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Brief History; Sindh Province


In antiquity[1], the territory which is now the modern Sindh province was sometimes known as Sovira (or Souveera, Sauvīra) and also as Sindhudesha, which means “Land of the Indus,” with Sindhu being the original name for the Indus River and “desh” roughly corresponding to country or territory.

Paleolithic and Mesolithic Age: The Late Paleolithic and Mesolithic[2] site found by Karachi University teams on the Mulri Hills, in front of Karachi University Campus, constituting one of the most important archeological discoveries made in Sindh during the last 50 years, shows that the last hunter-gatherers, who left abundant traces, repeatedly inhabited these hills. Some 20 different spots with fossilized flint tools were discovered during the surface surveys of this site. Other archeological sites in Sindh discovered between 1867 and 1930 include sites in Thar Desert, Rohri Hills (Upper Sindh), Thano Bula Khan (Dadu Sindh), and show that Sindh was home to wandering tribes of hunter-gatherers during the Paleolithic and Mesolithic eras.

Copper to Bronze Age: The surveys of the mound of Amri in Dadu reveal fossils which, when radiocarbon dated, can be traced back to the second half of the 4th millennium BC and are attributed to the beginning of the early Harappan Age and the second to mature Harappan Valley.

Indus Valley Civilization: The first known village settlements date back to 7000 BC, based on archeological discoveries. Thus, some of the original inhabitants of ancient Sindh were the Austro-Asiatic speaking peoples who spoke the Munda languages. This culture blossomed over several millennia and gave rise to the Indus Valley Civilization around 3000 BC. The Indus Valley Civilization spanned much of what is today Pakistan, but went into decline a few centuries prior to the invasion by the Indo-Aryans, a branch of the Indo-Iranians who are considered to have founded the Vedic Civilization[3] that existed between the Kabul River, the Sarasvati River, and the Upper Ganges River after 1500 BC.

The Indus Valley Civilization rivaled its contemporary civilizations of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in both size and scope, with a tally of nearly half a million inhabitants at its peak, with well-planned grid cities, and sewer systems. It is known that the Indus Valley Civilization traded with ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt via established shipping routes. In ancient Egypt, in fact, the word for cotton was Sindh, indicating that the bulk of that civilization’s cotton was predominantly imported from the Indus Valley Civilization. Speculation persists as to how and why the civilization declined; the decline may have been due to a combination of natural disasters such as a deterioration in climate, flooding, as well as internecine conflicts, a breakdown of international trade or any combination of these factors.

The most important archeological sites for the study of the Indus Valley Civilization are Amri (Jamshoro District), Kotdiji (Khairpur) and Mohen-jo-Daro (Larkana district). The ruins of Mohen-jo-Daro, which was a flourishing city by about 2500 BC, reveal a remarkably developed society that built cities with parallel streets, a planned drainage system, and grain storage facilities.

Persian Conquest: Sindh was conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire in the late 6th century BC, and became a Persian satrapy (province) called Hindush. The Persians conquered most of the territory now included in modern Pakistan, including that of Gandhara (Gandāra) centered in the Punjab to the North. Iranian, and thus also Persian, speech replaces ‘S’ with ‘H’ in many Sanskrit words, resulting in Sindhu pronounced and written as Hindu by the Persians. They introduced the Kharoshti script to the region, as well as created links to the West (which, here, refers to the area now generally known as the Middle East).

Greek Conquest: Conquered by Macedonian Greek armies led by Alexander the Great after 326 BC, the region came under Greek control for a few decades. Alexander’s death resulted in a brief period of Seleucid rule. Sindh was traded to the Mauryan Empire of Chandragupta after the Seleucids entered a peace treaty with them in 305 BC.

