Prepared by Khalid Hashmani
The Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) concluded its 3-day annual convention in Orlando, Florida, USA and re-affirmed its resolve to pursue rights of Sindhis in Pakistan and support the ongoing Peoples’ Movement for Freedom, Justice, and Democracy in Pakistan. The convention was held from June 29 to July 2, 2007 at the Grosvenor Walt Disney World Resort. More than 200 Sindhi families attended the event. They came from many US states, Canada, UK, and Sindh. This year’s convention held a particular significance as it was held in the midst of the Movement for Peoples’ Rights that many people believe is a defining movement in the life of Pakistan. In addition to hearing three political leaders of various political parties, the convention was addressed by legendary American Indian leader Russell Means who urged Sindhis to strengthen their resolve and struggle and never to stop fighting for their rights and for their unique identity. Other convention sessions included Women’s View, Youth Program, Education Programs in Sindh, SANA vision and Responsibilities of Individual Members, SANA General Body Meeting, Annual SANA Medical Seminar, Rivers For Life, and Sindhi Music Program.
FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2007
The activities on Friday, June 30, 2007 mainly included informal chit chat sessions held in small groups, Convention Registration, and a combined meeting of SANA Executive Council and SANA Advisory Council members.
WOMEN’S VIEW SESSION – SATURDAY, June 30, 2007 – 11:00 AM to
The day began with the morning session on WOMEN’S VIEW organized by women and mostly attended by women. The informal theme of the session was set as soon as the members started introducing themselves. One immediate point that received unanimous support and enthusiasm was that unlike previous years, the women would focus on talking about themselves as individuals instead of introducing themselves simply as wives of their male husbands. The discussions quickly moved to ways for strengthening networking among the SANA women members, SANA youth and SANA kids. The key take-away that emerged from the meeting was that the first generation in North America will soon have to pass on baton to the second generation. This is a big challege as the second generation has not received the same amount of immersion and knowledge about Sindhiat as the first generation. It is about time to think, plan and implement programs that will encourage Sindhi kids and youth to know more about each other and their heritage. This would also encourage young people to develop friendships and introduce potential life partners. The second theme that also received a lot of attention was the lack of interest on the part of women to become active in the community matters and SANA affairs. The fact that other than the same 2-3 women members are in the forefront is not very encouraging. The attendees were urged to take up responsibilities in SANA Executive Council and/or SANA Advisory Committee. Attendees thanked Adi SURRIYA PANHWAR and adi ZEB AGHA for their active roles in SANA affairs and assured that many more SANA women members will assume active roles.
SANA VISION, RESPONSIBILITIES AND FAME SCHOLARSHIP REPORT – SATURDAY, June 30, 2007 – 2:00 – 3:30 PM
Ada ZAFAR AGHA presented a detailed report on the activities of the Dr. Feroz Ahmed Memorial Educational (FAME) scholarships for the academic year 2006-2007. He informed that SANA awarded 37 scholarships to the needy and meritorious Sindhi students who are pursuing their education in various colleges and universities in Sindh and other places in Pakistan. The selection Committee received 168 applications. Out of 168 applications, more than 100 applications did meet the selection criteria. The following are Scholarship details:
- 3 – Postgraduate Scholarships in Social Sciences and Humanities – each $500.
- 2 – Postgraduate Scholarships in Sindh and Sindhi language Studies – each $500.
- 25 – Undergraduate Studies in Sciences – each $250.
- 1 – Undergraduate Scholarships in Sindh and Sindhi Language – each $250.
- 2- Undergraduate in Pharmacy – each 250.
- 4 – Scholarships to Students of Nursing Colleges – each $250.
The "SANA VISION AND TAKING UP RESPONSIBILITIES" session was facilitated by ada MOHAMMAD ALI MAHAR as Dr. Maqbool Halepoto could not attend the convention due to unavoidable circumstances. The following ideas and observations were mentioned in the session:
- We lack concrete programs and operate on non-specific and abstract objectives.
- Encourage new and younger people to become EC members by telling old guard EC members to gracefully retire and make room for newer members.
- There should be a limit on maximum numbers of terms a member can be on EC.
- SANA should focus on improving educational opportunities in Sindh.
- SANA must focus on strengthening "networking" of North American Sindhis.
- SANA should help in "political education" of Sindhis by publishing a booklet that explain basics of democracy, role of assemblies, importance of vote, etc.
- SANA must focus on the original mission and the eight- (8) objectives stated in the SANA charter with primary focus on advocacy actives on behalf of Sindhis.
- SANA should increase membership and each member should commit to introduce 10 new members.
- Invest SANA Reserve fund for Permanent Office to maximize return.
- Help Sindhi students individually and collectively who intend to pursue education in North America.
EDUCATION IN SINDH – SATURDAY, June 30, 2007 – 3:30 – 4:30 PM
Dr. Professor MUBARAK SHAH (Chair at University of Central Florida) on the joint activities that have occurred between the University of Central Florida, Mehran University and ZABIST. The programs have included providing advice to Ph.D. students, organizing short courses and conferences, and help in conducting research. He said one of the impedance to aggressively pursuing educational opportunities for Sindhis has been traditional reluctance among Sindhis to go to far way places to pursue educational and employment opportunities. This and lack of affirmative action programs are holding back Sindhi students from achieving the success that they are capable of.
Dr. Professor GHULAM QADIR KAZI (Chancellor of Isra University in Sindh) talked about the university and expansion programs that will create additional educational opportunities for Sindhi students. He said that Isra University was opened in 1997 and after 10 years it is now self-sustained. He announced that they are staring a new program and will open a school in each Taulka of Sindh. The detailed information about this program is attached at the end of the Convention Report. The schools will teach modern subjects including technology in addition to Quran and Arabic. He informed that the investigations and research that they have conducted shows that it would take about US 10,000 to start a school in a rented premises. The school will soon become self-sufficient as it will charge market-based fees with 10% set aside for free education to poor students. He proudly announced that SANA has committed to help. Dr. AIJAZ TURK will head a funds raising campaign with a goal to raise $ 150,000. Dr. Qazi also talked about another program focused on investing in the real estate of Sindh. He said their analysis has shown substantial return from real estate in Sindh, which is better than other investment options, and asked North American Sindhis to contact him for more details.
