24th Annual SANA Convention: Dallas/Fort Worth, TX July 3-6, 2008: A brief report
community leaders from Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
24th Annual SANA Convention: Dallas/Fort Worth, TX July 3-6, 2008: A brief report
Dallas/Fort Worth, TX was the venue for the 24th annual SANA convention.
It was for the first time that the DFW metropolitan area hosted a SANA convention. Our community leaders from Dallas/Fort Worth, TX area had presented a proposal to the SANA EC in Orlando, FL last year to hold 24th annual convention in their city. While they were making their case, a number of youngsters from the area present there promised that if SANA convention was held in their area, they will be involved in the effort to make it a great convention.
We are glad that we believed in them. SANA EC considered their and some other proposals and finally decided to hold 24th annual convention in the vibrant twin Texas cities.
Looking back one is happy to note that the decision to hold our convention in DFW was a right decision and the community members in the area proved beyond doubt their ability to hold a very well-organized and a memorable convention. Now we have one more venue where we would like to come back again and again.
The efforts started soon after the Orlando, FL convention. The SANA Convention Organizing Committee (COC) was reorganized and the DFW area community members formed a Local Organizing Committee (LOC). COC handed over a wish list to LOC to help it in the search of an appropriate hotel and guided it on other things. Monthly teleconferences started last year and were attended by COC and LOC members.
One couldn’t miss the enthusiasm of some of the DFW community members from the very beginning. The way they involved women and youth in their weekly meetings was a very welcome and encouraging sign.
LOC members visited several properties before selecting Westin City Center. Once the hotel was selected, focus shifted to other things: the food, initial fund-raising by LOC, finalizing the schedule of events, assigning resource persons and moderators to every session, making people responsible for different tasks, arrangements and management of the annual banquet, convention material, banners, gift items, printing of T-shirts to be sold at convention as memorabilia, invitations for guests and singers, packaging and publicizing the event and making efforts to make it a well-attended convention.
We decided to invite a versatile singer from Sindh Sanam Marui this year. We sent her invitation well in time and made efforts for her to get US visa but unfortunately she couldn’t. In the meantime, we had confirmed a beautiful voice from India, Ms Kaajal Chandiramani. As Sanam Marui’s visa was refused, we arranged for another singer from New Jersey, Stephen Diwan who proved a hit at the convention.
As we got close, frequency of our teleconferences increased. Towards the end we were holding teleconferences every week. We tried to finalize everything in time and were ready for the big event.
It is truly a premium event of Sindhi community in North America. People among our community look forward to attend it while some among our middle class, as a columnist has pointed out in a newspaper, save money for whole year to make it possible for them to attend SANA conventions. As the days get closer to the convention, one can feel excitement in the air. People start calling each other and making it known to their contacts that they would be coming to the convention and meeting each other there.
This year we had invited a very important guest, former acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice Rana Bhagwandas to be keynote speaker at the convention. He had played a historic and very significant and extremely courageous role in the aftermath of the military dictator’s March 9 action against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mr. Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Choudhry. People were excited to meet him in person and listen to him. And I must say no one was disappointed. Someone has said it right in one of his postings on Sanalist that he has never seen a more down to earth main guest speaker in any of SANA conventions before.
We had also invited PML-N leader, Ahsan Iqbal, PPP leader Nisar Ahmed Khuhro and PTI leader Imran Khan. The latter two couldn’t attend but a PPP MPA Imran Leghari represented his party at the convention.
As we were holding this convention with a heavy heart soon after the tragic assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed, we had dedicated a special session to her to pay tribute to her. Our DFW friends arranged a photo exhibition and memorabilia for the occasion. Efforts by Faizullah Abbasi and Munir Agha and some others in this regards were appreciated. Munir had used his calligraphic skills to scribe beautiful poetry of Shah Bhittai and posted it in the registration area.
By this time we had already decided on room allocations for guests and made arrangements for receiving them as well as seeing them off.
SANA warm welcome for Justice Rana Bhagwandas, other guests:
SANA members in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX area accorded a warm welcome to the great son of Sindh, the brave, the courageous and the upright former acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mr. Justice Rana Bhagwandas when he arrived in the metropolis on 1st July, 2008 to participate in the 24th annual SANA convention.
A number of SANA members with their families gathered at the DFW airport bouquets in their hands to receive our honorable guest. One admires the hospitality and the sense of duty of the members of the local organizing committee and the area SANA membership.
A Local Organizing Committee member Faizullah Abbasi arranged a dinner by the local attorneys in honor of Justice Rana Bhagwandas. A few judges also participated in the dinner.
The LOC members did very well receiving other guests from Sindh and India.
The efforts of the local SANA members were a befitting answer to the people who occasionally indulge in propaganda that SANA invites Sindhi guests to humiliate them. It is an untruth as we feel honored when our guests accept our invitation and travel from Sindh and elsewhere to attend our conventions and we do everything possible to give them all due respect. We have never in any way tried to insult or humiliate any guest. I am sorry if there have been any shortcomings somewhere in the past. But such lapses have never been intended.
Arrival of participants:
The convention participants started arriving DFW at least two days prior to the start of the convention. They met the local organizers and some of them volunteered to help in the organizational work. Most people arrived on 3rd July when the lobby of the hotel had some thing of Sindh in the air.
People were happy, some meeting after many years, hugging each other in traditional Sindhi style and shaking hands. Ladies, youth, children and others all had huge smiles on their faces that showed their love and camaraderie for each other and also for their organization SANA.
Registration desk was manned by DFW team with Nisar Hafiz as the head with several others helping him. Youth had a registration desk of their own and were helping the main registration desk as well as registering young attendees for the youth program that they had chalked out for whole two days instead of our traditional two-hour youth program.
It was very pleasant to meet the volunteers at the registration desk and the participants.
A joint meeting of the SANA Executive Council, SANA Advisory Council, Convention Organizing Committee and the Local Organizing Committee was held in the evening of the 3rd July. A review was made of all the arrangements and decisions were taken on remaining matters. A detailed map was drawn for all the sessions and moderators and resource persons were nominated. Some members were assigned duties to give protocol and take care of the invited guests.
These arrangements helped run the convention very smoothly without any problems at any stage.
The first day of the convention:
The morning two-hour slot was reserved for ladies and youth programs and informal greetings and networking besides the registration work which continued almost the whole day and even on the third day of the convention.
The ladies held a very useful and entertaining program. They introduced themselves to each other, made suggestions on strengthening our community organization and making it useful for community members in North America as well as our folks in Sindh. They also had some games and music and entertainment program.
Among other things, new coordinator of SANA Families Network, Dr Feroza Arif Memon introduced herself and made a presentation on how she would like to help our families in North America. She also appealed for cooperation from all the community members so that she could be more helpful to community.
The youth was very active at the convention. Shahzad hafiz was the main resource person for youth segment. They had their desks at the registration, were helping the main registration desk as well as registering youth for their two-day program. They were also selling T-shirts with SANA and the convention logos as memorabilia. They had two-hour music program the first night of the convention too where a local group played music. Shahmir Abbasi, one of the community youth, a talented son of Faizullah Abbasi is a member of the group.
It was a good idea by the local organizing committee to serve snacks during the lunch breaks both the days. This and the variety of restaurants inside the hotel complex helped participants remain indoors and attend all the sessions in good numbers.
General Body session:
SANA General Body met right after the lunch break. General Secretary SANA, Kohsher Ahmed conducted the session. He presented a report on the performance of SANA EC and various chapters since the last convention. He informed the members about various get-togethers and meetings arranged by different SANA chapters and also talked of the SANA efforts to stand by the people of Sindh in their just struggle for their democratic and human rights.
