Sindhi Association of North America held its 13th Annual Convention in Toronto, Canada. The three-day convention started on Friday, July 4th and lasted till July 6th 1997, at Best Western Carlton Place Hotel, Toronto. More than 250 delegated from various parts of North America attended the traditional Annual Convention. Some guests from Pakistan, UK, and Singapore also attended the convention. In between lunches and dinners, the three day program included speeches by the SANA EC members and overseas guests, seminars, ladies program, General Body Meeting, panel discussions, and Sindhi Sham Musical Program with Zareena Baloch.
The convention officially started on Saturday, July 5th with the opening speech by the Chairman Local Organizing Committee Mr. Khalid Hashmani. In his speech Mr. Hashmani profusely thanked the delegates for their participation and expressed his heartfelt joy in welcoming them. Mr. Mehar Hussain Shah General Secretary presented a brief report on SANA activities, on going projects, and out-reach program aimed at forming an international alliance of non-political and non-governmental Sindhi organizations.
Before his welcome address SANA President Mr. Iqbal Tareen requested the audience to rise and offer Fatiha in the memory of Dr. Feroz Ahmed. Continuing his welcome address Mr. Tareen greeted all participants of the convention including the guest speakers who traveled thousands of miles to participate in the reunion of North American Sindhis. In his speech he described 13 glorious years of SANA. He pointed out that SANA has survived many challenges and crisis. It has now reached the maturity stage. He identified Sindhi community's special interest in the welfare and historic rights of Sindhi people. He also urged that SANA leadership would have to device a balance between Sindh related issues and opportunities and concerns shared by Sindhi community here in North America. After brief speeches of EC members, the day started with intense discussions regarding the current situation in Sindh and SANA. The delegates spoke their minds; debates were candid and frank. In the evening everyone enjoyed Sindhi Sham with Zareena Baloch.
The General Body meeting was presided over by SANA President Mr. Iqbal Tareen. The delegates heard yearly reports by the Executive Council members and various committee chairpersons. Those who presented their reports were Mr. Sani Panhwar, (Vice President and Chairman Membership Committee), Mr. Mehar Hussain Shah (General Secretary and Chairman Inter-organizational Committee), Mr. Ramesh Tharwani (Joint Secretary), Mr. Ajaz Memon (Treasurer), Mr. Sohail Ansari (Information Secretary and Chairman Publication Committee), Dr. Aijaz Turk (Regional Secretary-Midwest and Chairman Finance Committee), Mr. Ayub Khaskheli (Regional Secretary- East Coast), Mr. Saeed Hafiz (Regional Secretary- South), Dr. Akhtar Hashmani (Regional Secretary- Canada), Mr. Nadeem Jamali (Kalabagh Dam Committee), and Dr. Saghir Shaikh (Chairman Education Committee).
Guest speakers included Nawab Yousif Talpur (Pakistan Peoples Party), Syed Jalal Shah (Deputy Speaker Sindh Assembly), Syed Ghulam Shah (Vice Chairman Jeeay Sindh Mahaz), Qazi Shafquat Mahesar (General Secretary Pakistan Peoples Party-SB), and Dr. Nazir Mughul (Vice Chancellor Sindh University).
All leaders defined their party program and position on Sindh issues. An overall consensus was found amongst visiting guests on issues concerning law & Order situation, opposition to Kalabagh Dam project, NFC Award, Water Accord, unchecked population influx in Sindh from other provinces and countries, and strong support for a unity on common grounds in Sindh.
The visiting guests faced a barrage of very tough questions on governmental abuse of power, corruption, urban and rural terrorism and abductions, PML-MQM alliance, and an overall disappointment with politicians and political parties in Sindh. It was first of its kind session which gave both the participants and guests opportunity to raise vital issues and state party positions on these various issues and concerns.
Dr. Nazir Mughul presented the agony of educational institutions emerging out of highly charged political environment. He gave an eye-opening account of "Copy Culture", deteriorating academic standards, lack of integrity in teaching staff, growing disrespect for teachers in students and parents, total indifference of government planners, and curse of government and political parties interference.
He narrated a usual cheating incident where parents and friends of students were sitting outside examination hall, filling answer papers and smuggling them to their children. The irony was that the entire operation was being carried under the supervision of a senior police officer that was in-charge of preventing such a cheating. He pointed out that in a recent survey of Asian institutions, not single Pakistani College or a university qualified to be included in top 50 institutions.
At the conclusion of the 13th Annual Convention, the general body of Sindhi Association of North America passed the following unanimous Declaration and the Resolutions:
Gravest of all Times
Sindh is passing through the gravest times in its history. It is clear that the enemies of Sindh have joined hands against it. The current state of affairs in Sindh has shown an utter failure of public institutions. Terrorism and lawlessness has reached its highest level. Murders, kidnappings, abductions, highway robberies, and car thefts have become order of the day. The government and the political parties have miserably failed to check growing lawlessness. People are once again passing sleepless nights and no one seems to be safe. Even the elected representatives are not safe from this scourge of lawlessness.
