18th Annual Convention - A Great Success
CHERRY HILL, NEW JERSEY, JULY 4-7, 2002
The town of Cherry Hill and its favorite Hilton Hotel suddenly became cheerful with the arrival of hundreds of Sindhis. The aroma of Sindhiat was every where and Sindhi language appeared to have become the main language of the Hilton hotel and nearby restaurants. The organizers had done such a great job that the 18th SANA Annual Convention will be remembered as one of the great convention
The three-day conference started on Thursday, July 4 and ended on Sunday, July 8, 2002. Was attended by more than 325 guests coming from many states of USA, Canada, and other countries. The keynote speakers and presenters included Dr. A. N. G Abbasi (former Irrigation Minister of Sindh), Dr. Hafeez Shaikh (current Finance Minister of Sindh), Dr. Louis Flam (an American anthropologist of Indus Civilization), and other intellectuals, academicians, specialists, writers and scientists. Each adult delegate was required to register. The registration fee of $ 60 ($ 50 in advance) covered three meals and entry to the two “music and songs” shows on Friday and Saturday. The daily breakfasts came with the hotel room. The day-by-day proceedings of the conference are summarized below.
THURSDAY, JULY 4, 2002
The delegates started arriving early in the day. The main highlights of the day were informal gatherings (called Sindhi katchahries) among old and new friends. The economic plight of Sindhis, adverse impact of Thal Canal and what Sindhis should do to alleviate these made-made disasters were some of the topics debated in these informal debates. The only formal segment of Thursday evening consisted of the meetings of the Convention Organizing Committee and Executive Council members.
FRIDAY, JULY 5, 2002
SANA MEDICAL SEMINAR (9:30 AM to 12 Noon)
The “SANA MEDICAL SEMINAR” originally scheduled to start at 9:00 AM actually began late by about 30 minutes to allow delegates to finish their breakfasts. Dr. Iqbal Jafri moderated the session. Dr. Ashfaq Turk’s paper was on the topic of “Cardiology – How to Prevent Heart Attack”. This presentation was particularly popular with Sindhi senior citizens. Dr. Iqbal Jafri spoke on “Chronic Plain Management” that briefed audience on new breakthroughs in medicine for controlling acute pain. Dr. Aijaz Turk made a presentation on some of the common gastro-enterology diseases. The last panelist was Dr. Shehla Siddiqui, who paper was on “Neonatology – Screening Children”. Several pharmaceutical companies (Pharmacia, Merick, Pfizer and Purdue) sponsored the seminar.
SINDHI EXHIBIT (All Day)
Concurrent to the Medical Seminar, there was a SINDHI EXHIBIT in an adjacent hall. The exhibit included Sindhi dresses and other symbols of Sindhi culture and heritage.
JUMAI-JI NIMAZ (1:30 PM to 2:30 PM)
For Muslim delegates, the organizers had made an arrangement for JUMAI-JINIMAZ. Dr. Shoukat Ansari led the prayer and gave an inspiring “Khutba”. The main theme of his Sindhi Khutba was that in order to be a good Muslim, a person must first become a good human being. He said, “A true Muslim must shun bigotry and all forms of discrimination against all persons whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims”.
