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:
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.