Rationale for the Saraiki province

In any historical perspective, heritage, culture, ethnic & linguistic background must be ascertained through the lay of the land, the people and the language spoken. With the passage of time dialects do undergo slight changes, when  alien languages are imposed on the mainstream populace. Interestingly, however, the shell, the basic grammar and the elements of our mother Lhandha, a term awarded to our Sindhi by the linguists, has remained same.
We, the old residents of IVC [Indus Valley Civilization] have been in the fold of Islam, if seen, as a whole, since about 800 years or so. Like the pride of a race leads to the invention of a royal progeny, similarly the pride of present Muslim tribes in IVC though much older than Islam, and its inception has the perpetual inducement to escape from the admission of an idolatrous ancestry. The major reason why most amongst us claim an Arab ancestry.



by Naveed Tajammal


Should or should not, the Seraiki province be created? This subject is a hot potato these days with people opposing and supporting the idea. This article is an attempt to address the issue in its historic-cultural context.


In any historical perspective, heritage, culture, ethnic & linguistic background must be ascertained through the lay of the land, the people and the language spoken. Dialects do undergo slight changes with passage of time,with the imposition of alien languages. However, the shell, the basic grammar and the elements of our mother Lhandha, a term awarded to our Sindhi by the linguists, has remained the same, as is evident, and will be explained subsequently.

We, the old residents of IVC [Indus Valley Civilization] have been in fold of Islam, if seen, as in whole, since about 800 years or so. Like the pride of a race leads to the invention of a royal progeny, similarly the pride of present Muslim tribes in IVC though much older than Islam, and its inception has the perpetual inducement to escape from the admission of an idolatrous ancestry. The major reason why most claim an Arab ancestry.

The conversion to islam resulted in a disavowing and erasing of the descent from a pagan past, and thus we lost our script, as well the glory. As these records tied the old tribes to the now non idolatrous religion, hence they adopted the perso-arabic script, and the tilt to Arab ancestry. The language of men of letters was firstly Arabic,  later came the Persian. All old records perished in the change.

Before entering the Islamic fold, we had been equally staunch Buddhist. But by then Buddhism was in its dying throes, and had lost its force as the way of life. It had even by then absorbed the serpent worship which existed till late in our northern areas, and now claimed Buddha as a God ! Whereas, Buddha himself never claimed Divinity himself, nor did the subsequent patriarchs, who lasted for the next 1000 years or so.

In the post Islamic period, the new indifferent Muslim population, recently converted one and the alien Arab rulers, as well as the zealous new Iranian converts who spearheaded the Arab record making, keeping the past enmities alive, with them bundled Buddhism, Jainism and the new faith of Brahmanism, in a singular scope or the head of the previous idolatrous religion, and hence never took interest in past records or studied our original mother script. This lapse permitted the ever vigilant Brahmans to claim our past and thus started the new record making of history in the reverse, which continues, till today.

Language lives on, it remains a living and growing form, as long as children learn it from their mothers. It lasts, thus survives the old languages, and awaits their revival,a t one time or the other as one sees. Hence the old term”Mah-Dar-e-Zaban” [mother is the door to the tongue]. Political or social reasons may establish a particular form of speech in a dominant position, as we see in the case of recent influx of Urdu & English which got introduced in our courts between 1850-54 by the British, superseding the Persian & Arabic. The oblique objective was to break the old indigenous, educational system, Maktab, Madressah, Ausaf & the Dar ul Al’lum.

With reference to our old Lhandha script in which Saraiki too was written, as were other languages by the non-Muslims, who hated the Perso-Arabic script. Guru Nanak, the Prophet of Sikhs, never wrote himself, his disciples preserved his quotes and sayings orally. Bhai Bala, communicated the same to his second Guru, Angat, who wrote the Punjabi in our Lhandha script, because as yet, “Gurmukhi’ [which means from the mouth of the Guru], was in its development stages. Third and the fourth Gurus too used our Lhandha script. All these books and records as such existed till late 19th century and were inspected by Dr. Lietner himself at Goindwal, near Amritsar. [page-iii/iv], The History of Indigenous Education in Punjab till 1882, by Dr.G.W.Lietner, 1882}.

