Articles on this Page
- 03/28/15--22:00: _Legally speaking, S...
- 03/31/15--02:49: _The five things you...
- 04/05/15--01:00: _Why Karachi needs b...
- 04/07/15--03:57: _University of Toron...
- 04/11/15--07:50: _Will Nabeel Gabol’s...
- 04/11/15--23:00: _My experience as a ...
- 04/14/15--12:01: _“My son was not aff...
- 04/17/15--04:00: _Once you’re Pakista...
- 04/17/15--12:01: _Zimbabwe’s visit to...
- 04/18/15--06:05: _A giant cross will ...
- 04/18/15--22:00: _Advocating the deat...
- 04/22/15--04:48: _Swim in a warm pool...
- 04/22/15--06:50: _Forget New York or ...
- 04/22/15--12:01: _Digital Youth Summi...
- 04/23/15--04:13: _If you think NA-246...
- 04/25/15--23:00: _Save the youth from...
- 04/29/15--03:43: _NA-246 by-elections...
- 05/05/15--05:28: _PTI won the battle ...
- 05/05/15--05:43: _What have we receiv...
- 05/06/15--04:21: _Comedy nights in Ka...
- 03/28/15--22:00: Legally speaking, Shafqat Hussain can be executed
- 03/31/15--02:49: The five things you got wrong about LUMS
- 04/05/15--01:00: Why Karachi needs barricades
- 04/07/15--03:57: University of Toronto –“It’s the dream man!”
- 04/11/15--07:50: Will Nabeel Gabol’s twist to the NA-246 by-elections help PTI?
- 04/11/15--23:00: My experience as a blogger for The Express Tribune’s blogs page
- 04/14/15--12:01: “My son was not affiliated with any political party”
- 04/17/15--04:00: Once you’re Pakistani, there is no going back to India
- 04/17/15--12:01: Zimbabwe’s visit to Pakistan: Dawn of a new era?
- 04/18/15--06:05: A giant cross will not help Pakistan’s Christian community
- 04/18/15--22:00: Advocating the death of a child
- 04/22/15--04:48: Swim in a warm pool of oozing chocolate with this decadent lava cake
- 04/22/15--06:50: Forget New York or Paris, take a trip to Thatta, Bhambore and Makli
- 04/22/15--12:01: Digital Youth Summit 2015: Helping Peshawar become more tech-savvy
- 04/23/15--04:13: If you think NA-246 is about MQM versus PTI, you’re wrong
- 04/29/15--03:43: NA-246 by-elections: Not as democratic as you think
- 05/05/15--05:28: PTI won the battle but can it win the NA-125 war?
The case of Shafqat Hussain has been in the lime light for many days now; much has been written about the circumstances surrounding it. If we browse through social media regarding this issue, conflicting opinions are found, ranging from the very typical “propaganda by foreign funded NGOs” to the more realistic “Shafqat killed a child so he should be hanged too” and many in between. But most people seem to be confused about how the juvenile justice system in Pakistan works. Things are virtually the same on electronic media; some are calling for a retrial on the plea of juvenility over the allegedly forced confession through torture by the police, while others are pointing out how these pleas might not be taken before the trail court or the high court or the Supreme Court. Shafqat has also exhausted the appeal for mercy, seeking pardon, which only the president of Pakistan can grant under his constitutional powers available under Article 45 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973. Therefore, this takes us to a whole new level of legal discussion. Can Shafqat take the plea of juvenility now? Does the Apex Court have the power to review the case after so many years? Can death penalty be halted at this late stage? All of these are pressing questions. But they require a long discussion, which is not the current point of my blog. The point of my piece is to discuss the obvious fallacies in the way we are dealing with this issue – we are focusing on one particular incident and not looking at the larger legal framework involved around the juvenile justice system in Pakistan. I have been working on juvenile justice since 2007. With other colleagues of mine, we provided legal aid to more than 450 juveniles in more than 700 cases in courts of Lahore, Karachi and Quetta. I am not an expert but I do have some knowledge and understanding behind the concept of the juvenile justice Pakistan and the way it has developed over the last few decades around the world. For me, it is not a question of whether Shafqat Hussain was a juvenile at the time of committing the offence or not. The real question for me is: Can Shafqat, assuming he was a juvenile, be given the death sentence under the Pakistani law? And the answer to this important but unasked question is, sadly, yes. I know many will point my attention to section 12, subsection ‘a’, of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 (JJSO) which states that a child cannot be given the death sentence, under JJSO section 2, subsection ‘b’, stating that a child is a person who has not attained the age of 18 years. Then am I not contradicting myself by saying yes to the question I asked earlier, yet accepting that a person below the age of 18 cannot be given the death sentence? No, I am not. And let me clarify. In 2012, the JJSO was amended to empower the ATC to work as juvenile courts for children being charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. Therefore, there are two scenarios to this case – the situation before the 2012 amendment and the situation after it. Firstly, with regards to the situation before the 2012 amendment, in my defence I give you section 14 of the JJSO, which says that this law is in addition to and not in derogation of any other law of Pakistan. This means that the JJSO plays a secondary role when the child is being tried under the anti-terrorism court (ATC) governed by the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, as separate juvenile courts were not established at the time of Shafqat’s trial. Under the Anti-Terrorism Act, the ATC can give the death penalty to any person regardless of their age – which is what happened in Shafqat’s case. This means that there is no irregularity or illegality committed by the trial court even if Shafqat was a juvenile at the time the offence was committed. As for the situation after the 2012 amendment, if for some reason the case is sent back to the trial court for retrial, it will go back to the same ATC which can give the same death sentence to Shafqat again. So what is the solution then? The relaxation for juveniles on the basis of age is a settled principle all over the world and we can adopt the same laws and procedure to ensure the protection of children in conflict with law. The discussion should not limit itself to the current case only. I believe that we are making a wrong argument. The whole juvenile justice system of Pakistan needs to change. The existing JJSO is neither comprehensive nor sufficient. We have to fulfil our commitments to the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC). As per article 37 of UNCRC, no child should be given the capital punishment. JJSO needs to over-ride all other laws in the country while dealing with cases of children in conflict with law. This can only be ensured by establishing separate juvenile courts as mentioned in section 4 of the JJSO. For juvenile cases the determination of age should be the first concern of the court, rather than deciding the age of the juvenile when the matter is raised by the defence. Hopefully, the civil society of our country will make efforts in the right direction so that no other child is forced to face what Shafqat has been going through over the past so many years.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word LUMS? Vulgarity, a bunch of pampered kids smoking cigarettes, elite class, narcissists, stuck-up teens, the high fee, the beautiful campus, its state of the art business school, a classic display of modernism? Probably an amalgamation of everything mentioned above. While some of these things are true and some highly exaggerated, a few are outright false. These misconstrued images of LUMS have been imprinted in our minds and I do not see many people questioning them. So I have decided to address these stereotypes about LUMS that have long occupied our minds and have tried my best to jot down explanations as to why they are wrong.
1) “Only the elite class goes to LUMS”Wrong. It is true that only the elite class can afford paying 100% fees at LUMS, however, since LUMS offers handsome financial aid packages to deserving students, students from all strata’s of society are enrolled in the university. The LUMS administration also goes out of their way to attract talent from underprivileged areas through their National Outreach Program. Here is an inspirational story of a LUMS graduate from Balochistan.
2) “LUMS has a very kharab mahol” (bad environment)What word can sum up a non-exhaustive list of sins? Kharab (bad). Do you swear a lot? Do you smoke? Drink? Stay awake all night? Talk to the opposite gender? Sing? Dance? Do any of these things? If yes, then I am really sorry to inform you that you have just earned yourself the title of a “kharab bacha/bachi” (spoilt boy/girl). Now, I am pretty sure that “kharab log” exist in every institution. May be a few people who fit your definition of “kharab” exist in LUMS as well, but why generalise the entire LUMS student body? Labelling the entire community as kharab is no different than labelling every Pakistani a terrorist. Besides, during the time I have spent at LUMS, I have not witnessed any uncanny instances or any display of indecency.
3) “LUMS only has one class – extremists”I have heard this a million times. The outside world considers LUMS as a place that breeds two types of extremists. One is the burqa-clad girls or people having affiliations with religious organisations and the other is the scantily-clad girls, the party-all-night kind of people. But I have two problems with the above mentioned stereotypes. Firstly, there are people who are neither scantily clad nor excessively clad. Yes, in reality, optimal clothed people make for majority of the LUMS population. Secondly, stop judging everyone. Why must we have an objection to other people’s choice of clothing? I have come to realise that with or without clothes, people will always have something to judge.
