Joint Rally by North American Sindhi Organizations demanded UN intervention to assure and monitor water distribution in Pakistan.
Indus Water Rights Action - an environmental rights advocacy group formed by Sindhi Association of North America (SANA), World Sindhi Congress (WSC), The World Sindhi Institute (WSI) organized a demonstration in front of the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC on May 18th, 2001 to protest over the Pakistani Government's unfair distribution of Indus water. Hundreds of social, political, environmental, and human rights activists from different parts of North America and Sindhis and Balochs around the world came to attend this historic rally. The rally was organized to protest the Pakistani Government's unfair policies for distribution of Indus water among the four supposedly autonomous provincial units of present-day Pakistan. These unfair policies exercised throughout the history of Pakistan have rendered Sindh, Balochistan and parts of Lower Punjab virtually deserted. Many towns and villages in Sindh severely lack drinking water sources bringing a heavy toll on millions of people involved in agriculture industry. If these conditions persist, a severe drought is likely to hit many areas in Sindh and Balochistan. This will trigger a mass exodus from inner Sindh to the cities of Pakistan. The Joint rally of Sindhi organizations held that the current tragedy is a logical outcome of an on-going piracy of Indus River in Pakistan. This act of aggression by the upper riparian of Punjab has deprived the lower riparian of Sindh of their due share in the water and has promoted environmental degradation in all four provinces of Pakistan. It is obvious that the Pakistani Government is quick to use current crisis to justify building yet another dam on River Indus at Kalabagh (or another site) in spite of unanimous opposition by the three affected provinces and parts of Punjab province. The speakers maintained that the fifty-four years of bad governments in Pakistan, hundreds of broken promises, frequent military takeovers, misplaced priorities in public policy, violation of many covenants and accords, and a total disregard for the individual and collective human rights, Sindhis are less likely to trust any assurances without proper process of mitigation. They demanded that the water distribution issue in Pakistan should be settled according to the Sindh-Punjab Agreement of 1945. It was also demanded that the special United Nations commission should be entrusted to monitor daily water distribution between Sindh and Punjab provinces. This rally was the best display of the grass root mobilization of Sindhi community in North America, as well as the unity of oppressed nations of Pakistan. Several Baloch, and Seraiki activists along with their families participated in this rally. IWRA representatives, Mr. Iqbal Tareen of SANA, Dr. Safdar Sarki of WSC, and Mr. Sohail Ansari of WSI presented a Memorandum of Demands to Pakistan Embassy at the end of the protest. Prominent amongst those who addressed the rally included, Mr. Khalid Hashmani, Keerat Babani of Sindhi Sabha, Sohail Ansari of WSI, Saghir Shaikh of WSC, Iqbal Tareen from SANA, Dr. Tara Chand, former minister Baluchistan Government, Wahid Baluch, former Speaker Baluchistan Assembly, Syed Ghulam Shah of JSM, Munawar Laghari of WSI and Hasan Mujtaba, who recited an inspirational Sindhi poetry eulogizing Indus Water crisis.
|Sindhi-Americans Protest against Thal Canal
Los Angeles California June 27, 2003: Sindhi Americans gathered in Los Angeles, CA this Friday to protest against the construction of Greater Thal Canal. Three major Sindhi organizations in North America “Sindhi Association of North America (SANA), World Sindhi Congress (WSC), and World Sindhi Institute” jointly held the rally. Sindh, a southeastern province of Pakistan, has long been the victim of Islamabad’s unfair policies on water distribution.
The province is threatened with an additional setback as the government decides to construct illegal canals and dams upstream. These projects benefit military generals and tribal landlords, strongest supporters of the government, as they own lands in the command areas. On the other hand these projects will result in the desertification of large tracts of cultivated land in the province of Sindh, affecting the lives of millions of people there.
Several Sindhis and other local activists from all over California traveled to protest in front of Beverly Hills Hilton hotel, where General Musharaf was invited to speak. The protestors called for an end to the construction of the Greater Thal Canal, restoration of Sindhi national rights, an end to the Defamation Ordinance and Blasphemy Law, and the restoration of press freedom. They also held placards demanding the end of military rule and restoration of true democracy in Pakistan.
Mr. Sani Panhwar, President of SANA, demanded that Pakistani Government ‘optimize water allocation at the national level,’ and ‘to compensate Sindh’ for the last many years’ water theft. He further described the planned construction of Greater Thal Canal as "a conspiracy against Sindh" and demanded immediate withdrawal of the plan. He also said
North American Sindhis under the banner of Sindhi Association North America (SANA) and People-Against-Kalabagh-Dam Action Committee, demonstrated against the Pakistani government outside of the UN Millennium Summit in New York on Wednesday, September 6, 2000. The rally was led by the committee’s chairman and former SANA president Iqbal Tareen. The rally lasted between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
The members of the rally carried banners that called for equality and fairness for Sindhis and demanded autonomy and sovereignty of Pakistani provinces in accordance with the 1940 Pakistan Resolution, restoration of democracy and primary right of Sindh on waters of River Indus. The banners carried the following slogans: “Stop genocide of Sindhis”; “ Sindhis oppose large dams”; “Restore democracy now!”; “Musharraf’s devolution is a hoax”; “Honor Pakistan Resolution, Give autonomy now!”; “River Indus belongs to Sindh”; “Invest in people, not in weapons”; “Stop child abuse in Pakistan”; “Stop hate crimes in Pakistan now!”; “Release political prisoners”; “Sindhis are against Nukes” and many others.
They raised slogans against the Kalabagh dam and criticized construction of large dams on River Indus. They demanded that the dreadful large dams be banished forever from the books of Pakistani planners. They also demanded the abolition of WAPDA and delegation of power generation and distribution to the provinces. The Sindhi group included many local Sindhis and others who had traveled from upstate New York, Texas, Connecticut, California, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC to advance the cause of Sindh.
Iqbal Tareen emphasized that the nature of the protest was not against the existence of Pakistan but to attract world attention to the plight of Sindhis who were discriminated in political, cultural, economic spheres. He talked about the unfair treatment given to Sindhis and other minorities in the country. He raised the issue of Pakistan Resolution and the violations of this covenant. Many instances of individual and collective human rights violations were cited to the international media.
He said that Sindh was mother of Pakistan and how could it be against the existence of its own child. The international media was also told that Sindhis were not happy with their present status in Pakistan. As in the case of East Pakistan, the responsibility of any future harm done to the unity of the federation will fall solely on Pakistani military, bureaucracy and their allies and not on the people of Sindh and small provinces. The media was informed of the growing number of suicides among the Sindhi youth.