GENERAL BODY SESSION (3:30 PM to 6:00 PM)
The GENERAL BODY MEETING started after lunch. It was well attended. First the SANA Executive Council members presented their reports. Mr. Mohammad Ali Mahar, General Secretary mentioned several accomplishments of SANA during last year, including Alan Fakir Fund, “Sobho Gianchandani’s Son” Fund, Thar Earth Quake Fund, Sindhi Language Day, and SANA Directory. His inspiring presentation spoke of the resolve of SANA members and other Sindhis to do their best to safeguard the rights of Sindh and Sindhis. Mr. Zia Memon, Vice President, spoke of the difficulties that the Convention Organizing Committee faced in securing hotel arrangements in New York in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attack. He hoped that the mainstream American society would overcome all forms of discrimination against fellow citizens to ensure that all citizens continue to enjoy equal rights. Dr. Badar Shaikh, Regional Secretary of Eastern region briefed about various SANA activities that were organized in the region including two Sindhi cultural evenings in Philadelphia and Washington DC areas, and a picnic in New Jersey/New York area. Dr. Shoukat Ansari presented Treasurer’s report. He stated that the financial health of SANA was not as strong as he may have left the impression in the last General Body meeting. After paying all expenses for last year’s convention, SANA has about 35,000 in assets. Of this $ 30,000 are in the Life Membership Reserve Fund. As SANA constitution requires that all Life Membership fees be kept aside for permanent office, this reserve fund cannot be used for other purposes. According to him the root cause for this week financial position is that many members have not paid their membership dues. The dues of only about 108 members including Life Members have been so far for this year. The president of SANA was the last presenter from EC to give his report. He highlighted various projects. Among these, one project that he took personal pride was the massive upgrading of SANA Web site (www.sanalist.org). All SANA newsletters and other publications since its inception have been scanned and are now available on this site. He urged the audience to visit this site at their earliest convenience, as they too will feel as proud as he was of the site. He also spoke of SANA’s discussion with government about 60 schools in Sindh’s rural area that although constructed are not operational due to lack of funding. He said SANA plans to sponsor day-day running budget of at least one of these schools. He thanked the local Organizing Committee for their hard work and financial donations that have resulted in the superb convention arrangements. After the Executive Council reports, a lively and candid Question-Question (Q&A) session followed. There was both praise and criticism. The praises included gratitude of members to EC for volunteering their time and undertaking an impressive array of social and charitable projects. The criticism was mostly on inadequacy of lobbying work by SANA on behalf of Sindhis. Another issue that surfaces was the lack of response from the moderator of SANAList (the Internet groups list of SANA) to requests of SANA members to add new members. One item that attracted consensus was to approach those North American Sindhis, who once very active in SANA, are keeping away due to differences that flared up a few years ago. The General Body nominated Khalid Hashmani to help initiate a dialogue between the key individuals to overcome this divide.
ADABI MAHFIL (LITERARY SESSION) (6:00 PM to 7:00 PM)
Immediately after general body session, the ADABI MAHFIL session followed. Aziz Narejo moderated the session. Mr. Mohammad Ali Mahar introduced the “Clouds of Melody” book by Agha Saleem. The book is published by Karachi Rotary Club and contains Urdu and English translations of selected poems of Shah Abdul Latif. Others who were invited to stage and spoke on Shah Latif included Mr. Noorudin Saraki, Dr. Qamar Wahid and Jiji Zarina Baloch. A prominent member introduced another book titled “DHARTI MATA” by Mr. Ishtiaq Ansari. The book describes the travels by the book’s author to ancient and historically important places of Sindh. These travels helped him to explore the similarities of love and respect that a person has for his/her mother and the land of his/her heritage (land). The third book introduced was Kirat Babani’s “KUCHH BUDAHAIIN, KUCHH LIKAIAN”. He read extracts from the book pertaining to the struggle of Indian Sindhis in getting Sindhi language approved as one of the national languages of India.
BUSINESS CONNECTION SESSION (7:00 PM to 7:45 PM)
This was the first time that a session aimed at facilitating business connections among Sindhis was introduced at SANA conventions. At this session, some of the successful Sindhi businesspersons shared their ideas, success stories and lessons-learnt points with those who were interested in pursuing business opportunities. Dr. Roshan Shaikh moderated the session and panelists included Mr. Khalid Channa, Mr. Suhail Ansari, Mr. Saba Ansari, Mr. Iqbal Tareen, Mr. Sani Panhwar, and Mr. Shaikh. There was a lot of interest from audience in this area and many were keen to discuss more about several business ideas that were mentioned by the panelists. However, because of the pre-scheduled dinner that could not be delayed, the session had to be ended early.
