February 15, 2017

The session titled Ilaqai aur Qaumi Shanakht(Regional and National Identity) on the 3rd day of the KLF drew crowds due to its diverse list of panelists. Amar Jalil, well known Sindhi intellectual has a huge following among the Sindhi youth. His sessions at the KLF in previous years saw packed halls. But Amar Jaleel couldn’t make it to this session. Also, Baloch writer and novelist Munir Ahmed Badini failed to make an appearance and as it turned out, the session had only two panelists, playwright Noor ul Huda Shah and Masood Lohar, an environmentalist and human rights activist. Feminist Sindhi poet Attiya Dawood moderated the session.

Attiya Dawood started by referring to the varying interpretations of identity and the notions of regional or national identity. She explained how her being a Sindhi is not by any way in conflict with the national identity.

Noor ul Huda Shah emphasized  the significance of one’s birthplace, mother tongue and how she had won the love and adoration of her considerably vast Sindhi readership.She spoke about the many different languages and identities living in Pakistan and advocated the right of each to promote their own language.

Masood Lohar criticised bigotry against any language  and the trend to belittle the role of one against the other. “There is cynicism about nation-building in Pakistan but elements of regional culture do not get acceptance in the mainstream.”

He referred to the Ajrak and emphasized that it should be feted by using it in the mainstream as an addition to official dresses, or in the badges on the uniforms of the armed forces. On the other hand, he criticized the narrow-minded nationalist forces who, in the last month, took the field against two respected Sindhi academics and social activists Arfana Mallah, and Amar Sindhu for their gifts of Ajraks and Sindhi caps to members of the law enforcement agencies at the  University of Sindh.

Talking about the writing scripts, Masood informed the audience of the advancements in Sindhi, in terms of availability of apps on multiple platforms aiding the user to read, write and understand the language. He further said that if intellectuals failed to integrate people, technology would do the trick. In the age of digital technology and smart phone applications, people can easily find avenues of expression in their own languages.

Noor ul Huda Shah referred to the comments of Sindhi singer Saif Samejo from another session that even if the beloved dies, we have to bury him/her. She stressed the need to bury the hatchet, to end differences, prejudices and re-think the idea which is called Nazarya Pakistan (Pakistan Ideology) that has contributed to denying the rights and identity of those living here.

“We have to bring the people together, irrespective of their diversity and differences.” She said. While answering a question regarding Balochistan, she said that the abducted social media activists who were released after three weeks were vocal on Balochistan, and none of them was Baloch.

Ali Arqam main domain is Karachi: Its politics, security and law and order