Chair LOC Sarfraz Memon
Report Prepared by Aziz Narejo, President SANA
SANA annual conventions have lately achieved premier position in the gatherings of Sindhis living in USA and Canada. Members of our community look forward and plan well ahead of time to attend them. These conventions give us an opportunity to socialize and interact with our own, relive our ethos and our culture and introduce our children to our customs and traditions and our music, literature and poetry so that they would not forget their moorings. The conventions also provide us a platform where we articulate our feelings and aspirations for our folks back home and consider ways and means and take decisions on how to help them the best.
The 21st annual SANA convention (July 1-4) held in Washington, DC area was a great success and a watershed event on all the accounts. Be it the number of participants, the variety and the content of the sessions, the media coverage and the impact of the convention, the entertainment, music and cultural programs, the warmth, excitement and the sense of belonging and brotherhood among the participants and their willingness to come forward and help and contribute towards different programs – everything was exemplary in the true sense of the word.
We ought to congratulate the organizers of the convention and the participants for making it a great event for all of us. We are confident that the next convention to be held in the beautiful lake city of Toronto, Canada will be the best convention ever.
Here is a brief report on the 21st Annual SANA Convention held at the DoubleTree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center, Tyson’s Corner, Falls Church, VA:
July 1 (Friday)
One could feel the excitement and the spirit of festivity on arrival at the venue. People were greeting each other wearing big smiles on their faces. Some of them were meeting after long times. The registration desk was busy in its work. Participants who had already paid for the registration were collecting their registration packages that contained cards for breakfast, dinner and annual banquet, latest issue of ‘Sangat’, a beautiful calendar published by SANA Sindhi Language Committee, some gifts and other material. There were a large number of people who had not paid for their registration and were doing so now. It was so good to see a large number of people there already. It meant a huge turn out at the convention.
Later in the evening a joint EC-AC meeting was held and details of all the sessions and other matters were discussed threadbare.
July 2 (Saturday)
The convention opened with the General Body Session. President of the local chapter, Mrs. Yasmeen Memon welcomed all the participants. She said the local chapter and the convention organizing committee had made all out efforts to hold a great convention and hoped that the participants would enjoy the convention proceedings and would take home good memories. She then invited the EC members to come to the stage and start the proceedings.
Mr. Kohsher Ahmed, General Secretary SANA conducted the session presided over by Mr. Aziz Narejo. Qazi Mashhood was asked to recite the poetry of Shah to begin the proceedings. Mr. Kohsher invited Irshad Kazi, a former General Secretary of SANA to come to the dais and say a few words about Ali Shaikh of Los Angeles, CA who passed away recently.
Irshad Kazi spoke briefly about the departed soul who was a beautiful person, a great friend and an active member of SANA. At the end he asked the audience to join him in prayers for Ali and other members of our community who passed away during the past year.
Mr. Kohsher informed the audience that SANA has dedicated the medical seminar to the memory of our departed friend Ali Shaikh and SANA doctors were providing free cholesterol and blood pressure screening for the convention participants and giving out literature on fighting the heart disease and other ailments.
Mr. Kohsher made a detailed and well-prepared power-point presentation about the achievements and the activities during the current EC’s first six months’ in office. He said the current SANA EC began its term with expressing their gratitude to the former EC for the four most peaceful years in the entire SANA history and making a pledge that the new EC would try to find a path towards further strengthening SANA and making it a truly representative organization of all Sindhis living in North America.
He said the new EC started with holding monthly teleconferences to discuss important organizational matters and all the decisions were taken in a democratic manner. As the convention neared the frequency of the teleconferences was increased to twice a month and then holding teleconferences every week.
Mr. Kohsher said since the current EC believed in establishing and strengthening institutions to have a successful organization, it started with the formation of different committees. He cited the formation of the SANA Sindhi Language Committee, SANA Human Rights Committee, SANA Membership Committee, SANA Byelaws Committee and SANA Education Committee. He specially mentioned the initiation of the SANA Families’ Network and the appointment of Mrs. Fariha Riaz Ansari as its Coordinator. He lauded the efforts of Mrs. Fariha Ansari in running the matrimonial services as a part of it.
He said one of the major achievements of the current EC was its ability to create more involvement and participation of our community in different tasks. To prove his point, he mentioned that the membership to sanalist at the time of the current EC’s take over stood at 194, which had increased to 280 in a few months.
Mr. Kohsher highlighted the activities of various SANA chapters that included:
Elections held by SANA Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Chapter;
SANA Houston Chapter’s participation in the International Mother Languages Day;
A gathering in Houston, TX to observe International Women’s Day, (18 March);
SANA Houston Chapter’s Annual Get-together, dinner and music program (March 19);
Participation in a rally to observe International Action for Rivers Day in
Washington, DC and in a seminar in Los Angeles, CA;
SANA GTA Chapter’s Doctors’ session (April 2);
SANA LA Chapter’s Picnic (April 19);
SANA GTA Chapter’s welcome and assistance to new immigrants to Canada;
SANA GTA Chapter’s assistance to community members for the filing of income tax returns;
SANA GTA Chapter’s Annual Function that included dinner and music (May 21).
Mr. Kohsher also mentioned the concern that SANA has for the different issues facing our people back home. He specially highlighted the following activities:
Sui Rape Case: a petition created to call for justice to the rape victim. It received great response;
Arrest of Wali Mohammad Rahimoon: wrote to newspapers, world media and human rights organizations;
Torture and murder of Sindhi activist Samiullah Kalhoro: wrote to human rights organizations about it;
SANA holds a Press Conference in Houston, TX (May 15) to highlight various important issues confronting the people of Sindh. A large number of media men attended the conference;
SANA condemned arrest of Jam Saqi, his wife and also that of the PFF Chairman: wrote to press and human rights organizations;
Mai Mukhtaran’s case: SANA fully participated in a protest rally arranged by ‘Asian American Network Against Abuse of Women’ and Amnesty International in Washington, DC. SANA also issued press statement on the issue that was carried by press in Pakistan.
