Academic journal article Journal of Political Studies

Saraiki Ethnic Identity: Genesis of Conflict with State

Academic journal article Journal of Political Studies

Saraiki Ethnic Identity: Genesis of Conflict with State

Article excerpt


Geographically, the federation of Pakistan is divided into six areas on the basis of their physical features: (1) Northern mountainous areas, (2) Western Mountainous areas, (3) the Salt range hills and Potohar Plateau, (4) the upper field of River Indus, (5) the lower field of River Indus and (6) the Balochistan Plateau. According to this distribution, the Northern Mountains are extended inward to Pakistan's northern territory, Kashmir and Gilgit. While the western mountainous series divides Khyber Pakhtoon Khoa and Balochistan. The Potohar Platue and Salt ranges are the part of Punjab province. The upper field of Indus River is also the part of Punjab and known by the name Saraiki belt, Saraiki area and Saraiki waseb. The lower field of Indus River is included in Sindh province. The whole territory of Balochistan is Plateau (Husnain, 1994).

The four federating units of Pakistan have variety of ethno-lingual identities. The Mohajir in Sindh province especially in Karachi city is known as a lingual identity different from Sindhies. The Baloch from Balochistan areas refer their strong association with the territory of Balochistan. The Pakhtoons from Khyber Pakhtoon Khoa (KPK) believe on the primordial basis of their group association. The present study focuses on Saraiki identity. Saraiki belt is the part of Punjab province. So a detailed account of its location and socio-political background is necessary to understand the nature of the issue.

1. Socio-Political Background of Saraiki Identity

The word "Punjab" is actually conceived from Panch,aab. that mean "the land of five rivers" (Steinbach, 1976, p.2). These are River Indus, the Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beias. To understand the geographical and cultural heterogeneity of Punjab, it could be divided into three regions, first, the Upper North-Central Punjab, second, the Potohar Plateau of North-West Punjab, and third, the Southern Region of Punjab (Lieven, 2012, pp. 227-280), known as South West Punjab. The areas from district Sialkot to Lahore are included in the North-Central Punjab. District Rawalpindi to District Chakwal is part of the Potohar area and in the Southern districts Multan, Bahawalpur, Bahawal Nagar, Rahim Yar Khan and Dera Ismail Khan are included. The Southern areas are also bordering Sindh and Balochistan (Shah, 1997, p. 121).

Punjabi is the dominant language of North-Central Punjab. However, there is high disparity in local dialects. Potohari is spoken by the people of North Western areas and Saraiki is the major language of the South West Punjab, spoken by approximately twenty five to forty million people (Shackle, 2001, pp. 657-659).

Historians and anthropologists have marked the existence of Saraiki Civilization nearer to the Indus valley on the Western side and Harrapa Civilization on its Eastern shores. It is also noted down that Multan, Uch and Bawahlapur remained the centre of power and culture (Shackle, 1977, p. 379). Like most of the civilizations of the Indus Valley, the Saraiki culture represents historic pre-Aryan people of a Semite origin whose forefathers were the founders of the Agrarian Culture in Indus Valley Civilization. Even then very little is known about the ethnic origins of the Saraikis, before the invasion of Alexander the great. The historians who accompanied Alexander during his Indian invasion also referred Saraiki language in their writings.

Malloi and Oxydrakai two tribes are referred with their large capital city near Multan (Kazi, 1993; Wagha, 2010, pp. 115-116). Wagha (2010) shows the Greek version of the names of rivers and areas included in the Saraiki belt in the following table:

Various writers have discussed the origin of Saraiki. Some believe that it comes from Sindhi word "Siro" means North. "Wicholo" is also a Sindhi word that means Centre that indicates the Hyderabad region. The word "las" highlights the Southern Sindh. So, most of the writers are agreed that Siro is the origin of Saraiki. …

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