Early Years of SANA – A Tale of Achievements and some Disappointments
This article was written on the occasion of 25th anniversary of Sindhi Association of North America (SANA)
By: Khalid Hashmani, USA
About the author: Khalid Hashmani is a Washington DC-based veteran human rights activist. He is the founding President of Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) and Chief coordinator of Sindhi Excellence Team (SET) that participates in advocacy activities on behalf of rural Sindhis.
Desperation and Urge to Organize
It was early 1984, when the clouds of cruelty and discrimination in the form of General Zia’s regime overpowered Sindh and its people. The news of killing of scores innocent villagers demanding restoration of democracy and political rights had become unbearable for few Sindhis, who then lived in the vast continent of North America. Often they shared their pain and sorrows and mourned the inability of Sindhis back home to secure their rights.
The legend is that during some of those yearning sessions, a talk about forming an organized group gained traction. The key impetus for creating SANA was to organize Sindhi community in North America in order to help Sindhis back home to secure their economic and political rights and preserve their identity, culture and language.
The very fact that the Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) is celebrating its 25th anniversary is in itself a great achievement. Many similar organizations that aspired similar goals for preserving and promoting cultural, economic, and political rights of their people came and faded away. It is to the credit of North American Sindhi community that SANA has survived all obstacles and barriers that came its way. Granted it is not the exactly same organization that its creators and pioneers had dreamed. Never the less, it survives and is one of the important voices of North American Sindhis.
Initial Organization Efforts and Formation of SANA
A group consisting of Dr. Altaf Memon (Pennsylvania) , Dr. Javaid Laghari (New York), Mr. Shankar Lakhvani (Pennsylvania) , Dr. Aftab Kazi (Washington DC) and Mr. Anwar Memon (Toronto, Canada) became the organizing committee for exploring the feasibility of creating an organization of North American Sindhis. Soon thereafter, Dr. Aftab Kazi left for an overseas assignment and the remaining members of the organizing committee conducted an initial survey by sending a questionnaire to several Sindhi families in the USA and Canada. The response was reasonable which encouraged the Organizing Committee to begin the process of preparing an association charter and bylaws.
SANA Charter and Bylaws
This scribe was approached around August 1984 to help in the organizing efforts. As a result of these discussions, a formal proposal including the charter and by-laws and as well membership form was sent to about 80 families in North America. These packages were mailed from Toronto, Canada. Several positive responses and signed membership forms were received. Following these efforts, an interim Executive Committee consisting of Khalid Hashmani (President – Ontario, Canada), Naranjan Dudani (Vice President – Massachusetts, USA), Nazir Mughal (General Secretary – Pennsylvania, USA), Israr Ansari (Treasurer – Ontario, Canada), and Safia Mohammadlly (Information Secretary – Maryland, USA) was formed. Soon after initial formation, Dr. Nazir Mughal indicated that he had some time constraints and would not be able to fulfill his responsibilities as the General Secretary so Dr. Altaf Memon was persuaded to assume the role of General Secretary.
First 25 Members of SANA
By March 31, 1985, the FIRST 25 CHARTER MEMBERS OF SANA were Gul Agha, Altaf Memon, Israr Ansari, Naranjan Dudani, and Khalid Hashmani. Askar Qalbani, Mushtaq Kalwar, Shahzad Kazi, Nasreen Kazi, Inyatullah Kathio, Javaid Laghari, Shankar Lakvani, Razzak Memon, Bashir Memon, Safia Mohammadally, Aftab Mufti, Meerchand Oad, Nisar Ali Shah, Aftab Shaikh, Badar Shaikh (NY), Sajida Shaikh, Iqbal Tareen, and Saleem Wafai.
First General Body Meeting (Washington DC, August 1985)
The first Annual General Body meeting (Later the annual meetings started to be called SANA annual conventions) was held in Rockville, Maryland in August 1985. This event was simply a dinner at a local restaurant (organizers: Sajid Akhund and Safia Mohammadally). The General Body formally approved the SANA charter and bylaws. It also added a clause on the disposition of any remaining funds to educational institutions in the event the association was dissolved. A heated discussion about the association goals and objectives took place in the meeting. In the end, the objectives as stated in the SANA charter were reaffirmed by the General Body.