DINNER (8:00 PM to 9:00 PM)
The dinner became a hurried affair due to the accumulated delay in the day’s activities because of the late start.
AN EVENING OF SINDHI MUSIC AND SONGS (9:30 PM to 12:30 PM)
This was the third visit of Jiji Zarina Baloch to SANA convention. This time, she graciously waived her usual fees to entertain North American Sindhi, to whom she calls “my extended family”. As usual, she thrilled every one with her wonderful singing that included somber melodies without accompanying instruments and cheerful Sindhi folk songs. Ustad Mazhar Hussain, a great favorite of North American Sindhis, who recently returned from a trip to Sindh, too gave a thrilling performance.
SATURDAY, JULY 6, 2002
GUEST SPEAKER’S SESSION (10 AM to 1 PM)
The day started with guest speaker’s session moderated by Mr. Mohammad Ali Mahar.
The first speaker of the day was Dr. Louis Flam, an American professor of Anthropology and a past director of Archaeological and Anthropological Research Center at the Institute of Sindhology, Jamshoro in Sindh. He has a collection of 22,000 photographs of Sindhi archaeological and anthropological items. More about his research on Sindh’s ancient cultures will be in a separate posting. He shared several slides about his work in Sindh, particularly from his excavation project at Ghazi Shah in Dadu district. He talked about the nomadic lifestyles of Sindhi tribes in Khirthar Mountains and how the shortage of water in River Indus was playing havoc with the lives of rural Sindhis. He expressed his disappointment at the lack of interest in preservation of Sindh’s heritage. He added that Pakistan itself has no respect for local cultures.
Mr. Inam Shaikh, an award winning Sindhi journalist from Sindh, gave a detailed account of how Sindh has been continually loosing its due share of Indus River. Waters. He said in 1750’s, Punjab had only 750,000 acres of cultivated land and Sindh had about one million acres. In 1850’s both Punjab and Sindh each had approximately the same amount of cultivable land. Today Punjab cultivable land amounts to almost three times that of Sindh (90 million acres in Punjab versus 34 million acres in Sindh). Tracing the history of Thal Canal, he argued that this proposal has been rejected by all previous commissions in pre-partition days as being injurious to the interests of Sindh. It is ironic that Sindh voted for Pakistan because of its belief that “sovereignty” and “autonomy” the two fundamental principles of the Pakistan concept offered a better alternative to safeguard its resources. He added that Thal canal was being build to benefit a very few influential military generals, political leaders, and local landlords. It will help to irrigate between 2 to 2.4 million acres at a cost of 500 million rupees. Sindh will suffer a decline of about 4 million acres in agriculture production because of this project.
Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the current Finance Minister of Sindh was the next speaker. He has a Ph.D. in economics from Boston University and has held several senior level positions with the World Bank. He said he looked forward to an open and serious discussion so that he can return to Sindh with better ideas and new inspiration. He said “let me start with question: what is that we (Sindh) don’t have?” He quickly added that when it comes to “resources”, we have a lot. We have coastal areas for tourism and marine industries. We have oil (Badin and Dadu), we have gas (Sindhri), and we have 7th largest coal deposits in the world. We grow rice, cotton and wheat, we have great Metropolis of Karachi, and above all we have very hard working people. Then the question arises as to why we are suffering? Every 28 minutes, a Sindhi woman dies during childbirth and more than 60% of Sindh’s population lives on less than $ 1 a day. He asked, “What is going on?” He quickly added, one reason is that Sindh is being looted. The other is that the growth rate from 1970 to 1990 had averaged about 6% versus an average of 3 % growth rate that Pakistan has been able achieve since 1990. Throughout this decade Sindh has been mismanaged with corruption and looting without any controls. He mentioned that the daily “meal” bill of last Chief Minister’s office was about one Lac of rupees. Each provincial minister had 20-25 cars and jeeps. When he took the office there were outstanding bills of 2 araab rupees from 1992. Of which 11 araab were for the state expenses. There were 1000 development schemes on paper and not one was complete. If the school buildings were complete, there was no electricity. The records showed that 140 tube wells were installed but when he asked for operational reports on those tube wells, he was informed that only 2 were in working order. The whole campus of Khairpur consisting of several buildings disintegrated before even being occupied. He asked “WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS LOOTING? And HOW TO STOP IT FROM HAPPENING THESE LOOTINGS IN FUTURE?”.
