Friday, December 12, 2014

So, Why Pakistan?

Majyd Aziz

 “While US companies have been committed to Pakistan for over six decades, the opportunity presented by the country is finally maturing. Pakistan is a young, growing nation with an increasingly large and sophisticated domestic consumer market. So, why Pakistan? Because the time to start is now.” ~ Miles Young, Chairman, US-Pakistan Business Council, US Chamber of Commerce.

The statement emanating out of the prestigious organization manifests in clear terms the motivating message that should warm the hearts of Pakistan’s policymakers as well as trade and industry. It also demonstrates pragmatism and reflects a sense of urgency. Moreover, despite apprehensions, constraints and negativity, the fact is that business prospects are substantial for the American investor. Pakistan welcomes latter-day Daniel Boones. Undoubtedly, the profit potential, the charm of growth, and the geo-strategic location of Pakistan are alluring.
It is pertinent to mention here that there are four prime areas that an American investor could consider placing financial, technological, and entrepreneurial resources as these are vast fields of opportunities. These relate to inland transportation, livestock and dairy farming, agriculture and mining.

Pakistan has developed and continues to build an excellent road network. The planned Pakistan China Economic Corridor and the Motorways are vivid examples of present and future traffic facilitation. At this moment, Pakistan has an estimated shortage of about 100,000 trucks of various sizes. Trucking has been a perennial impediment in the economic progress. The Pakistan Railways is in shambles and there is no inland waterway. Goods arriving at the Karachi Port, Port Qasim, and to some extent, Gwadar Port are handicapped by the lack of fast track movement either for domestic destinations as well as for Afghanistan. The ensuing hurdle is the higher freight outlays that impact cost of transportation.

American trucking companies, such as Ryder, Schneider or Landstar, could set up mega trucking companies. Taking advantage of the facilities offered by US Ex-Im Bank or OPIC, these companies could transfer their used vehicles to Pakistan and ply these on the Ports-to-Afghanistan route or even to Northern stations of Pakistan. The utilization of tracking system, proven efficiency and systems, and the employment of graduates rather than the traditional drivers would make the desired difference. Furthermore, strategically situated self-owned service stations along the routes would ensure transparency, would control expenditure, and would be time-saving.

Livestock and dairy farming is another formidable investment possibility. Whitewater Dairy Supply Co of Wisconsin took the bold step and invested in a modern livestock farm in Punjab. The American dairy industry has a remarkable track record and this is crucial for Pakistan where milk supply is much less than requirements, where the production of cheese and butter is hopelessly insufficient, and where animals are in huge demand, more so during the Eid-ul-Azha period.

Agriculture, especially Corporate Farming, is sorely needed. The productivity of the farms is very low, mainly due to division of landholdings as per traditional inheritance customs, as well as the absentee landlord syndrome, and as well as the reluctance of feudal sector to invest in modern methods, in employing latest farming equipment, and in non-development of seeds and other inputs. A corporate culture is highly missing and the large agriculture corporations in USA can study, plan and implement investment in this sector.

Another area of blatant neglect has been the minerals sector. Obsolete mining methods, untrained workforce, low productivity and production per miner, inability to make the paradigm shift to latest technology, and non-availability of functional access roads from mine mouth to highways are impediments. Moreover, transportation cost is comparatively higher due to location, due to shortages of vehicles, and due to nature of the cargo.

There are other areas such as the service sector, information technology, oil and gas exploration and so many more. The pie is large for investors from all over the world. Yes, the nation’s non-positive image, the political instability, and the risk factors are deterrents that have to be surmounted. But the US investor has taken bold steps in much serious situations. Pakistan is no exception. Francis Bacon, the English philosopher very aptly stated that “In all negotiations of difficulty, a man may not look to sow and reap at once; but must prepare business, and so ripen it by degrees.”