SANA Treasurer Talat Talpur and his wife Nicole Talpur were next to make a presentation on SANA finances and membership. He informed the audience that up to that moment SANA had 118 paid members while there has been addition of a new life member. (Later as I remember another person became a life member too). He also presented the pre-convention financial figures that included life member fees and FAME Fund part.
SANA president’s speech:
SANA president Aziz Narejo in his speech welcomed all the participants and thanked the active members of the EC/AC, Convention Organizing Committee, the Local Organizing Committee, ladies and specially the local youth who had worked hard to make it possible to hold a superb convention. He said ‘it is the love and the affection for Sindh, Sindhi language, Sindhi culture and the people of our land that brings all of us together at one place’.
In his speech interspersed with the poetry of Shah, Mr. Narejo said that SANA had come into being about 24 years ago to fill in the void, which Sindhi immigrants to North America felt in their lives being too far away from their motherland. SANA gave a platform to those Sindhis to get-together and keep in close touch with each other, try to help our folks back home and raise voice for their rights. ‘It also helps us maintain our close link with our roots and lets our children be in touch with our language and culture’.
He spoke generally of the present situation of our organization and said that the organization, good or bad was a reflection of our community in North America. He urged all the community members that instead of offering just negative criticism, they should come forward and lend their helping hand to strengthen SANA, which is a democratic and representative organization of Sindhis living in North America and has emerged as a strong voice for Sindhi rights.
He said he and the other members of EC had served the organization the best that could in given circumstances. They had at least tried not to harm it in any way and had jealously guarded its independence.
He said that ‘we were holding this convention with heavy hearts and in rather somber mood as a popular leader in Pakistan Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated on 27th December 2007. Sindhis in North America were grieved as much as our people in Sindh and others in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. We had held a teleconference for all community members in North America to express our condolences at the tragedy’. He said it was a heart-breaking and a calamitous event for Pakistan. It has had its serious effects already in the country and will have more serious consequences in the future.
He lamented that the present government had not taken appropriate actions to launch an investigation into the tragic assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed. He said the government has not even registered an FIR against the people nominated by Benazir Bhutto in a letter to dictator Musharraf based on her intelligence. He demanded of the government to immediately launch an investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and also that of Murtaza Bhutto and Shahnawaz Bhutto.
He said SANA strongly supports the struggle for unfettered democracy, restoration of judiciary and freedom of media in Pakistan. He said that since some people within the organization have criticized SANA policies on this account, he would like to seek a vote of confidence from the General Body on the subject.
SANA General Body unanimously gave a vote of confidence at that moment as members raised their hands.
Some members from the audience requested a vote to ascertain if any one opposed SANA policies on the subject. No hands were raised.
A resolution was also moved from the audience to express full confidence in the 4 years’ work and the leadership of SANA president. The resolution was also carried unanimously.
SANA president thanked the General Body for their expression of confidence in him.
Mr. Narejo in his speech also blasted the argument that Sindhis had no stake in democracy and restoration of judiciary was not a Sindhi problem. He said on the contrary Sindhis and others in smaller provinces would benefit the most if the country had democracy and justice.
He talked briefly of the role played by the keynote speaker at the convention Justice Rana Bhagwandas in the judicial crisis post-March 9, 2007 and also saluted the bench headed by Justice Khalil Ramday that reinstated the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. He said it was only the second time in the history of Pakistan that a superior court had decided against a sitting government. The only other example being of Sindh Chief court decision against Governor Malik Ghulam Muhammad’s autocratic action of 1954.
At the end of SANA president’s speech, Convention Organizing Committee chair Mohammad Ali Mahar presented the resolutions which were passed unanimously by the General Body. Some resolutions were proposed by the GB members Dr Aijaz Turk and Mr. Ali Nawaz Memon which were made part of the SANA Resolutions after seeking vote from GB members. (Resolutions are posted separately).
SANA bylaws committee chair Sani Panhwar proposed two amendments to the Clause 2 and 3 of Article V of the bylaws of the organization.
- Clause 2: State of Virginia to be made part of the Zone 1.
- Clause 3: the words “on the same post” to be added at the end.
As the amendments were being put to vote, Mr. Gul Agha asked to ascertain if the General Body had the quorum. The members raised hands to be counted and the General Body session was declared in order. Both the amendments were carried unanimously as no one raised a hand to oppose any of the amendments.
SANA Information Secretary Sarfraz Memon made a brief speech towards the end of the General Body session and spoke of the undue criticism of SANA and its office bearers by some people. He said that people should refrain from negative mindset and come forward to help our organization grow stronger so that it can serve our community in North America and our folks in Sindh better. He said that baseless allegations and chronic negative attitude of some people hurts the volunteers, the organization and the community.
Later members put some questions to EC and also considered and discussed some proposals regarding the holding of SANA convention on some other dates than necessarily the July 4th weekend.
Dr Safdar Sarki:
Fellow community member, political and human rights activist and general secretary of Jeeay Sindh Mahaz Dr Safdar Sarki attended the SANA convention after his release from the Pakistani agencies’ illegal confinement of over two years. He was warmly welcomed at the convention. A special segment was carved out for him at the last minute to hear his experiences as a victim of the enforced disappearances.
He spoke of his days in dark cell and the torture that he went through. His presentation was quite emotional at times and the audience felt the pain that he went through.
Dr Sarki also spoke on the political situation in Sindh and Pakistan and said that certain demographic changes are expected in South Asia and Pakistan will be the prime location of that change so Sindhis shall standup for the protection of their motherland, which remained an independent and sovereign land for centuries. He said that independent Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Pakhtoonkhaw was the only solution of the problem, the country was facing today.
It may be recalled that SANA had raised strong voice against the illegal confinement of Dr Safdar Sarki and had approached several congressmen to seek their help in his release. SANA had also invited his wife as a special guest during the Orlando, FL convention last year. She has spoken at the main guest speakers’ session in the presence of PPP and PML-N central leaders who had both pledged to take up Dr Sarki’s case in Pakistan.
During his speech, Dr Safdar Sarki thanked SANA for its efforts to seek his release.
SANA vision and responsibilities session:
his wife as a special guest during the Orlando, FL convention last year. She has spoken at the main guest speakers’ session in the presence of PPP and PML-N central leaders who had both pledged to take up Dr Sarki’s case in Pakistan.
During his speech, Dr Safdar Sarki thanked SANA for its efforts to seek his release.
SANA vision and responsibilities session:
Dr Maqbool Halepota conducted this very important session in an informal and a town hall meeting atmosphere. He introduced the theme of the session to the audience and invited comments. Several members spoke at the session and made very valuable suggestions.
Mr. Ali Nawaz Memon spoke of the necessity of helping Sindhis in the education sector. He called upon the audience to contribute for a scholarships’ program for at least a 100,000 students in Sindh. He promised to make contribution for the cause. He said that it is incumbent on Sindhis living in North America to help students in Sindh.
Dr Aijaz Turk reported of his meeting with ISRA Chancellor Dr Ghulam Qadir Qazi and the pledge by SANA Education Council to match a fund of $150,000 for establishment of schools in Sindh. He said soon we would have a channel to transfer the funds. Dr Maqbool Halepota is assigned a responsibility to make it possible.
Dr Maqbool also called upon the audience to help increase the membership of the organization. He said each and every of us should make a commitment to help in the cause. Several members made pledges to help in the effort.
A proposal to hold SANA convention at a different date than usual 4th July weekend was again taken up in this session. Several members took part in the discussion. As no consensus could develop, the matter was deferred for thorough consideration.
