Articles on this Page
- 10/21/17--00:35: _#MeToo: I am older,...
- 10/21/17--23:00: _Irfan Bhai and his ...
- 10/28/17--00:15: _After Verna and Art...
- 11/07/17--03:27: _Because I own Karachi
- 11/20/17--03:30: _Happy Children’s Da...
- 11/24/17--23:19: _With its fresh tale...
- 12/12/17--04:32: _RIP Masood Ahmad Ba...
- 01/16/18--03:37: _From Donut Burger t...
- 02/10/18--02:04: _#PashtunLongMarch: ...
- 02/10/18--22:00: _I am stationary, an...
- 02/10/18--23:00: _Karachi’s traffic m...
- 03/08/18--01:17: _To the women of Pak...
- 03/12/18--03:14: _We all know what di...
- 03/13/18--03:14: _Pakistan, Bahadurab...
- 03/14/18--04:45: _Does Karachi belong...
- 03/18/18--00:00: _What will it take f...
- 03/20/18--04:13: _As PSL comes home a...
- 03/24/18--03:33: _In PSL’s ultimate s...
- 03/27/18--06:07: _When PSL came to Ka...
- 03/29/18--05:51: _The city of Sufism,...
- 10/21/17--23:00: Irfan Bhai and his solar eclipse
- 11/07/17--03:27: Because I own Karachi
- 02/10/18--22:00: I am stationary, and Karachi is movement
- 03/14/18--04:45: Does Karachi belong to Imran Khan?
- 03/18/18--00:00: What will it take for Karachi’s 20 million citizens to feel safe?
- 03/27/18--06:07: When PSL came to Karachi, and the city felt alive again
The first time it happened, I was seven. An imam in our neighbourhood mosque held me, taking my hand, wrapping my fingers (they were still tiny) around his genitals, then massaging it. I was so small I did not know what it was that was in my hand. I had never seen it before and I certainly did not know what it felt like.
“Do you like it?” he asked again and again, until someone came to the room, and he quickly let go of me.Later, I told my mom about this peculiar incident, and she wept for weeks and months over it but told me not to tell anyone. I was so small that I asked my mother why and what exactly was the imam asking me to do. And why would I like it? I asked my mother if I could tell my grandfather who I was really close to, she said,
“No, not even grandpa.”The next time, not long after, it was another imam (it seemed as though the word was going around that I was an easy target–I was mostly a shy and quiet child). My mother could not leave me alone anywhere after that, I wasn't allowed to play outside, or be out of sight. I grew up, afraid and wary, but never protested, and most of the times never told a soul. During my teens, however, it began again; by a teacher, my school bus driver, groping, fondling, grabbing, then later astonishingly a colleague, a friend, a number of friends, a doctor, a relative, many relatives, a stranger and then many strangers. It was both the men I trusted and those whom I avoided. It was the men I admired, respected, and those I knew nothing about. It was the men I had crushes on. I felt like I was a magnet for trouble. It wasn’t until my late teens that I saw another girl being harassed publicly in broad daylight. News flash: It wasn’t just me. But I saw that no one helped that girl. I remember transforming from the timid girl who feared men, to an angry woman. I slapped men on the street – the grabbers, often even catcallers; I pinched men who slipped their fingers under the seat in public transports (yes, it is very common in Karachi’s buses); I threw pebbles (sometimes stones) on those who hoped to flee after the act. In fact, I became an expert on finding pebbles; I knew what size, type and weight to look for that would strike the target accurately from a distance. Especially if the harasser was on a bike, I knew how to quickly grab one and not miss my target. Girls in my college used exam boards to cover their chests when they would walk outside the college, to curtail the chances of being harassed by men. I stayed alert, and took on men who would harass/hurt other girls. My late teens and early 20s passed away like this. My forehead still has a slight but stubborn frown, sustained from the creases from those young days. Many family members and younger cousins made fun of me and called me names. Women who knew how I dealt with such men on the streets never wanted to go out to the bazaar with me; they felt embarrassed of my protests. They told me that it was not appropriate for girls to behave in such a manner and that I didn’t have to be like the men. Once I beat up the son of a police officer, in front of other men in the neighbourhood, in Karachi. Soon the said police officer showed up at my house, with protocol, to see my father. A number of our neighbours and the elderly (it’s important to note that these were false accusations) accused me of having bad character. They said I was catcalling their son and that I should be locked in the house. This wasn’t the first time men spoke to my father about my ‘bad character’. It was outrageous for them that a women, a tiny girl, was telling them “no”! My father, a simple man, was embarrassed and had no idea why complaints were being made if I wasn’t the culprit. Being a man, it wasn’t obvious to him what was obvious to my mother. In the conservative neighbourhood that we lived in, my father was often asked why he would let me out of the house in the first place. So, I was punished for months. It affected my school life and hence the process of my heart being broken into pieces initiated. I realised, even though I behaved strongly, my boldness was no good. I was not stronger than all of them. Silly me, so little in my teens, I should have listened to all the girls who kept their mouths shut and told me to do the same. When harassment came in my 20s and 30s, often in the field as a reporter or at university campuses (where I was always and by all means reminded I was too young to be a professor), it was by the men who did not go to my father anymore. During my protests, men shunned me in other ways. They went behind my back and called me names – a Manhattan lawyer I refused to kiss, who I confronted me via an email, responded to me with threats, and I genuinely got scared of him. Whether they are men from the east or men from the west, the story is the same. If you tell a man off – white, brown or even an orange man – he will go after you. They would falsely accuse you of things just because it’s convenient. Society, both men and women, believe the man. Men took credit for my work and sometimes even stole my work. They hit on me even when I told them I was dating someone else or even if they were married. They kept whispering in my editor’s ears that my work was horrible; an incident I was told by the perpetrator himself and when confronted, he said he did it “just like that”. They did not pay me for the work I did for months, spread rumours about not only my character (because that wasn’t enough) but the quality and authenticity of my work just so they could nullify the need for my work. It’s a strategy, you see. These men in my adult life were not young boys from another neighbourhood in Karachi anymore; these were educated, smart, influential grown men and they knew how to smear. They were my flirtatious bosses or the men who wanted to be bosses because they thought I was alone, and needy. Men assume that being a woman by default, I ought to do favours to get ahead. Some men were my sources in the stories I were to write; powerful military men who wanted to ‘trade’ information with me, or socially weak men. In one instance, an old refugee man mistook my empathy as an invitation. All these men tore away my spine. They took away so much of my energy, that when I say I am tired, I am not just lethargic tired; I am broken-into-pieces tired. My forehead burns with the warm racing blood as I type this. Somewhere along the line, I completely lost my toughness that I had when I was a teenager. I became soft and mushy, unsure and nervous. People who say that women engage in sexual relationships for career advancements simply want to get you busy in the boulderdash. Where are those women? Show me! Show me the women who exchange sexual favours to get ahead. The truth is, it is just something men like to tell each other when they harass, abuse and attack women. When these women stand up for themselves and tell them ‘no’, they go darting at them. The time we spend manoeuvring all these men, missing their darts is a difficult defence technique to achieve in this battle, especially when you are weak and under-resourced. Last month, while I was on a work trip in Georgia, I was pushed to the wall by a man at a friend’s house. He assumed I would be open to it – mostly because in his mind, that’s what women traveling (working/driving/breathing) alone are looking for, to be forced against walls. What is evident, though, is that safe environments don’t become magically safer just because you are in your 30s and relatively wiser. Last week, another incident occurred in Turkey. I was interviewing a man and his hands wandered from the keyboard to my chest. This is never going to stop. Over the past few years, I realise how silenced I feel in my adult life, all the time. Words muzzle themselves. Conditioning! Discouragement! Accusations! Trauma! Brokenness! I have internalised my rage that turned it into my depression, affecting my health. I had become the quiet and timid girl one again – a child who couldn’t tell anyone about the abuse she faced, not even to those who were close to her. I wanted to put my energy into solutions (which I shall continue) and not in the physical fights. I wasn’t afraid of being the ‘magnet for trouble’ again. But today, if I end up being one for the sake of standing up against the wrong, so be it. No matter how right you are, misogyny has no fact-checker. False accusations confuse society towards women, their character and their work. It belittles their fights. It belittles all our fights. Yes, love and support will mend things but we have to fight alongside for our rights. This strenuous past week has been illuminating, because so many women, colleagues and friends shared their stories. I thank them all. Telling your story is an act of fighting too, and listening and believing these stories are part of the battle that we need to win. I am listening and letting others know that they are not alone in this fight. To all the women who feel and face what I do, I am taking an oath today – I will not deny my right to fight, and I won’t deny your right to be heard. I will fight the abusers – sexual, psychological and racial – by listening and speaking. Most of the time, you can't understand everyone’s struggle out of the cave, but what’s the harm in trying? We need to empathise and speak for others as well. As I learn in my 30s to love fiercely, I will also prepare myself to fight fiercely. And dear men, if you care about us women, don’t forget to show your support. No amount of shyness or unpreparedness should burden your courage to help women who have suffered so deeply and for so long. #MeToo #NotAnyMore Author’s note: After writing this Facebook post, I received dozens of emails, messages, notes, stories, mostly men showing their support. It made me hopeful. I was not expecting to be noticed, because I am used to being ignored when I raise a sensitive issue like this one. Once, while I was working for a TV channel in Pakistan, I was blamed, shamed and attacked for reporting harassment of a senior colleague. It caused a long-lasting impact on my mental health, my courage and my career. It is a reality of every woman’s life; this will happen to any woman who utters a word. Doubt comes before empathy. And your doubt in us could mean we would have to start our lives from scratch. We should be wise in how we react to these stories. Whether women speak out or not, their energies and freedoms are being consumed. It would be ideal to live in a more accepting society where these women can trust their instinct to speak out, when it is necessary for them to speak out.
“I really need to beat Amir’s high score,” I said to myself as I played another round of Temple Run, not realising my battery had drained down to 5%.My phone got warmer and the LED light on my screen began to blink red. I turned on the battery saving mode and slid my phone in my pocket. I looked out my car window only to realise that the car had not moved an inch. I guess I’m just not used to Karachi’s traffic anymore, and a 20-day visit is not even minutely enough to adjust to it. After being thoroughly engrossed in my phone, I looked around to see exactly where I was. I challenged my knowledge of Karachi’s streets. Four years in Toronto should not stop me from remembering my roots and it certainly didn’t. I was on Shahrahe Faisal, the heart of Karachi. The evening had begun and Karachi’s sun had started to set. I could literally feel the weather cool down. The sky began to fade into an orange colour, marking the end of the evening. There was bumper to bumper traffic with rickshaws and motorcycles flooding the avenues. It would be quite a ride as there was no sign of it clearing any time soon. There was no radio in my friend’s car and silence had begun to take over the loud noises that seeped in from outside. It was at this point that I started a conversation with my friend’s driver, Irfan Bhai. I wanted to know how he came about to do what he does. Irfan Bhai was a fairly tall and skinny guy with dark skin. He wore the traditional white shalwar kameez, a Casio watch and pointed black Peshawari sandals. He surely would have been quite good-looking back in his day. I asked him how life was.
“Alhamdulillah,” he said.He asked me how life in Canada was and if the cold had bothered me yet.
“It’s not so bad,” I told him. “I adapted to the cold pretty well.”He nodded his head and said nothing else so I continued talking.
“I just got into university, you know. That’s why we moved to Canada. That’s why most people migrate, right? For a better life?”He nodded again. At this point, we had just crossed Bahria University. Irfan Bhai took his eyes off the road and gazed at it for what felt like minutes but was only a moment. He looked at the university with a deep passion, his eyes widening. He looked away and then looked straight at the rear-view mirror so he could make eye contact with me. His eyes were telling a story of their own.
“I used to go here a long time ago,” he said. “I was studying to get a business degree so I could one day be able to support my younger siblings and hopefully marry off my sister.”I was confused to hear this at first. My curiosity began to brew and I had so many questions in my head, but before I could ask any of them, Irfan Bhai resumed talking.
“I had an outstanding GPA in my first year and as a result, I qualified for many scholarships. I met a girl here who was in the same program as me.”His eyes began to wander again.
“We exchanged numbers and became friends right away. It’s like one of those instances when you meet someone and things just suddenly click, you know? Our relationship grew. It took a life of its own. We would be with each other all day on campus and we would talk for hours on the phone once we got home. We were virtually inseparable.”He paused. Maybe he was trying to remember what used to be, or maybe he was fighting away a tear, but when he started talking again, his voice was hoarse.
“Well, one thing led to another and we fell in love. Madly in love actually, to the point where we could only discuss getting married, living together, having babies and being genuinely happy. To be happy with each other’s presence without all the materialistic stuff.”Irfan Bhai told his anecdote with such intensity and passion that in that moment, I couldn’t care less about Karachi’s traffic that we were stuck in. I actually hoped that time stopped so I could keep listening to him talk. And he talked and I continued listening.