He urged the audience to look for tangible results and the positive changes that the present government has already brought. He said that they have salvaged and completed 600 previous schemes. The education up to matriculation will be free in the province of Sindh. They have increased primary education budget by 100 %. A stipend of Rs 100 will be paid to each girl who attends a school. He recently organized a trip of officials of World Bank and Asian Development Bank to the delta area of River Indus. For the first time, World Bank will give a loan of 18 araab rupees directly to the province of Sindh, without any interest. This loan will be spent on Sindh’s agriculture and health sectors. From this loan, we will return 2 araab rupees in high-interest loans. One araab will be spent to create an endowment fund that will provide scholarships to any Sindhi who gets admission to Pakistan’s 8 top universities. In conclusion, he told the audience that they hold privileged status by virtue of having higher education and secure financial status. The onus is on you to pursue three questions: How to make the government to work for larger population and not just for those who are close to it? How to use the available resources that Sindh already has for the greater good of all Sindhis instead of these being looted for personal good of few people? How to guide Sindhi people to ask “right” questions that draw attention of key decision makers to the plight of Sindhis instead of alienating them?.
Mr. A. N. G. Abbasi (former Irrigation Minister of Sindh” made an eloquent presentation titled “RESTORATION OF SINDH’S PRIMARY RIGHTS OVER RIVER INDUS”. His presentation was supported by a set of slides that covered historical perspectives, current issues and possible solutions for restoring Sindh’s primary water rights. The first barrage on the 1900-mile long River Indus was constructed at Sukkur in 1932. At present time, there are 19 barrages and 43 canal systems on the Indus River System. Out of these six barrages on Indus main. At the time of partition in 1947, about 60 MAF of water from Indus was utilized and about 80 MAF water used to flow into sea. Under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, the World Bank financed the Indus Basin Works consisting of dams, barrages and link canals to overcome the effects of allocation of Eastern rivers to India. The three storage reservoirs namely Mangla, Tarbella and Chashma were constructed with a total capacity of 15 MAF. In addition 12 link canals were constructed to transfer water from western rivers to eastern rivers. The flows of the three western rivers of Indus River System allocated to Pakistan are highly erratic. It shows a maximum flow of 187 MAF in 1959-60 to a minimum of 97 MAF in 1974-75 with an average flow of about 139 MAF. The average flow of River main is approximately 90 MAF. According to the 1991 Indus Water Accord, 117.35 MAF of water was allocated as follows: Punjab –55.94 MAF, Sindh – 48.76 MAF, North West Frontier Province – 8.78 MAF, and Balochistan – 3,87 MAF. The accord contained provisions for sharing the shortages and surplus and how much will flow into sea. According to a study carried out by the Water Management and Distribution Committee has revealed that water is not being distributed according to the provisions of 1991 Accord and the regions located in the lower riparian are suffering. Water is being stored during shortage periods when it is needed in Sindh for early Kharif sowing of crops. The same study states that no water is available for construction of any additional reservoirs or irrigation schemes. Due to continuos increase in water withdrawals, the outflow to sea has reduced considerably that has resulted in the erosion of 1.2 million acres. The quantity of 10 MAF provisionally earmarked for outflow to sea under 1991 Accord has been made available only 33 % of the time. The IUCN considers 10 MAF to be inadequate as outflow to sea and recommends 27 MAF. There is no water in River Indus for Thal canal and its construction would only mean still lesser water for Sindh. The canal will bring economic difficulties to the people of Sindh and will in all likelihood lead to serious political unrest in Sindh.
