Plight of the Mohajirs
Pakistan and its administration must address and correct the discrimination and historical wrongs committed against the Mohajir community
The dark chapter of 1947 partition of India had many unfortunate and tragic happenings and one of them was the large influx of Urdu speaking Muslims to Pakistan migrating from India who were termed as the Mohajirs. Then, the Sindhi Hindus living in what's now part of Pakistan had vacated their lands and properties which were given to these migrating Mohajirs as the Sindhi Hindus migrated to India. It's believed by many that Mohajir is an Urdu term inspired in the act of Hijarat, an Arabic connotation, referring to the separatist flight specifically in the context of the migration of the Prophet Mohammad from Mecca to Medina.
Initially, the Pakistan Government used the word Mohajir for all the migrants and Mohajirs were thought to be the most respected and privileged. Immediately after the partition, they made name and fame in various segments of Pakistani polity especially in business, politics, bureaucracy and other key societal positions. In the much revered Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Jamiat-i-Ulema (JiU), Mohajirs were represented more than adequately and their writ ran considerably with far-reaching impressions increasing their esteem in the various establishments.
Sadly, driven by political ambitions and parochial thinking, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was in the process of carving a niche for his own political space, introduced anti-Mohajir laws to stifle the growth and the rising popularity of the Mohajirs. Prompted by these apprehensions, Bhutto followed up with another harsh step in 1972 by bringing in the 'Sindhi language Act' declaring it as the official language. This was a clear throttle of the Urdu language which had started prospering in leaps and bounds. These reprehensible and acerbic measures didn't stop here. Thousands of Urdu speaking officers were dismissed from service ignoring the fact that Urdu was a powerful medium in Pakistan and had integrated the whole country in unison. History judges dispassionately and in all objectivity that it was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who is held responsible for driving a wedge between the Sindhis and the Mohajirs by such brazenly partisan acts. Seeds of deep hatred were sown by Bhutto dividing the communities and promoting hostility. Later, we see Bangladesh too came into being in 1971 as a separate country because of language discrimination and shades of vehement hate promoted by Bhutto and other Pakistani intolerants with perverse thinking.
Reverting to the state of Mohajirs, conditions of this lot started deteriorating rapidly after Bhutto unleashed the crackdown against them. Significantly, however, pushed against the wall which became a question for survival, in 1984, under Altaf Hussain, Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) came into existence and was very vibrant from 1987 onwards. Their activities asserting their rights and honour started unsettling the Pakistani Government and the military, giving them sleepless nights. Not to be seen as deterred by the rising popularity of the Mohajirs, the Pakistani Government commenced on large scale killing of Mohajir activists in fake encounters and also resorted to their indiscriminate torture exterminating many youths from the political and social scene.
The MQM also launched an anti-government tirade from overseas and the UK was one of the central points of attack targeting the Pakistani Government. Entire state machinery harnessed its resources to get rid of the Mohajirs but they continued to prove to be a force to reckon with which couldn't be easily suppressed or voice stifled. It made its presence felt.
Even today, Mohajirs are still rated as second rate citizens and are the exploited lot. No wonder they are probably thinking if their forefathers had not migrated to Pakistan in 1947, they would have had a respectable life back home in India. Here, it's pertinent to mention that many Urdu speaking lot chose to remain in India rejecting the desire to migrate to Pakistan and they had no regrets. The intellectual class fell in this category like Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Asrarul Haq Mazaz, Jan Nisar Akhtar etc. However, noted poet, Josh Malihabadi perhaps had an error of judgment and despite sound advice rendered by the top of the political echelons in India, decided to migrate to Pakistan. He was humiliated, made fun of, robbed of his intellectual possessions and labelled as an Indian agent. Poor man, confused and disillusioned, died a sad man on the Pakistani soil.
It's high time that Pakistan introspects and restores the dignity, human rights and freedom of expressions of the Mohajirs which were at the prime of Pakistan in the initial years of its inception.
The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and a former National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are personal