“Even though we spent so much time alone, I never had any ill intentions for her. I never intended to do anything that was considered ‘unlawful’ in our society. So, after dating each other for two years, we felt like it was time to finally get our families in together so we could get married. I had two years of schooling left and so did she. I thought by the time we graduate, we’ll only have the official ceremony left to do. We had made our plans but little did we know that God had his.”Things were going far too smoothly in Irfan Bhai’s love story. His tale sounded like there was only smooth sailing but I knew it was too good to work out in the end. This wasn’t some fairy tale. This was real life where things hardly ever play out as we plan them to. Hurdles, set-backs and barriers are what make life. Similar to the traffic we were stuck in, uncalled for and inconvenient.
“Her father had strict reservations regarding me, questions that any concerned father would have before handing his daughter away to a man he had just heard of.” “How is this 21-year-old jobless man going to feed you? Where is he going to keep you – he doesn’t even have a home of his own yet,” her father inquired, having a puzzled look on his face.To be fair, they were questions that any caring father would ask. Irfan Bhai carried on.
“She tried her best to convince her parents, she really did. There was no issue from my side as I had managed to talk to my family and they had agreed with my proposal. After finding out about our relationship, her father told us to distance ourselves from each other. But we disregarded that and continued seeing one another anyways. Telling us to stay away from each other was like telling a fish to stay out of water. It simply could not have been done.”I loved the analogy he used. His words captivated me even more by each sentence he uttered.
“And so I left Bahria University and went out looking for a job in hopes to prove the girl’s father that I was capable enough to take the responsibility of his daughter. The easiest and quickest job to get was as a driver and I gladly took it. I made barely enough to get by but it was at least something. I went back to the girl’s house to ask her father if I was capable enough of wedding his daughter, his daughter whom I loved so dearly.”Irfan Bhai paused. I expected to have tears of joy run down my face as I waited for him to tell me how he married the love of his life with her father’s blessings, since he satisfied his every demand. I was expecting my faith in love to strengthen by many folds. But it turned into disappointment quite instantaneously. Irfan Bhai tightened his grip on the steering wheel. The car was stuck in the midst of traffic. We couldn’t go forward, there was no way back and the exit was too far from sight.
“I knocked on her door and her brother came to answer. Moments after, I found out that she was gone. Her father had wedded her off with some relative of hers from the village they belonged to. It turned out that me not having a job or a home was never the problem. Her father just did not want her to marry me. It was as simple as that. I couldn’t believe it at first. I tried calling her for many days but to no avail. Then one day, her husband picked up and threatened me to never call again as she was happily married.” “But I knew that was a lie. She couldn’t have been happy, not with that stranger she had just married. I couldn’t believe she was gone. I was heartbroken, dejected and was left miserable. I had sacrificed everything for her. With a blink of an eye, my education, my future and my career had all gone down the drain. I had made decisions that were irrevocable and I left myself without any chance of redemption and knowing all that, I had to live with this for the rest of my life.”The traffic moved on and so did Irfan Bhai. It seemed as if Irfan Bhai tried his best to cling on to her but she was more like a hand full of sand, the more he tried to hold on to her by squeezing his fist, the more she seeped out.
“I’m married now and I have two kids that I love dearly. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about her. Even after all these years, my eyes look for her, search for her everywhere I go, every road I drive to. There’s this voice in the back of my head that tells me that I just might bump into her ,through some strange coincident.”I thought to myself at this point that in a city like Karachi, with a population that is beyond 15 million, this man is in search for this woman he once loved with all his heart. As my house arrived, I told Irfan Bhai to stop the car outside my gate. I thanked him. Not for dropping me off but for telling me his story, which had shaded me under its dark cloud. I came home, sat in my balcony and pondered. I had once read somewhere that God had created all of us in pairs. Maybe Irfan Bhai and his lover were created together but just like the sun and the moon, which were also created together, were not made to be together. There’s always a distance between the sun and the moon but Irfan Bhai still waits. He waits for the solar eclipse as he would also one day, against insurmountable odds, cross paths with the once love of his life.
This month, a lot of Pakistani potential blockbusters have released their trailers one after the other. First it was Shoaib Mansoor’s Verna, then Shaan Shahid’s Arth 2, and now the colourful trailer of Rangreza has struck our eyes. Rangreza's trailer makes a person think twice considering the storyline it possesses. The trailer seems to have two distinct personalities that make this movie seem interesting. The first half gives off a vibe of a romantic-comedy based on sweet melodies, followed by a tragedy and a happily ever after. However, the second half of the trailer makes one sit up straight when it starts addressing a serious issue plaguing the society. The movie is directed by Amir Mohiuddin, who has done a fantastic job. We see Bilal Ashraf playing the male lead, who is a rockstar. Urwa Hocane plays the leading lady, Reshmi, who is Ashraf’s love interest. She looks extremely pretty and slips effortlessly in the role of a sweet and simple girl next door. The beginning of the trailer reveals their budding romance, while the music score sounds phenomenal. Ashraf possesses every bit of charisma expected of a hero. With his gripping screen presence, Ashraf easily captures the eye and attention of the viewers. With a mellow personality in the first half of the trailer and then transforming into a heroic figure fighting against class differences in the latter part, Ashraf brings across the required fire and anger in a man struggling for the love of his life. The lead pair’s dialogue in the beginning of the trailer lays the ground for their romance:
“Mujhey na aap ka music bilkul acha nahi lagta, aisa lagta hai jaisey shor ho bus!” (I really do not like your music at all, it seems as if its just plain noise!) “Aap musician hain?” (Are you a musician?) “Nahi, mein sirf Reshmi hoon!” (No, I am just Reshmi)Throughout the trailer, we are shown songs ranging from rock anthems to soulful ballads. Reshmi, a girl in love, performs the second song in the trailer beautifully. The tune is catchy and the vocals do justice to add to the overall aura of the song. In my opinion, Hocane’s character of a charming and innocent middle class girl fits perfectly in contrast with the elite hero of the movie. Everything seems like a fairy tale until Wasim (Gohar Rasheed) is introduced on the screen. Initially, the act opens with him doing a comic scene where we are introduced to a good-for-nothing, rowdy young man who spends his days sleeping and nights loitering with his friends. A quintessential Karachi dialect and impression is seen in Wasim, who is dressed in kurta pajamas and has a berating father who constantly reminds him to get his life together. In the trailer, Wasim's father tells him,
“Soh soh key bister pey gaddey daal diye bey, kaam pey kaun jaega, tera baap?” (You have damaged the bed by sleeping all the time, who is going to go to work, your father?)Wasim comes across as a loafer and sluggard dancing on an item song which goes as follows,
“Dhobi kaprey dho gaya, Kallu ke launda hogaya!” (The laundryman has washed the clothes, Kallu had a baby boy)However, the intensity of Rasheed’s character is revealed when he turns into a villain who is against the brewing love between the lead pair. Rasheed easily overshadows the rest with his menacing facial expressions, extraordinary body language, and his ability to make the audience feel his anger and frustration through subtle gestures. He plays the scorned lover splendidly, leaving us completely enthralled by his character. Swinging from humour to madness, he is reason enough to watch the film. The trailer most fittingly ends with Wasim walking towards the camera, with a joker-like grin on his face, and the following words playing in the back ground,
“Aey Reshmi tujhey kisne sataya hai? Ussey ja key bol Wasim aaya hai.” (Reshmi, who has dared to bother you? Go tell him Wasim is here for you)With a brilliant production, direction and cast, I am vouching for Rangreza to be a super hit! Rangreza is set to release on December 21st. All Photos: Screenshots [poll id="775"]
Standing somewhere in the middle of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, I guess my attire gave it away and they all greeted me with a seemingly customary “jeevay, jeevay Pakistan!” Towards the end of my trip, the salutation actually became comical – until this random shopkeeper asked me where I was from and what I felt my city represented. Before travelling to Turkey last month, I was told about Turkish hospitality and I got to witness their warmth towards desi tourists for myself. But for a total stranger to ask me what Karachi means to me, was something entirely new – I’ve never ever been asked this and hence I got to thinking. I spent my earlier days abroad and settled in Karachi when I was about 11-years-old. My parents were fond of travelling, and as a family we could be described as frequent flyers. Most of the places I have ever visited or previously called home are generally all developed countries. They can boast about being the world’s most liveable places and rightly so, because to date, they have the best of everything to offer people from all walks of life. Conversely, Karachi has everything going against it – lack of infrastructure, water problems, power outages, security issues, ethnic strifes, kidnapping, target killings and a population explosion. You name the issue and Karachi will probably be suffering from it. Yet, we can relate to the clichéd statement that tells us that no matter what, life goes on. However, people who have not experienced Karachi may not be able understand this. As for me, I have experienced Karachi. I have lived in this city for over 20 years and call it home. My elders talk about the city with the same unparalleled passion and enthusiasm that I feel when I am asked about the Karachi I grew up in. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: TripAdvisor[/caption] My parents talk about an era when everyone would agree that Karachi once had the potential of becoming Asia’s New York. The 70s witnessed the unbelievable tourism in Pakistan – across the streets of Karachi, Lahore and Swat. By the late 60s, tourism in Karachi was flourishing – to the point that in 1972, the government created the country’s first dedicated tourism ministry and department, with their main offices situated in Karachi. Karachi was the country’s economic hub and entertainment capital. I’ve been told that between the 50s and late 70s, Karachi had more than 500 cinemas, multiple night clubs, numerous bars, a beautiful race course and what are still perhaps some of the best natural beaches in the region. Hashish was easily accessible, but people still didn’t know what heroin or a Kalashnikov was. Family friends often talk about the 70s being a liberal era when alcohol and gambling were legal, but there was comparatively less crime in the city. My father tells us about how people could walk the streets of the city till late at night and no one would bother them. I was a part of this city before Atif Aslam, EP and Ali Zafar even entered the music industry. That was when every kid knew Ali Haider’s Purani Jeans aur Guitar, Sajjad Ali’s Babia and Abrarul Haq’s Billo. We loved them all, danced to them and sang along to the wonderful tunes. Around this time, we fell in love with Alpha Bravo Charlie, the one fandom that came so close to toppling Titanic’s. I take a chance in saying that this series triggered our trademark, die-hard love for our military. It showed Pakistan Army’s softer image that introduced us to the private lives of those who are supposed to protect our territory. I remember when the choice was only between kabab rolls or the restaurant Copper Kettle, and the decision depended on how many red notes one had in their wallet, not blue ones. There was no concept of elaborate frozen yogurt, but everyone loved (and I dare say, fondly misses) Snoopy Ice Cream! And yes, the best chocolate mousse was at Bake and Take. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Hot n Spicy Facebook page[/caption] This city has suffered tremendously over the years – and yet, its soul remains unchanged. We remember Operation cleanup, targeted killings and police encounters across the city we call and know as home. We remember when it was not safe to leave our homes, what it felt like to be locked within our homes and have our freedom restricted. Internal statistics say that things have improved in Karachi and we are groomed to believe that the numbers do not lie. Muggings have probably gone down. Street crimes are a lot less over the past few months and the bombings in mosques during Friday prayers seem to be a thing of the past. But I guess people, to date, continue to associate Karachi with its not too distant tumultuous history and find it difficult to believe that things are different. This can be attributed to the press coverage we often get; the Karachi these people know from media coverage must be critically examined and rebuilt. It's not the Karachi I want and it's not the Karachi we deserve. In a sense, Karachiites redefine resilience – where people’s lives do go on despite everything. We know how to celebrate Eid and Independence Day every year. There is something special about the newly instated Sindh Day celebrated every year since 2009 on December 13th. And Defence Day is impossible without the accompanying grand air shows. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The show wowed the audience at Sea View Beach. Photo: Athar Khan[/caption] This is what Karachi means to me – Karachi is love; it has a heart of gold. Anywhere else in the world, every other city, has a pacemaker, plated with gold. This is for everyone who can say they own Karachi – for only they will understand what I am trying to say.
