You might have noticed that PPP has yet again managed to bring marginalized people to the forefront of Pakistani politics with Tanzeela Qambrani as their MPA from Sindh. Tanzeela took the oath taking ceremony by storm by being a representative of the Sheedi tribe of Sindh.
She’s being called the Pakistani Rihanna and while many may be taking it as a celebratory moment, this is a time for greater learning for everyone
This inclusion of a minority community that has largely been ignored before allows for people to understand political correctness in addressing everyone, empathy and understanding the experience of others. This is why Tanzeela Qambrani’s inclusion in the Sindh Assembly is a remarkable step.
Pakistan is a land home to various different cultures and beliefs. Although, over time, due to the increase in extremism, the existence of these people is very rarely acknowledged.
Tanzeela Qambrani is the first lawmaker from her community. Her father was a lawyer and her mother is believed to have retired as a school teacher. She did her post graduate in Computer Science from the University of Sindh.
However, Tanzeela becoming an MPA has left many intrigued because not many people knew about a community of African descent living in Pakistan. All we have ever imagined (read: taught) is that we have Arab linkages and with that lesson, we stopped exploring the diversity of our own country.
The Sheedi tribe is believed to be descendant of the Bantu people in Africa
They were slaves, merchants, mercenaries, and servants. They are thought to have been brought to the Indian subcontinent by the Portuguese as slaves. Some of this population converted to Islam, while a minority also converted to Hinduism. It is also believed that one slave was able to get the status of a nobleman – Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut was a confidant of Razia Sultana and by some accounts, he is also believed to be her lover.
The most famous Sheedi in Pakistan’s collective conscious has been Hosh Mohammad Sheedi
Back in 1843, he led an army against the British to delay the annexation of Sindh. Despite losing the battle, the annexation was significantly delayed. To commemorate his efforts, the Sheedi mark his death anniversary every year.
In Pakistan, you will find them residing in Makran and Karachi, and their total population estimate is around 50,000 to 60,000 people. If you look at the community in Sindh, you will realize that they have mostly inter-married with Kori, Khatri, Mallah, and Kashkheli. They regard the Sufi saint Pir Mangho as their patron saint. They also visit his shrine and believe in the healing powers of the crocodiles at the shrine.
Very closely related to the beliefs of this community is the Sheedi Mela that takes place every year for four days during the summers
The dates of this festival are decided by the community leaders. The festival takes place at Pir Mangho’s shrine and many believers come to offer fresh meat to the crocodiles. This is seen as a sacrifice. The Sheedis believe that the crocodiles do not harm the true believers of Pir Mangho and hence give the same respect that they would offer a human being, especially when it comes to death. They have a designated place for burying the crocodiles and do so with the utmost respect.
The highlight of the Mela is when the gaddi nasheen (the holy successor) puts a garland around the chief of crocodiles (Mor Sahib). This activity depends entirely on the mood of the chief but the presence of meat usually does the trick. Along with this, there is music and dance replicating the essence of Africa.
Their music is greatly appreciated – the best example of which is PPP anthem “Dilan Teer Bija“
The rhythm and the use of drums are typical of Sheedi music. They also conduct a festival called the Habsh Festival. In this festival, dance is just not limited to the performers but each and every person gets up to remove the difference between the performers and the audience.
Another interesting aspect of their lives is that the Sheedi community of Sindh also takes pride in calling themselves “Qambrani”.
This is based on the name of the slave of Hazrat Ali who was freed. Tanzeela Qambrani is also part of the same group.
The Sheedi community of Pakistan lives in extreme poverty and does not have access to basic necessities. The fact that their presence was unknown to more than half of the population for 70 years shows how oblivious we live of our own circumstances. It is great to see some political parties working to bring the marginalized to the forefront because they understand the problems of their areas and can work towards resolving them too.
cover image via geo.tv