OBITUARY:G. M. Sayed

Shortly after G. M. Syed joined the struggle for creating the Islamic state of Pakistan, he realised religion was the antithesis of a modern nation state and he spent the rest of his life in and out of jail, opposing the country he had created.

He also founded the Jive Sindh ("Long Live Sind") movement against the merger of his home province of Sind with the rest of Pakistan. He proclaimed that the two-nation theory which led to the creation of Pakistan and secular, albeit mainly Hindu, India was irrelevant to the ethos of Sindhis, who were eclectic and believed in the unity of all religions and, therefore, should be independent.

In numerous books and pamphlets Syed emphasised that he wished to atone for his mistake in supporting the creation of Pakistan and, by espousing secularism and tolerance, antagonised Pakistan's Muslim clergy and successive military regimes, who jailed him for almost three decades.

Syed said Pakistan could not develop an identity because its successive military dictatorships had survived by promoting regional and ethnic rivalries to the detriment of Sindhis, many of whom were Muslims who migrated to Pakistan from central and eastern India after independence. Syed accused Pakistan's Punjabi majority community of "colonising" Sind and accused the military of coveting "Sind and not Sindhis."

What strengthened and popularised Syed's slogan of Sindhi nationalism amongst Sindhis was their acute sense of deprivation; they complained they were denied government jobs and were reduced to a minority in their own province. According to Syed, Sind contributed 80 per cent to the federal budget, yet very little of this money was spent locally.

Although Syed's movement was peaceful, almost Gandhian, in its non-violent approach, it gave a fillip to the MQM, a close-knit group of migrants and their offspring from India, to launch a fierce armed struggle against the Pakistani government for autonomy. Over 600 people have died in this civil war, which is still raging without agreement in sight.

Syed had a large following in India too, home to millions of Sindhis, and was ecstatically greeted wherever he went on his visit here in the late Eighties. This popularity, however, proved counter-productive since on his return home he was imprisoned by the Pakistani president General Zia- ul-Haq.

Ghulam Murtaza Syed was born in 1904 in Sann village in Sind Province into a prominent Wadera or feudal family which migrated from Herat in the Middle East five centuries earlier. His interest in politics, nurtured by the independence struggle against the British, began when he was 14, and he supported Mahatma Gandhi's Congress Party, then in the forefront of the fight. But, piqued over what he thought was the sectarian attitude of the Congress, Syed joined the Muslim League in 1938, which wanted a separate Islamic state of Pakistan - an acronym of P for Punjab, A for Afghans, K for Kashmir and S for Sind, with the Persian suffix "stan", meaning country.

Six years later Syed, as a Muslim League leader, was the moving force behind the resolution in the Sind provincial assembly favouring the creation of Pakistan. Two years later, however, he left the League, became a critic of Pakistan and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, head of the Muslim League and founder of Pakistan, and confined himself to working for secularism and Sind's independence.

He was last charged with sedition in 1992 and confined to his ancestral home at Sann for making an anti-government speech, but freed on bail recently because of deteriorating health and age.

Syed wrote over 50 books in Sindhi, Urdu and English. They include Pakistan Must be Broken and A Nation in Chains.

Ghulam Murtaza Syed, politician: born Sann village, Sind province 17 January 1904; died Karachi 25 April 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Recruitment Genius: HR Consultant

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An HR Consultant is required to join thi...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable