In the early 1970s, Pakistan’s military dictator General Yahya Khan colluded with the Pakistani Military’s blue-eyed, Sindhi-speaking politician Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and imposed a quota system in Sindh Province for government jobs and admissions in state-run professional educational institutions. Mr. Bhutto also chaired the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), which had unfairly set up its government following the breakup of Pakistan in 1971. Under this highly discriminatory quota system, Sindh’s rural population was granted a 60 percent quota in all government jobs and professional educational institutions, whereas a mere 40 percent was reserved for the province’s majority urban population.
The justification for this unjust quota system was that Sindh’s rural population was far behind in education and other job skills in comparison with its urban counterpart, so it was “necessary” to give it preferential treatment to bring it to par with the urban population. It was a terrible excuse for such urban and rural disparity, which was consistent with every other country in the world including Pakistan where the rural population in Punjab, Khayber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and Balochistan fared no differently.
The real reason, however, was different: the majority population in Sindh’s urban areas consisted of Urdu-speaking Mohajirs who had migrated to Pakistan from India after Pakistan’s creation in 1947. The rural population was native Sindhi-speaking. Both General Khan and Mr. Bhutto wanted to systematically purge Mohajirs from government jobs and educational institutions. Because no such urban and rural ethnic division had existed in any other province, no preferential quota was ever introduced for the so-called “deprived rural population” in any other province.
General Yahya Khan first imposed this unjust quota system through an official notification. When Mr. Bhutto took control of West Pakistan’s government, the highly biased Sindhi-dominated PPP government had the National Parliament pass a law that officially imposed quota system in Sindh Province for ten years. When General Zia-ul-Haq seized power after a military coup in July 1977, he extended the quota system for another ten years.
A highly biased and inhuman law that had been passed for ten yearsonlystill remains intact in Sindh Province, and generation after generation of Mohajirs have been brutally penalized under this system.
The tale of this unfair treatment of Mohajirs doesn’t just end here: the meager 40 percent that had been reserved for the majority urban population was never honored. Sindhi-dominated governments in Sindh have always generously issued fake urban domiciles to rural candidates and employed them on urban quota. Consequently, there is absolutely no representationof Urdu-speaking Mohajirs in any official institutions in Pakistan, including Pakistan’s security forces. It is impossible to find any Urdu-speaking Mohajir, the majority ethnic group in Sindh’s urban areas, in the Karachi Police or paramilitary Rangers. The non local law enforcement agencies treat the people of Karachi as money-making machines, extorting billions of rupees in bribes from them. Extrajudicial executions in fake encounters, arbitrary arrests, illegal detention cells, and even rapes at the hands of non local security forces in Karachi are a daily routine. Land-grabbing by these security forces, including serving officers of the Pakistan Army, is also a common fact of life in Karachi.
This decades-old denial of rights and no access to job opportunities is proving dangerous on many levels: Mohajir youths have been left with no option but to indulge in petty crimes to make ends meet; extremist religious forces operating under the direct patronage of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment are capitalizing on growing deprivation and poverty in the urban Sindh population and luring Mohajir youths to join their terrorist groups. With the Pakistani Military’s organized campaign to shrink political space for secular and pro-Western political groups in urban Sindh, the situation has become even more volatile: a number of al-Qaeda Indian-Subcontinent cells, run and operated by highly educated youths, have carried out terrorist attacks in Karachi in recent years.
The people of Karachi, once the most educated and prosperous group of people in Pakistan, are now the most deprived ethnic group in the country. This is a living human tragedy that continues to unfold in Pakistan’s biggest city every single day. Please play your part and save ethnic Urdu-speaking Mohajirs from blatant discrimination and injustices in Pakistan.