Education in Sindh:
A prominent educationist Dr Ghazala Rahman made an excellent presentation on the status of education in Sindh and eloquently spoke of what needed to be done immediately to help the students in Sindh. She also made a visual presentation regarding her work in various areas in Sindh. She said the education in Sindh, Sindhi students and educational institutions in Sindh were suffering greatly due to the unscrupulous policies of various governments. She called for immediate measures to end the degradation or the cause may be lost.
She also spoke on how Sindhi language schools, Sindhi Language Teachers and Sindhi students are suffering in Sindh especially in Karachi and other urban areas. She pointed out the closure of Sindhi medium schools and step-motherly treatment to Sindhi Language Teachers. She said the provincial and federal governments would have to change their attitude towards Sindhi and should make concerted efforts to promote education in mother tongue as is done in all modern and developed societies and countries.
It may be mentioned here that Dr Ghazala Rahman Rafiq is the daughter of an illustrious son of Sindh, a prominent educationist and former Vice Chancellor of Sindh University late Hassanally Abdul Rahman and sister of PPP leader and current Federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman.
Heritage of Sindh:
This session was very informative and one of the highlights of the convention. Archaeologist, anthropologist, writer and author Ishtiaq Ahmed Ansari made a splendid visual presentation on the current status of various archaeological sites in Sindh with emphasis on “Sindh jaa kot ain qila” (Forts of Sindh). He is a very knowledgeable person on the subject and has a number of publications to his credit.
He spoke of intricate designs and prominent features of various forts in Sindh constructed during different periods in history. He compared them with other such constructions elsewhere and spoke of the present conditions of our heritage. He called for intensive efforts by the people and the government to save our heritage.
Mir Haider Ali Talpur was other speaker in the session. He presented an excellent documentary on Mir’s Bungalow in Hyderabad and disseminated very valuable information on one of the very rich legacies of Sindh.
As mentioned earlier, a local band played for two hours during the first night’s music program. Shahmir Abbasi, a youth from the local Sindhi community is member of the group. The youngsters as well as others enjoyed the program. The group had prepared a Sindhi composition too which was greatly appreciated.
It was a very good experience to hear Stephen Diwan originally from Hyderabad, Sindh and now settled in New Jersey, USA. He is certainly a good addition to our community. One could see his love for Sindh, Sindhis and Sindhi music from his singing. He has an excellent voice and a good command over music. The participants thoroughly enjoyed his music.
One should not forget the mention of our respected community member, former professor at Sindh University Engineering College, Jamshoro, Mr. Abdul Raheem Abbasi playing ‘been’. It was truly a captivating and magical moment to listen to his enchanting music.
We are glad to have top notch physicians, surgeons, specialists and other medical professionals among us in North America besides business people, entrepreneurs, public servants, engineers, IT experts, sales people, health professionals, general help and workers and so forth and so on. That gives our community a very diverse look and makes it so vibrant.
As all segments play their due role in our organization and especially during our annual conventions so do our health professionals. They have arranged free scanning for convention participants and given free medical advice to them during several of our conventions in the past. A medical seminar is a regular feature at our annual meet. It is an occasion when our health professional speak on various health related issues and answer questions from the audience. It is always a very informative and interactive program.
Dr Abdul Sattar Shaikh conducted the medical seminar this year while Dr Ashfaq Turk, Dr Aijaz Turk and Dr Mazhar Khowaja were the panelists.
Dr Mazhar Khowaja is a renowned psychiatrist. He is a sought after and highly paid speaker at international conferences and seminars. His lectures are always very lively, entertaining, interesting and informative. He spoke on ‘time management’ this year. It was a superb talk and very good learning experience for the audience.
Dr Ashfaq Turk talked on general aspects of heart disease, prevention and cure. Dr Aijaz Turk and Dr Abdul Sattar Shaikh spoke on screening for cancer and other diseases. They answered a barrage of questions from the audience. That showed the interest of the participants.
Sindhi Adabi Session:
Sindhi Adabi session was held after the lunch. We had launching ceremony of a few books and a number of distinguished speakers at the session. Dr Professor Manohar Matlani of the University of Mumbai had traveled from India especially to attend SANA convention and present a paper at the Adabi Session. A Karachi-based renowned writer and author Syed Mazhar Jamil was here to speak at the session. We had also invited Washington, DC based columnist and writer Dr Manzur Ejaz and Karachi-based writer and columnist Nusrat Lashari to speak at the session.
Mr. Mohammad Ali Mahar conducted the Adabi Session. He invited Syed Mazhar Jamil, Dr Manzur Ejaz, Zulfiqar Halepoto, Ishtiaq Ahmed Ansari and Ali Nawaz Memon for the launch of their books.
Syed Mazhar Jamil has written a voluminous book “Jadeed Sindhi Adab: milaanaat, rujhaanat, imkaanaat”. It is an epic book and reviews history of Sindh, evolution of Sindhi literature and social and cultural aspects of the Sindhi society.
Zulfiqar Halepoto who had traveled from Hyderabad Sindh especially to attend and speak at SANA convention has written “America Yaatra” based on his trip to USA last year again to attend SANA Orlando, FL convention.
Ishtiaq Ahmed Ansari is a versatile writer and author of several books. He launched his book: “VoRium Sabh VathaaN”.
Dr Manzur Ejaz runs a Punjabi portal with a very rich Sindhi section. He has published Punjabi translations of Sindhi writers Amar Jalil, Nasim Kharal and others. He introduced two publications Amar Kahaniyaan and Mixed Grill translations of stories by the two Sindhi writers Amar Jalil and Nasim Kharal.
Ali Nawaz Memon a development professional and former World Bank official has written a book in Sindhi and English: “Sindh Sudhaar Sochoon”, “Sindh Development Thoughts”.
All the books were very well received by the audience. The authors briefly spoke of their works.
Dr Professor Manohar Matlani of the Department of Sindhi, University of Mumbai, presented a paper on “development and progress of Sindhi language in India”. He reviewed the history of Sindh and Sindhi language. Quoting Alberuni’s “Kitabul Hind” he said that Sindhi was official language of Sindh before the Arab conquest of 711 A.D. He said at that time Sindhi was not only a spoken language but was written too.
Later Arabic and Persian were made official languages of Sindh. Sindhi became official language again after about 1,000 years in the British rule when a new script was agreed upon and it was made incumbent on all foreign officers to learn Sindhi. All official work was done in Sindhi language.
Sindhi was taught in schools and a large number of books, magazines and newspapers were published during that period.
He said that Sindh and Sindhi language suffered losses in the aftermath of the partition of India in 1947 as immigrants came to Sindh and imposed their language over the province and on the other hand a large number of Sindhi Hindus had to leave their motherland and had to go through hardships to settle in a new environment in India.
After a great struggle many Sindhis established themselves economically in India but their language continued to suffer as they were scattered all over in India and the government there had approved two scripts for Sindhi (Arabic and Devnagri). Indira Gandhi government accepted the demand of Sindhis in India and made it one of the national languages of the country in April1967 but Sindhis couldn’t take advantage of the decision properly. They felt complacent and mostly ignored their mother tongue in their homes as well as in schools.
He said the advent of internet and satellite TV has helped Sindhi language in India. He called upon Sindhi writers to play their part in preservation and progress of Sindhi language. “They have to create a national fervor into the minds of our younger generation, and make them understand that only our mother tongue can make us stand apart from other communities”, he added.
He also spoke of the efforts of the Department of Sindhi, University of Mumbai in promotion of Sindhi language.
Syed Mazhar Jamil presented his scholarly paper on the “modern trends of Sindhi literature”. He overviewed the developments since the World War Two and movements and changes taking place in the sub-continent and in Sindh during that period. Going back into history, he said that Sindh was an independent entity even in pre-history period. Excavations of Mohen-Jo-Daro had given a sense of pride and confidence to Sindhis as they were made aware of their glorious past.
