Who is playing Sindh card?

Apr 6th, 2011 | By | Category: Jang, The News

The popular talking point has become, once again, that the government is playing ‘Sindh card’ in its relationship to the judiciary. But a careful examination of recent media articles suggests that perhaps there is another player holding the cards.

‘Sindh card’ refers of course to the idea that President Zardari and other PPP politicians attempt to energize a base of Sindhi supporters by invoking provincialism. Ethnic parties certainly exist, but PPP is a national party that enjoys support across ethnic and provincial lines. So while PPP might have a base in Sindh, that is not sufficient to classify it as an ethnic party. Nevertheless, a series of media reports suggest that some in the media might be attempting to do just that.

Last Saturday, Shaheen Sehbai wrote the column titled, ‘Use of Sindh Card – when, how and why!’ which The News published front and center of the first page.

Next day, The News published a cartoon image of a ‘Sindh Card’.

Jang Group cartoon of Sindh Card

The same day, Hamid Mir accuses President Zardari of playing the Sindh Card by praising the Supreme Court. But when protests were held in reaction to the Supreme Court’s unilateral dismissal of NAB chief Justice (retd) Deedar Hussain Shah, Jang Group reporter Tariq Butt termed the reaction “using Sindh Card”. So we learn from The News that praising the Supreme Court is invoking ‘Sindh Card’ and protesting Supreme Court is invoking ‘Sindh Card’ also.

But is Tariq Butt correct that protests are government playing the ‘Sindh Card’, or is the reporter himself producing the card? After all, Supreme Court Bar Association President Asma Jahangir has also expressed reservation over the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Justice Deedar Shah.

The SCBA president was not satisfied with the decision in as much as it provided for the chief justice of Pakistan to decide the matter if the leaders of the house and opposition were at dispute over the appointment. She said this means the complete authority to make appointment would go to the CJP discarding parliament. She said the government should go for a review petition in this case.

On Tuesday, Ansar Abbasi pulled the ‘Sindh Card’ from his sleeve by comparing Shaheen Sehbai’s‘Angel of Punjab’ Mian Nawaz Sharif to President Zardari:

How President Zardari’s PPP is using the Sindh Card to target the judiciary stands exposed if one sees the fashion in which Nawaz Sharif got his conviction set aside.

Nawaz Sharif’s conviction in the plane hijacking case was set aside by the Supreme Court in 2009, but neither he nor any member of his party gave racial colour to his case. Instead, he focused on the dictator, ignoring the judges altogether who had convicted him.

Ironically, the very next day, Vice Admiral (retired) Taj M Khattak in The News directly contradicts Ansar Abbasi’s comparison while himself playing the ‘Sindh Card’.

Back on Nov 28, 1997, during Nawaz Sharif’s second term as prime minister, charged political workers of his PML-N stormed the Supreme Court on Constitution Avenue in Islamabad. The judges inside had to scramble for safety to their chambers…the mob which attacked the Supreme Court consisted of supporters hailing from Punjab, determined to cause physical harm to then-chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah, who is from Sindh…

In a piece that is allegedly about the history of the government-judiciary relationship, the retired military officer mentions Sindh 11 times. He mentions Punjab only three times. The author complains of “second-tier politicians” from Sindh who go to the Supreme Court “prominently displaying their ethnic symbols”. Once again, readers are left to wonder who is actually playing the ‘Sindh Card’ here?

Vice Adm. (retd) Khattak concludes his column with what appears to be a non-sequitur – a story about Chief Justice Muhammad Rustam Kiyani who was bullied over some land in Sindh by a patwari who “had never done a day’s honest work”. According to Khattak, the Chief Justice was rescued by the intervention of Gen Ayub whose “gentlemanliness was to last to the end”.

Again, one might ask, what does this story have to do with the present government’s relations with the judiciary? Could it be an attempt to invoke ethnic tension as a means of disparaging the government? Why else would the author go to such lengths to invoke the ‘lazy Sindhi’ stereotype compared to the ‘gentlemanly’ Gen Ayub?

