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Diaspora: 'Fun'
and Nostalgia
Among Muhajirs
in Pakistan

By Oskar Verkaaik
the Muhajirs of Sindh as yet
another diasporic nation, crushed
between territory-based nation-
states, and suffering from an
almost transhistoric longing for an
homeland of its own...............
They (Muhajirs) felt to have two
options. One, increasingly
difficult, option was to become a
labor migrant and in time become
part of another nation. The other
option, in case of escalation, was
to defend Karachi and Hyderabad
as Muhajir territory and become a
majority. Read full
paper ……………………
an eye opener for sindhi
[Type the company

[Type the phone


Back in Diaspora: 'Fun' and Nostalgia Among Muhajirs in Pakistan

By Oskar Verkaaik,
- Paper given at South Asia Workshop, University of Chicago -

The title of this paper contains three conceptual terms which are the key words of this
presentation. They are diaspora, fun and nostalgia. Not all of them are regular theoretical
concepts. 'Fun' in particular might raise several questions and I am sure that I cannot
answer all these questions in this presentation. My aim is to introduce the term and indicate
why I find it an useful concept and also to relate it to the other two terms, diaspora and
nostalgia. I think that the three terms together can give us a good idea of the position of
Muhajirs in the last two decades of the past century, in particular how this position has
changed. In very general terms I would say that the 'fun' that was so typical of the 1980s
has been replaced by the nostalgia of the late 1990s, and this, in turn, has revived the
notion of diaspora among Muhajirs.

Before moving on to these three key words, then, I want to say a few introductory words
about the people we are actually talking about, Muhajirs. I don't think I have to explain to
you that Muhajirs are partition-related - or, from the Pakistani point of view -
independence-related migrants who travelled from India to Pakistan after 1947. Still, that is
not the whole meaning of the term Muhajir. Although it is true that immediately after
independence, all migrants could be called Muhajir, more recently the term is only used for
a smaller, more specific portion of these migrants. The term no longer connotes to the East-
Punjabis who travelled to the West-Punjab and are widely believed to be totally assimilated
with the local population. Today, the term Muhajir only includes the mostly Urdu-speaking
migrants who came to Pakistan slightly later, from 1948 onwards. Most of them came from
urban settings in North-India. And they settled in Sindh - in Karachi as well as Hyderabad
and small smaller towns in this province. The term Muhajir had always been used for these
migrants, yet it was more common to use other names, such as Urdu-speakers. It was only
in the mid-1980s, with the founding of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement, the MQM, that the
term Muhajir was again on everybody's lip. Today, the term Muhajir has therefore as much
to do with changing social relations in Sindh as with independence-related migration.

In a way, this already brings me to the main argument I want to make - and that is an
argument about the notion of diaspora. It is, as we will see, an important notion in present-
day Muhajir identity, and unlike 'fun' it is of course a well-known and often-explored theme
in recent academic debates, and one of the themes of the Globalization Project. Diaspora is
intrinsically connected to the nation and its territory, the homeland. In the works of a whole
range of scholars, one is confronted with the notion of diasporic nations in search of an
homeland and lost within a world of territory-bounded nations which have divided the
available land on this planet among themselves. The imagination of diaspora can thus be a
cause of collective anxiety, desire as well as political aspirations, whereas the settled
nations may look at the diasporic nation as a threat to its existence.

Given the attention that is given to the issue of diaspora - rightly, I think - it only seems a
matter of time for a study to appear that will describe and analyze the Muhajirs of Sindh as
yet another diasporic nation, crushed between territory-based nation-states, and suffering
from an almost transhistoric longing for an homeland of its own. In fact, I have recently
seen an article, that is part of a work in progress, which argues precisely this. It can, in
other words, perfectly well be argued that the notion of diaspora not only gives Muhajirs of
today a sense of displacement, but also that the notion has been among Muhajirs since their
migration, or perhaps even longer, and that, thirdly, this notion is itself one of the reasons
why Muhajirs have become or remained a distinct group in Pakistan. In other words, their
own fear has significantly contributed to the realization of that fear. Always feeling distinct,
and fearing that this feeling would one day turn against them, they have indeed become, in
Mary Douglas' words, an 'abomination' towards the end of the 1990s.