Mauryan, Greco-Bactrian, Scythian and Tocharian Empires: During and long after the reign of the emperor Ashoka, the region became a Buddhist domain, having been conquered and ruled by the Mauryan Dynasty. The Mauryan Empire lasted a century, and ended by 232 BC, when the region was conquered by the Greco-Bactrians, who were based in what is today Northern Afghanistan. Some of their rulers also converted to Buddhism. The ancient Buddhist city of Siraj-ji-Takri, in fact, was located along the Western limestone terraces of the Rohri Hills in the Khairpur district of Upper Sindh, along the road that now leads to Sorah. Its ruins are still visible on the top of 3 different mesas, in the form of stone and mud-brick walls and small mounds, while other architectural remains have been discovered along the slopes of the hills in the 1980s. This city and its remains have not been mentioned in any texts dealing with the history of the Buddhist period of Sindh.

The Scythians (Saka) destroyed the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, which was followed by the Tocharian Kushan Empire in the 1st century AD. Though the Kushans followed their own religion, they were tolerant of the local Buddhist tradition and sponsored many local religious buildings. They were followed by the Huns and the Sassanid-Persians, all of whom exercised some degree of control in Sindh until the coming of the Muslim Arabs in 711 AD.

Muslim Conquest

In the year 711, Sindh was conquered by Umayyad Arabs from Damascus, led by the young Muhammad bin Qasim. The province has since been called Bab-ul-Islam (Gateway to Islam) because this conquest launched the Islamic era in South Asia.

Sindh became the easternmost province of the Umayyad Caliphate after it was conquered by bin Qasim. It is referred to as Al-Sindh on Arab maps with lands further East known as Hind. Muslim geographers, historians, and travelers such as al-Masudi, al-Tabari, Baladhuri, al-Biruni and Ibn Battutah wrote about, or visited, the region; they also sometimes used the name Sindh for the area from the Arabian Sea to the Hindu Kush. By the 12th century, Sindhi sailors from the port city of Debal had voyaged to Basra, Bushehr, Musqat, Aden, Kilwa, Sofala, Malabar, Sri Lanka, and Java.

Soomra Dynasty

Direct Arab rule ended with the ascension of the local Soomra dynasty, who became the first local Sindhi Muslims to translate the Quran into the Sindhi language. The Soomra controlled Sindh directly as vassals of the Abbasids from 1058 to 1249.

The early Soomra rulers were Fatimid Shia Ismailis who owed allegiance to the Fatimid Khalifas of Cairo. Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni conquered the Soomra capital of Mansura in his campaign to defeat the heterodox Shia Ismaili sect. The Soomra shifted their capital to Tharri, nearly 14 km eastwards of Matli on the Puran as a result of this conquest, and later Thatta became their capital for about 95 years until the end of Soomra rule in 1351. During this period, Kutchh was ruled by the Samma Dynasty, who enjoyed good relations with the Soomra in Sindh.

Sindh was also ruled by Muhammad Ibn Tughluq, his descendants, and various other figures.

Samma Dynasty

In 1339, Jam Unar founded a Sindhi Muslim Samma Dynasty of Sultans of Sindh, which reached its peak during the reign of Jam Nizamuddin II Nindo (1461-1509). He expanded the new capital Thatta and its Makli Hills which replaced Debal as the capital. He patronized Sindhi art, architecture, and culture. However, Thatta was a port city, and unlike garrisons, it could not mobilize large armies against the Arghun Mongol invaders who killed many regional Sindhi Mirs and Amirs loyal to the Samma. The ruthless Arghuns and the Tarkhans sacked Thatta during the rule of Jam Ferozuddin and established their own dynasties in the year 1519.

Mughal Empire

In the year 1524, the few remaining Sindhi Amirs welcomed the Mughal Empire and helped Emperor Babur defeat his Arghun enemies in Sindh. In 1540, a deadly mutiny by Sher Shah Suri (an Afghan king) forced the Mughal Emperor Humayun to retreat to Sindh, where he joined the Sindhi Amir Hussein. In 1541 Humayun married Hamida Bano Begum, a Sindhi heiress. She gave birth to Akbar at Umarkot in the year 1542, who grew up to become one of the greatest Mughal emperors.

