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Unpacking ethnic conflict in Sindh

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KARACHI: Recently the murder of young man Bilal Kaka in Hyderabad has triggered an ugly ethnic tension, threating law and order situation across the province.

Thankfully, so far sanity has prevailed, especially due to timely efforts by the political leaders from both sides, Sindhi and Pashtoon parties, who scrambled to extinguish the fast spreading fire of hatred. Now things are quite under control, but it is not over yet, and can emerge anytime again with a little ignition.

Prevention of such horrible incidents in future requires dispassionate, objective and multi-dimension understanding of the root causes, from where problem stems. Unfortunately, apart from a few academic studies, discussion on ethnic problem in Sindh has been out of the bounds for the media except agenda-driven reporting on sporadic violent events. In that environment, how can we build a consensus about a solution to the problem if we avoiding talking about it?

So, first thing we may attempt is to break with the tradition of downplaying with ethnic conflicts. What generally lie under the menace of ethnic conflicts include chronic bad governance, economic deprivation, perception of one group’s dominance over other, and absence of rule of law. A few of the above factors definitely apply to the situation in Sindh, but largely it is a political rights issue, which is cloaked as ethnic problem.

In case of Bilal’s murder, an inquiry committee has found police the guilty for averting the murder. At the crime scene, police van was standing there at distance of a few feet but they didn’t bother to intervene when brawl begun between restaurant staff and the customer Bilal. It was a criminal negligence on the part of police that just watched the situation like spectators.

In another case, four policemen have been awarded life imprisonment for kidnapping two citizens for ransom in 2017. For decades we have been hearing about various police reforms, but their impact on conduct and performance of police is that they not only fail to protect life and property of the citizen, but also indulge in criminal activities, which is in complete contravention with their duties.

Apart from that, with continuous, unregulated massive influx of immigrants, the political right of permanent residents of Sindh to rule is getting undermined. Since 1947, the immigrants from neighboring countries (India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Burma etc.) as well as different parts of Pakistan have chosen Sindh their destination. Impact of continuous and unregulated massive influx of immigrants over the decades is that in Sindh, population of Sindhi speaking is hovering around 61.1 pc of population in the province.

Among the rest of population include 6 pc foreigners (Afghani, Bangali, Burmese etc), of them many are residing illegally. Under the Census 2017, these foreigners are marked in the category of, “others”. Besides being burden on the limited resources of Sindh, the illegal immigrants pose a security risk to Sindh.

Of late in a response to question during the press conference Chief Minister Sindh expressed his helplessness regarding a plan about dealing with illegal immigrants. He said that controlling the borders is beyond his realm of power. Nowhere in the country, demography has changed so fast to the extent as it has been happening in Sindh. Is it by design or default shouldn’t be difficult to figure out if one observes carefully how Sindh is ruled? – the concerned federal authorities are complacent about it and provincial government expresses helplessness!

When the Government remains aloof, a tug of war among various ethnic groups starts about gaining control over the resources, which at different occasions turn into extreme violence. If the trend of migration continues for another two decades then Sindhi are likely to become minority in their own home. This sense of insecurity has become a permanent source of tension among Sindhi nation who see weakening their political and economic power in Sindh. Sindhi further get scared when they see young man like Bilal killed over minor scuffle.

In terms of political impact, those who are choosing Sindh as a destination are shifting a balance of power in their favor, particularly its capital Karachi. Consequently, perception regarding dominance of people from other provinces in Sindh over Sindhi population is gaining strength, fueling apprehensions that Karachi is being taken over. Hence, terms like, Karachi aur Sindh, Khudmukhtiar (autonomous) Karachi, Saeen Sarkar (sarcastic term referring to Sindhi rulers) are clear indication of what political battles lies ahead in future. PPP, MQM, Jamat-e- Islami, PTI, PSP and others are playing their own ethnic cards to keep opponent parties at bay. Therefore, whenever elections come, ethnic tensions flare up. No wonder, murder of Bilal is also exploited for political gains in the context of upcoming local bodies elections in Karachi.

Last but not the least, constitutionally, there is no bar on Pakistani citizens to go anywhere in the country and purchase property. Specifically, the article 15 and 23 are quite clear about it, the former article pertains to the Freedom of Movement and the latter one relates to Purchase of the property. But since unregulated continuous stream of migrants is strongly felt as an encroachment on economic, social and political rights of indigenous population, both articles must be amended to address genuine concerns of the children of soil. With this constitutional amendment, long term peace and harmony can be accomplished in Sindh.