There is a lot to say for this and yet I think that the argument falls short insofar as it fails to
take into account that the diasporic identity, and the anxiety of displacement, seems to be
from a much more recent date. Or rather, the notion of diaspora itself is not new, but it
seems to have been fairly absent for, perhaps, several decades after independence. I would
therefore be inclined to endorse only part of the argument I just sketched. I think it can
hardly be denied that diaspora and displacement are central features of Muhajir identity
today. Yet, I am not so sure that this has always been the case. And that leads me to think
that the notion of diaspora has returned with a vengeance because of a rather recent
reevaluation of Muhajir's history and place in Pakistan rather than because of a given
problematic position as migrants.

This is, in fact, one of the claims I want to make this afternoon. Initially, independence-
related migration was not at all interpreted as a new chapter in the history of a diasporic
people. It was, initially, not talked about as an uprooting process. Migration was - certainly
collectively, but I think also in many cases personally - rather experienced as an home-
coming - or even a second birth into an homeland finally found. Migration was initially very
much the end of the nation's diasporic destiny. This is in fact expressed in the term Muhajir
that refers to the Islamic exodus that marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. When
learning about Muhajirs today, one can of course never forget that Muhajirs, as a group,
were among the most vocal nation-builders in the first few decades of independence. To a
very large extent they managed to make Pakistani nationalism into a profoundly migrant
nationalism. In that sense, Pakistan forms an intriguing reminder to the fact that, although
nations are connected to an homeland or have a longing for an homeland, the imagination
of several nations also rests heavily on collective memories of migration, travel, movement.
Israel is of course an example that comes easily to mind, but one can think of others. The
US, or the Americas in general, are also examples. The comparison between Pakistan and
the US was in fact made in Pakistan itself, in the 1970s, when Sindhi intellectuals became
increasingly afraid that they would be marginalized in Sindh, and in order to express that
anxiety said that they were on the verge of being 'red indianized', that is, of sharing the fate
of the native Americans in the New World.

I think, therefore, that the present-day Muhajir diasporic identity and the sense of being
displaced, and of having been so for already many, many generations, should be seen in
relation to more recent political developments in Pakistan, and especially in Sindh. This is, I
think, not simply a story of Muhajirs gradually losing their privileged position after the first
democratic elections of 1970, as is often argued - or rather, taken for granted. I think the
story is slightly more complicated. The transition of the democratic political process that
began to set in the late 1960s were, indeed, the background for the founding of the Muhajir
Qaumi Movement in the mid-1980s, but initially the MQM was, in my view, not a
reactionary, conservative, nostalgic movement of an overprivileged people under threat. It
was, rather, a future-oriented, energetic, perhaps even revolutionary movement of
particular groups of Muhajirs who had not, till then, had the chance to speak for Muhajirs as
a group. These groups were, in class - or 'caste' - terms, the relatively poor, those people
who the middle class would normally slightly condescendingly call 'the uneducated'. And
these groups were also, very profoundly, the youth, the second generation of the migrant

It is probably true that some sense of diaspora and nostalgia is part of the high cultural
ashraf culture of the Muhajir elite and has been so for some time. In the 1990s, however,
nostalgia has spread over much larger segments of the Muhajir population. This is, I think,
primarily the result of the disillusions caused by the unfulfilled hopes triggered by the MQM
in the 1980s. Together with the power abuse and the violence - ethnic violence as well as
state violence -, this disillusion towards to end of the century led to a nostalgia for
authoritarian rule, a more general phenomenon in Pakistan which gives some legitimacy to
the recent military takeover, and, in the case of Muhajirs, to a renewed self-imposed status
of a diasporic nation.

