the result of 1946 elections in Sindh:
Muslim League = 27
Congress = 21
Progressive League = 4
Nationalist Muslims = 4
European Seats = 3
Labour = 1
The total counts come up to 60. Muslim League won 70% of Muslim seats all over Indian subcontinent, except NWFP where Congress won majority of Muslim seats and Muslim League had little to no support. In Sindh, a coalition was formed between Progressive League, Congress and Nationalist Muslims. Muslim League also tried to form coalition with Congress but it refused since it already was in alliance with Progressive League.
Congress presented a different alternative, all parties government. The idea was sound and practical, but Jinnah refused. Jinnah was not ready to give any concession to Syed Group (Progressive League) unless G. M. Syed apologize and surrender unconditionally. In fact, Jinnah was ready to form coalition with Congress but not with Syed and this stance of his had two major reasons:
1) G. M. Syed had defied Muslim League and should apologize for that
2) Muslim League is the only representative body of Muslims
This rigid stance failed all coalitions plans Muslim League Sindh had made. The minority group of Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah was invited by Governor Sir Francis Mudie to form government, which remained very unstable due to constitutional deadlock and was eventually dissolved by the governor and fresh elections were scheduled in December 1946. The rivalry between Syed group and Muslim League Center had risen to a new peak and Jinnah gave its members a mission to defeat Syed group at all cost and by any means.
The Bihar massacre was used by Muslim League leadership extensively throughout Sindh to appeal to religious sentiments of Muslims. The biggest source of voter base that responded to All India Muslim League was of the Sajjada Nasheens (heads of Pir families) of the shrines that left their mentor G. M. Syed (who himself was a Sajjada Nasheen) and supported Muslim League. G. Allana was appointed election secretary who stated that Jinnah wanted all seats to be won, but especially that of G. M. Syed himself. The candidate that contested against Syed himself on Muslim League’s ticket was Mohammed Akbar Kazi and he was provided a sum of 50,000 for this purpose. Muslim League also appealed to the sentiments of Ulemas of both Sindh and Punjab, students from Aligarh University traveled extensively throughout Sindh to propagate message and garner support for Muslim League and Muslim League tickets were offered to influential landlords belonging to Syed’s group. As a result Nabi Bakhsh Soomro, Ghulam Mohammad Bhurgari, Rahim Bakhsh Soomro and Pir Ali Shah defected and joined Muslim League.
The strategy worked, the only seat the Progressive League won was of K. S. Khoso and Muslim League won 33 off 35 seats in Sindh Assembly. For this election Muslim League had used questionable methods to win that were challenged by G. M. Syed. A tribunal was formed (consisting B. P. Dalal, Rahim Bakhsh Sheikh and Feroze Ali Nana) after the creation of Pakistan to look into the matter and in light of its findings, declared Mohammed Akbar Kazi, Pir Ilahi Bakhsh and Mir Muhammad Shah disqualified for 6 years. G. M. Syed was declared winner and he joined Sindh Assembly after the creation of Pakistan.