Unfortunately, this appears not to be an isolated incident by one retired military officer, but as is shown in the references above, a disturbing trend of blaming every action of the government on a ‘Sindh Card’. Disagreement with government actions and policies is a legitimate subject for opinion columns. But even then, the disagreement should be based on facts, not thinly-veiled attempts to invoke ethnic stereotypes and play to provincialism for political ends. Please, leave the cards at home and stick to pen and paper for reporting.

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  1. Let me tell you very clearly as to who is playing this “Alleged Sindh Card” – It is the Jang Group and Shaheen Sehbai who had himself written on these parochial lines after the death of Benazir Bhutto. Sadly and very wrongly and through Unjustified Logic “Dr. Zulfikar Mirza” is being misquoted and all of his speeches are often quoted out of context.

    Sindh is angry and Punjab is not helping The News, January 6, 2008
    By Shaheen Sehbai

    http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=12113

    Deeply aggrieved, full of anger and passionately in mourning, Sindhis are baffled and confused at the strange reaction in Punjab, specially the ruling elite which has adopted an aggressively parochial attitude, not just against the PPP but against entire Sindh, after the death of Benazir Bhutto.

    The accusations that large numbers of Punjabis have been forced to flee Sindh and become refugees in their province may help the PML-Q leaders rebuild their shattered election campaign but it is certainly not helping national unity and the cause of the federation of Pakistan.

    A quick tour of the heart broken hinterland of Sindh, starting from Karachi to Jamshoro, Sehwan Sharif, Dadu, Larkana, Naudero, Garhi Khuda Bux, Sukkur, Khairpur, Nowshero Feroze, Moro, Hala, Hyderabad and back to Karachi by road, revealed many facets of the Bhutto murder fallout which cannot be imagined while sitting in cozy drawing rooms before TV sets.

    It was quite baffling to note that while we were driving towards Larkana on the Jamshoro-Sehwan route, not one burnt vehicle was seen anywhere from near Karachi until we entered the constituency of Benazir Bhutto in Larkana, over 250 miles away, where we saw a skeleton of a bus. Neither could we see any burnt banks or buildings on this route.

    But strikingly on our way back from Sukkur to Hyderabad , the damage was evident but not as widespread as was being reported or projected to be. Some 100 trucks, buses and very small number of cars were still presenting the scene of a battlefield, especially in Moro and some other portions of the National Highway. A few banks on the main road were also visibly damaged.

    But the interesting explanation we got by talking to residents and locals was that most of the damage all along the National Highway was in areas and constituencies which were not PPP strongholds and were either represented by Muslim Leagues or other breakaway PPP factions like the Jatois and others. Many gas and petrol stations were still totally undamaged while just in front of them, on the road, cars and buses had been burnt. The protestors were either not interested in burning some property or were cleverly selective in picking their targets.

    At one point in front of a huge CNG station, which was intact, several vehicles were burnt but right across the road was a Rangers headquarter and no one seemed to have noticed the violence or done anything to stop it. When we crossed it the Rangers were being guarded by a police picket and van, odd as it may seem.

    So when the majority PPP dominated areas were relatively quiet, how would the violence in non-PPP areas be explained. The PPP leadership, rank and file have a ready made explanation that the reaction was orchestrated to blame Sindh and PPP and it was exaggerated to suit the establishment to counter the wave of sympathy for the PPP. It looks somewhat obvious that such an explanation would be given by the PPP but the sudden regression of the pro-establishment section of the Punjab leadership into a parochial mode has lent a lot of credence to the Sindhis’ complaints.

    Talking to the deeply disturbed and extremely nervous PPP leadership in Larkana, Naudero and Garhi Khuda Bux, the clear impression that emerges is not good news for the federation. Mr Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto made extra efforts in their early appearances before the media to send the message across that the PPP still wanted the federation, as it did when Benazir Bhutto was alive. But this message has been distorted by Punjab.