“Let’s do business in Pakistan”

Majyd Aziz
(Exclusive for Pakistan German Trade and Investment {GPti} Booklet)
In 1969, a struggling factory in Karachi, producing value-added fabrics, made a calculated decision to make its fabrics a benchmark product. It imported textile processing machinery from Famatex, Then, and others from Germany. The second step was to concentrate its dyes and chemicals procurement from German dyes and chemical manufacturers such as Hoechst, BASF, etc. In 1985, a domestic apparel manufacturing unit in Karachi introduced ready-to-wear Men’s Dress Suits and thus approached Kufner for interlining material and the required technology. The pioneering effort paid off and the brand became the leader in this field.

The above narrative reflects how these medium-sized enterprises brought about a paradigm shift in their manufacturing and their market share. I should know. My family’s business group owns these factories. This narrative also manifests the crucial need for Pakistani industries to shoot for the moon rather than being undistinguished players in the domestic and global marketplace. This narrative also offers an insight into the critical mass that companies from Europe, especially Germany, can provide to Pakistan’s industrial base.

What does all this mean for German trade and industry, more so from the medium-sized sector, to undertake bilateral trade and investment with counterparts from a nation that, despite certain negative factors, offers a remarkable potential, today and tomorrow? Rather than highlighting just the statistics in glowing detail, the emphasis should be on the track record of past ventures by German enterprises and those who took the proverbial first step towards investing in one of Asia’s growing economy.

Pakistan is the most strategically placed nation on the world map. It has always been and will be the linchpin within the region. China desires a direct route through the warm waters of Gwadar in Balochistan. India covets land access to Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics. Iran too itches for a shorter route to China. Pakistan has three working Ports that can cater to all types of sea traffic. Pakistan has mineral potential, a traditional agriculture regime, and most importantly, human capital, especially the youth bulge. All these are essential ingredients for a potent combo that is an envy of most of the countries. Then, what should be the attraction for the new German investor?

The future potential for investors is comprehensive. It is imperative that the investor focuses on the right formula so that the return on investment is beneficial and there is ample scope for enhancing the business or industry. Pakistan’s Foreign Direct Investment priorities are manifold. Energy is the burning topic. A leap in employment, in manufacturing, in revenue generation, and in improving the social sector requirements can only be made if economic activities are at a maximum swing. The successive governments have placed energy as the integral vision of their manifesto. The opportunities are plentiful but these require a massive dose of external support through financing, through direct investment and through acquiring cost-effective latest technology. The options have been laid down in a broad-based energy framework. This should be one area of priority for Germany.

A serious bottleneck impeding economic progress and affecting fast track movement of goods and essential raw material is the shortage of transportation. After decades of neglect, Pakistan Railways faced an obsolescence syndrome, a factor that retarded movement of goods, and even people. The trucking industry was, and is, mainly an owner-operator venture. Air cargo is an expensive option. Pakistan has a continuously developing road network and the conceptualized Pakistan China Trade Corridor would open up new vistas for economic development. Hence, trucking would become a very profitable and formidable investment attraction. At this moment, Pakistan has an estimated shortage of 100,000 trucks of all sizes and classifications. German transportation companies can study the future prospects since huge volumes of goods would be transported from, and to, the three Ports for China, Central Asia, Afghanistan and India whenever economic regional integration becomes a reality.

Agriculture productivity, efficiency and wastage are endemic in Pakistan. The ancestral ownership mechanism that results in bifurcation of land to descendants has impacted seriously on the output and production. Moreover, non-development of new seeds, reliance on traditional farming methods, infrastructure deficiency, feudal mindset and negative economies of scale combine into an ominous bearing on the future of agriculture. Thus, a vast field is open for German investors to enter into Corporate Farming as well as setting up livestock and poultry enterprises.

Mining is another sector that needs massive investment in nearly all its components. Although the mining areas are in difficult terrains and many are not comfortably accessible, the fact is that full development of this sector from mining to exports is brimming with opportunities. Chrome Ore, Iron Ore, Manganese, Barite, Granite, Coal and even Gems and Jewels, to name a few, are in desperate need of a paradigm shift.