Child abuse is one of the most prevalent social issues in Pakistan. A 2017 report suggests that there has been a 10% increase in cases since last year alone. The issue is only made worse by the fact that neither do we talk about its prevalence, nor do we take any preventive or rehabilitative measures to deal with it. Topics of importance, such as child abuse, rape, sexual assault, honour killing, forced marriage or mental illness, all are considered taboo and often brushed under the rug. The fear of being shunned by society and victim-shamed is perhaps what keeps some of the victims from speaking up about the issue in the first place. By now we've heard about countless instances of child sexual abuse, and yet every time we hear about a new one, we still fail to grasp why and how anyone could commit such a heinous act. Our silence, passivity and non- intervention are all shameful, considering every other day at least one new instance comes into light. Today being Children’s Day, here are just some of the most monstrous cases of child sexual abuse, this year alone, to highlight the ongoing suffering of the children in Pakistan. 1) In January, a nine-year-old boy went to a shop in Karachi Company to buy some candy, where a man led the boy into a room and allegedly raped him while another man stood guard outside. The little boy’s screams are what ultimately led to his rescue. A reminder of how we continue to fail our children – what a way to start the new year. 2) In Gujranwala, this January, a 12-year-old girl who worked as a maid was left with severe burns on her face when her employer threw steaming hot tea over her face over a delay in service. A medical examination, conducted when she was taken to the hospital, revealed that the girl had been raped as well, following which police registered a case against her employer and his brother. 3) In April, a three-and-a-half-year-old girl was raped and then strangled to death, found dead near her home in Islamabad. 4) In the same month, an 11-year-old boy was raped and murdered in his village, with his body being found inside a shrine in Peshawar. 5) In May, a 12-year-old child was intoxicated and subsequently gang-raped, according to her father, at a house in Karachi where she worked as a maid. After a complaint was lodged, three out of the seven people accused were jailed under judicial remand. 6) Does Kasur ring a bell for anyone? The famous place where child pornography was rampant? You'd think after that horrific revelation that shook Pakistan, we'd probably be more aware of Kasur's problems and try to solve them. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. What followed were more events of children being sexually assaulted. In January this year, a five-year-old girl from Kot Peeran was found gagged in an under-construction house, near her residence. She was raped, killed and just left there. After this event, nine more children were raped and killed in Kasur. Out of them, six were reportedly girls and three were boys, all ranging from ages between five to 10. The last case was in July, where an eight-year-old left for her tuition centre but never came back. Her body was found in an under-construction house near Shah Inayat colony. 7) In Multan a 12-year-old girl was raped while cutting grass in a field in July. But the horror of this event does not end here. The panchayat that was held to hear this case in Rajpur area, announced for the alleged rapist's 17-year-old sister to be raped by the victim's brother. That girl was dragged in front of the panchayat and raped in front of her parents and her brother. 8) In Karachi, an eight-year-old boy was killed by his abuser for trying to resist being abused. He was stabbed and found in a garbage dump. Ironically, the child left home to celebrate Independence Day, but never got to return. 9) It's not just adults indulging in such a heinous act, it is children too. In August, a three-year-old was sexually assaulted, allegedly by her 15-year-old neighbour, Muhammad Akram. She was playing outside her house, when Akram came to her and offered her sweets. The child, who obviously didn't know any better, believed the boy who took her to a date farm and raped her. 10) In Karachi, a 10-year-old was raped and strangled to death. His body was left on the streets and the perpetrator is still at large. 11) A cleric was caught on camera molesting a child, who was then assaulted if he tried to resist. Not sure who was filming this or why, but it got in the hands of a journalist who shared this traumatic incident with the world via Twitter. https://twitter.com/bilalfqi/status/921485069289746437 12) Recently, a hair-raising incident was posted on the group Halaat Updates on Facebook. A man witnessed a child being molested by her servant, in the backseat of the car, while the driver kept looking ahead and driving normally. The man followed the car to the girl’s house and reported the incident to the mother. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="455"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] 13) A nine-year-old boy worked at a barber shop, where he was the target of his employer. The boy went to work and was locked in a room and sexually assaulted multiple times. His employer also hit and threatened him to not tell anyone of this incident. The father of the boy later found out about this when the child refused to go to work the next day. Every day, at least 11 children become victims of abuse. Every day, at least 11 children are failed by the very society that is supposed to protect them. Three districts of Punjab – Nankana Sahib, Sheikhupura, and Kasur – had recorded at least 111 cases till August of this year alone. Thus, this list is by no means exhaustive, and really, doesn't that make you feel sicker? That there are no less than these many cases taking place over the course of one day, along with countless others that remain untold and unreported? That there are children out there getting molested as you read this? From the aforementioned list, we see how one cannot trust anyone in this world with their child. In some cases, the child cannot even trust his family because the one molesting or assaulting him/ her is from their family alone. Our children are being abused, and more often than not, it is the people we trust who are violating it. On a personal level, we may feel like we are powerless to reduce or impact the scale of the problem, but perhaps what will suffice is ensuring that our children are raised in an environment where instead of feeling shame, they feel comfortable enough to tell us they are being abused. This is not much at all, but in a country like Pakistan, it is definitely a start. All the child needs is a safe space, just one person who will not harm them, one person they can talk to. When a child tells you everything, they finally believe that it’ll end; they believe that now they are finally safe. The minimum you can do is remove the person they are complaining about, be it a teacher, a friend or a family member, from their environment so they do not have to see or interact with their abusers on a regular basis. If you know a child who has been through this, please get help. Take them to see a child psychologist. Many people think that getting rid of the person will make it all better. That is just a start, the child would need to learn how to cope and move on from that experience. Failing to do so will result in the child reliving that experience and that can result in many disorders. In case you need more information of how to deal with child abuse or how to talk to children about it, websites like Sahil and UNICEF offer a good start. Our children are our responsibility – then why do we continue to place our honour above our children? Given today's importance, let’s vow to speak up and not just be bystanders while our children are being exploited. It’s the least we need to do for them.
In the last decade or so, we have seen Pakistani cinema seemingly thriving, with TV actors shifting to the larger screen, and directors and producers experimenting with new and innovative ideas as well. Moviegoers are buzzing about at the moment as Aabis Raza’s upcoming Maan Jao Na, which, based on its recently released trailer at least, looks dynamic and diverse in terms of its talent, cinematography and music. What caught my attention was that a lot of new faces were seen in the movie, with some of the cast being known for their comic roles in our TV dramas. The most talked about factor, however, is the glamorous German-born Pakistani model Naaz Norouzi, who plays Rania, and her chemistry with Adeel Chaudhry, who plays Faris. Rania seems like a carefree girl who doesn’t believe in marriage as an institution that can last. Faris, on the other hand, is a very optimistic and friendly guy who values traditional relationships. Not unexpectedly, the twist of the story comes when Faris falls in love with Rania, one of his best friends; however, Rania only considers Faris as her good friend and nothing more. Faris is reluctant to reveal the truth in fear of losing his friendship with Rania, and this fear is what motivates the rest of the story. Moreover, also in their group of friends are Hajra Yamin and Ayaz Samoo, and the group looks like any quintessential close-knitted group of college friends who have a lot of fun together. The plot of the film is quite relatable from the youth’s perspective, as it focuses on the fun campus life, friendships, insecurities, emotional attachments, and all the little moments of joy that go along with it. Norouzi is a valued addition, not just in this movie but to the Pakistani film industry, as she is said to be a multi-lingual and multi-talented person. Not only can she speak German, Farsi, Urdu, English and French, she has learnt dancing and plays football as a hobby as well. It seems like she was born to be a star, with doing films and living a life of glamour being her childhood dream, and with Maan Jao Na, it is all finally coming true for her. Another interesting fact regarding the cast is that the stunts are real and performed by Adeel Chaudhry himself. Renowned as a musician and an actor, the actor accepted the challenge to perform all the stunts himself, from riding a Harley Davidson to swimming in the deep sea. Whoa! Written by Asma Nabeel and Ahsan Raza Firdousi, the movie is shot in my very own beloved city of lights, Karachi, with some parts being shot in Skardu as well. The performances seem stellar while the dance moves are electrifying, especially after the remix of Bijli Bhari Hay Meray Ang Ang Mai. Not only is the song a treat for the eyes, but the melody is so catchy that you will keep listening to it on repeat and just might become the new mehndi song! The rom-com looks like a roller coaster ride of joy, sorrow and drama, and has all the ingredients to pull crowds to the theatres in February. Overall, Maan Jao Na seems like a complete entertainment package that will surely double the joys of Valentine’s Day and ensure that love is in the air! The film is scheduled to release on February 2, 2018. All photos: Screenshots
It pained my heart to read that Masood Ahmed Barkati, the renowned author of children’s literature and the editor of the Urdu magazine Hamdard Naunihal, is no more among us. The last three generations of Pakistan are in a state of total grief right now. There is a strong sense of loss, a feeling as though an important piece of our childhood has been taken away, leaving us bereft. For people who loved reading books during their childhood, he was the superhero without a cape. Barkati had been the right-hand man to Hakim Muhammad Saeed, the owner of Hamdard Naunihal, and together they carried out the mission of producing literature for children, that would serve the supreme purpose of moral and social reformation. Every story, every poem and every editorial piece ever written by Barkati always ended with a lesson about how important is it to love your country and be proud of your cultural heritage. He dedicated 65 years of his life to Naunihal as an editor, and not once did he miss an edition! https://twitter.com/ArsalanGhumman/status/940146568551960576 A post on Facebook broke the news to me that Barkati sahib had passed away. I remember going numb. Silent. Static. It felt like the book in my hands also went silent. I could see the words on the page in front of me going still as well in a nanosecond. Hushed. They were laughing with me just a minute ago. We were in the middle of a hysterical incident. They were telling me the tale of a brooding Londoner who loved his sister – but now they knew I was no more interested so they went back to their hoods. I kept the book aside. Inhaled. I remember going through this trauma before. I remember mourning one more death like this before. Who was that? My mind was frozen. Yet I could hear my heart telling me it had been ripped open before. My heart had mourned a death before. Who was he that I mourned, I asked my mind. No reply came. But then, my heart whispered – it was Hakim Muhammad Saeed. I wasn’t even three when my mom and dad introduced me to Naunihal. My dad would say to me,
“It is written by someone who loves Pakistan.”And I believed him. Every night, my dad would read me a story from Naunihal before bedtime, with every story telling me how beautiful my country was and how we are all equal. One nation. One dream. One ummah. And I would listen, and believe what the stories told me, and sleep and dream beautiful dreams. When I was six, I remember waking up one night as my mom tried to push me under a sofa. “Bullets”, “fire”, “we’re safe”, “nothing to worry” – I could hear voices say in the background. I asked my mom what was going on. “Nothing,” she said. We were in Karachi, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. We had all our lights turned off that night; a dark silent house. Next morning, the news bulletin was in chaos. The six-year-old me picked up a few words from the bulletin, and asked her grandfather,
“What is Mohajir? Are we bad people?”That evening, my grandfather gave me a huge pile of Naunihal from his personal collection. He told me to read Jago Jagao, the editorial piece written by Hakeem Muhammad Saeed. He told me Mohajir is not a bad word, and asked me to find my answers in the magazines. I struggled. Urdu was a hard language, one I couldn’t read. Nonetheless, I tried. The answers I found in Naunihal were affirming. They were the same bedtime stories my dad read me, where no one was Mohajir, Sindhi, Pakhtun, Baloch or Punjabi. We were one. We loved each other. It all started to feel okay again, and the dynamic duo of Saeed and Barkati were behind it. My vacations were over and school started again. I moved on, yet my connection with that children’s magazine was stronger than ever now. I tried reading, and when I couldn’t, my mom would help. I fell in love with those stories of unity, faith and discipline. October of the same year, I remember seeing another news bulletin, this time one telling me that Saeed is no more. The man who always had a Jinnah cap on, the one who told me it’s going to be okay, and shaped my perfect world around me with his words, was no more. I remember going numb. Silent. Static. The sounds of bullets and fire echoing stronger than ever in my mind. My dad told me the world never stops, and I believed him. I always believe him. He told me Naunihal won’t stop. I believed him again. But I could never un-see the image of my blood-stained hero that I accidentally saw in the newspaper. I could never un-hear the bullets and the word “Mohajir”. Yet Naunihal came the next month, and Jago Jagao was still there – this time with an addition of “late” with my friend’s name. Barkati sahib continued it, for that year and the decades to come. https://twitter.com/BariFaisal/status/940243833815781376 The element of social reformation in Barkati’s stories grew stronger with the growing inner turmoil in the state. Pehli Baat, a column he wrote regularly for his magazine, continued talking about life, patriotism, nationalism and the importance of our traditional moral values. I’m no longer a six-year-old. I have heard and seen a lot in my life by now. However, I’m numb again. Silent. Static. I don’t want the upcoming generations of Pakistan to grow up in a world where neither Barkati nor Saeed sahib exist. What will become of them? I feel scared when I dwell on this. https://twitter.com/GhaffarDawnNews/status/939932335675453440 Naunihal’s mission of love, peace and tolerance is one that Barkati sahib continued for a long time. He is the unsung hero of my generation and of the generation before me as well. Rest in peace, Barkati sahib. Thank you for sowing the seeds of patriotism, love and peace in our hearts! We promise to honour your legacy, and keep the lamp lit.
