In the 7th Century AD, there were 4 superpowers in West Asia, namely the Sassanian Empire (based in today’s Iran) the Byzantine Empire (based in today’s Turkey) the Islamic Empire (in the Arabian Peninsula) and the Empire of Sindh (present day Pakistan).
At the time Europe was insignificant and barbaric and America had not been “discovered” by the Spaniards.
In 632 AD, Chach the Great became Emperor in Sindh. He ruled over 1.6 million square kilometers of territory stretching from Kurdan (Iran) to Surat (Gujrat in India) and from Kerman (in Iran) to Chakwal on the border of Kashmir. In validation of this fact, the river Indus is still called Darya-e-Sindh (even as it enters Pakistan from Tibet) and the Hindko language (currently spoken in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Kashmir) still contains the Chachi dialect.
In 632 AD, the Sassanian King Yazdgard became King to an empire that encompassed most of present day Iran and Iraq. Coincidentally, in the very same year on 8th June, 632 AD, Hazrat Abu Bakar took over the Islamic State in Arabia after the passing away of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). At this time the East Roman Empire (Byzantium) was ruled by Heraclius. The Romans relied on revenue from taxation and tariffs emanating from the provinces of Egypt, Syria and Turkey as Europe was primitive and nothing of value could be extracted from there.
The Empire of Sindh comprised all of present-day Pakistan plus some other territories in today’s Iran, Afghanistan, and India. It had a peaceful foreign policy and did not take sides between the Byzantines and the Sasanian’s in their long war of attrition from 602 AD to 628 AD.
Emperor Chach of Sindh, was visionary. He cultivated cordial relations with Iran and is known to have planted two saplings on the Sindh-Iran Border near Kerman as a gesture of peace and goodwill. In friendship Chach even sent 30,000 Jat troops (Including present day Zardaris) to bolster Iran’s defenses against impending Arab attacks. Later, theses same Jats engaged in Guerilla warfare with Arabs after their conquest of Sindh and became a wandering tribe.
At the same time, he also strengthened his own defenses in the north by defeating the recalcitrant and inimical princeling Sahiwal. He then travelled to the border near present day Chakwal and in a symbolic gesture of peace planted two saplings there as well.
The Iranian king Yazdgerd was married to a young Sindhi princess who bore him two daughters. After his defeat, it is said the young princesses were taken as prisoners-of-war to the Arabian Peninsula. One of them Princess Sheher Bano was married to Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA). Hazrat Zainul Abedin (RA), the fourth Imam, was her son.
All four empires followed different religions. Iran was Zoroastrian, Sindh was predominantly Buddhist (and Hindu), the Byzantines were Christian, and Arabia had embraced the new faith of Islam.
It is interesting to note that Sindh managed to remain sovereign for a full 60 years after the Arabs conquered Iran. In 712 AD after 16 failed attempts, Sindh was finally conquered by the Arabs.
Although conquered Sindh was not vanquished. More than 2 centuries later Sindh was able to throw off the yoke of Arab rule in the late 10th Century. Thereafter it entered into a long period of self-rule by the Soomra and the Sama dynasties that lasted more than five hundred years.
Sindh’s riches and resources were coveted by the Arguns and Turkhans (from Central Asia-Afghanistan) and in 1524 Sindh again lost sovereignty for 77 years. For a while thereafter Sindh briefly fell under Mughal rule. Sindh became sovereign again under the Kalhoras and Talpurs through the 17th and 18th centuries.
In the mid-19th century, the British (after facing a humiliating defeat in the first Afghan war 1839-1842) unilaterally and treacherously breached a friendship treaty they had signed with Sindh in 1832 and attacked in 1843. To consolidate their hold and in an attempt to wipe out Sindh’s identity Sindh’s provincial status was abolished in 1847 subsuming it into the Bombay Presidency.
Sindhi civil society refused to give up and after a protracted struggle by Sindhi politicians, civil society and indeed even businessmen, Sindh was restored as a Province on 1st April 1936 under the Government of India Act, 1935.
Always chafing against foreign rule Sindh launched its second guerrilla war against the British before the 2nd World War and as a result martial law was imposed on Sindh in 1942 while its leaders were exiled and even hung at the gallows. It was the longest military insurrection the British faced in the subcontinent.
