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Star Strikes

I re-published my history of Sindh with additional chapters, as ‘An Illustrated History of Sindh’.

The evening that the former Chief Minister of Sindh, Muzaffar Hussain Shah, launched, ‘An Illustrated History of Sindh’, The Star had come out that morning with a front page tirade against my book and me, and a puzzled Muzaffar asked in his speech that since everyone knew how much Yasmeen and Suhail had done for Sindh then why this attack?

I replied to the criticism in The Star but they as usual did not have the moral courage or journalistic ethics to publish my reply. Therefore I reproduce here my letter to the Editor, The Star, Karachi.

‘This refers to the front page news/comments published by your paper The Star on Saturday, 8 March 2003, 4 Muharram 1424 on my book, ‘An Illustrated History of Sindh’, written by a doctor named Ghulam Mohammed Lakho.

‘The banner headline against my book make me wonder if the front page of The Star of that day was the handiwork of the twin Hameeds. On the basis of three letters from Dr. Lakho in English asking me for information regarding a foreign scholar, I feel that the good doctor may not be capable of such writing. The articles are more likely to represent the thoughts of the Secretary of Culture, Mr. Hameed Akhund, and the pen of your Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Hameed Haroon, of the Dawn group owned by the daughter of Mahmood Haroon. Hameed is in the habit of writing under names other than his own.

‘Whoever this Dr. Lakho may be, he definitely errs when he writes on page 1 col. 5, ‘the name (Sindh) was given by the Vedic people, or much earlier, but such historical facts have no meaning for Suhail Lari.’ I am sorry to disappoint him but the Vedic people never came to Sindh and had no knowledge of the place. The geographical area that they knew was Sapta Sindhu, the land through which the seven rivers flowed, i.e. Afghanistan and Punjab. During the Vedic period, Sindhu was not and could not have been the name of the present day province of Sindh: it was the name of the river, which the Vedic Aryans encountered when they crossed from Afghanistan into Punjab.

He writes on page 7 col. 1, that ‘the Rig Veda considered only the Sindhu (Indus) as the sacred river’. He is mistaken. The Rig Veda considered Sindhu to be surpassing all the other streams in strength (RV 10.1), roaring like a bull (RV 10.3), speckled like a mare, beautiful as a handsome woman (RV 10.7). However, the sacred river in the Rig Veda, was the Saraswati, named after the goddess of scriptures, of scholarship, of speech, inventor of the Sanskrit language and mother of the Veda. The Rig Veda II.41.16 calls Saraswati, the ‘Best mother, best of rivers, best of goddesses’.

‘He writes on page 7 col. 1, that ‘the Mahabharata was written around 200 BC to 200 AD’. If he had bothered to read my book he would have found on page 2 of it that the Mahabharata, was not written but composed between 400 BC and AD 400′, because as I state on page 9, the Aryan people were not literate. Sanskrit was written in Devanagari (Script of the City of Gods), which was perfected during the Gupta period, around the fourth century AD.

‘He writes on page 7 col. 1 that earlier human settlements appeared along coastal Sindh over 100,000 years ago, and formed the basis of the Indus Valley Civilisation. If he had bothered to look at the map on page 352 of my ‘Illustrated History of Sindh’; he would have found that the present coastline of Sindh did not exist 100,000 years ago.

‘He writes on page 7 col. 2, ‘In one incredible sentence Lari says that this Indus Valley Civilisation at Moenjodaro would be referred to by him as the Harappan Civilisation, because a new civilisation was first discovered in 1920 at Harappa in the Punjab’. He is once again in error. I wrote on page 12 that ‘archaeologists continue to call it the Harappan civilization, because it was first discovered at Harappa in Punjab’. I refer to it as Meluhha in my book and have a whole chapter devoted to it in my Illustrated History of Sindh.

‘He writes on page 7 col. 2, ‘The administrative core (or the centre) of the Meluhha civilisation was somewhere in the Bahawalpur desert (and) came to an end due to the drying up of the Saraswati river which ran along the Indo-Pakistan border’. He once again misquotes and twists what I have written. I write on page 17 of my book that, ‘Further, the majority of the known sites of the Meluhhan civilization have been found to the east of the Indus along the Indo-Pakistan border, which has led archaeologists to speculate that the administrative core of the civilization was somewhere in the Bahawalpur desert, and that the Meluhhan civilization came to an end due to the drying up of the Saraswati river, which once ran along the Indo-Pakistan border.’

‘He writes on page 7 col. 4, ‘So much was the influence of local townsmen and farmers that the invaders accepted the religion of the conquered and even minted coins carrying the local scripts. Right up to the end of the British period, all coins had bilingual writings.’ He makes this statement without mentioning the names of the religions, scripts or coins that he has in mind. So far the good Doctor Lakho has been misquoting me and twisting facts; but here he has gone completely berserk. This statement is totally false.

‘He writes on page 7 col. 5 that the author claims that, ‘The Soomras who ruled for nearly 350 years (110 AD to 1352 AD) were actually Arabs’. In fact in chapter 6, I start with the statement, ‘The Sumras claim descent from the Arabs of Samarra, who arrived in Sindh with the members of the Tamim tribe, who served as Abbasid governors in Sindh, and had been sent to Sindh with a number of other tribes to curb the opposition to Abbasid rule among the Arab tribes settled in Sindh and Balochistan.’