Karachi Eat 2018 started and came to an end with a lot of hype, by being bigger than ever with over 100 food brands selling mouth-watering edibles. The event turned out to be the most hyped and crowded (and also rather elite) thus far – a good way to start 2018. Though social media was full of rants against the mismanagement and long queues, there were many who expressed complete satisfaction with everything, especially once they got in. It seemed as if the secret to happiness with the food festival lay in the timings of ones entrance. Those attending till 4:00pm managed to get in hassle free and enjoyed a peaceful gathering beside the sea, while those who attended after 5:00pm had to face serious traffic jams, issues with getting the passes and long waiting lines for both, the entrance and for getting the food. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Facebook/ Karachi Eat Food Festival[/caption] The jammers too caused inconvenience to an extent, as people couldn’t use the wallet apps available to avail bulk discounts on food deals. The problems, however, were not great enough to dim the fun, and overall, the event was worth the wait. Being one of the biggest food festivals of the country, Karachi Eat was graced by many celebrities. However, my personal favourite remained Bilawal Bhutto, who mingled with the public really well. It is very rare to see politicians exchanging lighter moments with common citizens and having fun mingling without security. What added to this was the presence and performance of Atif Aslam, whose concert attracted many and made the environment full of energy and colour, delighting the attendees. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Facebook/ Karachi Eat Food Festival[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="401"] Photo: Facebook/ Karachi Eat Food Festival[/caption] Since it was all about food, and Karachiites love food, it would be remiss to let go of this opportunity to highlight what appealed the most to the taste buds and what deserves the most appreciation. I’m sure everyone will agree that every item was super affordable, and ranged between Rs50 to Rs300 maximum. Moreover, this year, many entrepreneurs stood out by offering items that are not readily available in the general market. Their approach seemed to be breaking the traditional norms of Pakistani cuisines and was fused with something that is not locally available. Luckily, it worked out wonders for some of the risk-takers, who will now surely be remembered and grow as a trusted food brand through their success and popularity in this single event, paving ways for successful outlet launches in the future. In comparison, traditional outlets failed to compete or garner the same level of attraction. My personal list of the top stalls which did not fail to impress includes: 1. Donut Burger by 2 Guys 1 Grill The idea was impressively irresistible, and something that was absolutely not available anywhere else. No one was able to get their hands on this grilled burger with an out-of-this-world juicy patty, green onion toppings and melted cheese. It became the highlight of the event, with long queues becoming a norm as everyone experiencing this burger revolution found it a steal in just Rs300. The only drawback was their limited preparing grill and the bulk of orders which led to a waiting time of hours, not possible for everyone and definitely leading to many who attended this food festival and had to miss out on one of its best attraction. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="445"] Photo: Madiha Shamim[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Photo: The Express Tribune[/caption] 2. Chimney ice-cream by Café Praha The chimney ice-cream was something we’d all only imagined having in Karachi, but Café Praha made it possible. The flavour of the baked chimney cone along with ice-cream blended really well and offered a burst of flavour in the mouth. This creative idea managed to gather a crowd of hundreds in a queue, all eager to get their hands on something that won’t be available outside anytime soon. However, there were some logistical issues, and the taste wasn’t as class apart as should have been. Some people also complained about the cone being hot when served with ice-cream, which resulted in breaking the cone. Issues such as this could have been easily resolved, and hopefully it will be better once they officially operate. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="338"] Photo: Madiha Shamim[/caption] 3. Nachos by Grill in the City Grill in the City was bound to attract a massive crowd due to their immense social media following and constant marketing. Their product offerings were corn dogs, grilled prawns, Mac n Cheese and nachos. To me, the nachos remained the highlight of their menu. They were fully loaded with jalapenos, corns, olives and sauces, and served with tortilla chips. The serving was also quite generous in comparison to what others were offering for Rs300. Unlike other stalls, however, the queue at this one was extremely mismanaged, resulting in some frustration amongst customers. However, when a brand is famous on social media and offering a product worth one’s money, the crowd can obviously be expected to go crazy. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="450"] Photo: Madiha Shamim[/caption] 4. Pop Bar Popsicles Pop Bar came out to be most affordable and an unexpected icy surprise to compliment the breezy festival. They had cherry, berry and cherry-berry flavours in combination along with some other fruity flavours. Cherry was almost sold out, as people loved it for being tangy with pinch of salt. It was a real treat in Rs140, which almost no one was willing to skip. However, they ultimately ran out of change, so people had to pay either a certain amount extra for popsicles or wait for half an hour to get change, which was the only off-point for this stall. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="450"] Photo: Madiha Shamim[/caption] 5. The Poutine Fries by No Lies Fries The makers just introduced what Karachiites had been looking for years: Poutine Fries. These were topped with jalapenos, cheddar cheese, and meat, along with sauce that made it seem just as good as it does abroad. The venture worked out really well, as crowds were gather around the stall constantly. However, I personally believe that the makers should have worked on presentation a bit, as it looked very unappealing. The case of “looks can be deceiving” applied here, as these fries tasted heavenly but those who judged them visually and didn’t try them would regret it later. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="337"] Photo: Madiha Shamim[/caption] 6. Waffle Chicken by Fry Guys Fried chicken laden with Sriracha sauce and served in hot waffle was an offering that turned the eyes of every individual who passed by this stall. The combo made it just so exceptional that people didn’t hesitate having it more than once. The only drawback was that serving size was small compared to the price being charged, especially the size of the cone, which should have been bigger. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="447"] Photo: Madiha Shamim[/caption] Overall, the event remained as promising as it was meant to be. Ditching the traditional Bun Kebabs and Biryani, there was a lot more to treat the taste buds with that could fulfil food fantasies of any and all foodies in Karachi. For the next year, however, the management should provide support to new entrepreneurs through their official pages, as we only got to know about the awesomeness they were selling when we reached there. More importantly, the management should introduce multiple (at least three) entrance points to manage the crowds and mitigate traffic jams, making it easy to reach the venue and enjoy such a great food festival fully without the hassle. Here's to looking forward to the next Karachi Eat!
Nobody could have guessed that the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud – an aspiring and flamboyant model hailing from South Waziristan – would result in an unprecedented and unyielding protest by the Pashtuns in the federal capital. What had begun as a demand for the arrest of former Malir SSP, Rao Anwar, has now turned into a protest to relay the comprehensive set of grievances of a marginalised people. The participants of this long march, who are mostly from the tribal areas, are now calling for all cases of extrajudicial killings of Pashtuns to be exhaustively investigated in a judicial commission, under the aegis of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP). They are also demanding for the perpetrators of such killings to be brought before the court of justice, along with the recovery of all missing persons forthwith, and the immediate removal of landmines in South Waziristan, in which many locals are reported to have either lost their lives or sustained life threatening injuries. Tents and canopies have been set up at the site of the sit-in protest in front of the Islamabad Press Club. Though Mehsud’s cousin and the organiser of the march, Noor Rehman, clarified that the sit-in is utterly apolitical, he welcomed all the political parties to express their solidarity with the cause – a call several prominent politicians, including Asfandyar Wali, have championed. The protestors can be seen chanting slogans against the harassment of Pashtuns in Karachi and elsewhere in the country, and are unwilling to end their sit-in until all their demands are met. Their foremost demand, however, remains strict legal action to be taken against Anwar, who is believed to have also been involved in other fake encounters, purportedly killing over 300 innocent people. As the sit-in entered its seventh day, a 15-member jirga met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and communicated their grievances to him, after which they were assured of all efforts being undertaken to meet their reasonable demands. However, thus far, it all seems like empty promises, as almost a month after Mehsud’s killing, Anwar remains at large. Yes, Anwar was stopped at the Islamabad airport as he attempted to flee the country. However, despite a suo motu taken by the Supreme Court and a subsequent order to find Anwar, how has he managed to vanish into thin air? The demands of the tribesmen, on the other hand, are entirely justified, in light of the fact that Mehsud was murdered in a fake encounter when he was presumed to be a terrorist, just on the basis of his ethnicity. The people of the tribal areas are the biggest victims of the war on terror, and have subsequently been displaced from their lands in the aftermath of military operations against the insurgents. Yet, despite their sacrifices, not only are they being doubted and discriminated against, their plight is also being ignored. Pashtun traders and vendors in metropolitan cities like Karachi and Lahore are treated differently, just because their ethnicity and language stands out from the rest. Mehsud’s cold-blooded murder at the hands of the police, and the fact that they did not even stop to verify a Pashtun man’s identity before killing him, only speaks volumes of the vulnerability of the Pashtun community in Karachi and beyond. The way forward should be for the government to take this sit-in seriously, and truly look at answering the demands of the protestors. They need to address the issue of missing persons, who were picked up by the police without any substantial evidence, as well as grapple with the landmines, which could pose a serious disaster for the country if not dealt with immediately. The consistent apathy and negligence of successive governments has only brought these tribesmen into the fragile and vulnerable position we see them in today. How many other Naqeebullah’s have to die before the authorities wake up from their deep slumber and realise the sensitivity of the issue which, if not settled amicably, will only exacerbate overtime? Why do the Pashtuns have to stage sits-in to demand the basic tenets of justice which should be guaranteed to all Pakistanis without any distinction? And lastly, why are the Pashtuns generalised and deemed terrorists, even though the fact is they have always stood by and fought for the nation whenever Pakistan is facing its enemies? If this sit-in and the grievances of the Pashtuns are not taken seriously, one should not be surprised lest we should lose these tribal areas to foreign conspiracies and agendas. We are all Pakistanis first and foremost, and this fact should reflect in the nation expressing solidarity with the cause, with the entire country and not just Pashtuns coming together to demand justice for Mehsud. Displays of provincial and ethnic prejudices are extremely detrimental to the unity and solidarity of the country, and the gap will only be widened if the entire nation does not come together for the Pashtun cause. The sit-in is the best way to demonstrate how unequivocal and unambiguous we are in our demand for the arrest and subsequent sentencing of Anwar, whose hands are stained with the blood of hundreds of innocent people. The sit-in has thus far remained peaceful and non-violent, which is why it is high time the federal government starts taking pragmatic steps aimed at ending the deprivation and alienation of the Pashtuns. After years of conflict, sacrifices and substandard treatment, this is necessary if they are to begin to live with some semblance of contentment and normalcy in their lives, and can have a reason to remain proud Pakistanis.
Day 1 If I stared at the world around me, a few things would stare back. The clouds dancing in the iridescently blue sky, the sun shining in its eternal glow; maybe even the trees that stood amidst the streets of Karachi. The people are the only ones that won’t stare back. I long for the day where I can look at a person, and they’ll look back and we’ll have had a conversation; not with our lips, but with our eyes. It seems as if everyone is running somewhere. My mother is running to Khattak. My brother is running at the gym. Yet I am not. I am in my room, frozen in a time capsule I have created for myself. I could be running, if I wanted to. Except that I’d have nowhere to go. I open the typewriter in front of me and refill the ink. I place a sheet of paper into it and align it to the left. I tap on the keys, as they are hard to adjust to if I haven’t used them in a while. And oh, has it been a while! I feel a sudden rush as I type an ‘A’, and then an ‘L’; typing my name because I do not know what else to type. My fingers miss the feeling of the constant tussle between letters and space bars, and the pull of the typewriter as it forces me to create. I’m neither in Karachi nor out. I’m not a part of the pathars (stones) that make up the streets, but I am one pathar. Stuck. Frozen. Lost amidst the thousands of pathars that surface the streets of Defence.
I am an ‘A’ on a typewriter. I am a pathar on the street. I am stationary, and Karachi is movement.Day 2 I wonder what it would be like if I could grasp onto the reason behind movement – but I can’t. Maybe I won’t ever understand. I want to move, I want to be a part of it all, yet I can’t. My typewriter sits in front of me. It should be moving; the letters should be clacking as I create, but my mind is elsewhere – it has been for a long time now. There’s so much silence surrounding me. I feel it resonate within my bones, screaming to be let out, daring me to break it. Sometimes I think I’m imagining it. Imagining my life to be this quiet, this dark, this eerie. I feel it shaded with a deep burgundy – the kind that conceals the sky just before dawn. Yes, that’s the one. I try describing it. It’s too big. And I think it’s now as much a part of me as I am of it. I stare out at the dancing trees from the window, letting the smoke of my half-burned cigarette take over the room. Slowly the tobacco drifts into my lungs, and I can feel that one moment where the smoke eclipses the silence.
“Tell me about your day,” she whispers.It breaks the spell. I throw out the cigarette. I had thought about it. Thought about whether she could handle the truth; whether it was enough for her to feed off of. But then again, I had no one else to tell. She stares at me with those perfectly shaped letters, waiting for me to shift her to the left, and tell her everything that I can’t seem to form into speech. I feel like it’s always 4:00am when you dream of dreams bigger than the impossible. The word rolls smoothly off the tip of my tongue. Dream. It brightens my world for just one tiny second, as it comes to life in my head. Dream. I hold on to it as if it were fragile, as if it were so precious it would break with just a glance. Dream. I want to tell her that I have dreams, but she never believes me. So I tell her what I always do. I lay in my bed in the darkness – the only light coming from the one song playing over and over again in the distance. I felt in that moment, I could sink. I don’t really know why I felt like that. Why it hurt. I just know that it did. And the tears kept coming.
“Why do you cry?” she seems to ask, like she always does.She’ll never understand, because I can’t understand myself. My fingers crawl over the smooth black ‘I’, and then they stop. Why do I have to tell her about me? About the way I feel? I found a strange comfort in that feeling. Like that was where I belonged, where I was supposed to be forever, and for the time after that. In my bed, in the dark, in that moment.
“What else?” she seems to ask.Sitting here, trying to remember what it was like when I was happy. Or how long it’s been since I was happy, she almost asks me. Maybe not, but just content you know? Anything close to it. I stare at my tear stained cheek in the reflection of my laptop screen. The mascara that’s run down my face painted it with the kind of black that reminds me of winter days, when everything seemed brighter, even though the weather flowed with a dullness that is common to the way I now feel.
“Stop,” she says, like she always does.It’s not worth it. But the tears keep running, and running. I don’t know how to make them stop – I don’t even know how they started.
“Look at me.” “I’ve never felt like this before,” I tell her.This comes easily; my fingers almost find the letters themselves.
