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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

‘In the political tug of war it’s the poor and helpless that hurt the most’: Beena Sarwar

“I, an American, a New Yorker used to the harsh winter and snowy weather yet, I am freezing in Pakistan. My heart goes out to those suffering the cold winter without shelter, blankets, clothing. May God provide you with his soldiers to keep fighting for the injustices meted out to you. May we all be able to look beyond the differences and reach out a helping hand.” – Geet Chainani, Dec 15, 2010 My article on an Indian-American doctor who comes to Pakistan in search of her Sindhi roots… and finds a sense of peace working for flood-affected women and children, published in Aman ki Asha, March 2, 2011 (as another Indian put it – “not Akhand Bharat, but Akhand Insaniyat”)

‘In the political tug of war it’s the poor and helpless that hurt the most’

When the New York-based Dr Geet Chainani decided to come to Pakistan last year in search of her Sindhi roots, little did she know that she would end up staying for months – finding not just her roots but “a sense of peace” as she puts it, in alleviating the misery of flood-affected villagers in rural Sindh.

Aman ki Asha has been in touch with Dr. Geet Chainani since early February, when she emailed our contributor Zarminae Ansari, whose articles she had seen on the website This is an attempt to highlight not only Dr Chainani’s work in Pakistan, but also her thoughts as a humanitarian, and as a supporter of peace between India and Pakistan.

For the first six weeks after her arrival in Pakistan on August 30, 2010, she volunteered her medical services with the Organization for Social Development Initiatives, a Karachi based NGO. She has since been working as the director of public health of Life Bridge US (an organisation she founded) and regional director of public health for the US-based Real Medicine Foundation (RMF).

The complication is that although she is an American citizen, Geeta Chainani was born in India. Visitors with Indian origin often find it difficult to obtain visa extensions in Pakistan, but so far, Dr Chainani’s voluntary work has helped her to obtain the necessary permissions to stay on – which she would like to do “as long as Pakistan lets me”, in order to continue working with villagers around Dadu and Thatta.

It helps that she speaks Sindhi fluently, “thanks to my nani, who raised me and didn’t speak English”. She also taught herself Hindustani, or Urdu, driven by her love for Bollywood and Urdu ghazals. “I realised very early how beautiful the language is, and how many different ways there are to say ‘love’.”

She had planned the trip to Pakistan prior to the floods to research her roots, as her grandparents were born in Sindh, and she had recently learnt that her great grandfather Jethmal Parsram Gulrajani was a well-known writer of books on Sufism and Sindh. “Interestingly, I had discovered Sufism about five years ago while I was in medical school and realized that it reflected many of the thoughts I had on God and spirituality.”

“Upon arrival in Pakistan I found myself in Shikarpur and Khairpur providing medical relief to displaced flood affectees in tent cities. Pakistan was in a state of emergency and the least I could do was help to keep people alive, having trained for six years to do just that. It’s been four months and I am still here, working to provide flood affectees with health care in the interior regions of Sindh,” she wrote in her email to Zarminae.

"We were talking and joking; I asked them if they wanted to get a picture taken, and they did!" Geet Chainani with children at a village near Thatta

“The most important part of my experience is the way Pakistan has welcomed me. The brotherhood I have felt in every single meeting since the day I first arrived has moved me beyond words. I have felt more love and genuine concern in Pakistan than anywhere else. And I have yet to see or understand how a Pakistani is any different from an Indian.

“As an American I know there is a fine line we all draw between the two communities differentiating ourselves from each other. The truth is we are probably the two closest communities in all of South Asia,” she wrote.

“My stance in life isn’t pro-religion or patriotic. It’s pro-humanity,” she said in a later conversation. “I would like to continue my work here as I have gained a great sense of peace in my time in Pakistan and in the work I am doing.”

Dr Chainani is currently working to set up sustainable health and education services through Life Bridge Pakistan and Real Medicine Foundation. She is also discussing partnership options with organizations like Shine Humanity, Comprehensive Disaster Response Services (CDRS), and Naya Jeevan in an attempt to prevent the duplication of services and provide a whole bodied, integrated and sustainable approach to healthcare delivery.