‘He writes on page 7 col. 5, ‘the writer tried to make the same claim about the Kalhoras but the reality is the same.’ Here too he errs. I state on page 173 that, ‘the ancestor of Kalhora, Mian Odhana, lived a saintly life in Kech and his descendants were known as Odhani. When the Odhani migrated to Sindh they became Sayyid

(members of the Prophet’s family), and claimed descent from the Prophet’s uncle Abbas.’  I refer to page 341 of my book, where I say, ‘As we have seen, there is not a single group of people in Sindh who have not, at one time or the other, claimed to have had their origin in some place outside Sindh’.

‘He writes on page 1 col. 5 that, ‘the central thesis of Mr. Suhail Lari’s book is that Sindh is a land of invading immigrants (mohajirs)’. I refer to page 19 of my book where I state, ‘We have become so used to a settled life that we do not realize that man has spent most of his time on earth as a migrant, driven by nature and by fellow men. A study of deoxyribonucleic acid (or DNA, the genetic blueprint of people) has shown that all people alive today are descended from a woman who lived in Africa 140,000 years ago. Her descendants started migrating north out of Africa 75,000 years ago and spread all over the world.’

‘He writes on page 1 col. 6, ‘Mr. Lari wants to confirm himself as the chief polemicist for ethnocentrism’. I refer to page 342 of my history, which states, ‘They came as Pakistanis and called themselves Pakistani. In Sind, however, they met a people who were used to identifying individuals by their caste or tribe. When asked, their answer was invariably ‘Asan Baloch Ahan’ (I am a Baloch), ‘Asan Sayed Ahan’ (I am a Sayed), ‘Asan Samat Ahan’ (I am a Samma), etc.; because Sindh through most of its history had been divided into upper or lower, or Multan and Thatta suba (province) and came into existence as one separate province only under the British on 1 April 1936.

‘They insisted on calling them Hindustani or Panahgir, which the Muhajirs considered derogatory. They were made to appear false and ridiculous if they called themselves Sindhi or Pakistani in terms of their domicile or citizenship, and when they went for government jobs they were asked to declare their place of birth, and those of their fathers and grandfathers.

‘Therefore they chose to call themselves Muhajir, because they were proud of their origins, honoured that they had opted for, sacrificed for, were proscribed and made to leave their homes for their role in the struggle for Pakistan. The word ‘Muhajir’ for them had a noble connotation; it had roots in their history and identified them with a people who were similarly prosecuted and made to leave their home fifteen hundred years ago, with the Prophet (PBUH), to establish the first Islamic state.’

‘Tum Mohsin who

Yay to theek hay

Laykin tum yay bhopali kiyun likhtay ho?

Agar na likhta aap puchtay

Kahan kay rahnay walay ho?

Mayn kehta Larkana ka

Tum phir kahtay Pakistan aanay say pahlay

Kaun say sheher may rahtay thay?

Mayn kahta Bhopal

Ghuma phira kar jo mujhay batlana parta

Mayn nay sath likh rakha hay’

Mohsin Bhopali

According to the last British population census of India, the majority of people living in urban areas of Sindh were non-Muslims. They ran the municipalities, and filled the professions and government offices at all levels. The late Mr. Hakim Ali Zardari told me that when his father asked him to go and buy a property in town, Hindu officials did not allow him to do that, saying that Muslims were not allowed to own property in town. Therefore when the Mohajirs came and settled in urban areas, they did not take anything from local Muslims. In fact, they freed the Sindhi Muslims living in rural areas, as 87% of the Muslim families of Sindh were indebted to the Hindu moneylenders.

Karachi is an interesting case study in this regard. When Kharakbunder silted in the late 1720s, its inhabitants moved to a fishing settlement known as Kalachi-jo-Gote, i.e. Kalachi’s village. It became known as Karachi, and a fort was built with cannons from Muscat mounted on it. The Khan of Kalat gave Karachi to the Talpur rulers of Sindh in AD 1792, but the locals resisted this till 1795, when their leader ‘Dharianomal’ came to terms with Mir Karam Ali Talpur. The British created a modern harbour and railway line linking Karachi with Punjab and the Afghan border. During the World Wars, Karachi became the base of operations for British and American troops, which led to the further influx of people, turning Karachi into one of the fastest growing cities in the sub-continent. By 1931 it had become the 10th largest city in the subcontinent, with a population whose majority was neither born in Sindh nor Muslim, i.e. Karachi was neither a Sindhi nor a Muslim city.

The history of the Indus Valley, as revealed by the new western sciences of archaeology, philology and numismatics, is one of invasion, occupation and popula­tion by people originating from outside the Indus Valley. Whereas the Himalayas formed an effective barrier against large-scale migration from the north, the mountain ranges ended to the north of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, allowing large-scale migration through Khurasan and Sistan into the Indus Valley. It placed Balochistan and Sindh on the most convenient route for mass infiltration into South Asia. Sindh was also repeatedly occupied by the empire-builders, as well as by those who were looking for a place of refuge, like the Arghuns, Baloch and Afghans in recent years.

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