by: Khalid Hashmani
As the Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) nears the completion of its 29th year, every North-American Sindhi, even those who at times have no faith in SANA, must admire its durability and its success in several areas. Along the way, some North-American Sindhis may have felt disappointed, but the mere fact that SANA has been holding its legendary annual conventions for twenty-nine continuous years is a miracle. I reckon there are not many North-American organizations of communities that migrated from the vast region of South Asia that can claim such an accomplishment. Those who have observed SANA since inception would credit its longevity to its well thought-out and simple objectives that have stood the tests and trials of nearly three decades and its ability to minimize major fractures due to ideological and other differences among its members. The six objectives that are largely the same as they were agreed in the first SANA Charter document in 1984 charter are as follows:
To create a sense of brotherhood, cooperation and cohesion amongst Sindhis living in North America.
To endeavor for, and defend the historic national rights, including human rights, and rights of self- determination of Sindhi people within their existing national territory.
To promote contact with Sindhis living in different parts of the world, cooperate for common goals and purposes with their organizations.
To inform, educate and create awareness among Sindhis and non-Sindhis alike about the Sindhi peoples way of life and civilization; values and philosophy; language and literature; music and culture; history and heritage; arts and architecture; and rights and interests, and to work to preserve and promote a constructive evolution of the same.
To work and cooperate with other individuals and organizations for human rights, social justice, world peace, cultural tolerance, international brotherhood, global disarmament, the eradication of world hunger, poverty and disease, and conservation of ecology.
To focus on the positive role of the Sindhi community in North America in promoting the quality of life in these countries.
Indeed, we cannot go wrong if we work together to preserve and advance our rights including our language, and identity while cooperating with similar-minded organizations elsewhere in the world to protect rights of others and at the same time make positive contributions to our newly adopted homelands of North America. As the surviving people of the five thousand old civilization and torchbearers of the message of the World’s greatest poet Shah Abdul Latif, we must proudly share our heritage, language, and culture with other communities and seek justice for all.
We must recognize that our members come from diverse religious, ideological and rationality orientations with different takes on many topics and issues. The intelligent ones among us know that the conflicts such as considering Raja Daher or Mohammad Bin Qasim as a hero or a villain are nothing but symptoms of this diversity and democracy. The thinking ones among us know that the debates on important topics such as importance and validity of DNA tests in rape cases are rooted in the diversity of our belief systems. A great majority of SANA members also know that as long as we keep our emotions in check and present our views in a democratic and respectful manner, we will either reach a fruitful consensus or at worst respectfully agree to disagree.
When undertaking a major SANA initiative or project, we need to assess the benefits and costs in the context of the six SANA objectives. We must ensure that any project that is implemented under the SANA banner is advancing one or more of the SANA objectives.
It goes beyond saying that many of SANA members have a variety of interests and passions. Pursuing “Sindhiat” through the forum of SANA may just be only one of those passions. For this reason, many of us participate in other North-American mainstream, South-Asian, and religious forums to pursue those objectives for which SANA is not an appropriate platform. The founding members had long discussions about objectives and debated pros and cons of making objectives more rigid and highly specific. One view was that SANA by-laws should specifically reflect the ideological thinking of founding members. However, in final analysis, a consensus was reached on “inclusiveness” and that every North-American Sindhi must feel that SANA is open to all. It was also felt that SANA should be a platform where every North-American Sindhi felt at ease to interact with each other and meet other Sindhis and even formulate other forums if they wanted to pursue more specific and focused objectives when consensus could not be reached in SANA.
The irony is that conditions of common person in Sindh have even worsened since 1984 when General Zia-ul-Haq’s melted out one of the harshest treatment of Sindhis because they supported Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Now, in addition to the traditional adversaries of Sindhi language and culture, our own Sindhi leaders are victimizing Sindhis ushering a reign of corruption, nepotism, and greed for personal gain. Common Sindhis have no say in management of their natural resources including oil, gas, and river waters. Many of the jobs in these sectors have been given to non-Sindhis and the bulk of the revenues from these assets feed the coffers of the central government. Through conspiracies even the social welfare payments that the oil and gas companies are legally bound to invest in local communities are diverted to open Urdu-medium primary, secondary, and high schools whose primary beneficiaries are the children of non-Sindhi employees of those companies. The local children must forego their right to be educated in their mother tongue to be able to study in such schools. The Sindhi leaders simply look away and ignore such illegal practices, and some Sindhi groups even support such schemes. The ratio of Sindhis in senior cadres of civil service has not much improved in all these years. The affirmative action programs that were started by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto have been sidestepped and new programs have been enacted that prevent Sindhis getting any educational and job opportunities in large cities such as Karachi.
Let us be mindful that other than few individuals and few small organizations, most political parties and individuals have either gone impotent or are too busy in misusing their power for only their personal benefit. The adversaries of Sindhiat know that state and have become quite aggressive in enticing many of us to divert our attention from the key SANA objectives.
The leadership crisis in Sindh has resulted in a lot of confusion among Sindhis. With no other credible alternatives and general apathy prevalent in Sindh, the same political party that failed them in last five years was again received a majority vote of Sindhis. During these tough times, overseas Sindhis have to be more diligent and vocal in safe guarding the use of Sindhi language, Sindhi medium of instruction, Sindhi music, Sindhi culture, and Sindhi Rights.
Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, July 4, 2013.