Let me, then, look at these issues a little closer. First of all, I should mention that what I
say today is based on a dissertation research I started in 1995 and for which I did fieldwork,
as well as some work in archives, in Karachi and Hyderabad. Most of the fieldwork was done
in a place called Pakka Qila, in Hyderabad. Some of you may know that in 1990 it was the
site of what was probably the most bloody incident of civil violence in Sindh since 1947.

As for diaspora, it is of course clear that this notion is not new in Pakistan. It can in fact be
argued that the diasporic identity is at the root of Pakistan's existence. As Ayesha Jalal has
described, the idea of Indian Muslims as foreign to the Indian soil was a nineteenth century
idea, invented and promoted from within the North-Indian, Urdu-speaking, Muslim elite
itself. It were Muslim poets who wrote of themselves as 'guests' to Hindustan, guests who -
like guests tend to do - had already stayed too long. It was initially also a profoundly
nostalgic notion as it was linked to the so-called Andulucia syndrome, the idea of having lost
an empire and a civilization in India. This self-imposed foreigness, which is also a typical
ashraf inclination to lament the loss of India and look to the sacred cities in Arabia for
consolation, was an important cultural underpinning of the Two Nations Theory. Yet, in the
form of the Pakistan Demand, the Muslim otherness lost much of its nostalgic quality and
became an incentive for nationalist action.

After independence, migrants soon began to arrive in Hyderabad and Karachi, and this soon
led to tension about the rehabilitation of Hindu evacuee property. Pakistani historiography
tends to picture this period as a time of great Muslim solidarity as migrants were welcomed
by the Sindhis as formerly the muhajireen by the ansar of Medina, and there were certainly
examples of this, but it is also true that both groups felt entitled to the abondoned Hindu
property and that this regularly led to fights and sometimes riots. It is actually interesting
that this tension found a riotous outlet in Hyderabad during the Ashura processions of 1950.
It seems that, since no ethnic idiom was as yet available, the long-standing Sunni/Shi'a
controversy provided the cultural images with which to make sense of tense social relations.

These incidents are however collectively forgotten or, at least, downplayed. There is now a
strong tendency in Karachi and Hyderabad to look at the 1950s and 1960s as a period of
hope, opportunity, hard but rewarding work, and, indeed, solidarity. In novels and short
stories about these days, Karachi appears as a city of light, humor, diversity and wonder.
These stories were mainly written later, but contemporary newspapers also portrayed
Karachi as a city 'blessed for having no history', a city of the future. This was, I think,
preeminently a Muhajir as well as a postcolonial elitist view and it left little room for looking
back. It mixed a widespread belief in the possibility of social reform and economic progress
with a program of Islamic modernization along the lines of Muhammad Iqbal, and it
provided the possibility of interpreting the personal act of migration as a liberating,
character-building process linked to the destiny of the nation.

This urban optimism went well with the dominant nationalist discourse of the 1950s and
1960s, even though the Muhajir dominated Muslim League was soon replaced by the
military as the most powerful state organization. The urban, bilingual - Urdu and English -
postcolonial middle class continued to formulate Pakistani nationalism in high cultural,
Islamic modernist terms. This ideology accounted for the sometimes patronizing, sometimes
downright condemning attitude towards a range of popular practices that were considered
traditional, rural, regional and backward. One set of such practices were particular beliefs
and practices associated with holy shrines. The remedy against this so-called superstition
was thought to lie in formal education.

As it happens, these shrines became major centers of rural and regional protest and
resistance in the 1960s. Having been essentialized as the focal-points of a traditional,
regional culture that had to be transformed into a new mentality in line with Muslim
nationalism and Islamic modernism, these shrines were now adopted with pride by groups
of students and intellectuals from the smaller provinces as indeed their spiritual centers
which had to be defended against the state's new colonialism. Two such shrines are located
in Sindh. One is the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif, an eighteenth century poet who composed
his verses in Sindhi, a rare move when Persian was still the language of culture. He lies
buried near Hyderabad, in the geographical heart of the province, and his shrine has
become a major pilgrimage center for Sindhi nationalists, as well as many other people. His
main hero, Sassi, the heroine of a popular love story, has herself become a symbol of Sindhi
identity. She is highly commercialized too, as you will find Sassi soap, Sassi sweets and
even Sassi travel companies in Sindh.

