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Saraikistan (Saraiki: سرائیکستان), or Saraika (سرائیکہ) is the central region of Pakistan mainly comprising North Sindh, South Punjab, South Khyber Pakhtunkha and North east Balochistan. The area is historically associated with speakers of the Saraiki dialects of Western Punjabi and Sindhi. The Saraikistan Movement seeks to create a separate province for saraiki speaking punjabi people


See also: Saraiki dialect

The word "Sarāiki" originated from the word "Sauvira",[1] a state name in old India. By adding adjectival suffix "-ki" to the word "Sauvirā" it became "Sauvirāki". The consonant 'v' with its neighboring vowels was dropped for simplification and hence the name became "Sarāiki". Although George Abraham Grierson reported that "Sirāiki" (that was the spelling he used) is from a Sindhi word sirō, meaning 'of the north, northern', Shackle[2]:388 asserts that this etymology is unverified. Another view is that Saraiki word originates from the word Sarai. The standard Roman script spelling of the Saraiki dialect name (at least de facto) is "Saraiki". However, "Seraiki", and "Siraiki" have also been used in academia until recently. The dialect name (in whichever of these spellings) was adopted in the 1960s by regional social and political leaders. An organization namely Saraiki Academy was founded in Multan on 6 April 1962, under the Presidency of Mir Hassaan-ul-Haidri who was replaced by Makhdoom Sajjad Hussain Qureshi, which gave the name of universal application to the dialect.[2] In this way, Saraikistan means the land of Saraiki people.


The origin of this dialect and culture goes back to the Indus Valley Civilization. The name "Saraiki" (or variant spellings) was formally adopted in the 1960s by regional social and political leaders who undertook to promote Saraiki ethnic consciousness and to develop the vernaculars into a standardized written language.[2][3] Historically, the speakers of dialects now recognized as belonging to Saraiki did not hold the belief that they constituted a cohesive language community or a distinct ethnicity. This consciousness developed among local elites in the years after the independence of Pakistan in 1947 in response to the social and political upheaval caused by the mass immigration of Muslim refugees including Urdu (Muhajirs) speaking from India. Traditionally, the dialects were designated by any of a number of areal or demographic names (see table below), e.g. "Multani" for the dialect spoken around Multan, which has been the largest city in the "Saraiki" speaking area for centuries.

Location and boundaries[edit]

Derawar Fort is on the outskirts of the city in the Cholistan Desert
Map of Saraikistan
  • Roh: means mountains, referred to the Sulaiman Mountains in Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Barkhan, Musa khel, Tank, Bannu districts and Daroug, Rakni areas
  • Rohi: Cholistan Desert in Bahawalpur, Rahim yar khan
  • Thal: Thal Desert in Layyah, and Muzaffargarh districts
  • Daamaan: meaning the foothills, referred to the foothills of Sulaiman Mountains in Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan. It may also referred to the plain areas around Multan Kashmore, Ghotki, Sukhar, Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Larkana, Naushahro feroz, Qambar shahdadkot, Dadu, Jafferabad, Naseerabad Jhalmagsi Sibi, and Kherpur districts.

Political movement for regional autonomy[edit]

The Saraikistan Movement or Saraiki Movement is an affiliation of Punjabi political parties, politicians and groups in South Punjab, aiming to establish a separate province for Saraiki ethnicity within Pakistan - there are no secessionist undertones to the movement. The Movement contends that a new province should include Southern Punjab, the city Dera Ismail Khan from the North-West Frontier Province, Sukkur from Sindh and some areas of Balochistan.[4]

Beginning in the 1960s, Riaz Hashmi Saraiki nationalists have sought to gain official language status and to create a new province out of southern Punjab. This has led to a proposed separate province Saraikistan Saraika or Rohi, a region being drawn up by activists in the 1970s. The 1977 coup by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, a centralist ruler, caused the movement to go underground. After his death in 1988, the Saraiki movement re-emerged with the goals to have a Saraiki language recognised, to have official documents printed in Saraiki, a Saraiki regiment in the Pakistan Army, employment quotas and more Saraiki-language radio and television. The movement's aim is to establish a collective identity for the Saraiki linguistic group in the Punjab province of Pakistan and to secure an official status for the language. As of 2002, there were approximately 15 million Saraiki people, who were speaking the Saraiki language, in central Pakistan in the Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan provinces, mainly based in the former princely state of Bahawalpur. The following are the considered as the three main demands around which the movement is focused on:

  • A separate Saraikistan Province from the southern parts of the Punjab Province. This province may comprise the districts of Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Multan, Lodhran, Vehari, Khanewal, Sargodha, Jhang, Muzzafargarh, Layyah, Bhakkar, Mianwali, Khushab, Rajan Pur and Dera Ghazi Khan from Punjab province and district of Dera Ismail Khan from Kheber Pukhtunkhaw province.
  • More budget allocation to the southern parts of the Punjab Province till the above demand is accepted.
  • Saraiki's acceptance as a separate language rather than a dialect and its use in official documents for southern Punjab alongside Urdu.

