By Zia Ur Rehman

July 4, 2014

Sindh’s nationalist parties and civil society organizations have raised concern over the influx of the people displaced by the North Waziristan military offensive in the province where migrants – both local and foreign – are already common. They fear that large-scale migration of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) would alter the already disturbed ethnic balance of Karachi.

A migrant Pashtun boy points an imaginary machine gun at his friend, in their neighbourhood on the outskirts of Karachi

Protest demonstrations and rallies have been carried out by Sindhi ethnic political parties and civil society groups in various towns and cities against allowing the IDPs in the province. Sources familiar with the political developments in this regard say various Sindhi nationalist parties – which have so far been carrying out their own protests – are likely to form an alliance to pressure the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the ruling party in Sindh province, to withdraw its decision of allowing IDPs in the province.

The Sindh government had initially announced that the IDPs of North Waziristan would not be allowed to migrate to the province, but before long, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah withdrew the earlier decision.

“Our rulers have turned Sindh into orphanage,” said Dilshad Bhutto, a central leader of Sindh National Party. “Because of that, Sindhis have become minority in their own motherland.” He said that the resettlement of the displaced people from North Waziristan in Sindh would change the demography of the province in a way that would hurt Sindhis.

“We are not ready to sacrifice our identity,” said Majid Khaskheli, a leader of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, another Sindhi nationalist party, warning that any forced settlement by the government would meet a strong resistance from residents of the province.

In 1947, Sindhis were 60% of Karachi’s population, but today they are no more than seven percent. Sindhi nationalist leaders say that at the time of partition, a majority of migrants were settled in Sindh, which has changed demography of the province. As a result, the land that did not see any riots even during Partition, is now in the grip of violence.

Tracing the history of immigration in Sindh, Manzoor Solangi, an editor of a Sindhi newspaper, said that the British first settled Punjabis from Potohar region in Sindh in 1899, to counter the Hur Movement in the region. Migrants from India in 1947, followed by migrants from Bangladesh in 1971, from Afghanistan in 1978 and from Iran in 1979 because of the revolutions there have changed the demography of Karachi, and therefore the entire Sindh.

“Every Pakistani has a right to move from one part of the country to another”

Karachi Police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo believes more than 2 million undocumented migrants from Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh live in the Karachi, a city of around 22 million people. Also, in the last decade, tens of thousands of families from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA moved to Sindh because of an increasing influence of the Taliban and the continuous military operations.

Solangi said that the PPP’s local leadership understands the sentiments of Sindhi nationalist parties and civil society groups over migration issues. But their central leadership, which believes in federal politics, cannot take the criticism they expect if they stop the IDPs from settling in Sindh.

A PPP parliamentarian said the government could not stop the IDPs from entering the province because every Pakistani has a right – guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan – to move from one part of the country to another of their own free will. But transporters complain that police personnel harass Pashtun passengers coming in from various parts of the country at the Sindh-Punjab border, including those passengers who are not even from North Waziristan.

Security officials believe that along with the IDPs, many Taliban militants also migrated to Karachi. Over years, Karachi has witnessed three factions of the TTP taking control of a number of Pashtun neighborhoods of the city and exert their influence in many others.  Background interviews with police officials and Awami National Party leaders reveal that a number of the TTP militants came to Karachi in the guise of IDPs and then organized their network in the city. Now, they are killing Pashtun elders and police officials, and forcing Pashtun traders to pay large sums of extortion money.

Tribal elders of North Waziristan say the IDPs of North Waziristan are not likely to migrate to Karachi anyway. “The two main tribes of Waziristan – Utmanzai Wazir and Dawar – do not have any relatives or community in Karachi and Sindh,” said Malak Ghulam Khan Madakhel, an Utmanzai Wazir tribal elder. “They would prefer to migrate to Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Kohat, Peshawar and Rawalpindi. It is now up to the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments how they deal with the displaced people.”

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