    The creation of a refugee centre in the heart of Lahore was almost hitting the federation below the belt. Some of the Punjabi small businessmen, roadside gas station owners and hotel stops whom we met on our journey were highly critical of this Punjab move. One of them near Hala said he was always a PML voter but would now vote for the PPP as Punjabi leadership, especially close to the establishment, was unfair. He was safe and doing his business without any fear though he admitted that for four days after the Bhutto murder, he did not come out of the house or open his business. His hotel and shops had not been touched by anyone during the riots.

    A PPP student wing leader in Larkana was specifically moved by the huge ads in newspapers from the PML which isolated Sindhis and spoke of large-scale migration from Sindh. “What do they want now that they have killed so many of our leaders? Do they want to push us into the sea. This is all rubbish and meant to fan hatred against Sindh for political gains,” he reacted.

    The PPP leadership is having a bad time in the sense that they have been pushed to the wall and now fears they have to take on the establishment which they fear would be a disaster for the country.

    Senior leaders candidly admit that the death of Benazir Bhutto has landed the party into a crisis but unity in the ranks and swift transition of power from Benazir to Asif Zardari has helped the party leaders and cadres focus on the real issue of winning the elections, helped by the sympathy wave.

    One leader said it was challenging for Mr Zardari to get into the shoes of Ms Bhutto but since she had passed on the leadership to him in her will, the party had accepted the decision and quickly converted the street protests and violence into a determined electoral mission to win the elections.

    But February 18 was the cut off date for all practical purposes and it was impossible for any PPP leader, including Mr Zardari, to show any soft corner for President Pervez Musharraf or the establishment before the elections.

    “We have to decide that if Feb 18 turns out to be a fraud with us and the nation, what we have to do and this is not an easy decision but this decision cannot be put off any more,” said one leader. “And this time President Musharraf will have to accept all our demands without any precondition or bargaining because we have already paid the highest price that could be asked in any bargain.”

    Senior PPP leaders do not believe that the establishment would go for the elections even on Feb 18, if the PPP wave continues, which it will. “They are not prepared to hand over power through the ballot box and unless they are in a position to either manipulate the result and contain the PPP or strike a deal on their terms, they would not agree to a poll,” one leader said. “But the PPP is not in a position to offer anything now. If Mr Musharraf wants a deal with the PPP, he will first have to hold a free and fair election without asking for anything in return. This risk he has to take, or otherwise take much bigger risks.”

    This PPP sentiment is reflected at all levels of the leadership which is now gearing up to accept the coming challenges. Whatever doubts and suspicions people may have about Mr Zardari, he has now been catapulted into a position where he has very little room for maneouvre or go against the general party sentiment. People want revenge and he has to lead the party into getting one.

    “The PPP candidates have been decided by Benazir so those cannot be changed. The PPP leadership all over the country is in place so no particular Zardari men can be inducted. The election is just around and no one can risk intra-party infighting. The mourning has been successfully converted into a fury to take revenge at the ballot boxes so the party has been saved from disarray,” according to a senior leader.

    This transition from protests and fury on the streets to revenge through democracy has been remarkably smooth. As we drove hundreds of miles in PPP and non-PPP territory, life had come to almost normal and only the remnants of the burnt out trucks, especially NLC containers and car-carriers, reminded us of the angry reaction. The first hurdle has successfully been crossed by the PPP, headed by Mr Zardari to control the people and turn them into highly motivated and committed workers.

  2. Daily Jang had carried this “Purely Anti Sindhi Community” Advertisement after the death of Benazir Bhutto.

    PML-Q Punjab alters ethnically exclusive ad By Amar Guriro and Qazi Asif
    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=200816\story_6-1-2008_pg12_1

    KARACHI: The PML-Q Punjab has amended the language of a controversial advertisement it published on riot damage compensation for non-Sindhis in Sindh, after a bad reaction from the southern province’s party leaders and workers. The advert now says Sindhis (in bold lettering) can also apply for compensation.

    But the damage has been done. The PML-Q central leaders should find out who allowed the publication of a party advertisement excluding Sindhis from claiming damages in the post-BB assassination riots, argued the party’s Sindh information secretary Saturday.