He mentioned that SANA has always been in the forefront of all the movements for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan and for achieving the water rights for Sindh, a just NFC award, autonomy for provinces, fair share in resources and the economic development. He said SANA supported the historic “Long March” from Sukkur to Karachi by Awami Tahreek and also the PONM strike call and Anti Greater Thal Canal and KB Dam Action Committee programs.
Mr. Kohsher also pointed out different other things like writing of letters to different sources on Sindh issues and the publication of ‘Sangat’.
He then invited other EC members to present their reports.
SANA Vice President Mr. Jamil Daudi spoke briefly on the arrangements for the convention and praised the local organizing committee for working hard to hold an entertaining and interesting convention. He hoped the participants would attend all the sessions and would enjoy them.
SANA Vice President (Women Affairs) Mrs. Surriya Panhwar talked about various activities of special interest for Sindhi women and Sindhi families in North America. She congratulated Mrs. Fariha Riaz Ansari on her good work as Coordinator of SANA Families’ Network and her work for matrimonial services.
She also gave a detailed report on a gathering held in Houston, TX recently to observe the International Women’s Day where a large number of women had participated. She termed the gathering a great success as she said it raised awareness about the issues concerning women. She said the gathering also discussed the expected role of Sindhi women residing in North America.
SANA Joint Secretary Mr. Taj Nizamani spoke on the importance of increasing the membership of our organization and giving emphasis on education and other projects in Sindh.
SANA Information Secretary Mr. Sarfraz Memon talked on the preparations made for the convention and hoped the participants would enjoy their stay in the US Capital. He mentioned his contacts with the local media.
He said his future goals would be to improve “Sangat” online and the web site of the organization.
SANA Treasurer Mr. Talat Talpur made an emphatic appeal to all the Sindhis living in North America to become members of SANA as it would show their concern and commitment for the organization and for our community and the common heritage. He said SANA had a membership base of around 1284 people. He had sent renewal notices to more than 800 people. He lamented that he had not received a good response from potential members.
However he delighted the audience by informing that two community members have become SANA Life Members raising the number of the life members to 40. The two new members are SANA Regional Secretary Zone 4, Mr. Saleem Langha and SANA Education Committee Coordinator, Dr. Abdul Rahman Soomro.
Talat Talpur gave a detailed account of the SANA funds. He said he had inherited an amount of $54,890.91. He had received contributions for an amount of $7,490.56. He said after meeting some expenses, the balance as 0f June 30, 2005 stood at $ 62,200.91.
In his report, Talat also mentioned the names of the people who had so far made contributions to meet the convention expenses.
SANA Regional Secretary Zone 1, Mr. Khalid Channa briefed the participants on the activities in his region. He agreed that there was a great need to increase the membership. He said he was making efforts to bring new members to the fold of our organization but he regretted that besides getting some renewals, he had only been successful to register two families as new members of SANA in his region. He pledged to continue his efforts.
SANA Regional Secretary Zone 3, Mr. Khalid Memon informed the participants about informal gatherings in his region and said he was making efforts to increase the membership in his area.
SANA RS Zone 4, Mr. Saleem Langha briefed about the activities in his region. He said SANA local chapter organized a picnic in Los Angeles where a number of families and individuals participated. He said he would increase his efforts for the membership and hold regional gatherings.
RS Zone 5, Qazi Mashhood spoke at length on the activities in Greater Toronto Area. He mentioned holding of elections in the GTA Chapter earlier this year and handing over of the chapter responsibilities to the newly elected EC and expressed his full support to them.
He said SANA GTA Chapter under his tenure as its president had arranged the shipment to Sindh of the medical equipment worth C$300,000. He also said that SANA GTA Chapter had received recognition from the Canadian government.
He informed the participants about the GTA Chapter’s Annual Function held in Toronto in May this year. He said more than 300 people had attended that function. They were entertained with music and other programs. He said during the function SANA’s pioneer member, Mr. Anwer Memon and his wife Mrs. Najma Memon donated two scholarships (worth C$2,000), which were given to two deserving students.
Mr. Qazi mentioned that at present all the SANA activities were limited to Greater Toronto area, which has the largest concentration of our community. However, he said a number of community members lived in other areas as well and soon new chapters would be opened in other places in Canada.
Issue of the membership fees in Canada was raised during his speech to which he responded that the new EC would look into the matter and a suitable solution would be reached.
He also said that SANA is a great organization and a lot more could be done for our community here and back home. His speech was interspersed with great poetry from Shah and Ayaz.
RS Zone 2, Mr. Ghulam Mohiuddin Morai briefed the general body on the activities in his region. He mentioned the Annual Dinner in Houston along with a music program, participation in the International Mother Languages Day, observance of International Women’s Day and other activities.
He also presented a detailed proposal to establish SANA Head Office and Cultural Center in Houston, TX. He had prepared a blue print for the proposed center, which was displayed during his presentation.
He pointed out the need for such a center and outlined its uses and benefits for the community. He said the center would consist of an office for SANA, class rooms to teach Sindhi language, a library for audio, video and published material and a hall to be used for community functions and also to rent out to meet the expenses to run the center. He said there was a demand for such halls in Houston area.
Mr. Memon said that the local chapter had identified few lots measuring 1-2 acres and their price ranged between US$35,000-100,000. To start the project a used trailer could be purchased. It would be used as an office, meeting place and for weekly language classes for children. Such a trailer may cost around US$25,000 and running expenses would amount to US$500-1,500.
Coordinator of SANA Sindhi Language Committee, Mr. Sajjad Siddiqui briefed the general body on the work of his committee. He said SLC had started teaching Sindhi through Internet and has received tremendous response from Sindhis all around the world. He said at present he was footing the entire bill from his pocket. He said he had also spent quite a substantial amount on the printing and shipping of Sindhi calendars that he distributed at the convention.
He also praised his committee members – especially Nusrat and Naveed Khowaja who had made it possible through their dedication and hard work. He regretted that they both were refused visa otherwise they would have been at the convention and would have told their story and launched Sindhi software that they both have programmed.
