Sindhi Nationalist Politics in Crisis of Credibility and Competence
By: Naseer Memon
[The writer can be reached at: email@example.com]
Translation by Khalid Hashmani, McLean, Virginia, USA
[Note by Khalid Hashmani: Naseer Memon’s wonderful article on Sindhi nationalist politics, .. an abbreviated translation by me. I wholeheartedly agree with the analysis, recommendation, and conclusions of Naseer Memon. This is a “must read” article for all those who are interested in the future of Sindh and Sindhi identity.]
Background and Current Challenges
Sindhi nationalist organizations have played an important role in the context of Sindhi rights. They began their work inspired by their urge to preserve of Sindhi identity and protect Sindhi language. They are now engaged to safeguard Sindh ownership of its natural resources, oppose unjust NFC award and secure water rights. It is because of their hard and good work that even the federalist parties are now forced to talk about provincial autonomy and provincial rights.
An organized state effort consisting of torture and bribes during the regime of General Zia-ul-Haq weakened and divided Sindhi nationalist organizations. With the result that instead of operating as a coherent and unified force and working in collaboration with each other, they became a divided spectrum of several organizations.
Crisis of Credibility and Competency
Most Sindhi nationalist organizations spend more time on attacking each other than furthering the cause of Sindhi rights. Eventually, they lost the support and trust of Sindhi people. Today, except for one or two organizations, the activities of most Sindhi nationalist organizations are limited to issuing press statements and using gangster methods for economic gains. It is indeed a great tragedy that after forty years when every street and corner of Sindh has become nationalist, the Sindhi people are not prepared to accept the lead of Sindh nationalist parties.
Some may disagree but in my view, the present Sindhi nationalist organizations are no longer effective in presenting the cause of Sindhi rights. In fact, if they do not change themselves soon and restore their reputation and integrity, they will not only be relegated into the historical archives but may substantially hurt the cause of Sindhi rights.
The fact is that it is not sufficient to simply raise slogans and issue press statements in order to secure rights and justice. In short, with the their current state of affairs, Sindhi nationalist parties are not in the position to help Sindhis in securing their rights. The premise of this article is not to engage in destructive criticism of Sindhi nationalist organizations but rather to provide a constructive analysis and advice as to how they could change their ways and work hard to re-earn the trust and support of Sindhi masses. Unfortunately, some in Sindhi nationalist organizations are not prepared accept such criticism.
In order to ensure that a reader of this article is not lost, let me divide my discussion into two parts – one dealing with the internal organizational aspects of Sindhi nationalist organizations and other about their practical work.
Lack of Constitution and Manifesto
As the Sindhi society is largely organized around semi-tribal and clannish traditions, the Sindhi organizations too are highly dependent on individuals and not on institutions and organizational tools. This is reason that many Sindhi organizations are recognized more by who are they led by rather than by their own organizational names. In addition, many of Sindhi nationalist organizations do not have constitution/bye-laws or formal manifestos as to what they want to achieve. Although most people know about the aims and objectives of at least some of the Sindhi nationalist organizations, very few people know about the constitutions and manifesto. More over, it is not sufficient to simply prepare and publish such documents on a one-time basis. Such documents should be treated as “live” documents and must be kept up-to-date as new political realities dictate. It is imperative that the organizations should clearly indicate in their constitution whether they would contest elections or limit their activity outside of the elected assemblies. They should detail the methods that they will use to achieve their manifesto and whether they are in favor of strong or loose federation and/or consider separation from the federation a viable option.
As in wars, the art of politics also requires considerable planning, strategy, and effective modus operand. A careful thought process and risk analysis is required before any actions are announced and/or carried out. For example, announcing to go on a hunger strike without planning for consequences would be deemed as a sign incompetency. Such tall announcements may get some temporary press coverage, but as more and more similar mistakes are made, people loose their trust and loose their interest completely in such press statements.
The areas of discipline and organization are pre-requisites for any organizational that wants to succeed. If the leaders do not adhere to the organization’s by-laws, discipline or organizations roles and responsibilities, one must expect ordinary members and followers to do the same.