Ada SALEEM URSANI made an impressive presentation on the Educational foundation that he and other members of the family opened in 2003 in the memory of his mother. He said that the foundation is running a modern school in Qasimabad. The school is equipped with modern educational facilities including computer lab and has gained the reputation as one of best schools in the area. He appealed to attendees that a mere $ 5 per month in donation would go long way to help the school to continue to extend education to the children whose parents cannot afford fees. A very impressive documentary titled "Documentary Report on Village Miranpur Bheel Community" was shown as a part of this presentation. The documentary showed how residents of the village with population of about 2,500 pursued opening of a school in their village with the help of civil society organizations. Dr. MANZOOR MEMON, who started Sindhi Doctors Association in UK several decades ago joined Mr. Saleem Ursani in appealing attendees to play their part in spreading the light of education throughout Sindh.
GENERAL BODY MEETING – SATURDAY, JUNE 30, 2007 – 4:30 to 6:00 PM
Ada KOHSHER AHMED (General Secretary of SANA) thanked attendees, Aziz Narejo (President of SANA), and A. R. Soomro (Chair of the Convention Organizing Committee). He said this year’s convention was the first that was organized remotely without any local organizers. He spoke at length about problems faced by Sindhis including lack of employment and Kalabagh dam. He talked about the present crisis and how General Musharraf victimized Chief Justice. He praised Mr. Imran Khan (one of the leading politicians in Pakistan) for taking a strong stand against MQM for its part in the May 12 Karachi massacre. In talking about the activities of SANA, he cited monthly teleconferences of SANA Executive Council and lauded the work of various SANA committees. He mentioned SANA initiatives and participation in various rallies in support of the Peoples Movement for Justice, Rights, and Democracy. He also mentioned about the events that were organized by various SANA Chapters including Shah Abdul Latif Day in Toronto, Canada.
Ada TALAT TALPUR, Treasurer of SANA, talked about the association finances. He referred to the financial statements for 2006 that was published before March 31 of this year as stipulated in SANA bylaws. He urged every one to pay their fees on a timely basis and support SANA programs generously with donations. He said so far about 35 members have paid their membership fee since 1 January. In an answer to a question, he promised to provide an exact number of members who were in the "active (fees paid)" status. He said that about 100 members had prepaid their Convention Registration paying $6,456. As of now, SANA has 44 life members. He welcomed Mr. Khalid as the first Life Member in 2007. He said that so far about $ 3,048.83 were received in donations and expressed disappointed that only 65% of the amount that was pledged at the last year’s convention was actually received. He said so far in 2007, the expenses are about $ 17, 058.78 including $ 12,000 prepaid in various deposits to the Convention hotel.
Ada AZIZ NAREJO (President of SANA) appealed to every one to contact Dr. Aijaz Turk and pledge their donations in support of the Isra Taulka schools in Sindh. He said one of the key reasons for the lack of educational and employment opportunities in Sindh is because much of the decision-making power is retained by the central government. He said shortage of water has had a devastating impact on Sindh’s agriculture and that has worsened poverty in rural Sindh. He then said few words about the enforced disappearance of Safdar Sarki, a prominent American-Sindhi and SANA member. Mr. Narejo mentioned that wife of Safdar Sarki was specially invited to the convention and was asking for every one’s support in putting pressure on the Government of Pakistan and its non-law-abiding agencies to release him. He said that it is important for the first generation of American-Sindhis to take steps to ensure that the light of Sindhiat continues to shine in North America by the second generation. This is a special and difficult responsibility as our second generation depends on us to learn about Sindhi heritage and culture. He praised the contribution of Ms. Fariha Raiz in coordinating the family networking. He said we want to encourage young people to join SANA Executive Council and start preparing to play a lead role in the affairs of SANA.
The above speeches were followed by RESOLUTIONS session, where the proposed resolutions were tabled, debated, amended by a majority vote, and voted. In all 15 resolutions were passed, many of them unanimously. A report containing text of each passed resolution and the vote counts was circulated separately.
The session to debate proposed by-law amendments could not take place due to difficulty in ascertaining the total exact number of active members for the purposes of quorum and the required percentage votes requirements stipulated in the SANA constitution.
The Question-Answer session followed the Resolutions segment but the moderator cut short the session at 6 PM sharp, even though the next scheduled program did not began until about 10 PM.
MUSIC TALENT PROGRAM — SATURDAY, June 30, 2007 ? 10 PM to
The following remark from Dr. Nazia Junejo’s e-mail wonderfully summarizes the success of this session:
"The MUSICAL PROGRAM by the so called amateurs was delightful and entertaining. The way these ‘home grown’ singers performed, I am afraid they would be professionals soon and hence we would need to pay them toattend the conventions!"
YOUTH PROGRAM — SUNDAY, July 1, 2007 – 10 AM to 12 NOON
The scriber of this report could not attend this session due to another program and hopes that Irfan Jon Junejo, Sahrish Agha and Agha Zafar, who coordinated the program, would share their report of the event. However the following comments from Dr. Nazia Junejo’s e-mail on this session are reproduced below:
"One of newer addition to the convention was Youth TALENT SHOW. I think it was nicer being separate from the usual youth show. The children instead took the main stage and entertained us with their music, dance, art work, etc. This again was a good start. Hopefully with participation of more youngsters and with their own organizational skills, this will become an important seller of the convention tickets.
MEDICAL SEMINAR — SUNDAY, July 1, 2007 – 10 AM to 12 NOON
This year’s medical seminar proved to be a hit program with a very large attendance, interesting presentations, and lively discussions. Dr. SATTAR SHAIKH moderated session in a very interactive fashion, often interjecting with appropriate short comments and stories. The session was attended by more than 100 persons. In addition to the main speakers, a panel consisting of Dr. Rafat Ansari, Dr. Aijaz Turk, Dr. Ashfaque Turk, and Dr. Valeed Shaikh and other medical experts present, answered health-related questions.
