Friday, June 15, 2012

Lyari's Pride: Professor Dashtyari

Lyari has documented its history in blood and cordite. Its name has become synonymous with drugs and gang wars, especially in the past few years.  People have been known to dismiss Lyari as a lost cause and will be hard-pressed to find reasons to defend  this dark neighborhood in the heart of Karachi. In all the senseless, chaotic violence, the contributions of Lyari’s children to the history and the story of Pakistan is often overlooked.

Lyari is one of the oldest and hence, by default, the most historic settlements of Karachi. It has given us football players and boxers, activists and scholars. Amongst its sons was one Ghulam Hussain Saba Dashtyari.

Born to middle class parents in Lyari in 1953, his love for education spurred him to strive for more than the meager resources of Lyari could offer him. He received Masters degrees in Philosophy and Islamic studies. Fluent in Urdu, English, Persian and Arabic, he had a great love for the Balochi language. He believed that to preserve one's native language was the  responsibility of every individual and had more far-reaching effects than merely being a vehicle for conversation. He claimed that ‘’Balochi language is an Ocean; the more you dig the more pearl you are able to discover. It is immensely rich in vocabulary and grammar.’’

He proved his love by establishing a library of Balochi literature in Malir. He started it with donations and then funded it with his own salary. Currently the Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi Library is the host to 150,000 books. He also established a Balochi Language Academy in Karachi.

By profession he was the Professor of Islamic studies at Balochistan University. His work was a constant fixture in leading journals and magazines. He authored many books on Balochi literature, history and poetry. Among his many accomplishments was a compilation of a bibliography of all baloch literature published in the past fifty years.

His life ended suddenly and violently on June 1st 2011, when he was gunned down in Quetta. He was a man who stood on his principles of democracy and nationalism. His love of the written word was profound.  His discussions were always liberally sprinkled with quotes and references. He was a great advocate of education especially for women. A brave and charismatic personality and a writer to the end, his last work, proof reading the complete works of the baloch poet Mir Gul Khan Nasir, were published a few weeks before his assassination.

As a son of Lyari and a proud Baloch, Professor Dashtyari proved that we are more than the sum of our circumstances. He was a role model for many, especially in his birthplace of Lyari. With proper representation and honest distribution of resources Pakistan can have athletes, scholars and writers whose contribution can shape the lives of so many. People are so much more than just a vote-bank for corrupt politicians, they can be the resource that can guarantee us an enlightened and progressive future.

The Zen of Marvi

The Mohajir Sooba Tehreek was not a player in Pakistan’s political game until the beginning of this year. Almost out of nowhere, we started to see wall chalkings demanding a separate province for Mohajirs. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement denied any alliances with this new voice of the Mohajirs, but with the approval from the provincial assemblies of the various provinces in Punjab, KPK and Balochistan, the Mohajirs of Sindh sat up and paid attention to this new revolution, which was spreading like wildfire.

In May 2012, this idea took the form of a legitimate tehreek (movement) when it was endorsed in a press conference in New York. Among the noted names who called the press conference were past members of the National Assembly, ex-ministers, an ex-MPA of Sindh Assembly and a retired deputy mayor of Karachi. They presented their case to the members of the press and voiced their frustration. Their point was that since MQM was not paying serious attention to the voice of the people of Sindh in this matter, they were willing to break away and support the effort for a South Sindh Province.

Constitutionally, the power to put forth the resolution for the division of a province into smaller units lies with the provincial government. This was proven when leaders like Taj Mohammad Langah and Farooq Ahmad Khan successfully presented the cases for the Saraiki and Bahawalpur provinces. They had the support of the PML-N and the proposition was carried through the Provincial Assembly and then the National Assembly, with the full support of the Constitution.

Why are the rules different for Sindh? Why does the concept of the South Sindh province stick in peoples sides, like a thorn? On May 22nd, Marvi Memon wrote an article in which she talks about how the Muhajireen were embraced when they emigrated from India. She goes on about how the Sindhis opened their doors and accepted these displaced people into their hearts and homes and made them feel welcome. According to her, everyone in Sindh is Sindhi, and as such, there is no Mohajir nation. She doesn't believe that an ethnicity such as Mohajirs exist. Oh, okay. So therefore, in her happy, fairy tale version of Sindh, there is no need for a province on the basis of ethnicity. To her, everyone who talks about South Sindh is a ghaddaar (traitor); meanwhile, the separatist element, which has been very vocal about carving a new country out of Pakistan, has not been able to attract her righteous indignation. The question is: who died and made her queen of provincial divisions?

After imparting her backwards knowledge upon the world, she proceeded to participate in a “peace” rally with Uzair Baloch and his Peoples Amn Committee. A rally that affirmed its commitment to peace with a healthy demonstration of firepower -- the trademark of PAC. There are so many things wrong with this scenario that it makes my mind spin! First of all: isn’t Uzair Baloch a wanted man with actual reward money on his head? How is he leading a publicized rally in the middle of a city in broad daylight? Secondly, isn’t Peoples Amn Committee a banned outfit? And then: what is Marvi Memon doing with wanted criminals and banned political parties? What is her agenda? And finally, what kind of people pack an arsenal of grenades and assorted firearms before participating in a rally for peace?

Marvi left PML-Q because of “corrupt and incompetent treasury benches” -- her words, not mine -- and later joined PML-N, as Nawaz Sharif’s mouthpiece -- or, as she is officially known, his Special Envoy to the Pakistani Public.

Now she has joined in with PAC, under the blessings of PML-N, for a “peaceful” rally which has left 12 dead and 29 injured. The amazing thing is that while the shots were being fired and the grenades were being tossed, Marvi kept on tweeting and posting pictures. She was probably the only person who was at peace during the whole violent event, safe in her bubble of delusion.

Does this mean that PML-N has formed alliances with banned outfits and wanted criminals? The fact that they have formed this partnership against the South Sindh province, when they had no opposition to the formation of other provinces, boggles my mind. The divide of Pakistan, on an administrative basis, is the need of the changing demographic. It will make for a stronger country and a more democratic division of power. Additional provinces, both on the basis of language (like Saraiki) and ethnicity (like Hazara) have been approved, and have been set as precedences. PML-N is a major player in the politics of Pakistan. They have a duty to uphold proper form and protocol. And yet they have taken the low road to satisfy a personal agenda.

The formation of a separate province in Southern Sindh is a matter for the Sindh Provincial Assembly. It is the need of the people and the people of Sindh have a strong case for it. A part of the population of Sindh is already on record for demanding separation from the government of Pakistan. So it goes to reason that a consolidated Sindh is not working in the present scheme of things.

Marvi Memon and her like-minded allies have hidden agendas, whether it’s personal gains or breaking the vote banks of opposing parties. You cannot lead if your first thoughts are for yourself and not for the greater good. South Sindh will happen. It is only the short-sighted and the simple-minded who are unable to fathom this as the only viable future.