Social movements: Where does Sindh stand in the world?

Daily Afghanistan Times, April 13, 2014, By Zulfiqar Shah

‘Peacefulness’ was a diplomatic phrase, if not a jargon, of the twentieth century – a time when ‘world’ was not transformed into a conscious and highly connected ‘globe’. The bent of international and regional actors towards engaging with the peaceful and violent movements can simplistically but truly termed as political and strategic hypocrisy. How the world today positions itself towards peaceful social and political movements? A ten-million dollar question, indeed!

One can react while reading this unfashionable term of ‘political and strategic hypocrisy’; however, it is very simple of understand. An interest based tagging for the legitimacy of violent and illegitimacy of peaceful movements. If seen in the perspective of international community’s approach towards different political and social movements, the wishful tagging of the terms like ‘peaceful’, ‘non-violent’ or the ‘violent’ becomes a phenomenal disposition of the interest based approach. One can conclude that there is a conflict of approaches in the world – interest based versus justice based. In many a cases, interest based approach has been adopted repeatedly by the various states and powers. Meanwhile, justice based approach is paradoxically owned by the peoples. Numerous movements in the various continents have been encountering this phenomenal dilemma. 

There are at least three significant sets of the major social and political movements in the world – slow-paced movements around socio-economic justice; the Arab-spring style movement for the democratic governance; and the movements for the territorial liberation. 

Most of the movements based on socio-economic justice have an outlook of the structural and legal reforms for the socio-economic justice for the women, transgender and marginalized sections of the societies; hence they are not only peaceful but also are supported by the governments as well as international forums. No government bothers thinking their tagging in terms of peaceful or violent. They mostly are catered through the international development funds, which are pipelined via international development aid programs of various developed countries as well as international and regional financial interest groups and bodies of various socio-political outfits. 

The Arab Spring style movements have been both peaceful and violent simultaneously; and the majority among the international community has never shown their concern about their being peaceful or violence. This is what we can say strategic hypocrisy where the principle of peacefulness is sidelined over the niche of interests. 

The victim most of the socio-political movements are of the territorial liberation in the various parts of the world, which have always gathered this typical fuss of jargonized terms of ‘violent’ versus ‘peaceful’. No doubt, most of the freedom movements around the world are violent; however, the hypocrisy of the world community becomes extraordinarily visible when they start measuring and considering the issues. They, hitherto, only have prioritized the violent movements over the peaceful ones. The case of Palestine, Kosovo, Kurdistan, and Tamil Elam has always attracted focus of not only the various countries but also of the regional forums like European Union and Arab League as well as various bodies of the United Nations. Kashmir does not fall in this category, although there is an oldest UN resolution regarding it. Kashmir can be set out of the matrix because the violence acknowledge and attributed with Kashmir has been based on non-Kashmiri Jihadists from the Punjab province of Pakistan. Contrary to this, there is at least one highly populist and massive movement for the freedom and self-determination of Sindh in Pakistan, which is very little known to the world outside despite the fact that the movement dates back to the movement for the liberation of Bangladesh. 

There is a highly power high scale insurgency and war in Balochistan, and no doubt, it has been successful to attain international attention. Since Baloch are around six million in the hilly and mountainous province forming sixty percent area of Pakistan, therefore they are unable to make a pressurizing public outpour; hence expecting a peaceful movement in Balochistan is out of question. 

If one reviews Sindhi newspapers of the last sixty-nine years, one surprises to see that this homeland of 50 million Sindhis have never been silent. Activism and movement building in the form of hunger strikes, protest sit-ins, inter and intra cities on-foot marches, rallies, shutter down strikes and vehicular jam strikes has always occupied the newspapers. However, Sindhi uprising during last five years has not only been exceptional but phenomenal as well. 

In 2008, a Sindhi nationalist party Jeay Sindh Qomi Mahaz (JSQM) held Sindh Freedom March in almost every district of Sindh, which was attended by thousands of the people. On November 7, 2009, on the party’s call for Sindh Freedom March, at least 2.5 hundred thousand people gathered in the city and demanded the world powers and the United Nations an independent and sovereign status, in which British invaded it in 1843. Invasion of Sindh in 1843 was a violation of various treaties between the Emirs of Sindh and Royal deputies of the Great Britain. 

On March 23, 2012, JSQM again held a Sindh Freedom March attended by two million Sindhis. Talking to the ‘Freedom March’ JSQM leader Bashir Qureshi announced Sindh bidding farewell the historical Resolution of Pakistan that was adopted on March 23, 1940. He also sought international community’s help in this regard. He was killed through poison on April 8, 2012. 

On March 23, 2014, JSQM again organized ‘Sindh Freedom March’ in Karachi. At least five million people according to the various international and Sindh based print and electronic media houses. To pressurize JSQM for cancelation of the Freedom March, the top leader of the JSQM and brother of Bashir Qureshi, Maqsood Qureshi was gunned down and later on burnt down to the ashes by the “security agencies of Pakistan.” According to the JSQM leadership, they were already under pressure by the state agencies asking them to cancel the Freedom March. While addressing the mammoth gathering, JSQM Chairperson Sanan Qureshi demanded United Nations, the USA, UK, France, Russia, and China for their intervention and support for the independence of Sindh. Unlike some portions of Western, Middle East and Afghan media, the news found no space in South Asian media. 

The overall trend and the tilt of ignorance and negligence by the media, governments and to certain extent international forums toward this peaceful movement of South Asia would one day possibly push them to become violent. A neglected and underestimated highly popular peaceful movement usually turns into the violent one. 

It is quit convincing that under-estimating a peaceful popular movement would mean that world has no space for the peaceful movements, hence a highly peaceful movement may possibly turn into the violent one. 

Despite apparently professing peace and non-violence agenda around the globe, the political and strategic hypocrisy by the world powers regarding movement of Sindh will add up into chaos in the South Asia. This is the prime opportunity, when the world by focusing a peaceful movement can set an example that international community prefers peaceful socio-political movements to the radical and violent one. 

Let the world set at least first example to prioritize this peaceful movement before it is too late. The time has come, when the world community needs to avoid political and strategic hypocrisy and set example for the world politics of dissenting social movements.