Pakistan is open for business. German influence has always been positive and profitable in the past. It is time to revisit the strategy of involvement in trade and investment in Pakistan. The indicators are favorable. The Pakistani trade and industry have stretched out their hands through a visionary initiative known as German Pakistan Trade and Investment. The GPti logo is a manifestation of the desire to join forces with Germany to propel Pakistan into a higher economic echelon. So, the rallying cry for German trade and industry should definitely be “Let’s do business in Pakistan”

Pakistan-Afghanistan Trade: Business Perspective on Trade Policies: What Businesses Need?

Majyd Aziz
Former President Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Presented at
“Afghanistan Reconnected: Businesses Take Action to Unlock Trade in the Region”
Meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, November 26-27, 2014
Organized by EastWest Institute, (EWI), Brussels, Belgium
In cooperation with
The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB)


PAKISTAN has a very limited export trade base. Exporters usually are content with addressing the North American or European markets where, to some extent, the Pakistani exports are in a focused framework. The decades of reliance on textiles has narrowed this trade base. Although leather, surgical goods, sports equipment as well as rice, cement and other sundry items do have a share of the pie, the fact is that a surge in export figures is something that is a matter of consternation. Export figures move in a leisurely manner instead of a desired leap. Regional trade has never been a prominent factor on the export radar. The potential is formidable but the impetus is lacking. This is the prime reason why Pakistan’s vision of hitting the $50 billion export target continues to be a blur instead of a clear horizon.

PAKISTAN is always touted as being in an ideal geo-strategic location, endowed with abundant natural resources and possessing potent human capital. The ingredients are an envy of many countries and thus sincere and forceful efforts should justify encashment of these bounties. Four countries, Afghanistan, China, India and Iran border with Pakistan. Despite volatility, despite belligerence, despite distrust, despite national exigencies, and despite accusations, the fact is that trade, and at times investment, does find its way in a mutually favorable manner. This then is the narrative that requires contemplation and understanding, especially with reference to Afghanistan-Pakistan bilateral trade relations.

PAKISTAN and AFGHANISTAN bilateral relationship is like that of twin brothers who are fighting who is the eldest among them. The relationship evolved into a distrust scenario, especially during the Global War on Terrorism. This disconnect continued all through the Karzai regime despite frequent interaction between the key decision makers. The advent of the new government in Kabul under President Ashraf Ghani promises a revisit of the animosity and egregious emphasizing that had clouded the neighborly relationship. The pronouncements coming out of his office are comforting and encouraging. The withdrawal of USAF forces, the Zarb-e-Azb Operation conducted by Pakistan Army against foreign and local terrorists in North Waziristan Agency, the recent visit of Pakistan Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif to Kabul and his offer of training Afghan soldiers, the high profile visit of President Ghani to Pakistan, are all positive elements that would bring a paradigm shift in the relationship.

PAKISTAN and AFGHANISTAN must now restructure the bilateral trade and investment regime in order to take mutual advantages, benefits, and opportunities so that, besides political, diplomatic and military issues, the economic sector is pragmatically addressed while pending or future issues are decided and resolved.

AFGHANISTAN is one of the 48 landlocked countries in the world, including partially recognized states. The access to sea is either through Pakistan or Iran. Pakistan is a more pragmatic option and therefore, even though there have been major ups and downs between the two neighbors, Afghanistan has been accorded the transit facility unhindered. Pakistan has accepted and applied the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that gives a landlocked country a right of access to and from the sea without taxation of traffic through transit states. More importantly, Pakistan has provided priority to goods destined for Afghanistan even when detrimental to domestic commerce and industry.  Afghanistan has been in a win-win situation through the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement since the conditionalities of this Agreement has many advantages and there is a need to optimize its execution. APTTA enables Afghanistan to utilize the Pakistan-based facilities and at the same time, the country has access through Iran to the Chabahar Port. Although many safeguards to protect Pakistan’s industry have been incorporated in the APTTA, the fact is that most of these have not been implemented, much to the chagrin of Pakistan’s domestic trade and industry.