The meeting approved the interim Executive Council for the full-term of two years beginning January 1, 1985. The body also appointed Agha Gul to investigate the process of securing a tax-exempt status and formed various committees – Membership Committee (Irshad Kazi, Zahoor Siddiqui, and Roshan Shaikh), Social and Cultural Committee (Latif Lighari, Karim Memon, and Razzak Memon), Publication Committee (Altaf Memon, Roshan Shaikh, and Razzak Memon), and Fund Raising Committee (Ali Nawaz Memon, Latif Lighari, and Inayat Kathio). A resolution in support of the formation of SANA by the Boston Area Sindhi Association was read at the meeting. The SANA members greatly appreciated this gesture and passed a “thank you” resolution.
After dinner, a “Sindhi Sham” was celebrated at the residence of Ali Nawaz Memon. A report in “SANGAT” (a quarterly newsletter of SANA) describes the Sindhi Sham as “It was an evening of Sindhi, songs, dances and great katchahry. The sham was started with a slide show showing historical and cultural sites in Sindh. The show was put together by Dr. Gul Agha. The scholarly narrative of Dr. Gul Agha was thought provoking and very much appreciated by the audience. Dr. Naranjan Dudani and Miss Lata Chainanni stole the show with their rendering of ‘Nangra Nimani da Jewewen teewen Palna’, “ho Jamalo’, and many other songs.”
Nourishing SANA in its Early Years
Every one realized that to nourish SANA, whose membership was disbursed over the vast continent, had to be based on extensive consultation and democratic principles for decision making. The practice of conducting regular membership surveys lasted for more than a decade. The first membership survey conducted in November 1985 asked members to vote for the venue, timing, and organizer names for General Body meetings from among a list of four-five cities. In addition, the survey contained a “Change of Address” area. By November 1985, SANA had become a formidable organization of 50 family and individual memberships.
Building SANA as an institution
The Second General Body meeting was held in the Niagara Falls/Buffalo area on July 4 and 5, 1986. The keynote speaker at this meeting was Dr. Feroz Ahmed, who spoke on how North American Sindhis can help their brothers and sisters back home. The key take-away from his presentation titled “Light the Torch” was that only Sindhis who live in Sindh can regain the ground they have lost, overseas Sindhis can only help them in these efforts. The SANA EC thanked Abdul Fateh Halepoto, who designed beautiful logo of SANA, Anwar Memon for contacting Mr. Halepoto and getting SANA pads printed, and Mrs. Parveen Laghari for bringing the pads with new logo to the USA. The SANA Treasurer issued financial statement for 1985 showing total receipts (membership fees, donations, etc.) of $ 1,1517.59 and total expenses of $409.75. With a small amount carried from 1984, the surplus stood at $1,221.09.
Strategy to Unify Sindhis, form an Alliance and win Rights
During these early years, strategy to form a strong alliance of Sindhi intellectuals, political minds, and affluent proved to be successful. With each year, not only amount of donations increased so did the breadth of SANA activities and planning of more ambitious plans. The most cherished and ambitious plan was to form a world congress of all Sindhi organizations. The key objective was to create a single platform for all Sindhis to interact with each other and work together for protection of Sindhi heritage and Sindhi rights. Proposals to engage in intensive advocacy campaign with the US Executive and legislative branches on behalf of Sindhi hit a strong approval from SANA members. SANA encouraged academicians such as Dr. Javaid Laghari, Dr. Gul Agha, Dr. Altaf Memon, Dr. Naveed Qamar, Dr. Aftab Mufti, and Dr.. Niranjan Dudani, and Dr. Aftab Kazi to undertake innovative activities such as creating Sindhi word processing software, and collaborate with universities and colleges in Sindh. After military firings on several demonstrators in Sindh, SANA vigorously campaigned for the condemnation of such attacks; wrote letters to key members of the US Congress and senior State Department official; and sent telegrams to President and Prime Minister of Pakistan and leaders of countries to stop bloodshed of Sindhis.