“Where is she?” I ask. “Where did she go...?”It’s so confusing. Especially when you have to pretend like you’re playing ‘happy people’ all the time. When the truth is hidden so far behind dark walls and loud voices and fake laughter that is snorted through iridescently sunny days, leaving you high off of a feeling that no one will ever truly know. It’ll never stop, never stop. Never end. Just fade until it creeps out of the place it was hiding. She sighs, like she always does. I get up to leave, knowing that we will never meet again. Day 3 I stare at her from my bed, thinking of my family outside my room, about the people all across Defence. They are moving. But I’m in my bed. And she’s looking at me. Waiting for me to tell her something that I can’t even tell myself.
“Don’t you understand?” I say to no one at all. “I can’t choose both of us. It’s either you or the movement. It’s either my sanity or yours.”
I am an ‘A’ on a typewriter. I am a pathar on the street. I am stationary, and Karachi is movement.
Anyone who has had the luxury of experiencing the traffic in Karachi, will understand when I say there is a certain wisdom hidden in the chaos on the streets. Ultimately, if you’re super agile and a glass-half-full kind of person, you can not only live through the road rage-driven manslaughter attempts, but also learn countless life lessons in the meantime. When I was a young girl, my mom taught me to look in both directions before crossing a street. However, I would also always go outside with an adult, so there was never really the need to do the ‘looking’ on my own. One fine day, my parents decided I was finally old enough to take on the street, and I was sent out to fetch something from a shop just across the street. After an hour of my 12-year-old self not returning home from a trip that should’ve taken five minutes, a search party consisting of my brothers and cousins was sent out. They discovered me standing spellbound at the end of my own street, vigorously shaking my head from left to right like a crazy person, trying to catch a break from the oncoming traffic to cross the road. This was my first true introduction to Karachi's traffic, following which I have spent countless hours wondering how thin the line between reckless driving and attempted murder is. After a decade of making qualitative observations while also pulling my hair out, I finally have 10 tips which I firmly believe will make travelling in Karachi a less confusing experience. 1. Be unpredictable Have your right indicator on? Spice things up by turning left! Or, if you’re feeling extra daring, leave the indicator on for a few miles before turning anywhere at all. It’s important to do whatever it takes to keep people guessing. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="472"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] 2. Own the streets Feel free to take a U-turn on a one-way bridge if you decide you don’t like the way it feels under you, or even if you simply feel like going the other way now. Carpe diem! Live your life now; rules will be there tomorrow too. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] 3. Seat belt? Pfft! Wearing a seat belt shows you don’t have faith in God, and are dependent on manmade contraptions instead. So, don’t be a lil’ twerp and admit that the safar ki dua (pre-travel prayer) is all the protection you need on the road. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="481"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] 4. Don't follow the bright lights Think of traffic signals more like suggestions – rather than existing for legal purposes – and don’t take them too seriously. Yes, it’s better if you come to a halt when the signal turns red, but it’s also okay if you don’t. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] We are an understanding people; we recognise your time is more important than other people’s lives. 5. Live every day like your last Pedestrians, if you want to cross Shahrae Faisal, don’t waste your time finding a pedestrian bridge! Just recite Bismillah and cross the busy no-signal corridor while holding up your hand in a gesture that screams,
“Let me cross the road, or hit me and have my blood on your hands!”[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="484"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] After all, YOLO (you only live once). [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="478"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] 6. Take a moment to reconnect See a friend on the road? By all means, slow down, put your foot on their motorcycle affectionately, and have a yelling conversation for the next couple of kilometres, all while the traffic behind you drags on. After all, what’s the point of having a road, if not making it possible to have such heart-warming interactions? [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="476"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="473"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] 7. Be like Triple'D aka Dare Devil Danish If you are a cool guy, there is no better way to establish how ‘yo’ you are than doing wheelies in fast traffic lanes. Girls around you will immediately get excited and start shouting and pointing! Who cares if they’re shouting things like,
“Manhoos, gir ke maray ga!” (Idiot, you’ll fall and die!)[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="482"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] 8. *Beep* it It is a scientifically verified fact that if not used regularly, machines will lose their functionality and become obsolete. Please do not let your car horn die from lack of usage! Ideally (as I have seen our drivers do), you should maintain a ratio of honking 10 times for every one time you apply the brakes. Here’s an even simpler measure: If people around you are not looking at you with hate in their eyes, you aren’t honking enough. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] 9. Learn to read between the 'lanes' Being in the right lane is your birth right. If everyone agrees that the colour of your skin shouldn’t determine your civil liberties, then why should the speed of your vehicle be allowed to determine what lane you drive in? Fight the power! Overtake from the left, and slow down once you’re in the right-most lane. After all, the middle finger exists for a reason. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="474"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] 10. If Google can be right, then so can you! There is no such thing as going the “wrong way” – it’s all a creatively crafted lie the government feeds you. Whichever direction you want to take ‘is’ the right way. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="466"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] Little known fact: when you’re on a street and are confused about which way you want to go, you are on Schrödinger’s Street! It exists in all directions until you make up your mind and cross the road. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] And finally, do not forget that the only real person on the road with a family, life, dreams, and someplace to go is ‘you’. Everyone else is like a disposable character from Grand Theft Auto (GTA), just randomly strewn around to make things more interesting for you. In fact, just pretend you’re playing GTA V, and you’ll be all set to tackle the streets of Karachi head on. Remember, the responsibility of putting the “suffer” in everyone else’s safar (travel) lies on your weak shoulders, so good luck, and may the force (not the traffic police force though) be with you!
For this year’s International Women’s Day, Pakistani women from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad have decided to stick it out together, get out on the streets of their respective cities, and march to reclaim their space in the public sphere. The event, called the Aurat March, is planned and organised entirely by a diverse group of women belonging to different ethnicities, classes and sections of our society. The march itself is not linked to a particular organisation, nor is it initiated or funded by any political parties or groups, and all women (and men) are welcome! https://twitter.com/MJibranNasir/status/971364518130536448 Pakistani women from all stages of life getting together to organise the Aurat March has been an absolutely phenomenal and life-changing experience, to say the least. I can say with certainty about the march in Lahore – where I was part of the group of women who organised the event – that it has taken a lot of passion and dedicated effort to plan this peaceful demonstration, which is to start at Hamdard Hall on Lyton Road at 4pm, and will go all the way to Charring Cross crossing the Punjab Assembly. https://twitter.com/AuratMarch2018/status/970629258778464257 Across the world and throughout history, we have seen women on the front line of various movements and revolutions, as they came out to demand their right to vote, or to protest crimes against their gender. As they pushed for more inclusivity and progress, their passion was often mistaken for fury, and they were declared hysteric or crazy, and treated accordingly. In Pakistan alone, who can forget the work done by organisations such as the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) to reclaim the status of women, at a time when the state itself was treating them as second class citizens? So many women from the older generation of feminists have poured their blood and soul and fought to ensure the position women are in today, and today we march to honour their legacy. Over the past several years, Pakistan has had more of an awakening when it comes to women’s rights. More and more women are taking note of the scale of injustice and violence against women and the absence of basic rights for them in the country, and as a result, are becoming more aware of the everyday sexism they face in private and public spheres. The past year, in particular, where the news cycle was dominated with stories of women being raped and murdered, has made it imperative for there to exist a unity amongst these women in order to tackle the very real issues they face in our society. And perhaps it is losing a champion in the face of Asma Jahangir that has made a political demonstration the apt way to pay our respects and honour the woman who fought tirelessly for our rights, in an era where the system was against us. Today, women will join hands and participate in the Aurat March to show solidarity not only for other women, but also against a misogynistic culture that unfortunately continues to prevail in every part of the country. Perhaps this will sound cliché, but no one can deny that women’s rights are gravely important for the functioning of a society. It is a fact that, for any country to move from developing to developed, the women have to be educated and be more involved. What women want – what everyone should want – is a society in which women from all ethnic backgrounds, religious communities, including low income, working class, displaced, refugee and differently-abled women, as well as persons with all gender identities, can exercise autonomy over their lives and build a peaceful, healthy environment, one where they can rely on a fair justice system to support them in times of need. Therefore, this International Women’s Day, women march with an aim. Not only do we demand safety, rights and justice from the state, we also aim to show resistance by reclaiming our spaces on the streets, which have been largely restricted to and occupied by men. The Aurat March will be an example of power through mass action, as we join hands to share and fight the struggle together. https://twitter.com/AuratMarch2018/status/971330963337826304 The agenda of this march is to demand the most fundamental rights as women; human rights that are so easily granted and reserved for men. These demands include, but are not limited to, an end to violence against women, labour rights, reproductive rights, environmental justice, anti-sexual assault laws, wage equality, fair political representation and opportunities, education equality, equality for the transgender community and an end to child marriage and honour killings. This form of political mobilisation of women is something many of us in the current generation are seeing for the first time, and our main objective here is to ensure that Pakistani feminists are part of the bigger movement to construct a world where there is no discrimination or oppression. https://twitter.com/nidkirm/status/970971601058623488 With the Lahore Aurat March, we have attempted and tried our best to engage women from all backgrounds. Some of the organisers are experienced in building such movements, but for a lot of us, this is a first, which is why we all unanimously concluded that we are allowed the time and space to make some mistakes and learn from our experiences. As long as we get women out on the streets and start a conversation around women’s issues, we believe that, per se, would be a big accomplishment at this early stage. On a personal level, many women in the organising team also visited various schools, colleges, and events to help spread the word. In addition, each of us has been reaching out to domestic workers, factory workers, and women who work at home, and have tried to involve as many women as we can from the informal sector. Representation from all corners of the society matters immensely, and no women’s march can take place without the involvement of women from all spheres of life, especially in Pakistan, where women are more commonly found in the private sphere than in the public one. Yes, the internet and social media are great tools for advocating change, raging, and even for running campaigns. However, truly being part of a movement actually means getting out there and displaying as a united front what it means to be passionate about equality, dignity, safety and opportunity. https://www.instagram.com/p/BgDJOpVHBJh/?taken-by=purniya My only hope is that our resistance continues to be relentless, and this kind of solidarity proves to be visible every year from now on. The Aurat March has taught so many women the importance of mobilisation for a cause; a mobilisation that has been largely absent for women, even as the rest of the country mobilises for political causes on a regular basis. It was heartening to work with a great group of women, as we helped each other learn and participate in the first of what will hopefully be a growing list of marches. While the march itself was always the end goal, it remains an honour for me to be part of this wonderful group of supportive, intelligent and driven women, with whom organising this event was just as fun as it was empowering! To all the women in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad – this International Women’s Day, get out there and march!
