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'Liberating Sindh': Imran Khan and the Hero syndrome

Updated November 20, 2014

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The PTI chairman should read up on Sindh's political struggles before suggesting that the people of this region are incapable of thinking for themselves. —Reuters/File
The PTI chairman should read up on Sindh's political struggles before suggesting that the people of this region are incapable of thinking for themselves. —Reuters/File

Imran Khan has now resolved to liberate the poor and the exploited people of interior Sindh from their feudal lords.

I have to say, his words and his tone are nothing less than a humiliation of people in general, and inhabitants of Sindh in particular. He and many other intellectuals send the impression that politically, the people of Sindh can barely think for themselves; that they are a hollow-headed bunch devoid of any political sense or opinion.

Also read: Sindh Assembly adopts resolution against alleged comment by Imran Khan

On the contrary, any ordinary citizen or student of politics and history could tell you about the political struggles of Sindh and their challenging of the ‘establishment’ and its local allies. The prominent ones among these campaigns include the Anti-One Unit Movement, Publish Voter List in Sindhi Movement, Movement against Kalabagh Dam, Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) and contributions to the Movement for Media Freedom that Khan is so enjoying nowadays.

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There was also the peasant movement in Sindh (before Partition), which deserves a special mention. I sincerely recommend Imran Khan to learn more about the struggles of the poor peasants of Sindh, who protested in front of the Sindh Assembly with support from trade unions and intellectuals and finally got the Sindh Tenancy Act approved in 1950.

In the following years, landless peasants struggled for the allotment of state land only to self-cultivators (as opposed to allotment based on Auction, Reward and Claim). The move was partially successful and thousands of landless families acquired a piece of land on a self-cultivation basis through their struggle. However, this did not happen without poor people being subjected for years to state oppression, including physical torture and imprisonment.

Imran has all the right to criticise the politics of any political party. Parties criticise each other for their policies everywhere, but they unconditionally respect the people’s verdict i.e. whatever comes out of the ballot box. Implying that the people of Sindh are a clueless bunch is an affront to their dignity.

See: Isolation ward

In Pakistan, political parties often allege each other of using illegal and illegitimate means for influencing election results, the 2013 elections being the most recent specimen.

As parties allege each other for poll-rigging, different groups are talking about different aspects and reasons. Imran is more focused on rigging on the polling day. I would say nothing is impossible, and that his allegations together with whatever evidence he claims to have may be acceptable at any judicial forum.

However, Imran does not seem to be ready to talk about the pre-poll rigging. The Pakistan Peoples Party and Awami National Party are talking about pre-poll rigging too.

They mention the use of Articles 62 and 63 unfairly trapping their candidates in procedural matters and petitions, and talk about the open threat from the Taliban to the three political parties: MQM, PPP and ANP. The PTI is a beneficiary in both these situations that political parties on the receiving end have regarded as forms of pre-poll rigging.

When in Sindh, though, it appears Imran is not even able to cry out at rigging on polling day, so he has resorted to putting down the people of Sindh as an oppressed group desperately seeking help from this self-proclaimed saviour of Pakistan.

Read on: Pakistan politics: The mythical feudal and the real elite

The PTI chief should know that the Sindhi people are quite opposed to feudalism as can be assessed from the above-mentioned political campaigns. The feudal lot cooperated with rulers of the time against these movements.

All the dictators from Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan to Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharaf were quite comfortable with the feudal lords. Track their cabinet members and family backgrounds and you will know.

However, they always had a problem with comparatively smaller landowners, because instead of teaming up with the autocrats, these landowners chose to be part of the political process by running in the elections.

Funny thing is, that is exactly how it seems to be with Imran as well.

Imran and his party have apparently approached all of those big feudal landlords to join hands with PTI whom the people of Sindh reject every time.

It is an indication of the wisdom of the Sindhi people that they choose to elect smaller landowners as the better alternative, politically speaking.

Perhaps Imran wants to emulate Bin Qasim and his ‘liberation attack’ on Sindh. In fact, he does compare his trips to Sindh with Mahmood Ghaznavi's attacks in the following video:

The people here will not accept this style of his.

Imran seems to have certain miscalculations about the politics of Sindh. People have a favourable view of him to an extent because of his stance against corruption, but the PTI’s governance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is also there for everyone to assess.

His condescending statements regarding the inhabitants of rural Sindh will only serve to distance him from the people. He has the opportunity to engage them with the right political stance, but, in my opinion, he is wasting it.

Take a look: Arrangements for PTI meeting in Larkana reviewed

As a matter of fact, he is not alone. A number of intellectuals and politicians in Islamabad and Punjab are found ready with all kinds of judgments about the Sindhi people, even as issues related to the province — Kalabagh dam, provincial autonomy, ownership of natural resources, NFC Award, Sindhi language issues and the geographical integrity of Sindh — remain non-issues for them.

Well, the population of Sindh reciprocates fittingly — they don't consider their politics as worth anything.

So I would suggest to you, Imran Khan sahib, get the public together and discuss the political issues that matter to the people of Sindh. You will be more than welcome.

But if condescension and pointless hyperbole is all you have to offer, just make a quick thing of the event and say your goodbyes.