He said the movement for separation of Sindh from Bombay, the acceptance of the demand in 1935 and establishment of Sindh Assembly also rekindled the spirit of Sindhi nationhood.
He spoke at length on the evolution of modern Sindhi literature in 1940s and afterwards and mentioned many writers who had a great role in it. He said Sindhi literature made a huge progress in the period. Poetry, short stories, novels, translations and fiction were written and published giving Sindhi language new expressions and taking it to new horizons.
He talked of different periods and different set of writers during last 60 years. It was a real treat to listen to him.
Sindhi writer and columnist Nusrat Lashari spoke on the “culture of media in Sindh perspective”. She generally praised the role of Sindhi media including TV channels in raising awareness among the people on different issues and providing opportunities to Sindhi people to read, listen and watch different programs in their own language. She was however critical of the portrayal of Sindhi culture in TV dramas. She called upon the TV channels and writers not to stereotype the Sindhi society and show it in its true perspective in their programs.
KTN correspondent and broadcaster Sikander Baloch spoke of the progress made by Sindhi TV channels and the service they are doing to Sindh and Sindhi language. He said that when KTN started its transmission, it had to struggle against very heavy odds but today it was a popular and a very successful channel.
He defended the role of Sindhi media and said that they have played a positive role in taking up important Sindh issues like Kalabagh Dam, Thal Canal, NFC and others. He said Sindh has now its own media institutions and they would get better wit and do more in time.
Dr Manzur Ejaz spoke on “inter-cultural dialogue in Pakistan” in his mother tongue Punjabi. Audience heartily welcomed it. He said that since the inception of the country, the rulers had decided that the people living in different provinces should not be allowed to interact with each other and get together. Most of the ruling class had come from outside and they did not have any affinity with the local people.
He said to achieve their objective, the ruling class made Islam, Urdu and Army three pillars of Pakistan and if anyone criticized any of the three, he was declared a traitor and Indian agent. The truth is that the criticism of any of the three didn’t mean to be anti-Pakistan. That’s why when Bengalis rejected Urdu and demanded national language status for their language they were fired upon and killed and their blood finally gave birth to Bangladesh.
He said the other thing the rulers did was to promote Arabic and other foreign languages in schools instead of the mother tongues of the people. He demanded that the mother languages of the people should be made medium of instruction in schools and languages of other provinces should also be taught in the schools so that people can understand each other better.
Guest Speakers’ Session:
The ‘Guest Speakers’ Session’ was a major highlight of the 24th annual convention. We had two speakers in this session. Former Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Rana Bhagwandas delivered the keynote speech on the “Importance of Constitutionalism, Rule of Law and Independence of Judiciary” while PML-N central leader Mr. Ahsan Iqbal spoke on the “Supremacy of Constitution and Rule of Law in Pakistan”.
Mr. Mohammad Ali Mahar moderated this session.
SANA president Aziz Narejo welcomed the guests and spoke briefly on the significant role played by Justice Rana Bhagwandas during the judicial crisis last year. He thanked both the distinguished guests for accepting SANA invitation to attend and speak at the convention.
He also called upon the political parties in Pakistan to take a serious note of the massive discontent among the people in the smaller provinces Sindh and Balochistan and take immediate measures to remove their grievances and improve the situation. He said that mere political or public relations statements and superficial actions will not work any more. There is a need to conduct a thorough study of the situation and take steps to bring in a positive change, he added.
Mr. Narejo said that provincial autonomy was a major issue in Pakistan. He said that Pakistan was a federation only in name. Over-centralization of powers has resulted in a One-Unit system in the country where smaller provinces don’t have any say in the affairs of the state.
He said that ownership of the resources, just NFC award, equitable share in economic, employment and other opportunities and safeguarding national, political, economic and cultural rights of all the people are other major questions that need immediate attention. Political parties have to address these issues on war footing if they wanted to take everybody along in the country.
As he invited Justice Rana Bhagwandas to deliver the key note speech, the audience rose to its feet to welcome one of the most admired judges of Pakistan. It was truly a moving and an emotional scene as the participants expressed their respect and reverence for a noble person. They were on their feet for quite a while clapping for a very humble judge who had stood like a mountain in the face of the military dictatorship.
He started his speech in Sindhi with words of advice for SANA members, workers and volunteers not to lose heart to adverse and discouraging comments from some people and continue their good work. He also recited some beautiful verses from Shah Bhittai.
In his keynote address, Justice Bhagwandas said that the Constitution was the fundamental law, which had superiority over all the institutions it creates, be it the legislature, the executive or the judiciary. The institutions cannot go beyond the powers vested in them by the Constitution. In a Federation, the role of the judiciary, as the guardian of the Constitution, becomes a matter of central importance.
The superior judiciary, he stressed, is the judge of its own jurisdiction in all civilized countries. If Constitutionalism and Constitutional government are to survive, the judiciary should never leave it to the government of the day to determine how much judicial control it will or will not tolerate. This was its Constitutional duty and it was the part of a good judge to appropriately perceive his jurisdiction. A state of emergency, he warned, which is more contrived than real, can hardly provide an excuse for the destruction of fundamental rights and judicial powers.
He pointed out that there was no state-sponsored legal assistance system in Pakistan and access to counsel for advice on constitutionally-guaranteed rights and representations before superior courts might be affordable by a very few. Against this background when the courts themselves started taking notice on matters of public importance relating to the rights of the people, their gesture was unfortunately branded as “unwarranted judicial activism”.
Justice Bhagwandas said that the country needed a new view of the Constitution as the democratic source of the balance of power between the rights and duties of the individual and the state; between the legislative, judicial and executive organs of the sate and between the Federation, Provinces and Local Government.
He said: “The Constitution of Pakistan should be premised on the principle that the people are the real rulers and that certain rights are inalienable such as liberty of thought and expression, freedom from Government’s invasion of privacy, freedom from arbitrary confiscation of property, freedom from arrest without warrant, freedom of association and assembly etc. In short these rights would give rise to society with free press, wherein every person’s home is respected and trials are fair and where all the citizens enjoy their equal rights”.
In the question and answer session, he said that there was no need of any Constitutional package to restore the pre-November 3, 2007 judiciary. Replying to another question, he said that the lack of political will was the main hindrance in the restoration of judiciary.
His speech was remarkable and of historic importance. It was very well received by the audience who gave him standing ovation once again as he concluded his speech.
PML-N leader and Central Information Secretary of the party Mr. Ahsan Iqbal also paid glowing tributes to the Justice as he rose to speak. He said Justice Rana Bhagwandas should be declared “Mahatma” of justice.
In his speech, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal called for an immediate impeachment of Pervez Musharraf and restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Choudhry otherwise the military dictator would again emerge powerful which would be very dangerous for the country.
He said that the coalition had the number of votes in the Parliament to impeach Musharraf. He said any delay in restoration of judges and impeachment of Musharraf would push the country into a deeper and more dangerous crisis.
He said his party had quit the government only on the issue of the restoration of judiciary and it wants the coalition to fulfill its promise on the issue as soon as possible.
PML-N leader also demolished the myth that the politicians were responsible for martial laws in the country. He traced the history from the Governor General Malik Ghulam Mohammad’s action to dissolve the Constituent Assembly in 1954 to the martial laws of Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia and Musharraf and said that despots had taken all those actions for their own reasons.
Ahsan Iqbal said that the country faces a critical choice today. Political parties and the people have to choose if they want a democracy or they would allow the continuation of military dictatorship. Future of the country depends on the choice they make.
