28th SANA Convention Strikes Communion of Sindhi Diaspora Organizations
By: Khalid Hashmani
The 28th Annual Convention of Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) will be remembered for its excellent organization and for bringing many Sindhi Diaspora organizations to speak with one voice. The 3-day convention was held from June 30 to July 2, 2012 in the New York area, more precisely at the Renaissance Newark Airport hotel in Elizabeth, New Jersey. As usual, there were multiple sessions including sessions on Medical Matters, Education, Financial and Estate Planning, Sindhi Poetry and Prose, Sindhi Sufi Music, Sindh's integrity, and a variety of other topics. Two separate speaker's sessions were organized to hear Sindhi scholars, researchers, and political leaders to share their views and research and build consensus on solutions to concerns of Sindhis in Sindh and North American Sindhis.
The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) consisting of FarhanSoomro, Khalid Channa, AdiSaeedaAbro, NaveedSoomro, Dr. Noor Rajparand LOC Chair RoshanShaikhand their families did a wonderful job of coordinating various activities and session including convention registration, meals, shows consisting of music, dance, and songs to the delight of hundreds of the delegates who attended the convention. In addition to official programs, in-formal gatherings and discussion sessions continued for most of the days and nights of the 3-day convention. These sessions played a critical role in bringing Sindhi groups and individuals to conclude that it would only be through the unity that they stand chance to maintain Sindh's integrity, and win back Sindh's sovereignty, autonomy, and prosperity. A strong sense of preserving Sindhi language and culture played a great role in ensuring that the Sindhi language was the primary mode of communication at all sessions and deliberations.
Dr. HafeezAbbasi moderated this session, where several distinguished professors and practitioners of medical profession made well-researched and audience-friendly presentations. A video of how arteries get blocked and how this impacts the operation of heart touched nerves of many older attendees. Dr. Nada Memon presented interesting information about electrical aspects of heart. Indeed, the talk by MazharKhwaja on the nutritional aspects of diet and healthy living was quite inspiring and could be a game-changer for many who are in hurry to loose some weight. The focus on the preventative medicine and healthy life style attracted an intense interest from audience prompting several questioned from both medical and non-medical fields resulting in clarifying of several obvious and some not-so obvious aspects.
Seminar on Educational Challenges and Opportunities in Education for Sindhis
Professor SaleemMemonshared hard data on number of educational institutions and facts related to education. Mr. AltafSamootalked about activities of IBA Sakkar and its extension into establishing community colleges in various cities of Sindh. In general, those attending SANA Convention expressed disappointment with the performance of the present Sindh government for declining educational opportunities for students living in rural areas of Sindh. They were critical of the unabated corruption and influence paddling which has eroded opportunities for Sindhi students in rural areas. Concerns were expressed that the failure of Sindh Government has allowed many non-Sindhi private foundations to open Urdu-medium only schools in Sindh. This trend threatens the long-term survival of Sindhi language, culture. In the long term, lack of Sindhi-medium schools will lead to shortage of properly trained teachers and journals impacting quality of primary school education and sectors such as vibrant Sindhi newspaper industry and other forms of Sindhi media.
Financial and Estate Planning Seminar
Those in SANA community having a hard time in securing full control over their finances greatly benefited from the "Financial and Estate Planning" seminar. Dr. Noor Rajpar's presentation on leadership was an added bonus that would be helpful not only in maintaining leadership over financial matters but also in organizing and inspiring team work. The presentation by Zia Memon was very informative - kind of a primer on everything that one would like to know about investment opportunities but was afraid to ask!