He said he would also mail the calendars to SANA members who could not attend the convention and would take some to Toronto convention next year. He said soon he would also distribute Sindhi greeting and Eid cards and stickers for kids. He also announced that soon his committee would produce a CD on learning Sindhi.
Bravo Sajjad!!! Great work!!!
Chairperson of SANA FAME Fund (Dr Feroz Ahmed Memorial Fund), Agha Zafar informed the general body that the program started in 1998 gives out yearly scholarships to deserving candidates in Sindh. He said that a total of 14 scholarships were given out this year. 12 of them were awarded to undergraduate students and amounted to US$250 each while the remaining two were awarded to graduate students and amounted to US$500 each.
He announced that two new scholarships would be awarded next year to two students doing research on Sindhi language and culture.
Agha Zafar made an appeal to GB participants to contribute funds to increase the number of scholarships. Mr. Anwer Memon of Toronto, Canada responded by announcing that he would contribute funds for ten scholarships. He also appealed to the participants to start a dollar-a-day program to help poor Sindhi children on the lines of some programs run by churches. His gesture was greatly appreciated. Mr. Ali Nawaz Memon also announced scholarships for two students.
Mr. Aziz Narejo in his presidential address thanked SANA members for using their democratic right and electing the current EC to serve the organization and the community. He also thanked the participants for taking their time out and coming from all over USA and Canada to attend the Convention. He hoped the participants would attend and enjoy all the programs.
Mr. Narejo outlined the major initiatives of the current EC for the remainder of their term. First and the foremost of them was to establish a head office for our organization. He said it was time that we had our own office where we can keep our records and also use it as a cultural center. He said we could have an audio, video and published material’s library, handicrafts center, a hall for meetings and workshops, class room for teaching Sindhi to our children and a hall that could be rented out. We could start temporarily from a trailer and later build a permanent structure. He cited examples how other communities have accomplished similar goals.
He also informed the general body that the SANA EC after a long debate had approved holding of SANA Sindh Convention. He said program for the Sindh convention was under active consideration and would be made public as soon as basic things were finalized.
Third initiative he said is to study the possibilities of starting a micro credit scheme to help finance artisans, skilled workers and others in Sindh to start their own businesses to stand on their feet.
He said SANA EC has also decided to explore the possibilities to establish ‘SANA Book Club’. It would publish books and audio and video CDs and cassettes and financially help writers and artists.
Another program is to initiate work on documenting SANA history. As a part of that program, Dr Mazhar Lakho had prepared a report. He would make a power-point presentation on it the next day.
He appealed to the community members to help and support these initiatives. “Without your help all these programs will remain just the proposals and would not be translated into reality”, he said.
He announced that SANA EC had established a ‘Dr Feroze Ahmed Memorial Award’ and the first award would be presented to Mr. Abdul-Majid Bhurgri for his outstanding services in the field of Sindhi computing. He said Mr. Bhurgri would make a presentation in Sindhi Literary Session and appealed to all to participate in that program.
He also mentioned that the medical seminar had been dedicated to our friend Ali Shaikh who passed away recently and SANA doctors were providing free cholesterol and blood pressure screening. He informed the GB of the speakers’ session and appealed for maximum participation in all the sessions. He wished all the attendees a great convention.
Ex-General Secretary SANA, Mr. Mohammad Ali Mahar presented 14 resolutions that were previously circulated on sanalist. Each resolution was read, proposed, and seconded and opened to the floor for discussion. In some cases, amendments were proposed that were either approved or rejected by a majority vote. The final text of the resolutions were separately posted on various Sindhi Internet lists and issued to the press by SANA EC.
At this point, General Body was called to vote on the SANA Head Office Proposal as outlined by Mr. Ghulam Mohiuddin. Mr. Khalid Hashmani objected to it on the ground that General Body lacked the quorum. Dr Mazhar Lakho said since General Body was in session and resolutions were just passed with a majority vote, it was in order to take a vote on this question. However the SANA president, instead of making it a bone of contention among the members, postponed the vote on the matter. He said the general membership may be asked to vote on the issue through postal ballots after posting and discussing the proposal on sanalist.
Invitation by SANA GTA Chapter to hold the next convention in Toronto, Canada was discussed by the General Body and approved.
It made the end of the General Body session.
Sindhi Literary Session:
Ex-General Secretary and a learned member of SANA Mr. Irshad Kazi moderated Sindhi Literary Session presided over by veteran politician, thinker, intellectual, writer and critic Mr. Rasool Bux Palijo. The participants of the program were Mr. Abdul-Majid Bhurgri, Professor Javaid Bhutto and marine engineer, sea-farer and prolific writer of travel books and columns Mr. Altaf Shaikh.
Mr. Bhurgri made an impressive power-point presentation in Sindhi and traced the history of Sindhi computing. He said Sindhi computing came into use in 1987 – 1988. It was around that time that daily Awami Awaz became the first newspaper to use computers. Daily Hilal-e-Pakistan soon followed.
He said advances in the computer field had made it easier now to use Sindhi computing for web-page designing, emailing and other purposes. He emphasized the use of Sindhi computing in Unicode so that the material could be stored on internet.
He announced that he had prepared a CD that has all the necessary downloads, fonts, etc. and could be readily used for Sindhi computing. He has downloaded Shah jo Risalo on that CD along with some other material. He also has put Shah jo Risalo and other material on his web site.
He appealed to all to use Sindhi computing to preserve and promote our language in fast developing world.
Professor Javaid Bhutto spoke on the Poet Laureate of Sindh, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. He concentrated on only one ‘sur’ and emphasized how Shah has sung his heroes/heroines or the ones who may not have been considered as heroes/heroines by others.
He talked of the metaphors used by Shah and also of the lives and ways of sea-farers that Shah has sung. He talked of the richness of Shah’s language and the vocabulary.
Engineer and writer Altaf Shaikh talked of the journeys of faraway lands that he had undertaken and the importance of knowing different cultures. He said he was extremely happy to attend the SANA Convention where he had met some old friends – some even after 30 or so long years.