    A flurry of letters has made its way to the party’s chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. “The way the PML-Q started an advertisement campaign in such sensitive conditions is strange,” said Jafar al Hasan, president, PML-Q (Youth Wing) Sindh, who added that he and others registered their protest.

    The PML-Q Punjab started the advertisement campaign in the national print media Friday. On the first day, four colored half-page advertisements were printed with news clippings, saying that people affected by the riots could apply for compensation. One of the news items said that during violence in Bin Qasim (Karachi) 12 girls were kidnapped and raped – however, it failed to mention which newspaper published the stories. “I don’t remember exactly which newspaper published this story but I think it was an Islamabad-based Urdu newspaper,” said Mian Abdul Sattar, senior vice president PML-Q Punjab.

    “It is against the party’s basic manifesto and with such a move the PML-Q leadership is dividing the party workers ahead of the polls; that would be so dangerous,” said Ismail Rahu, a former minister and PML-Q leader. “I have collected the details of the losses in my district and most of the sufferers were Sindhis. Most of the petrol pumps, shops and vehicles set on fire were not destroyed by Sindhis.”

    Others argued that it was a PML campaign tactic. According to the PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar, after Benazir’s assassination, the people sympathized with the PPP, something the PML-Q leaders were aware of.

    The PML advertisement asked non-Sindhis in Sindh (Mohajirs, Pathans, Punjabis etc) to contact it with details of the losses they suffered in the riots after Benazir’s killing. The criticism was that the advert implied that Sindhis did not suffer any losses and were to blame for the rioting and looting.

    Haleem Adil Shaikh has written a critical letter to the PML-Q’s central president Chaudhry Shujaat, asking for an unconditional apology for the people of Sindh. Shaikh, who is also a settler in Sindh, said that the advertisement ignored Sindhi people of Sindh.

    If the advertisement campaign was a mistake, then an inquiry should be conducted to find out who is responsible and who must apologize unconditionally to the Sindhi people, Shaikh wrote. If the advertisement was deliberate, then its aim was to cause linguistic and ethnic tensions. “There was a strong feeling that the party was only for the Punjab,” he said.

    Hafiz Tabassi, the media coordinator for the PML-Q Sindh, said that the letter had been sent to Shujaat already.

  3. Human Memory is short and in case of Liars Reporters/Journalists of Pakistan i.e. Mr. Shaheen Sehbai and Mr. Ansar Abbasi it is proven beoynd doubt that Allah snatch Memory from Liars because in the above news Jang Groups quotes and Intelligence Agency Report [read table story] whereas both of these Journalists indulged in Yellow Journalism to the core had themselves running an Election Campaign for Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry by filing reports about the same Sindhi Nationalists, read How Mr. Shaheen and Mr. Ansar incited Ethnic Hate themselves through Daily Jang/The News International and GEO TV.

    GEO TV/JANG GROUP’s Message of Hate for Pakistan.
    http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2009/11/geo-tvjang-groups-message-of-hate-for.html

  4. Sindh nationalists stand for return of judges By Shaheen Sehbai & Ansar Abbasi Monday, March 16, 2009 http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=20939

    WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD: The US capital and the world is watching for the ultimate battle on the D-Day on Monday in what has now turned into a fatal fight to the finish between two personalities — President Asif Zardari and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Only one will survive. Zardari has all the power that anyone can muster in any country, but he also has the biggest stakes on line. His power grab in the last few months is not helping him and he is fighting a losing battle.

    Iftikhar Chaudhry has no powers but he has the entire country behind him and that makes him the most powerful commander leading his troops to ultimate victory. His troops, Nawaz Sharif, Ali Kurd, Aitzaz Ahsan, the media, lawyers, politicians, rights activists and the people at large have been deceived so many times that no more promises or assurances of the Zardari camp carry any weight. Thus foreign guarantors are being sucked into the equation.