Sindhi Literary Session - Sindhi Poetry and Prose
My people neither have an atomic bomb nor an army,
It was delightful to hear the beautiful poetry of Aakash Ansari and Sardar Shah. Their inspiring poetry brought tears in the eyes of those who feel helpless to stop erosion of Sindhi language as more and more Urdu-medium schools replace Sindhi-medium schools in rural Sindh. What a pity, a battle that we won in 1913 against the Bombay’s British establishment is being lost now in 21st century against our fellow Muslim rulers! MithalVakassi and Amar Sindh too made wonderful presentations. When it was all said and done, Sardar Shah's famous poem about him being a Sindhi when a Malaysian immigration officer asked him what was nationality won the hearts and minds of audience. This epic poem is about the simplicities and complexities of Sindh. This poem takes us through the valleys, hills, and deserts of Sindh; it introduces us to Sindh's poets, writers, farmers, waderas, students and small shopkeepers. In this journey we walk through rain, sunshine, floods, draughts, and disappearing mangroves of Indus delta. It makes us feel the poverty, sorrows and exploitation of rural Sindhis; and finally takes us to the journey of determination, inspiration, and hopes of Sindhis. One particular stanza that conveys the true essence of Sindhiat or Sindhi sufiat says:
And we are not sad about this, in fact we are proud of it.
Sindhi Women's Session - Socio Economic empowerment of Sindhi women: Choices and Challenges
AdiNoor-u-NisaGhanghro and adiShahidaSoomro moderated the Women’s session. Many Sindhi-American women expressed their views about their determination to equally play a leadership role with Sindhi men. A speaker said that the Sindhi women recognize the limitations faced by women in Sindh and Pakistan. She talked about her candid discussion with three Sindhi members of Parliament in which the women law-makers admitted how little they were listened to by their male collogues. AdiFarzanaChanna, adiAlmas Abassi and adiKonjBughio shared their views on the Role of Sindhi women in maintain Sindhi identity in North America. The themes of talks by AdiAmber Laghari and adiParasSayed was the importance of education and skill enhancement training for Sindhi women living in North America. AdiBenazir Shaikh described the aims and objectives of recently formed International Sindhi Women Organization.A special tribute was paid to GhazalaBatulSiddiqui who was killed in a terrorist attack on a peaceful rally of Sindhis in Karachi. A video clip by Mrs. Siddiqui showed a scene, where she was expressing her concerns about the restrictions and other discriminatory practices that are imposed upon Sindhis by the local Karachi government. A minute of silence was observed in her memory and the memory of those who were killed by State agencies and other violent groups. Several panelists shared their experiences and provided guidelines to Sindhi women on how to prepare for qualifying in professional examinations and succeed in their careers. A panelist urged audience to initiate programs for women in rural Sindh so that they too can effectively and collectively help in initiating the required changes to improve their local communities. The efforts of "SindhianiTahreek" were lauded in organizing Sindhi women and inspiring Sindhi rural to fight for their rights. LatifPalejo talked about appalling figures that show a substantial discrimination against women in Sindh and Pakistan. Talking about the respect and honor that Sindhiat bestows on women, a speaker said that unlike most other civilizations where the heroes are mostly men, the true heroes of Sindh are the Sindhi women. The speaker recited several poems from Shah Abdul Latif that conveyed the stories of Marvi, Sassuai, Suhni, Noori, Mumal, and others. Such stories portray the virtues, courage, and sacrifices of Sindhi women.
Sindhi Youth organize themselves and add synergy to Convention
It was a moment of pride to see a group of fifty-sixty young people, wearing back tea shirts with markings about 28th SANA convention organizing activities and communicating their ideas often in English and/or broken Sindhi. With the help of the Local Organizing Committee, they took a trip to see the main attractions in New York City and surroundings. It seemed like that sooner than later the Sindhi Youth too would be talking about the plans for safeguarding Sindhiat and Sindh.