4) “A LUMS graduate is a job magnet”Firstly, let the poor guy breathe. He went through a million exams, pulled successful all-nighters every exam season and had more quizzes in a day than the number of meals you had. A LUMS graduate’s biggest fear is hearing the words,
“LUMS se parh ker bhi job nahi mili?” (You graduated from LUMS and you still don’t have a job?)Secondly, if the job market is rigid, it would have the same impact on a LUMS graduate as it would on any other university graduate. In case you are unaware, the job market works on merit. The harder you work and study, the better the job prospects. So if he joined LUMS because he wanted a big fat pay check, so what? Don’t we all want that?
5) “LUMinites hate IBAians”Let’s get one thing clear – we do not hate them. It is nothing more than a friendly rivalry between the top two business schools of the country. Oh and by the way, the little competition and supposed hate that is going around has been ignited by a few cranky articles online. Because, I have never heard a LUMinite speak ill of IBA. In my opinion, LUMS is an amazing institution that is imparting quality education. It is one of the few institutes in the country that is at par with international universities. So why criticise it and give it the status of a notorious institute? LUMS has produced respectable alumni and is working towards a better future for many more. We should learn to appreciate the services rendered by LUMS rather than criticise its petty flaws. Before you consider my opinions as biased, please know that I had the same preconceived notions about LUMS before I joined this heavenly university but my experience has changed my views and I hope this blog helps in doing the same for you.
Every third person living in Karachi has a story to tell – mostly about how their cell phone or wallet was snatched when they were mugged at gunpoint. I am one of those lucky people, thank God, who has never been mugged or assaulted. But had I not made a narrow escape during last week’s incident, I would definitely not have been able to maintain this claim today. We were commuting to office early in the morning when we noticed two motorbikes following us. The passengers on these bikes had their hands in their pockets. As we approached a speed-breaker, the van slowed down and we heard them yelling at each other to stop the van from the front. The way it was all being done, I could have sworn they had been observing us for days. They knew that the van would stop to at a nearby street to pick up a colleague. To ambush us, they turned into a street before the one we were going to take, but our van driver had caught on to their plan and decided not to turn into that lane. Our driver made a quick decision, changed the transit and saved us. The area I am talking about is considered one of the posh areas of Gulshan-e-Iqbal, as it is home to luxurious bungalows and some high-profile personalities, but the almost-empty streets and nearby slums make it an easy point of target. Residents of the vicinity installed barriers on their own expense as a self-help measure, which have now been removed in wake of the ongoing barriers hatao muhim (barrier removal campaign) by the rangers, leaving the locals at the mercy of muggers and dacoits. DG Pakistan Rangers (Sindh), Major General Bilal Akbar on March 20, 2015 gave a 72-hour ultimatum to citizens to remove illegal barricades as they restrict free movement for citizens, law enforcement personnel and emergency workers. Despite rising security concerns, many dwellers removed their barriers voluntarily while more than 125 were removed by the rangers. The issue of removing these barricades raises some important questions: Why did the residents feel the need to install barriers in the first place? The city situation is not as under control as portrayed by law enforcement agencies. According to a CPLC report, approximately 33,057 cell phones were snatched and stolen from Karachi alone, during October 2013 – September 2014, and most incidents occurred in the area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal. Another report by Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) termed 2013 the deadliest year for Karachi, following the killings of 2,715 civilians and 191 police and rangers’ officials, 108 kidnappings, 519 cases of extortion, 3,082 cases of robbery, 4,068 vehicle thefts, 22,284 motorcycle thefts and 10,501 cell phone thefts. These figures are recorded by the Sindh police and rangers while many other crimes remain unreported. With such rising crime rates and poor law and order situation, where a police officer laughs in your face if try to lodge an FIR of a low-end cell phone theft, what would the rangers expect from citizens to do if not to take self-security measures? Do all barriers create hurdles? Many of the barriers placed in Karachi’s Jamshed Town, Gulshan-e-Iqbal Town, North Nazimabad Town and Korangi Town by the public are boom barriers which control the vehicular access from entrance and exit points. These barriers, unlike those installed near Nine-zero or Bilawal House, are not made of concrete that hinder free movement or create difficulty in case of emergencies. They can be operated manually to allow authorised vehicles such as emergency services and buses to