Before taking an actions, Sindhi nationalist organizations must do a good planning and be ready to implement alternative plans should obstacles come their ways. The political actions do not work as “assembly plants”. The political world deals with a lot of unknowns and requires agility to maneuver around often unforeseen obstacles. The organizations that engage in politics must equip themselves with knowledge of market economy, history, political science, psychology, philosophy, and other such disciplines
Use of modern tools and technologies
Sindhi nationalist organizations must have people who know how to use new technologies such as computers to plan and execute their programs. One would be hard pressed to find examples of leaders of many Sindhi nationalist organizations who regularly read international news magazines, newspapers, or familiarize themselves with documents from organizations such as World Bank, UNO, particularly those documents that deal with key issues faced by Sindhis. How many Sindhi nationalist organizations have their own web sites? The organizations that fight for national rights of their people cannot succeed without effectively presenting their case and securing support from international organizations and forums. Without the extensive use of tools such as Internet and e-mail by the leaders of Sindhi national organizations, they will not be able to effectively communicate their point of view. Sindhi nationalist organizations must establish a communication and information cell in their organizations. Some people overestimate the cost of implementing modern techniques. The fact is that their cost is not much higher than organizing a public meeting.
Preparing facts and figures in support of Sindhi rights
Another important task that Sindhi nationalist organizations should do is to collect facts on the plight suffered by Sindhis. These facts should be used to prepare a case for Sindhi rights and presented to national and international forums. So far, the message about the plight of Sindhis has been largely confined to Sindh. A small amount of work that has been done overseas has been done by few individuals, overseas and local NGO Sindhi organization, technocrats, and media. Unfortunately, some Sindhi nationalist organizations feel that collecting information and presenting Sindh’s case in global forums is just a waste of time. Any advice to collect facts and figures is often rejected by these organizations on the pretext that t would a diversion and take away time from other important activities.
Contacting Sindhi Civil Society Organizations
The leadership of Sindhi nationalist organizations must understand that simply empty slogans and emotional speeches will not get our message heard in important forums. In this context, we must follow the example of Kala Bagh dam where facts and figures collected by civil society organizations helped to convince the proponents to back away from the Kala Bagh dam. There is an urgent to need to publish a pamphlet in the key international languages that presents Sindh’s case accompanied by facts and figures. I was pleasantly surprised to meet several officials in the US State department and World Bank, who appear to have been already briefed on facts and figures about LBOD and Kala Bagh dam. There are several civil society organizations in Sindh that have done impressive research in Sindh’s natural resources, agriculture, water shortage, and poverty in rural areas. Sindhi nationalist organizations must contact such organizations and obtain this information to sharpen their manifesto and other programs.
Sindhi Nationalist Organizations and Sindhi Educational Institutions
A major problem for some Sindhi nationalist organizations is the persistent perception among many Sindhis that they have not played a constructive role in Sindh’s educational institutions. Many Sindhis hold the nationalist Sindhi political parties responsible for worsening educational standards and lack of emphasis on learning. Unfortunately, the internal culture within these organizations has worsened to such an extent that those who council them to work towards academic and leadership excellence are frowned upon and forced to leave those organizations. In order to earn the trust and credibility among people nationalist Sindhi parties must become proactive on restoration of educational standards and create a bias for academic and leadership excellence.
Restoring Trust and Credibility among People
It only with good character and good deeds that Sindh’s nationalist parties will be able earn the respect, trust and credibility of Sindhi people. I must be said that most Sindhis are nationalist but do not want to join any Sindhi nationalist political party. Changing this perception will require a strong determination to change and mend old ways. Just imagine the amount good will that Sindhi nationalist parties would earn if they were able to install water coolers in say 100 schools over the next year. Other programs such as organizing books fairs, medical camps, and encouraging people to become volunteer teachers at 7,000 schools that are currently closed in Sindh due to unavailability of teachers.
Nationalist Sindh needs one or more good nationalist political party as it is essential for securing their rights. At the same time, Sindhi nationalist parties can help to promote Sindhi culture, Sindhi literature and language to next generations.
Today, when religious fundamentalists are gaining ground in many countries of the world and their influence is showing signs in Sindh, the only effective counter to this phenomenon would be to have genuine, honest, and effective Sindh nationalist forces. Today, when tribalism is re-emerging, it is imperative that secular and sincere nationalist forces become stronger in order to defeat such tendencies. We need strong Sindhi nationalist movements to continue to develop in cultural, social, and political areas.
Nationalist movements act as political forums for middle class. The strengthening of nationalist forces will strengthen Sindhi middle class and their political thinking. The Sindhi nationalist movement has consumed immense sacrifices by thousands of sincere political workers. We cannot allow the nationalist movement to be destroyed and hijacked by few selfish and insincere people. The Sindhi nationalist movement has to play a critical and important role so that future Sindhi generations will continue to be proud of their Sindhi identity. It is imperative that the leaders of Sindhi nationalist movement understand and feel the enormity of their responsibility. It is high time that they rethink their role in a serious, intelligent, truthful, and honest manner and bring about changes in their organizations that will benefit Sindh and Sindhis for generations to come.