Defeating Designs for Dividing Sindh and Maintaining Integrity of Sindh
This session was organized specifically to counter the propaganda by a fringe group of political party MQM that have been writing slogans on walls in some areas of Karachi and organizing press conferences in North America asking for the division of Sindh. FarhanSoomro moderated this session. Mr. JamilDaudi described the recent attack that was carried out by a terrorist group on the recent "Muhabat-e-Sindh" ("Love of Sindh") rally in Karachi. The key message at this session was that Sindhis oppose any division of their homeland under any pretext and under any circumstances. MsHumairaRahman briefed on the activities by Sindhis at the Unrepresented Nations and People's Organizations (UNPO) forum in creating awareness about the issues of Sindh and Sindhis. SaghirShaikh stated that Sindhis have big heart and support human rights of every one and believe that culture and language of immigrants would enrich Sindh culture and language and asked those who are fearful of Sindhi domination that they should truly accept Sindh as their homeland. The consensus was that Sindhis must be on watch out for any groups living in Sindh who have no love for Sindh as they will continue to plan to harm Sindh. To counter the propaganda of enemies of Sindh, Sindhis must get unified.
General Body Meeting
SANA President (Dr. ValeedShaikh) and General Secretary (MaqboolHalepoto) thanked participants and briefly went over the accomplishments of SANA in last 12 months. SANA Treasurer (Mr.IrshadKazi) presented the financial reports for 2011 and Agha Zafar presented a comprehensive report of SANA sponsored FAME scholarship program. Other office bearers including representatives of several chapters presented reports on the activities and programs in their areas. These included Dr. ShabbirShaikh(SANA Vice President), Ms. Noor-u-NisaGhanghro(SANA Vice President for Women Affairs), Mr. SarfrazAbbasi(SANA Joint Secretary), Mr. AsimRiazKaghzi(SANA Information Secretary), SANA Regional Secretaries (Mr. Khalid Channa, Mr. BasheerMahar, Mr. AijazMemon, Mr. K. M. Kolachi, and Mr. SuhailSoomro), Mr. AwaisLaghari(Edmonton Chapter, Canada), Jam Munir(GTA Chapter), RasheedSoomro(Saskatchewan, Canada Chapter) and Mr. Abdul RazzakKhushk (President of SANA Canada GTA Chapter).
A copy of proposed resolutions were presented at the gathering and these passed unanimously. These resolutions are attached at the end of this report.
Invited Speakers - Session One
Several speakers made presentations at this session. Mr. Ali Jahangir Siddiqui spoke about investment opportunities in Sindh. Ms. IrfanaMallah spoke of the prolonged struggle of Sindh University Teacher's Association for the removal of Vice Chancellor, who has squandered university funds and his incompetent management has adversely impacted quality of education at the university. Seasoned journalist Anwar Iqbal spoke on challenges faced by journalists in Pakistan and the failure of media to speak about problems of rural areas. NaseerMemon made an excellent presentation on recent floods in Sindh and the donor fatigue. He said that few years ago in the aftermath of earth quake in Kashmir area, Pakistan received about $ 450 per affected person and in contrast Pakistan received only about $ 1.30 per affected person. Mr. Memon said that the main problems facing Sindh are the lack of security and shortage of skilled labor. Another important obstacle that is holding back Sindhis is the fact that out of 24 private universities in Sindh, 23 of them are in one city (Karachi). People in the rest of the Sindh therefore have to rely on only the public education system, where the failure of the present government is paramount. He urged the Sindhi Diaspora to look at this deficiency and take an initiative that will result increased educational opportunities for Sindhis in rural area. AsimKaghzi (SANA Information Secretary) presented a report on the SANA's fund collection and support that SANA provided to flood victims. Ms Noor-u-NisaGhanghrotalked about fund raising activities organized by SANA Houston chapter. Mr. Ali Nawaz Memon presented a report on the activities of SAHARO as a part of their program to help flood victims in Sindh. GeetaChainanispoke on telephone from Badin area in Sindh, where she is currently engaged in helping flood victims. Dr. MussaratPathanpresented a report on her organization to help the cause of education in Sindh.
A Charming and delicious Banquet Dinner
The annual Banquet dinner was attended by more than 500 participants where local children presented a variety of musical acts and displayed their talents in various other forms of arts. Several students were recognized for their high academic achievements in their schools. The 2012 SANA Life Time Achievement Award was awarded to Dr. MithalVakassisahib.
