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Saraiki People

The Saraiki people (Perso-Arabic: سرائيکی, Gurmukhi: ਸਰਾਇਕੀ) or Multani people (Perso-Arabic: ملتانی, Devanagari: मुल्तानी, Gurmukhi: ਮੁਲਤਾਨੀ) are an ethnic group from the south-eastern areas of Pakistan, especially in the area of the former princely state of Bahawalpur and the districts of Sukkur, Larkana, Dadu, Sehwan, Sanghar, Nawabshah, Hyderabad, Sindh, Mirpurkhas, Multan, Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, MuzafarGarh, Layyah, Bhakkar, Mianwali, Dera Ismail Khan, Karachi. A significant number of Saraikis also reside in India, with most concentrated in the state of Punjab, Maharashtra and Gujarat.[1] The Saraikis maintain that they have a separate language and culture, but their language is often viewed as a dialect of Sindhi or Punjabi. While the majority of Saraikis follow Islam, a few also follow Hinduism and Sikhism.

History

At the time of independence of Pakistan in 1947, Muslims constituted between 90 to 75% of the population of Saraiki speaking region of West Pakistan. While the Hindus and Sikhs constituted between 10 and 25% of the population of the regions in West Punjab, nearly all Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India in 1947, while a substantial number remigrated later to the United Kingdom from India, among other countries. The Muslims of East Punjab were also around 45%, nearly all migrated to Pakistani and Saraiki areas. Sindh also had Hindus and Sikhs population of 25% at time of independence of West Pakistan, most of them migrated to India, many of them remigrated from India to the other parts of the world.

A Saraiki campaign (struggle) grew in the 1960s with the aims of establishing language rights and stopping what was seen as exploitation and repression by the traditionally Punjabi dominated government. Saraiki land has always been very fertile, producing much of Pakistan's wheat and cotton. However little money has been re-invested, and this has led to impoverishment and underdevelopment. The current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani, is Saraiki native, and has initiated several projects to uplift the region particularly in and around Multan.

The campaign continued on into the 1970s, by which time political activists had drawn up a map of a proposed new province to be carved out of central Pakistan named Saraikistan[citation needed], including most of southern Punjab and Dera Ismail Khan in the North-West Frontier Province (this excluded Sindhi and Baloch areas, possibly because of strong nationalist movements in those regions). The movement, however, was not an independence movement, but rather a movement for the establishment of a separate province within Pakistan.

In 1977 General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq took power in a coup of Pakistan. Under his strongly centralist rule the Saraiki movement went underground. The death of General Zia in a plane crash in 1988 gave the impetus for the Saraiki movement to re-emerge. By now the aims were to have a Saraiki nationality recognised, to have official documents printed in Saraiki, a Saraiki regiment in the army, employment quotas and more Saraiki language radio and television (recently one channel is working).

In 1993 moves were made to settle Biharis in Saraiki areas. This was resisted violently by the Saraikis and the plan was eventually shelved

 


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