The fact remains that our script now exists only in the Archives/record rooms. However, the language spoken by tens of millions, still survives. Therefore, it must be given chance for resurgence at all costs to bloom once again.

Let me now come to the nomenclture of Punjab itself. It was only in the post Mughal period after the annexation of  The Sikh state,t hat the geographic term Punjab was imposed on us by the new aliens; the British.

As per records maintained in the Punjab Administration Report for 1854/55, para 188, the total population of the new entity till then was 12, 717, 821. it had 26, 216 villages, 2124 small towns, with population ranging between 1000-5000; 76 towns, with- 5000-10,000 inhabitants, 31-cities,with 10,000-50,000; and only four 1st class cities, namely; Peshawar-53, 294,  Multan- 55,999, Lahore- 94,153 & Amritsar- 122,184.

Later according to the 1881 census, population with immigrations from other areas arose to 15, 631, 386 and the villages to 26, 848.

Thus we find thanks to the Sikh rule and repeated past invasions from west and other epidemics like influenza and cholera, beside the bubonic plagues and famines,t he region was totally depopulated. Hence the new canal colonies and the movement of Punjabi speakers in our regions from our Eastern side, rendering  us the local people as vagabonds and criminal tribes, reducing our numbers.

Even today with the massive multi-ethnic mix, that we have, we find the footprints, of Saraiki spread all along western and eastern tracts of the Sindh river. From Mianwali down to Ghotki and Kashmore and further west till Jacobabad, and from Rahimyar Khan along Sutlej to its upper reaches of Pak-pattan, as well along the Chenab, till the regions west of Jauharabad, the lands of Thal, crossing the Indus and till eastern Bannu, and lower till Tank, and Barkhan. A large chunk by any standards. The very apex centre of our state.

Reverting back to the Saraiki, one of the present principal dialects of our mother language Lhandha; it no doubt has been corrupted by the vicissitudes of time, but should one study it closely we find that it has withstood the onslaughts very bravely, and retained her honour well.

On the dialect of Saraiki or the old Jatki / Multani, a dictionary was published by A. Jukes in 1900 and the author states on pages-iii-iv of the book commenting on the difference between Punjabi and our ‘Jatki’ and quotes, that, Dr. H. Martin, the man who had earlier proofread the Punjabi Dictionary of “Bhai Maya Singh’  before its publication in 1895 was also asked to proofread the Jatki Dictionary of Jukes, and had found only two words common !

All Lhandha dialects remain mutually intelligible, hence cannot be under any yardstick be termed as separate languages.

Even with the passage of time and over 110 years gone by i.e after Jukes Dictionary, and a massive infusion of loan words, we still see that our Saraiki retains its character. Two main official dictionaries of the Saraiki exist, the first published by “Bahauddin Zakaria University Multan in 2007, authored by Sardar Sa’ad ’Ullah Khan Khetran, the other by Shaukat Mughal, published by Saraiki Adabi Board, in 2010 ‘The Shaukat tu Lughat’. I have studied both, separating each loan word of the foreign languages,which were found to be Arabic, Farsi, Hindi- Urdu, Punjabi, Turki, Balluchi, Pushto, Sanskrit, English etc.

Briefly stating, in the dictionary of Sardar Saad’ullah taking it as a case study we find that, it has in total 38, 979 words, in which the loan words of above quoted alien languages are Arabi- 2948, Farsi- 1353, Turki- 09, Balluchi- 60, English-5 85, Urdu- 267, and leaving aside other, of Punjabi, just 36 words.

The point to remember is expunging all these loan words and subsituting them from our own current different dialects of Lhandha, is an easy Job !

