Pakistan's Sindhi nationalists reject refugee influx

Nationalists in Pakistan's Sindh province oppose the arrival of Pakistanis displaced by military operations in the country's northwestern North Waziristan region.

Pakistan's Sindhi nationalists reject refugee influx

World Bulletin / News Desk

With the conflict between Pakistan's army and Taliban groups raging on in the country's northwestern North Waziristan tribal region, those displaced continue to flow into other parts of the country. Many have arrived in the country's highly-populated southern Sindh province, but their arrival has raised concerns amongst nationalists about changes to the demography, in a province where migrants are common.

The Pakistan Peoples' Party, who run the provincial government, have responded to those worries with an unannounced ban on arrivals with the Pashtun ethnicity prevalent in North Waziristan. The tight security at the province's entry points has not completely stifled the entry migrants, with 6,000 managing to slip in the port city of Karachi, according to local media.

"We fully support the army operation against terrorists in North Waziristan, although we were not taken into confidence on that. However, the people of Sindh will not welcome the internally displaced persons to be resettled here because it will turn the Sindhis into a minority on their own land," said Jalal Mehmood Shah, chairman of the nationalist Sindh United Party, while addressing a party meeting.

Mehmood said the resettlement of the displaced people from North Waziristan in Sindh would "damage" the demography of the province, which already homes more than 2 million undocumented migrants from Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

Most who arrive in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and the country's commercial hub, are likely to seek out Pashtun-dominated areas. There, they may benefit from the centuries-old Pashtunwali custom, which demands that a Pashtun must support fellow tribesmen with food and shelter in times of need.

Karachi, which sits on the edge of Arabian Sea, already hosts 5 million Pashtuns, a million of whom have settled in the city following military operations against rebels in Pakistan's tribal areas -- including the Swat valley and South Waziristan -- in the last decade.

Security agencies believe the suburbs, littered with Pashtun communities of varying sizes, are used by Taliban members as hideouts. Manghopir, a western shanty town of Karachi, is the most notorious. There, around two dozen alleged Taliban fighters and a dozen police officers have been killed in operations and ambushes in the last few months.

Sindh is Pakistan’s most ethnically diversified province whose regions, with both a high population of Mohajirs -- Urdu-speaking people who migrated from India after 1947 Partition, which created Pakistan -- and indigenous Sindhis. Both populations are concerned by the prospect of a Pashtun influx. Activists supporting nationalist parties took the streets in various parts of the region on Thursday and Friday, warning that they would resist the entry of refugees.

"They (the displaced) will also worsen the law and order situation here because hundreds of terrorists may enter Sindh under the guise of displaced persons," said Mehmood, a former parliamentarian, and grandson of Sindh’s legendary nationalist leader G.M Syed.

Dr Qadir Magsi, another nationalist leader of Jeay Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party said his sympathies are with those displaced, but they are not welcomed in Sindh.

"We cannot sacrifice our identity," Mr Magsi told reporters, warning that any forced settlement by the government would meet strong resistance from locals.

The army launched a full-scale operation in North Waziristan on June 15 to root out rebels loyal to the Pakistani Taliban’s main consortium, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, after peace talks between the two sides collapsed in April. 

Last Mod: 28 Haziran 2014, 11:01
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