The second shrine that became a center of protest is the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in
Sehwan Sharif, in North-Sindh. Located near Larkana, the hometown of the Bhuttos, this
shrine became the spiritual center of the Pakistan People's Party. Whereas Shah Abdul Latif
is known for his serenity, his 'ishq - a comtemplative, 'cool' kind of love - Lal Shahbaz
Qalandar is a so-called mastan, an ecstatic, intoxicated mystic, associated with a 'hot'
whirling dance danced on the rhythm of big drums and a song with the famous lyrics dam-
a-dam mast qalandar. In the 1960s and 1970s, this song became the PPP's party-song and
it was typically sung in an angry, pent-up tone by young, dedicated party supporters.

In orientalist writings, Sindh had already been portrayed as a place of mysticism, of Sufism
- the more positive evaluation of the image of Sindhis, and especially Sindhi Muslims, as
superstitious, fanatical and most of the time drunk. But now, with the help of these two
saints, this image of Sufism was turned into Sindh's essential identity and a powerful
argument against the Islamic modernist discourse. The two saints actually came to
represent two brands of Sindhi nationalists, which were typically at odds. Shah Abdul Latif's
'ishq became the basis for the Sindhi separatist G.M. Syed's almost Gandhian style of the
white clothed, politics-renouncing politician, whereas the more energetic and masculine
Bhutto family went to Sehwan Sharif for inspiration.

All this is important to understand the position of Muhajirs in Sindh and Pakistan. Around
1970, a time of a tense political situation and of the first violent street clashes between
Sindhis and Muhajirs, an almost orientalist mode of ethnic stereotyping was formed in which
Sindhis were, according to one's point of view, either pure mystics or backward fanatics,
and which made Muhajirs out to be essential modernists. Like the Sindhis, Muhajirs, too,
were left two options as they could choose between the 'liberal' modernism associated with
Muhammad Iqbal or the 'Islamist' modernism of Maududi. And in both versions, territory, or
the notion of homeland, was poorly developed. The reformation of character promoted by
both was rather symbolized with images of travel, exodus and pilgrimage, hajj and hijra.

These stereotypes lived on throughout the 1970s, which were, like elsewhere in South Asia,
a period of what has been called 'aristocratic populism' (Bose & Jalal 1998). Perhaps this is
the point to say a few words about certain similarities in the postcolonial history between
India and Pakistan, similarities which are perhaps better seen from the Pakistan
perspective. In both countries, popular protest against a postcolonial regime that was liberal
in rhetoric but quite authoritarian in practice led to regimes in the 1970s which were popular
in rhetoric and remained authoritarian in practice. And in the 1980s, regimes in both
countries returned to the sentiments of partition in processes which have been called the
'communalization of politics' in India and 'islamization' in Pakistan. And in both countries, all
this developed into a major crisis of the state and a tendency within the postcolonial elite to
retreat into the private sector, in so-called 'ghettos of the rich', which in Pakistan are never
far away from international airports. The differences are of course as interesting as the
similarities. In Pakistan, new, what I would hesitantly call, 'demotic' nationalist movements
of the 1980s and 1990s had an ethnic, rather than a communal outlook, and were more or
less successfully kept under control by the army, a kind of state within the state, that has
managed to escape the public contempt for the state and the political process.

