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The diaspora writes home

2 16 89

For the past 34 years, Sindhis who live in North America have formed an active platform called the Sindhi Association of North America (SANA), which now has close to 2,000 members.

SANA’s 34th annual convention was held between July 6 and July 9 in Washington DC and was attended by more than 1,000 people. Various educationists and intellectuals, including Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, spoke at the four-day event. Women and young people also held sessions that focused on specific interests.

The role of diaspora organisations often comes under criticism as a great deal is expected from them. Do such organisations live up to these expectations? Do they accomplish enough to share the prosperity that they have earned in Western societies?

SANA had emerged as a voice of progressive, secular and pro-democracy Sindhis who lived in North America. Although it is inherently a community organisation, SANA has raised concerns about human rights, democracy and rule of law in Pakistan.

In a first, the organisation invited Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington to attend the convention. For a long time, the Sindhi community in North America hasn’t enjoyed a strong relationship with the Pakistan Embassy. The community has preferred to keep a distance from those in power. However, the decision to appoint Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, a Sindhi, as the ambassador to Washington has created positive vibes among Sindhis living in North America.

A few days before the convention, hundreds of SANA members had staged a protest in Washington against the enforced disappearances of activists and citizens in Pakistan. The community has been irked with the issue of missing persons. It has been troubled by the image of their home country as a place where people are abducted and held in custody without their whereabouts being known. Such incidents give their country a bad name.

The Sindhi community in North America consists of an educated professional middle class that upholds the values of modern society and the economy. Although most Sindhis in North America have been living abroad for decades, they are still deeply attached with the people, land and culture back home.

The people of Sindh are mired in desperation and hopelessness. Not many among them find a way forward and are steeped in poverty, economic distress and illiteracy. The government hasn’t been able to deliver on the tall and rosy promises that it has made to them. There is such a strong vacuum that whoever engages in even the slightest wave of activism brings a ray of light in the darkened landscape of Sindh.

This is how SANA is viewed in Sindh – a beacon of hope from the people of Sindh who have done well for themselves. Will they bring a change in the lives of their fellow citizens? This is an expectation in Sindh, regardless of whether it is right or wrong. Sindhi activists often ask the SANA leadership what it is doing for Sindh and what its future plans for the province are.

Instead of dismissing these questions, we must reflect on how we can become a group of people who are able to deliver in the long run. Diaspora organisations build networks among........

© The News International