Veteran writer and critic, Mr. Rasool Bux Palijo made a spell-binding speech on the history of Sindhi literature – especially Sindhi poetry. He spoke on Shah and his heroines – all women, he said. He also spoke on Ayaz and his poetry that galvanized a people.
Mr. Palijo traced the history of progressive Sindhi poetry since 1930 and highlighted the substance and the purpose in Sindhi poetry. He said the ‘awami’ poets of Sindh should not be discounted as they did not have a match in the sub-continent. He specially praised the poets like Sarvech Sujawali, Mohammad Khan Majeedi and Ustad Bukhari.
A former World Bank official and international development expert, Mr. Ali Nawaz Memon made a detailed presentation on the development and investment in Sindh. At the outset he compared foreign investments in Pakistan with other countries in more or less similar conditions. He said that Pakistan received one of the lowest amounts of investment in Asia. Talking on the share of Sindh in the paltry foreign investment in Pakistan, he said the poor image of the province in the context of instability and ethnic differences has caused even the most daring investors to shy away from our region.
Mr. Memon presented the poverty and growth charts and showed how the poverty has increased in Pakistan in general and in Sindh in particular. He said “today more than 50% in rural and 30% in urban areas live under the poverty level”. He said a recent confidential report showed that last year’s agricultural growth in Pakistan was 1.8%, in Punjab 2.5%, but in contrast, agriculture declined in Sindh by 0.1%.
He said polarization of bureaucracy on ethnic lines was one of the major hurdles in the progress and development of Sindh. In addition, the “law and order” situation was discouraging international investors to invest in Sindh. Bad governance was another factor discouraging international investors to Sindh or for that matter to Pakistan.
He said a lot needs to be done to attract investment to Sindh. He demanded of the Sindh Government to establish a “Sindh Board of Investment” in order to encourage the investment in health, education, and Information Technology (IT) sectors.
Dinner and Music Program:
Although a delay on the part of the contracted restaurant to deliver the food on time and a higher number of late registrants made the organizers panic a little, SANA volunteers led by able administrator Ashraf Memon saved the situation. The food was delicious and every one enjoyed it.
The music and entertainment program was outstanding. Young children’s fashion show and the dances arranged by local artists were fantastic.
Versha Manjiani, a young singer from London, UK. Iqbal Qasim from New York and Seema Kalwar enthralled the audience. The program continued late in the night with enthusiastic participants dancing on many numbers.
July 3 (Sunday)
SANA holds a medical seminar every year at the convention to impart knowledge to the participants on common diseases, their causes and preventions. SANA EC had dedicated this year’s medical seminar to late Ali Shaikh who succumbed to a massive heart attack a few days before the convention. He was an active member of SANA and was Chair of the Convention Organizing Committee at the 19th Annual Convention at Los Angeles in 2003.
SANA doctors at the seminar spoke on heart related diseases, their causes, prevention, care and cure. Dr. A. Sattar Shaikh of Kalamazoo, MI, (moderator), Dr. Saleem Khamisani, a neurologist from Florida, Dr. Murtaza Shaikh from North Carolina and Dr. Shabbir Shaikh, a Pulmonologist from Bellville, IL were main speakers. It was an interesting session with many questions from the audience answered by the panel of the distinguished doctors.
SANA doctors also arranged free blood pressure and cholesterol screening for convention participants. A large number of people benefited from it and were very appreciative of the service.
Address by a distinguished SANA lady:
At the end of the medical seminar, Mrs. Razia Memon was allowed as a special case to speak on women issues. She read a wonderful paper on the difficulties faced by Sindhi women in USA. It generated a lively discussion among the audience with a number of gentlemen and ladies speaking from their hearts.
Many among us would agree that one of the foremost responsibilities of SANA is to involve our youth in the community activities so that they develop an affiliation with Sindhi language and culture and also to prepare them to take the leadership of our organization in near future.
Keeping those goals in mind Sindhi Youth Association of North America was created in 1998 on the request of Dr Mazhar Lakho, president of SANA at that time. It was unfortunate that SYNA became dormant after remaining active for a few years. However everyone always felt the need to revive this extremely important organization of our youth. One of the several good news coming out of the recent SANA convention was that our youth decided to reactivate their organization with increased vigor.
The most significant thing is that the initiative this time has come from the youth itself. During the Youth Session, the participants also decided to create an email list and publish a newsletter from their own resources. Mr. Zafar Agha would be coordinating the effort
Women Session is also a permanent feature at our conventions. This is a session that SANA women look forward to attend. At the session this year, the women started their program with introductions with each other. Every woman introduced her self, her family and children. Later they talked on several social and community issues. Some games and entertainment programs were organized for the occasion. Gifts were distributed among the winners of the games and other friendly competition items. It was a very popular program.
This year a special program was organized for kids. Young of all ages participated in the program. It was an instant hit. Every one greatly enjoyed the program. A professional clown/magician entertained the kids with funny and magic tricks. Some gifts were also distributed among the kids.
This has traditionally been a very important segment of SANA annual conventions. We invite writers, poets, scholars, archaeologists, anthropologists, educationists, historians, intellectuals, politicians, human rights activists and other knowledgeable people to share with us their thoughts on the matters of their interest and expertise.
This year we invited Mr. Rasool Bux Palijo, leadership of PPP and PML-N, Ms Asma Jehangir and Mr. Abid Hassan Minto besides some congressmen and scholars from USA and Canada. Some of them couldn’t make it. (We were also going to invite Mukhtaran Mai if she had been allowed to travel abroad).
One of the main speakers in the convention however was a young American activist of Sindhi descent, Ms Aarti Shahani. She is co-founder of ‘Families for Freedom’, a New York based NGO working for the rights of immigrants. Invitation to her was meant to acknowledge and honor a fellow community member and also provide an opportunity to our youth to interact with her and become active in the local issues.
Ms Noorunissa Ghanghro moderated the session and veteran leader Mr. Rasool Bux Palijo presided over.