The topic of Dr. NAZIA JUNEJO was "Diabetic Nephropathy" that focused on the broad category of Chronic Kidney Diseases, also called CKD. According to her presentation, one in nine Americans suffer some form of the kidney disease. One of the important function of kidney is to release hormones to blood that help regulate blood pressure, make red blood cells, and promote strong bones. Failure to treat kidney diseases in a timely fashion generally leads to heart problems.
Dr. MAZHAR KHAWJA (Assistant Professor, Wayne State University) gave a lively presentation on how to overcome fears and threats, set goals and achieve positive outcomes. The techniques he recommended included acquiring knowledge the area where the goals are to be pursued, measuring progress periodically, and taking one step at a time. In addition, he recommended simplifying and not complicating; accepting imperfections; and staying focused. He also talked about how to conquer fear of people and fear of failure. His concluding advice was that when you feel mentally tired, relax by engaging in physical activities and when you feel physically tired, achieve relaxation by doing mental activities.
Dr. SHAMA TAREEN (Assistant Professor, Michigan State University) spoke on "Epidemiology", known commonly as "Depression". She said that "depression" is a very common disease and it is thrice more common among women than men. It is not a "weakness of character" but rather a medical problem. She said that the chronic depression could lead to suicidal tendencies if not treated properly and recommended that family and friends should create a "network of hope" for a person suffering from Epidemiology. She provided a synopsis of her work in depression caused among women after giving birth.
In a lively Question-and-Answer session, questions about high suicidal rate among Sindhi youth in Sindh and lack of proper recognition of "depression" as a disease in Pakistan came up. The lack of educational, health and employment opportunities in rural areas and small towns of Sindh was determined to be the root cause of the high suicidal rates in Sindh.
Several younger people also participated in the discussion, particularly in the context of "communication gap" between the first and generations "desi" American families. There was consensus among several medical experts present in the session was that the desi-American parents should realize that it would be unfair to impose their point of view on their children. The send generation kids have a whole outside to deal with and live in, where the parental values are not necessarily sufficient to survive. The experts advised that desi-American parents should adjust their expectations and encourage open communications with their kids. If the children feel that their parents do not understand them, they will stop communicating with their parents.
The question of the quality and cost of medical care in the United States also came up. References were made to Michael Moore’s recent documentary "Sicko" and merits and demerits of having a national medical system to ensure that every one in the USA has the medical coverage. Dr. Khawja and others suggested that organizations such as SANA could organize a tour or arrange video recordings where Sindhi mental heath could help in creating awareness about mental health issues and finding local solutions for such diseases.
SESSION ON PRE-HISTORY SINDH — SUNDAY, July 1, 2007 – 2 PM to
In this session, prominent archaeologist Dr. Professor Paolo Biagi made an impressive presentation on his archaeological work that he has carried out since 1986. The title of his presentation was "The Prehistory of Sindh: New Data from the Last Ten Years of Research". Dr. Paolo Biagi is Associate Professor of Paleoethnology at the University of Venice, Italy. He has written 200 articles, mostly about the transition from hunting to farming in prehistory. He received a Ph.D. in prehistoric archaeology from the University of London in 1981. He has excavated in Italy, Sindh (Pakistan), Kuwait and Oman.
Dr. Paolo has carried out excavation work in three places in Sindh that include Sukkur/Rohri area (1986-1992 in cooperation with the Shah Abdul Latif University, Kairpur), Zunger (15 miles south of Hyderabad), and coastal areas and Karachi. His work is related to the Mesolithic sites in Upper and Lower Sindh and is of is fundamental importance to the study of the Early Holocene. Mesolithic also called Middle Stone Age refers to last ~10000 years of the Earth’s history which has been a relatively warm period in between ice ages. It is a period in human development between the end of the Paleolithic period and the beginning of the Neolithic period. The change during this duration involved the gradual domestication of plants and animals and the formation of settled communities at various times and places. Mesolithic cultures represent a wide variety of hunting, fishing, and food gathering techniques.
The characteristics of the stone assemblages indicate different chronological periods of habitation and the use of natural resources by the inhabitants of those times. The specific tools that have found from Lower Sindh and Upper Sindh sites indicate that many of the sites were settled exclusively for hunting purposes.
Most important discoveries were made on the Mulri Hills, just south of the Karachi University campus. These hills, which cover an area of about 7 square miles, are now highly urbanized. This is why all the prehistoric discovered between the end of sixties and beginning of the seventies have been totally destroyed. Of the great importance is the occurrence of topologically distinctive (thick) curved, baked points retouched from bladelets or bladelet-like flaketes.
The Rohri Hills extend in a north-south direction between the course of the Indus and cities of Sukkur and Rohri the north. In the south, they extend to the westernmost fringes of the Thar Desert.
It is important to note that a huge Acheulian site, very rich in bifacial tools, was destroyed in January-February 2001. No one conducted any rescue excavation. A few artifacts were collected by Professor G. M. Veesar of Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur and are now in it’s Archeology museum.
Apart from prehistoric sites, few historic settlements were also destroyed or damaged during the last twenty years. Among these are Seeraj and a Buddhist Stupa at Shah Shagar Ganj. These sites are not far from Aror, destroyed earlier.
His observations include use of the same "flint" for making tools, whichwas transported from Rohri Hills to Moen-Jo-Daro, coastal areas of Sindh, and right up to Harpa.
The "Joint Rohri Hills Project" ended in 2002 after so many important discoveries. But it could not put stop to systematic destruction. Repetitive appeals by Dr. Biagi, joined by Italian General Consul in Karachi, and the Italian government to the Governor of Sindh and the commissioners of Sukkur and Shah Abdul Latif University have not resulted in any action to stop the decay of these archaeological treasurers.
In an answer to a question, he said unlike the Harpa site, whose site conditions are excellent, the problems of water logging and salinity prevent deep excavations of the Moen-Jo-Daro site. In spite of this difficulty, based on his observations and knowledge, he believes that people that lived in Harpa and Moen-Jo-Daro areas were part of the same civilization with explainable variations.