SINDHI YOUTH SESSION (10 AM to 1 PM and from 3 PM to 5 PM)
The introduction of Sindhi Youth session was another great addition to the SANA convention programming this year. Mr. Zafar Agha moderated this session. His own presentation was on the topic of "My Home Town in Sindh". It consisted of an interactive discussion about Sindh’s cities and towns by talking to youth about their ancestral hometown. The next presentation was titled “History of Sindh” by Dr. Gul Agha and Nadeem Jamali. As Gul Agha could not attend the convention due to personal reasons, Nadeem made the presentation. The pre-historic period was covered through information Moenjodaro, Rohri Flint Quarries, and other like sites. This was followed about information on the Hindu and Buddhist dynasties that ruled Sindh. The Arab invasion, Mughal and Pathan onslaughts and English conquest were reviewed. The presenters shared evolution of cultural traditions including music, literature and Sindhi spirit for religious tolerance. In addition to the pictorial visit to shrines of holy saints, beautiful pictures of Sindh’s landscape and lifestyle captivated the audience throughout the session. The last segment of the presentation talked about some of the present day prominent Sindhi leaders, academicians and scientists.
In the afternoon session, a Sindhi feature film with English translation was shown.
EVENING PRESENTATION/DISCUSSION SEGMENT (3 PM to 7:45 PM)
The evening segment consisted of several sessions. The first session involved QUESTION-ANSWER (Q&A) with the guest speakers. Mostly pointed and candid, a majority of questions were directed at Dr. Hafeez Shaikh and A. N. G. Abbasi. At times, the two gentlemen disagreed with each other on the matters of root causes for water shortage and as to who was responsible. There were some tough questions asked from Dr. Shaikh about the record of the present government. He defended the government and said that they will end the corruption that denies Sindh’s population its due share of resources. Mr. Abbasi talked about reasons as to why he resigned as Minister of Irrigation. He emphasized that he did not see any light at the end of tunnel for Sindhis unless the government of day listened to concerns of Sindhis and acted honestly to alleviate them.
The second session was termed as “SINDH THROUGH CENTURIES” and was moderated by Mr. Nuruddin Saraki. First, Dr. Syed Mir Mohammad Shah talked about education and the role of Information Technology (IT) in reducing poverty in Sindh. He shared his assessment about the terrible conditions that discourage Sindhis from learning the state-of-art technologies. He made several recommendations on improving education system and improving cooperation between universities and industries in the IT sector. The second presenter was Dr. Louis Flam, who shared his story about how he discovered and carried out the excavation at Ghazi Shah. He revealed that cultural material excavated at this site is 4,000 B. C. (6,000 years ago) old with occupations from Amri, to Kot Diji to Indus Civilization. At the top of the site are remains of Mughal period. The site covers about five (5) acres and is 35 feet high. Buried inside the mound are the remains of people’s houses and their culture over the past 6000 years. He added that the Sindh Archaeological project and Ghazi Shah Excavations have received funding to conduct research from Fulbright, Smithsonian, National Science Foundation, and American Council of Learned Societies, American Institute of Pakistan Studies, and Research Foundation of The City University of New York. He criticized the recent decision (not abrogated) of Pakistan government to move Head Office of Archeological department from Karachi to Lahore. He said that he feels that instead of relying solely on government’s mercy to protect Sindhi heritage, Sindhi philanthropists and organizations such as SANA should take initiatives to protect Sindh’s heritage. He advised that instead of individual one-of-kind projects, they should encourage and support institutions such as the Archeology department at the Khairpur University to undertake heritage preservation projects. He suggested that a Sindh Heritage Foundation under SANA would be a good start for North American Sindhis. Following closing remarks by Mr. Nuruddin Saraki and a Q&A session with Dr. Flam, the audience gave a 2-minute standing ovation to Dr. Louis Flam.