He said that he believed that his country had a potential to grow and people of Pakistan had a great opportunity to transform the society and bring back the nation to the right path through restoration of constitutionalism in the country.
In the question and answer session, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal said that PML-N accepts the rights of Punjabi, Sindhi, Siraiki, Pushto and Balochi languages and would support giving them national languages status. He said his party would include this demand in its program.
In reply to another question, he said Kalabagh Dam will not be constructed as Sindh didn’t want it. He made a categorical statement that any project, however important it may be should not be undertaken if it was harmful for the federation in any way.
Responding to a question on coalition with MQM, he said that PML-N stood by the declaration made at the All Parties’ Conference held in London last year that said that no political party should enter into a coalition with MQM until a probe is held in the May 12 Karachi massacre. He said if MQM was included in the federal cabinet his party may part ways with the PPP.
Speakers’ Session II
SANA EC and the Convention Organizing Committee had dedicated this session to pay homage to the martyred leader of Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. As mentioned earlier, the Local Organizing Committee and some friends had helped organize an exhibition of the photographs of PPP leader. This session, as other post-lunch sessions on July 5, was moderated by Mr. Mohammad Ali Mahar. I am grateful to him for contributing this report on the session:
“With a number of speeches, a moving poem, and a touching documentary, the session to remember one of the great leaders of our times, Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, was very well received.
The meeting began with a speech by Ali Nawaz Memon, who started off by reminiscing his childhood days, when he, along with his father and a brother, had the opportunity to dine with Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto and his two sons, Sikandar, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He called Shaheed Mohtarma his second sister, who had always been kind to him and listened to his advice carefully.
Nusrat Lashari, daughter of the famous journalist late Fakir Mohammad Lashari, and herself a journalist of renown, shared her views on Mohtarma and various aspects of her personality.
Zulfiqar Halepoto spoke about Mohtarma’s life and times. He gave Mohtarma Shaheed a lot of credit for her empathy towards poor Sindhi masses.
The impact of the beautiful poem, condemning killer of Shaheed Mohtarma, read by Saaeen Khuda Bux Seehar, a former educationist, could be visibly noticed on the attendees who looked totally moved by the poet’s masterful use of wordsmithery.
The youngest MPA in Sindh Assembly, Imran Laghari, who represents the martyred leader’s party, PPP, in the assembly eulogized Shaheed Mohtarma’s role in the struggle against autocracy. He spoke about the current government and the issues it has inherited from the past governments. Mr. Laghari defended the ostensible lack of good governance in the brief period of the current government and asked for some more time in order to produce results.
The session ended with a melancholy documentary on Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto by Dr. Mahmood Qalbani. The documentary touched many a tender heart so much so that some in the audience were seen sobbing. Dr. Qalbani was abundantly congratulated on his brilliant, though sorrowful, labor of love.”
Banquet and Music program:
SANA annual banquet and the music program followed the day’s sessions on July 5. But before I write anything on them, I want to make a special mention of our own Master of the Ceremonies Dr Rahman Soomro. He did a wonderful job last year in Orlando, FL and bettered his own performance this year in Dallas, TX. With an eye on the watch, he made tireless efforts to make sure that all programs started on time and ended as close to the allotted time as possible.
This year he put to use another innovative idea to have order and discipline during various sessions. To discourage the nuisance of cell phones during the speeches and presentations by our guests, he asked all the participants to either turn off their cell phones or put them on silent mode. He made an announcement that if anyone’s cell phone rang, he/she would be charged a fine, which will be donated to SANA. Most people listened to him and sessions went very well without any disturbance. But he collected some fine too from the people who didn’t heed him.
Our guests Justice Rana Bhagwandas and Ahsan Iqbal along with all other invited guests attended the annual banquet although Mr. Iqbal had to leave early. Dr Rahman managed the banquet very well which went very smoothly. The Dallas area ladies served the food which was not a bad idea at all. It showed their hospitality to the guests.
Our ever-smiling host Noorunissa Ghanghro conducted the music program filled with lots of laughter, fun, prizes, quizzes and of course beautiful songs by Kaajal Chandiramani and Stephen Diwan.
Kaajal had traveled from Mumbai, India to participate in the SANA convention and to be with the SANA community, which she says has become a family for her. She is niece of distinguished personality late Professor Ram Panjwani who had been known as Sindhi cultural ambassador and was a renowned singer himself. Professor Panjwani’s daughter and her husband (Kaajal’s parents) had also graced the occasion. Kaajal called her mother her guru.
It is a pleasure to listen to Kaajal, the versatile singer with command over the music and very good voice. She mesmerized the participants with her music and brought the lovers of Sindhi music to the floor to dance to her tunes.
Stephen is from Hyderabad, Sindh. Although Sindhi is not his mother tongue, he has great love for Sindhi language, music and culture and it showed during the program. He rendered beautiful songs that enthralled the audience. He had specially brought Sindhi caps and ajraks to distribute among the participants of the convention.
During the program, Dallas area ladies presented gifts to the participants selected through raffles. SANA EC presented mementos to invited guests. Justice Rana Bhagwandas had brought a few gifts from Sindh for SANA members which he distributed during a break.
Efforts by Dallas area community members, the local organizing committee and specially the youth and ladies were appreciated and they were called to the stage to give them recognition. The participants heartily applauded their work.
Some announcements were also made about coming SANA elections and about the venue of the silver jubilee convention. St. Louis, MO was declared as the tentative venue but as there were some serious suggestions about the change of the date, it was decided that EC will consider all the suggestions and will make final decision.
As nothing comes for free and we have to pay for all the goodies that come with a convention, we are blessed that we have Dr Aijaz Turk among us. I don’t know what we would do without him. You know what I am talking about. There came the time when he came to the mike and requested for donations/contributions for SANA and its FAME Fund scholarships program. We are grateful to the people who made pledges and announced their contribution. I would like to request all the friends to send their pledges as soon as possible.
Buddha had once said: “Meetings are the beginning of partings”. How true it is! We go to SANA conventions so happy, so excited, so thrilled and with so much enthusiasm but the time comes when it all seems to be coming to an end and happiness turns into sadness as the time approaches to say goodbyes to friends and acquaintances. That’s terrible but that’s the life and its strange ways.
With heavy heart we say adieu but take with us the memories of a wonderful convention that will keep us going for a while until we start all over again planning for the next meet.
Thanks and kind regards my friends. Please forgive me for any mistakes or omissions and if you have some time please send corrections.
Importance of Constitutionalism, Rule of Law and Independence of Judiciary Speech by: Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Supreme Court of Pakistan
“A century ago, pain had still to be taken for granted. It was regarded as inevitable even in the most advanced societies. Only a few optimists thought that humanity might eventually turn the corner to a painless future.” (J. M. Roberts)
It is observed that we are living a life in the time of challenge, tumult and change. Social and political events are unfolding at such a rapid pace that the present appears to have little connection to the past.
Philosophers have given their theories of the beginning of the state of nature. Rousseau said “Man is born free but is every where in chains”. Hobbes said “The life of man is nasty, brutish and short”. While Locke has something else to say “The state of nature has law of nature to govern it….Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or passions. Thus the law of nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others”.
These are different views on the state of nature and the origin of the social contract. These can be reconciled by returning power to the people over their own lives. There can be no progress without freedom; no freedom without virtue; and no virtue without citizens. If we create good citizens the state of Pakistan will have every thing they need.
There is a powerful relationship between rights and democracy. Rights entail the equality. Without democracy rights have no meaning more so in despotic Governments. Rights promote empowerment and emancipation of the people. Rights properly understood constitute a delicate balance between the individual and state. Judicial review by an independent judiciary is the key to retaining the balance of power between the citizen and state.