SAVE INDUS RIVER SESSION- SUNDAY, July 1, 2007 – 3:30 to 4:30 PM
Three impressive presentations were made from experts who had specially traveled from Sindh to attend the SANA Convention and brief on the WATER issue that is having devastating impact on Sindh’s agriculture and livelihood of the millions people.
Ada MOHAMMAD KHAN SIAL , who has for years run an Internet-based international magazine focused on the opportunities and challenges of Sindhis, spoke on the "Role of media in publicizing the issue of human-made shortage of water in Indus River". He said since 1957, particularly during the regimes of Ayub Khan and Zia-ul-Haq, media had been very much controlled and governments were successful in keeping a lid on the news about building new canals and other techniques deployed to divert water upstream. He praised Sindhi newspapers, which have played a very diligent role in the later years to keep people of Sindh well informed about the Water Shortage issue and its causes. He said that the Indus Delta is the sixth largest in the world but was being destroyed because of insufficient water flows into it. He said that one of the major reasons for pushing large dams is that many leaders of present regime have little understanding about cause-and-effect aspects of dams and rivers. He sited one example, where General Musharraf receiving report on the intrusion of seawater upstream in the Badin area, said that this would not have occurred if the Kala Bagh dam had been built. He commented that how can you find right solutions when people in high positions are saying exactly opposite to what is truth. He further added that Urdu media has generally kept silent about the water shortage issue but Urdu-speaking journalists working in English newspapers in Karachi have highlighted this issue more vigrously. He appealed that overseas Sindhi organizations such as SANA, WSC, and WSI should jointly pursue the "Save Indus River" campaign and set an aggressive tone so that the present regime and any future regimes in Pakistan will not talk of any projects such as Kala Bagh dam.
Ada ZULFIQAR HALEPOTO made a very persuasive presentation by making effective use of slides. Mr. Halepoto is associated with Sindh Democrat Front (SDF) and has expertise in water and environmental issues. His articles on these topics and as well on the subject of conflict resolution are published in many Pakistani and Sindhi newspapers. He has published several policy type analysis articles on various topics including one that analyzed lack of performance by British Petroleum (BP) in fulfilling their commitments to the local people in Badin, where BP operates oil and gas fields. Mr. Halepoto said that the issue of water in Pakistan is a complex issue with both "technical" and "political" dimensions. He said that rights of lower riparian are internationally recognized. He said Sindh should be proud because no one can match the hard work and research done by its sons and daughters. He said having failed on the political front, General Musharraf few years ago tasked Mr. N. G. Abbasi to study and make recommendation on the Kala Bagh Dam. His advisors and had hoped that a Sindhi will find convincing reasons to justify the Kala Bagh dam. Mr. Abbasi carried out a world class study that showed that there isn?t sufficient water flow in Indus River to justify any large dams. He proved this case using the facts and figures that are published by WAPDA and other government agencies that support the dreadful dams on River Indus. He said that water is the fundamental right of people recognized in the United Nations Human Rights charter. He said a lot of Civil Society and NGO organizations have cooperated and helped people to understand the water issue and how it affects lives of common Sindhis. He thanked SANA and WSI and individuals like Altaf Memon, Aziz Narejo, and Khalid Hashmani in helping to present Sindh?s point of view and publicizing it as a Human Rights issue at forums such as World Bank and relevant UN bodies. He emphasized that the threat of the construction of the Kala Bagh Dam is real due to Punjab?s fears that India has many projects upstream on Jehlum and Chenab rivers and the water flow in those rivers would be adversely impacted by those projects. Punjab would very much like to repeat the trickery that did after the Indus River Treaty was signed with India. They wasted the money they received as compensation on non-effective projects and found ways to offset their liability of lower water by constructing huge canals upstream at the cost of Sindh. This time they want to construct the Kala Bagh Dam and associated two canals to hold Indus water upstream with devastating economic impact on Sindh. We must be resolved never to allow any large dams for Sindh will become totally depended on Punjab for its survival.
Engineer NASEER MEMON’s presentation contained tables of facts and figures showing how water shortage and other wrongful government policies have adversely affected Sindh. Mr. Memon is working as the provincial (Sindh) leader one of the major Pakistani NGO organization, which has won a large contract under the current US Aid education program to improve educational facilities and opportunities in Pakistan. Right at the outset of his powerful presentation, he called on SANA and other overseas Sindh organization not to hesitate in helping to internationalize the issue of Water as it is the life line for survival of Sindhi identity, language, and culture. He highlighted statistics on how lack of water in Indus River has affected Sindh’s agriculture, employment, and livelihood of people living in rural areas. He said that Indus River System is one of the largest of its kind in the world. It has 44 main canals and Indus travels 3,000 kilometers. He said that irony is that the three rivers that were agreed to be given for exclusive use of India under the Indus Water Treaty amounted to 20% of total water of all rivers flowing in Pakistan, where as India was only taking 9% from those rivers. This shows that the Government of Pakistan was not a good negotiator as they gave up more than twice to India than what was their due share. Dr. Memon added that the agreement was negotiated in the one-unit era without any consultation with Sindh. Pakistan used $ 475 million that was given to it in compensation to construct two large dams, several small and large canals, all in Punjab and no project was constructed in Sindh from those funds. He informed that contrary to what pro-dam propagandists say the Kala Bagh Dam involves holding of 18.5 MAF (6.1 for the dam reservoir, and two canals each of 6.1 MAF), a considerable portion considering the current water flow in Indus River. He explained at length the damage that has already been caused to the Indus Delta.
He said in 1950s there were 17 major active creeks and now only one remains active in Indus Delta. Where as about 85 MAF of water flowed in the delta then, now less than 10 MAF is released. According to World Wild Fund (WWF), Indus Delta was once sixth largest delta in the world. It had 263,000 hectares of mangrove forest in 1997, which is reduced to mere 80,000 hectares in 2002 and only 15% of that is in healthy state. Dr. Memon also gave a briefing on the situation with respect to the damage and destruction that is being brought about the faulty design of the LBOD drainage project that was funded by the World Bank and designed by WAPDA with help of some international consultants. The impact is so bad that even the World Bank’s own Inspection Panel has agreed that the project did not follow the pre-requisites in terms of the environmental assessment studies, design reviews, and adequate consultation with local communities.
