Category Archives: Sindh

Land and the politics of ethnicity

Politically motivated targeted killings, sectarian violence, forced occupation of other people’s property, illegal bulldozing of poor settlements, an increasing crime rate and an increasingly helpless and corrupt administration, are making Karachi ungovernable. There are many local, national and international causes for this state of affairs. However, a major cause is the politics of ethnicity and the close link it has unwittingly acquired with the trillions that can be made from the land and real estate business.

According to the 1998 Census, 48 per cent of the city’s population is Urdu speaking, 14 per cent is Punjabi speaking, 12 per cent is Pashto speaking and about 9 per cent is Sindhi speaking. The rest of the population speaks all the remaining languages of Pakistan. Continue reading

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Khairpur Nathan Shah

By Arif Hasan (published in Dawn on 28 October 2010)

Muhammad Iqbal Memon, DCO Dadu invited me to visit Khairpur Nathan Shah to “advise” him on its “rehabilitation”. In the briefing held in Dadu on 10 October 2010, and attended by Imran Zafar Laghari (the MPA of the area) and Sikandar Panhwar (the TMO) , we learnt that the town had over 15,000 plus homes and shops, its water came from tube wells seven kilometres away as the local subsoil water was brackish, and that the sewage system consisted of open drains (as in the rest of the small towns of Sindh) and disposed into cesspools or pumped untreated into the saim nali through three disposal points. The absence of an underground sewage system is a major cause of disease and environmental pollution. The town is divided into thirteen community based paras or neighbourhoods. It has functioning educational and health institutions including degree colleges for both girls and boys. Continue reading

Floods and after

By Arif Hasan (Published in Dawn on 27 August 2010)

For a sustainable reconstruction of the physical and social infrastructure of flood ravaged Sindh, it is necessary to understand to what extent the damage caused by the flood is man-made. Some of the broad indicators are obvious.

Arif Hasan

Due to the construction of barrages and hundreds of kilometres of flood protection embankments the flood plains of the Indus have been considerably reduced. They can no longer cater to exceptionally high floods. As such, these flood waters are carried away by canals to considerable distances away from the flood plains. The canals in turn flood the colonised areas. An important question is whether the water carrying capacity of the flood plains can be increased and whether engineering works can reduce pressure on the canals in case of high floods? Preliminary discussions with engineers suggest that this is feasible.

Not only have the flood plains shrunk but shrub-lands and forests in them have been destroyed to make way for agriculture. This has increased the scale of flooding and the velocity of water. It has also made embankments more susceptible to erosion and collapse. In addition, settlements, some permanent and other semi-permanent, have developed in the flood plains, adding considerably to the vulnerable population. Continue reading

For Abbu

On 22 September 2010 Fatehyab Ali Khan, my father, suffered a cardiac arrest in Karachi. On the 20 September I had been to see my rheumatologist in London and she had given me an injection in my right knee. In my last conversation with my father on 21 September 2010 I discussed my injection with him. He told me that he was not feeling well (“betay meri tabyit theek nahin hai”). I informed him that Dr Nutall who administered the injection to my right knee was beautiful and that she wore red lipstick which complemented her long brown hair. Even in his illness my father was tickled by my description of the doctor. Goodness knows he saw so many of them towards the end of his life. In June 2010 I saw my father for the last time. I made him promise that he won’t die. He told me that he would try but that he could not control time.

Regrettably, and very unexpectedly, because of the cardiac arrest of 22 September 2010, I lost my father on 26 September 2010. Fatehyab Ali Khan was 74 years of age when he died and most people who called to commiserate called his “a good innings”. I was making arrangements for him and my mother, Dr Masuma Hasan, to visit me in London soon. But alas this was not to be. My fear, which I sought to mitigate through prayer (odd for a non-religious person), finally materialised. I had lost a parent and it was daddy who went first. He had promised my mother this: that he would die first. He also said it did not matter who died first between him and my mother because either way throngs of people would attend the funeral. And this was to be the case at his.

Since I was working in London and unable to return home because my visa application is under consideration by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, I could not even return home to bury and mourn the loss of my father. Instead, I just sat in the new rented flat I moved into near London’s Turnpike Lane tube station crying as I made sense of the ton of belongings which I had placed in plastic bags for the purposes of moving house.

But I cannot say that I was entirely alone. People who I had never known called me from all over the world to share the loss of my father and to celebrate his achievements in fighting injustice in Pakistan.

Then there were those who I did know and who knew him. My childhood friend from our neighbourhood in Karachi Kubair Ahmed Shirazee offered me great advice and was a great source of strength for me in such testing times. Kubair’s older brother Agha Abid Shirazee was murdered in Karachi just the month before. Moreover, Kubair lost his father when he was very a very young lad.

My friend told me that “Asad don’t worry … uncle was a great dad, and the only thing for you to remember and cherish is that when you were growing up your father was always around and that is all that counts.

Moreover, in our eulogy we remembered how there were the parties in which Benazir Bhutto was the chief guest and how daddy did get quite angry with us when we polished off all the champagne! All the meetings which took place over the decades in our house in KDA Scheme 1 in Karachi where we played and grew up were also revisited by us in a central London local whose name momentarily escapes me.

So as a helpless person who could not participate in the last rites of his father, I thought of what I could do to honour the memory of one of the few national politicians in Pakistan who was honest?

Miraj Muhammed Khan said in his recent speech in the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs that Fatehyab  was a man who loved his principles and loved his wife Masuma; most importantly Miraj said that his old friend loved directly from the heart (“dil se mohabat karta tha”). I can add to that my father loved Pakistan, its people, its hustle and bustle, its frontier towns, and most of all its politics. He was also caring family man and loved his children and family.

It was him who set precedents in a despotic and dictatorial state which have enabled its downtrodden citizens to fight for their rights and to not be scared of standing in the path of some big general’s loaded gun: Both Ayub and Zia would no doubt be forced to agree. That too armed only with a copy of the 1973 Constitution as Mr IA Rehman wrote on his death.

In the Sindh High Court random people informed me that my father was a “legend and a hero” when I visited the bar room there with the great man himself in 2008. People just sat around us and asked for permission to be allowed to leave. It was not something which I, a cheeky and insolent younger son, had expected! Having abhorred and repudiated dictatorship for decades made him a national hero and Fatehyab Ali Khan will always be remembered for his contribution to Pakistan’s politics. He took great relish in introducing me to members of the Sindh High Court bar as a “barrister” because he had obtained admission in Cambridge University and Middle Temple to read law but was not allowed to travel because the government refused to issue him a passport because of his student politics. Revenge for him by introducing his younger son as a barrister was bitter sweet indeed.

In order to remedy my non-attendance at his funeral I have chosen to write in memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan on this site. I have chosen to keep the domain name as “mazdoorkissan” because this was the name of his NWFP Hashtnagar based party which is a secular and socialist outfit.

I will use this space not only to write about legal and democratic issues connected to Pakistan, but also global political and legal events which are inevitably connected to Pakistan’s future. I am sure that my father would have approved of this and I hope to write this blog to represent the views taken by moderate and right-minded Pakistanis.

Anyone who wishes to contribute to this website can contact me with their work and I will be happy to add it on as long as it resonates with democracy which for me is an acceptance of all people irrespective of their race, religion, and gender etc.

The contents of this space will represent the poor of Pakistan, its mazdoors and kissans and it is my objective that their voices will be heard from here.

Thanks.

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