Power teaches responsibility and responsibility limits power. Pakistan, today, needs not only lessons in the rights of private persons but also their responsibility as public citizens. The country needs a new view of the Constitution as the democratic source of the balance of power between the rights and duties of the individual and the state; between the legislative, judicial and executive organs of the sate and between the Federation, Provinces and Local Government.
All this ought to lead to an environment where people would enjoy liberties.
State would ensure the security of the citizens and basic economic rights of every man, woman and child to food, clothing, shelter, education, health and employment opportunity.
The Constitution of Pakistan should be premised on the principle that the people are the real rulers and that certain rights are inalienable such as liberty of thought and expression, freedom from Government’s invasion of privacy, freedom from arbitrary confiscation of property, freedom from arrest without warrant, freedom of association and assembly etc. In short these rights would give rise to society with free press, wherein every person’s home is respected and trials are fair and where all the citizens enjoy their equal rights.
To achieve this we have to have a basic document in which these aims, aspirations, objectives and goals are written down along with an institutional structure. The Constitution, thus, is the fundamental law which has the superiority over all the institutions it creates, be it Legislature, Executive or Judiciary. The institutions or organs can not go beyond the powers vested in them by the Constitution.
In a Federation, the role of judiciary, as guardian of the Constitution becomes a matter of central importance. It is on this view of federalism, that doctrine of separation of powers is defined.
Judicial power is derived from the system of the division of powers and in exercising this power, the judiciary claims no supremacy over other organs of the Government but acts as the interpreter of the powers vested by the Constitution in the entire institutional edifice of the State. The judiciary, of course, has the power to hear and determine any matter or controversy which is brought before it. The superior judiciary is Judge of its own jurisdiction in all the civilized countries. If Constitutionalism and Constitutional Government are to survive, the judiciary should never leave it to the Government of the day to determine how much judicial control it will or will not tolerate. This is their Constitutional duty and it is best performed by adhering to the ancient saying that it is the part of the good Judge to appropriately perceive his jurisdiction.
The time has proved that the public opinion is for exerting and extending the jurisdiction of the superior courts. It is for judiciary to do its duty to defend the Constitution and not to allow the Government to degenerate into a police state. A State of Emergency, which is more contrived than real, can hardly provide an excuse for the destruction of Fundamental Rights and judicial powers.
The crude attempts like dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in 1954, the delay in holding elections under 1956 Constitution, the coup de-ta’t of 1958 followed by authoritarian rule, Martial Laws of General Yahya Khan, General Ziaul Haq and hypocritical suspension of Constitution by General Pervez Musharraf resulting in the perpetuation of his power hungry Government, were aimed at thwarting the way for a popularly elected Government and the administration of a democratic Constitution. An ambitious Government servant had the audacity to dismiss an elected Prime Minister and remove Judges of superior Courts at will and get away with his own statement that his action was extra Constitutional. Irony doesn’t end here, the hand picked judges not only let him off but certified that he was not at fault for his wrong action; it was the activism of the Supreme Court that compelled him to take such action and therefore the action was validated.
How much can one lament, the judiciary is guardian of legality, it means rule following reduction of arbitrariness on the part f officials. In the words of Bacon “Judges ought to be more learned than witty, more revered then plausible and more advised than confident. Above all things, integrity is their portion and proper virtue.”
What is justice after all? It is product of a Judge’s spirit and not merely intellect. Lord Denning says “the nearest we can get to defining justice is to say that it is what the right-minded members of the judges community, those who have the right spirit within them, believe o be fair.
Before I embark upon the subject of independence of judiciary, I must point out that under a written Constitution like that of Pakistan every citizen enjoys certain fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and enforceable through the superior courts. The question that arises in a country where the majority of the people are living in rural areas in condition of poverty, ignorance and oppression, is how many are really aware of their rights and how many of them have the means and the capacity to approach the superior courts for enforcement of their rights. There is no state sponsored legal assistance system in Pakistan and access to Counsel for advice on constitutionally guaranteed rights and representations before superior courts might be affordable by a very few. Against this back ground when the courts themselves started taking notice on matters of public importance relating to the rights of the people their gesture was unfortunately branded as unwarranted judicial activism.
An independent judiciary, ladies and gentlemen, is an essential pre-requisite for the survival of democracy itself, like a representative Legislature and an accountable Executive. In this day and age a representative democracy does not mean that people simply choose their rulers for a given term and abdicate complete authority to them to govern them the way they feel like. The elected representatives are merely the trustees of the people and all authority conferred is to be exercised for the benefit of the people. The Legislature must make laws within the limits set out in the Constitution, the Executive Government formed by the majority group of the Legislature must act within the framework of the law and the Constitution and all power has to be exercised for the welfare of the people. An independent judiciary is required to ensure that the Legislature has acted within the framework of the Constitution and not invaded the fundamental rights guaranteed to the individuals protected by the Constitution. It must also see that the Executive has not merely acted within the framework of the law made by the Legislature but it has acted honestly, fairly and justly and in the public interest in the exercise of its powers. The courts do not assume the powers of the Executive. Nevertheless, they keep a very strict vigilance over the exercise of such powers.
The concept of judicial review has expanded a great deal in recent times. It was necessary because a greater measure of accountability of democratically elected representatives was needed. Obviously it is not feasible to go to the electorate every year for seeking a fresh mandate and perhaps the only way to sustain a truly represented democracy responsive to the interest of the people is by ensuring more effective checks through the instrument of judicial accountability, transparency, of public affairs, a vigilant press and public opinion. Independence of judiciary therefore bears a direct nexus with representative democracy.
The Constitutional order in Pakistan which does provide for an independent judiciary has been disrupted many a times through military intervention entailing promulgation of Provisional Constitutional Orders (PCO) requiring judges to take fresh oath of office etc. However, since mostly the entire State machinery had acquiesced to the act of usurpation barring a few judges refusing to take new oath and the people did not seriously protest, the dictators were able to get away with their actions. The remaining Judges in this predicament found ways to confer limited validity upon de-facto rulers to ensure continuity by describing them as extra-Constitutional deviations premised on the doctrine of State necessity. They nevertheless, asserted that the courts would continue to have the power to determine whether a particular action legitimately fell within the four corners of the limits of necessity.
The November 3rd, 2007 PCO however, was fundamentally different. The sole target of the Proclamation of Emergency and the PCO was the judiciary itself. The high-handed action was taken due to the presumed apprehensions of the dictator about his eligibility to remain in power or not. He was fearful that his glory and splendour might come to an end. His misconceived hallucination was so awesome that he indulged in such an uncivilized action which resulted in destruction and demolition of entire judicial edifice of the country.
All rights and liberties would look like ornamental pieces if these are not enforced in the true spirit by the courts. A new thinking, new values, new projections and a positivistic out-look with a determined action are essential to build up a solid foundation of independent judiciary.
The discussion would be incomplete if do not speak a few words about Rule of law. Though, so far, we have covered the society, state, Government, citizen’s rights, obligations and usurpation etc. but this needs to be brought within the parameters of the Rule of law.
Rule of law is an aspect of the British Constitution that has been emphasized by A. V. Dicey and it, therefore, can be considered an important part of British political thought. The critical feature is that individual liberties depend on it. Its success depends on the role of trial by courts and impartiality of Judges. The rights of individuals are determined by rules and not the arbitrary behaviour of the authorities. Every one, regardless of his position in the society is subject to law.
Supporters of written Constitution believe that as Society has had its liberties, more and more encroached upon by the Government, the Rule of law is more important than ever. Constitution ensures the principle of Rule of law and states that the Government authority is to be legitimately exercised only in accordance with established procedure. The hallmarks to the adherence of the Rule of law commonly include a clear separation of powers, legal certainty, the principle of legitimate expectation and equality of all before law. This principle is also mentioned in Aristotle’s ‘Politics’, where the rule of law implies both obedience to positive law and formal checks and balances on rulers and Judges.