The session started with a superb power point presentation by Dr Mazhar Lakho on the history of SANA. It was an excellent effort to tell the story of the making of the largest overseas Sindhi organization that is called Sindhi Association of North America (SANA).
In his presentation, Dr Lakho briefly mentioned earlier efforts to bring together Sindhi immigrants in this part of the world. He mentioned the organizational effort in California in early 1980s by Dr Basheer Kherro and others and the activism of the Houston based ‘Committee for Restoration of Democracy in Pakistan’ (1983-1984) of which this scribe was an active member.
Dr Lakho mentioned some of the prominent community members who sadly are not with us today. He particularly remembered Dr Feroze Ahmed, Attorney Anwer Shaikh, Dr Badar Afghan, Mr. Ali Shaikh and others. He showed a copy of the rare letter of the earlier organization and many photos belonging to the faded memories.
The other main points of his presentation were the chronology of key events in the history of SANA and major contributions the organization has made to help the community members in USA and bring to fore the Sindh issues. He mentioned the meetings that the SANA leaders had held with ranking US Congressmen and also the financial and material help that SANA has provided to various individuals, institutions and organizations in Sindh.
All the participants appreciated Dr Lakho’s dedication and hard work to do an extensive research and prepare a document that would provide a basis of any future effort to write a history of SANA.
Senator Dr Akbar Khawaja in his speech urged the military to realize that a prolonged army rule was not only bad for the country but also for the military.
He disputed the government’s claim that it had brought prosperity to Pakistan, arguing that during the last six years life has become even more difficult for the ordinary people. He said the Musharraf Government’s policies were highly unfair to the provinces.
Senator Khawaja added that the present Pakistani regime was weakening the democratic forces in the country and strengthening the Mullahs. He called upon the US administration to expand its relationship with Pakistan by reaching out to the people and their true representatives.
He also mentioned the injustices suffered by Dr. Shazia Khalid and Mukhtaran Mai and demanded the restoration of justice in Pakistan.
Ms Aarti Shahani of ‘Families for Freedom’ was the next speaker. We had planned a separate session with her but due to time constraints we had to invite her to speak at the Speakers’ Session. She made an interactive speech asking the audience questions and making very lively comments.
She informed the audience about her organization and its work. She said her organization fights for the rights of the immigrants specially those who have no voice or any influence with the powerful lobbies. They are mostly the people who are facing deportation proceedings.
She said that about 1.7 million people had been deported from the USA in the last seven years. She said a recent trend shows that a large number of the deportees were of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origins.
Ms Shahani criticized the recent changes being considered by the US Congress to the “Bill of Rights”. She said these changes would make it almost impossible for non-status immigrants to get driver licenses and make it easier to deport even holders of Green Cards. She urged the people to keep themselves aware of the changes in the laws as they are likely to affect them directly or their friends and families. She urged the people to approach their Congress members and pursue them to vote against any measures that deny due process.
Senator Dr Abdullah Riar made an impassioned speech that was warmly received by the audience. He emphasized on making all out efforts to change the socio-economic conditions in Pakistan without which he said even democracy would not improve the fate of the poor.
“There may not be more than 1,000 people who control Sindh. About half a dozen people run an entire district. And these are the ones who have usurped people’s rights,” said Dr Riar.“Unless power was taken away from them and returned to the people, nothing will change,” he said.Dr Riar advised expatriates living in the United States to stay engaged with their home country. “Take time out, visit your native district. Go with your skills and your money. Start a school. Dig a tube well. Open a dispensary. Engage with the media. Try to affect the process of decision making,” said Mr. Riar while telling Sindhi-Americans how they can help bring about a change in their motherland.
He also recalled his days in Sukkur jail where Mr. Rasool Bux Palijo was also interned during those days. He closed his speech with reciting beautiful Sindhi poetry and calling upon Sindhis to hold their elected representatives accountable. “Never hesitate to question their claims and ask for proof that they are working for you and representing your interests”, he said.
Deputy opposition leader in Sindh Assembly Mr. Murad Ali Shah said he was representing Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto at the convention as she couldn’t attend due to her other engagements.
Mr. Shah presented an overview of the situation in Sindh specially the highhandedness of the central and provincial governments to political opponents. He said even though the central government had rigged the general elections in the country, it didn’t accept the results in Sindh and used all the tricks to deny the true representatives of the people to form a government in the province.
He criticized the bifurcation of districts in Sindh and said these moves were politically motivated. He said Sindh faced three major issues at this time. They were: Unjust NFC Award, Greater Thal Canal and Kalabagh Dam. He called for a just NFC award and a stop to the construction of the Greater Thal Canal which he said was illegal and immoral. On Kalabagh Dam he said his party’s stand was that no major dam should be built on Indus River without the consent and approval of all provinces.
Mr. Shah urged SANA members to become active on Sindh issues and said he agreed with all of the resolutions passed at the SANA Convention.
At this point ex-General Secretary SANA and a political activist Mr. Mehar Hussain Shah was asked to introduce the keynote speaker Mr. Rasool Bux Palijo. Mr. Shah spoke about the lifelong struggle of Mr. Palijo paying him glowing tributes for his steadfastness and the wisdom.
The audience gave a warm welcome to Mr. Palijo when he came to the dais. The veteran leader, writer, critic, intellectual and activist made a remarkable and a fascinating speech.
Some of the points he made in his speech as reported by press and various correspondents are as follows:
The present situation in Pakistan offers both challenges and opportunities.
Quoting Dickens, he said it is “the best of times” and “the worst of times,” because of the hard tasks that lie ahead and the opportunities for change that can be grabbed to deal with those challenges. At the same time, he pointed out that there is widespread resentment of and disenchantment with those who were ruling the country.
The poor people of the four provinces are in an identical predicament as they are struggling for their very survival. “The people of Punjab and Sindh think alike and are capable of living together. Our problems are resolvable provided there is the political will to do so. It is time to unite and face the oppressors together,” he added.
He said his speech is not against the people of Punjab as they will be with us if they knew the facts.