Customs Challenges:

PAKISTAN and AFGHANISTAN bilateral trade still faces numerous challenges. The blatant misuse of APTTA, the deficiency of multiple infrastructure facilities, the ever-increasing and non-institutionalized mode of business transactions, the non-availability of banking and insurance facilities within proximity, the dangerous law and order situation, and the Afghanistan-Iran-India nexus are some disturbing factors. This combination has dampened the formal trade statistics and frequency, thus ensuing into a precarious direction. Hence, there is a need to highlight these complexities and reflect on the solutions and positive progress of the trade regime.

The objectives of APTTA can best be summarized as follows:
o    Safeguarding the strategic national interests of Pakistan
o    Ensuring compliance of prescribed International Protocols
o    Protecting the concerns of Pakistan’s commerce and industry
o    Discouraging undocumented trade
o    Guaranteeing optimum revenue for government
o    Facilitating efficient traffic of goods

The formal trade and industry in Pakistan has appropriate reservations as well as apprehensions about APTTA. The prime reservation is that this Agreement is not being enforced in letter and spirit since the ground realities are neither conducive nor is there a streamlined periodic review of the various facets of APTTA. Some relevant points include the non-availability of tracking devices in the transportation vehicles. This gives rise to concerns about the goods crossing into Afghanistan or not. A case in point is the “missing containers” issue that even Supreme Court of Pakistan took notice. Although there have been denials and accusations, the fact remains that containers went missing. The intensity of the misuse of APTTA can also be gauged from the fact that a large number of containers destined for Afghanistan have been missing after clearance from the two Ports of Karachi. So much so, even containers for NATO/ISAF lost their way and never crossed the Durand Line. According to FBR official data, a total of 157,736 containers of United States destined for Afghanistan before November 26, 2011 never reached there and disappeared inside Pakistan. Even Pakistan’s Customs does not have any record of 77,884 containers from the above missing figures. Pakistan’s Treasury reportedly lost over Rs 55 billion in revenue due to this chicanery.

Another issue is that until the end of 2013 there was no system of Customs-to-Customs sharing of data and information in place. This is the loophole that was grossly violated by unscrupulous traders and forwarders of goods. The Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is being implemented in stages and hopefully the entire process of releasing financial security will shift from manual documentation to EDI messaging system. EDI also will be used for entire bilateral trade in order to expedite the clearance process at the customs stage.  One more reason why there is undocumented trade is that there is need for encashable financial guarantees of an equivalent of Pakistan duties and taxes that would be refunded after arrival of goods in Afghanistan.

The trade and industry community proposes that to in order to ensure national interests,  especially from revenue point of view, and to provide a level playing field, it is imperative that the quantities importable under APTTA should be based on qualified  determination of consumption rather than unrestricted imports. In fact, the agreed quantities and their movement should be determined by seasonal factors. It is also being suggested that a Customs Union be formed between the two countries so that all complications in APTTA could be avoided and formal trade is encouraged and facilitated.  

Recently, the Pakistani government has decreed that all Letters of Credit would be open in US Dollars. It is, therefore, suggested that even freight and forwarding expenses should also be remitted in US Dollars instead of payment in Pakistani Rupees. The Pakistani trade and industry, being major stakeholders, should be consulted in order to prepare a comprehensive list of goods allowed under APTTA.