Thomas Aquinas defined valid law as being one that:
- is in keeping with reason,
- was established by proper authority,
- is for the purpose of achieving good,
- and was properly communicated to all
To sum up one can quote Montesquieu who said, “Law should be like death which spares nobody”.
The concept of Rule of law per se says nothing of the “justness” of the laws themselves, but simply how the legal system upholds the law. As a consequence of this a very undemocratic Government one without respect for human rights can exist with or without a rule of law, a situation which has been applicable in our own country in the past, intermittently, for several years. However, the Rule of law is considered a prerequisite for democracy, and as such, has served as a common basis for human rights.
I will conclude with a maxim as it states “It is not the severity of punishment that deters the crime. It is surety of the enforcement of law that deters the crime”.
All individuals must be given the same rights without distinction to their social status, religion, political opinions, etc.
Resolutions passed by SANA General Body
Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) adopted following resolutions in its general body session during its 24th Annual Convention, held in Dallas, Texas, July 03 – July 06, 2008.
Benazir Bhutto Shaheed:
Sindhi Association of North America is deeply grieved at the tragic assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, a prominent leader of Pakistan. It is a great loss to the country and the people and the void does not seem to be filled in near future.
SANA strongly demands that the present government of Pakistan initiate an independent and fair enquiry into the assassination of the great leader and unearth the forces behind it and apprehend the people who committed the terrible crime to bring them to justice.
SANA also supports the demand for UN probe into Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.
Restoration of Judiciary:
Sindhis in North America understand that a lot of valuable time and energies of the elected government that should have otherwise been spent on improving law and order, controlling the ever-increasing inflation, and creating job opportunities are instead being diverted towards the issue of restoration of unconstitutionally removed judiciary at the hands of a dictator.
The SANA GB demands that the issue be resolved immediately and judges removed through an illegal order should be restored without delay to pre-emergency position of November 3, 2007.
Impeachment of Musharraf:
The present government system in Pakistan can not be called a democracy as long as a former general continues to occupy the presidency illegally and unconstitutionally. It is time that the Ex-general is dislodged and made to face the law for the violation of the Constitution and other unlawful and criminal acts against the state and the people.
Whereas SANA general body holds the view that Sindh had agreed to become part of Pakistan on the promises made in the 1940 Lahore Resolution that formed the basis for the demand for Pakistan that provinces in the new country would have sovereignty over their affairs. It is an unfortunate situation that the principles enshrined in the 1940 Resolution have been ignored and forgotten by successive governments in Pakistan.
It is resolved that all the federating units in Pakistan should be given autonomy according to the spirit of the 1940 Resolution without any waste of time.
National Languages Issue:
Whereas SANA general body understands that the national languages issue is an important question facing the country. It is deeply regretted that the languages of the land have been ignored and not given their due status in Pakistan.
SANA is also of the view that Sindhi is a very developed language, which has remained an official language of Sindh even during the foreign rule. To reduce its level to a regional language is tantamount to playing with the sensitivities of the people who inhibit the area from time immemorial and have fought many a war to defend the sanctity of their language and culture.
It is resolved that the present democratically elected government should give Sindhi language its rightful status as one of the national languages of Pakistan along with Punjabi, Siraiki, Balochi, and Pushto.
Demolition of Old Villages in and around Karachi:
The SANA GB condemns the parochial administrations of Karachi and Hyderabad who are hell-bent upon demolishing the old Sindhi neighborhoods in the two cities in order to sell the precious land to the land Mafia and provide home to illegal immigrants. The GB also understands that the fascist acts of the Nazims of the two cities are in line with their party actions to ethnic-cleanse the major Sindhi towns of indigenous Sindhis and upset the demographic balance in favor of immigrant minorities.
SANA GB demands that demolition of Sindhi villages in and around Karachi be stopped forthwith and leases be issued to about 700 villages in question.
Demographic changes in Sindh:
Whereas SANA feels that several elements with vested interests have been working overtime to provide help and encourage the immigration of people especially from India, Bangladesh and other countries to Sindh with a view to change demography in the province. This would be a great source of upheaval and will bring strife and violence to the province and the country.
It is resolved that the government should check and stop illegal immigration into Sindh and all such people including a large population of Afghanis should be repatriated to their countries.
Control of Urban Institutions:
Whereas it is a matter of great concern that the control of Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), and other urban institutions that, in reality, belong to the provincial government, have been handed over to the City Nazim of Karachi who is a member of the anti-Sindhi racist mafia and notorious for working against Sindhi interests, and who has recently inducted 5,501 new employees illegally allegedly belonging to his racist organization to the KWSB, including 49 officers.
It is resolved that the government should reverse the decision of handing-over the KWSB and other Sindh government institutions to the City District Government of Karachi and return the control to the elected government of the province. SANA also demands the removal of all 5501 illegally appointed employees to the Board by the racist City Nazim.
Rightful Share to Sindhis in Employment and Economic Opportunities
The SANA GB demands that the ban on the employment in Sindh be lifted immediately and Sindhi youth be given their rightful share in 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.
SANA GB also demands creation of new educational / employment opportunities for old residents of Karachi in Kiyamari, Lyari, Maleer, Gaddap, Ibrahim Haidery and Gizri and launching of projects in these poverty stricken areas.
SANA condemns the previous government’s plans to give away Karachi islands to foreign companies that will dislocate the fishing community and deprive them of their sources of livelihood.
SANA demands that the Sindh government cancel such contracts and also stop the Defense Housing Authority of Karachi from harassing the fishing community in Gizri Creek areas.
Education and Learning Facilities for Sindhis in Karachi
SANA GB demands restoration of rural area seats in educational institutions of Karachi, such as, DMC and NED, eliminated during the 8-year long illegal rule of the military dictator and the city-based racist mafia.
SANA also demands the establishment of students and working women hostels at Karachi, Sukkur and Hyderabad for rural population.
Develop Sindh, Eliminate Unemployment in the Province
It is deeply regretted that successive governments of Pakistan and the province of Sindh have failed to launch any major projects in the rural areas of Sindh to improve the conditions of the large majority of the people. SANA demands of the present government to finalize an integrated development program for the rural areas in Sindh and implement it on war footings.
It is also worth a mention that while Sindh has the largest reserves of coal in the country, the governments in the past have been constantly dragging their feet in developing those caches of black gold in Thar. The Keti Bandar project which was started a long time before Gwadar and other such projects lies buried in the files of economic council. The slow work on Gorakh Hill project and other development schemes in Sindh, work on which could have resulted in creation of thousands of new jobs, clearly shows the federal government’s apathy towards improving the lot of the people of Sindh. Due to this lack of interest in the future of youth of Sindh on the part of Islamabad, the suicide rate in Sindh is ever increasing and those that choose to live resort of illegal means for sustenance which results in crime and lawlessness in the province.
SANA GB, therefore, demands of the federal government to start work on such schemes where the new jobs could be created and the potential of the brilliant youth of Sindh could be utilized in positive manner.
Illegal Water projects
The GB demands of the Government of Pakistan to stop constructing illegal water projects on the Indus River as according to the international as well as Sharia laws a river always belongs to the lower riparian people. The GB understands that the time has come for the government to close the chapter on all the mega dams and the Greater Thal Canal.
The GB also requests all the human rights as well ecological organizations to increase pressure on the government of Pakistan to refrain it from harming the ecology and people through illegal water project constructed to merely irrigate a few thousand acres of land in Punjab at the cost of millions of acres of fertile land and million of thirsting people for whom even the drinking water is not available in Sindh.
