Sind is a province in southeast Pakistan. It is bordered by the provinces of Baluchistan on the west and north, Punjab on the northeast, the Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat to the east, and the Arabian Sea to the south. Its name was derived from the Arabic word for the Indus River, which has long been known as the Sindhu. The province extends over the lower portion of that river valley. Its chief cities are Karachi, the former capital, and Hyderabad. It covers 140,914 square kilometers and had a population of about 19 million in 1981.
As in the rest of Pakistan, the economy is predominantly agricultural and depends almost entirely on irrigation. The principal source of water is the Indus River, on which there are three irrigation dams in Sind. They are the Ghulam, on the Punjab border; the Lloyd; and the Ghulam Muhammad, farthest south. Most Sindhis are engaged in irrigation agriculture, either as landlords who do not cultivate with their own hands or as tenant farmers and laborers. Sindh's principal crops are wheat, rice, cotton, oilseeds, sugarcane, and fruits (by double-cropping). Other ethnic groups in Sindh specialize in fishing in the Indus River and Manchar Lake, which is partly formed from Indus River overspill during the flood period, as well as on the southern coast in the Arabian Sea. Some make their living as merchants, physicians, lawyers, and teachers and by doing other professional jobs in industrializing towns and cities such as Karachi and Hyderabad. Karachi, Pakistan's chief port, has an oil refinery and also is the center of printing and publishing. Sindh culture is reflected in some of its fascinating handicrafts such as mirror embroidery, lacquerware, and exquisitely painted tilework.
The religion, family law and customs, food taboos, and art styles in Sindhi culture reveal the emphasis and importance of Islam. At least 80 percent of Sindhis are Muslim, mostly Sunni, while the other 20 percent consist of Indian Sindhis who are Hindu and who migrated from Pakistan to India after the partition in 1947.
Sindhi women are secluded behind the clay walls of house and compound; this practice of purdah is strict among landlords and other families who claim respectability accordingly. In some rural areas, when women leave their houses they not only go veiled but sometimes are followed by a small boy ringing a hand bell and calling out, "Pass!" Men hearing the signal turn toward a wall until the party has hurried past. However, Sindhi men center their social life in a special building called otak, which, unlike their homes, is not enclosed in compound walls. Here landlords who aspire to local power meet their followers. It is an honor to be a landlord, but among landlords further prestige comes from having family members, even daughters, who are formally educated and have professional careers or possess political power. Inside the otak, friends join together to drink refreshments, including betel-nut mixtures and alcoholic beverages. Here men also play cards, watch cockfights, and, in the evening, listen to professional musicians or watch hired female dancers.
The Sindhi language is spoken by less than 4 percent of the population of Pakistan. It has fewer dialects than Punjabi and has a small but important literary tradition of its own. There are four million people who claim it as a native tongue: they are concentrated in the former province of Sindh and Kharipur State as well as in the area around Karachi and in Baluchistan. The Sindhi script is similar to the Urdu script, yet different enough not to be easily read by a person who has learned to read in Urdu. The script is Arabo-Persian in its origin, but the language is Indo-Aryan.
Khan, Ansar Zahid (1980). History and Culture of Sind. Karachi: Royal Book.
Weekes, Richard V. (1964). Pakistan: Birth and Growth of a Muslim Nation. Princeton, N.J.: Von Nostrand.
SARWAT S. ELAHI