WSI International Seminar in Washington DC – Sindhi Rights and US-Pakistan Partnership Law

by: Khalid Hashmani

Washington DC – The World Sindhi Institute (WSI) ( organized an International Seminar in Washington DC on November 13, 2009. The topic of the seminar was “US-Pakistan Relations in the Back-Drop Of Kerry-Lugar Bill” and held at the Middle East Institute. The panelists included Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, Dr. Stephen P. Cohen Cohen, and Zahid Makhdoom. The session was moderated by Mr. Sohail Ansari, General Secretary of WSI. Several prominent Americans and Canadians of Sindhi, Baloch, and Pathan origin attended this highly interactive and candid session.

Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin has served as President of the Middle East Institute since March 2007. She previously served as Ambassador to Pakistan (2001) and as the Deputy High Commissioner for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (2004-2006). She served as Assistant Administrator for the Asia Near East Bureau in USAid from 2002 until 2004. Ambassador Chamberlin is on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Diplomacy, and The Hollings Center.

Dr. Stephen P. Cohen is Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University. From 1985-87, he was a member of the Policy Planning Staff of the U.S. Department of State where he advised on matters pertaining to South Asia, security, and proliferation issues. Dr. Cohen has written, co-authored, or edited nine books including India: Emerging Power (2001), The Pakistan Army (revised edition 1998, with editions published in Pakistan and China), and The Indian Army (revised edition, 2000).

Zahid Makhdoom is a Member World Sindhi Institute’s Board of Directors and is based in Vancouver, Canada, where he works as a Justice at the Provincial Court of British Columbia. Born in Sindh, Makhdoom has persistently struggled for human rights of people of Sindh, for which he was imprisoned in 1971-72 for ten months. Zahid Makhdoom has extensive knowledge of politics and culture of South Asia, particularly Sindh, Pakistan. His subject of interest is indigenous people all over the world and their political relations with states.

After brief introductory remarks by the moderator, the panelists spoke briefly about the key goals of the recently passed US-Pakistan partnership law and emphasized that the interactive nature of the session opening a truly candid, heated, and yet orderly discussion and exchange of views.

Ambassador Chamberlin talked about four fundamental principles that in her opinion would lead Pakistan to be a successful state. These included: land reforms to reduce influence of few influential feudal; a good system that supported sufficient income and tax generation for the state; an effective judicial system and judiciary that gave justice to people quickly and fairly; and a public security system with well-paid, well-trained, and a professional police force that ensured that people enjoyed felt secured and fully contributed as the citizens of Pakistan. She said that the people of Pakistan must realize and recognize that it is not about the money or just building schools. These changes will not last long if the people of Pakistan did not work hard to build their country and reformed their systems. Well into the first hour of discussion, she added the fifth principle that Pakistanis must recognize that the US can only play a role of a catalyst and seed contributions – only Pakistanis themselves can make or break their country. Talking about the remarks of the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Ambassador said her remarks and questions from Pakistani officials were quite appropriate.

Dr. Cohen expressed the view that the new US-Pakistan partnership law has put Pakistan in the league of top recipients of US Aid that includes countries like Israel and Egypt. The allegation that the law enables the United States to interfere in Pakistan’s internal affairs are nonsense and sheer anti-US propaganda. He added that “although the Aid law has been passed by the US, it is really up to the Pakistani people and their government and they can decide not to accept any monies”. He mentioned his meeting with MQM Chief, Mr. Altaf Hussain in London UK. He said although he was not very proficient in the English language, Altaf Hussain articulated his views very clearly. His articulation reminded him his meetings with some political leaders from the UP province in India.

Mr. Zahid Makhdoom criticized MQM and said they were pursuing two-prong strategy. On one hand they show their diplomatic face with “all inclusive” and having peaceful intentions. Their other face consisted of terrorizing their opponents. Their terrorists drive their power from the armed cadres and large collection of arms and ammunition that they have assembled. He cited a recent example of Mr. Nisar Baloch, a local Sindhi-Baloch NGO Social worker, who was murdered by MQM terrorists in Karachi just because he would not accept MQM’s hegemony and campaigned against their land mafia. r. Makhdoom gave example of how MQM’s terrorist branch takes over Karachi by inviting audience to review the video tapes of MQM take over of the city and their indiscriminate firing of innocent citizens in Karachi streets and TV stations during Chief Justice’s visit to Karachi about two years ago. A member from audience talked about the famous photograph that showed the present mayor of Karachi (a key leader of MQM) beating people with a shoe.

Additional key aways made made during the intense, interactive orderly, and frank discussion included:

* Pakistan is not a one homogenous nation, but rather a country of four nations – Baluch, Pashtun, Punjabi, and Sindhi nations. This unique reality is clearly recognized in the historic 1940 resolution that led to the creation of Pakistan.

* A point was made that as Pakistan was a country of four nations, it would be more appropriate to use the term “People of Pakistan” instead of “Pakistanis”.

* It is not going to resolve any issues and problems if the US Aid is mostly used to build centralized institutions – many of these institutions are run by hard-core Wahabis. Unless the supported projects are at the local level, supported by local grass-root organizations, just as in past, this time too, much of that money would go supporting the same under-cover fundamentalist organizations.

* There is a conspiracy to destroy the public education system in Sindh. Only a public schools managed by government would guarantee the teaching of the Sindhi language in Sindh’s schools and guarantee survival of Sindhi culture. Many private and semi-private schools operating in Sindh are run by non-Sindhi organizations either based from Islamabad or Karachi. These schools do not follow the current provincial laws and avoid teaching of the Sindhi language to students.

* The US Aid should support de-centralization of key institutions. Only de-centralized institutions would promote tolerance of diverse religious and ethnic minorities and progressive thinking in Pakistan.

* All panelists recognized and said that they are aware that ethnic and religious minorities do nor receive their due share from the development funds whether generated internally within Pakistan or received through international grants and loans.

* The emphasis on privatization and centralization would further damage the rights of minorities and will greatly impact Sindhi Rights adversely.

* In an answer to a question from a panelist, a member of audience said that Sindhis do not hate any one. Throughout their history Sindhis and Baloch have demonstrated tolerance and respect for other religions and ethnic minorities. They do not hate Punjabis or Mohajirs but rather want their due share in the resources of their country. They respect rights of all others including Punjabis and Mohajirs to their fair share from the country’s resources but will not accept if any one directly or indirectly violate Sindhi Rights. It is pity that the children of native Sindhis are not allowed admissions in the historic educational institutions of Sindh in Karachi that were built by their forefathers. They do not accept manipulation, political trickery, and dishonesty to change local governments as amalgamating other districts into one one large city (Karachi) and then doing exactly the opposite by removing de-amalgamating several districts from Hyderabad just because the central government supported them in their designs.

About Author: Mr. 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 Sindhi.

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