'Populism' in Sindh meant a gradual Sindhification of nationalist discourse. Not only did
critics of the PPP complain that the song of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar had practically become
the national anthem of Pakistan, Shah Abdul Latif's shrine was also incorporated into the
national heritage. During the World Cup Cricket of 1996, for instance, Latif's heroine Sassi
became a dance show to apprise 'guests of the glimpses of the culture of the Indus Valley
which is Pakistan today'. A territorial element was added to Pakistani nationalism which
portrayed Pakistan as the land of the Indus. Recently a book appeared under the title 'The
Indus Saga' which tries to write the history of Pakistan as the history of the Indus Valley,
ignoring developments taking place in what is now India. Perhaps more importantly, a third
element in the national identity of Pakistani citizens was added. The Pakistani identity had
always consisted of two elements: one was part of the umma or universal community of
Muslims and of the millat, a term that referred to the Ottoman system of communities of
loyalty and protection and that was used in Pakistan to explain its western border. Now a
third community was added, the qaum, typically translated as 'ethnic group', and four of
those were officially recognized, coinciding with the four provinces so that there was a
Punjabi, a Sindhi, a Pakhtun and a Baluchi qaum. Stalin's nationality theory as applied in
Central Asia was very often used to explain the place of these qaum within the nation.

As this change of discourse went hand in hand with measures that were
unfavorable to Muhajirs - nationalization of Muhajir owned companies, the threat
of the introduction of Sindhi as the provincial language, a reservation program for
civil service jobs and places in educational institutions that de facto discriminated
between Sindhis and Muhajirs - it is often believed that the founding of the MQM
was a reaction to these policies. It was perhaps to be expected that Muhajirs
would try to defend their migrant nationalism against the introduction of
territorial and ethnic elements which, clearly, contained the risk of turning
Muhajirs into incomplete citizens. But the reaction, when it came, was surprisingly
more ambiguous. In simple terms, the MQM adopted, rather than attacked, the
discourse of ethnicity, proclaiming that Muhajirs were also a qaum - an ethnic
group, not so much connected to a shared homeland, but rather bound together by
the collective experience of migration. For many outside the MQM, this peculiar
mixture of ethnicity and non-territorial nationalism was rather incomprehensible
and illogical. For the MQM supporters themselves, however, this act of
unexpectedly and even absurdly connecting of categories which were widely
believed to be essentially opposed was new, exciting and provocative. To proclaim
Muhajirs to be a qaum was clearly a provocation of the strict non-territorial
migrant nationalism of Muhajirs inclined to the modernism of either Iqbal or
Maududi. But it was also a provocation of Sindhi nationalists who held that a qaum
identity had be based on territorial attachment. I think that this sense of absurdity
was perhaps one of the main reasons for the MQM's success.

Let me explain this by giving another example of this disrespectful way of blurring ethnic
categories and stereotypes. This is the story of how Altaf Husain, the paramount leader of
the MQM, was given his title of Pir Sahib. This happened one day when he travelled to
Karachi in the company of Pir Pagaro, a well-known politician in Sindh, and the head of the
brotherhood of the hur. From the urban point of view, the hur are perhaps the most typical
Sindhis. You find them in the northern areas of the province, far away from any major city,
and they have a reputation of being totally devoted to their pir, which in the Islamic
modernist view is of course hard to understand. When the two leaders arrived in Karachi -
the Pir Pagaro impressively dressed in his wide garments and his tall turban, the barely
thirty year-old Altaf next to him in kurta pyjama sporting a fashionable pair of sunglasses -
the Pir was welcomed by a small group of supporters who addressed him as Pir Sahib. Soon
the much more numerous group of young MQM supporters start doing the same, which was,
initially, an extremely good joke. It was a splendid provocation to compare the two leaders,
so utterly different, to each other. And because it was so funny, the joke was often repeated
and in time ceased to be a joke and became reality. Today, it is common practice to talk
about Altaf Husain as the Pir Sahib of the MQM.

