WASHINGTON DIARY: SANA’s promise —Dr Manzur Ejaz

Unlike the prosperous doctors of the Association of Pakistani Physicians in North America (APPNA), SANA represents the middle class living in the US. Most of its members save for the whole year to attend this annual convention

The Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) has shown itself to be one of the most open and democratic platforms. At its recent annual convention, presentations in all Pakistani languages, including Urdu, were permitted and encouraged.

Political discussions at the main platform were geared towards the independence of judiciary, preservation of Sindhi heritage and equitable relations between the Centre and provinces.

In small private groups discussions, Sindhis from different walks of life expressed frustration with the PPP government. This amounts to early warnings for the PPP which can lose Punjab and significant constituencies of Sindh to Nawaz Sharif if it does not alter its political course.

The Sindhi middle class does not differ on major issues like the independence of judiciary from its Punjabi counterpart. However, there is divergence between Punjabis and Sindhis on questions related to the balance of power between different nationalities in Pakistan.

SANA’s annual conventions are usually very well-attended despite the change of venue every year. Unlike the prosperous doctors of the Association of Pakistani Physicians in North America (APPNA), SANA represents the middle class living in the US. Most of its members save for the whole year to attend this annual convention. There is probably no other non-religious Pakistani ethnic community in North America that can claim such a distinction.

This year the first day was allocated to youth and women activities. One could see the happy, chatty youth enjoying itself in the halls and lobbies of the Marriot in Dallas, Texas. Women’s activities were impressively focused on community development issues.

Documentaries of Sindhi heritage were viewed by the audience with much more interest than I had expected. Similarly, the release of some new books attracted much interest; the books included Syed Mazhar Jamil’s voluminous book in Urdu on the history of Sindhi literature along with Wichaar Publishers’ release of two books Amar KahaniaN and Mixed Grill, which have been translated from Sindhi into Punjabi. Punjabi translations were praised as a rare initiative to develop communication between the people of Sindh and Punjab. Several books by an emerging Sindhi star, Mr Zulfiqar Halepoto, were unveiled as well.

The centrepiece of the discussion forums was the keynote address by Rana Bhagwandas and PMLN leader Ahsan Iqbal. Justice Bhagwandas emphasised the importance of an independent judiciary, declared the actions of November 3 as illegal and asserted that no parliamentary action is needed to restore the deposed judges. In his view, it was a lack of political will on the part of the governing party that was creating hurdles for the restoration of the judges.

Ahsan Iqbal defended the political parties against allegations that they invite the military to impose itself on the polity. From Ayub Khan down to Pervez Musharraf every military ruler imposed martial law when his own job seemed to be in jeopardy, he argued. The PMLN has given all the political space to the PPP government to restore the judiciary despite unfulfilled promises on the part of the PPP leadership. The PMLN cannot maintain such a status quo for long if it wants to avoid the allegations of being a cohort of those who are against restoration of the deposed judiciary, he declared.

In the Q&A session, Ahsan Iqbal took an interesting stance on the language issue. He said that his party accepts all languages of Pakistan as its national languages and the PMLN will accommodate this demand in the party manifesto. Later on, Mian Nawaz Sharif called the SANA president, thanked him, and reiterated the promises Ahsan Iqbal had made in the convention.

The reception of Ahsan Iqbal and general discussions among Sindhi activists indicated that the PPP is losing ground among Sindhis as well. Only PPP diehards and, curiously, followers of Jiay Sindh were seen defending the PPP. Furthermore, Mian Nawaz Sharif’s phone-call to the president of SANA indicates that the PMLN is going to be quite aggressive in making inroads into Sindh.

Overall, the SANA conference was successful in highlighting major issues of Sindh and Pakistan. The views expressed on different forums were relevant to mainstream Pakistan and not just Sindh. In this respect, its organisers, Aziz Narejo, Sarfraz Memon, Aijaz Turk and many others deserve praise.

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

Source: Daily Times, 16/7/2008

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