Birmingham : “If Zarina were alive, she would have been with her maruara (beloved people) in the camps and other places singing songs, raising awareness about their plight and conducting relief work for them”. This was stated by Suraiya Makhdoom at a fund-raising event for the flood affected people in Sindh, which was held to mark the 5th anniversary of Jiji Zarina Baloch in Birmingham, UK on 30th October 2010 at St Mary’s Parish Centre, Harborne.

The event was organised by Suraiya Makhdoom with the help of a small team of friends including Fayaz Khuhro and Abdul Hafeez Khoso. It was a multi cultural and multi religious event. The participants came from all different walks of life, religious and cultural backgrounds and organisational affiliations.

Dr Rubina Shaikh, Vice-Chair person of World Sindhi Congress opened the session on floods. She showed a video prepared by WSC on the current floods, which featured Zarina’s immortal “Aseen manhoon lara ja” اسين ماڻهو لاڙ جا

as the background song. The video provided fundamental information about the floods, statistics of the losses and the need for relief and rehabilitation work.

Speaking on the occasion, Rubina said that after the current devastating floods, situation in Sindh is extremely vulnerable and critical in terms of malnutrition, illnesses, food supply and shelter within the camps and in other parts of Sindh. She said though the scenes of floods have disappeared from our media but humanitarian situation in Sindh is dire. We need to give more food, fresh water, baby food and clothing. She said that relief efforts need to be streamlined in Sindh. Rubina said that WSC has been engaged in fund raising and relief efforts at various levels. WSC has organised a number of fund raising events in UK and USA in collaboration with other Sindhi community organisations and raised funds through their own direct activities. All raised funds have directly been donated to flood affected people.

Rubina said that WSC has been engaged in proactive campaigning activities with donor and aid agencies in UK, USA, EU and Canada to ensure that the aid is distributed justly to the affected people. She said special efforts should be made to reach out hard to reach communities and groups, such as women, children and ethnic minorities. Rubina said that it’s empirical that an independent technical assessment team be employed to find the causes of floods and investigate issues such as breakage of Tori Bund on the Right Bank.

Ameer Abro, a water engineer by profession, a journalist and author currently living in London, too gave a detailed account of floods and the work his organisation “Indus Education Foundation” has been engaged in improving rural education and literacy rates. This charity is now focused on his hometown of Hala. Ameer Abro said he dreams to see one day the literacy rate of Sindh at 100%.

Young Mehran Khuhro, an eight year school student made an impressive speech on floods punctuated with the verses from Shah Abdul Latif. He gave statistics on the devastation the floods have caused.

Mrs Vibha Cale, President Arya Samaj West Midlands said Arya Samaj strives to serve humanity irrespective of region, culture, caste or creed. Therefore, it supports the flood relief activities carried out from Birmingham. She also informed about some of the main activities of Arya Samaj in Birmingham.

Suraiya Makhdoom gave an account of the relief work the team has carried out from Birmingham. She said it is a co-ordinated effort. With the help of various people and organisations from different places of UK, USA and Sindh, relief work has been organised in some of the worst affected areas. She gave details of the 3 consignment of goods sent from Birmingham. The first one consisting of 25 boxes and suitcases of food, clothing and other items was sent on 15th September and was distributed in Kandhkot. The 2nd one consisting of 40 items of similar description was sent on 21st September and is going to be distributed in Khairpur Nathan Shah. The 3rd consignment of 123 items of suitcases and boxes has been sent on 29th of October and will be distributed in some of the worst hit areas.

Suraiya lauded the contributions of the team members Fayaz Khuhro, Shahnila, Abdul Hafeez Khoso, Benazir Thebo (UK), Ishaque Tunio (USA), Mohammed Usman Bashir, Siraj Lakho and Ahmed Bashir (Sindh). She praised the help and support of World Sindhi Congress, Participatory Development Initiatives (PDI) and its Director Sikander Brohi and other organisations. Special thanks are also due to the Saint Mary’s Parish Centre and Brian for providing the hall free of cost.

Suraiya thanked all the friends who have been a great help and support, including Hafeezan and Shahzado Wadhio from Sheffield (provided about 90 boxes/suitcases) Vahideh Wayt, who collected about 25 boxes and suitcases of food, clothing and other items, Dr Awais Shaikh and his family, especially Omer Awais, the Advani family, Metlo family, Zubaida Metlo, Hirani Family, Jo, Shabir, Madhu Sharma, Dr Manjhiani, Dr Mahboob Dahani, Dr Safi Afghan, Vibha Cale, Imran, Dr Nazeer Dahar, Gul Sanai, Dr Haleem Bhatti, Datta Family, Minu Agarwall, Dr K.H. Baloch, Manohar Rangwani, Mohammed Ali Mahar and many others.

Million thanks are also due to PIA Birmingham and the staff at Servisair Cargo, which deals with PIA cargo in Birmingham, especially, Sajid Mahmood for their co-operation and hard work in transporting the goods from Birmingham to Karachi. Thanks are due to the Sindh Government’s Disaster Management Authority for issuing necessary paperwork.

As the event marked the 5th anniversary of Jiji Zarina Baloch, glowing tributes were paid to the late icon of Sindh. The main speaker in this session was Zubaida Metlo, a well known writer, poetess and a champion of women’s and children’s rights. She gave her personal impressions and thoughts on Zarina. She said Zarina is a role model for all the women struggling for their rights and asserting their individuality. Jiji never compromised and did what she wanted to breaking all the social taboos. She asserted women’s freedom by her own example. Zubaida recalled that once she asked Jiji as to why her hair was cut short and why it wasn’t long as was the custom of the day. To that question Zarina replied she did so because she wanted to look beautiful and that she didn’t care whether the society approved of it or not. Zubaida then compared Jiji’s stance with the contemporary women in Pakistan in public life, such as the

parliamentarians and others who adopt certain dress codes and styles to appease the society and manmade norms.

Asad Palejo, a grandson of Zarina, who was scheduled to speak on the occasion, could not do so due to sudden illness.

Suraiya Makhdoom said Zarina was an institution. Not only was she a popular singer, but a social reformer, women’s and political rights activist, who also went to jail due to her struggle. Suraiya said Zarina rose above single organisational attachment and supported all who worked for a just cause. She said when WSC staged a demo in London against the water issue, Zarina started the proceedings by singing a song for water, which she prepared especially for the occasion. Later on, in 2004, when WSC staged a hunger strike in front of 10 Downing Street against water and other issues confronting Sindh, Zarina was there with the strikers.

Suraiya said, when Jiji bade us farewell in 2005, Birmingham was the first city outside Sindh in which a memorial programme was held in her honour. After 5 years, Zarina’s anniversary is being held in Birmingham. Therefore, in 2015, if not earlier, a commemorative programme will be held in UK, making it a 5 yearly event.

The speeches and presentation sessions was followed by music and entertainment. Young performers from Arya Samaj Children’s dance school perfumed classical and modern South Asian dances. Mahesh Nachnani, a psychiatrist by profession and an amateur singer, sang beautiful Sindhi, Punjabi and Bollywood songs playing his keyboard.

About £500 were raised after paying all the expenses. The food was provided on concessionary rates by Roti ad Curry Junction on Stoney Lane in Birmingham. The money will be used for the expenses related to the transport of goods, buying supplies and other activities.

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