“We are all busy doing our part in flood relief in various regions and concentrations,” she explains. “Naya Jeevan ran affordable health insurance and various social causes prior to the floods; since then, they have added a safe delivery initiative. CDRS focused mainly on Azad Kashmir and NWFP; the flooding brought them to Sindh, particularly the Shikarpur area. I work mainly in Dadu and Thatta now. It’s hard to meet consistently and devise a strategy to work together, but we all support each other’s work.”

Dr Chainani also works with the District level governments to implement health care capacity building strategies to the flood devastated regions.

Realising the donors’ need for transparency and accountability, she is working on a web and cell phone based programme to provide transparency.

This year, she dedicated her birthday in February to RMF and Life Bridge Pakistan flood relief efforts, asking friends to donate to these causes rather than spend money on a present for her.

“It kills me that the international media has moved on from the Pakistan floods so quickly, even before the water level had decreased,” she says, emphasising the need to raise awareness in the international media about the flood victims and the on-ground realities.

Dr Chainani compares the situation to earthquake-devastated Haiti: “The 16,000 suspected cases of cholera in Haiti were being reported yet the 6,00,000+ cases of acute watery diarrhoea in Pakistan went ignored. The 9 million people of Haiti kept getting talked about yet the 20 million of Pakistan were out of the picture. The people affected in Pakistan were twice the population of Haiti yet they haven’t even received half the funding Haiti’s got.”

Working in the field in Pakistan was a revelatory experience. “I’ve met people who haven’t seen a doctor once in the six months, haven’t gotten more than a month’s worth of rations, who are sleeping in tents without blankets through the winters, women who can’t bathe because they don’t have a second set of clothing,” she says, “It’s an injustice. And now when funding was finally supposed to come through, the Davis case comes up and rocks the boat. In the political tug of war it’s the poor and helpless that hurt the most. There are 20 million people completely unaware of who Raymond Davis is. All they can think of is how to stay warm, feed their hunger and keep themselves alive.”

So… “the world needs to be reminded over and over again to leave the politics to the politicians, while we concentrate our energies on helping each other out.”

Overall, Pakistan “needs a fresh approach. I think the world also needs to see the other side of Islam – the peaceful, loving, brotherly, humble side. I experience it every day. I think it’s important to highlight that too.”

Her views are endorsed by another medical doctor from India with Sindhi roots who was in Pakistan working for flood relief last year – Dr Manohar Jethani of Chicago who came here with Dr M. Murtaza Arain (read about his experiences in Aman ki Asha: ‘My DNA is in the dust of Pakistan’. Dr Jethani has been involved with humanitarian work in various countries for several years.

“I would love to be able to do some charity work in Pakistan annually if I could,” he wrote in a recent email to Dr Chainani, who had contacted him with Aman ki Asha’s reference.

“There are so many people who want to come,” says Dr Geet Chainani. “I’m expecting another volunteer, also a young Indian Sindhi from New York in March. She will be in the field with the team providing support services. My being here opens that gateway up for them. I think there would be a lot more volunteers if more people knew what it’s like here. Many of us are curious about Pakistan, our roots, our heritage. I grew up dreaming I would visit someday. That someday is here.”
Beena Sarwar

– Beena Sarwar (March 3, 2011)

“Emergency Flood Relief – Sindh, Pakistan:
I am a doctor. I flew out to Pakistan to help provide immediate medical relief services in the field to victims of the world’s largest natural disaster. I have been doing that 100% voluntarily since arrival. This is a completely independent venture” – Sept 28, 2010, Youtube video

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Resentment Against PPP's Policy Of Capitulation: "Potters’ Wares" by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

What is Zulfiqarabad? Who is it for? What is the reality of MQM? Reconciliation or capitulation? Sindh rises against PPP policies. Read on ...
The terrorism perpetrated after Zulfiqar Mirza’s statement left a trail of destruction in its wake because the call to teach him a lesson resulted in a score killed and properties and vehicles destroyed. This carnage was one of the sequels of the May 12 incident 

 Watayo Faqir is to Sindh what Mullah Naseerudin is to Turkey, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Once someone informed Watayo that his mother had gone crazy and was writhing in the dust in the city centre; knowing his mother acted oddly at times he was nonetheless surprised. Reaching home he inquired; she replied that having seen a rupee coin in the path and thinking that if she picks it up someone would claim it, the best way was to act crazy and pocket it without anyone suspecting. Watayo said, “I knew my mother would not be all that crazy without a very good reason.”