The major reason why all our Lhandha dialects are mutually intelligible, is because the geographic boundaries of our old suba of Multan, even within the last 1000 years as stated by Syed Ali Hajweri in his book, “Kashaf al Mahjoob’ that when he came to Lahore it was a Qasba of the Multan Suba, the Old Lahore was never a city on the trade routes, both the major ones passed, one above her and the other below, via Multan, and through the Sanghar Pass, in the Koh-e- Suleman Range, from its eastern most range, it crossed Bar-khan, Chacha, Choti-ala, Duki, Harnai, and from Pisheen, it went towards Zabul or later Ghuzz’nih, or beyond further north, and one went towards Herat or lower towards Zahidan and further beyond.

The fact remains; till the shift from Kachhi plains of the Saraiki speaking populace by Naseer l, the Barrohi Khan of Kalat and also from the Duki and to its east, as these tribes had been loyal to the Kalhora’s, the Wardens of the Central western Marches, had refused passage to Nadir Shah, in early 1739 AD. Thus the axe fell on them and they were pushed towards the Trans-Cis Indus regions suplemented by the Balochi and the ruling Barrohi clans.

When we delve into the last administrative boundaries of Multan, it comes to light that the Saraiki was the principal language spoken, and Persian that of writings, as per the custom in vogue in all Muslim empires then. Using the same Perso-Arabic script, the North Eastern part of Multan Suba was a peaked intrusion in Lahore Suba [West of Tihara, South of Kasur, West of Bhatindha, and Bhatnair], and touching on the lower side Dehli Suba, below which came the Ajmer Suba. To south of the Multan Suba was,’ Thatta Sarkar’ which was administrated from Multan.

To west, due to chaotic conditions in Persia, around 1700 AD, the Barrohis who were the Forward Wardens of the Mughal Empire, had lately been attacking Qandhar Fort, and had extended the Mughal boundaries of Suba Mutlan much further into the old Qandhar Suba.

The stress being that SARAIKI was the main dialect spoken ! It would be out of scope here to go into details of the dialects spoken in the Thatta Sarkar. The Punjabi geographic entity was thrust on us after 1849, that being the extension of the old headquarters of the British when they moved in here !

Later came in bulk the Punjabi speaking populations, in the nine Canal Colonies, although the original Sikh and Hindu population of the Saraiki Waseb left in 1947. But the refugees from the British East Punjab were allotted the lands left by them in the same colonies.

It has taken years since the Imposition of 1871 ACT, that our original” Bar” people, named as “Jangalis’, the residents of the “Bars”,  stand up and now come out of  the Stigma fixed on them after 1947, of having been classified as the Criminal tribes and the Vagabonds !

And finally now, a very brief glance at the term Punjab. Around time the Arab invaded the area and later, Hakra was the main river of this region, the feeders being the other 4 i.e.S utlej, Chitang, Sarsuwati and the Ghagghar. It is these 5 rivers which are the ‘Punj’ and Ab’ in Farsi, means the rivers. And the language thus is Punjabi. However have now a look as to how it came into being, The deltas of these five rivers had been from remote times the meeting ground of two very different and distinct languages, The western “Lhandha’, and the eastern, of the Ganga-Jumna Do-aba, the old Midland, the parent of western Hindi, as the new terms go,  defined by the linguist of the 19th century which gave birth to Punjabi.

Lastly, it is this term Punjabi,which is becoming the cause of much rift within our STATE.

And hence, this short paper explaining who and what the actual Punjabi is !

It should be kept in mind that we the old tribes have always given refuge to those who came in our fold, from West, South West, East or South East. But, it is time the immigrants allow us to retain our rights as well. And help us revive our past !

This I feel is not asking for much?


Related Posts:

Diminishing Punjab 2. More subas? — I 3. The dangers of new provinces 4. Will more provinces lead to a vivisection of the Nation State of Pakistan 5. What if Punjab is too large? 6. Before breaking up Punjab, please care to read this…..

Naveed Tajammal is an Investigative Historian with over 28 years of experience.

Source,  Title Image
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