He said vested interests were at play to keep the people at a distance and rule the country at will. The moderates are trying to unite the people, and though still low key, efforts are underway to unite politicians in the interest of good governance and development, he said. He referred to Awami Tahreek’s recent “Long March” in which several political groups took part.As the political crisis in Pakistan deepens, it will solidify the unity of the oppressed and their struggle will gather momentum. He was critical of the way Pakistan was being governed. He was particularly critical of the MQM-led Sindh government, which, he said, is “corrupt and anti-Sindhi.” He charged that the Sindh government is following high-handed policies and there is no justice for the aggrieved. On the water issue, he said, Sindh is not getting its rightful share from the Indus, warning that with the construction of additional dams, the once fertile province would turn “completely barren.”
The shortage of water in Sindh had reached such a point that at places people did not have water even to wash their dead.
Depriving Sindh of its share of the Indus water was a criminal act which has caused disastrous consequences across the province. “Hundreds of thousands of acres have dried up, our sheep and cows are dying, in some places people don’t even have drinking water,” he said. “What our own brothers are doing to us is worse than what the British and the Indians had done.”
The falling standard of education in Sindh is a result of the deliberate government policy.
The government in collaboration with terrorists has embarked on a program to destroy Sindhis.
Mr. Palijo praised Quaid-e-Azam as a true secular leader. He said that soon after independence Mr. Jinnah made it clear that “there’s no religious majority or minority in Pakistan and all Pakistanis were equal citizens irrespective of their faiths.”The Awami Tahreek chief blamed Mahatma Gandhi for introducing religious politics in the Sub-continent, saying that it was his doctrine of ‘Ram Raj’ that encouraged Muslim leaders to bring religion into politics as well.
He said that today’s Pakistan is not the Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In fact, Jinnah did not want a separate country until 1946 and tried his best to have unified India. It was the selfish leadership of Indian Congress that forced his hands to opt for separate Pakistan. He said that the 1940 resolution called for sovereign and autonomous states and Mr. Jinnah supported that stand until 1946.
He said that the conspirators never stopped plotting against Quaid-e-Azam and bringing his end. They had virtually expelled Quaid-e-Azam from Muslim League when they planted a resolution at the behest of Liaquat Ali Khan that the Head of the State (Governor at that time) could not be the head of the Muslim League.
He said that since 1970, there has been no federation in Pakistan.
The National Assembly and Senate are bogus and a fraud with the people of Pakistan.
He said Sindh was being governed as a colony and added that there will never be a fair election in Sindh and Pakistan. Sindhis have no representation in any aspect of the decision-making process. They tried formally to destroy Sindhi identity and Sindh by creating one unit.
At the end of his speech, Mr. Palijo received a standing ovation.
SANA president’s press conference:
SANA president Mr. Aziz Narejo addressed a press conference at the end of the Speakers’ Session. SANA Information Secretary Mr. Sarfraz Memon and Regional Secretary Zone 5 (Canada) Qazi Mashhood participated in the press conference attended by the prominent journalists of Pakistani-American and Pakistan based media in Washington, DC.
Mr. Aziz Narejo briefed the media on SANA, its working and its aims and objectives. He informed them that SANA was a membership – based, democratic, representative and mainstream organization of Sindhi immigrants in USA and Canada. It holds elections every two years. It is secular in character and welcomes all the community members irrespective of their faith, belief or political orientation. It has members that belong to different political ideologies.
He said SANA tries to bring together Sindhi community in North America and holds regional gatherings and annual conventions. It is neither a political organization nor it is affiliated in any way with any political party or a group. It meets all its expenses through membership dues, community contributions and sponsorships from commercial enterprises (mostly pharmaceutical companies thanks to SANA doctors).
He said: “SANA supports a secular democratic dispensation in Pakistan and doesn’t want to see any military role in the civilian affairs. It is our firm belief that the four federating units of Pakistan should be treated at par and should have equal stake in the country. Maximum provincial autonomy should be accorded to them as that is the only safeguard against rather frequent military takeovers.
“We think that direct military rule or military dominated governments are against the spirit of a true federation – actually they are the negation of the federation – thus they undermine the stability and the integrity of the country. They have proved fatal for the country in the past and would harm it in the future.
“We don’t mind who governs the country – meaning that a Prime Minister could be from any province as long as he/she is elected through a credible and independent election and as long as the establishment or its agencies have no role in the process.”
Mr. Narejo said SANA demands that democracy should be restored in Pakistan and the military should go back to barracks and do their duties as enshrined in the Constitution.
He distributed among the journalists the resolutions adopted at the General Body Session and answered their questions about the present and future SANA programs and services for the community.
Annual banquet and music program:
The traditional Annual Banquet was held on the evening of 3rd July. As Mr. Ashraf Memon had superbly managed the dinner on the first night of the convention, Dr A. Sattar Shaikh excellently organized the Annual Banquet. The food was delicious and everyone enjoyed it.
SANA had invited four most popular young singers from Sindh for its annual music program but unfortunately none of them could get US visa. In the last moment efforts we managed to get popular artist Shazia Khushk from Sindh and vocalist Iqbal Qasim from New York. A young amateur singer from London, UK Ms Versha Manjiani came to perform at the convention on a special invitation. Local amateur artists Asif Talpur and Seema Kalwar also performed during the program.
Tableaus, children fashion show and dances by young artists enthralled the audience. Many attendees danced to the popular songs by Shazia Khushk, Iqbal Qasim and Versha Manjiani.
One should not forget to mention the “kalaam” and a “qawaali” sung by Dr Aijaz Turk. He is truly amazing!!!
The music program continued until the morning.
Award for Mr. Abdul-Majid Bhurgri:
As announced earlier SANA EC has instituted Dr Feroze Ahmed Memorial Award. The first ever award was presented to Mr. Abdul-Majid Bhurgri for his outstanding services in the field of Sindhi computing. SANA president Mr. Aziz Narejo presented the award to Mr. Bhurgri who made a brief acceptance speech urging the audience to use Sindhi computing.