What the PPP leadership terms as the policy of reconciliation is in fact a policy of capitulation for preserving their narrow personal short-term interests and has nothing to do with the welfare or benefit of the people in general and Sindhis in particular. But then nothing better can be expected from people whose politics are based on self-interest.

National interest and preservation of democracy is mendaciously bandied about as the reason behind the vacillations, oscillations, dithering and capitulation of the PPP, which would shame even the most brazen politician of any country, to appease the MQM. The sole purpose behind these brazen transmogrifications is the self-interest of the elite of these two parties who do not even bother to ask their colleagues’ opinions. Syed Zafar Ali Shah, Taj Haider and Nabeel Gabol have come out openly against this ludicrous pantomime. Naturally, no one from the MQM wants to end up in a gunny bag so there has not been a squeak from anyone; any way why would the victors complain?

The resentment amongst the people of Sindh is palpable and their anger at the PPP’s capitulation was expressed by the success of the strike called by the nationalist parties on August 8. Even PPP members have taken to the streets against the latest capitulation. This pusillanimous and chronic backtracking has made them an object of ridicule and derision for common people because those who forge and implement these preposterous decisions live in inaccessible mansions away from the grubby masses. This habitual volte-face along with the carefree attitude towards the views and problems of workers is isolating the PPP from whatever support that has survived.

The MQM is a different entity; it is ruled from London and only absolute submission is the rule — dissenters are meted out horrible punishments. It is a party that is based on terror, oiled by terror and thrives on terror. This is how this organisation is run and there is no other way for its survival. A quote by George MacDonald (1824-1905), a Scottish poet and author, fits to a T all fascist organisations and individuals. He says, “A beast does not know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast, the less he knows it.”

The terrorism perpetrated after Zulfiqar Mirza’s statement left a trail of destruction in its wake because the call to teach him a lesson resulted in a score killed and properties and vehicles destroyed. This carnage was one of the sequels of the May 12 incident; there have been quite a few follow up episodes of that successful run of the show by the MQM during the Musharraf era. Oddly, no one is ready to blame the real culprits in Karachi.

The much flaunted powerbase and mandate have been acquired by sowing terror. All elections are massively rigged and manipulated and all parties practice it in places where they can cow the election staff. The MQM always boasts of a mind-boggling number of votes cast in their constituencies and this they do through fraudulently stuffing ballot boxes. The number of votes that the MQM claims cannot physically be cast in the limited time period and the cumbersome procedure that is required to cast a single vote. This rigging is done to lay claim to being the majority’s representative. This comes in handy to intimidate others into submission through threats. A heavy and unhindered presence of international observers during the elections could expose this mandate farce any day.

In Karachi, the mafias of warlords — that is what all the political overlords there are — rule the roost and little wonder that the violence is expanding and becoming more vicious because it is the cannon fodder that is being killed while the godfathers are safe and sound in their sanctuaries in London and Islamabad. Karachi is dying a slow death due to the insatiable greed of warlords and the ineptness of the governments.

This backtracking and appeasing different warlords for retaining their right to rule to continue plundering is driving nail after nail into the coffin of the rights of the indigenous Sindhis. Ironically the PPP, which claims to represent Sindh, is not only providing ample nails but is helping in driving them deep into the coffin bequeathed to them by Musharraf and have proved more assiduous in the task of burying the rights of indigenous Sindhis for good.