It is perhaps a strange, equally provocative comparison, but I sometimes have the idea that
the early MQM was to its young supporters what a community of English soccer hooligans,
as described by Bill Buford, is to its individual members. How unusual the comparison may
be, it may also be a comfort for the old cultural elites of both England and Pakistan that
there is still something that binds the two countries together. Both MQM supporters and
English soccer hooligans are peer-groups of young males in which one can earn status
through practical joking. This joking may take the form of the kind of popular poetry soccer
supporters invent in concert while watching soccer matches. Their songs and slogans are
usually characterized by a sense of misplacement, words don't fit together, or don't fit the
occasion, and that's what makes them so funny. But the joking may also become more
violent as internal pressure on the basis of masculine pride may lead the group members
into acts of arson, looting, etc. The literature on male peer groups suggest that the line
between pranks and vandalism is thin and often crossed without much consideration. And in
my discussions with MQM supporters in Pakka Qila, I was often told stories about youthful
days of breaking taboos, secret outings, everlasting friendships and narrow escapes that
would never ceased to be good stories. They also admitted that it was a time they regularly
burnt property of people they didn't like or scared people by shooting bullets in the air and
that they had found much enjoyment in such practices.

The 'fun' of the early MQM, then, had at least two qualities. It provocatively blurred ethnic
categories, a process for which Thomas Blom Hansen, in his work on the Shiv Sena in
Bombay, has used the term 'recuperation'. In Bombay, he claims, Hindu militants
recuperate from the Muslims the image of masculinity and physical strength. In the case of
the MQM, young Muhajirs can be said to have recuperated from the Sindhis particular
practices and images that had been denied to Muhajirs as the staunch defenders of Islamic
modernism. Their slogan Mast Qalandar Altaf Husain is an example of this. In a partly
serious, partly jokingly manner, it linked the MQM to the hot passions of a Sindhi mystic
saint. Similarly, the MQM copied from the PPP its colorful public meeting full of music and
dance. Significantly, the ajrak - the shawl of the Sindhi peasant which is another recognized
symbol of the Sindhi culture; the Sindh Museum in Hyderabad devotes two large rooms to
its many variations - this ajrak was highly fashionable in the late 1980s among hip, urban
Muhajirs. I think it is also important to realize that these provocations were also, and
perhaps even primarily, meant to challenge those segments of the migrant population who
liked to think of Muhajirs as essentially modern and disciplined. Apart from being at odds
with other ethnic groups, the early MQM was also involved in a generational conflict as well
as a provocation of the ashraf middle class.

A second aspect of the 'fun' was the social irresponsibility and the violence created within
the cohorts of young males which together made up the MQM. I think that the same peer
group dynamics which made it possible to collectively ridicule existing ways of thinking
about social distinctions, were also instrumental in fostering a particular form of violence. To
be sure, I don't think that the spectacular increase of violence in urban Sindh since 1985
can be explained in these terms. It is clear that other factors were at play: the presence of
several militant political and student organizations fighting, the fragmentation of state
forces which made talk about the state's monopoly on violence all the more laughable, or
the violent clashes between criminal organizations linked to the war economy in
Afghanistan. Yet these factors accounted for the big incidents which were still rare enough
to make the headlines of newspapers. On a more daily level, social life in a city like
Hyderabad was increasingly spoilt in the late 1980s by groups of MQM supporters
conducting such 'practical jokes' as lavishly lunching in restaurants, then scaring the owner
to death by offering to pay in bullets, and leaving without payment. This probably
contributed as much as to the growing ethnic tension as the more bloody clashes between
militant or criminal groups, if not more.

In slightly more general terms, then, I think that the MQM can be seen as an exponent of a
new kind of nationalist movement. Unlike the nationalism of the postcolonial nation-building
segments of the population, which drew heavily on culture, tradition, education and speech,
the new nationalism is more like a 'street nationalism' in which competitive
masculinity, physicality and 'fun' are key values. This transition is perhaps a matter of
degree rather than a radical break for what I would call 'official nationalism' of course relies
on state forces where such values as masculinity and physicality can also be found. Yet the
fact that young, male peer groups have a much more central place in movements like the
MQM does, I think, make a profound difference. I am actually thinking of a term that would
fit these movements of the late twentieth century. I have rejected a whole range of options,
such as, 'street nationalism', 'mass' or 'demotic' or simply 'new' nationalism and haven't
found the right term yet. So suggestions are welcome.