Business Facilitation:
It is a good augury that the Afghan government has taken cognizance of the demand of Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry and has agreed to provide six-months, multiple entry visas to Pakistani businessmen on a reciprocal basis. It is ironic that the thousands of Pakistanis cross over to Afghanistan on a daily basis and return back to their homes at night. Predominantly, no one checks their documents and they have unhindered access across the border. Genuine business people, unfortunately, are subject to formal travel documentation. There is an Indian proposal to introduce a SAARC card in the future in order to allow easy and convenient mobility within SAARC countries. Till the SAARC card becomes a practical reality, it is proposed that some such arrangement should be considered for members of trade and industry of both countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan political hierarchy must endeavor to promote enhanced economic cooperation, both in the context of bilateralism but also for the long term objective of regional economic integration.  There is a need to develop cross-border infrastructure projects to facilitate trade and at the same time these would have social benefits for the denizens living and working near the borders. It is, therefore, proposed that the Pakistan China Economic Corridor from Gwadar in Balochistan to Xinjiang, in Northern China should have a route to Afghanistan too. This is crucial because of the Chinese desire to enhance its exposure in Afghanistan and thus there would and should be a Chinese-led trilateral arrangement. Moreover, the Central Trade Corridor is a 705 km-strategic road link to facilitate trade between the two countries. This would be a major booster to revive, directly and indirectly, the local economy in the tribal areas as well as other urban and rural towns of KPK Province.  At the same time, regional cooperation projects have been envisaged that are potentially imperative for developing the advantages such as economies of scale, economic complementarities, as well as economic externalities, such as foreign investment, economic multiplier impacts, forging joint participations, and common approaches at international levels. CASA-1000 and TAPI gas pipeline are two examples of regional cooperation primarily for the economic benefit of the citizens of countries.

A very serious drawback in the bilateral trade relations is the lack of financial establishments in each other’s territory. There are no branches of Afghan banks in Pakistan whereas two Pakistani banks are operating in Afghanistan. Regretfully, HBL has only one branch in Kabul while Bank Al Falah has one each in Kabul and Herat. This is a manifestation of the disinterest exhibited by financial institutions of both nations. On one hand, President Ashraf Ghani in his maiden visit to Pakistan hoped for bilateral trade to cross over $ 5 billion by 2017. However, on the other hand, the Central Banks have not yet worked out a planned business model to enable more direct banking rather than relying on third country banking system. At a recent policy meeting, it was decided that an internal meeting comprising of State Bank of Pakistan, National Bank of Pakistan, Finance Division, FBR, Ministry of Commerce and Banking Association will be convened by the Finance Division in order to ensure that not only the National Bank provides foreign exchange facility at Border Crossing Points but other private commercial banks would also be encouraged to set up foreign exchange desks, particularly at Chaman.

Removing Cobwebs:
There will be a huge peace dividend if trade relations are strengthened. When two countries trade with each other, people develop an interest in maintaining peace, so that the flow of goods and services is not disrupted. When countries are trading with each other, they tend to avoid conflicts. If there are any disputes, as is likely to happen, they use dialogue to resolve them. The Afghan-Pakistan case is at a different plateau. Trade, both official and undocumented, goes on at full steam but at the same time, the distrust factor is over-bearing.

Afghanistan and Pakistan leaders must be candid and pragmatic in their diagnosis of the bilateral issues faced by both the countries. It seems they probably want to continue the futile exercise of obsolete rhetoric ignoring the gravity of its consequences. There should be no strategic policy misunderstanding and both the leaders must take calculated decisions on issues that are not only fundamental to their own national interests but also from the core regional interests too. The incessant fulminations of erstwhile President, Mr Hamid Karzai, were provocative and aggressive and often resulted in repeated denials and reiteration of Pakistan's principled positions by official spokespersons. US Ambassador Richard Olson recently stated that “An increasingly stable Afghanistan that is at peace and enjoys productive relations with its neighbors will be an effective counter-weight against extremism. A stable Afghanistan is also conducive to economic development in South and Central Asia.”  Words of wisdom.

