Report by: SAPAC
June 27th, 2013 (Washington, DC): The Sindhi American Political Action Committee’s Fourth Annual Celebration took place on June 21st in Washington, D.C. Distinguished guests and speakers included Honorable Congressman Brad Sherman and Honorable Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. We also received a video message from HonorableCongressman Adam Schiff, as well as a written letter from Honorable Congressman Frank Wolf. Tommy Wells, 2014 Candidate for Mayor, also joined us as a special guest for the evening. We were lastly joined by Sindhi American speakers, which included Dr. Maqbool Halepota, Dr. Gul Agha, Mr. Nathir Lalchandani, Dr. Shashi Lalvani, and Mr. Shankar Lakhavani.
President of SAPAC Dr. Maqbool Halepota gave welcoming remarks and requested that the Chairman of SAPAC, Dr. AW Bhatti, introduce Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. While introducing Congresswoman Maloney, he mentioned her stance on the amendment to the House-passed NDAA.
The first speaker to kick off the night was Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. She focused firstly on the bill that states that none of the military supplies or aid given to the Pakistani military by the United States be used against the Sindhi people. She voiced her stance that there should be a full accounting of all American aid and that it should be equally distributed. She also went on to say that she, Congressman Brad Sherman, and Congressman Thomas Petri sent a letter to the Secretary of State requesting that they produce a version of the US Consulate, Karachi website in the Sindhi language. Another concern mentioned by Congresswoman Maloney was the current mistreatment of women and children within the region of Sindh.
Dr. Maqbool Halepota, while introducing Congressman Brad Sherman, said that when they decided to start SAPAC in 2009, even the greatest defenders of Sindhis in America thought that it was a bad idea. They believed that nobody knew where Sindh was, or that Americans would not care about Sindh or Sindhis. We were looking for someone to help represent Sindh, and it was Congressman Brad Sherman who decided to come and listen. In the last 5 years, he has done more for Sindh than most Sindh-born Sindhis have done in the past hundred years. Dr. Halepota further stated that if it had been possible, he would have made Congressman Sherman an honorary citizen of Sindh.
The Congressional Sindh Caucus founding member Congressman Brad Sherman spoke about the importance of strengthening U.S. ties with the people of Sindh. Congressman Sherman said he has pressed the administration to reach out to the people of Sindh, whose native language and culture is woefully underrepresented. He believes that Sindhis offer a “Sufi-influenced narrative that is harmonious with American ideals of freedom, compassion, and humanity.” Congressman Sherman also introduced, with Dana Rohrabacher, an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act relating to Sindh. He also spoke with the Principal Deputy Special Representative on Afghanistan/Pakistan to press the Embassy in Islamabad to support VOA Sindhi and expand outreach in Sindhi. He then told the audience that the Karachi Consulate’s senior media advisor being a native Sindhi speaker has helped maximize our outreach. Congressman Sherman announced that during the following week, on June 26th, 2013, he would be discussing ways to end old, outdated programming and focus on newer, critical areas especially Sindh, during the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing called “Broadcasting Board of Governors: An Agency ‘Defunct’.” He also commented that due to the efforts of Sindh Caucus, Ambassador Olsen took a visit to Northern Sindh, to the cities of Jacobabad and Sukkur. Ambassador Olsen paid his respects by visiting the shrine of the Sufi poet Sachal Sarmast, and a 10 million dollar, state of the art USAID Hospital was also inaugurated in Jacobabad. Another important result that Congressman Sherman mentioned was that last year, the State Department offered an International Visitor Leadership Program for Sindhi-speaking journalists, which marked the first time that any State Department exchange program was offered in Sindhi. Congressman Sherman concluded by emphasizing the letter written by him and former Republican Congressman Robert Dold, which urged former Secretary of State Clinton to push for greater rights and protections for religious minorities in Pakistan. He is particularly concerned about the plight of the Sindhi Hindus. Promoting legal reforms that better protect minorities in Pakistan are the best way for the State Department to represent American values. Congressman Sherman looks forward to further building this friendship between the American and Sindhi people.