The audiences were so pleased with the quality of presentations that they gave standing ovation to three speakers from Sindh.
POLITICAL GUEST SPEAKERS SESSION – SUNDAY, July 1, 2007 – 4:30 to 6:00 PM
Mr. Aziz Narejo, President welcomed the three guest political speakers and made a forceful case for supporting Peoples’ Movement for Justice, Rights, and Democracy in Pakistan. He said SANA supports this campaign and will continue to do so until the democracy is returned and the military returns to barracks. He advocated that the Chief Justice should be awarded noble Prize and the generals should be tried for treason under Article 6 of the Pakistan constitution. He said that military has built a corporate empire and created a mafia force in Karachi and destabilized political parties to justify their intervention. He said that this is not the time for any political party to make a deal with General Musharraf. He strongly demanded that the provinces be given full autonomy in accordance with the 1940 Resolution.
Mrs. BUSHRA AITZAZ, wife of PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan gave brief but to-the-point speech. She said as her husband has pressing needs to remain in Pakistan and to assist Chief Justice, she was representing him. She said people admire Chief Justice for standing up to the military establishment and refusing to buckle under the black mail from unelected and non-representative government. She said "unity of people" is the key for achieving democracy, justice, and rights. She said there should be no deal and there will be no deal with the military dictator.
Mr. AHSAN IQBAL (Information Secretary of PML-N) briefed on the current situation and said that Peoples’ Movement once again owes much to Sindh for its swift support of the Chief Justice. He said that the quick resignations of several judges and welcoming the Chief Justice to Sindh in large numbers in Hyderabad energized the Peoples’ Movement. He said Pakistan was not created to provide a model of military governance to the world. Pakistan is passing through a defining moment and the stage is set for deciding whether Pakistan will be a country where people will be the masters or military supported dictators will continue to rule. The battle for two visions is now being played in the streets of Pakistan. He said he admits that political parties have not performed well but there was no excuse what so ever for taking over by military as there were failures on the part of any political party that justified such actions. These justifications are nothing but smoke screen and the military takeovers occurred simply because the Army heads feared that they will loose their jobs. He urged the North American Sindhis to write to President Bush and their congress representatives to support the struggle of Pakistani people for democracy. He said lawyers and journalists have passed their test and now politicians have to pass a similiar test. He urged all political parties to work together and make joint decisions at the ARD meeting being held in London on July 7. He said if we stand in unity, General Musharraf will not survive for more than 60 days. He concluded his address by saying that he brings a message of good wishes from Nawaz Sharif for SANA members.
The President of PPP-P and ARD Chairman MAKHDOOM AMIN FAHIM Makhdoom delighted audiences by mostly speaking in Sindhi. Sometime he spoke in Urdu and English. He traced the history of military interventions and their adverse impact on Pakistan. He said such interventions have stopped the growth of all democratic and judicial institutions. He said that 1973 constitution reflects the sentiments of the people of Pakistan. While admitting the political mistakes of PPP in early years and praising Z. A. Bhutto’s actions against such mistakes, he was confronted by a lady member of audience. The lady member challenged Makhdoom sahib and said that Z. A. Bhutto went out of way to ensure that he was elected unopposed and gave the example of her father who were coerced into withdrawing his candidacy. Mr. Makhdoom continued and said that misdeeds of Zia ul Haq still haunt Pakistan and the country has not fully recovered from it. He said that situation is such that Pakistanis are overwhelmingly rejecting military rule and there is a good chance that we will get rid of the military’s intervention in the political affairs of the country. He clarified that the government agents have spread the rumors that PPP is making a deal with General Musharraf and said that PPP’s deal is only with Pakistan’s people. He said PPP recognizes the need for greater provincial autonomy and will come up with a solution together with other political parties on the platform of ARD.
BANQUET and DINER SPEAKER – SUNDAY, July 1, 2007 – 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Mr. Aziz Narejo introduced prominent American Indian Leader and Hollywood actor Russell Means, as the keynote speaker. He said that Dr. Russell Means is the best known living American Indian leader. Dr. Means was among the Indian activists including his father "Hank Means," who occupied San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island in 1964 lasting 19 months. He became first national director of the American Indian Movement in 1970 and has been active in the American Indian Movement (AIM) since then. Dr. Means was one of the leaders of AIM’s takeover of Mount Rushton, Bureau of Indian Affairs and led occupation of Wounded Knee. He played the title role in the film: "The Last of the Mohicans" released in 1992. He has starred in several movies since then. He is an author, an artist, a music writer and a life-long indigenous rights/constitutional rights activist. He has traveled and lectured extensively throughout the world while working for over 12 years with the United Nations. Dr. Means and his wife Pearl are currently building "Treaty Total Immersion School" on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Dr. RUSSELL MEANS started his address with greetings in an American Indian language. The greeting was a prayer of friendship to the hosts of the evening (Sindhi people). He said that he still follows the great American Indian traditions in his daily life. He complaint that it is ironic that American Indians cannot say their prayers in traditional way in America. They have to first get permit for performing their prayer in traditional way. He said the last name of Christopher Columbus was Colon and the word colonization comes from his last name. In fact, he did not discover America, but rather we discovered him as he was lost. He remarked that American Indian were the first slaves in Northern Hemisphere, when Christopher Colon, who was a slave trader, took several American Indians and presented to the Queen of Spain as slaves. He criticized the US government as aggressive since they have been involved every year in bombing some country. He said that he has studied the situation of Sindhis and can see that like American Indian, Sindhis too are becoming refugees in their own land. He said that the concept of individual liberty through representative government comes from the 6th nation of Iroquois, who mainly live in the New York State and yet white man calls our culture as primitive.. Also American Indians introduced the concept of zero (0) to the world. He said that American Indians build their halls from stone using sophisticated engineering techniques and yet they were conquered because like Sindhis they too believed in tolerance and peace. He shocked many attendees when he that 97.3% of American Indians were decimated by the time Europeans completed their conquest of America. He said "now we live in what are actually concentration camps but they call them Reservations". In concluding his address he said that he and his wife now dedicate much of their time to the preservation of American Indian culture. They have started a "total immersion" school that teaches children to learn and live the American Indian way of life.
