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Struggle For Survival

The Urdu-speaking migrants from India have remained constant supporters of the state system in Pakistan.

By Dr. Rajkumar Singh | January 2022

Initially, the word ‘Mohajir’ was the part of Pakistan’s political vocabulary from the outset as a means of encouraging Muslim solidarity between newcomers and those who already lived within the territory of the newly-carved Pakistani nation state. The term Mohajir alludes to the migration of the first Muslims from Mecca to Medina -a migration initiated by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by himself. Simultaneously, the use of the term ‘Mohajir’ allowed the state to constitute those who are already living within Pakistan, making the task of welcoming the arrivals a quasi-religious duty.

For instance, Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan said in August 1948, ‘The Government of Pakistan is fully aware of the difficulties of the Muhajireen and all over efforts are directed towards an end that is to improve their lot. So long as each and every refugee is not suitably resettled the Pakistani government would not relax its efforts.’

Clearly, the term Mohajir was initially deployed in a capacious and positive sense to evoke sympathy for the migrants from India; moreover, it included all migrants from India to Pakistan irrespective of where they came from and what language they spoke - it did not have an ethnic connotation. However, soon thereafter, the concept and the whole context began to change as new situations emerged in both countries.

Mohajirs in Today’s Pakistan

As things currently stand, the term “Mohajir” is a common name for the Muslim people presently living in Pakistan but migrated from different parts of India on the eve of Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. Thereafter, they settled sporadically in different provinces of Pakistan with majority in urban Sindh, especially Karachi. It was the largest mass migration in human history where many people left their country from both sides, particularly keeping in view the socio-religious tense environment prevailing in the subcontinent at the time.

The migrants who came to India from Pakistan have no settling trend but those who migrated from India to Pakistan began to live in blocs. For instance, the people of the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and the United Provinces, mostly settled in the Punjab province of Pakistan. On the other hand, the earlier inhabitants of Bombay, Central Provinces, Berar, Hyderabad, Baroda, Kutch and the Rajputana Agency settled in towns of Sindh and surrounding cities, such as, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Mirpurkhas.

The migration of Muslims from India to Pakistan did not take place in one stroke but in three different phases. Covering the areas of East Punjab, Delhi and some adjacent districts of today’s Uttar Pradesh, the first round of migration took place between August to November, 1947, and the prime cause of which was communal disturbance resulting in survival fear.

The second phase of the migration covered a long period beginning in December 1947 to December 1971, which included migrants from South as well North Indian States and they all settled in and around Karachi, the capital of Sindh. The third migration phase lasted between 1973 and 1990s with a declined rate in comparison to 1947. Over the decades and years, not only migration but the cross-border marriages have also declined sharply from 40,000 thousand a year in 1950s and 1960s to merely 300 per year.

Status in Sindh

In the 1950s, there was another wave of migration to Sindh in response to the heightened communal violence in India. The Sindh government’s responses to refugees -including asking them to return to India and the imposition of a permit system led many Mohajirs to believe that they were not very welcomed after all in the Pakistani homeland of their dreams.

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The writer is Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science as well as Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences at the Bhupendra Narayan Mandal University in Madhepura, Bihar. He can be reached at

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