    The Army, the ultimate protector of the external and internal security fronts, has been caught in a dangerous bind. While it was hard pressed fighting the terrorists and their creeping coups, President Zardari has opened a much wider and a potentially suicidal confrontation which had brought the entire country to a standstill, even before the long march could start or converge at a point.

    The Army is in no position to fight such a divisive and extended war with its own people, for the interests of a few misguided and incompetent leaders who failed to grow into the large shoes they landed in, by the stroke of luck after the ultimate sacrifice of Benazir Bhutto.

    While leaders like Maulana Fazlur Rehman are, in sheer desperation, trying to give the phenomenal rising of the people for a national cause the colour of a possible threat to the federation, all those leading the movement have repeatedly said the objective of their struggle is to attain the objective of reinstatement of Nov 2 judiciary and not to dislodge the present PPP government.

    Mian Nawaz Sharif, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Imran Khan and the lawyers’ leadership have said in one voice that the government must listen to what the nation demands. The Jamaat-e-Islami chief has even asked Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to use his pressure on the government to meet the public demand for the independence of judiciary instead of exploiting such a situation for a military intervention to grab power, a la Ziaul Haq or Musharraf.

    Given the public mood and the thinking of the political leaders military intervention is not possible and would be strongly resisted if foolishly resorted to. Critical mistakes have been made by Zardari-controlled war room, set up in the bunker inside the presidency.

    When Punjab was forcibly taken over by the governor to physically stop the long march and the entire transport system, official and private, was hijacked to block every road, two days before the D-Day word was sent out that the Shahbaz Sharif government was being restored in a few days.

    Given our bureaucratic mindset, the entire Punjab administration was paralysed that very moment because no officer, junior or senior, would take action against an ousted chief minister or his party, if he was to regain power in a few days.

    Hence there are numerous reports that the Punjab police and the administration was helping the Sharifs break the barriers or even smuggle them in police vehicles to dodge orders of a governor who was about to be sacked. It is simple logic.

    A senior government official, who drove to Islamabad from Lahore hours before the long march started towards Islamabad, reported the mood of the civil administration and the police in Punjab had changed altogether. He said officials were no more inclined to block the long march because they themselves had felt the change in the wind.

    He claimed if a police force of 23,000 and other security personnel deployed in Lahore could not prevent the Lahorites from coming out on the streets despite the use of brutal police force and teargas, the long march would smoothly move toward Islamabad as the other districts do not have enough force to face huge crowds.

    According to a report, high-ranking police officers, of SSP rank and above, rushed inside the Lahore High Court and made speeches, apologising to the lawyers and the civil society. They said whatever had happened was wrong and from now on they won’t be a part of it. Rich traders of Lahore also come to the high court and categorically blamed it all on President Zardari. People were not chanting ‘Zardari ko jana hoga!’, rather they were saying, ‘Zardari to gaya!’

    Asif Zardari has always been in a hurry to blow up the system that he suddenly inherited 14 months ago. He has overstretched his desire to become ‘General’ Asif Zardari, following in the footsteps of Gen Musharraf, for whom he still carries a soft spot.

    Zardari began where Musharraf had peaked in terms of power. He had everything going for him, a supportive people, a unanimous parliament, a friendly opposition, a lovable media, a world ready to help. But he could not grasp the opportunity or even fathom the critical role he had been swept in. His destructive politics has led him to the present pass.

    The last card he has, and he has been saying this in private for some time, is the ultimate “Sindh card” which had been used off and on by Sindhi leaders when they were in trouble or cornered because of their failed policies or strategies. Zardari using the Sindh card would be an ultimate joke with the people.

    Why this appears a last ditch desperate effort is obvious as his cronies and loyalists like Rehman Malik and the foxy Maulana Fazlur Rehman have started raising this bogey. Malik has been referring to the “East Pakistan like” situation whereas nothing like it exists on the ground.

    Even in Sindh all the nationalists led my Mumtaz Bhutto, GM Syed Group, Rasool Bux Paleejo, the nationalists of other provinces including the Bizenjos, Mengals, Marris of Balochistan and even the coalition partners Bilors of Peshawar have been looking at the situation as a fight for an independent judiciary and not a threat to the federation. Most have been very vocal in support of the judges.