Unfair Employment Practices against Sindhis
Thousands of workers from all over Sindh, including SAZDA, Textile Corporation, Cotton Mills, PIA, Zeal Pak Cement Factory and many other industrial units have either been laid-off or have not received their wages since months. Anarchy rules the province. Daily agitation, dharnas, and hunger strikes against the power failures, a sharp rise in cost of living, police brutality, lawlessness, and water shortages are everyday affairs. In response the government has shown a callous attitude towards the needs of the indigenous people of Sindh. The so-called rural and urban divide has been created by the vested interests. We are facing a conspiracy of converting indigenous Sindhi population into a minority in their homeland.
Discrimination of Sindhis in Education
Education system in the province is in a bad shape. Most of the educational projects in the province are either canceled or prematurely snapped. Nothing useful came out from projects like 'Adult Education Scheme' for interior Sindh, 'Nai Roshani School Project', etc. Millions of rupees were spent on these projects to be abandoned half way. It needs a lot of commitment and dedication to get education back on track in Sindh. Education standard is affected all over the province. We deplore the ending of Education Quota for rural Sindh. This brings an end to fair educational opportunities in Sindh. With an acute disparity in economic opportunities in the country, how can you practice so-called "Competitive System"? It only establishes the law of jungle. We do not oppose competition, we support fair competition. But for a fair and equitable competition it is essential to have leveling of playing fields. If open and non-objective competition is to be practiced, then Pakistan should remove all import barriers to open its entire market to all international products and services. Why to protect Pakistani goods and services against foreign competition? Even the most industrialized nations have tariff and non-tariff barriers to protect their homegrown goods and services. Is this not a quota system? Fair and moral governance requires fair treatment of all citizens. You do not let your strong children beat your weak once to death. Do you?
Contamination of River Indus
Contamination of River Indus is another worry for Sindhis, who are constantly pressuring the federal government to suspend RBOD (Right Bank Out Fall Drain) project planned by the WAPDA. RBOD is contaminating Indus water by allowing saline and toxic drainage effluents to flow into the river as part of its operations. This is the worst case of water pollution. This toxic water will cause irreparable damage to all of us.
Termination of Keti Bunder Project-A Criminal Discrimination against Sindh
This project started by PPP government would have tremendous economic benefits to rural Sindh. According to terms and conditions, Mr. Gordon Wu's Consolidated Electric Power Asia (CEPA) would have invested $2 billion in Kept Bunker Project. This project would have used Sindh's huge coal reserves in Thar to generate electricity. CEPA deal included a 500 MW generating station. At present Pakistan produces 12000 MW per day and this CEPA project alone would have constituted about 40% of total daily output in Pakistan. This output of 500 MW would have been sold to public as 5.57 APIs/kW comparing to 6.1 APIs/kW government of Pakistan wanted to buy from the foreign companies. India has shown its eagerness to pay 7.1 paisa/kW to buy power from Thar coal project. On top of it, the deal also included building of a railway line from Thar coal to Keti Bunder to Karachi.
Creation of almost 20,000 jobs-A modern deep-sea port (this would have been third seaport for Sindh)-A modern city-An industrial zone-And all this at no cost to government. Why such a deal has been shelved? We believe that the Keti Bunder Project have been shelved not on economic constraints but for political reasons. Therefore, we strongly condemn the 'criminal discrimination' of Sindh by the present government. Just as General Zia shelved the Indus Superhighway Project because it was beneficial to Sindh, the present government has similarly destroyed another good project aimed at developing long-neglected rural areas of Sindh. We call upon all the MNA's and MPA's of Sindh to quit their party loyalties and raise their voice against this gross injustice to their native province.
PML-MQM Accord a violation against right of self-governance
We believe that PML-MQM accord is a total sell out of Sindh's democratic, national and collective human rights. This accord is unjust, illegal, unconstitutional and very harmful to Sindh. The most damaging is the clause, which allows MQM (A) to identify terrorists and disarm them in any area of Sindh. A terrorist group pointing fingers to others and asking government to eliminate them is the most ridiculous and dangerous phenomenon. It is an irony that those who are declared terrorists have been assigned to point out other terrorists. In our opinion, this accord has legitimized and institutionalized terrorism in Sindh. This accord has rendered even Muslim league ministers ineffective in Sindh. SANA deplores terrorism regardless of its origin and ideological justifications. We strongly condemn the release of terrorists without trial. Overwhelming majority of Sindhis perceive PML-MQM accord as unfriendly and against a majority of population of Sindh province. When MQM terrorists are awarded compensation in so-called extra-judicial killings then what about those Sindhis who have been killed or otherwise dislocated by the wave of terrorism created by MQM.
We urge all citizens of Sindh to breakaway from hatred brewing political groups and parties and unite in the interest of Sindh. It is the only land that gave love and tender care to all of her children regardless of their origin, faith, color or creed.