Another aspect of the early MQM is that the movement stirred many expectations and
visions of change. Perhaps the atmosphere of expectations itself was more important than
the actual content of these expectations. These were rather vague. One talked about the
'MQM inqilab', the MQM revolution, which celebrated change simply for the sake of change.
But during my fieldwork I was often told that those days of hope and expectations were
gone. Support for the MQM seemed to be on the wane. I had the impression that people
were waiting for an alternative. Some had already found it in a new religious movement.
The decline of the MQM had set in in 1992 when state prosecution came down hard on the
MQM. In a series of so-called Operations Clean-up, the street forces of the movement were
eliminated and the leadership forced to leave the country. This had gradually affected the
party's grip on the typical MQM neighborhoods in Karachi and Hyderabad. Even in Pakka
Qila, widely known as one of the proverbial strongholds of the movement, the party was
condemned for its power abuse.

The main reason it still received some sympathy was because of the state violence directed
against the party. All the more, because the state was now widely considered to be
captured by other ethnic groups. Generally speaking, the idea was that Punjabis controlled
the white collar state jobs in the assemblies, the courts, etc, whereas Sindhis did their dirty
work on the streets as policemen. Together with the sense of disillusion about the decline of
the MQM, this notion of a captive, unreliable, hostile state created a new feeling of being
unsafe and unsheltered in Pakistan. With the MQM, as the party to defend them, almost
defeated, one speculated whether the UN would come to their rescue in case
militant Sindhis, backed by state forces, would force them out of their homes. The
statement that 'They will one day drive us into the Arabian Sea' was one of those
conventional wisdoms I regularly heard. The fate of Biharis in Bangladesh also worried
many people. These people had gone to Pakistan in 1947 and then their country was taken
away from them in 1971. Since successive Pakistani governments did not let them come to
In Hyderabad, one felt that this could also
Pakistan, they had nowhere to go.
happen to them and people were sometimes afraid that they would
end up in a UN refugee camp in some distant desert.

Muhajirs in Pakka Qila, then, did not feel like aliens in a strange country. They described
their position rather as a people living in a land conquered by foreigners. And in
that sense, they now saw a continuity in the history of Indian Muslims, who were time and
again forced to leave, from India, from Bangladesh, and now, possibly, from Pakistan. What
worried them most was the absence of another potential homeland outside Pakistan. Having
forced to go as far as the western-most point of the subcontinent, they could not travel any
further as a nation. They felt to have two options. One, increasingly difficult, option

was to become a labor migrant and in time become part of another nation.

other option, in case of escalation, was to defend

Karachi and Hyderabad as Muhajir territory and
become a majority.
Let me, by way of a conclusion, point out the rather complex dynamics of various
formulations, reformulations and counterformulations of Pakistani nationalism. The issue of
territory was introduced only late. Although the idea of Pakistan as a Greater Sindh, a
territorial entity stretching all the way from Karachi to Kashmir, was actually formulated for
the first time already in the early 1940s by G.M. Syed - then still the leader of the Muslim
League in Sindh - this territorial formulation of Pakistan was out of the picture for a long
time. It only came back in official discourse in the 1970s and it has always sat
uncomfortably with the more dominant notion of the Pakistani nation as a non-
territorial community imagined in Islamic traditions of religious travel. The
remarkable thing about the MQM was that it, in its own disrespectful way of dealing with
ethnic and national categories, tried to work out a reconciliation of both the territory-based
and the migration-based notion of nationalism by proclaiming Muhajirs to be an ethnic
group without a sense a territorial attachment. I believe that it is the failure of this effort in
the 1990s, due to the MQM's own violence as well as state oppression, that has generated
the feeling of nostalgia and displacement in which the diasporic identity could again emerge.