Karachi: Human rights abuses in Pakistan’s Sindh province, and particularly in its capital Karachi, which is widely regarded as the country’s richest city, has become par for the course, because of the frequency with which such incidents take place and are reported by domestic as well as foreign media.
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), which is Punjabi-dominant and led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been quite successful in forging a powerful troika-like partnership with the Pakistan Army and the country’s premier intelligence outfit, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The last two have been known to carry out or spearhead operations that have led to involuntary disappearances, detentions, and torture of Sindh-based leaders and activists who support and follow them.
The Pakistan armed forces and paramilitaries use these so-called operations to target those identified as the opposition with the civilian authority’s blessings, especially those leaders espousing the cause of Sindhis and other minorities, some of whom become victims of targeted killings.
Shafiq Baloch, an eyewitness to the incident, said, “We were marching to the (Karachi) Press Club and as soon as we crossed the street, were fired upon. I cannot tell you how many of our young men were injured. You can see my bloodied clothes, as I have picked up many of the bodies myself.”
The tens of hundreds of security personnel deployed in Karachi often launch operations against leaders and supporters of local Sindhi political outfits and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), the reason being, its growing clout and acceptance as a political party with national credentials in places such as Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur.
What is probably of even greater concern to the Punjabi element in Pakistani society is the growing representational presence of the MQM in the Parliament and in provincial assemblies.
This is one of the main reasons why reports keep surfacing of MQM leaders and their supporters being taken into police custody or arrested on false charges of spreading fear and terror. Some are even incarcerated in torture cells at undisclosed locations, and even end up being victims of target killings.
There have been many cases of human rights and religious persecution in Sindh.
Senior MQM leader Dr. Farooq Sattar said, “We demand from the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the army chief and the Sindh Rangers chief explanations about the incarcerations of MQM leaders, and in particular, information on Wasim Akhtar.”
Dr. Qadir Magsi, Chairman of the Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party, said, “The resources of Sindh are meant to be for the people of Sindh. We are completely opposed to those elements who are indulging in the wanton robbery of the province, and will do everything in our power to prevent it. The revenue earned from the province, or allocated to it by the federal government, must spend it for the welfare of the people of Sindh.”
So deep is the Punjabi bias against the MQM, that all rallies and public functions that are to be addressed by its founder, Altaf Hussain, via video conference or radio from London, where he is on self-imposed exile, are prohibited or unlawful and unwarranted strictures are put in place, to prevent him from gaining popularity or reaching out to the masses.
Popular figures like senior journalist Hamid Mir, intellectuals and civil rights activists like Sabeem Mehmud and social activist like Khurram Zaki have been eliminated.
Zaki’s daughter said “The lives of members of our family are in danger. The people, who are in power and supposed to be protecting us, are doing absolutely nothing.”
The situation in Sindh is such today that minorities such as Hindus, Christians and Shias become victims of target killings. Leaders of these communities claim that the only accusation or blame against them is there links with the MQM, which is seen as representative of the people and for peace. They say that they will continue with this support of the MQM.
Forced conversion of Hindu Sindhi females is a grave concern among Hindus in Sindh. Many cases have been reported of forced conversion from Hinduism to Islam. Among them, some have political reasons behind these conversions so that the majority of Sindhi Hindus are forced to leave Sindh. There have been many cases of political persecution in Sindh as well.