NFC & Distribution of Resources:
SANA is of the considered view that Sindh is being deprived of its rightful share in the resources. The GB demands that Sindh and all other provinces be made owners of all their resources and they should contribute proportionally to a mutually agreed and largely reduced federal budget.
Military and Politics:
SANA GB is of the view that the most of the problems in the country have been a result of the encroachment of the civilian sphere by the military establishment. SANA demands of the present civilian government to take immediate measures to end any military role in civilian affairs. The military budget should be drastically reduced and the armed forces should be made to perform their role according to the Constitution and the laws of the land.
Protection to the Minorities:
We are concerned at the news reports of maltreatment of minorities in Sindh. It is unfortunate that in the once peaceful and tolerant province of Sindh, the forces of bigotry and fanaticism have started rearing their heads. Even though the incidents of violence against minorities are getting reported in the media everyday, government seems to be completely indifferent to its main duty of securing life and liberty of every citizen.
SANA GB demands of the government to take concrete measure to ensure security to the life and liberty of minorities.
Rights of Women:
SANA expresses grave concern at the reports of maltreatment and denial of equal rights to women in the province. News of Karo-Kari, jirgas, abductions, rape and other such heinous crimes are very disturbing to say the least.
SANA demands of the government to take immediate measures to safeguard the rights of women and provide them equal opportunities in education and employment.
Victims of Enforced Disappearances:
It is the legacy of the military dictatorship that picked up a large number of peaceful citizens and put them in torture houses without declaring their whereabouts and any charge sheets against them. SANA demands of the present government to take immediate action to release such people.
Balochistan Operation & Akbar Bugti, Murtaza Bhutto Cases:
SANA demands an immediate end to military operation Balochistan and institution of cases against the forces responsible for the assassination of veteran Baloch leader Akbar Bugti.
SANA also demands an immediate probe into the murder of Murtaza Bhutto to bring the culprits to face justice.
Enquiry into May 12 Karachi Massacre & other acts of violence:
SANA demands an impartial enquiry into the May 12 Karachi massacre. It is important to enforce rule of law in the country and all the elements responsible for violence, murder, kidnappings, extortions and torture should be made to face the law.
SANA also calls for thorough investigation into the October 18 blasts in Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s homecoming rally, which caused a large number of casualties. The burning alive of lawyers and other people in lawyers’ chamber by terrorists should also be probed and culprits brought to the book.
Coalition with MQM:
SANA feels that the inclusion of MQM in the Sindh government is an insult of the will of the people of Sindh as they had given an overwhelming majority to PPP to form a government independently in the province and end the atrocities committed by the MQM during last so many years.
It is also noted that the people have serious questions about the role the MQM has played supporting the dictatorial regime during last 8 years and its involvement in violence, murder, kidnappings, extortions and other serious crime. The MQM is seen responsible for the May 12, 2007 Karachi massacre. PPP has been a signatory to a declaration by an All Parties’ Conference held in London that no political party would form a coalition with MQM until an enquiry is not held into the May 12, 2007 mayhem.
SANA demands of the present government to immediately end its unprincipled alliance with the MQM until it clears its name or answers questions about its condemnable deeds against the people in Pakistan in general and people of Sindh in particular.
Scholarship to Sindhi Students:
SANA is concerned at the apathy that consecutive governments have been showing towards education in Sindh. Inadequate funding and other constraints resulting from government’s indifference have forced many a school in the interior Sindh to closure and students of great potential to abandon their education due to poverty.
SANA demands the government of Pakistani government to make all the schools in Sindh functional and distribute at least one million scholarships a year to students in Sindh at school, college and university level.
SANA Convention 2008: expression of gratitude
We have been trying our best to hold meaningful, informative and entertaining annual conventions for our community in North America. We have worked on the content as well as the packaging of the conventions. I think we have held relatively good conventions in Washington, DC (2005), Toronto, ON Canada (2006) and Orlando, FL (2007). All of them were good but the 24th annual convention held in Dallas, TX July 3-6 was really an icing on the cake.
(The one very special and an important convention we held in Karachi, Sindh ‘A Pilgrimage to Sindh’, in December 2005 is a separate story and we don’t compare it with our conventions held in North America).
Anyone who missed the Dallas, TX convention truly missed a great community event in North America. We will be writing on it in coming days to report to you various aspects of the convention. Tonight I just want to express my gratitude to all the people who helped organize it.
First and foremost are the few active members of the Executive Council and the Central Convention organizing committee. The members of the local organizing committee deserve special mention as they did a marvelous job. Two of them Faizullah Abbasi and Sarfraz Abbasi deserve a lot of praise as they took upon them to call almost every one they could get hold of in USA and Canada to attend the convention. There were some other reasons for a huge turn out at the convention but this was definitely one of them.
(Talking of big turn out, I must mention that a sizeable number of Sindhi Hindu families attended the convention.)
The other local organizing committee members that worked hard and/or gave their support to the effort were:
- Nisar Hafiz
- Maqbool Mughal
- Dr Suleman Memon
- Saeed Hafiz
- Altaf Hafiz
- Masroor Brohi
- Saud Memon
- Munir Umrani
Although Umar Farooq Abbasi is not from Dallas, TX area, he was a part of the team and was a big help at the convention.
The youth did an excellent job at not only preparing a detailed two-day (not the usual 2-hour) youth program but also helping in the registration and other work. It were the help and the efforts from Dallas youth, Nisar Hafiz and his team that Talat Talpur and Nicole were seen as the two most relaxed people at the convention this year.
The youth also held a two-hour music program with a local band, one of our own youth being a member of that band. The active members among the youth were:
- Shahzad Hafiz
- Shahmir Abbasi
- Sanaullah Abbasi
- Nadia Abbasi
- Momal Umrani
- Rabail Umrani
- Feryal Umrani
- Sindhu Hafiz
- Sherry Hafiz
- Wafa Hafiz
- Becky Hafiz
- Rafil Abbasi
- Sumair Abbasi
- Shahrukh Agha
- Shayan Hafiz
- Momi Hafiz
Ladies were not behind and they also held a good and entertaining program, helped in preparations and managing different programs at the convention and preparing surprise gift packages to be given away through a draw during the music program. The active members among the women were:
- Shama Hafiz
- Farzana Mughal
- Almas Abbasi
- Nasreen Umrani
- Najma Abbasi
- Dr Feroza Arif Memon
I must have missed a few names but I am grateful to all of them and thank them on behalf of the EC, AC and the Central Convention Organizing Committee for a job well done. It was a team effort and they have certainly set up high standards for organizers of our Silver Jubilee convention next year and other conventions to follow.
I must also thank Rahman Soomro for his crowd and time management skills, Dr Aijaz Turk for raising funds and Dr Maqbool Halepoto, Mohammad Ali Mahar, Kohsher Ahmed and NoorunNissa Ghanghro for conducting various sessions. Thanks to Dr Mahmood Qalbani for presenting a touching documentary of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed and rendering a poem.
I am also grateful to our guests for accepting our invitations and traveling from far pavilions to attend and speak at the convention. I’ll talk about them in another mail.
Special thanks to all the participants for their attachment and love for Sindh, Sindhi language, Sindhi culture and their sense of one-ness and belonging to the community that attracts them to SANA conventions every year. One noteworthy thing this year was that the house was jam-packed during our main session and audience heard the guest speakers in pin-drop silence. Rahman Soomro didn’t have to do much at least in those sessions. For some other sessions his idea to charge $10 from anyone whose cell phone rang during the programs worked quite successfully.
Thanks to all and best regards,