take advantage of the shorter and more direct route. Some of the town administrations even have security guards or chowkidaars to operate these barriers round the clock. Concrete barriers or those that are left unattended should be removed but does it make sense to remove those that are not doing any harm? Are authorities practicing what they are preaching? We live in a country where rules, regulations, bans, orders and restrictions are only applicable to one segment – the masses; everyone else is above the law. Sindh Special Home Secretary Collin Kamran Dost has emphasised that except for barriers installed in the proximity of foreign missions, all others are illegal and the town administration cannot allow residents to place obstructions. He forgot to mention about the fate of barriers erected in front of Rangers Headquarters at Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road, which causes traffic jams and creates trouble for the public. Is the ultimatum issued by DG Rangers not applicable to himself? Which places should be exempted? Removal of barriers has troubled religious and educational institutions, which are under severe threat of being blown up by banned outfits. While other precautionary steps were taken by school administrations after the APS massacre, barriers were also installed at some places to ensure safety. Despite this, at least three schools have come under hand grenade attacks in Karachi and several religious places (including mosques, imambargahs and churches) are bombed throughout the country since the beginning of the year. Instead of exempting those who already have a heavy contingent of police and personal guards to protect themselves, high-risk locations such as schools, media houses and places of worship should be exempted from this order. Who will be responsible for the security then? Are the government and law enforcement agencies providing any alternative to meet the security challenges and concerns of people? If not, who will be held liable for the loss/ theft of residents’ properties, belongings and lives? While removing the obstacles from the metropolis, authorities should also provide effective solutions to help insecure citizens. I too demand the complete removal of obstructions from public places but does anyone dare to take our responsibility and guarantee our security?
They walked quietly together, letting the traffic build conversation for them. The streetlights flooded the roads but they still found it difficult to see. The cars zoomed past them without a care in the world. The tall apartments in the surroundings made them feel miniature, like two toys in a room filled with giant furniture. Beneath these towering buildings were shops lined up together, from wall to wall. People went in and came out from these shops like ants. Life unfolded around these two, as they walked silently on the side of the road. Their uniforms faded and their ties loose; their backpacks hung over their shoulders like prison shackles. They walked with great pride and equal exhaustion. The more that life surrounded them, the more tired they seemed to be. Two young boys were already fed up with what life had bid for them.
“Did you get any offers yet?” asked Faizy.The two had started walking up the bridge now, making their way to the other side.
“Yeah I have actually. You?” Ahmed looked at Faizy with great interest.Faizy shrugged.
“Ones you don’t count. Locals, sure. I haven’t heard from the internationals yet.”The boys exchanged looks.
“Where’d you get in?” “Locally or internationally?” Ahmed questioned while Faizy’s eyes widened. “You got into the international ones?” “Yeah. Toronto and Windsor, both in Canada.”Ahmed, although proud, did not sound very amused – while Faizy seemed ecstatic.
“Ahmed, that’s great yaar! University of Toronto? That’s the dream man, that’s the dream!”He raised his hand for a high five but wasn’t greeted with the same.
“Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Too bad I’m not going.”Ahmed kept walking with his head down. He tried to step over the cracks on the road and dodge the little puddles of water that had pooled up from the morning’s drizzle.
“Why aren’t you going?” inquired Faizy, trying to follow Ahmed along as he began skipping to catch up. “We can’t afford it. Baji’s wedding is coming up in a year. I know for a fact that my parents will not be able to pay my tuition fees and afford her wedding all at the same time.”Ahmed said as he spat on the ground and looked at his friend.
“I know if I tell Papa and Mama about my acceptance, they’ll make it happen. But I know how it’s going to be.” “How is it going to be?” “Papa is going to ask his friends for a loan. They’ll give it to him. Papa will retire this year and won’t be able to pay it back. Either he’ll be forced into selling the house, or he’ll have to work five more years until I graduate, get a job and am able to pay my dad’s friends back.”Ahmed’s comment was followed by silence.
“Do I want that Faizy? I’m not that selfish. I know my parents will make it happen. But I don’t want them to.”Faizy didn’t speak. He realised that no amount of sympathetic words would help Ahmed. So he did what his instincts told him. He put a hand on his shoulder and walked by his side, like a soldier helping another out of the fray.