Before the dinner started, Dr. Russell Means and Dr. Paolo Biagi were presented traditional Sindhi Ajrak and cap as a token of their gratitude for sharing their point of views at the 23rd SANA Convention. It was also announced that the next year’s SANA convention would be held in Dallas, Texas. The dinner was delicious with several dishes and every one enjoyed the well-prepared and well-deserved dinner.
SINDHI MUSIC PROGRAM – SUNDAY, July 1, 2007 – 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM
The following remark from Dr. Nazia Junejo’s e-mail wonderfully summarizes the success of this session:
"Kajal Chandiramani from India was superb! She sang many oldies of Runa Laila, Mai Bhagi and some newer songs of Abida Parveen amongst others. She sang so beautifully that even a couple of Hindi songs slipped by with huge applause. The small children and never ending ‘discussions’ amongst some adult groups did interrupt the FLOW of music somewhat. This does speak about our nature as a community – just some food for thought."
ISRA roadmap for improving education in Sindh
All the districts have met the same fate as NAWAB SHAH.
Let us CRY for mother SINDH
Do you feel GUILTY!! JOIN the rescue team URGENTLY
Join the EDUCATION ROAD MAP
The summary of Road Map is as follows:
Curriculum: Generally the curriculum will be followed of the gov.ernment with some modifications. The emphasis will be given on Quranic education. Primary education will be imparted in mother tongue but Maths and Science subjects will be taught in English from class III. English will start from Nursery.
Training: Appointed teachers will be trained in the Isra Institute of Education.
- Administrative: The Director of the Institute will be responsible for opening and functioning of schools, recruitment, training and all other academic activities. He will be assisted by Coordinator Education and Training.
- Financial: Initially if we raise Rs. 3.00 million per school to buy land (Rs. 1.00 million), we can construct 6 rooms, Library and Principal’s office, verandah and wash room (Rs. 1.6 million) and reserve Rs. 0.4 for initial expenses of the first year. The school will be able to run and complete construction from its resources in 7 years and graduate 30 students every year in every school.
Six schools in each year means fund raising of Rs. 20.00 millions each year. Isra will contribute Rs. 10.00 millions and 10.00 millions to be raised by overseas friends. ($ 1200/- member/ year x 200 members x 61 = 14.6 millions say 15 millions). 5 millions will be put in Reserve Bank as Endowment Fund, until it reaches 200 millions to create complete cycle in 20 years.
During the period of 20 years 120 schools will be operational and 200,000 graduates with good standard will be inducted in the society.
Proceedings from funds later on will be utilized for giving scholarships to the poor but meritorious students for higher studies in Pakistan and abroad.
The fund will also be spent on development of child and maternity centers in the vicinity of the school and provide the services on no profit- no loss basis.Nazim’s survey in Nawabshah 738 schools remain non unctional
By Zulfiqar Memon |
May 1st 2007 |
Source: DAWN Newspaper
NAWABSHAH, April 30: At least 738 boys and girls primary schools out of a total 2109 remain closed in Nawabshah district, revealed a survey conducted by a team constituted by the District Nazim in collaboration with the Education Department.
The primary schools, including the branch schools, were closed as many of them were constructed without any feasibility and on political grounds in the past knowing that there was no population nearby.
Some schools were converted into Otaqs and godowns of influential landlords and no action has so far been taken either by the district or by the Sindh government. In some cases, there were 3 to 4 schools in a village, constructed without any feasibility where the number of students was much less.
A good number of teachers were either transferred or got themselves transferred on political grounds to schools in city or town areas which also became the reason for closure of these school in rural areas.
Syed Munir Shah, Chairman of District Accounts Committee, Abdul Rasool Brohi, Chairman of District Education Monitoring Committee, were directed by the Dsitrict Nazim to conduct a surVey of the primary schools in all four talukas of the district to ascertain the actual position of closed schools.
Earlier, many unauthenticated figures were provided by District Education Department and the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD).
The figure collected by this correspondent from the committee revealed that out of 639 boys and girls schools in Sakrand taluka, more than 93 boys and 58 girls schools were closed.
In Nawabshah taluka, there were 302 boys and 61 girls schools out of which 75 boys and 26 girls schools were closed. In Daulatpur taluka, a total of 527 boys and 126 girls schools existed, out of which 111 boys and 55 girls were closed. In Daur taluka, there were 786 boys and 102 girls schools out of which 260 boys and 60 girls schools were closed. The report would be submitted to the District Nazim within three days.
When contacted, the District Officer Education (elementary), Saeeda Panhwar, maintained that the survey was conducted to ascertain an actual and proper figure of closed schools.
She said that schools, which could not be operational due to a number of reasons, would be separated from the list and then a strategy would be chalked out to reopen these schools.
Abdul Rasool Brohi, Chairman of the District Education Committee and Nazim of UC Gupchani, said a detailed survey was necessary to ascertain the actual figure of closed schools as the District Nazim and the council was not satisfied with the figures provided through different sources.
Syed Munir Shah, Chairman of the District Accounts Committee and Nazim of UC Pir Zakri, said that the Education Department officials were not providing the exact figure after which the District Nazim decided to carry out a survey.Speech made by SANA president at the guest speakers’ session on July 1, 2007
The distinguished guests, ladies & gentlemen, good afternoon, Assalam Alaikum and welcome to the 23rd Annual SANA Convention!
I am grateful to the distinguished guests, PPP-P president and ARD chairman, Makhdoom Amin Fahim Sahib, information secretary, PML-N Ahsan Iqbal Sahib and Mrs. Bushra Aitzaz Ahsan Sahiba for their participation in this session despite their hectic schedules – especially in the current volatile and unpredictable situation in Pakistan.