Hence, all eyes and ears are on the approach President Ashraf Ghani initiates to strive for a peaceful environment. The withdrawal of ISAF personnel, while the war against terrorists rages on, gives urgency to the need for improving friendly relations.  It is time to change course and adopt a saner path for a peaceful and prosperous future. Ziad K Abdelnour, an American author and financial entrepreneur, very wisely said that “I wish politicians the world over would stop claiming credit for economic growth that happens despite them, not because of them.” The aspirations of trade and industry of both countries is that if a new beginning is undertaken by the political leadership of Afghanistan and Pakistan, then without any doubt, peace and economic progress would definitely be due to the visionary ingenuity of President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The Making of Exile

Majyd Aziz

Gateway House, based in Mumbai, is a foreign policy Think Tank established to engage in debate and understanding on India’s foreign policy and its role in global affairs. Its Founder, Manjeet Kripalani, invited me in July 2014 to participate in the “Brainstorming Session on Sub-Regional Perspective on Indo-Pakistan Cooperation, Prospects and Challenges with reference to Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Punjab” to discuss “Trade and Economic Cooperation between Mumbai and Karachi” and “Trade and Economic Cooperation between Gujarat and Sindh”. A gentleman farmer from Okara, Syed Afzaal, was the other Pakistani invited to share his views. The rest of the participants were Indian intellectuals and professionals.

On my right at the table sat an elegant, smiling lady in a resplendent blue sari. I introduced myself as Former President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and she replied that she was Nandita Bhavnani. She is a Chartered Accountant, a lawyer, an investment banker, did her MA in anthropology and, of course, an author. She informed me that she has written a book on the migration of Sindhi Hindus after Independence and that her book was to be launched in Mumbai that very evening.

Halfway during the session, Manjeet announced that Nandita had to leave and that she wanted to make a presentation. I was surprised when Nandita stood up and said that she wanted to present her book to me and that I was the first non-Indian to receive her latest (well-researched) book. I had taken three Ajraks with me and I wished I had one more that I could gift her.

Ms Bhavnani and I have been interacting via email. She informed me that after completing my MA, I started studying the Sindhi community in India. This was part of a research project, ‘Reconstructing Lives’, which explored memories of mass violence at the time of Partition. As part of this project, I interviewed several elderly Sindhis in different parts of India. In the process, I learnt to speak Sindhi. Later I also learned to read and write Sindhi in the Perso-Arabic script.”

Ms Bhavnani has authored three well-researched books. The Making of Exile: Sindhi Hindus and the Partition of India (2014) which is a detailed and multi-faceted history of the Sindhi Hindu experience of Partition, Remembering Mohan T. Advani: The Man and His Legacy (2012) which is a biography of Mohan Advani who founded Blue Star Ltd in 1943 and that today Blue Star is Indian industry’s leader in central air-conditioning and commercial refrigeration, I Will & I Can: The Story of Jai Hind College (2011) that is the story of how Sindhi Hindu Professors at DJ Sind College in Karachi migrated to Mumbai after Partition and established a new college within only a few months, and a well-documented essay ‘Kalachi, Kurrachee, Karachi: Biography of a Metropolis’ in Sindh: Past Glory, Present Nostalgia (2009). She disclosed that “currently I am working on a book on the beauty of Sindhi culture and the highlights of its history.”

Talking about her trips to Pakistan, Ms Bhavnani said that “In April 2001 I visited Sindh for the first time. I was fortunate to travel to Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana and Sukkur. This trip turned out to be a landmark event in my life. My interest in Sindh, its people, culture and history only deepened, and the scope of my research expanded. I visited Sindh again in December 2003 and then after ten years, I returned in April 2014 to present a paper on ‘Sindhi Media in India’ at the conference on Sindhi Media at Karachi Urdu University.”

“The Making of an Exile” is worth reading as it portrays the trials and tribulations of Sindhi Hindus who, either voluntarily or unavoidably, left ancestral homes to dwell in territories that manifested into a new beginning, more so with feared uncertainty. Sindhi Hindu exiles really did not "feel" the "Freedom at Midnight" experience because of the hardship, prejudice and fear. The author took substantial advantage of her meticulous research and ensured that the reader would experience and feel the mosaic of events that impacted on the immigrants, both in their halcyon past and their days of the future. The author titillates the appetite of the readers with nuggets of history and background compelling the latter to make their own conclusions about the facts, about the attitude, about the legends, about the compulsions and about the bureaucratic and political decisions that this book very vividly projects. The Foreward, “In the Imagined Landscape of Sindh”, by Dr Ashis Nandy of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and the Committee for Cultural Choices in Delhi is in itself a masterpiece and worth reading it more than once.