During Akbar’s reign, Abu’l-Fazl (1551-1602), who was a descendant of a Sindhi Shaikh family from Rel, Siwistan in Sindh, became the Mughal chronicler. He was the author of the famous Akbarnama and the Ain-i-Akbari.

In the year 1603, Shah Jahan visited the province of Sindh, and at Thatta, he was generously welcomed by the local populace. Shah Jahan ordered the construction of the Shahjahan Mosque, which was completed during the early years of his rule.

After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire and its institutions began to decline. Various warring Nawabs took control of vast territories and ruled independently.

British Colonization

The British East India Company made its first contacts in the subcontinent through the Sindhi port city of Thatta which, according to a report[4] filed by the representative of the East India Company, was

a city as large as London containing 50,000 houses which were made of stone and mortar with large verandahs some three or four stories high. The textiles of Sindh were the flower of the whole produce of the East, the international commerce of Sindh gave it a place among that of Nations, Thatta has 400 schools and 4,000 ships at its docks and the city is guarded by well armed Sepoys (p. 1).

British and Bengal Presidency forces under General Charles James Napier arrived in Sindh in the 19th century and conquered Sindh in 1843, after defeating the Sindhi coalition led by the Talpurs and Kalhoras under the command of the Sindhi General Mir Nasir Khan Talpur, in a fierce battle at Miani. After defeat, Mir Sher Muhammad Talpur commanded another army which fought at the Battle of Dubbo where the young Sindhi General Hoshu Sheedi and 5,000 Sindhis were killed. The first Agha Khan helped the British in their conquest of Sindh and as a result, was granted a lifetime pension.

Within weeks, Charles Napier and his forces occupied Sindh. After 1853, the British divided Sindh into districts; in each district they assigned a Wadera[5] to collect taxes on behalf of the British authorities. Wealthy businesses owned by Sindhi Muslim merchants were handed over to minority Hindu Brahmans leading the province to further unrest and a severe economic depression.

In a highly controversial move, Sindh was later made a part of British India’s Bombay Presidency, much to the surprise of the local population, who found the decision offensive. A powerful conflict followed between the local population and the British authorities which lead to the imposition of the Twelve Martial Laws. In 1890, Sindh got representation for the first time in the Bombay Legislative Assembly. Four members represented Sindh at that time. After some struggle, and with the support of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Sindh gained independence from the Bombay Presidency. H.H. Sir Agha Khan, G.M. Syed, Sir Abdul Qayyum Khan and other Indian Muslim leaders played an important role in ensuring the separation of Sindh from the Bombay Presidency, which finally took place on 1 April 1936.

The newly created province, Sindh, secured a Legislative Assembly of its own, elected on the basis of communal and minorities’ representation. Sir Lancelot Graham was appointed as the first Governor of Sindh by the British Government on 1 April 1936.

The British ruled the area for a century. According to Richard Burton, Sindh was one of the most restive provinces during the British Raj and was home to many prominent Muslim leaders such as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who strove for greater Muslim autonomy.

Independence Movement and Sindh

The Sindh Assembly was the first British Indian legislature to pass a resolution in favour of Pakistan. G. M. Syed, an influential Sindhi activist, revolutionary, Sufi and one of the important leaders at the forefront of the Provincial Autonomy Movement joined the Muslim League in 1938 and presented the Pakistan Resolution[6] in the Sindh Assembly. G. M. Syed can rightly be considered the founder of Sindhi nationalism.

Sibghatullah Shah Rashidi II pioneered the Hur Freedom Movement (1910-1943) against British Colonialists. He was hanged by the British rulers on 20 March 1943 in the Central Jail Hyderabad, Sindh. His burial place is not known and is still a mystery.