The writer is an educationist and researcher based in Karachi. He has also worked with British Council Pakistan and other international organizations in Pakistan.

He can reached on email at asgharsoomro@gmail.com

Sindh

Sindh Solid Waste Management Board starts paying for garbage disposal in Pak Rupees

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KARACHI: With an aim to lower the financial burden on the provincial exchequer, the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) started to pay private companies contracted for garbage disposal in the city in local currency instead of US dollars.

In this regard, Managing Director SSWMB Syed Imtiaz Ali Shah held a meeting with representatives of the private firms responsible for disposal of garbage in the city and apprised them of the decisions made by the steering committee of the Board.

The meeting deliberated upon the new plan of garbage disposal in the city before the expiry of the contracts made with private firms for solid waste management on district West, Malir, Keamari and East.

It was informed in the meeting that the negotiation with the contracting firms for payment in local currency had already been started.

The representatives of the private firms working in district Malir, West and Keamari informed the meeting that the verification of the staff and vehicles had been completed through a third party, while the verification was still going on in district East.

The managing-director directed the officials concerned to take steps to further improve efficiency in the new operational plan.

He asked the officials to make union committee-wise operational plan, containing complete details of daily waste volume, transport, machinery, staff and all resources to further improve the door-to-door waste collection services.

He also directed the private companies to pay the salaries of their respective staff on time. Mr Shah said that the operational plan should also include training of the staff, the strategy of separate collection of waste and date of people who picked garbage illegally.

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SBCA launches crackdown against illegal structures in Karachi

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KARACHI: The Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) has initiated massive crackdown against illegal constructions in different parts of the city, resulting in demolition of numerous buildings, marriage halls etc.

In a recent operation against illegal constructions in Karachi’s district Central, SBCA officials also came under firing, however, SBCA officials proceeded with the operation and demolished the fourth floor of the targeted building.

Director General of SBCA Abdul Rasheed Solangi has instructed the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Central to apprehend the culprits immediately and file a case against those involved in the firing.

Abdul Rasheed Solangi emphasized the need for fearless enforcement actions against illegal constructions and commended the SBCA staff for their dedication and honesty. He assured them of full support in facing any challenges during their duties.

Abdul Rasheed Solangi along with the demolition squad has bulldozed more than four buildings in areas including Essa Nagri, Paposh Nagar, and Gulberg. Moreover, over 13 illegal portions have been demolished in areas including Saddar Town, Jamshed Town, Gulberg, and Gulshan-e-Iqbal.

Director General of SBCA Abdul Rasheed Solangi is personally supervising the crackdown against illegal constructions. The provincial government is committed to cleansing Karachi from all forms of illegal constructions, the DG adds.

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Sindh CS, British Deputy High Commissioner vow to strengthen bilateral relations, work for environmental challenges

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KARACHI: British Deputy High Commissioner Sarah Mooney met with Chief Secretary Sindh Syed Asif Hyder Shah at the Sindh Secretariat on Wednesday to discuss enhancing bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

During the meeting, Chief Secretary Sindh Syed Asif Hyder Shah briefed the British Deputy High Commissioner on the ongoing efforts in infrastructure development, water supply, sewage, and governance in Sindh. He stated that the Sindh government is actively working on improving water supply, sewage, and road infrastructure to accommodate Karachi’s growing population.

“Pakistan, although only contributing less than 1 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change.” Said CS Sindh

He highlighted that Pakistan incurred a loss of $32 billion from the 2022 floods and is vulnerable to future environmental risks, underscoring the urgent need for proactive measures to mitigate such disasters.

Furthermore, he expressed concerns about the adverse effects of environmental changes on the River Indus. Chief Secretary Sindh Syed Asif Hyder Shah informed that the federal-level Living Indus project has been initiated, after consultation with environmental experts, stakeholders, and provincial governments. He expressed a desire for technical assistance from the British government to address environmental changes.

Syed Asif Hyder Shah also mentioned investment opportunities in energy, investment, and agriculture sectors in Sindh for British investors. British Deputy High Commissioner Sarah Mooney expressed interest in collaborating on the Living Indus project and other projects related to environment. Chief Secretary Sindh presented traditional souvenir to the British Deputy High Commissioner.

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