Awards for the organizing committee:
SANA president also presented awards/certificates of appreciation to all the members of the local convention organizing committee for working hard to make the convention a great event.
Award for Ms Shazia Khushk:
SANA presented an award to popular artist Shazia Khushk for her great entertaining music and her efforts to popularize Sindhi music.
Barkat Ali Chohan presents award to SANA:
Mr. Barkat Ali Chohan of Rotary International Hyderabad presented an award to SANA for its great services to the community in North America and to the the folks back home. His gesture was greatly appreciated.
Dr Aijaz Turk, the official “faqir” of SANA took up his usual job during the break in the music program and fleeced many a participants to raise a few bucks for the organization to meet the expenses of the convention and other projects. SANA Regional Secretary, Zone 1, Mr. Khalid Channa presented him an authentic “Kishto” (“kashkol”) as a reward for years of unmatched and productive service for the organization. How successful he was this time, we will tell you when we receive the pledged funds.
July 4: ‘meetings are the beginning of the partings’
Finally came the day that we dread the most while attending a SANA convention – the day when we adjourn the convention and beg our leave from our friends and fellow community members with heavy hearts. The time had come to say good byes and make solemn promises to keep in touch and meet again at the next SANA Convention.
See you in Toronto, Canada: (June 30-July 3)
That is where the next big party will be held – in Toronto, Canada – the host city of the 22nd Annual SANA Convention. See you all there, my friends!
Resolutions Passed at the 21st SANA Annual Convention at Washington DC
The general body of the Sindhi Association of North America (SANA), during its 21st. Annual Convention, held from July 1 – 4, 2005, in Washington, DC, adopts the following resolutions:
Political Victimization of Opponents: The general body (GB) of SANA condemns the highhandedness of the ruling regime of Pakistan in general, and Sindh in particular. It is a matter of great concern that even a gentle soul like Jam Saqi is not immune from the terrorization perpetrated by the present puppet government in Sindh. SANA demands that all the political and other victimization must end in Pakistan and in Sindh and the people be allowed their birthright of dissent and freedom of _expression.
NFC Award: SANA GB demands that the distribution of financial resources be made on the basis of revenue generation among other factors and the policy of appeasement to one particular province at the cost of others be abandoned forthwith. The GB is concerned that by blocking the just award of NFC, the federal government of Pakistan is depriving Sindh of its rightful share of billions of rupees.
Priority to education, health: SANA demands drastic cuts to the huge military budget and diversion of funds to education, health and other social sector projects.
Provincial Autonomy: SANA is of the view that the provincial autonomy is the core issue in Pakistan and at the center of many ills in the country. SANA demands that the provinces be granted autonomy according to the 1940 Resolution.
Sindhi should be made National Language: SANA demands that Sindhi be made one of the national languages of Pakistan besides Punjabi, Siraiki, Pushto and Balochi.
Division of Districts and Towns: The SANA GB reminds the present Chief Minister of Sindh and his unpopular Sindh Government that their policy of dividing districts and town to benefit an ethnic group is harming the permanent interests of the people of Sindh. The GB demands that the policy to divide the districts, talukas and town on ethnic basis must end as it will create permanent split in the province and would be harmful for the peace and harmony.
Return to unadulterated Democracy: The SANA GB demands of the military government of Pakistan to return power to the people, who are sovereign and the real masters of their destiny. The GB observes that whenever there is a military government in power, it is always Sindh that has to suffer the most due to its non-representation in the armed forces. Even now a number of military officers, are occupying prized positions in Sindh, at the cost of Sindhi civil servants, and making decisions contrary to the interest of Sindh.
Just Distribution of Water: The SANA GB observes that while the towns in the NWFP and Punjab provinces are under the threat of submerging due to floods in Kabul and Indus rivers, not a single drop of water is flowing downstream from Kotri barrage, thus leaving Badin and other towns of Sindh in the worst kind of drought. It is due to the highhandedness and unjust policy of the masters ruling the country with an iron fist that hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile land in the southern Sindh are turned into barren, sandy marshes or taken over by the sea. The SANA GB calls upon the powers that be to abandon the anti-Sindh schemes of Kalabagh and other dams and stop the construction of Greater Thal Canal forthwith. The SANA GB warns the government of Pakistan that by continuing with these anti-Sindhi schemes, it is greatly jeopardizing the unity and integrity of the federation.
Unsafe drinking water: SANA is concerned that a vast majority of the people donâ€™t have an access to safe drinking water. Most of the sources of drinking water including the Indus River, canals, lakes and reservoirs have been poisoned due to the unprocessed drainage of human, industrial and agricultural waste. SANA demands immediate measures of the provision of potable water to all the people and compensation to the affectees of the RBOD and LBOD.
Land allotments to Military: SANA demands an end to the allotment of agricultural, residential and commercial land to the military personnel.
Justice through Jirga: The SANA GB condemns the new practice of endorsement of Jirga system by the government of Sindh in the name of reconciliation and settlement. The GB reminds the chief minister of Sindh that the Sindh High Court has outlawed such practices of deciding bloody feuds by non-judicial people; therefore, by encouraging jirgas he is committing the contempt of court. The GB demands of the government of Sindh to stop the illegal practice of Jirga system, continuation of which will greatly harm the civil society and take the Sindhi people to dark ages.
SANA condemns the government for hushing up the ghastly crime of rape against Dr Shazia Khalid, a lady doctor in Sui, Balochistan. It demands that an impartial inquiry be instituted and culprits brought to the justice. SANA also demands justice to Mukhtaran Mai and other victims.
SANA demands protection to minorities in Sindh and Pakistan and stop atrocities against them.
SANA expresses concern over the lawlessness in Sindh and Pakistan and demands immediate steps to establish the writ of law.
Sindhi Convention Calls for Civilian Rule in Pakistan
WASHINGTON July 4, 2005: The Sindhi Association of North America (SANA), which concluded a two-day conference here on Sunday, has called on the Musharraf government to “return power to the people of Pakistan.”