Invited Speakers - Session Two
Mr. ShahabUsto’s presentation was designed to make Sindhis think about the long-term survival of Sindh and Sindhi identity in face of strengthening of armed terrorist groups with the goal of having full control of Sindh. He urged Sindhis not to leave things to a chance in case PPP is defeated in elections. He said that Sindhis should think seriously about who would represent them in Pakistan's decision-making process in the event of a PPP defeat? He left many in the audience wondering about the answers. Mr. ZulfiqarHalepoto explained the complexities of Pakistani politics and criticized performance of PPP for its failure to meet commitments it made to Sindhis. He said how one can expect a minority government to deliver positive changes for Sindhis when the PPP majority government is unable to do so. He added that in spite of these failures, Sindhis should give one more chance to PPP. Mr. Syed Ghulam Shah said that only by forming a united front can Sindhis achieve their rights. He added that Sindhis are in a much better shape than before as the whole world now realizes that Pakistan is not a responsible state. Mr. QadirMangsi said that after 65 years of the existence of Pakistan the politics, institutions and in general whole society largely is infected with ills, corruption, and everything that is bad. Mr. Mangsi added that the special relationship between the people of Sindh and the Bhutto family that started in 1971 has ended with the death of Benazir Bhutto. The question is now that all credible politicians of the Bhutto family are gone, who is going to win the hearts and minds of Sindh? He continued with the same theme and said that Sindhis must accept the fact that the PPP goverance for the last three and half years has proven that PPP is not the same party as they thought. The Sindhis must choose new leadership and the united front of various Sindhi nationalist parties is a credible alternative and deserving of their votes. Mr. LatifPalejo started his address by saying that Sindhiat and survival of Sindh go hand in hand. He added that struggle for the Sindhi rights is the true Sindhiat. Talking about Sindhis in Sindh and Diaspora Sindhis, he said both are part of the same chain. He remarked that Sindh is resource rich but its people live in poverty as the PPP barters away all Sindhi rights in order to retain its lead position in the central government. He said that the claims of PPP leaders that they have solved many problems of Sindh are nothing but a big fraud. The highlight of his speech was his categorization of three types of Sindhis that were analogous to the three characters in Sindh’s folk story of "Dodo-Chanesar-Bhaghul". The story revolves around the impeding attack by a central India ruler AlauddinKhalji, who wanted to marry Bhagul (sister of Dodo and Chanesar) or face a vicious attack by his large army. The reaction by Dodo, Chanesar, and Bhaghul is similar to one being depicted now by Sindhis. Sindhis are being asked to either surrender their identity and give up on their language and culture or face up the back mail, terrorism, and brutal forces of coercion. The reaction of three main characters Dodo (who opted to fight the evil attacker), Chanesar (who wanted to compromise for a short-term gain), and Bhaghul (who wasn’t sure about accepting or rejecting the demand of blackmailer AlauddinKhalji). These reaction are analogous to the dilemma faced by Sindhis and the following three reactions from Sindhis:
- Act like Dodo - Stand firm on not surrendering historic rights and fight blackmailers and conspires
- Do what Chanesar did and go for a possible short-term gain - Surrender to the blackmailers and conspires to get quick access to economic and educational opportunities.
- Don't take sides as Bhaghul did and pretend that you want to compromise
In the end Dodo fought and died for his cause, Chaneser after becoming the ruler of Sindh realized that he had done a critical blunder by going for a short-term gain.
In the battle both sides suffered heavily. Dodo's son Bhungar Jr. and even Chanesar's son NangarNehro, fought heroically for Dodo --- and fell. SabarAbro, a Samma chief on the Soomra side, killed Alauddin's son.
The legend says that when Dodo severed head was raised high, he told Chanesar who was standing near by:
Even now I am above you!
The most important aspect of this story is that the Alauddin-Dodo battle became a Sindhi people's war. Every one from peasants, shepherds, fishermen, potters and weavers joined the struggle . The Soomra ladies secretly left for the safety of Samma protection in Kutch, and Alauddin found the palace deserted. He left Sindh disgusted and disappointed.