The last session of this segment was titled “DISCUSSION ON SINDHI RIGHTS ”. Mr. Khalid Hashmani moderated the session. The theme of the session was “THE ROLE OF North American SINDHIS IN BETTERMENT OF SINDH”. The objective of the session was to review the current situation of economic, cultural, human, and political rights of Sindhis in Sindh and to come up with a program of specific and tangible steps. The session was divided into four sub-topics: “Water Rights of Sindhis”, “Alleviating Poverty in Sindh”, “Restoration of Democratic Rule in Sindh”, and how to synchronize efforts and aspirations of Sindhis. First, Dr. Altaf Memon summarized the environmental consequences of the shortage of water in River Indus. This was followed by open discussion that recommended that overseas Sindhis should publicize water issue at international forums. They should write letters to their congress members.
Yet another participant that people throughout the Pakistan be encouraged to conserve water. Mr. Iqbal Tareen summarized the situation regarding growing poverty in Sindh and suggested that overseas Sindhis should pursue large donor agencies for help and to improve education. Many members of audience participated in the follow-up discussion. The suggestions included adopting schools using the model of US-based Pakistani organization called Pakistan Human Development Foundation; sponsoring village education programs; and approaching former Presidents Carter and Clinton to initiate and support poverty alleviation projects in Sindh. It was felt that such efforts would draw world’s attention to the plight of Sindhis. On the point of creating a “Sindhi Ghariban-ji Bank”, some participants expressed concern that in the past some Sindh-organizations started such projects to provide low cost loans in Sindh’s rural area. Many North American Sindhis provided financial support but unfortunately all such initiatives did not go anywhere and no progress was ever reported on those initiatives. No one knows what happened to those share purchases and donations. Mr. Aziz Narejo introduced the third topic about the restoration of democratic rule in Pakistan. This was immediately followed up by introduction on the fourth sub-topic by Dr. Saghir Shaikh on the synchronization of activities by various overseas Sindhi organizations. In the follow-up open discussion, suggestions were made to create a medical web site to help Sindhis in health related issues. A member of audience emphasized that literacy rate need to be improved if democracy is to thrive in Pakistan. Suggestions to prioritize Sindh’s problem through a committee deliberation, working in a focused manner on a selected sub-set of projects were another suggestion that attracted interest. Finally audience were urged to write letter to the members of Congress to show their support to Senator Torecile’s resolution on the restoration of democracy in Pakistan that he plans to introduce in Congress soon. A crowd of more than 50 delegates were very interested to continue the discussion, the session had to be ended as dinner could not be held up.
DINNER AND MUSICAL SHOW (8:00 PM to 1:00 AM)
The dinner consisted of a 6-course Sindhi cuisine that was loved by every one. The SANA Executive Council expressed gratitude to the members of the Convention Organizing Committee and presented them wards (Sajjad Siddiqui, Falaksher Ahmed, Kohsher Ahmed, Zia Memon, Nadeem Junejo, Naveed Soomro, Noor Rajpar, Adi koonj and her husband Atif, Saeed and Ali Abro, Khalid Channa, and Imtiaz Memon). As was the case Friday night, both Jiji Zarina Baloch and Ustad Mazhar Hussain once again thrilled attendees with their beautiful renderings from Latif, Ayaz, Ustad Bukhari and other Sindhi poets. In keeping with the annual tradition Dr. Aijaz Turk did a great job in inspiring the crowd to make generous donations. A sum of $ 20,000 was pledged during the session.
SUNDAY, JULY 7, 2002 (8 AM to 11 AM)
This breakfast gathering on the last day of convention was like a “GOODBYE PARTY”. Most did not believe that three days had gone by so fast. Although most were sad, many were already talking about the next year’s convention in San Diego.
The SANA Conventions are a modern version of Sindhi mellas (fairs), where people to meet friends and family and people come share their and dreams. Generally no one goes disappointed in all areas. True, like anything else, there is always room to improve and SANA Members are always eager in their resolve to still do better next year.
By: KHALID HASHMANI