By Khalid Hashmani
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Washington, DC – Several Sindhis living in Washington, DC gathered at a local restaurant in Arlington to join their compatriots in Pakistan who celebrated Sindhi Topi (Cap) Day. The event was in reaction to malicious criticism of Pakistani President Asif Zardari, who wore a Sindhi cap while inspecting Guard of Honor in Afghanistan by some members of Pakistani media. Although, Mr., Zardari and the People’s Party of Pakistan (PPP) have lost much credibility among Sindhis, Mr. Zardari is himself of Sindhi origin. The attendees at the Washington DC moot, who wore Sindhi caps and Sindhi Ajraks (a traditional shawl worn by men either as turban or wound around shoulders, and women as shawl), attracted attention from other patrons of the restaurant. The Sindhi attendees proudly explained the purpose of the celebration and briefed them on Ajrak, a form of which was depicted in the excavations of a city that existed 5,000 years ago. The local Sindhis also discussed recent news from Sindh and debated strategies for protecting their culture, language, and identity.
Latest News from Sindh
Apart from the prejudice of some Pakistani media against Sindhi culture that was embedded in their criticism of the attire of President Zardari, the attendees expressed great disappointment on yesterday’s acquittal of 18 policemen who were charged in the murder of Murtaza Bhutto, a son of legendary Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Some Sindhis consider Murtaza as a true heir to the Bhutto legacy. Murtaza and seven other members of his party were gunned down on September 20, 1996. Although, in yesterday’s ruling, the judge did not immediately give reasons for acquittal but observed that that there were certain lapses in investigation and prosecution and clarified that these observations are not part of his judgment. The trial has been going on for 13 years and once included President Zardari as an accused party. The discussion of local Sindhis mainly centered around the timing of the decision and that whether it was just a coincidence, an attempt dampen the celebration of the Sindhi Topi day or the hopes by some that the news would be lost as most people were celebrating the cultural event.
Another news item that attracted much discussion was the recent statement by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, in which, Mr. Gilani claimed that Baitullah Mehsud was behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The prevalent view was that since Baitullah Mehsud had himself denied that he engineered the assassination, it is imperative that a thorough investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto be completed and its findings made public before summarily closing the case.
What do the Sindhis in Sindh want to know from North American Sindhis?
During discussion, a question was asked what Sindhis back home would want to know from North American Sindhis? The consensus was on the following three points:
1. What does the US Government and American think about Sindhis? Are they aware of their plight and their struggle to protect their economic and cultural rights and intense resolve to preserve their language?
2. What Sindhis in Sindh and elsewhere should do to develop their homeland and eliminate poverty in rural areas (concrete, realistic, and practical methods and ways).
3. How can they immigrate to the USA to pursue their dreams of better life?
What should Sindhis do if the status quo remains unchanged?
Almost every one agreed that situation for Sindhis remains alarmingly bad. The party that Sindhis voted in overwhelming numbers has largely forgotten its promises to its constituents. None of the major problems of Sindhis have been resolved. If anything conditions have deteriorated further in the areas of education and economic development. Given that this scenario may not change in a foreseeable future, the question that is being asked in Sindh as to what should be their next steps.
A point was made that two political parties (that also have support from other political parties) have recently been attracting large crowds in Sindh and they show promise for some electoral success in the next elections. The two political parties are Awami Tahreek (led by Ayaz Palejo with Rasool Bux Palejo as its senior leader) and Qaumi Mahaz led by Bashir Qureshi and Safdar Saraki (with ideological leadership of Abdul Wahid Aaresar). The two parities and their supporters recently held Sindh-wide rallies – “Freedom March” by JSQM and “Long March” by Awami Tahreek. The two rallies were attended by hundreds of thousands people as they started from North of Sindh and completed in Karachi (the Southern most city in Sindh). These two parties are quite vocal on Sindhi Rights and articulate their point of views in quite impressive terms. Their basic differences appear to be in their assessment of who poses the greatest threat to Sindhi interests. Where as, JSQM tends to blame hegemony of Punjab and its military, Awami Tahreek considers MQM as the most dominant threat to Sindhi interests.
Every one agreed that a collaboration of JSQM and Awami Tahreek and their other supporter political parties could create a viable alternative to PPP and eliminate the current predicament of having only PPP as a credible option.
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.