Your Dera Ghazi Khan, and mine

Dera Ghazi Khan by Bex Summer (Via Flickr)

In Mehrauli, the Khattars insisted that after noting down the damage, in lakhs, that the blasts caused to their shops, the second most important detail was that they were from Dera Ghazi Khan.

Dera Ghazi Khan? Oh, in Multan you know, we are all from there, 300 families. Yes, yes, after Partition, in the Sarai area of Mehrauli, we’ve always lived here, forever…

And then I see the subject line of a thread on a Sindhi mailing list: “Capital be shifted from Islamabad to Deira Ghazi Khan/ Bahawalpur/ Raheemyar Khan.”

That takes the daylights out of me. Over here, people in Mehrauli who still identify themselves with Dera Ghazi Khan more than with Mehrauli, are busy with their own identity politics. “The bikers who did this,” said one LD Hans, “if there was some traffic they would have been stuck and we wouldn’t have spared them. Is area ka toh naam hi itna badnaam hain!


“No, no, there ain’t any goondas here. But we are kattar Hindus. BJP voters,” he said.

“Even in our sleep we would vote for the BJP,” added another.

This was at the start of the Sarai market, just after the Auliya masjid and the Jahaz Mahal – the ‘Muslim area’.

How are the relations here?

“It was all okay until now.”

Until now?

“How do you know they did this? Impossible!” intervened a saner voice. ‘They’ being the neigbouring Muslims. Then someone starting telling me about the Phoolwalon ki Ser, Walk of the Flower Sellers, and LD Hans switched off.

And then I read this conversation on a mailing list called Sindhorg, meant for the “Development and Awareness” of Sindh. Someone thinks Islamabad is a bad idea for a national capital, and Dera Ghazi Khan is one of the options. Ha! Had it not been for this, Dera Ghazi Khan would just have been another place, in my mind, where Partition refugees came from. Just like Mehrauli’s migrant Muslims could well be…

The mirror that the other shows you is never a dull one. Dera Ghazi Khan could be any place in northern Southasia, and the identity conflicts reflected in the exchange below don’t seem unfamiliar. Enjoy.

From: Ayaz L P
Subject: [sindhmedia] Capital be shifted from Islamabad to Deira Ghazi Khan/ Bahawalpur/ Raheemyar Khan
Date: Wednesday, 24 September, 2008, 1:25 PM

Capital be shifted from Islamabad to Dera Ghazi Khan / Bahawalpur or Raheemyar Khan


Pakistan is in a precarious position at the moment. At this crossroad of our history, keeping an eye on the various religious groups,conflicting interests of local and international agencies, various militant groups, divided tribal loyalties, a struggling economy, an apparently reasonably aware but weaker civic culture, a nominal democracy contrasted with militant tribes, as inside observers all we can say is it looks like an incredible mess.

In this catastrophic condition I have following four suggestion for all of you and for all the rulers (PPP, PML-N, ANP, JUI & MQM) and for the civil society of Pakistan. I think after the Marriot blast and continuing insurgency in NWFP & tribal areas it is high time when we should address the fundamental questions.


1. To save the diplomatic missions, parliament, Supreme Court and other national institutions and to provide the direct access to all tolerant, liberal and peaceful people of Pakistan the capital should be shifted from Islamabad to Dera Ghazi Khan or Bahawalpur or Raheem Yar Khan. These three cities of Seraiki belt of Punjab are natural hub and focal points of the entire Pakistan. These three cities are encircled by Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Pakhtunkhwah and Major cities of all the four provinces like Sukkur, Jacobabad of Sindh, Sui & Loralai of Balochistan, Multan and Dera Ismail Khan are situated within a radius of 250 kilometers.

2. Keeping in view the allegation of the international powers that our law enforcing agencies have been infiltrated by extremists, the new recruitment in armed forces should be made from religiously tolerant indigenous Sindhis, Seraikis and Balochs. The major share in key posts, secretary-ships and senior policy making positions of federal govt and investigating agencies should also be given to Sindhis, Seraikis and Balochs.

3. At least half or 1/3rd of the NATO forces of Pak-Afghan border and Afghanistan be replaced with Peace Forces of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Nigeria, Egypt, Malaysia, Libya, Indonesia, Bangladesh and other Islamic Countries.

4- Cross-border attacks and bombing on civilian population in NWFP, FATA and Balochistan be stopped at once and a national peace and disaster management policy be formulated in consultation with all political parties, lawyers and civil society representatives and the independent judiciary be restored.

Ayaz Latif Palijo Advocate
Forum for Rights Justice & Peace (FRJP)
Addr: B-48, Prince Town, Qasimabad, Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan


From: noutak baloch
Sent: 24 September, 2008 10:31 PM

Dear Saeen: If you shift capital on the summit of K2 the ISI will be there. The problem is not the location. The problem is with Punjab which is not ready to accept a Sindhi President. It happened before and there is danger it may not happen again. You can see that all the cannons are pointed on Zardari. There is a smear campaign launched by Chaudhries, religious leaders, intellectuals like Tariq Ali, Imran Khan, media and collumnists against Asif Ali Zardari.

They want to pave the way for another coup d’etat.

Marriot blast is a bad omen for deomcracy.



From: PakNationalists
Date: Thursday, 25 September, 2008, 10:06 PM

Stunning Mr. Ameeri. So Punjab is not ready to accept a Sindhi president? Please don’t turn everything into a racial contest. Punjab is the reason why Pakistan had its first Sindhi prime minister. Punjab again overwhelmingly elected Benazir Bhutto in 1988, and again in the 1990s. If Zadari is being criticized, it is the same legitimate crticism that even educated Sindhis are making against Mr. Zardari, who does have a past that anyone with some conscience will be alarmed about regardless of whether Mr. Zardari is a Sindhi or anything else. Please don’t become racist in the same way that some MQM people are. Criticism of Mr. Zardari has nothing to do with his being Sindhi. I am not a Sindhi-speaking person but I will salute any president or prime minister from sindh. I, for example, disagree with most policies of ZAB but I am proud that he was the prime minister of my country, that he was articulate and that he he started our nuclear program. His hanging had nothing to do with him being from Sindh. He would have been hanged even if he was from Punjab, or Balochistan or anywhere else. Nawaz Sharif from Punjab was also expected to be hanged if President Musharraf’s soft side didn’t prevail. So please don’t turn everything into a racist matter.



From: noutak baloch
Sent: 28 September, 2008 11:59 PM

Thanks God that Nawaz Sharif is from Punjab other wise his fate was not better than Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Punjab gave four dead bodies to Sindh. Now there is a danger that they should not send Zardari to join BB in heaven.

God save Zardari from his enemies!




From: PakNationalists <>
Date: Tuesday, 30 September, 2008, 5:58 AM

Having someone like Zardari is not an honor for anyone, not for Sindh and not for Pakistan.


From: noutak baloch
Sent: 30 September, 2008 12:44 PM

Problem is not Zardari. Problem is your Punjabi mind set. if Sindh gives you an angel you will never accept him/her.

He came from ballot box not from the barrel of the gun like Zia and Musharraf. you saluted them because they were not Sindhis. From day one you have started a smear campaign against Zardari. This is your obsession and grudge which has no remedy.



From: PakNationalists <>
Date: Tuesday, 30 September, 2008, 11:03 PM

Mr. Ameeri,

just to show you that the real problem is your own racist mindset, I am not Punjabi, although I have no problem in being one. I am a Pashto-speaking Pakhtoon, and every bit pround of being a Pakistani Pakhtoon. And I really don’t care if Mr. Zardari has come through the ballot. In UK and US, someone like him could never be elected. Even in Pakistan he couldn’t. It is thanks to Washington which intervened to clean the criminal record of Benazir and Asif that he is a President today. It is a shame for all democracy-loving people to have these criminals and goons in power. For people like you who cannot sustain a civilized discussion without resorting to racism is a sad reflection on your own state of mind.


From: noutak baloch
Sent: Sat, Oct 4, 2008 at 4:39 PM

Dear friend:

Pakhtuns are our brothers. Baloch, Pakhtuns, and Sindhis are suffering equally under Punjabi military rule.

If you are a real Pakhtun then you can see what happened yesterday an attempt on Afrasiab Wali Khan’s life. You remember the great Pakhtun leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan who fought the freedom struggle against British rule. Punjabi rulers kept him in jail for life. What is happening today in Pakhtunkhwa. Innocent Pakhtun women and children are being bombarded in pretext of war on terror.

Instead of naming me a ‘racist’ you must open your eyes and see around you the bloodshed of your people.


I want to go to Dera Ghazi Khan, the capital of someone’s version of Pakistani nationalism.

8 thoughts on “Your Dera Ghazi Khan, and mine”

  1. Thanks for posting this Shivam. Dera Ghazi Khan and Dera Ismail Khan are sister cities and a large number of post-partition Punjabi migrants in Delhi would have ancestral ties to one or the other.