Provincial Autonomy- a Broken Promise
Provincial autonomy for Sindh remains as elusive as ever. Successive governments have systematically reduced the provincial autonomy to the point that smaller provinces have become colonies of the center. The foundations of Pakistan were laid on the federating principle. But this historic covenant was violated by vested interests soon after the first dawn. This attitude has created a national disillusionment. It is tragic that we did not learn any lessons from the Bangladesh debacle. The provisions of the 1940 Pakistan Resolution relating to the provincial autonomy have been nakedly defied. This has resulted in total subjugation of the smaller provinces by the center. We believe that autonomy is the soul and body of pluralism and democracy. It is also a very sensible way of managing the affairs of State and government. Sindh joined Pakistan on the basis of firm assurances given to its inhabitants that they will have total ownership of their culture and natural resources.
We demand our legitimate right as enshrined in the constitution and also guaranteed by the 1940 resolution. We believe that political stability in Pakistan hinges upon the maximum autonomy of the federating units and at the same time equal representation of the provinces in the central administration. Only complete autonomy will create the mutual respect and confidence among the different ethnic entities of Pakistan.
Unchecked illegal Immigration- a Mother of all ills
Sindh is already saturated because of continuos influx of illegal immigrants. There is no room left for more settlements. Further settlements indicate the conspiracy to turn indigenous people into minority. The fact is before 1947, the migrants constituted only 3% of the population of Sindh but now they are 30% including legal and illegal immigrants from India, Burma, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and other provinces of Pakistan. This problem is the greatest threat to our demographic stability, peace, and economic development. We believe that ethnic conflicts, terrorism, lawlessness, unemployment and poverty are the direct results of unchecked and illegal immigration in Sindh. This never-ending immigration phenomenon is a dire threat to the sovereignty of Sindhi people and existence of Pakistan.
We urge that this continuing massive influx of unchecked and illegal immigration should be stopped. If continued, it will result in serious political, economic and social upheaval in Sindh. Conversion of native Sindhi people into a minority in their homeland is not only a violation of their collective human rights, but it is a clear breach of covenant of Pakistan Resolution and international conventions on rights of indigenous people. These international covenants and laws on political, cultural and human rights, give Sindhis an inalienable right to be in absolute majority in their homeland. Any massive demographic alteration is immoral and illegal.
To check this influx of outsiders, the Sindh government should immediately establish a "Computerized Provincial Register for Domicile". This system will give a domicile number to every resident of Sindh and stop the illegal aliens in getting job and other services in the province.
Kalabagh Dam- a Construction in futility
Kalabagh Dam is yet another folly by the federal government. Punjab is mounting pressure on the federal government in favor of Kalabagh Dam, which is strongly objected by the Sindh and NWFP provinces while on this issue Balochistan is supporting Sindh. This dam is a disaster for Sindh's ecology and marine life. For short term relief federal bureaucrats are blinded to long term damage to the country and the smaller provinces. When the three provincial assemblies have rejected the project then there is no logic to continue this on behest of one province. W e believes that the Construction of Kalabagh Dam is tantamount to an open declaration of war against people of Sindh. Sindhis will never compromise on this issue.
NFC Award- a piracy of poor by the rich
Distribution of Revenues and grants-in-aid Order, 1997", is the distribution of public revenue between federal and provincial governments. Due to this order, Sindh has suffered an unjustified reduction in NFC Award when Sindh contributes the most in the federal revenues. Sindh has suffered a loss of Rupees 45 billion due to this unjust award. Sindh is getting smaller share in NFC award because the sharing formula has been changed in favor of the federal government. In other words, Sindh is getting 25% of divisible pool while generating more than 70% in the total revenues of Pakistan.
Motor Way-a road to distrust and division
The estimated cost on this motor way will be 32 to 40 billion of rupees. The cost analysis determines that every vehicle that will use this highway will have to pay rupees 300 to break-even. It is reported that the Pakistan government has decided to charge rupees 100 per vehicle and the government will subsidize the rest 200. Now who will have to pay for this subsidization? Naturally, provinces will have to cough up rest of the money. It has been well researched that the traffic between Lahore and Islamabad does not warrant a fast highway. It has been well documented that the bulk of traffic moves in lower Pakistan that is Sindh and its lower belt. Why build an unnecessary highway when it is not warranted by the current traffic flow in that part of the country.
We condemn the kidnapping of Pir Mazhar an elected provincial assembly leader in the broad daylight. It is a sorry example of statehood and governance. We are aware of the fact that when resolved, law enforcement agencies have caught the culprits within shortest period of time.
The continued abduction of Pir Mazhar is an indication of lack of interest by the government authorities. We are aware of similar incidents in previous regimes. But two wrongs do not make one right. We urge government authorities to take serious interest in resolving this case.
This body does not approve the so-called Water Accord which is nothing less than stealing of Sindh waters. Freezing of development projects in Sindh is in no way a moral tool of political games. These decisions directly punish people of Sindh and not any political party or a group.
Homage to Dorab Patel and Dr. Feroz Ahmed
The SANA Executive Council mourns death of human rights activists Rt. Justice Dorab Patel and Dr. Feroz Ahmed. In their demise Sindhi people and people of small nations have lost two of their best friends. Their contributions will always be remembered and valued by victims of individual and collective human rights violations.