KARACHI: The Sindh Solidarity Convention has demanded a new constitution, provincial autonomy, equal NFC share for all four provinces, release of all leaders and activists of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement as well as the c
The convention, organised by Muttahida Qaumi Movement at Nishtar Park here on Friday, also called for immediate resolution of water crisis in Sindh, withdrawal of decisions regarding the construction of Greater Thal Canal or Kalabagh Dam and reconstitution of the local government system in accordance with the aspirations and needs of the people as well as a legal cover for this system.
Addressing the convention, Muttahida chief Atlaf Hussain warned that the people of Sindh would be compelled to approach the United Nations with their call for self-determination if the seven demands, made by the convention, were not accepted and any operation clean-up was launched against Muttahida.
The convention was attended by a large number of people coming from all over the province. A large number of Sindhis, with their party flags, as well as people belonging to the Hindu and Christian communities also attended the convention. The venue of the convention was packed to capacity even before the start of the programme. All roads and streets leading to the venue were full of people. The participants were carrying posters, placards, Muttahida flags and Altaf Hussain's huge portraits. They were shouting various slogans like "Long live Altaf Hussain" and were also demanding "Aazadi".
The program started at about 6:30 pm with the recitation of the Holy Qur'aan. Muttahida Deputy Conveners Aftab Shaikh, Nasreen Jalil, Dr Farooq Sattar, Shoaib Bukhari, Shaikh Liaquat Hussain as well as Member Coordination Committee Ali Ahmed Brohi, acting Chairman JSQM Shafi Karnani, son of GM Syed Imdad Muhammad Shah, representatives of Hindu and Christian communities Arjun Das and Dr Basheer Arnold and other Muttahida office-bearers were present at the stage.
In his address, the Muttahida chief said that the people of Sindh were united and the Nishtar Park "convention is a referendum against the establishment and its policies". "We love Pakistan and want rights and autonomy within the boundaries of Pakistan. We don't want independence," he said, but added that the people of Sindh would be free to approach the UN for self-determination if their demands were ignored.
He said the country needs a constituent assembly to frame a new constitution within the framework of the 1940 Lahore Resolution on the principal of equal representation for all provinces in all federal institutions, including the armed forces.
"The people want supremacy of the parliament and provinces with full autonomous status. Under the 1940 resolution, the federation can keep Defence, Foreign Affairs and Currency. The people want a system in which the religious minorities and women should have equal rights. They want removal of all discriminatory policies," he said.
Altaf said the plundering of resources of the minority provinces should be stopped and they should be given equitable share under the NFC Award. He said it is unfortunate that the Punjab's income in federation is 27 per cent while its share in the resources is 67 per cent, on population basis; and Sindh shares 63 per cent income of the country but gets a share lesser.
During the speech, the participants were chanting slogans "Aazadi" (independence) and the Muttahida leader asked the rulers to note the demand of the people and "change their attitude against smaller provinces."
He said after his demand for provincial autonomy and equal share in income, the establishment would call him an anti-state element, but he declared that he did not care as he had faced similar allegations in the past.
He said that Muttahida and the people of Sindh were not against the people of Punjab, but against the exploitative elements, including landlords. He said that they were against terrorism and sectarianism and supported all measures taken to combat this menace. They would struggle for their due rights, he said and added that the people of Punjab and NWFP living in Sindh should also join the struggle of the people of Sindh.
"The water crisis of Sindh needs prompt attention," he said and demanded of the government to solve this crisis on priority basis. He said that no dam or water project be take up without the consensus of all four provinces. Altaf called upon the government to stop retrenchments and downsizing immediately and reinstate those already terminated.
He criticised former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto for plundering national exchequer and failure to run the government in the required manner. He also criticised Maulana Noorani, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Maulana Fazalur Rahman and Maulana Sami-ul Haq for promoting Jihad and misguiding the youths.
He said Muttahida workers and supporters are free to decide about the presidential referendum and said that he would cast his vote in favour of General Musharraf if he fulfilled the demand of provincial autonomy, according to the 1940 Lahore Resolution.
He demanded national holiday to remember the late GM Syed who struggled during the Pakistan Movement and for the rights of the Sindh. He demanded protection to journalists. Altaf also demanded talks with India to resolve the Kashmir issue and declared that his party and the people did not want war as "it is not in the interest of the two countries." He also suggested European Union-like organisation in the region.
In his speech, Ali Ahmed Brohi criticised the Constitution of 1973 and held that "it does not allow provincial autonomy." About water problem, he said that Sindh should be taken into confidence before announcing any project like Greater Thal Canal or Kalabagh Dam.
GM Syed's son Imdad Muhammad Shah said that after the partition of sub-continent, the establishment occupied all resources of the province. He blamed Punjab for seizing autonomy of the smaller province. He criticised General Musharraf for holding referendum and praised the decision of Altaf Hussain for not extending any supporting in this regard.
Acting Chairman JSQM Shafi Karnani, in his speech in Sindhi language, stressed the need for Sindhi-Mohajir unity and said that the two would have to work together in order to win the rights of Sindh. Only with unity could the people of Sindh foil this conspiracy of establishment, he observed. "We are the followers of Saeen GM Syed," he said, adding: "By following the path of GM Syed, we can change the fate of the country through an Iran-like revolution."
Dr Bashir Arnold and Arjun Das also spoke on the occasion and assured Altaf Hussain of full support from their communities in their struggle for the rights of the oppressed people. Member Sindh Organising Committee Abdul Khaliq Baloch read out a poem of Altaf Hussain to the audience. Two Sindhi folk artists also performed on the occasion.