The December 1986 issue of SANGAT contained a thought-provoking article on exploitation of Sindh’s energy resources with much of the benefit going to Punjab at the expense of Sindh’s poor people. The elections of the SANA Executive Council (EC) for the new term (1987-88) were amicably conducted in December 1986. The elected officers included Khalid Hashmani (President), Naranjan Dudani (Vice President), Javaid Laghari (General Secretary), Nadeem Qamar (Information Secretary), and Israr Ansari (Treasurer). The 1986 Financial report (published in March 1987 issue of SANGAT) listed total revenue of $ 2,119.44 and Expenses of $ 1,364.42 with overall cumulative surplus of $ 1,871.86.
The third annual General Body meeting of SANA was held in Pittsburgh on the weekend of July 4, 1987. The coordinator of the meeting was Shankar Lakhvani. In addition to keynote presentation by Dr. Aftab Kazi, Gope Chandar and his family made it a memorable musical evening with delightful Sindhi songs and dances. An impressive amount of $ 2,300 was pledged in donations at this meeting with the highest amount ($ 500) pledged by Mr. Saleem Ursani.
Hectic Pace of Activities in 1987-88
SANA conducted a survey of membership to solicit concerns and preferred programs that members would like the EC to focus on. SANA sent a small donation towards the organization of a Shah Abdul Latif seminar to be held in New Delhi, India. After being briefed by SANA on the worsening law-and-order situation and attacks on Sindhis in Karachi and Hyderabad, The International Sindhi Samellan organization passed a resolution condemning such actions and appealing the heads of non-aligned countries to pressure Pakistan Government to put a stop to the genocide. The popularity of SANA’s newsletter SANGAT (Chief Editor: Dr. Altaf Memon) attracted a huge interest from Sindh and Sindhi community in India. Some offers have been received seeking permission to publish SANGAT in Pakistan and India.
A SANA “Needs and Priorities survey” was conducted to solicit member input to ensure that SANA continued to meet the member needs. 80% of membership selected SANA’s newsletter SANGAT as the most valuable program and indicated that 20% of the SANA budget should be allocated to it. General Body meeting and inviting Sindhi artists and intellectuals to North America followed this. The SANA Membership Directory was voted as the third-most popular activity.56% members expressed satisfaction with the type of press statements that were issued by the EC; 24% wanted more press statements of similar type and 12% wanted fewer press statements. In response to a question, several names were suggested for inducting as EC and AC (Advisory Committee) members. Also 67% expressed full satisfaction with the by-laws and 14% felt that some changes were desired.
The fourth annual General Body meeting was held in New York on the weekend of June 25-26, 1988. The coordinator of the meeting was Badar Shaikh with support from Sarfraz Abbasi, and others. In addition to the annual meeting of members, an Adabi Mehfil moderated by Dr. Aijaz Turk, a musical program, and a picnic was organized in conjunction with the conference. Several delegates from Sindh (Pakistan), UK, and India also attended the conferences. The key decisions made the meeting included authorizing Dr. Aijaz Turk to pursue discussion of the Sindhi Language project with officials of Sindh University and the Institute of Sindhology. SANA provided an initial grant of $ 500 to Dr. Aftab Kazi to start a quality publication called “The Sindh Journal of Asian and African Affairs”. SANA also provided a donation of $ 500 to Mr. Aijaz Sindhi to start a Sindh magazine “SANEH” from New York. The meeting approved a moderate increase in SANA membership fees; and Dr. Aijaz Turk announced the formation of a SANA Medical Chapter. Total donation pledges made the meeting exceeded $ 5,000. The speakers at the New York meeting included Professor Ghulam Mustafa Shah, Hafeez Pirzado, Makhdoom Khaliquzaman, and Dr. Khalid Laghari. Mr. Hafeez Pirzado in a moving speech talked about the systematic colonization of Sindh. He said that the 1973 constitution had failed and there was a need of a new constitution with equal rights for all four provinces. The emotion and resolve of North American Sindhis was apparent when almost every one joined and sang “Sindhri te sar ker na deendo e yar, sahando ker e mayar oh yar”.
