Karachi Khappay

In the name of local bodies election, the people of Karachi have been cheated once again.

By S. R. H. Hashmi | February 2023

It is really a matter of shame that even three quarters of a century after the creation of Pakistan in 1947 as an independent Muslim state, the people of the country remain divided on ethnic, provincial and lingual basis. In like manner, it is understandable that indigenous and old-established communities of the country would show some resistance/apprehension in respect of newcomers belonging to a different ethnic group who may not blend perfectly with the indigenous population. Normally, these newcomers arrive in small numbers and, of necessity, they adopt the language and culture of the host population, becoming a part of it in due course of time. For this reason, ethnicity and language did not become a big public issue in provinces other than Sindh.

As for Urdu-speaking people, referred to as Mohajirs, another cause for resentment in the indigenous people of Sindh was that soon after the Partition, Mohajirs ended up with senior bureaucratic positions mainly due to their higher education and experience levels. The portion, on the whole, was far more than the proportionate share of Mohajirs living in Sindh. Some people believe that the assassination of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was largely motivated by this anti-Mohajir sentiment, and the ensuing circumstances did nothing to dispel this impression. Later, even Khawaja Nazimuddin, Pakistan’s 2nd Prime Minister, was sent packing unceremoniously, while another Prime Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy met a worse fate, despite belonging to the more populous Eastern wing of the country.

Now, as for Karachi, according to Wikipedia, before the end of British colonial rule and the subsequent creation of Pakistan in 1947, the population of the city consisted primarily Gujarati-speaking people, along with Marwaris, Hindus, a small number of Sikhs, local Jewish community and a large number of Christian community as well, which is still living in the city in large numbers. The city of Karachi was, and still is home to a large community of Gujarati Muslims who were one of the earliest settlers in the city, and still form the majority in Saddar Town, the central part of the city. Leading Gujarati Muslim communities in the city include Memon, Chhipa, Ghanchi, Khoja, Bohra and Tai. Other early settlers included the Marwari Muslims, Parsis having their origins to the state of Gujarat of India, Marathi Muslims and Konkani Muslims from Maharashtra, Goan Catholics, an ethno-religious community of Indian Christians, and Anglo-Indians. Most non-Muslims of the city migrated to India in the 1950s, but there are still small communities of Parsis, Goan Catholics and Anglo-Indians living in the city.

At that time of the creation of Pakistan, the total population of Karachi was under half a million people, with Gujaratis being the dominant group. However, with migration of a large number of Urdu-speaking Mohajirs to Karachi because of its mild climate, the city’s population started swelling, with Mohajirs outnumbering all the other ethnic groups put together. As such, the language and culture of the new dominant group, Mohajirs, became the language and culture of the city, as a natural consequence. The same pattern was replicated in Hyderabad, the 2nd largest city of Sindh.

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