“It’s cool,” Faizy managed to say.They exchanged looks of confidence. They walked together silently atop the busy bridge, two lost souls in a sea of confusion. Their lives had played out exactly how they wanted them to play out, exactly how every prodigy from Karachi’s busy life plays out. But they forgot about the minor delicacy that runs the world —money. The two boys walked silently again until they reached the top of the bridge where they would then descend towards the road. The streetlights flickered and went out, as did the lights of the whole neighbourhood. These power outages were very common during this part of the night. Ahmed stopped on the bridge and turned over to look at the sewage water flowing beneath it. Faizy waited with him as he saw Ahmed lean over the ledge and look at the darkness below. Pretty soon the sound of power generators filled the air and that is all they could hear. Faizy leaned beside him to observe what his friend was staring at and could only make out the darkness that penetrated his skin. Ahmed leaned closer to Faizy and said something in his ear.
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly.”Ahmed resumed his prior position and stared at the darkness below. Faizy had heard some well thought-out sentences from Ahmed, but this seemed beyond his calibre. Before Faizy could respond, Ahmed leaned in once again.
“I didn’t say it, F Scott Fitzgerald did.”Faizy looked at Ahmed’s face and barely visualised a wink.
“C’mon old sport, it’s time we walk down this mammoth bridge. It’s not safe to be up here at this time,” Ahmed said while trying to work out the best impression of Jay Gatsby he could do.Faizy nudged his shoulder. If only he had the resources Jay Gatsby had, Ahmed would be off to Toronto before you could say West Egg. They started down the bridge when they saw a single flashing light make its way towards them. This light came closer and closer to them and they realised that the vehicle was driving on the wrong side of the road. Immediately the boys understood what was about to happen. Mobile snatching had become a common crime in the city of lights, and they were about to be first-hand witnesses to it. Ahmed felt his phone become heavy like a rock in his pocket. Faizy, on the other hand, always kept two phones. It was now a custom for Karachiites; keep one for yourself and one for the muggers. So Faizy’s face was relaxed when the motorcycle approached them. Two young men sitting on the motor-powered vehicle immerged from the dark. The lack of light assisted the robbers as Ahmed and Faizy could barely identify their faces. But they could still decipher the gun the man on the back seat was holding.
“Empty your pockets, boys,” said the driver of the motorcycle.Faizy, without hesitation pulled out an old, beaten down Nokia cell phone and handed it to the driver. He could feel his heart beating out of his chest. Even though the sound of generators radiated the air, he could hear the thumping of his fragile heart. The gun was now pointed towards Ahmed and the man asked him specifically for whatever he had in his pockets. Ahmed hesitated.
“It’s the only phone I have man! Please let me go this time. You already took my friend’s phone.”This was not a time to negotiate with these people. Ahmed could feel that he was testing their patience.
“I said empty your pockets fool, before I blow your brains out!”Faizy noticed that the man on the back seat was nervous. The gun in his hand was shaking as he pointed the barrel at Ahmed’s heart.
“Fine, okay,” Ahmed said as he reached for his phone in his pocket.He pulled it out and began handing it to the driver of the motorcycle. Ahmed, without taking into consideration his life or Faizy’s, pushed the men on the bike. There was a little row and Faizy could barely make out anything that was happening. He stepped in and tried to take Ahmed’s hand and direct him to run. He managed to grab a hand and pulled it, before a fist hit his jaw and he fell back. The motorcycle fell down and the men on it tumbled over. Ahmed screamed for Faizy who had fallen back from the impact of the punch.
