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Customs of Sindh

by Rana Rizvi

 

"Oh Lord,
Hear the lamenting of the people
And permit it to rain without hesitation (promptly).
Let it rain
And let the droplets be sweet
Like sugar diluted in milk."

Faqirs (folk singers) at the 256th Urs of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, an eminent sufi poet of Sindh, which was held from May - to, sang the wonderfully vibrant song--.

Sindh a beautiful province of Pakistan has a rich culture. The above mentioned verses of the raag (song) titled "Sarang" that peals a prayer for rain. And for three days the prayer reverberated all around. Nowadays Sindh and its inhabitants are suffering due to drought. The residents are leaving their native land in search of water. And the heart-wrenching roars for rain of the people for water were heard in the 3-day urs of great poet of Sindh.

Allan Faqir, Sohrab Faqir, Mai Bhagi, charismatic and powerful folk singers sing the poetry of Shah Latif and mesmerized the people. The folk musicians play an important role to universalize the Sindhi folklore. When folk singer Sohrab Faqir sang the song "Rano" with passion - more than 500 people were listening in a hypnotize manner there.

The canvas of Sindh is incomplete without the colors of poetry of Shah Latif who was a poet of love, peace and beauty. At the same time he was a poet of the poor, hungry, downtrodden and the suppressed. He embellishes his poetry with a rare beauty of language that is shared only by the greatest of the great poets of the world.

He believed in the persistent and eternal struggle. He was a saint but did not believe in sitting at one place for the worship of Almighty God. He was a walker, traveler, and a wanderer in the pursuit of 'truth and beauty.' He succeeded in his search of 'Ultimate Truth' and attained the sublime state of spiritual consolation as he says:

Those that seek, they are ones that meet
The Beloved at all times and in every street,
Those that to search him take to the road,
They will arrive at the Beloved's abode
The personality of Shah Latif as a towering poet has been so pervading and dominating that Sindhi poetry, from the last two and half centuries has predominantly been influenced by his diction, language, thought content, alliteration and style. The words, phrases and metaphors used in his poetry are identical to the land of Sindh, which Shah Latif has called 'sanneh' i.e. Homeland.

He has used the word 'saaneh' in a beautiful and immortal couplet as he says:

The Beloved and the Homeland, only the shamless can forget
Fie upon those who have forgotten their homeland.
There were so many saints and poets born in Sindh and every year a large number of people gathered at their tombs and celebrated their Urs (annual festival). Sachaal Sarmast is another saint poet of Sindh who served the humanity through his poetry. But it is very tragic that the homeland of Shah Latif turned in a land of hell for women of Sindh as a number of women have been killed in the 'name of honor.' They are victims of centuries-old customs like Karo Kari, marriage with the Holy Quarn and latter occur specially in the Syed (Upper cast in Muslims) or most conservative families.

Syed families do not want to marry their daughters or sisters with non-syed boys. They arranged a marriage ceremony of their daughters with the Holy Quran and the whole life woman read the Holy Quran. But it is very hopeful that this custom is very low.

Karo Kari originated from tribes of Baluchistan, has claimed the lives of 286 women in 1998.

If a woman having illicit relations with a male, according to custom of karo kari, she is kari and her punishment is death. But in a number of cases their loved ones - fathers, brothers, husbands and sons, kill innocent women for their own purposes like get rid of their wife, for property, for revenge, for defeat of enemy, for getting another woman from enemy tribe and for hiding any committed crime. They know that they are killing innocent woman.

In a village of Sindh, a man called Aslam reportedly vouched for his wife's innocence after she had been attacked by his brother who alleged her of having an illicit liaison. The husband took her to city for treatment when he was told that his wife would be permanently paralyzed from the waist down, he enraged, declared her as kari and murdered. He took a woman as compensation from the supposed karo's family.

In some cases if a girl wants to marry with her own choice, she is killed in the name of honor because Pakistani society is feudal and tribal society where men dominate on women. They decide about the fate of woman and get the shelter under the umbrella of laws.

In June 1998, in a remote village of Sindh, 21-year-old Waheeda was killed by her husband Abdul Sattar and his family, declaring her as kari. The victim's family revealed the fact behind this act that she had given birth to a daughter instead of a son. Her husband also wanted to take revenge to some people of his clan. He killed his wife and declared his as kari and alleged karo was one of his enemies.

Tribal people, police and tribal mediators are involved in this inhuman practice of karo kari. A report of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan indicates: "The police in Kashmore charged Rs 7,000 to keep silent about karo kari murders. They never recorded cases and there is zero per cent crime rate."

Although a large number of cases of karo kari murders have been reported from Sukkur, Hyderabad, Larkana and in upper part of Sindh - Jacobabad, Shikarpur and Ghotki where tribal system is more powerful where women are considered as the property of male members of the families. They are considered as honor of the families and they don't have to power to decide about them selves. It is widely believed that karo kari is not only the question of honor, but it has been converted into a dirty business. Amnesty International and Human Rights Organizations have condemned this custom and urged to Government of Pakistan to take stern action against this inhuman practice.

Implementation of laws is another question. Shah Latif always portrayed the role of woman in a very positive and strong but today, the yells of women of Sindh could be heard in many parts of the areas. A question arises:   For how long will innocent women mercilessly be killed by this inhuman practics? Will their sufferings end in this millennium?


Rana Rizvi has a Master's degree in journalism from the University of Karachi and over 11 years experience as a journalist for leading newspapres such as Dawn, Star. Presently she is working as an editor of Vista, a weekly page of The News daily. Writing features, articles and short stories is her passion.

Rana has written a number of short stories which were published and broadcast from Indian Radio. Rana also loves poetry. Her father was a journalist, writer and poet. His two collection of poetry published after his death.

From Rana: "Instead of sorrow and grief, I want to listen the laughter of children, watch the smile on the faces of people, and hear the songs of birds. Peace should be in the world instead of war and nuclear weapons. Discrimination, hunger, poverty should be eradicated from all over the world. This is my dream."


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