    The claim that “we are kattar Hindus and will always vote for the BJP” actually perfectly summarizes the tragedy that is partition and its long pre-and-post shadow. Because these are the second/third generation of migrants for whom this would have made little sense, coming as they did from a complex cultural world which was located within a broadly Islamicate mein.

    There are several moments in this “hinduization” of the Punjabis, but at least some are the activities of the Arya Samaj, which was very active in undivided Punjab and Northern India from the late 1900s and the setting up of a network of DAV schools.

    The Punjabi and Paktun Hindus who migrated to Delhi after partition lost much more than their homes. They also lost a language and access to an entire cultural world, carrying a historical wound which the Jan Sanghis capitalized on in the 50s. Which has resulted in a strange schizophrenia, perfectly symbolized in the person of someone like my grandfather. Who writes poetry in Urdu drawing on baba fareed and bulle shah, sees no contradiction in writing a line like “kare kaise puran ibadat khuda ki, sabhi mandiron main lagi hain katarein’, and is a life long supporter of the Jan Sangh and now BJP.



  2. Thanks Aarti for your illuminating and thought-provoking comment. I have seen this schizophrenia in my family too, though some have strangely remained Congressis. To discover a mirror world in Pakistan online, I was struck with the what if questions. What if the ‘kattar Khattars’ had not had to migrate to Mehrauli from Dera Ghazi Khan? What would their lives, their politics, their world have been like today?


  3. There are several things at play here and you could see many of these mirrored in Karachi.

    Every urdu speaking muhajir, well almost, that you meet in Karachi claims to come from an aristrocratic background in pre partition India, if all their ancestral property claims were added up the total area would probably be greater than the land area of the undivided sub continent.

    it is the same with the shranarthi in Delhi. i have yet to meet a sharnarthi in delhi whose ancestors were not at the very least minor lords in pre partition east punjab

    Those who suffered the consequence of partition and survived their journey across the border carried their tales of suffering, brave resistance and untold cruelty suffered at the hands of the other, these were embroidered and passed on to their progeny. Hatred of the other was allowed to fester and grow into the cancer that largely sustains the bjp rss and bajrangis here and the mqm in pakistan.

    The muhajir carried Urdu and it became the national language in pakistan where it was the language of the muhajir alone and punjabi dethroned urdu from Delhi – the land of its birth.

    The Hindu trader of Delhi like the khandelwals and the ram gopal shaalwaalas who had sustained the Hindu Mahasabha lost out to the malhotras, the advanis, the jetleys, the sahnis, and the likes just as the sindhi lost out to the muhajir in trade, education, bureaucracy and hundreds of other areas.

    Karachi and delhi are one side of a counterfeit coin. with one major difference the natives of Sind
    were not outnumbered by the muhajir, the delhi wallas were and yet both cities are cities of refugees trying their level best to reach the imagined grandeur of their great grand parents and doing everything to reach these as fast as they can.

    those who have made it have to flash it.
    they do it through loud music, loud speech, loud colours, fast cars, noisy parties, road rage, macho aggression and utter intolerance of the other. it is thus in Delhi and it is thus in Karachi.

    May be all this is very biased because i ended up on the side that lost its home, hearth, language without going across the border, may be it is all very one sided but the fact remains that the likes of the khattars of DG Khan are today telling me that i do not belong and they do.


  4. Sohail Hashmi writes: May be all this is very biased because i ended up on the side that lost its home, hearth, language without going across the border, may be it is all very one sided but the fact remains that the likes of the khattars of DG Khan are today telling me that i do not belong and they do.

    Karachi in that sense is more like Mumbai than Delhi, where the Maharashtrians feel they are losing their home, hearth and language without going anywhere, refugees in their own land.


  5. Sohail Hashmi’s analysis is spot on. Today’s Delhi is being ruled by refugees who came from West Punjab – particularly Rawalpindi District. These people, mainly of Khatri origin i.e. Kapoor, Chawla, Malhotra, Bedi, Lamba, Kohli, Bhasin, Chandok, Bakshi, Sahni etc. – are at the forefront of India’s business and industry.

    It is true that while many of these people claim to have come from privileged backgrounds in Pre-Partition Punjab, and are obnoxious – their ancestors did suffer unimaginable loss during one of the largest exoduses in human history. In the partition of 1947, thousands and thousands died, and millions lost everything they had ever known. The worst in human nature had truly taken over – future generations should do everything to learn from this experience and make sure it is never repeated.


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