Saraiki nationalist intellectuals reacted to the perceived threat to their language and identity by developing an ethno-linguistic consciousness. The efforts were directed towards creating a Saraiki identity. Initially this was done to counter the "misleading label of Punjabis". These endeavors have been termed as the Saraiki movement'. Attempts have been made to get the support of the Saraiki speaking middle-class using economic reasoning to support the division of the Punjab on linguistic lines. The Saraiki movement was the combination of language planning and efforts to establish a collective identity to convince Saraiki speakers and others of the status of Saraiki as a separate language distinct from Punjabi. It also aimed to establish Saraiki as a separate language by invoking shared awareness of the local past among the people living across the Saraiki region speaking different dialects of the Saraiki language. Consensus on the name Saraiki for all the dialects spoken in the Saraiki region was a part of this reaction. Creation of a Saraiki identity in south-western Punjab involved the deliberate choice of a language called Saraiki, as a symbol of this identity. Language was chosen as a unifying symbol because a local language serves its speakers as an identity marker that can successfully separate them from other ethno-linguistic groups that share identity on another basis, such as culture, traditions and religion (in this case Islam). It was chosen also because it was an aspect the leaders thought will serve to unite the group and will be useful in promoting the interests of the group and ethno-politicians. Like many such movements, the Saraiki movement also started in the name of cultural revival and promotion. What really lay behind it was the lack of development of South Punjab region which was not voiced in the first phase, ethno-nationalism is generally a response to perceived injustice. In general, the slogans and demands of the Saraiki nationalists have been coupled with linguistic rights and economic grievances, but in the late 1990s and the following decade, the linguistic issue has ceased to have much importance. This is evident in the charter of demands made at the end of a Saraiki conference held in December 2003, in which, out of twenty-one demands made, only one pertained to language. (Daily Khabrain, 2003)

Political parties and groups[edit]

There are some political parties and groups which are working for separate Saraiki province in Pakistan

Many politicians from South Punjab had been elected at highest level in Pakistan, which are usually the economic elites and feudal. Among them areYousaf Raza Gillani (Current Prime Minister), Latif Khosa (Governor Punjab), Zulfiqar Ali Khosa (Former Governor Punjab), Mustafa Khar (Former Governor Punjab), Farooq Leghari (Former President of Pakistan), Dost Muhammad Khosa (Former Chief Minister Punjab), Shah Mehmood Qureshi (Former Foreign Minister), Hina Rabbani Khar (Foreign Minister of Pakistan), Javed Hashmi (Several times Federal Minster and leading politician). So, the slogan of being deprived seems to be senseless to many people in northern Punjab but the people in South Punjab consider these feudal as anti-poor. Until recently, none of these political leaders spoke in favour of regional autonomy.[citation needed]

Outcome of the Saraiki Movement[edit]

The Saraiki movement has been successful at some levels. It is responsible for creating a sense of collective identity among the Saraiki speakers even if it has not been successful in forming a pressure group like that of the Awami League, Jeay Sindh Quomi Mahaz, MQM and Awami National Party . Now the Saraiki is counted as one of the many languages of Pakistan. Saraiki was also included in the question about languages in the censuses of 1981 and 1998. Despite all this, however, the symbol of language which came out as the most powerful symbol in this movement has not yet acquired much evocative power' . Saraiki speakers are still not as emotionally attached to their language as the speakers of some other regional languages of Pakistan are. The Saraiki movement helped to give a collective name Saraiki' to different dialects and made people embrace this name for their collective identity but it ultimately failed to influence ordinary Saraikis to take pride in their language or consciously increase its usage in different domains.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A.H. Dani, Sindhu-Sauvira: A glimpse into the early history of Sind In Hameeda Khusro (ed), Sind Through The Centuries (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1981) pp. 35-42
  2. ^ a b c Shackle, C. 1977. Saraiki: A Language Movement in Pakistan. Modern Asian Studies, 11(3):379-403.
  3. ^ Rahman, Tariq. 1997. Language and Ethnicity in Pakistan. Asian Survey, 1997 Sep., 37(9):833-839.
  4. ^ The Frontier Post, retrieved 19 February 2011.

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