KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution paying homage to the people ‘martyred’ and arrested in a village in Benazirabad district during the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), launched by an 11-party conglomerate in 1983 against Gen Ziaul Haq’s rule.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmakers followed Opposition Leader Firdous Naqvi while boycotting the proceedings when Pakistan Peoples Party’s Ghulam Qadir Chandio moved the resolution after Speaker Siraj Durrani allowed suspending the day’s business.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, a partner of the PTI at the Centre, stayed in the house. However, lawmakers of the Grand Democratic Alliance, save one, also, for most of the time, remained absent, but returned when speeches on the resolution were continuing.

MQM-P supports the resolution amid walkout by PTI lawmakers

Killings in Punhal Chandio village

The resolution paid homage to the 16 people who were killed in an attack on Punhal Chandio village of Benazirabad (then Nawabshah) on Oct 1, 1983 when the movement, which began on Aug 14, chiefly supported by the PPP, was still alive in Sindh. The father and other relatives of the mover were among the victims.

However, when Mr Chandio began presenting the resolution, members of the three major opposition parties stood up and began opposing it loudly. The PTI lawmakers also chanted slogans against the Sindh government.

The mover kept speaking on his resolution in which he said the tribute generally covered everyone who had lost life or suffered jail terms during the movement.

“We are witnessing similar conditions today as well,” said Mr Chandio. “Today too plots are being hatched to kill democracy with a fatal blow”.

PPP’s Kulsoom Chandio said democracy-loving people were killed, jailed and whipped publicly during Gen Zia’s regime. However, those sacrifices rendered by the people during the MRD’s agitation paved the way for democracy, which was still there, though not kicking.

Imdad Pitafi said people of Sindh led that movement despite the fact that they had nothing to match the oppression they endured. He criticised the PTI leadership, saying they had “grabbed power through backdoor”.

As the speeches continued, Opposition Leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi stood up and took all his PTI members along to stage a walkout. Except for one, the remaining GDA lawmakers also headed outside. However, the MQM-P opted to stay in the house as well as the sole member of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal.

PPP’s Heer Soho said movements like the MRD would echo and return whenever people of Sindh were subjected to atrocities.

Raja Razzaq said the central government had used Kashmir as a bargaining chip for their own vested interests. He said the PPP’s jailed leaders Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur were showing “great character” despite being put under hard conditions.

He welcomed the returning GDA lawmakers, adding that the MQM-P and GDA lawmakers were in the house while “the selected ones have walked out of the house”.

MQM-P’s stance

MQM-P’s Mohammad Hussain supported the resolution, saying it represented the people who were killed for committing no crime.

Mr Hussain said the MQM-P’s cadres and leaders had endured similar sacrifices on the path to democracy. He said some 300 innocent people were killed in Hyderabad on Sept 30, 1988 and suggested the resolution be amended to include the people killed in Hyderabad.

Speaker Durrani said since the resolution had already been extensively discussed in the house, the MQM-P members should move a separate resolution later.

Culture Minister Sardar Shah said Sindh had spearheaded the MRD in which democratic and progressive individuals rendered sacrifices. He said Sindh was punished for launching the movement for democracy when a certain organisation was formed during Gen Zia’s regime.

He said women in Sindh had exhibited similar courage and valour during the MRD that they had shown when Afghan warrior prince Shah Shuja raided Sindh in 1832.

“Sindh has the mood today similar to what it had in 1983. There are thousands of villages and towns like Punhal Chandio where people are ready to render sacrifices to save democracy. This country needs a statesman and not a batsman,” said Mr Shah.

GDA’s Arif Jatoi said his father, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, then a PPP stalwart, had pioneered the MRD and was the first politician to court arrest at the city’s Regal Chowk. He added that two of his uncles were arrested and held in Balochistan’s Machh Jail while 14 cases were registered against a brother of his. He said his village was the first one where gunship helicopters had attacked.

He criticised certain stalwarts in the ruling PPP, who, according to him, were present in the house despite violating the party’s decision on boycotting the party-less general election in 1985.

Ex-chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, referring to an earlier statement by MQM-P’s Mohammad Hussain, said it was not just Sept 30, 1988 when hundreds of innocent people were killed in Hyderabad, but everyone should also remember Oct 1, 1988, when hundreds of innocent people were killed in Karachi.

He said Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi had assured many influential landlords that Gen Zia would not sustain the pressure generated by the MRD for more than 15 days and democracy would be restored to the country.

“The landlords who were arrested during the campaign wrote a letter from jail after 15 days when they saw nothing was happening and eventually came out of prison after seeking pardon from the regime.

“Three weeks to the movement Jatoi sahib issued a statement from the Karachi prison asking the party cadres not to fight against the regime and go for reconciliation. Everyone else was in jail, and he [Mr Jatoi] was set free.”

The resolution was put before the house and it was passed unanimously.

Question Hour

Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who holds the home portfolio also, told the house during the Question Hour session that a total of 91 cases of karo-kari (honour killing) had been registered from Jan 1 to Sept 30, 2018.

He said such cases were registered on behalf of the state, adding that cases of honour killing were non-compoundable.

MQM-P’s Jawed Hanif said separate courts be established to tackle karo-kari cases.

Mr Shah said his government had made concerted efforts that had led to a reduction in the incidence of the brutal custom.

GDA’s Nusrat Sehar Abbasi asked why there was not a mechanism in place to eradicate such killings, most of which were reported in Jacobabad, Kashmore and Shikarpur districts.

PPP’s Nadir Magsi said he had saved the lives of 70 women who were in danger of being killed over karo-kari.

CM Shah said the government had a dedicated force in the district police, who handled karo-kari cases and made efforts to stop it from happening.

MQM-P’s Mangla Sharma said a separate desk in every police station be established to exclusively deal with karo-kari cases.

Answering another question asked by Arif Jatoi, Mr Shah said 512,167 persons had applied for computerised arms licences till September last year from across the province against which 314,064 arms licence books had been issued. He said some 55,000 such applications were pending with the National Database and Registration Authority.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2019