The SANA Executive Council proposed and won approval of SANA members to expand the role SANA Advisory Committee. The new Advisory Committee consisting of Shoukat Ansari, Shankar Lakhvani, Razzak Memon, Badar Shaikh (New York), Amanullah Turk, Asif Wafai, Aftab Kazi, Mohammad Ali Mahar, Mahmood Qalbani, Dr. Badar Shaikh (Maryland), Aijaz Turk, Adam Khan Laghari, and Aijaz Abro was formed. The composition of the Executive Council (EC) was also expanded to 11 members and the new elections for the next two-year term were held in December 1988. Those elected for the next term included Khalid Hashmani (President), Naranjan Dudani (Senior Vice President), Mahmood Qalbani (Vice President North America), Aftab Kazi (Vice President Overseas), Javaid Laghari (General Secretary), Aijaz Turk (Joint Secretary), Razzak Memon (Information Secretary), Israr Ansari (Treasurer), Badar Shaikh (Regional Secretary – East), Shabbir Shaikh (Regional Secretary – Mid-West), and Adam Laghari (Regional Secretary – West).
The SANA President wrote letters to prominent Sindhis in Europe, Far East and Middle East to form Sindhi organizations and to launch a campaign for Sindhi Rights. In October 1988, a group of Sindhis in Europe had several get-together meetings that eventually led to the formation of the Sindhi Association of United Kingdom and Europe (SAKUE). A proposal to hold a joint meeting sponsored by both SANA and SAUKE in second quarter of 1989 was tabled for consideration of both organizations. Around the same time, the SANA chapter of medical doctors named itself as Sindhi Medical Association of North America (SMNA). The Toronto Metropolitan library reported that about 200 books in Sindhi and/or about Sindh were received from North American Sindhis.
A large group of Sindhis including several members of SANA EC had an emergency meeting in St. Louis to consider the situation created by violent attacks against Sindhis in Karachi and Hyderabad. Mithal Vakassi hosted the meeting. Hafeez Pirzado and Dr. Suleman Shaikh also attended the meeting from Sindh. The moot pledged $ 20,000 for purchase of two ambulances to help Sindhi victims who were not receiving help from Eidhi Foundation in Karachi. In addition, Dr. Askar Qalbani announced annual donation of $ 3,600 for 110 freeships in the Roshan Tara schools to help Sindhi poor students Further, 14 SANA members pledged 14 SANA life memberships each at $ 1,000 (SANGAT issue of December 1988).
Years of Consolidation
In 1989 with assistance from fellow Sindhi attorney and a prominent SANA member Mr. Anwar Shaikh, SANA was incorporated as a “Not for Profit” organization in the State of New York. SANA Executive Council appointed Irshad Kazi and Husna Shaikh to the SANA Advisory Committee and thanked Irshad Kazi for introducing 16 new SANA members. SANA West Coast chapter published an impressive newsletter titled INDUS. The editorial Board comprised of Irshad Kazi, Sani Panhwar, Saleem Ursani, and Ashraf Memon. Aftab Kazi and Dr. Naranjan Dudani represented SANA at 25th Silver Jubilee meeting of Sindhi Association of Metropolitan Chicago. Aftab Kazi made a comprehensive presentation on historic ties between Sindhis in Sindh and Sindhi Diaspora and suggested venues for interactions between the two Sindhi communities. The meeting was dubbed as the initiation of first ever form of interaction between Sindh-based and Hind-based Sindhis since the Sindhi Diaspora began after August 1947. The convention also discussed the possibility of holding a world Sindhi convention of all Sindhis irrespective of their religious orientation.
The month of July 1989 was one of the most important in the context of SANA achievements. Not only, SANA Convention in St. Louis attracted the largest number of attendees, but also a magazine called SANGAT WORLD started its publication in Sindh. Altaf Memon and Adam Laghari edited the SANGAT WORLD and its Editorial Board consisted of Mehtab Mahboob, Hafiz Qureshi, and Imran Laghari. It had representatives in Middle East, and India.
The 1989 SANA General Body Meeting was held in St. Louis, Missouri on July 1 and (Coordinators: Mahmood Qalbani). According to editorial in the October 1989 issue of SANGAT, “The St. Louis meeting was successful in many ways, but the most profound manner in which our womenfolk participated was really the highlight of the meeting”. The editorial went on to caution that “As SANA has gained respect and stature, there are individuals who wish to either gain control of it or use if for self-grandizement” . In a column in the same issue of SANGAT, Dr. Feroz Ahmed wrote “Amidst a festive atmosphere, enlivened by Abida Parveen and joyous performance by the local amateur artists, the pain and agony of Sindh was clearly heard through many speeches, interventions, questions, and answers”. More than $ 25,000 was pledged at the moot. Dr. Amanullah pledged $ 4,000, followed by twelve $ 1,000 pledges, six $ 500 pledges, and thirty-two other donations from $ 300 to $ 50.
