Saturday, July 17, 2010
USA : The Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) maintained its unique distinction of being the only secular organisation of expatriates by inviting the most prominent Sindhi from India, Mr Ram Jethmalani, member of Rajya Sabha and president of the Indian Supreme Court Bar, to its annual convention, held on July 2-5, 2010 in Houston. At 87, Mr Jethmalani, vibrant and kicking, delivered one of the most enticing speeches I have heard in the last few years. In addition to Mr Jethmalani, development star from Thar, Dr Sono Khangharani, nationalist leader Dr Qadir Magsi, notable analysts Mr Zulfiqar Halepota and Jami Chandio made very enlightening presentations in various seminars.
Mr Jethmalani was prophetic when he said, “Democracy without education is hypocrisy without limitations,” and that politicians have a direct conflict with education because they do not want well-informed constituents who can question them. He may have added some spice to his speech if he had seen the circus of the Punjab Assembly passing a resolution against the media for exposing their fake degrees.
Mr Jethmalani, a successful lawyer and partner of A K Brohi before partition in Karachi, had to restart his life from immigrant camps in India. “I never thought of revenge while going through the miseries of partition and I am still the best friend Pakistan has in India,” he asserted. He was very disappointed with the political lot in India as well as in Pakistan. In a light-hearted mood he commented, “Politicians should be changed like diapers and for the same reason.”
Speaking on religion he said, “I am not a religious person because so much blood has been shed in the name of religion that navies of the entire world can easily swim in it. Mohammad (PBUH) was the greatest prophet of all times because he assigned more strength to the ink of a pen as compared to the sword. Consequently, Muslim cities became centres of scholarship and Muslims pulled Europe out from the Dark Ages. However, when Muslims became book burners and destroyers of civilisations they were enslaved.”
In addition to Mr Jethmalani, another Hindu from Thar, Sindh, Dr Sono Khangharani, shared the development ideas he is implementing to provide housing, water, electricity and education. I visited Thar a few years back and have seen their organisation’s — Thardeep — innovative approaches from finding spring water in the middle of the desert to providing electricity using solar energy techniques. If I had to get involved with development work in my area in Punjab, I would adopt many models developed by Thardeep. Dr Khangharani was very modest in presenting his achievements. I wish he had talked more about the innovations he has made in changing conditions in Thar.
Dr Khangharani avoided making any political comments but that was taken care of by one of his companions, Mr Zulifqar Halepota. By thoroughly analysing the 18th Amendment, Mr Halepota showed how this piece of legislation was gender blind by not touching anti-women clauses added to the constitution from Ziaul Haq to Nawaz Sharif. “This amendment does not do much for the constitutional issues facing the common citizens of Pakistan,” he concluded
A N G Abbasi, an authority on water issues, asserted that despite the Sindh government’s consent, the water agreements with India and between Pakistani provinces were not fair enough. In addition, he argued that these agreements were not adhered to in distribution of water and that Sindh suffered the most because of a shortage of water. He suggested that future plans should be made on the actual availability of water and not on rosy assumptions. During the question and answer session, he took to task the ruling elite for being totally insensitive to the mammoth problems being faced by the common people. He added that constitutional changes were not going to do anything for the people unless the entire ruling elite is replaced. Representing the abadgars, Mr Aslam Baloch also emphasised the role of water shortage in increasing impoverishment in Sindh.
Contrary to expectations, Dr Qadir Magsi focused on the issue of Sindhi nationalism rather than the water issue. Highlighting the role of language and culture, Dr Magsi claimed that Sindhis were secular humanists and peace loving people. However, Sindhis were not passive and could stand up for their own rights. Shedding light on the evolution of Sindh, Dr Magsi said that if the middle classes of Sindhi Hindus had not left, alien people would not have taken over the industry and trade in the province: Sindh would have survived as an independent nation today.
Dr Jan Mohammad Memon and Mr Adnan Kehar, made presentations on education and technology respectively in the seminar on the economic and social issues of Sindh. Coordinated by Muhammad Ali Mehar, SANA’s ex-president, Mr Aziz Narejo, presided over the seminar on the socio-political issues of Sindh. It was this seminar in which Dr Qadir Magsi, Mr Halepota and the special guest and keynote speaker, Mr Ram Jethmalani shared their ideas with the audience who had travelled from all around the North American continent.
Earlier in the day, a seminar on medical issues was coordinated by Dr Hafeez Abbasi. Dr Aijaz Turk presented research on colon cancer and Dr Sattar A Shaikh spoke on diseases of the heart. In Sindhi Adabi Sangat, Dr Turk, Jamil Daudi, Munawar Leghari, Jami Chandio and Aziz Narejo recited the poetry of famous Sindhi poets. Mr Mumtaz Chang and Mr Muhammad Ali Mehar recited their own poetry. I missed the thunderous performance of Dr Aijaz Turk this year because of arriving one day late to the convention.
SANA was very innovative in creating programmes for children of different age groups. SANA’s website, maintained by Mr Masood Baloch, was inaugurated in the opening ceremonies of the convention. SANA’s successful convention was, of course, the result of the hard work of many individuals like its President Valeed Shaikh, Secretary Shabbir Shaikh, Treasurer Dr Maqbool Halepota and other members of the leadership such as Aijaz Memon, Zafar Agha, Jamil Daudi and Sarfraz Abbasi. To SANA’s credit, its annual conventions are purposeful and carry a serious tone while better-funded organisations of Pakistani expatriates just end up socialising and wasting money.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org