When it comes to India and Pakistan, one comes across an array of academicians and scholars in western campuses with piles of research on the Kashmir problem, Siachen and Sir Creek. But one hardly comes across any serious initiative to explore what unites India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan are inheritors of a common civilisation and hence we have an ocean of shared heritage in literature, philosophy, music, food, and mysticism. These days, it seems we have completely forgotten the days when we regaled ourselves over the melodies of Noor Jehan, Mehdi Hasan, Ghulam Ali and Ataullah Khan Esakhelvi. Even the days of yore when Ali was bitterly opposed by Shiv Sena were not this disturbing because Balasaheb Thackeray never shied away from confessing his secret admiration of Ghazal maestros like Ali. Then the times came when the shared social and cultural traditions of music, food, costumes, festivals and mysticism got uprooted from the popular discourse and found a safe refuge in initiatives like “Aman ki Asha” (hope for peace). However, in the course of time, even such safe houses met an untimely death and with a heavy heart gave way to the discourse dominated by surgical strikes, Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar and tactical nukes. The only respite left is cricket and the tales of Imran Khan’s wives. Even that seems to be waning fast. As an Indian born and brought up in a state bordering Pakistan, and overfed in Delhi with both the punctured intellectualism, and the chicken karhai of Kareem’s, I can lay a decent claim to at least have a feeling of Pakistan’s cultural, social and religious heritage. At Cornell University, I experienced this feeling first hand. In the early days of homesickness and during the arduous process of cultural adaptation, it wasn’t a group of Indian engineers from Southern India who came close to me. The Rajasthani inside me could easily strike a chord of comfort and friendship with gregarious and gourmand hearts of Lahore, Karachi and Multan. I must say there is a range of peculiarities that unite us and some of them can be quite embarrassingly hilarious. One can begin with doodh patti (type of tea), almost a daily ritual for us in the morning and evening. No amount of Darjeeling tea, black coffee and green tea can fix a South Asian head in the evening, after a rigorous day of statistics classes which had already robbed him of his afternoon siesta. Only my Pakistani friends would understand my existential crises when I was looking for some doodh patti and was served champagne instead, at the morning and evening seminars. But for such occasions, we sneaked out to get some strong chai. The “goras” (white people) found the reason for our collective disappearances much later, after a thorough investigation. It was us Indians and Pakistanis who had taken a vow to arrive late, slog just a day before the exam, and as a last resort, make sufficient preparations to cooperate with each other like all good and pious human beings, in the exam. It was the most terrific Indo-Pak alliance and all the western surveillance equipment could never bust it. And, of course, we hated toilet paper and helped each other out by secretly arranging a mug in the toilets. Raza sahab, a diehard Lahori, my friend, philosopher and guide, threw amazing parties. The idiosyncratic philosopher inside him would first take a long walk and then devote long evenings to cooking bhindi gosht, chicken karhai and chicken kali mirchi. Everything was cooked in pure desi ghee, something which is equally dear to both Indians and Pakistanis. His tales of food, fashion and literary evenings of Lahore always reminded me of Ghalib’s Delhi. I felt that both the cities have similar vibes of love, sensuality, ideology and politics. And then, I met Sophia and I felt she is another cosmopolitan girl from Mumbai, but she turned out to be from Karachi. In her Memon-styled cooking, I got the flavour of dal sweetened with jaggery, a famous Gujarati dish that we, hot chillis-addicted Rajasthanis, have always feared. The flavour of caste from Pakistan can also be very exciting for an Indian. My friends Raza and Wasiq proudly claimed their Rajput ancestry with their fondness of shikaar (hunting) and guns; it felt as if they hailed from a typical Rajput feudal household of Rajasthan. When my friends Hajra, Hira, Wasiq and Raza celebrated Holi and Diwali with us, it seemed as if they knew it right from the dawn of the civilisation in the subcontinent. I was absolutely thrilled to find in my friend Wasiq a huge fan of Bollywood. He could narrate dialogues of Amitabh Bachchan and Amrish Puri with a feeling that made me realise that we have the same DNA after all. Raza had a penchant for Kishore Kumar and Rajesh Khanna, whom he lovingly addressed as “Kaka Khanna” all the time. My stories of Pakistan will be incomplete without the mention of Dr Fatima. The cigarettes, poetry and tea we shared over heated discussions on India-Pakistan melted into a sublime love when I sat for meditation and she said her last namaz (prayer) of the day, and I guess a mere mention of this is enough to silence those who use religion to fight. From this side of the border, I would like to mention that each and every Indian who has crossed the border either for marriage, cultural events or cricket tournaments, tirelessly tell about Pakistani hospitality and the delicacies of Lakshmi Chowk in Lahore. I am even told that many shopkeepers do not even charge money from Indians. Even in these days, when India is supposedly believed to have taken a sharp right turn, our private evenings are not without the melodies of Mehdi Hasan and Malkha Pukhraj. My friend, Mr Bhargava, a staunch Narendra Modi follower, speaks fluent Urdu with a feeling of near reverence and loves his whisky if it drains with the mesmerising Hasan. Until recently, Pakistani serials such as Zindagi Gulzar Hai and Humsafar were driving Indians crazy. As someone born and brought up in an Indian middle class family, I have grown up with the stories and individuals who blamed Pakistan’s intelligence for everything unexplainable or uneasy in India. It could be anything from the monkey man of Delhi or diarrhea of celebrity politician, to overflowing sewerage lines or a train accident due to poor maintenance. My perception of Pakistan was completely shattered when I had a chance to interact with my colleagues from Pakistan at Cornell University. Through this story, my idea is to bring forth the importance of our shared cultural and social traditions. Such a dive into the shared traditions may not solve our long-standing political problems, but it can circulate a fresh breeze of love, giving us an occasion to smile at each other and feel happy about what unites us rather than slit each other’s throats over what divides us. Unfortunately, resolving political disputes appears highly unlikely in the near and distant future. Both the countries seem to be approaching a near dead end-like situation on the geo-political front. Given this situation, the only hope left for normalising the situation between the two South Asian arch rivals lies in exploring the shared cultural, social and religious traditions.
Life is a system to cycles; it ebbs and flows. To sound more dramatic, everything that rises must fall, or in the words of George RR Martin, “Valar Morghulis” – all men must die. Men, or mankind rather, tend to forget simple facts in life; chiefly, the fact of death and the eventual perishing of one’s existence. People tend to forget that once they are gone, all their attempts to undermine others will be gone as well. The reason why I must apprise my readers with such boring things, which they have probably heard of numerous times before, is that despite the ubiquity of such information, men like Altaf Hussain and his cohorts in the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), never seem to learn. The MQM was formed through street power, led by Altaf and the intellectual vision of luminaries such as Hakim Said and the poet, Jaun Elia. For a lot of people, Altaf and his party was a beacon of hope. It was the guiding hand which would lead the dwellers of Sindh, especially the Muhajirs of Karachi, to their salvation. This salvation was to come in the shape of equality, rights, a good public education system, sanitation and an effective and representative local government. However, years of trust were laid to waste by none other than Altaf himself. The first casualties of MQM’s rule of Karachi were its own intellectual leaders, including the brilliant visionary, Hakim. Nine members of the MQM were sentenced to death for his murder in 1999, and several others, including Altaf, had arrest warrants issued against them. Following this murder, other luminaries were also sidelined; done at the behest of the one man who wanted to lead a fledgling but booming party all by himself. Once all opposition to his rule was gone, Altaf emerged as the leader of the one party that ruled Karachi. His every wish was the worker’s command, with there being an uncontested and unflinching acquiescence to the will of Altaf. If any worker was asked what the vision of the party was, and their response was anything other than, “only Altaf Bhai knows the true objective of MQM”, he or she would be demoted. Workers started occupying land and resources on the influence of the party, and gradually pushed out any other viable opposition in the city. This process further consolidated the MQM and made it a national level player. In turn, its success brought in further zealous recruits, and also gained the party numerous enemies. With this level of control over a “zombified” mob of armed workers, the madness set in, and Altaf slowly directed the city into darkness and chaos from his drunken stupor at the MQM headquarters in London. Fast forward to 2016; Altaf openly incited people to attack a prominent news network, and uttered the dreaded slogan of “Pakistan murdabad”. Major arrests followed, including the face of MQM in Pakistan and Altaf’s frontman, Dr Farooq Sattar. After his brief stint in jail, Sattar reappeared and openly denounced the actions of his former leader. This culminated in the formation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), with Sattar at its helm. Several absent leaders of the MQM reappeared, and joined ranks with MQM-P. This nascent faction tried its best to face the onslaught of Altaf’s MQM from London, and an emerging Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), which was easily chipping away at its ranks and hoarding its leadership base. Sattar tried his best to lead the remnants of his beleaguered party, however, he didn’t (and still doesn’t) have what Altaf possessed – actual power and control over his workers. After a doomed alliance with PSP, as soon as his party leaders started to give him a piece of their mind, he resigned “Altaf style”, only to be convinced by his mother to return to the fold. This shenanigan worked, albeit only temporarily. Amir Khan, the “other” party behemoth, emerged as a strong opposing force of ideas within the party, and as soon as it mattered, the strong willed Sattar was at loggerheads with the strong armed Khan. By now, the Senate elections were at hand and the party needed to announce its candidates. The main bone of contention was between Kamran Tessori and Barrister Farogh Naseem – both considered to be men of the establishment. The argument over the latter was still mellow compared to the argument over the former, who is widely despised by certain members of the Rabita Committee. As a result, when Sattar announced the Senate candidacy of Tessori from MQM-P, another split did not seem out of the blue. Subsequently, all hell broke loose within the party, and two distinct camps emerged – the PIB and Bahadurabad camps. The PIB camp is led by Sattar, while the Bahadurabad camp is spearheaded by Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, with the will of Khan distinctly behind him. The fight over the candidates escalated, and all talks broke down. This created a lot of anger and disgust among the party members, as the men they were fighting over were not even known to be ideological members of the party. Even though they managed to patch up on the last day before the Senate elections, when Siddiqui and Sattar announced joint candidates, the damage had been done. With both factions pandering to other established parties, including the big three, its members ultimately made individual choices in the vote. With dissent being the underlying and financial gain being the primary motive, the MQM members of the Senate voted against party directives, and the party ended up winning a single “sympathy” seat. This fiasco led Sattar to decry election proceedings and beg the Election Commission of Pakistan to take notice. However, the point of no return had been crossed. The only way left to recover from this was to join a larger union, and vote with any of the alliances for the top two Senate offices. The MQM-P leadership met with numerous parties till they finally joined hands with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), receiving in return some respect and recognition in the public’s eyes, not to mention benefits to follow in the future. The election of Sadiq Sanjrani for the post of Senate Chairman and Saleem Mandviwala for Deputy Chairman, both backed by the PPP and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), included a single vote from MQM-P. They may be boasting a win for the candidate backed by them, but everyone knows the reality by now. MQM-P is dead – requiescat in pace (RIP). Without the power consolidation of Altaf, or the organisational skills of Anis Qaimkhani (who is now the president of PSP), MQM is in dire straits. With no powerful figure to manoeuvre the politics of the party, another fiasco is in the works as soon as the general elections arrive later this year. The PSP has already assimilated a great portion of MQM’s worker base, and PPP is preparing to take over the rest. The only thing that can save MQM-P right now is Altaf himself, who has been working out, apparently trying to be healthy again. Not quite sure how that will go. If the party does not resolve its internal issues, which would mean forgiving its members for their betrayal in the Senate elections, the upcoming general elections are toast, and so is the party that used to be MQM.
Ever since Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan announced his intention to contest elections from Karachi, there has been rigorous debate on whether this is the right decision or not, and whether he actually has a shot at winning. Only time will tell if Imran can conquer Karachi or not. Nevertheless, this decision is a strong political move for the PTI, which is why the party should try to bolster its electability in the city before the upcoming general elections. The effect of Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification has undoubtedly subsided, mainly due to our voting class suffering from short-term memory loss. In any other country, a disqualified leader like Nawaz would not even secure 100 votes from any constituency. In Pakistani politics, however, Nawaz has been successful in pitching the narrative that he is a cornered tiger who will return again to serve the people of Pakistan. Perhaps, given Pakistan’s political situation, Imran needs to build a similar “filmy” narrative. Despite being 100% accurate when it comes to the corruption entrenched in the Sharif dynasty, Imran still has not been able to significantly break into their vote bank. The way the Sharif brothers have deeply poisoned the bureaucracy and state machinery, it appears the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will find its way back into power in the upcoming election. Without proper electoral reforms barring corrupt officials, it doesn’t seem likely for more members of the PML-N to jump ship anytime soon. Thus, to start with, Imran needs to build on the narrative promoting him as a national leader, and for this purpose, the decision to contest from Karachi is wise. Nevertheless, this will be merely symbolic if additional steps are not taken alongside the decision. If we recall, when Zufiqar Ali Bhutto decided to enter the domain of Punjab, he mobilised some key figures in the province, such as Ghulam Mustafa Khar. In Imran’s case, he needs to mobilise more powerful figures in Sindh, because rural Sindh – bound by old roots responsible for the state it is in – has not, and will not vote on pure rationale. For Karachi, both the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have failed to solve the city’s problems, and its people are in search of an alternative. In the political vacuum created, the PTI has not been able to carve its space yet, due to displaying a lack of understanding when it comes to Karachi’s problems. Despite being an economic hub, Karachi easily seems underdeveloped when compared to Lahore and Islamabad. The water issue, for instance, is growing worse in Karachi by the day, and seeing Imran and his party take up such issues and provide workable solutions for the future of the city will go a long way to build their vote bank. Furthermore, Imran also needs to display an understanding of the city’s ethnic dynamics. It is important the Urdu speaking community relate to him, and in this endeavour, mere anti-Nawaz rhetoric will not suffice. For years, this community has relied on the MQM for representation and the solution to their problems. Though I am not in favour of the MQM, one has to admit they were rather well organised when it came to running the city. The people of Karachi are now used to the unit system set up by the MQM, and the areas where the party still has a stronghold should be the ones Imran focuses on. If the people of Karachi ever pinned their hopes on Imran, it was during the 2013 election, when the fear of MQM was at its peak and Altaf Hussain was commanding the reigns of the city. Since then, however, the scenario has changed almost entirely. Given the current state of the MQM, the community is now in need of a party for representation. Altaf is now a part of history, the MQM is split, and there is another contender in the market in the form of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP). Nonetheless, the people who previously voted for MQM still only look to those party workers as fit to represent their grievances. As Imran focuses on his electability in Punjab to win the next election, he should do the same in Karachi in order to build his base, especially by targeting voters of the MQM. It may not be an easy task, but with the local PTI leadership having friendly ties with individuals like Faisal Subzwari, it will surely not be impossible. With increasing divisions in the MQM, and given their abysmal performance in the senate elections, the possibility of Imran unifying the “good” elements of MQM does not seem farfetched. In an attempt to address more of Karachi’s issues, it is also necessary for Imran to gather support from the powerful trading community. One possible option could be to sign a resolution in which all the traders show confidence in Imran, and agree that if he ever comes into power from Karachi, the PTI will ensure no “bhatta” or extortion is allowed in the city. This has been a major issue in Karachi during the many decades spent under the MQM, with traders, fearing for their lives, paying the sum demanded. A commitment on this issue from the PTI will prove they are serious about the future of Karachi and protecting its citizens from harm. Lastly, the recent jab made by Bilawal Bhutto, likening Imran to Altaf, indicates the PPP will be deploying the ‘Taliban’ card on Imran in the coming elections. Given the difference in ideology of both parties, Imran will have to lean more towards the left-wing if he is to achieve success in Karachi. Everyone is aware of how poorly right-wing parties, such as Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), have performed in Karachi, mainly because its people are generally more progressive and liberal. The upscale areas, Defence and Clifton in particular, are more of a PPP stronghold, and completely different from the MQM areas. Thus, changing his tone and reclaiming the urban crowd (which he has lost since the 2013 elections), will be necessary if Imran is to win Karachi. The Karachi of the 70s can be remembered as the Paris of South Asia, as people came here from all over the globe to enjoy its modern festivities and educational advancements. The politics of a certain party may have darkened Karachi, but in the vacuum which exists today, Imran’s win could bring back the nostalgia people associate with the “City of Lights”. If Imran starts a campaign promising to revive Karachi and bring back the city of old, this vision of a modern and developed Karachi will surely appeal to the entire city, including the elite. However, to win Karachi, the PTI will need a dedicated team and a solid campaign more than anything. True youth empowerment, like the tsunami he promised years ago, where big names are overshadowed by a massive city-wide movement, is the need of the hour. This is essential to revolutionise Karachi and ensure a win for Imran and his PTI, particularly because the 2018 elections could truly deliver the change he promised years ago.