Mr. Anwar Memon and Mr. Iqbal Tareen graciously accepted to become members of the SANA Advisory Committee. A publication committee consisting of Dr. Feroz Ahmed, Dr. Altaf Memon, and Dr. Razzak Memon was formed and entrusted the responsibility to bring a new revamped SANGAT to become an effective voice of Sindhis in the USA and abroad. The committee appealed North American Sindhis to sponsor upcoming issues with financial pledges.
Sindhi Medical Association of North America (SMNA)
Although, SMNA with its own Executive Council largely operated independent of SANA, its contributions and help to Sindhi causes were quite important. Its leadership consisting of Dr. Mithal Vakassi, Dr. Rafaat Ansari, Dr. Aijaz Turk, and Dr. Mahmood Qalbani initiated many important projects. These projects included initiating work on making of a video on the history of Sindh and other to provide VCRs, Televisions, and educational tapes to 12 schools in Sindh. The Sindh Graduate Association (SGA) Medical Center at Qasimabad in collaboration with SMNA was started on December 14, 1990 SMNA made donation of $ 5,000.
SANA As a grass-root organization of Sindhis
From its inception till at least 1990, Depending on the urgency of situation or at least once each year, SANA Executive Council conducted annual surveys soliciting detailed input from members on how SANA could do better to improve the organization and meet the expectation of membership. The Executive Council openly discussed all matters, took formal votes, documented all its decisions on a form called Vote/Voice Communication Form (VCF) and distributed to its members.
For example, the December 1990 survey sent to 260 paid members was responded by 50 members (19.2%). Throughout these years, three SANA programs secured the highest ratings: SANA General Body meetings, SANA Newsletter “SANGAT”, and SANA Membership Directories. The surveys also showed a strong support other SANA supported publications such as SINDH MONITOR, SANGAT WORLD, SANEH, and Sindh Journal of Asian and African Affairs. Other programs such as Video History of Sindh, Sindhi Language Instructor Video also received considerable support. As SANA members had diverse views on political matters and religious matters. SANA always kept away from supporting any political party or engaging in activities that could be misconstrued as favoring one religion over another or one political party over other. The membership clearly told SANA Executive Council to solely focus on Sindh and Sindhis and not get carried way with Pakistani or Indian politics as it could be dividing for the SANA community. The history clearly shows that as soon as SANA leadership became partial to one or another political party or failed to keep focus on Sindh and Sindhis, it could not avoid division among its ranks.
The tradition of brainstorming problems faced by Sindh and Sindhis remained the cornerstone of interactions and reaching consensus.
SANA was always forthcoming in providing support to Sindhis in emergencies. For example, early in 1990, SANA gave a loan of $ 1,500 to a Sindhi student who was short on funds for paying tuition fees. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, that loan was never paid-back to SANA. SANA also initiated projects in response to requests to provide computer equipment to the Institute of Sindhology, Mehran Engineering College (Nawabshah) and Mehran Educational Foundation,
SANA in the forefront for the struggle for Sindhi Rights
With several Sindhi organizations in various continents, all dedicated to the preservation Sindhi heritage and win their Rights, it was a proud moment to see the formation of Australian Sindhi Association (ASA) in December 1989. Like other Sindhis, they too were shocked at the intensity of the vicious attacks on native Sindhis in Karachi and Hyderabad by the same people who were welcomed by their fathers. They embarked on a project to make a documentary “Blood of the Indus”. They appealed for support from SANA, which was immediately pledged. Both SANA and ASA proposed to organize a moot of all Sindhi associations’ overseas and to work form a federation of all Sindhi associations.
