‘I Have Sinned’

If Sindh is to be saved, it won’t be via two-week dance-offs but twenty-year ed­u­ca­tion emer­gen­cies, struc­tured land re­form, land re­dis­tri­bu­tion and in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment.

Southasia - - CULTURE PAKISTAN - By Asad Rahim Khan

When Charles Napier, that most clas­sic col­o­nizer – hard, hook-nosed and great at killing brown people – was tour­ing the land he con­quered, he once asked, ‘Whose lands are these?’

‘Bhutto’s lands,’ came the driver’s re­ply. ‘Wake me up when we are off Bhutto’s lands,’ CN groused, and fell asleep. When he woke some­time later, he asked again, ‘Who owns this land?’ Again came the re­ply, ‘Bhutto.’

So re­counted the late Be­nazir in her mem­oirs. To read those pages in her lilt­ing voice is to be re­minded again of the lady we lost. God bless her.

But to un­der­stand those words is to know a still-very-young lady, un­abashedly proud of all that land she owned. ‘Our lands, like those of other landown­ers in Sindh, were mea­sured in square miles, not acres,’ she wrote.

It was her fa­ther, Zul­fikar, who told her about Charles Napier. And it was her fa­ther who was fond of the

ul­ti­mate Napier story: that when he con­quered Sindh, he fired off a se­cret mes­sage to his su­pe­ri­ors, ‘ Pec­cavi,’ – Latin for ‘I have sinned.’

It was pos­i­tive, then, to see his grand­son take up the other side’s war cry: Marvesoon marvesoon, par Sindh na desoo. ‘We will die, but won’t hand over Sindh,’ Hoshu Sheedi called out at the Bat­tle of Dabbo, mo­ments be­fore be­ing cut down by Napier’s men.

Though they’ve had more in com­mon with the colo­nials of the past, Bhutto III was fi­nally own­ing the right side of his­tory…against both Crown and Emi­rate. Though he can’t speak Urdu to save his life, Bi­lawal Bhutto is not much in­ter­ested in sav­ing his life at all, con­demn­ing the Tal­iban again and again and again.

Com­pare this to Imran Khan in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa. Or to the IJIs­lash-Nawaz League boys in the cen­tre, with their not-quite-surewho-Tal­ibs-are face. Or to Fazl or trea­sonous old Mu­nawwar.

And ‘Sindh Fest’, a mega-bo­nanza cel­e­brat­ing all things Sindh, was mar­keted as some more of that: spit­ting in the one-eye of the joy­less – the ma­ni­acs in the north that wish to chop hands and stone adul­ter­ers all the way to Caliphate Camelot.

It’s a great idea to be sure: to con­serve our cul­ture in the face of mil­i­tant mad­ness. The re­al­ity was gaudier: don­key der­bies and kite fights. She­hzad Roy singing at Thatta. The Sindh govern­ment plug­ging the leaks with cash.

Let’s face it though, that’s split­ting hairs. Much of the Sindh Fest cri­tique was, in a word, petty. Some said it was un-Sindhi; with its Su­per­man comic book lo­gos and English rap songs and Pun­jabi Bas­ant par­ties. But such cel­e­bra­tions needn’t be so so­phis­ti­cated – the beauty of cul­ture is syn­the­sis; meet­ing and meld­ing with other ways of life. A sum bet­ter than the parts.

But those that didn’t have a prob­lem with un-Sind­hi­ness, thought it too Sindhi. The Sindh Card all over again, they sneered. A sad re­minder that where once ZAB swept ( West) Pak­istan, BBZ’s only base was the In­te­rior. And was it not eth­nic chau­vin­ism? Could Hamza Shah­baz, they asked, pull off a t-shirt that read ‘Pun­jabi’? Wasn’t all this di­vid­ing us?

Well, not re­ally. Pak­ista­nis tasted the grey curd of One-Unit, chewed it and spat it out. In na­tions as bless­edly di­verse as the Pak­istani one, dif­fer­ences can, if rep­re­sented the right way, bind us closer to­gether.

And (the only rea­son Hamza Shah­baz won’t wear that t-shirt is be­cause he doesn’t need to. When run­ning Pun­jab means you run the rest of the coun­try, you’re not all that threat­ened. That may change when you raise districts to prov­inces like any ra­tio­nal setup would…but that’s

Of Sindh Fest's many sound bytes, 'Marvesoon marvesoon, par Sindh na des­oon,' res­onates most deeply. The tragedy of Sindh is that the Bhut­tos did ex­actly that, rul­ing and rap­ing Sindh, and los­ing thier lives in the process.

a de­bate for an­other day.

So onto the pluses again: does a na­tion in war­time need to be re­minded of what’s at stake? Yes. Has the PPP done that? Yes. Was it great for cul­ture? Yes. Does our cul­ture need con­stant care­tak­ing? Yes.

But like most bright pic­tures, this one has a dark, dark neg­a­tive. Be­cause once the glitz dis­ap­pears, and the stars and celebs pack up, we’re left with the fact again.

The fact of Sindh. Or at least the Sindh that car­ries the Bhut­tos on its brit­tle shoul­ders year af­ter year. And that Sindh is wretch­edly poor. The food in­se­cu­rity is ap­palling. Mal­nu­tri­tion is hit­ting the roof, forc­ing UNICEF to in­struct moth­ers how best to breast­feed their chil­dren.

But does poverty mean we bang on about poverty, and let cul­ture die? Isn’t the whole coun­try poor? Yes it is, but not this poor. Part of the rea­son, of course, is the f-word, and it’s not (Mus­lim League) Func­tional. Whether our lib­er­als like it or not, it is feu­dal­ism – an an­i­mal way of life that de­bases us all.

The symp­toms are every­where: in the anger of Sindh’s land­less peas­ants. In the suf­fer­ing of land-work­ers that earn 50 ru­pees a day. In the ‘streak of vi­o­lence’ a twenty-some­thing Fakhrud­din G. Ebrahim was the first to see in Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto when they prac­ticed law to­gether. In a Sindh frozen in time.

And if poverty is not your strong suit, the Sindh As­sem­bly met midFe­bru­ary to ‘ex­press con­cern’ over ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards nose-div­ing… this af­ter pump­ing the ed­u­ca­tion budget from 16 bil­lion to 121 bil­lion.

Some fast facts: ‘75 per­cent class-V stu­dents are un­able to read class-II English sen­tences or do twodigit sub­trac­tions; 58 per­cent are un­able to read Urdu lan­guage text… the learn­ing in­di­ca­tors of stu­dents in Sindh are lower than their coun­ter­parts in FATA’.

If Sindh is to be saved, it won’t be via two-week dance-offs. Try twenty-year ed­u­ca­tion emer­gen­cies, struc­tured land re­form, land re­dis­tri­bu­tion, in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment. The hard thing, the right thing, the unglam­orous thing that won’t get retweets or Geo TV spots.

Of Sindh Fest’s many sound bytes, ‘Marvesoon marvesoon, par Sindh na des­oon,’ res­onates most deeply. The tragedy of Sindh is that the Bhut­tos did ex­actly that, rul­ing and rap­ing Sindh, and los­ing their lives in the process.

But while Hoshu Sheedi lies for­got­ten, many flock to Garhi Khuda Baksh to weep. Per­haps with the same fond­ness Zulfi Bhutto felt, for a gen­eral called Napier.

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