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KARACHI, March 18: Leading a ‘march against slavery’, Sindhi nationalist leaders on Monday declared a boycott of the upcoming general elections in the country and called upon the international community to help Sindh gain independence from Pakistan.

The march was organised by the Jeay Sindh Tehrik (JST) and, according to its leaders, people from across the province participated in it.

Raising slogans against the federation and in favour of an independent Sindh, namely ‘Sindhu Desh’, JST supporters arriving in the city via the National Highway and Superhighway demanded an independent Sindh. Holding party flags in their hands and being escorted by a ‘security squad’ carrying firearms, they first assembled at Malir Halt and then marched towards the Mazar-i-Qauid. Later, they resumed their march up to Tibet Centre, where JST chief Dr Safdar Sarki spoke to them.

He said that if the United Nations, the United States and all democratic countries of the world wanted to see peace in this region, they should come forward and support the freedom movement of Sindhis, who were secular and peace-loving people and always opposed violence.

Accusing Punjab of having divided the Sindh people on linguistic lines by “creating the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), pitting it against Sindhi people and exploiting the Urdu-speaking brethren,” Dr Sarki announced that his party would boycott the next general election in the country. “Our founder leader G.M. Syed had quit electoral politics after the East Pakistan debacle on the grounds that he did not want to help Punjab perpetuate its rule over the other provinces and usurp their resources,” he said.

He alleged that MQM was exploiting the peace-loving Urdu-speaking brethren, whom he advised to learn from the history. “In the past, Bihari people had been pitted by the Establishment against Bengalis in the same manner,” he said, adding that Biharis were later left to suffer.

Dr Safdar also referred to the fate of Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, and said that it had spearheaded a movement for a territory that was not of Tamils’. He urged the saner Urdu-speaking people to wake up and see the conspiracy under which they were being used.

Referring to the wall-chalking for a ‘Mohajir province’, the JST leader warned Urdu-speaking people against falling in the trap being set up by conspirators.

Defending the party’s demand for an independent Sindh, Dr Sarki said that Sindhi language and culture were being eliminated from its own urban areas while outsiders were being brought in from other provinces and countries to change the demography of Sindh and convert Sindhis into a minority in their own province.

“Punjab had colonised Sindh by allotting hundreds of thousands acres of barrage-irrigated lands to settlers and by controlling resources of the province,” he said.

Dr Sarki also rejected the claim that Sindhi nationalists did no have mass support as they had never won an assembly seat in elections. He said a referendum in Sindh on whether people wanted independence or otherwise would remove the misgiving of the so-called federal parties.

He was of the view that a Sindhi-speaking president, prime minister or chief minister always remained powerless and played as a puppet of Punjab. Had the same treatment not been meted out to Bengalis in the past, they would not have opted for independence, he argued.

“The Punjabi Establishment continued to usurp resources of Balochistan and Sindh and now the two smaller provinces are left with no option but to seek independence,” he said.