November 02, 2012
In the last two years, there has been a steady rise in low-intensity bomb explosions and targeted killings in parts of interior Sindh and Karachi. Most of these attacks have been carried out by militants of hitherto little known banned Sindhi separatist outfit, the Sindhu Desh Liberation Army (SDLA) or the Sindh Liberation Army.
The SDLA strives to establish Sindhu Desh or independent state of the Sindhi people. The organization is often compared with the Baloch separatist group ‘the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA)’ in terms of its objectives and missions. Originally, the idea of a separate Sindhi state was conceived by senior Sindhi political leader G.M. Syed in the 70s.
The resurgence of Sindhi separatism has its genesis in the perception that Sindh has been used to the advantage of people from non-Sindhi ethnic groups, citing the dominance of Urdu-speaking Mohajir community in key areas of Sindh including Karachi, non-recognition of Sindhi language at provincial or national level, large scale migration to Sindh from other regions of Pakistan, including Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, alleged Punjabi dominance in the defence sector, and an increase in Taliban migrants moving to Sindh; as well as terrorist attacks in the region.
The resurgence of the SDLA started in February last year when it bombed several railway tracks in Hyderabad, Sukkur and Nawabshah. However, the group became dormant after that. Since May this year, the group has remerged and has been involved in politically motivated targeted assassinations and attacks on branches of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) in different districts of Sindh.
The latest wave of attacks in October has come after the PPP and MQM agreement to implement the Sindh Peoples Local Government Ordinance (SPLGO) 2012 in the province. The Sindhi nationalists believe the ordinance is a conspiracy to divide Sindh.
Right after the announcement of the SPLGO 2012, the residences of provincial ministers Agha Siraj Durrani, Ayaz Soomro and Speaker Sindh Assembly Nisar Ahmed Khuhro were targeted on 9 October 2012 in Garhi Yasin and Larkana. The explosive devices planted near the residences of MPA Imdad Pitafi in Hyderabad, MPA Mir Hayat Talpur’s house in Mirpurkhas and MPA Faseeh Shah’s in Shaheed Benazirabad were defused by the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS).
The major force behind these attacks in Shafi Burft, the fugitive chief of the Jeay Sindh Muttahida Muhaz (JSMM), who is also the moving spirit behind the Sindhu Desh Liberation Army (SLA). Carrying a head bounty of Rs.5 million, Burft is one of the most wanted terrorists, being sought by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Sindh for years. Burfat belongs to Tehni, a small village of Taluka Sehwan in Jamshoro district. He was a close associate of Dr Qadir Magsi in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and was accused along with Dr Magsi for orchestrating the September 30, 1988 carnage. Recent media report indicates he is allegedly based in Kabul, Afghanistan, and has established his control center there with the help of Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
The SDLA is the armed wing of the Jiye Sindh Mutahida Muhaz (JSMM) or United Sindh Front, a faction of Jeay Sindh Movement introduced by late GM Syed. The group has its connections with around a dozen factions of the Jeay Sindh. The group has its nexus with criminal gangs of Ghaffar Zikri and Baba Ladla in Layari. Though there is no evidence of group’s connection with the Baloch separatists, they are clearly inspired by struggle of Baloch separatists who have succeeded in highlighting the conflict in Balochistan at the international level.
In its various pamphlets and Facebook and Twitter messages, the leaders of the SDLA have asked Sindhi people to take up arms and join the movement. The SLDA says Sindhi separatists must get the same worldwide recognition as the separatists in Balochistan, and asks people to stand up against the “opportunist” People’s Party government, the army, and the ISI.
While Pakistan’s campaign against Taliban insurgents in FATA and Baloch separatists in different parts of Balochistan continues along with the challenge of sectarian militancy, the rise of another violent ethno-nationalist movement in Sindh will make matters difficult for Islamabad.