On the topic of Karachi’s security, Allah Dino Khawaja, the Inspector General (IG) of the Sindh Police, recently stressed on the need to design a comprehensive strategy to curb street crimes. It is a matter of general observation that all previous drives and campaigns in this context have failed miserably; the very obvious proof of this being the high rates of crime prevalent in Karachi despite the presence of additional forces, including the Rangers. The following are factors acting as an obstruction in providing relief to the people of Karachi: 1. Lack of training, equipment and facilities Effective law enforcement requires planning, training and implementation. Unlike the Punjab Police, the Sindh forces are ill-equipped and in pretty bad shape. Patrol vehicles are worn out, rifles are rusty, and no effort is made to improve the general fitness level of the sepoys and officers of the Sindh Police. Moreover, police stations are housed in dilapidated buildings with crumbling infrastructure. On the other hand, the Special Security Unit (SSU) gets the latest gadgets, vehicles and facilities, as it gets deployed for the protection of the VVIPs. All this for the elite, while the regular patrol units meant to maintain law and order on the streets run on fumes. 2. Absence of political will There seems to be no sincere effort on part of the lawmakers when it comes to eradicating street crimes. The Sindh Assembly keeps passing bills of no concern to the common man on the streets, at the same time maintaining a cavalier attitude towards the menace of street crimes, just because their own families are well protected. Ironically, it is the taxpayer’s money paying for the security detail keeping the lawmakers safe, while common people die out on the streets. 3. Police patronage No crime is possible without the knowledge and patronage of the Station House Officer (SHO). Each police station in Karachi has an extremely effective network of informers, who serve as the eyes and ears of the concerned SHO. Then how is it possible for street criminals to roam around with such impunity? The extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud should serve as an eye opener for the higher ups of the level of corruption and rot found at all levels of hierarchy in the Sindh Police. 4. Societal dimension Joblessness, socio-economic disparity, and easy access to arms and ammunition, are just a few of the societal factors further multiplying and strengthening street crimes, as this is a quick and easy way of making money in the metropolis. 5. Short-term vision Any serious effort by our law enforcement agencies is short-lived and confined to campaigns held for a short time period, rather than making it a permanent feature to enforce law throughout the year. 6. Weak prosecution The police force is demotivated. Any sincere effort by the officers of the law goes down the drain when the criminals they nab and present in courts for judicial remand, get bailed out due to lack of evidence or witnesses. This sheds light on the serious flaws in our investigation and prosecution procedures. By taking advantage of loop holes, the criminals make bail within no time. Some high-ranking police officers of Sindh Police have started voicing their concerns in this regard, and have even cited extrajudicial killings as an outcome of such a sorry state of affairs. In order to address the issue of street crimes in Karachi, serious and sincere efforts are the need of the hour. The following strategies, if implemented comprehensively and with sincerity, can rid this city of all sorts of violent crimes: 1. Background checks of police officers Street crimes can be eradicated completely, simply by going deep into the police department and carrying out background checks of all the SHOs serving in Karachi. A little detective work related to their bank accounts, financial transactions and cellular communication will most likely provide the relevant information to cleanse the police department of its black sheep. AD Khawaja has already provided a list of corrupt police officers to the Supreme Court; such efforts must continue if the department is to be cleansed completely. 2. Undercover patrolling It is known that there are spots throughout the city frequented by street criminals. The Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) manages such data, and updates its records quite frequently. As a result, policemen can easily go undercover in such sensitive locations in order to lure the criminals into a trap. Such undercover work can be done by a separate unit dedicated to this cause, as it would be crucial for the operation to remain covert, without the involvement or knowledge of the concerned police station. 3. Complete ban on handling of stolen phones Within the city of Karachi, there are markets famous for selling and purchasing stolen phones. Placing a strict ban on the sale and purchase of cell phones without a specific IMEI number printed on the box will yield considerable results in no time. Any shopkeeper found dealing in stolen phones must be sent to prison, and any and all pressures from trade unions or associations must be ignored. 4. Stricter punishments Even though street crimes terrorise common people on the streets, their punishment seems almost negligible. Therefore, these cases must be sent to the anti-terrorism courts, in order to get speedy trials and deliver the strictest punishments. 5. Use of technology In a recent interview, Khawaja expressed his helplessness by questioning how the police could be expected to “keep an eye on 20 million people with only 2,500 cameras”. This factor should be enough to make the people in charge realise how important it is to invest in a bigger network of CCTVs for the entire city, if street crime is to be brought down. A centralised monitoring system, linked with a network of high-powered, solar-powered security cameras, must be installed to cover all neighbourhoods, traffic intersections, shopping areas, parks and so on, especially in the areas where prevalence of crime is high. Each police station must also be equipped with surveillance and tracking equipment. The current system of tracking a stolen phone is quite lengthy, and involves too much bureaucracy. Before 2013, in certain high profile cases, the Sindh Police had to place formal requests to (federally controlled) intelligence agencies in order to request access to the SIM locator device, which is needed to track down a certain cell phone. Such a crucial piece of equipment was not readily available to the law enforcers at a time when kidnapping for ransom and extortion was at a record high. Even now, these SIM locators aren’t easily available to investigators, presenting a gloomy picture of the situation. If the menace of street crimes in Karachi is to be controlled, a multi-pronged strategy will have to be implemented. This will involve everyone; from the legislators, the police, CPLC and the Rangers, to the intelligence agencies, the judiciary, the general public and the media. Only with perfect synergy and sincere efforts can the city once again become safe for the millions of people who reside in it.
It is not easy for Pakistanis to make peace with the fact that a majority of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches are being held out of Pakistan. However, this is a bullet they need to bite with a glimmer of hope, as soon the entire event will take place on their home soil. There are no doubts about the excitement level of the feverish fans in Pakistan, presenting the picture of a nation which can put aside its differences for a game of cricket. This is why restoration of international cricket in the country is essential in the broader perspective. After last year’s final in Lahore, this season we have taken it a step further by holding three matches in Pakistan; the final in Karachi, and two eliminators in the city of Lahore. This is symptomatic of the improving security situation, and more importantly, it indicates brighter prospects for the future. With Islamabad United already through to the final after a convincing win over the Karachi Kings, the stage is now set for the two eliminators in Lahore to decide the second finalist. Depleted Quetta Gladiators are up against the defending champs The eliminator between the Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi will see two great captains come face to face, creating a kaleidoscope of emotions. Darren Sammy and Sarfraz Ahmed aren’t just two individuals who talk a good game; they have a list of achievements to back it up. Their track record in leadership, both internationally and in domestic leagues, is right up there in the top echelons. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Darren Sammy celebrates a wicket during Quetta Gladiators v Peshawar Zalmi in Sharjah, on March 1, 2018. Photo: Pakistan Super League[/caption] Sarfraz’s Gladiators will be eyeing a third straight final, but the absence of their top foreign players, Shane Watson, Kevin Pietersen and Jason Roy, could prove to be a major stumbling block. Watson was both, the team’s leading wicket-taker and the highest run scorer, making him indispensable for the side, which is also why his departure is a significant loss. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="499"] Shane Watson started off tentatively; Quetta Gladiators v Peshawar Zalmi in Sharjah on March 1, 2018. Photo: Pakistan Super League[/caption] Their replacement, Sri Lanka’s T20 specialist, Thisara Perera, is a decent pick who has the recent experience of playing in Lahore. The Yorkshire batsman, Tom Kohler, and West Indies opener, Johnson Charles, have the reputation of being hard hitters. However, being thrown in at the deep end with little game time and unfamiliar conditions could prove detrimental to their chances of succeeding. Luckily for Zalmi and their fans, they have their entire squad available for selection, which will give the defending champs an edge over their rivals. Zalmi found themselves in a tight spot towards the end of the round robin stage, as they needed to win both their matches to get through, which they did comprehensively in style. The team seems to be clicking at the right time, and it won’t be surprising to see them make the final this year as well. Kamran Akmal is piling up the runs at the top, while Sammy can provide the finishing touches with his effortless clean hitting. Wahab Riaz’s death bowling is as good as it gets, and reliable Hasan Ali knows how to get the job done. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="485"] Kamran Akmal soaks in the applause during Lahore Qalandars v Peshawar Zalmi in Sharjah, on March 16, 2018. Photo: Pakistan Super League[/caption] Can the Kings bounce back after a demoralising defeat? The Kings have had a far better season compared to the previous two occasions, but their performance in the qualifier was a damp squib, largely because of one Luke Ronchi. The Kiwi, playing for United, kicked the Kings to the curb with a blistering knock, which saw him score the fastest 50 in PSL history, off just 19 balls. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="497"] Luke Ronchi smashed the fastest fifty of the qualifier, Islamabad United v Karachi Kings in Dubai on March 18, 2018. Photo: Pakistan Super League[/caption] Although the result was a punch to the gut for the Karachi based franchise, nevertheless, they will have another chance of booking a place in the eagerly anticipated final in their own backyard, as they await the winner of the first eliminator between Zalmi and the Gladiators. While taking nothing away from Ronchi’s match winning innings, it is fair to suggest that the Kings’ passive approach during the first half of their batting, and their slightly nonsensical bowling and fielding setups, were a major factor in this embarrassing defeat. They have got to be more measured in their approach in the next eliminator, in order to avoid suffering the same fate. One of the keys to the Kings’ success this year has been the spin combo of Captain Imad Wasim and Shahid Afridi. They have made life difficult for opposing batsmen with their variations and economical bowling, which consequently results in wickets. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="444"] Shahid Afridi goes through his trademark celebratory routine during Peshawar Zalmi v Karachi Kings in Dubai on February 25, 2018. Photo: Pakistan Super League[/caption] Wasim’s injury pushed him to the sidelines, while Afridi was clearly down on fitness during the match against United, leading to little impact with both bat and ball. Mickey Arthur might have to turn to Usama Mir if the problem persists. Expect high scoring matches at the Gaddafi Stadium The pitch at the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore is usually batting paradise, with little assistance for the bowlers. Spinners do get taken away for runs, and fast bowlers have less chance of succeeding if they don’t utilise the new ball properly and possess a good yorker, with the ability to reverse swing the ball at the back end of the innings. With the dew factor coming into play, along with helpful batting conditions, teams have preferred to bat second in the recent past, as defending totals can be difficult here. However, the pressure of a knockout stage could lure teams into having runs on the board first, rather than chasing. Mental toughness is pivotal Like any sport, when it comes to the knockout stages of a tournament, the element of mental strength and team cohesiveness becomes even more crucial. It is important to convince yourself to believe every hurdle can be surpassed, and teams which are strong on paper are not the only ones which will necessarily go through. The team which remains immune to pressure and wins the mental battles is more likely to cross the finishing line. As the action shifts to Lahore, it is only logical to expect the atmosphere to reach frenetic heights as local fans welcome the return of cricket at home, and hopefully the matches will live up to expectations, with the better team prevailing.
For three consecutive seasons, I have supported Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League (PSL). And for three consecutive seasons, my sibling has supported Islamabad United. Throughout every tournament, we have shared banter at the expense of the other’s team; however, Sunday’s final in Karachi will prove to be the ultimate showdown.
Clearly, there is a lot riding on the final. Watching your team win the trophy is well and good, but nothing is greater than winning the rights to mock your sibling for the rest of the year.
I have my jokes lined up, but for me to use them, Zalmi will have to overcome the impeccable lineup gather by United. The players selected by United seem to have been handpicked with such perfection that each player fits in the team like the missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle.
