Farrah Adeed |
One of the most important reasons behind the break-up of Pakistan in 1971 was constant economic exploitation and political underrepresentation of East Pakistan. In other words, it was the establishment and political elite of West Pakistan which helped Bengalis creating Bangladesh.
Similarly, in contemporary Pakistan, there are multiple ethnic (rights) movements against the Federation of Pakistan. Although there is also a primary question of ethnic identity yet the most important factor behind all such movements and insurgencies have been deliberate economic exploitation and well-designed political underrepresentation.
There is a famous book in Saraiki titled “Asaan qaidi takht Lahore day” (We are prisoners of the throne of Lahore) which was banned by General Zia ul Haq who essentially was threatened by the idea of separate Saraiki identity.
Politically speaking, people living in Baluchistan, Sindh and tribal areas of Pakistan are lucky in a sense that they have geographically compatible settings to stand up and be heard. Saraikis, the children of a lesser God, are neither allowed to speak up against the system because they are considered to be the architect of the same nor their marginalized voices are heard.
Just look at a simple fact, Sind was named because of Sindhis’ (those who speak Sindhi) majority in the province, the same stands true in the cases of KP, Punjab, and Baluchistan. But Saraikis despite being a majority in South Punjab are told to demand a South Punjab Province, not Saraikistan. This is an inexplicable irony.
Read more: Will South Punjab be a Province?
Why can Saraikis not voice against the system? There is a simple, perhaps shameful, answer to it. Have a look at some big names; Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Dr. Shireen Mazari, Federal Minister for Human Right, Usman Buzdar, Chief Minister Punjab, and Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan. Ironically, they all belong to the Saraiki belt.
From a neo-Marxist standpoint, local elites of Saraiki areas have historically been in an illicit and unholy alliance (political relationship) with the political bigwigs of Lahore at the cost of common Saraikis’ honor, well-being, and political rights. The terms of the alliance are quite simple; allow us to sit in the assemblies and we will vote for you.
Saraikis believe that Lahore, a symbol of Punjabi domination, along with local political leadership has always been exploiting them in terms of economy, politics, and culture.
A DPO was posted by the CM at the request of a local Saraki leader, and in return Shahbaz Sharif, former Chief Minister of Punjab was able to win the elections from Bhakkar even without any competitor. This is just one example there are many more to embarrass all of us sitting in Lahore and Islamabad.
South Punjab is an improved version of tribal areas of Pakistan. Domination of local police and political bigwigs, absence of basic health facilities, terrible roads and absence of quality education institutions, and due economic opportunities are the defining feature of these areas. Saraikis believe that Lahore, a symbol of Punjabi domination, along with local political leadership has always been exploiting them in terms of economy, politics, and culture. There is a famous book in Saraiki titled “Asaan qaidi takht Lahore day” (We are prisoners of the throne of Lahore) which was banned by General Zia ul Haq who essentially was threatened by the idea of separate Saraiki identity.
According to a report of Dunya News in budget 2017-18, the gap between what was proposed to be spent in Lahore and South Punjab got widened. “Punjab government has earmarked whooping Rs36.75 bln for Lahore’s medical colleges and hospitals in budget for the FY 2017-18 whereas a petty Rs17.75 bln has been reserved for provision of medical and health facilities to the residents of southern Punjab, thus widening the budgetary allocation gap by over 100pc,” read the report.
I am sad to share that there is a road in the same areas called M.M Road which connects Multan with Mianwali. It is around 400 Km long and passes through six backward and remote districts of Saraiki region. Due to terrible road conditions, there have been frequent road accidents causing deaths of dozens of poor Saraikis.
Now they are least interested to fulfill their promise. Whether you give them a province, dear Prime Minister, or not but give them 400 Km road so these poor people do not die every other day on roads.
At least 21 people were killed and 33 others injured in a head-on collision between a passenger bus and trailer truck at M.M Road on April 2016. Once again on March 30, 2019, six female students and a rickshaw driver were killed in a road accident on the same road. Sources at DHQ Bhakkar claim that frequency of accidents on M.M Road is dangerously high.
According to Rauf Klasra, who happens to be from the same area, “PTI has won seats from same areas from where 400KM long broken MM road passes. Daily people die in accidents thanks to terrible road condition, heavy traffic, no police patrolling speeding etc.” He also made a request to Prime Minister Imran Khan to pass on some necessary instructions to re-build the road so that innocent lives may be saved. But since he is a Saraiki, many people on Twitter trolled him for demanding such ‘petty’ things from a Prime Minister.
PTI promised to create a new province of Sarakis. Now they are least interested to fulfill their promise. Whether you give them a province, dear Prime Minister, or not but give them 400 Km road so these poor people do not die every other day on roads. This is the least you may do for the people of Saraiki belt.
Farah Adeed is a Senior Research Analyst in GVS. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s Editorial Policy.