On 14 August 1947 Pakistan gained independence from British colonial rule, resulting in the province becoming a province of West Pakistan till 1955, and the spelling of its name was changed from Sind to Sindh. After 1955, on the formation of One Unit[7], a policy announced by Prime Minister Choudhry Muhammad Ali Bogra, the province of Sindh was merged into West Pakistan. The provincial borders were restored by General Yahya Khan in 1970, and Sindh has, since, been one of 4 provinces of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

At the time of partition in 1947, while Sindh received a massive influx of refugees and was witness to a mass exodus by the resident Hindus and Sikhs, the overall law and order situation in Sindh remained relatively peaceful[8] mainly due to the efforts of the Muslim Chief Minister of Sindh, Mr. Ayub Khuhro, who took active steps to ensure the safety of all non-Muslims in Sindh. This resulted in Sindh remaining home to a larger percentage of religious minorities after partition. According to the 1998[9] Census, for example, there are now 2.3 million Hindus in Sindh forming around 7% of the total population of the province. Of these, Sindhi Hindus[10] in Pakistan run small to medium sized businesses; they are mainly traders, retailer/wholesalers, builders as well as professionals, practicing in the fields of medicine, engineering, law, and financial services. The scheduled caste Hindus (Dalits) are mainly employed as bonded labor in the rural areas of the province.

At the time of partition, most of the Muslim refugees arriving from India settled in urban areas of Sindh mainly in Karachi and Hyderabad. Since Pakistan’s Independence in 1947, Sindh has continued to be the destination of an uninterrupted stream of migration from South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Burma, and Afghanistan as well as from within Pakistan, with Pashtun and Punjabi immigrants arriving from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Punjab provinces of Pakistan. Most of these immigrants settled in Karachi, the main metropolis of the province.

Governmental Structure; Sindh Province

At the Federal level, Sindh is allocated a set number of representatives in both the National Assembly and the Senate:

  • Number of representatives in National Assembly: 60
  • Number of representatives in the Senate: 23

The Sindh parliament consists of 168 elected members, out of which 30 seats are reserved for women and 8 for non-Muslim minorities. The Government of Sindh consists of several departments, each headed by a minister chosen from the elected representatives of the Assembly on the democratic level and a secretary on the bureaucratic level.

The Governor is the Executive head appointed by the President of Pakistan under Article 101 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973. As to the certain provisions of the constitution, the Governor, in performance of the vested functions, acts in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or the Chief Minister.

The Chief Minister is appointed by the Governor from among the chosen representatives of the Sindh Assembly, who, in his opinion, must possess the confidence of one-third majority out of the aggregate number of members.

The Government of Sindh adopted the Local Government Act 1979 which is now called The Sindh Local Government Act 2013. This Act exclusively deals with local government/ municipal functions and it has no concern with the revenue, police, or any other department. The Local Councils established under this law are body corporate and function under the provincial framework.

Administrative Units; Sindh Province

Total area of Sindh province is 140,914 km2. This is divided into 23 districts as follows:

Badin District 05 Tehsils and 46 Union Councils
Dadu District 04 Tehsils and 52 Union Councils
Ghotki District 05 Tehsils and 35 Union Councils
Hyderabad District 04 Tehsils and 52 Union Councils
Jacobabad District 03 Tehsils and 40 Union Councils
Jamshoro District 04 Tehsils and 28 Union Councils
Karachi District 18 Towns with 172 Union Councils
Kashmore-Kandhkot District 03 Tehsils with 37 union Councils
Khairpur District 08 Tehsils with 76 Union Councils
Larkana District 04 Tehsils with 44 Union Councils
Matiari District 03 Tehsils with 19 Union councils
Mirpurkhas district 06 Tehsils with 41 Union Councils
S. Benazirabad District 04 Tehsils with 51 Union Councils
Naushero Feroze District 05 Tehsils with 51 Union Councils
Sanghar District 06 Tehsils with 63 Union Councils
Kamber-Shahdadkot District 07 Tehsils with 40 Union Councils
Shikarpur District 04 Tehsils with 47 Union Councils
Sukkur District 04 Tehsils with 46 Union Councils
Tando Allah Yar District 03 Tehsils with 17 Union Councils
Tharparkar District 04 Tehsils with 44 Union Councils
Thatta District 09 Tehsils with 53 Union Councils
Tando Muhammad Khan District 03 Talukas with 16 Union Councils

Table 1.2 Sindh Administrative Divisions

Heritage Buildings/Monuments; Sindh Province

Sindh is home to 211 monuments that are protected by the laws of the Government of Sindh and 126 buildings protected under Government of Pakistan laws. In addition, the Makli Hills necropolis, and the Mohen-jo-Daro archeological site are on the list of World Heritage Sites.