We at the Sindhi Association of North America (SANA), as other expatriates, have a natural interest in the affairs of Pakistan, as we have our families and friends living there. Whatever happens in Pakistan touches us here. That’s one reason why SANA has been very active since its inception in its support for the struggle for democracy, rule of law, supremacy of the Constitution, justice, fair play, independence of judiciary, freedom of press, provincial autonomy and the basic human rights for every one especially the women, minorities and the weaker sections of the society.
SANA actually came into being as a direct response to the military operation against the Movement for Restoration of Democracy in 1983. Our folks here believed that we had to show our solidarity with the people struggling against the dictatorship. Since then, we have continuously supported struggle for democracy in Pakistan. We have organized, supported and participated in numerous rallies in USA and Canada, have initiated and participated in petitions and letter writing campaigns, approached Congressmen and engaged in other similar activism.
In the same vein, we have expressed our complete solidarity with the present struggle for the independence of judiciary and democracy in Pakistan spearheaded by the legal fraternity. We salute the courage of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the members of the bar who have valiantly carried on the struggle and have posed a serious challenge to the military dictatorship in Pakistan.
I would say that the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the lawyers have set in motion a peaceful revolution that would result in an unfettered democracy and an end to any future military role in the civilian affairs. It is a great achievement at a time when the military dictatorship seemed all powerful; it had silenced the opposition and had created a coterie of opportunists; had allied itself with the terrorists and the people with vested interests. They seemed to have everything in their control and were planning to stay in power forever. But just a no by a brave person, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, changed all that.
Now the rulers are virtually trembling in their khakis and their collaborators have started deserting them and even the country.
We have great regards for the Chief Justice and the lawyers and the peaceful revolution that they have initiated to liberate the people from the yoke of the military dictatorship. I think the two â€“ the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the lawyers â€“ should be nominated for the Noble Peace Prize. If anybody ever deserved the Noble Peace Prize, it is the Chief Justice and the lawyers in Pakistan. I hope the new government that we are sure to see very soon comprising the party or the parties of the leaders sharing this stage with us today would nominate the two for the Noble Peace Prize.
Thinking of honors and awards, I hope none of our next democratic governments would present a "medal of democracy" to any general. The generals interfering in politics and their collaborators should actually be tried under the article 6 of the Constitution and not given any medals or awards.While we talk of the present struggle for the independence of judiciary and an end to the military rule in Pakistan, we should also talk of the plans to forever close the doors on any future military role in the civilian affairs. It is true that the military has ruled directly for most part of the history of Pakistan since mid 1950s and indirectly for the rest of the period. They have built an empire and have made inroads into all segments of the society and all sectors of the economy. They have created a class of opportunists, Mafias and terrorists that act according to the military establishment’s wishes and destabilize the political parties and the democratic governments.
How to end that?
Ladies & gentlemen, this is truly the defining moment as many have said. This is the time to take hard decisions. More importantly this is the time to take right decisions. This is not the time to make any deals with the crippled regime and resuscitating the dying dictatorship. This is the time to stand firm and demand that the power should be returned to the people. The people should have the ultimate authority to run the affairs of the state, not the praetorian masters, the military generals or the intelligence agencies.
I would emphasize one more thing: I think no good is to come to the country – even after the democratic governments take power – until we end the over-centralization of powers. We have to revert back to the 1940 Resolution. We have to fulfill the promises made at that time. We have to give the provinces maximum autonomy. We have to make them the owners of their resources. And we have to give them the right to self rule.
We also have to drastically cut the military expenditure and spend more on education, health, other social sectors and the infrastructure building. We have to break the military commercial empire. We have to take back all the commercial enterprises run by military personnel. We have to bury the doctrine of necessity forever. We have to expand on the Charter of Democracy to include all that.
Another thing that we should do is that we should end the state of denial with reference to the land, the culture, the languages, the nations and the people that constitute Pakistan. The country that we have today is not the country of the people of the Indus Valley and Gandhara civilizations or the Baloch. It is not the country of the majority of the people that inhabit the areas and the regions of the present day Pakistan. If it had been their country, their languages, Sindhi, Punjabi, Siraiki, Pushto and Balochi should have been the national languages of Pakistan. They would have had a say in the affairs of the state and the decision making. If it had been the country of the indigenous people, our brethren in the present day Bangladesh would not have separated from us.
Ladies and gentlemen, the forces of history are at work again. Pakistan is in the eye of the storm in the global war on terrorism and faces an explosive situation inside its territory while dangerous situation prevails on its borders. The one-man rule in the country lacks the legitimacy and the trust of the people. It has weakened the federation and the disharmony and discord among the people and the provinces are growing at an alarming rate. The regime has been accused of having compromised the independence and the sovereignty of the country. It is perceived to be biased and incapable of handling the core issues facing the country. Its actions have resulted in making things worse. The situation can’t be allowed to continue as it is any longer. Things have to change – and change quickly.
The way out is the immediate resignation of the government to be replaced by an impartial interim administration to hold free and fair elections. The unscrupulous and coercive action against the Chief Justice of Pakistan aimed at subjugating the judiciary must be immediately reversed.
The Senate should be made more powerful and given the final authority over all the federal subjects. It should have equal number of members from each federating unit instead of its present lopsided composition. The Senators from each federating unit should make a block and all the decisions should require an approval by the majority in each block. The Senate should confirm all new appointments to the judiciary and other important positions in the government including the armed forces.
Ladies & gentlemen, the time is here to make the choice. We have to either say good bye to the ways of suppression, denial of rights of the people, military dictatorships, injustices or we would face unprecedented upheaval that may bring disaster and misery for all of us. I hope we would make a right choice today.
WASHINGTON DIARY: Conference, conference everywhere
-Dr Manzur Ejaz
If these gatherings of Sindhi expatriates and the usually pro-establishment health professionals of APPNA are any indication, the Musharraf government has lost the goodwill it had among the immigrant Pakistani community in North America.
Speaking at the annual conference of the Sindhi Association of North America (SANA), in Orlando, Florida, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, President of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), left his audience in no doubt that his party was suspicious of the ongoing mass movement for an independent judiciary.