Ms Bhavnani commences the Prologue with reference to the Sassui-Punhu legend. She explained that I wanted to explore the many different bittersweet facets of Hindu-Muslim relationship in Sindh. This would cover not only history but also myths and legends which may be prevalent among the common people. I really like this legend because it shows the love between a Hindu and a Muslim, but they are not allowed to live happily together”. 

When asked to comment that in her book, Ayub Khuhro is portrayed as more in a non-positive mode, Sindhi women as Force of Strength despite cultural mores and inhibitions, and Dr Choitram Gidwani as the Guardian Angel, she said that ”nobody is either black or white. We are all human, we are all shades of grey. Khuhro may not have been pro Hindu in some aspects, yet it was thanks to his government’s firm stand that there was comparatively little communal violence in Sindh prior to the winter of 1947-48. Further, he was the one who protested the separation of Karachi from Sindh, and paid the price in the process. Partition did provide an opportunity to Sindhi women to discover their latent strength and talents, but as I have depicted in my book, many Sindhi women could also be quite conservative. Dr Choithram Gidwani certainly did a lot for the Sindhi Hindu community, acting as a spokesperson for them in Pakistan as well as in India, and representing their interests to the respective governments. He was foremost among the Sindhi Hindu leaders who helped in the resettlement of the community in India, and worked tirelessly in this regard.”

On my contention that Indian bureaucracy and certain Congress leaders were "roadblocks" rather than "considerate" in helping Sindhi Hindus, she commented that “This was true to some extent. However, the Congress government as well as the governments of princely states also took various measures for the benefit of the Sindhi Hindus. They organized the evacuation of Sindhi Hindus to India, put them in refugee camps and gave them rations etc. So it was a mixed bag.”

A perception among some is that the Muslim immigrants from India exacted "revenge" thru forceful and illegal usurpation of property and assets. She stated that “I have shown that the Karachi violence was motivated not by a desire for revenge, but in order to appropriate Hindu property, and to frighten the Hindus into migrating to India. There were many places where minorities were attacked by the majority community with the intention of scaring them into migrating and taking over their property. I cannot comment on the ethnicity/ place of origin of the Muhajirs who usurped property or indulged in violence, since I have no way of knowing this.” She describes the Karachi violence as “Karachi pogrom” and in her narrative considers it “a watershed event which convinced many Sindhi Hindus to migrate.”

On the question of changing the Perso-Arabic script of Sindhi into Devanagari although India is a mosaic of multi-ethnicity and nationalities, Ms Bhavnani explained “the change of script was driven by two factors. Firstly, the Perso-Arabic script was associated with Muslims, and the Devanagari script was associated with Hindus. Certain communally prejudiced Sindhi Hindus wanted to drop this Muslim association, and to make the language more ‘Hindu’. The second factor was that in those days, many Indians were influenced by the Nehruvian idea that Indians should not consider themselves as Hindus or Muslims or Sikhs, or Gujaratis or Tamils or Bengalis - but simply as Indians. So the Devanagari script would have more in common with other Indian language scripts such as Hindi, Marathi, etc. In my opinion, the change of script was a huge blunder.”

She very emphatically underscored the great need for local histories or micro histories of Partition. For example, the Partition experience of Muslims in Gujarat, or of Hindus and Sikhs in KPK. These are important stories which need to be told. I definitely feel the need for additional writing on the Muhajir experience of Partition, especially after their arrival in Pakistan.”
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai very aptly described an Exodus. “They have departed now, heading eastwards. Giving up their homes here, they will settle ahead.”