The first member of the Congressional Sindh Caucus, Congressman Adam Schiff, sent a video message in his absence in support of the Sindhi community. Congressman Schiff spoke of his admiration for the people of Sindh regarding the challenges they faced and overcame in Pakistan, both natural and man-made. The Pakistani government can be capricious, corrupt, and in many cases ineffective, all of which negatively affect the Sindhi people. However, Congressman Schiff said that in Pakistan, “the recent elections are a milestone, as a democratically elected government completed its term and lost the subsequent ballot.” Congressman Schiff also stated that Sindh remains the most tolerant part of Pakistan, and that its Sufi traditions and welcoming of other cultures create a more hopeful vision. Congressman Schiff said that he has personally seen the virtue of working with our government to create a stronger bond with the people of Sindh. He then spoke a few sentences in Sindhi, and said that he believes that speaking to others in their own language reduces the chances of miscommunication, and it is a sign of respect. That is why he has included strong language in the 2014 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill to press for the Broadcasters Board of Governors to have the Voice of America broadcast in the Sindhi language. Congressman Schiff was also part of the team that signed a letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the State Department to have the website in the U.S. Consulate in Karachi in the Sindhi language.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FPPoSIpGXA Provided here is the link to Congressman Adam Schiff’s entire video message.
Congressman Frank Wolf provided a letter, thanking and congratulating SAPAC on hosting their 4th annual banquet dinner. He wrote that America must speak out against oppression in all countries- including Pakistan. SAPAC is raising awareness and giving a voice to the voiceless. He mentioned that Sindhi-Americans can contribute greatly to America and to our vibrant local communities.
Executive Director of SAPAC, Sufi Laghari, while introducing Tommy Wells the 2014 candidate for Mayor of the District of Columbia, told the story of how he first met Tommy Wells while he was on his campaign tour. Sufi said that Tommy Wells is a great speaker, and that we should listen to him from our heart, not our mind.
Tommy Wells thanked Sufi and acknowledged that America often has a very “mean face” towards the rest of the world. We seem very anti-foreigner, but he said that Congressman Sherman makes him proud for standing up and being a part of this. He thanked him for his leadership. He further said that Washington DC is the fastest growing city in America and he likes learning about all the people that make up this great city. He said that SAPC is important. DC citizens share a view of a world that is equal. Tommy said that he loves how Sindhis have formed a PAC. “That is one of the most American things to do”. He said that he is thrilled to see the amount of Congressmen and women that are involved and he is honored and thankful.
Dr. Gul Agha mentioned the dire situation in Sindh and the manipulation of the elections in Pakistan last election. He said that the democratic government nominated by Sindhis in the last 5 years was not allowed to properly function because of the Pakistani government. He said that there are 4 out of the 19 high judges in Sindh who speak Sindhi, the rest are not even Sindhi.
Mr. Nathir Lalchandani talked about many issues regarding Sindh, such as the water issues facing the region. He mentioned that this was not always the case, but that the Pakistani government created many problems by abusing the region of Sindh, problems that the people are still facing today.
Shashi Lalvani while speaking at the dinner said that he is very proud of his heritage, and stated that Sindh, like the rest of Pakistan, also has problems with treatment of minorities. However, he does mention that despite the fact we hear about minorities being driven out of Sindh, Hindus and other minorities do enjoy, to some extent, support by others within the region, something he is very proud to hear.
Shankar Lakhavani decided that instead of focusing on the negative issues going on in Sindh, he wanted to discuss the positive things SAPAC is doing for the political rights of the Sindhi people here in America. He also challenged the members of the Sindhi Community to raise money in order to establish a permanent office for SAPAC, so that the next and future generations of Sindhi Americans will continue to fight on behalf of the rights of the Sindhi people.
Mr. Michael Phulwani sent a written message for the event. In his letter he emphasized that all of us take a pledge today, to devote some part of our life, to promote and keep alive our Sindhi language. He wrote that Sindhis need to leave behind the history of Sindh, our culture, arts, literature “Shah Abdul Latif Jo Rasalo” and our memories, for our children, grandchildren, and for generations to come.
While the speakers all addressed different aspects of Sindh and SAPAC’s cause, they all spoke about common topics such as tolerance and Sindhi Sufi traditions. Intolerance is and will continue to be a source of major conflict. It is in the best interest of the United States and the international community to encourage and insist upon tolerance from all nations of the world. It is SAPAC’s hope that these efforts will serve as the first step in creating a dialogue and relationship with the United States. SAPAC will continue these efforts with support of Sindhi Americans and its American friends at large. In the end it will help Sindh, Sindhis, and the United States of America.
Courtesy: SAPAC, http://www.sindhipac.org
Via – Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups