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NAWA-I-WAQT, September 20, 2018

 Mowahid Hussain Shah

 Beneath the mask of “administrative grounds,” a momentum is being generated to carve out a new province of South Punjab.  Little attention is being paid to its lethal domino effects.  It is consistent with an international agenda to divide, dominate, and subvert a vital pillar of the Islamic bloc.  The martyrs who had fought and sacrificed for the all-inclusive big tent of Muslim nationhood – including Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, who was at the vanguard against Balkanization – would be rolling in their graves. 

To enable this sinister scheme to move forward, a key constituency – the Punjab intelligentsia – has been duped and suborned. 

Let us briefly examine where else this separatist ruse has been deployed recently and with what result. 

Nearly 30 years ago, it was deemed in vested quarters that restive Sudan was too big.  Therefore, it needed to be cut to size.  The north was largely Arab and Muslim; the south was animist and Christian, and ethnically distinct.  Another enabling factor here was the venal and inept regime at Khartoum, which lacked the courage, vision, and foresight to hold the country together.  Hence was midwifed the state of South Sudan.  The ‘old’ Sudan became ‘new’ Sudan.  For further elucidation, see the July 2011 article in the Atlantic magazine, encaptioned “US Played Key Role in Southern Sudan’s Long Journey to Independence.”

Via a 2011 referendum, South Sudan was born.  To date, it remains stillborn.  It already has failed.  It is oil-rich yet under-developed, landlocked, with hardly any infrastructure or industry.  Now it is devoid of the assets and strengths of the North, which a united Sudan would have brought.  Childbirth is perilous for women: “Illnesses that would be considered treatable anywhere else could be a death sentence” in South Sudan (New York Times, September 17, 2018).

Today, South Sudan is wracked by a bloody civil war, including brutal killings and rapes.  A 17-page June 2018 joint report by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights amply documents the scale of the carnage, which “suggest a scorched-earth tactic” and include “acts that constitute gross violations and abuses of international human rights, and serious violations of international humanitarian law, which in many cases may amount to war crimes.”

South Sudan is only 7 years old, but let’s look at the scorecard.  Over 5 years of horrendous civil war; 50,000 dead; 4 million displaced; 250,000 children on the verge of death by starvation.  Vested interests had long advocated and supported the secession of the Christian south Sudan from the Muslim north Sudan.  When South Sudan came into being, it was hailed as a “victory for the oppressed.”  But campaigning for a brand-new country and governing it are two different cups of tea.  The underlying ethnic cancer within has only metastasized and worsened.  Now, it is all-out slaughter.  Violence stalks South Sudan with few avenues for escape. 

Coming back to Pakistan, when the need for national cohesion is paramount, the South Punjab stunt can only present and portend scenarios that destabilize and fragment.  The post-East Pakistan generation remains miseducated about 1971.