The PPP government, not content with disenfranchising the indigenous Sindhis in the major cities of Sindh by appeasing and giving the MQM all the clout to prosper, has now initiated plans for the new real estate bonanza for its cronies in the name of Zulfiqarabad in the Thatta region. This will bring about irreversible demographic changes, which will condemn Sindhis to relegation to a minority in their own land. This is how the PPP has exacted the ‘best revenge’ against the indigenous population in Sindh.

My friend Shahab Usto, who sometimes writes in these pages, wrote to me that he wished there were a leader of Aung San Suu Kyi’s calibre to lead us out of this dark era. I replied with a couplet of Hafiz Shirazi:

“Gohar-e-Jâm-e-Jam Az Kaan-e-Jahan-e-Digar Ast,

Tu Tammana Za Gill-e-Koozah Garran Mee Daari.

(Tis was a pearl of another universe, the Jâm-e-Jam,

A folly to expect potters’ wares to be the Jâm-e-Jam.)

A little elaboration of legend will help. Jamshid the Persian Emperor had the Jâm-e Jam, which was a magical seven-ringed cup filled with the elixir of immortality and allowed him to observe the universe. Aung San Suu Kyi is the ‘Jâm-e-Jam’ and ‘potters’ wares’ our lot; little wonder we are where we are. Those obsessed with accumulating pelf cannot be expected to do any good for the people.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at

Courtesy: daily Times, August 14, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

PPP-MQM Deal On LG System: Two Laws Introduced In The Province

These are my comments today on facebook on the PPP-MQM deal on the Local Government system that effectively divides the province in two. It is a dangerous step that will bring further trouble to the strife-torn province. Comments generated a widely participated debate on the social network. All the participants unanimously condemned the government move. It is hoped that the government will reconsider its ill-conceived decision to avoid any further damage. (Aziz Narejo)

Ibad, Awan, Qaim talking on the PPP-MQM deal on LG system


One Province, One Law! Say NO to two laws in Sindh - one for the blackmailers & the other for the SLAVES! Say no to discrimination on any basis. People are the real masters. They can change the govt's unscrupulous decisions. Depends how much the people are committed to to their beliefs, how outraged they are & what their reaction is.

A comment: They (PPP) make the law (Local Govt Amendment Act) & then THEY break the law. Yes, they should be held accountable. They must take back this black ordinance.

In response to a comment: …, yes, all of us should play our part. All the parties that claim to fight for the rights of the people should spearhead the movement. Remember the movement against Kalabagh Dam? Same thing can happen now.


Black, divisive & discriminatory Ordinance by Sindh Govt: I think this is a fit case for all the people in Sindh (no matter if they speak Sindhi, Urdu, Pushto, Balochi, Punjabi, Memoni, Gujrati, Siraiki or any other language) to come together & take a united stand against this divisive & discriminatory ordinance that seeks to divide the people & introduce a caste system in Sindh. People from other provinces & fair-minded people world over should condemn it too.

In response to a comment: Dear …, you have to gain support from the sympathizers & voters of PPP too to get this ordinance revoked. We must not use inflammatory language. There will be many more occasions to do that.

In response to a comment: ..., I saw this message on a Facebook wall: consider doing it: هنن نمبرن تي ايس ايم ايس ڪري کين دٻاءُ وجهو ته هو بي انتها غلط ڪري رهيا آهن ۽ سنڌ جي ڌرتي کين پاڻ ۾ دفن ڪرڻ لاءِ به تيار نه ٿيندي اگر اهي هن واهيات فيصلي تان هٿ نه ٿا کڻن.

Pir Mazhar 03075425298
Agha Siraj 03008311755
M. B. Chndio 03003016700
Sharjel Memn 03008299855
Sasui Palijo 03012398361
Ayaz Soomro 03003400441
Nisar Khuhro 03008216803
Shazia Mari 03009247009
Zahid Bhurgri 03003011797
Manzoor Wasan 03008248444

He also writes:
 مهرباني ڪري لعنت ملامت کان پاسو ڪري پنهنجي ڳالهه سولي نموني سان رکو. هي وقت آهي، پنهنجي پاڻ کي نڀائڻ جو. انتهائي ٿڌي دماغ سان سوچي ايس ايم ايس ٺاهيو. ايس ايم ايس ٺاهڻ مهل اهو ضرور سوچجو ته هاڻي اوهان سنڌ جا وڪيل آهيو، ٻولي اهڙي استعمال ڪندا جيئن اوهان پنهنجو ڪيس کٽي سگھو.

