During the British Raj,
Sindh, situated south of Punjab, was the neglected hinterland
of Bombay. The society was dominated by a small number
of major landholders (waderas). Most people were tenant
farmers facing terms of contract that were a scant improvement
over outright servitude; a middle-class barely existed.
The social landscape consisted largely of unremitting
poverty, and feudal landlords ruled with little concern
for any outside interference. A series of irrigation
projects in the 1930s merely served to increase the
wealth of large landowners when their wastelands were
made more productive. Reformist legislation in the 1940s
that was intended to improve the lot of the poor had
little success. The province approached independence
with entrenched extremes of wealth and poverty.
There was considerable
upheaval in Sindh in the years following partition.
Millions of Hindus and Sikhs left for India and were
replaced by roughly 7 million muhajirs, who took the
places of the fairly well-educated emigrant Hindus and
Sikhs in the commercial life of the province. Later,
the muhajirs provided the political basis of the Refugee
People's Movement (Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz--MQM). As Karachi
became increasingly identified as a muhajir city, other
cities in Sindh, notably Thatta, Hyderabad, and Larkana,
became the headquarters for Sindhi resistance.
In 1994 Sindh continued
to be an ethnic battlefield within Pakistan. During
the 1980s, there were repeated kidnappings in the province,
some with political provocation. Fear of dacoits (bandits)
gave rise to the perception that the interior of Sindh
was unsafe for road and rail travel. Sectarian violence
against Hindus erupted in the interior in 1992 in the
wake of the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya,
India, by Hindu extremists who sought to rebuild a Hindu
temple on the contested site. A travel advisory recommending
that foreigners avoid the interior of the province remained
in effect in early 1994.