After the Government of India Act was passed Sindh became one of the eleven Governor’s provinces in United India. It voted for a new and separate Constituent Assembly along with four other provinces including British Baluchistan (which was Chief Commissioner’s Province without a Parliament) excluding the State of Kalat.
The partition of India was predicated on the vote of Muslim majority provinces. Sindh voted in the hope that it would be more sovereign and autonomous in a new Federation than in British Raj. Sindh’s sovereign status seemed guaranteed under the Lahore Resolution 1940, the Cripps Mission1942 and the Cabinet Mission Plan 1946, which were all approved by the All India Muslim League.
A temporary central Dominion government was thus installed on 14th August 1947, until the Constituent Assembly could create a Federation. Almost immediately after partition there was an onslaught on Sindh’s sovereignty. First, all of its capital Karachi was declared a Federal territory in July, 1948 despite promises that a temporary central government would establish its capital on the 700 acres of land allotted by the provincial government.
Less than 8 years later (in an act that was reminiscent of British colonial rule) Sindh’s very status of even being a province was abolished by the Establishment of West Pakistan Act, 1955. This was in brazen violation of the Lahore Resolution of 1940, the 3rd June 1947 Partition Plan, the 26th June 1947 Resolution of the Sindh Assembly.
In spite of all this and as before Sindh’s politicians and civil society struggled heroically against these injustices. Finally, one unit was abolished and Sindh was restored as a province of the Federation of Pakistan and its capital Karachi was also fully restored.
Sindh’s politicians have much to their credit. They have been the primary architects of the Constitution of 1973, they promulgated the 18th amendment and always voted for a democratic and Federal order. Its leadership commenced a peaceful nuclear programme, and put forth a robust and rational development and foreign policy.
Sindh has heroically achieved all this in spite of being waylaid by inimical forces resorting to electoral rigging and imposition of 4 extended periods of martial law. Today, against all odds, Sindh still serves as a vanguard of democracy, pluralism and multiculturalism.
When its democratic leadership was given power in 1972, it embarked on the historical role of making the Federation a regional power to be reckoned with. The Peoples Party not only pursued a robust foreign policy but also made it a nuclear power. Being the first in the region it commanded respect for the country not only in Turkey, Iran and Arabia (the former Superpowers along with Sindh) but admiration for Pakistan resonated all over the 3rd world including North Africa.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was martyred at the hands of General Zia on trumped up charges and executed by forces compliant to a dictatorship. Had Zulfikar Ali Bhutto lived on he would no doubt have restored the status of the Federation to that enjoyed under Rai Sahiras the Great and Chach the Great.
In this 21st Century instead of Heraclius, Yazdgerd, Abu Bak’r (RA) and Chach the Great, we have in their place Erdogan of Turkey, orthodox Ayatollahs in Iran, Muhammed Bin Salman in Saudi Arabia and Imran Khan of Pakistan.
The well-known and oft quoted maxim that “history repeats itself” is now playing out yet again in our region in the present epoch. It is this writer’s contention that shifting alliances between all the afore-mentioned four large powers is STILL reshaping foreign policy in the region.
For example, Pakistan is warming up to Iran and Turkey and Saudi Arabia is at loggerheads with both Iran and Turkey just as it was during 7th century and later.
It is important to remind ourselves that the region comprising Pakistan was never a part of India. It was amalgamated into India by foreign conquerors through military force. It has remained together just as it was under Chach the Great, as Sapta Sindhu (the 7 nations of the River Indus) Even when the British occupied this region, Sindh Punjab, Balochistan were separate Independent countries. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa though part of Punjab at the time was restored as a province in 1901.
The time has now come. The ethos of federalism, democracy, rule of law, pluralism and the multi-national and multi-ethnic character of the Federation must be restored. It is ingrained into Sindh’s political philosophy and must be followed by all. We must turn a new leaf and allow ourselves a new and progressive chapter in history and follow Sindh to lead the way and make Sapta Sindhu/Pakistan a glorious federation again.
The author is a former Advocate General of Sindh and Tweets @zamirghumro.
The views expressed in article are those of the author do not reflect the policy of organization.
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