United’s batting lineup is rock solid. It starts off with Luke Ronchi’s fireworks, and even I am not sure where it ends. Their bowling, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any comfort to the opposition either. It includes Mohammed Sami, Samit Patel and Faheem Ashraf, all of whom feature amongst the top wicket-takers in PSL 2018, with Ashraf leading the chart.[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="497"] Luke Ronchi smashed the fastest fifty of the PSL, Islamabad United v Karachi Kings, qualifier, PSL 2018, Dubai, March 18, 2018. Photo: Pakistan Super League[/caption]
While some franchises spent a lot of energy on promoting themselves as the “biggest franchise” on social media, United simply accumulated the perfect mix of players in their squad. While others were focused on acquiring the big names during the draft, United invested in the likes of Asif Ali and Hussain Talat, and worked to make them the next big names. While others complained to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) about their players not travelling to Pakistan, United ensured they chose players who were willing to travel here in the first place. In hindsight, United’s place in the final can simply be pinned down to some brilliant planning and the right priorities.[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Asif Ali is congratulated by Luke Rochi upon catching Kumar Sangakkara, Multan Sultans v Islamabad United, PSL 2018, Dubai, February 25, 2018. Photo: Pakistan Super League[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hussain Talat celebrates victory with Misbah-ul-Haq. Photo: Pakistan Super League[/caption]
The results of their successful strategy were evident in the group stages, as United wiped out one competitor after another, to become the only one left sitting comfortably at the top of the table. Their eliminator round was no different, as they put the Karachi Kings’ arrogance at being the “biggest franchise” to rest.
If I had a penny for every time Bazid Khan called the Kings the “biggest franchise” on air, I would be a millionaire. They almost had a lucky escape in the second eliminator, as rain in Lahore made it likely the match would be cancelled. However, the men in uniform had some other plans in store. An army chopper was called into the Gaddafi stadium to dry the outfield. Sounds insane? Well this is PSL, ladies and gentlemen – expect the unexpected!
Unfortunately for the Kings, their second shot at qualifying for the final did not go down well either. Like a punching bag, they took repeated blows from Zalmi after United had taken its turn. Kamran Akmal smashed Karachi’s bowlers to all sides of the park, until there were no signs of life left in them. It was a horror show, and sadly for Shahid Afridi, due to an injury, he had to watch from the sidelines as his newly adopted team received a thrashing from his former teammates in Zalmi.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tQ5kO2dKGI [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="485"] Kamran Akmal soaks in the applause, Lahore Qalandars v Peshawar Zalmi, PSL 2018, Sharjah, March 16, 2018. Photo: Pakistan Super League[/caption]
Unlike United, Zalmi’s journey to the final has been full of struggles. From almost getting disqualified in the group stages, they have somehow managed to limp, crawl and drag themselves into the final. They don’t have the lineup United does, nor do they have similar dominating performances backing them.
However, what Zalmi does have is belief – the belief to overcome anything thrown at them. And why shouldn’t they, when they are led by a man like Darren Sammy?[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Darren Sammy celebrates a wicket, Quetta Gladiators v Peshawar Zalmi, Sharjah, March 1, 2018. Photo: Pakistan Super League[/caption]
The inspiration Sammy brings to Zalmi is unmatched by any other captain in the history of PSL. It’s easy to forget he is a foreign player at times, since he blends in with the local culture and plays his heart out for his team. It doesn’t even matter if Zalmi go on to win the trophy or not; watching Sammy unite the team and come to the rescue each time his team was on the verge of exit has been a treat to watch in itself.
Sunday’s final is not a contest of who has the stronger lineup, because on paper there is no match – United is the clear winner.
The beauty of the T20, however, lies in its unpredictability. All it takes is one player to have a memorable night and snatch the game away from the opposition. Akmal has had several memorable nights so far in this year’s PSL, and if he can just pull one more out of the bag this Sunday, it would definitely give United a run for their money.Go Zalmi!
Not too long ago, the city of Karachi was the hub of fear. Residents constantly feared for the law and order situation, and people would think twice before stepping out at night. The festive nature inherent in the spirit of Karachi only made this situation tougher, as in light of growing terror, the festive mood and the lights of the city slowly faded away. Years ago, when the doors of the National Stadium finally closed as well, the people of Karachi eventually forgot what it feels like to turn the lights back on. Until now. It definitely felt more like a dream than reality when it was announced that the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final would take place in Karachi. Till the very end it was hard to believe this would actually take place, as people in Karachi doubted its finality and kept asking questions such as,
“Will it actually happen?” “Will international players back out last minute?”Despite some initial worries, the city was decorated with hoardings, banners, and giant posters of the players; all to highlight how ready the city was for cricket to return. The day before the final felt like Chaand Raat in Karachi, and people could not help getting out of their cars to take selfies with the posters of their favourite players. The excitement only increased on the day of the final; if the days before felt like Chaand Raat, the day of the PSL final felt like Eid itself. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Pakistani workers fix a billboard featuring images of players ahead of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) cricket match in Karachi. PHOTO: AFP[/caption] Since the PSL is mostly about regional rivalry, most of Karachi was undoubtedly supporting the Karachi Kings, who unfortunately lost to Peshawar Zalmi in the second eliminator, and thus could not secure their place in the final. Regardless, having the final take place in its territory was victory enough for Karachi, and its people came out in equal support for both, Islamabad United and Zalmi. The crowd was a mix of United and Zalmi supporters because in the end, the fans knew that no matter who won, Karachi, along with Pakistani cricket, would be the real victor. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Cricket fans wave the Pakistani national flag at the National Cricket Stadium during the Pakistan Super League final on March 25, 2018. PHOTO: AFP[/caption] We were told that gathering outside the stadium on the day of the final would be a tough task, as the process to ensure security would result in long queues and hours of waiting. But after experiencing it myself, I have to commend the security arrangements. The security staff was professional yet polite, and even went to the extent of gifting bouquets to the cricket fans as a gesture to welcome them. It was equally amazing to see the fans remain disciplined and cooperative as they waited patiently for hours, which, if you are from Karachi, you must know is a miracle in itself. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Cricket fans lineup outside the the National Cricket Stadium in Karachi on March 25, 2018, for the PSL final. PHOTO: AFP[/caption] Once you entered the stadium, the long walk and security procedure felt worth it. The charge of excitement could be felt in the crowd, and as one took their seats, it was clear from the get go that this was going to be an unforgettable experience. As the grand finale kicked off with some great music, the energy of the crowd only heightened, especially when crowd pleasers such as Darren Sammy and Hasan Ali joined the dancing and showed us their moves. It certainly was a rare sight to see Sammy and Andre Fletcher dance to our national cricket anthems, with as much enthusiasm as if they were truly their own. https://twitter.com/thePSLt20/status/977904119334817792 Safe to say, everyone was excited about the match itself, and largely unconcerned about its outcome. The most memorable moments of the match were unquestionably during the closing ceremony, such as when JP Duminy greeted fans with an “Assalam alaikum”, and thousands of people responded with a resounding “Wa Alaikum Assalam”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlNzbQjHxLg The banners in the audience alone were proof of everyone’s anticipation, while the crowd was filled with slogans such as “we love Sammy” and “we love Ronchi”, reflecting the emotions of cricket fans who have waited nine exceedingly long years for cricket to return to their home. The match ended up being decidedly in favour of United, who dominated throughout. Wickets kept falling for Zalmi in the first half, and their bowlers could not stop the hurricane that is Luke Ronchi, who undoubtedly provided most of the exciting cricket that night. The fans wearing red shirts couldn’t help but tease those in yellow, especially since Zalmi supporters had the front seat to the catch dropped by Kamran Akmal – a memory they will surely neither forget nor forgive anytime soon. Ending the match with a stunning shot only made the audience cheer louder, as this homecoming match proved to be an exciting one, offering entertaining cricket as promised. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UHOxH-AnRg The match may have been won by United, but the real victory was seen in the happiness of the crowd. The onset of the fireworks burnt all the fear and uncertainty in the air, and the lights of the city once again sparkled in the eyes of thousands of emotional fans. Some of the spectators were left in tears, while others were laughing out loud and having the time of their lives. No one could believe they had finally experienced the flavour of international cricket in their own city. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Islamabad United players celebrate their victory over Peshawar Zalmi. PHOTO: AFP[/caption] The people of Karachi are undoubtedly indebted to all those international players who made this experience possible for them – the players who came to Pakistan, and to Karachi specifically, when their peers were reluctant to do so. They made us dance, cheer and laugh, and most importantly, they gave us hope, and we genuinely thank them for it. https://twitter.com/PeshawarZalmi/status/978061062711988224 https://twitter.com/captainmisbahpk/status/978256997173866497 The return of international cricket in Karachi has just begun, and after this grand inauguration, the National Stadium is now ready to host its first international series in April, against West Indies. One can only hope this feeling is here to stay, and that it won’t take another nine long years for fans in other parts of the country to experience international cricket at home.
Earlier this year, I took a trip to Multan that was meant to be an official excursion, and yet somehow proved to be a bit of a life changer. As I waited to board my flight, I “checked in” on my Facebook account, and in turn was presented various sites referencing Multan as the “City of Saints”. All I knew about Multan was that it was famous for its blue pottery and other textile items, which is why this revelation made me feel excited at the prospect of my trip to the city. Coming from Karachi, I genuinely did not expect much from Multan. Call it arrogance, ignorance, or innocence, but I had absolutely no idea what awaited me. Thus, disembarking at the Multan airport was the start of many surprises to come. The airport itself is quite small, but is unbelievably clean, and if you ignore the land coverage, it is truly comparable to its counterparts across the country. Upon leaving the airport, I realised that when my colleagues described Multan as a small city, they were not kidding. I was due to visit two branches as part of my official trip, and it took less than seven minutes to reach the first location from the airport. The trip was not a long one by any means – my return flight was scheduled for 8:00pm the same day. However, as I completed my official agenda within working hours, my cab driver calculated I had almost two hours till I had to make my way to the airport, and suggested he show me around his city. As we made our way, he gave me a historical prelude to the sites he wanted to show me. I discovered Multan, Pakistan’s fifth-largest city, was a kingdom mentioned in the Mahabharata, conquered by Alexander the Great, called Darul Aman during Emperor Akbar’s time, and recognised as the birthplace of Baba Farid, the first Punjabi poet. On our way, we crossed the Ghanta Ghar (literally translated to clock tower) and the Hussain Agahi Bazaar. This is Multan’s oldest bazaar, indicating the antiquity of the city. The streets were dotted with eateries offering a variety of edibles, ranging from barbeque items, fish, sweets and savoury items. It feels as if Multan could easily pass off as a foodies’ paradise, given the chance. A short drive ahead, we made our way to the outskirts of the city, and stopped to see its famed pottery works. Multan is known for its “Kashi” (blue) pottery works. This craft is influenced by Persian, Central Asian and Mongolian art, and its origin can be traced to the city of Kashgar, in western China. Each piece is handcrafted and hand-painted before being treated with heat, and the resulting product, though very delicate, is also remarkably durable. Each piece maintains its colour and condition, even if exposed to the harshest of natural elements, for well over 100 years. Legend dictates Multan is Pakistan’s mystical heartland, and visiting the city is considered a spiritual journey for the pilgrim. After all, each of the likes of Bahauddin Zakariya, Shams Tabrizi and Multan’s glory, Shah Rukn-e-Alam, has a shrine in the city in their honour. Though I managed to get a fleeting view of each shrine, I made it a point to visit that of Rukn-e-Alam. Having never visited a shrine before, I was not aware of the protocols, if any, which needed to be followed. To be fair, one cannot really gauge any prerequisites whatsoever from outside of the tomb, which is why you need to go in and find out on your own. In your first visit, like it was for me, it takes a while to overcome the grandeur of the external architecture of the mazaar and step inside. The domes, the intricate tile work, the floral and scripted patterns, all are testament to the creative genius of the tombs’ designers. Overcoming my initial awe and entering the tomb, I was transported to an entirely different world altogether. Decorated with lines of colourful lariyaan (flower strings), it was all unbelievably surreal. Taking a moment to close my eyes, I felt an indescribable calm wash over me. I realised there was no protocol at all – you just had to be. Everyone else was simply doing what they wanted to. Some devotees slept on the shrine floor, some chanted a kalaam I couldn’t really understand, while others just stood praying near the grave. There were small white structures around the main grave, which I was later told were graves of Rukn-e-Alams’ devotees. Upon my enquiry, I was informed these people were buried vertically; hence the small size of the graves. Right outside the tomb area is a “mannat-kadda”, which is a large sized lantern with “diyas” lit inside. A local man pointed out that for my prayers to actually be heard, I would have to place some money in the ledge beneath the mannat-kadda. Not sure how reliable this advice is. Nonetheless, the time I spent at this shrine gave me a new perspective on life in general. What does shrine culture represent to devotees who visit shrines across Pakistan? Is it just for nomads who count on getting a meal or two for free? Or is it about experiencing personal peace? Maybe there are those who have complete faith in the divine healing powers of the Sufis, or use these Sufis as a “waseela” (intercessor) to their prayers. Who knows? I do believe, however, that depending on the intensity of each visitor’s faith, these shrines provide an opportunity to attain absolute nirvana. In that moment – as I peacefully stood at Rukn-e-Alam’s tomb – I realised how, in dealing with the small stuff, I often miss the bigger picture. Looking at these devotees pursuing what they believed in, as they prayed and chanted kalaam, they seemed to connect with something bigger than themselves. And this, perhaps, is what Maulana Jalaludin Rumi meant when he said,
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.”All photos: Sarah Fazli