However, Bushra Aitzaz Ahsan, representing her husband and not the PPP, was highly praised for her powerful and forthright anti-establishment speech at SANA and a day before at Association of Pakistani Physicians for Democracy and Justice (APPJD). Ahsan Iqbal, leader of PML (N), almost stole the show at both fora.
If these gatherings of Sindhi expatriates and the usually pro-establishment health professionals of APPNA are any indication, the Musharraf government has lost the goodwill it had among the immigrant Pakistani community in North America.
Though SANA’s members, successful professionals and business people, were proud to have Makhdoom Amin Fahim at their gathering, they were greatly disappointed by his speech. He was confronted by Najma Memon, the daughter of Fateh Memon, who was forced to abandon candidacy of Larkana election when he asserted that Zulifqar Ali Bhutto was very upset at being elected unopposed in the 1977 election. She claimed that there is undeniable proof that ZA Bhutto coerced her father to leave the race and go to Saudi Arabia as Ambassador of Pakistan. The audience was also very upset at Makhdoom Fahim’s acknowledgment that he tried to intervene for one of his relatives to get him elected unopposed.
Most of all, his remark that the PPP wants the military rule to end but not at the price of creating conditions in the street that may invite another martial-law, was unsettling for many in the audience. It left them perplexed. But the politically savvy got a confirmation that PPP leadership is not only looking for a deal but is also suspicious of the movement led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his lead attorney, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan. It was reported in this column a few weeks back that the PPP Chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, believes that the anti-establishment movement of the last few months is a conspiracy against her and Musharraf.
Ahsan Iqbal, representing PML (N) at this conference, rebutted Makhdoom Fahim immediately when he said that the mass movement was an exemplary model of non-violent movements because "not a single light bulb has been broken" despite mammoth gatherings. He convincingly argued that pro-military claims have no merit when they blame the politicians for inviting intervention or political instability forcing the armed services to take over.
Furthermore, if the military has intervened on the invitation of the politicians, it should leave now because there is a consensus among the political parties to send it back to the barracks. He also rejected the Musharraf government’s claims of economic progress. In his view, if injection of 65 billion dollars into the economy during the post 9/11 period is discounted, the present government’s performance is far worse than the heavily sanctioned civilian governments preceding military rule.
Bushra Aitzaz Ahsan’s extempore speech at SANA was so moving and timely that some Sindhi expatriates from the audience remarked that "she is much better than Benazir Bhutto". Bushra Aitzaz Ahsan, who read her husband’s paper at the APPJD conference a day earlier, came out as a clear -headed forthright leader because she did not try to portray the Chief Justice as an angel. On the contrary, she faulted the Chief Justice for remaining part of the establishment and frequently visiting it. However, she praised him for standing up to Gen Musharraf and fighting back. Her speech and tenor prompted some political observers to say "here is another candidate for the next elections".
Like its past conferences, SANA’s conference this year was very successful. There were several seminars, workshops and forum discussions. Engr Naseer Memon and Zulifqar Halepoto and Mohammad Khan Sial presented Sindh’s water problem with convincing facts and figures. They claimed that Sindhis were never consulted when Pakistan signed the Indus Basin Treaty with India, and they showed that Sindh is facing an ecological disaster at the present time.
SANA’s conference not only highlighted the problems Sindh is facing but also presented other serious issues confronting Pakistan and the rest of the world. SANA’s president, Aziz Narejo, presented a forward-looking agenda in his speech. Noticeably, by inviting Dr Russell Means, a prominent American-Indian leader and Hollywood actor, SANA reaffirmed Sindhis’ commitment to the land’s ancient history and its solidarity with other indigenous people all around the world.
A few miles away from SANA’s conference, the Association of Pakistani Physicians in North America (APPNA) was holding its annual gathering at the mammoth Rosen Single Creek Resort. According to estimates, about two and a half thousand hotel rooms were booked by APPNA members, who had traveled from every corner of the US. It is the largest gathering of Pakistani Americans, where thousands of physicians undertake all sorts of activities, from arranging marriages to political fora. This year was no different.
However, APPJD emerged as a new political entity with a reform agenda in Pakistan. They invited speakers from all political parties and some commentators like myself and Hasan Abbas, author of Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America, to speak on "Justice and Democracy in Pakistan". Interestingly, PPP was not represented by anyone because Makhdoom Fahim decided not to participate despite the fact that he was in the US. The event was very well attended and leaders of political parties used the occasion to further their party’s agenda.
While Ahsan Iqbal and Ali Zaidi of Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf argued for the restoration of genuine democracy, Dr Maqbool Siddiqi of MQM successfully deflected the audience’s attention from 12th May incident by highlighting the role of feudalism in Pakistan. However, when he remarked that Karachi was the 10th cleanest city in the world, he was simply laughed out by the audience. The forum concluded with resolutions for the end of military rule, independence of judiciary and media and a demand for inquiry into May 12 incidents in Karachi.
APPJD forum was an indicator that a pro-active segment of progressive-minded Pakistani-American physicians like Dr M Taqi, Dr Naveed Iqbal and Dr Shahid Latif are trying to change the direction of APPNA. A similar trend was observed in Dow Graduate Association of North America (DOGANA), where a progressive panel of candidates defeated the Islamists whose allegiance was allegedly with the Jamaat-i-Islami and other religious parties. The victory of a leading progressive activist, Dr Zafar Iqbal, showed that the DOGANA is going to take human rights and restoration of democracy in Pakistan more seriously.
The case of Dr Safar Sarki, a Pakistani American who has disappeared in Pakistan, was taken up at SANA’s conference and at various fora of APPNA, including APPJD. His wife pleaded with the physicians and Sindhi expatriates to force the Musharraf government to free him.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note: The technical session was adressed by Naseer Memon, Zulfiqar Halepoto and the political session was addressed by Aziz Narejo, Mrs Safdar Sarki, Bushra Aitzaz Ahsan, Ahsan Iqbal and Makhdoom Amin Faheem.