The gathering was also addressed by PPP Senators Dr Abdullah Riar and Akbar Khawaja. A message of good wishes from PPP chairperson Ms Benazir Bhutto was also conveyed to the conference by Sen Khawaja.
This was one of the 14 resolutions passed by the annual meeting, the 21st, which was attended by more than 600 members, including Sindhi intellectual and human rights leader, Rasul Bux Palijo from Pakistan.
Another resolution condemned the “political victimisation of opponents” and the “highhandedness of the regime” in general, and particularly in Sindh. “It is a matter of great concern that even a gentle soul like Jam Saqi is not immune to terrorisation perpetrated by the present puppet government in Sindh,” the resolution added.
The Sindhi gathering called provincial autonomy the core issue in Pakistan and demanded that it be given according to the 1940 Lahore or Pakistan Resolution.
SANA also demanded that the distribution of financial resources should be made on the basis of revenue generation and the “policy of appeasement” favouring one particular province over the others should be abandoned forthwith. It said by blocking the NFC award, the federal government was depriving Sindh of its rightful share. Another resolution demanded “drastic cuts” to Pakistan’s military budget and diversion of funds to education, health and social sector projects.
SANA demanded that Sindhi should be made one of the national languages besides Punjabi, Sirakii, Pushto and Balochi. It condemned the government policy in Sindh of dividing districts etc. to benefit a certain ethnic group, warning that if not abandoned, this policy would create a “permanent split” in the province.
Another resolution pointed out that while towns in the NWFP and Punjab were threatened with submersion on account of floods in the Kabul and Indus rivers, “not a single drop of water is flowing downstream from the Kotri Barrage, thus leaving Badin and other towns in the worst kind of drought.” Hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile land in Southern Sindh had turned barren, the resolution added.
It called for the abandonment of the Kalabagh Dam and the Greater Thal Canal projects because if completed, they would jeopardise the unity and integrity of the country. SANA also expressed concern over the lack of safe drinking water for the people of Sindh, pointing out that most of the drinking water sources, including the Indus, had been “poisoned” through unprocessed drainage of human, industrial and agricultural waste. It also demanded an end to the allotment of agricultural and commercial land in Sindh to the military. Another resolution condemned the “new practice of endorsement of the Jirga system by the Government of Sindh in the name of reconciliation and settlement.”
It drew the attention of the Sindh chief minister to a high court judgment that had outlawed such practices and reminded him that he was “committing contempt of court” by persisting with the jirga system. Another resolution called for justice to rape victims, protection to minorities and immediate improvement of the law and order situation.
Call for restoration of ‘unfettered democracy’
WASHINGTON, July 4: Politicians, scholars and human rights activists speaking at a two-day conference on Sindh in the US capital, demanded an immediate return to unfettered democracy in Pakistan. Arguing that the failure to do so could jeopardize the federation, Rasul Bakhsh Paleejo, the head of Awami Tehrik, also urged the government not to surrender all its options on Kashmir to India.
“Pakistan needs to keep some cards to negotiate a final deal with the Indians. If we give up all our options now, we will have nothing to negotiate with.”
Mr Plaeejo, who was the keynote speaker at the Fourth of July weekend annual convention of the Sindhi Association of North America, also criticized India for continuing to violate human rights in occupied Kashmir.
“The Indians do not have a principled position on Kashmir either,” said Mr Paleejo. “They took Deccan because it was a Hindu majority state and Muslim majority Kashmir as well because they say India is a secular state.”
Mr Paleejo also praised Qaudi-i-Azam as a true secular leader. He said that soon after independence Mr Jinnah made it clear that “there’s no religious majority or minority in Pakistan and all Pakistanis were equal citizens irrespective of their faiths.”
The Awami Tehrik chief blamed Mahatma Gandhi for introducing religious politics in the Sub-continent, saying that it was his doctrine of Ram Raj that encouraged Muslim leaders to bring religion into politics as well.
Mr Paleejo said that depriving Sindh of its share of the Indus was a criminal act which has caused disastrous consequences across the province. “Hundreds of thousands of acres have dried up, our sheep and cows are dying, in some places people don’t even have drinking water,” he said. “What our own brothers are doing to us is worse than what the British and the Indians had done.”
Abdullah Riar, a PPP senator, said that unless socio-economic conditions in Pakistan changed, even democracy will not improve the fate of the poor.
“There may not be more than 1,000 people who control Sindh. About half a dozen people run an entire district. And these are the ones who have usurped people’s rights,” said Mr Riar.
“Unless power was taken away from them and returned to the people, nothing will change,” he said.
Mr Riar advised Pakistanis living in the United States to stay engaged with their home country. “Take time out, visit your native district. Go with your skills and your money. Start a school. Dig a tube well. Open a dispensary. Engage with the media. Try to affect the process of decision making,” said Mr Riar while telling Pakistani-Americans how they can help bring about a change in Pakistan.
Akbar Khawja, another PPP senator, urged the US administration to expand its relationship with Pakistan by reaching out to the people and their true representatives.
Senator Khawja also appealed to the military to realize that a prolonged army rule was not only bad for the country but also for the military.
He disputed the government’s claim that it had brought prosperity to Pakistan, arguing that during the last six years life has become even more difficult for the ordinary people.
Murad Shah, a PPP member of the Sindh Assembly, said the PPP continues to be the largest party both in Pakistan and Sindh. He said that in Sindh, the federal government managed to bring in a minority government by arranging the defection of some PPP lawmakers. “But a government formed with such negative tactics cannot continue for long. That’s why Sindh is facing one political crisis after another. The present setup is destined to fail and it will fail soon,” he said.
Aziz Narejo, SANA’s president, read out the resolutions adopted by the conference, supporting demands for Sindh’s share of the Indus, return to unfettered democracy and end of political victimization.
The group demanded that the distribution of financial resources among the provinces be made on the basis of revenue generation.
SANA also demanded that the military budget should be reduced and more Resources should be diverted to education, health and other social sectors.The convention described provincial autonomy as the core issue in Pakistan and demanded that provinces be granted autonomy according to the 1940 Pakistan resolution.