In the death of Dr Hamida Khuhro, who passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 81, Pakistan has lost an eminent scholar, a historian of integrity and politician of deep acumen and commitment. After having worked in various scholarly positions and authored notable books on history, she joined politics and twice served as Sindh’s education minister.
Daughter of eminent Muslim League leader Mohammad Ayub Khuhro, who served as a chief minister of Sindh and federal defence minister, Hamida Khuhro got her early education in her village Aqil, but later moved to Karachi.
She was brought up in an influential political family of Larkana, a city that has been host to a number of political dynasties — such as the Bhuttos, Khuhros, Kazis and Chandios — that have ruled Sindh for nearly a century. But the young Hamida did not show any interest in entering politics; instead, she developed a liking for academics.
After having attained a master’s degree from the University of Karachi, she left for the United Kingdom for higher studies. She studied at Cambridge, Oxford and London, getting her doctorate from the University of London.
The subject of her research was rare: the history of Sindh during the colonial era. The title of her PhD thesis was “The making of modern Sindh: a study of British policy and its effects on social change in the region in the 19th century”. The work first appeared in 1978, and in an extended form, in 1999, with additional observations regarding the transitory era. It drew the attention of scholars and students alike.
In her work, she made a special effort to elaborate on the social and economic conditions of Sindh before British rule, followed by the effects of colonial policies on the social and political fabric of the region.
Dealing minutely with almost all aspects from the administrative set-up to economic reforms, the scholar made a deep study of how governance can affect the socio-economic framework of a community.
Dr Khuhro’s other works are: Sindh through the centuries, a compilation of papers read at an international seminar on Moenjodaro in 1975; Karachi: megacity of our times; and Mohammad Ayub Khuhro: A life of courage in politics, a biographical sketch of her father.
The last book is an important addition in the body of academic work regarding historical events in the post-independence era, with special reference to the formation of One Unit, which Mr Khuhro supported despite opposition from the people of Sindh.
The work also highlighted the much-debated party politics that created differences between Muslim League leaders at that crucial time, leading to a multitude of problems. Besides these books, she undertook research on the first Hur Movement (1890) to track the great war of independence in Sindh that brought about half the region under martial law. Her paper titled “A nineteenth century guerrilla war” became the basic source material on the movement, including for Dr H.T. Lambrick’s work The terrorist.
Over the course of her career, Dr Khuhro taught at the universities of Oxford, Karachi and Sindh. At the University of Sindh in 1978, she headed the newly established Pakistan Studies Centre where she also edited its research journal, Grassroots.
Although she came from a political family, she kept away from active politics. Even when the 1970 election brought her father’s political opponent Zulfikar Ali Bhutto into power, she remained immersed in writing and research work.
She entered active politics seven years after her father’s death in 1987, when she joined the Sindh National Alliance, of which she remained chairperson till 1994. Later, she joined the PML-Q.
She was appointed as Sindh’s education minister in 1990, and later in 2004. She also represented Pakistan at various international forums such as the United Nations.
As a member of the Sindh provincial assembly and an education minister, Dr Khuhro tried hard to improve the educational standards in the province, which in her opinion had declined considerably while poverty levels had increased. She believed that the flight of wealth from rural Sindh to its cities and towns had lowered the living standards of the people. In a newspaper interview in 2003, she insisted that technical education must be given importance.
On politics, against the backdrop of Sindh’s situation, she expressed dismay and said that saner elements must make a breakthrough. Speaking at a gathering to mark the 108th birthday of G.M. Syed in Hyderabad on Jan 15, 2012, she said that demands to repatriate non-Sindhi speaking people from Sindh should cease, because that created hatred. Like an enlightened politician, she believed till the last that all people residing in Sindh should unite and work for the cause of the province.
Dr Khuhro is survived by a daughter, Nuha Ansari-Moore, who lives in the United States.
Her funeral prayers were held after Asr prayers at Masjid al-Siddique and she was buried in the Gizri graveyard.
Published in Dawn February 13th, 2017