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Altaf demands separate province

January 04, 2014

HYDERABAD: Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain lashed out at the Sindh government on Friday for what he called its discriminatory attitude towards the second largest majority in the province – urban population – and said if the PPP and Sindhi nationalists did not consider Urdu-speaking Sindhis as ‘full’ Sindhis then a separate province should be created for the urban people.

He said this demand could be withdrawn only if the PPP agreed to a formula of 50-50 share in all fields. Otherwise, he warned, the demand for a separate province might turn into a slogan for separate country. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari should accept the formula.

Addressing a public meeting held in Latifabad’s Bagh-i-Mustafa in connection with local government elections, the MQM chief said it was now for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to save the country because the provincial government of Qaim Ali Shah was pursuing policies of discrimination.

He asked Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to end this policy of dividing the Sindhi and Urdu-speaking people.

Mr Hussain’s statement drew a strong reaction from nationalist parties, with the Qaumi Awami Tehrik calling for a strike on Jan 6 if he did not apologise to Sindhi people within 48 hours and the Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party calling the MQM an anti-Sindh organisation.

Sindh Information and Local Government Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon of the PPP said the MQM chief’s demand for dividing Sindh was an attempt to spoil the peaceful atmosphere in the province where all ethnic communities lived peacefully.

He said the demand was only meant for political point-scoring and a ploy to join the treasury benches. He said Mr Hussain was venting his anger on the people of Sindh on behalf of Pervez Musharraf. He said the talk of discrimination against Mohajirs was beyond comprehension because Dr Ishratul Ibad of the MQM had been holding the office of governor for 11 years.

Mr Memon said the MQM should engage in political dialogue if it had any problem with the local government system, delimitation and any other issue. He asked why the MQM did not see any problem in the province when it was a partner in the government.

The MQM chief said: “Create a separate province for Sindh’s urban population if you [PPP and nationalists] don’t consider Urdu-speaking Sindhis as ‘full’ Sindhis.”

He claimed that if a census was held under the supervision of the United Nations, the urban people in Sindh would outnumber the rural population.

He accused the PPP of fomenting ethnic riots in 1973 and using the Sindh card at the centre (against federation). He said the PPP had usurped the rights of Urdu-speaking people. “I tell you that the way I’ve raised the issue [of separate province] you should tackle it bravely, instead of snatching our rights,” he said.

“It is better for you (PPP leadership) to accept a formula of 50-50 share in all fields. I am ready to hold talks today, but there is a possibility that after my death my followers may refuse to talk and everyone will decide things on the basis of power. It will lead to bloodshed with brothers killing each other. This will be dangerous for Sindh.”

Mr Hussain urged intellectuals to come forward and resolve the issue. “Otherwise, I feel a 1973-like condition will emerge when an Urdu-speaking Sindhi will not be able to go to rural areas and a Sindhi to urban areas.”

He said the people of Hyderabad had been demanding a university for 67 years and if the government did not announce its establishment the MQM would build it by collecting donations.

“Urdu-speaking Sindhis and Sindhis want to live together because they are sons of soil. When kin of one family can live separately then they can live in separate provinces too.”

The MQM chief said that although dictators had held local government elections in the country, successive democratic regimes had been avoiding LG polls at the pretext of delimitation.

He alleged that the current delimitation in Sindh was carried out to ensure PPP’s victory everywhere and to reduce the size of MQM’s.

Mr Hussain said Sindh’s cities were being treated unjustly. They are being deprived of electricity, drinking water and industrial units. No new development schemes are being taken up under the Hyderabad development package.

He said Urdu-speaking people did not come to Pakistan to become salves or enslave others. “We don’t want to be master; we want respect and parity.”

The MQM chief said Urdu-speaking people were called Sindhis, but when it came to giving them their rights they were termed Urdu-speaking people. “We have been facing this problem for 67 years, but time has come to resolve this issue.”

Addressing Bilawal Bhutto, he said he understood his sentiments. “You [Bilawal] are like my nephew and Bakhtawar and Aseefa my nieces. We are human beings like you and not animals. I am advising you like an uncle so that you also behave like a nephew. Be a good boy and not a bad boy. I respect your father and I can talk to him. But this division must end now whatever way you like.”

Mr Hussain sought intervention of the establishment, the army and the federal government and asked whether they wanted to sideline and throw Urdu-speaking people in the Arabian Sea. “What are you doing? Are you waiting for Mohajirs to raise slogan for an independence/state? When will you intervene? The MQM chief questioned the treason trial of former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and asked why other generals were not being touched. Gen Musharraf did not impose martial law in 1999 because he was in a plane at that time. Nawaz Sharif was thrown out of the government by some brigadiers or colonels at gunpoint, and not by Musharraf. “Article 6 of the Constitution calls for trial of abettors and they include retired Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and retired chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry,” he said. “They all are responsible for imposing martial and are abettors.”

He said the judges had given three years to Musharraf after the 1999 coup. He asked constitutional experts under what authority had parliament indemnified the dictator’s rule when it was under constitutional oath.

Mr Hussain said it was he who had spoken against the Taliban and even offered 100,000 MQM volunteers to fight along with the army against the Taliban. And he offered 200,000 MQM volunteers against India.