The story and poetry of a famous Sindhi poet recited by LatifPalejo touched every one so deeply that so soon as Mr. Palejo closed his address with following words, every one in the hall immediately stood up and gave a standing ovation awed by the powerful oratory:
Toon Je WirandoMaryoWende,
Par MarooanjoWesah Na Weendo!
English Translation of above poem:
* In Sindhi language, when calling a person named Dodo, you address them as Doda:
If you die while fighting for a cause,
If you leave this land while you sacrifice,
Doda, although you will loose your life,
But, the faith of Sindhi masses will never die!
Resolutions Passed at the 28th SANA Convention
Sindhi Medium of Instruction in Sindh's Primary and Secondary Schools
WHERE AS, the Sindhi language is probably the oldest written language in Pakistan, the people of Sindh have been using Sindhi in Courts and as well as a medium of instruction in primary, secondary, and high schools since early 19th century,
WHERE AS, a variety of books have been written in Sindhi since 17th century, Sindhi medium of instruction has existed from the days of British rule. The availability of Sindhi text books at the primary and secondary schools in most subjects including Arithmetic, Geography, Drawing, History, and other subjects been prevent for at least seventy five years,
WHERE AS, in 1913, Sindhis vigorously opposed and defeated the Bombay government's proposal to discontinue the use of Sindhi in primary and secondary schools in Sindh,
WHERE AS, at the time of partition, Sindh and Bengal were the only two provinces that used their language as the media of instruction in their schools. Even in early days of Pakistan's independence, there was a strong resistance to many attempts made by Central government to reduce the official use of their languages in their provinces.
WHERE AS, Sindhis consider the promotion and advancement of the Sindhi language as their fundamental right and an inseparable component of their identity and culture. They have strongly and clearly expressed their dislike for any attempts made to impose any language other than Sindhi as a medium of instruction in Sindh's primary and secondary schools,
WHERE AS, United Nations and its agencies have conducted numerous studies of education in multilingual world, all have reaffirmed that children learn best when they receive primary and secondary education in mother tongue. Other studies have demonstrated that Linguistic rights are a fundamental attribute of cultural identity and empowerment,
WHERE AS, the educational rights of indigenous people have been recommended by the 1989 ILO conferences, the role of mother tongue in primary and secondary education has also been affirmed in 1996 Amman Affirmation on Education and in UN International Conference on Education 46th Session 2001. A UNESCO position paper recognizes using mother tongue as the "first principle" in imparting quality education at primary and secondary levels,
WHERE AS, the closure of Sindhi schools in Sindh intentionally or unwittingly has been going for the last 15-20 years. This carelessness of the successive governments in Sindh has provided opportunity to some private organizations to offer Urdu-only medium schools in the areas where Sindhis are in substantial majority,
WHERE AS, the private educational institutions run by people who have support from certain institutions and powerful people in Pakistan's Central government have used their influence over the companies that operate gas and oil fields in Sindh to divert a substantial share of their local area commitments to those private institutions that only Urdru-medium schools,
THEREFORE, we the attendees of 28th Annual Convention of Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) resolve and demand that both the provincial government of Sindh and the Central Government of Pakistan take all necessary steps to discourage any practices and operations that weaken the availability of Sindhi-medium instruction at the primary and secondary levels. Specifically, we ask for the following two actions:
(a) Amend the current education laws of Sindh to require both private and public primary and secondary schools to offer Sindhi medium of instructions in the areas where Sindhi-speaking people are in substantial numbers and Urdu medium of instructions in areas where Urdu-speaking persons have a sizable population.
(b) Impress upon on all companies that are legally required to fund educational improvements to local people by virtue of having exploration concessions and other contracts to support only those organizations in Sindh that offer both Sindhi medium and Urdu-speaking persons.