The editorial in December 1989 issue of SANGAT says the following:
It is heart warming that Sindhis living in different parts of the world are organizing themselves and realizing the importance of their roots and taking pride in their culture, heritage and above all age old civilization. Our religious tolerance, chivalry and love for land and language are the cornerstones of our heritage. Shah, Sachal and Sami have left us a vast knowledge, an immense wisdom and a complete way of life for world peace, human dignity and personal satisfaction. We should be genuinely proud of our Sindhyat and strive for its preservation. Along the way may be we should understand the problems faced by Sindhis in different parts of the world and help them achieve their goals. No matter where we live we should keep contact with our land, keep our language alive and make Shah Bhitai, our national poet philosopher, as our guide in our lives. If present trends of awakening continued it will not be in a very distant future that a truly world wide Sindhi organization emerges. Perhaps, SANA can play a role in its emergence.”
The actions of SANA did not consist of emotional outbursts but were a result of intensive consultation and consensus reaching process. Here is a quote from an article titled “Reflections” written by Dr. Feroz Ahmed in the same issue of SANGAT:
“While fundamental remedy to the malaise in Sindh shall continue to lie in the change in the offensive attitude of Mujajirs, there is something that Sindhis can also contribute to reduce the tensions. And the foremost among these is to recognize that solution to political problems can only be political and not the big stick. Any attempt to take revenge from the MQM will only be counter productive. No matter how ugly it is, the MQM still represents the Muhajir community, and the Sindhis will have to deal with it as such.
In order to focus SANA on Sindhi Rights, SANA EC approved a proposal by Iqbal Tareen to start an English publication “Sindh Monitor” to present Sindh’s point of view.
It was not only SANA Executive Council that was active in promoting Sindhi interests but also individual SANA members took many initiatives on their own. These included letter writing campaign by Mr. Rafik Mughal to various embassies and the President of the USA. The publication of Newswatch by Dr Mithal Vakassi, Kauser Bhutto, and Manzoor Shah informed world about the plight of Sindhis.
Concluding first six years of SANA’s life
As SANA entered its sixth year, many milestones were successfully completed. It Its budget had grown each as indicated in the following table:
Net Assets $14,152(1990) $ 13,489 (1989) $ 4,705 (1988)
Total Income $17,210 (1990) $ 21,415 (1989) $8,669 (1988)
Total Expenses $ 16,543(1990) $12,661 (1989) $ 7,903 (1988)
The first organized demonstration sponsored by SANA took place on March 25, 1990 in New York against the ant-Sindhi programs of Asian TV for their anti-Sindhi and pro-MQM reporting of ethnic disturbances in Karachi and Hyderabad.
On March 9, 1991, SANA West Coast Chapter (WCC) organized a meeting, which was coordinated by Mr. Saleem Ursani and attended by about 150 persons. Several Sindhis from other states including Dr. Mithal Vakassi and A. W. Bhatti also attended the meeting. Other organizers included Mr. Bashir Mahar (President of WCC), Mr. Anwar Jatoi (Vice President of WCC), and Mr. Irshad Kazi (General Secretary of WCC).
The historic sixth General Body meeting of SANA was held in Washington DC with many speakers, panelists, and other advocacy activities for the protection of Sindhi rights. Jiji Zarina Baloch awakened Sindhi audience with her rendering of nationalist and revolutionary songs of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and Shaikh Ayaz. The Local Oragazing Committee consisted of Dr. Badar Shaikh as Chair, Sarfraz Memon, Aleem Brohi, and Abdul Nabi Memon. Dr. A. W. Bhatti arranged the of Congressman Obey to address a session of the SANA meeting. Seven Student Awards were given to those Sindhi students in North America, who had achieved a grade point average of 3.5 and SAT score of 1350. A distinction award called the “Scientist Award” was given to a Sindhi lecturer in Pakistan. Various delegates visited a Congressman, US State Department, and Asia Watch Human Rights group. Dr. Aftab Kazi and Dr. Askar Qalbani organized these meetings.
The 1990 Elections were conducted with a lot of Gusto. The new EC was elected with members President (A. W. Bhatti), Senior Vice President (Iqbal Tareen), VP North America (Shankar Lakhavani), VP Overseas (Aijaz Turk), General Secretary (Mahmood Qalbani), Joint Secretary (Shoukat Ansari), Information Secretary (Razzak Memon), Treasurer (Israr Ansari), Legal Advisor (Anwar Shaikh), Reginal Sectraty West (Bashir Mahar), East (Badar Shaikh), and Mid-West (Mr, Mahboob Pathan).