In response to a comment: Thanks to all the friends. Pl support any announcement from political parties to agitate against this ordinance & also send messages to media outlets, elected representatives & the leaders of all political parties.

In response to a comment: Per kanhn jo intizaar karNo naahey. Her kanhn khey panhnjo kam karNo aahey ain her agitation jo saath DiyaNo aahey.


Black, divisive & discriminatory ordinance: PLEDGE NOT TO VOTE FOR PPP: I think people should hold big gatherings/rallies in all district headquarters & take oath that they will not vote for PPP anymore if it didn't take this ordinance back immediately & didn't stop its policies harming the interests of the people in the province.


In all fairness, people should also pledge not to vote for the violent, terrorist & divisive politics of MQM either.


Black & cursed ordinance: A GOLDEN CHANCE FOR MQM: Don't laugh. It may sound strange but this really presents a great opportunity to MQM to win over great many hearts in Sindh: What if MQM rejects the ordinance & tells the govt to take it back with the comments that it doesn't support discriminatory laws & that it doesn't want to divide the people? After all, Altaf said yesterday Sindh was HIS MOTHER!!! Why not send this message to MQM leadership? Some of them are reading it right now.

In response to a comment: …I know it is not on their agenda & that MQM serves the interests of its voters. But it is a political party & it must recognize the moment to capture the history & turn the tide. If it has thinking minds, they must realize that it is actually in their own long interest.

In response to another comment: ..., don't give this thing a racist look. You can plead a case on its merits and win. If you make it parochial, you would lose. This is not the case of any particular community. This is the case of whole Sindh. We still don't realize how big an issue it is & how big opportunities there are.

In response to a comment: ..., plead the case not at one forum but at all the forums available to us - plead with the people, with voters, with citizens, with media, with politicians, with elected people, in international arena, on social networks - wherever we get an opportunity. All is not lost. Himmat jee zaroorat aahey ain her hik sipahee thiye. 


ايم قيو ايم ۽ پي ايم ايل نواز تي ته ڪاوڙ جهٽ ٿي اچي اسانجي سياسي، صحافتي ۽ ٻئي ”سجاڳ“ لڏي کي، رستا بند به ٿين ٿا ته قيٿا روڪ به ٿئي ٿي. ڏسڻو اهو آهي ته ان ساڳين ماڻهن کي پ پ پ جي غلط پاليسين تي ڪيتري مَٺيان ٿي لڳي ۽ ڪيترا رستا بند ٿا ٿين، ڪيترا گهيرائو ٿا ٿين ۽ ڪيتري ٿي ڦيٿا روڪ ٿئي نه ته پڪ ڄاڻو ته پ پ پ سان گڏ ان جا حمايتي، ووٽر ۽ ٻيو سڄو لڏو به ڪُڌن ڪمن لاءِ ايترو ئي ذميوار آهي

In response to a comment: ….., bey-wasi & maayoosi jee gaalh naahey. Manho & partiyoon gadji pawan ta hee ta chha per ghaNa masai-la hal thhee saghan thha

In response to a comment: ادا، مهرباني. يقين ڪريو، هي جيڪو اسان لکون پيا اهو فضول ناهي، سڀني پارٽين جا اڳواڻ جنهن ۾ پ پ پ، ايم قيو ايم، قوم پرست پارٽيون، پي ايم ايل ن، سياسي ۽ سماجي ڪارڪن ۽ ميڊيا جا ماڻهو شامل آهن، اهي سڀ هي پڙهن پيا ۽ پنهنجو ۽ عوام جو پيغام انهن تائين پهچي پيو