Important historical towns and sites of Sindh include:

  • Thatta: It has been an important industrial and trade center in early Islamic and medieval periods. It was also a center of learning, with numerous madrassahs, and schools of higher learning
  • Shikarpur: It has some of the most beautiful local architecture in Pakistan. It was located on the trade route to Iran and Central Asia from 1599 to 1843
  • Sukkur, Bhukkur, Rohri, Hyderabad, and Sehwan: These have important Historical monuments and buildings. Please see individual districts for details
  • Mohana People of Dadu district, with their house boats: These boats are constructed with intricate mirror work and embedded floral and geometric patterns
  • Karachi: Historic sites like the Rato Kot Fort in the vicinity of Korangi Creek, believed to be a settlement contemporary of Debal/ Bhambore. Baked earthen balls used in cannons, glazed tiles, and other artifacts have been discovered scattered in this region, belonging to the prehistoric era
  • Memon Goth, Malir: Chawkandi Graveyard of the 17th century and containing tombs of Baloch Rulers
  • Manora Island: Manora Fort (1784), captured by Sir Charles Napier
  • Malir, Karachi: Dumlotti wells dug by the British along the banks of Malir River in the 19th century

Figure 1.16 A Mohana House Boat


Figure 1.17 Chowkandi Tombs, Memon Goth

[1] The historical account for Sindh has been drawn from multiple sources, which are: A Glimpse into the Conditions of Sindh before Arab Conquest by Farzana Solangi, Muhammad Ali Laghari and Nasrullah Kabooro; Mesolithic Settlement In The Mulri Hill, Karachi (Sindh), Pakistan by Shamshad Akhtar, and Muhammad Rafique Dhanani; Encyclopedia Britannica; Sindh Province Gazetteer 1874; Proceedings Of The Sind Legislative Assembly Official Report Vol. XVII-No. 6, 3 March 1943. Karachi

[2] Paleolithic and Mesolithic ages refer to the eras from the Ice Age to the Stone Age, and are characterized by simple bands of hunters, or hunter-gatherers, who lived in caves, and used tools made of stone.

[3] The Vedic civilization was plagued by much in-fighting and fighting with the locals as well as other interactions with them, and ultimately helped shape subsequent cultures in South Asia.

[4] History of English Language in Sindh by Omair Shaikh, Nariman Masood, Kiran Siyal, Saqib Memon, Azam Solangi, and Ranjeet Kumar

[5] Local landlord

[6] The Pakistan Resolution (1940) was a formal statement issued by the Muslim League, demanding autonomy, and sovereignty for Muslim Majority states in the Northwestern and Eastern zones of British India.

[7] This policy sought to unite the two separate entities that constituted Pakistan before the 1971 war: West and East Pakistan. Under this policy, the 4 provinces that constituted West Pakistan were merged, resulting in 2 entities: West Pakistan and East Pakistan. This policy was met with resistance by the provinces, and was revoked by General Yahya Khan in 1970 under the Legal Framework Order No. 1970, which restored provincial borders first established in August 1947.

[8] Though there was a tremendous amount of violence and rioting along the newly established borders along Sindh and Punjab, statistically, Punjab faced the brunt of that violence.

[9] 2017 Census results have not been announced as yet

[10]Caste Hindus accounting for 86% of the total Hindu population of Pakistan as of 1998 census; 2017 Census data has not been released.