On the territorial integrity of Sindh
SANA is deeply concerned at the news reports of official patronage provided to a small group of immigrants demanding division of Sindh. More surprising to the Sindhi community residing in North America is the news reporting that the government provided the roguish group an unhindered access to the sensitive area demarcated as 'red zones' in Karachi, which is prohibited for demonstrators. In the red zone, where not very long ago peaceful rallies of paramedics and school teachers demanding their just rights were stopped from entering and protestors baton- charged and stifled with brute force, it was a strange scene to see the government reportedly providing the enemies of the territorial sanctity of Sindh with bottled water and security.
SANA demands the government of Sindh to use all powers in its control the keep a strict check on the activities of the malevolent group of handful of immigrants who are conspiring to harm the territorial integrity of Sindh. SANA understands that it is government's responsibility to suppress any such nefarious schemes with full force before the common Sindhi takes matters into his hands.
Terrorism perpetrated upon the peaceful citizen in Karachi
SANA voices its outrage at the inefficient handling by the government of the case of firing on the peaceful "Mohabat-i Sindh" rally in Karachi where tens of peaceful and unarmed Sindhis were killed by a group of already absconding terrorists belonging to a notorious terrorist group firing directly and with complete impunity at the peaceful demonstrators.
SANA also condemns the use of cruelty and inhumane treatment perpetrated upon the innocent people of Liyari in the name of Liyari Operation, which resulted in the loss of tens of lives, which include little children.
While saluting the martyrs of both Mohabat-I Sindh rally and Liyari Operation, SANA demands the government to form a judicial commission to investigate both the incidents and bring culprits to the book, including some government ministers and those belonging to one of the coalition partners of the government.
Mystery surrounding Zulfikarabad
North American Sindhi community is puzzled at the layers of mystery surrounding the development of the city named Zulfikarabad. SANA wonders what the need for a new city is when the government has failed to provide such basic civic facilities as clean water, electricity and Schools to already existing settlements. Also troubling is the news reports that the land is being grabbed from the indigenous owners against their will and appended to the new city. SANA questions as to who is going to be the ultimate beneficiary of this project if the local people see this as a threat rather than an advantage.
SANA demands a clear cut statement of intent behind building of Zulfikarabad provided to the Sindhi people and stop the project immediately should the explanation fail to satisfy the original inhabitants of the land.
Unemployment and joblessness in Sindh
SANA is concerned at the ever-rising unemployment in Sindh where all the job opportunities are either sold for money or offered to the children of the powerful. The General Body of SANA strongly demands both the federal as well as the provincial government to create equal opportunities for the Sindhi youth to gain their rightful share at the job market. The GB also demands that all the organizations working in Sindh be required to create employment for Sindhi youth and spend their resource for the uplift of the local people and the area.
Injustices to women, minorities and other weaker sections of the society
SANA is gravely concerned at the injustices to women, minorities and other weaker sections of the society and demands immediate steps to empower them, end injustices and provide opportunities to them so that they can have equal rights as others in the society.
Religious and ethnic extremism
SANA is concerned at religious and ethnic extremism in the country. The SANA GB condemns the murders of ex-Punjab governor Salman Taseer and ex-federal minister ShahbazBhatti and innumerable others killed in terrorist incidents. SANA GB demands strong action against terrorists and de-weaponization of Karachi and other cities.
Admission in educational institutions and employment in Karachi
SANA is concerned at the discriminatory government policies in the admissions to educational institutions in Karachi and employment in government and other organizations in the Sindh capital. SANA demands that all such discriminatory policies should be stopped forthwith and admissions should be open to the entire province. Similarly no discrimination should be made in the employment in the capital city of the province.
Restoration and Promotion of Quality Education at Sindh University
THEREFORE, we the attendees of 28th Annual Convention of Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) resolve and express support of the demand of Sindh University Teachers Association (SUTA) and demand appointment of a new Vice Chancellor in accordance with the recommendations of the Higher Education Commission. We also urge SUTA to play an effective role in continuation and promotion of quality education at Sindh University and other educational institutions of Sindh.
WHERE AS, the return of the former Vice Chancellor of Sindh University (who was sent on a forced leave two months ago) is once again disrupted education at the University causing a great concern among the academic and student communities of Sindh,