    Zardari does not realise that he has pushed himself to the wrong side of the political, civil and intellectual spectrum. While everyone is clamouring for judicial independence, and everyone includes top judges, lawyers, politicians, journalists, even generals and bureaucrats, using the Sindh card would be nothing but an act of desperation signalling acceptance of defeat.

    The argument that the PPP was being victimised once again will hold no water as the present shape of the Zardari-led PPP is not what Benazir Bhutto’s PPP looked like and stood for. Benazir Bhutto’s jiyalas are no longer jiyalas of Zardari, they have been sidelined and it has been proved beyond doubt that Zardari does not stand for what Benazir wanted or struggled for.

    Thus all the Sindhi PPP and non-PPP stalwarts, including even Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Nawab Yousuf Talpur, the Jatois, Bhuttos et al, will not let Zardari use the Sindh card. It is in fact no card at all.

  5. Lets have a look into the background of Sindh Card

    CJ (R) Sajjad Ali Shah Exposes Pakistani Judiciary Corruption – P – 1 (2009) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIyp5rIiOm0

  6. CJ (R) Sajjad Ali Shah Exposes Pakistani Judiciary Corruption – P – 2 (2009) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFfKfKYHyRg

  7. CJ (R) Sajjad Ali Shah Exposes Pakistani Judiciary Corruption – P – 3 (2009) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDTc2enQ1r4

  8. CJ (R) Sajjad Ali Shah Exposes Pakistani Judiciary Corruption – P – 4 (2009) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONSoqD1-JeE

  9. CJ (R) Sajjad Ali Shah Exposes Pakistani Judiciary Corruption – P – 5 (2009) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sdQS5rsLaM

  10. I wonder if the Former CJ is a Sindhi Nationalist? And if yes then what he was doing on GEO TV?

    Ansar Abbasi & Jang Group Illegally Tape the Phones of Citizens & Judges – P – 1 (9 Apr 2009) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95rtWVvqahw

  11. Ansar Abbasi & Jang Group Illegally Tape the Phones of Citizens & Judges – P – 2 (9 Apr 2009) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyRQkewdj4Q

  12. Who is Paying Hajj Card for Jang?

    Where is the Fatwa by Ansar Abbasi against their own Colleague of Jang Group who availed Government Funded Hajj?

    Apna Gareban – Supreme Court Orders Journalists to Pay for the Free Hajj — Ep 11 — Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvkW_zu9Va4&feature=channel_video_title

  13. Apna Gareban – Supreme Court Orders Journalists to Pay for the Free Hajj — Ep 11 — Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyvxRLnoqzA&feature=channel_video_title

  14. Apna Gareban – Supreme Court Orders Journalists to Pay for the Free Hajj — Ep 11 — Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsFCWn30Igw&feature=channel_video_title

  15. Apna Gareban – Supreme Court Orders Journalists to Pay for the Free Hajj — Ep 11 — Part 4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FnPZWsHB5Q&feature=channel_video_title

  16. Apna Gareban – Supreme Court Orders Journalists to Pay for the Free Hajj — Ep 11 — Part 5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMB-TmxfJg0&feature=channel_video_title

  17. Kashif Abbasi (ARY NEWS) Misquote Dr Zulfiqar Mirza & Quote Dr. Qadir Magsi. http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2011/04/kashif-abbasi-ary-news-misquote-dr.html

  18. Jang Group/GEO TV Hate Sindhis but Invite Sindhu Deshi Ram Jethmalani.
    http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2011/04/jang-groupgeo-tv-hate-sindhis-but.html Jang Group never leave any opportunity to mock Sindhi Community and Culture rather Daily Jang Columnists often spit venom against Sindhi Community but what a shameful act of GEO TV who for the sake of business invited “Sindhu Deshi Ram Jethmalani Member Rajya Sabha Chairman Indian Kashmir Committee”. It wouldn’t have been a problem had there been “No Sindhi” in the program altogether.

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