“Run!” screamed Ahmed as he directed Faizy.Faizy heard a shirt rip followed by a loud sound of a gun going off. There was a moment of pause, and two more shots followed. Faizy cupped his ears and pushed against the ledge as adrenaline soared through his body. He was so shocked by the noises that neither his fight nor flight senses came into play. He lay on the ground, helpless and petrified. The motorcycle kick-started and sped away quicker than it had come. Cold sweat rolled down Faizy’s forehead as he felt his body shaking. He felt his ultra-fast paced heart beating steadily in his chest, he felt his temple intact and his head still attached to his neck. He went down and realised that his body was unharmed, except for the tooth that felt wobbly after he took the punch. But shots were fired. Three of them. Deafening yet eerie. His mind raced. Where is Ahmed? He saw Ahmed’s phone lying face up on the road. The screen had shattered but the light still glared from its cracks. Faizy picked it up and used it as a flashlight, scanning the unpaved sidewalk. He finally saw what he dreaded. A few feet away from him lay his friend, face down. The backpack weighed his body down. His arms were on either side of his frame and his leg was twisted in an inhuman fashion. Faizy ran to his friend. The weight of the bag made it difficult for him to turn his friend to the side. With great effort, he freed Ahmed from the burden the backpack inflicted on him and turned him over. Ahmed’s jaw had dropped. His face was muddy and bloody from the impact – his eyes open, but blind. Faizy saw crimson blood spewing where he had just placed his hand. The bullet wounds on the chest sieved Ahmed’s body. Blood came gushing out from his throat. Ahmed did not move a muscle but he made gargling sounds from his throat. He was still alive. Faizy rushed on to the road, waving and yelling. Cars zoomed by, motorbikes fled through the air, but no one stopped. It was like they ignored the boys completely. Faizy tried to stop a car by stepping in front of it, but the car just swerved past him while the driver swore through the window. Faizy hurried back to his wounded friend. He fiddled through his backup and drew out his more useable phone. He called the emergency hotline number and asked for an ambulance and directed them to where he was. As he waited for help to come, he tried to assist his dying friend from the injuries. He untied his tie and placed it on one of the gun wounds. He untied Ahmed’s tie and placed it on the other wound that was near his heart. With his knee, he pressed on a wound closer to his kidney and managed to man mark all the cuts.
“Talk to me Ahmed,” he said repeatedly. “I won’t let you leave me like this. Damn it, you fool! Why did you do that?”He wanted to hit Ahmed for doing something so stupid. He was the last person Faizy thought would throw himself in front of danger like that. All his efforts to stop the bleeding failed. Minutes went by and there was no sign of the ambulance. Faizy could feel Ahmed’s breathing getting heavier and heavier by the second. He let go of the ties and held his friend’s hand. Should he accept the fact that Ahmed was dying or strive to make an effort for his existence? He chose the latter. He ran onto the streets, once more in an attempt to draw attention to him. It remained futile. The busy Karachiites had no time to spare for petty problems like these. They carried on with their undisturbed lives as a boy on the road atop a bridge took his final breaths. The city that never sleeps had its eyes wide shut. Faizy ran back to Ahmed who was nearly gone by then. Enough blood had left his body, it pooled up next to him. Faizy took Ahmed’s hand once again. He could not cry, he could not scream, he could not plead. He could not beg for Ahmed to stay. He looked at his friend. His friend who had just gotten into one of the best universities in the world. His friend who thought about his family more than his future. His friend, the intellectual, the genius, lay before him battling for dear life. Faizy whispered the Kalimah in Ahmed’s ear. They were inches apart. So close and yet so distant. In a matter of seconds, Ahmed was gone. What lay before Faizy was a lifeless piece of mass. The dreams and aspirations all spilled away in the form of blood. Organs failed just like he had. Faizy closed his friend’s eyes forever. They would not see the illumination of another day. In the distance, Faizy heard sirens wailing and red and blue lights flickered towards them in the darkness.
bridge boys copy
NA-246 was left vacant when Nabeel Gabol, under mysterious circumstances, stepped down and separated his ways from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). The move, back then, was dubbed as a strategic one by the once blue-eyed boy of Pakistan Peoples Party, in order to escape the much-predicted military crackdown on MQM. And while the MQM Rabita Committee kept convincing the media about their close ties with Mr Gabol, he issued statements otherwise. The NA-246 constituency comprises of areas in Karachi that have been the epicentre of political power for more than two decades now. This constituency has a number of heavily populated concentrations of Mohajirs (Urdu-speakers) who, from 1953 onwards, started converging to these neighbourhoods. Most of the population within this constituency belongs to the middle and lower-middle income groups who also boast of the highest literacy rate in Karachi, besides being politically aware and active contributors to the electoral process. Ever since 1988, right after its inception, MQM conveniently won each and every election held in this constituency and this trend actually began during the 1987 local-bodies election in Karachi. Even though the Urdu-speaking community heavily dominates NA-246, there are some Pukhtun and Sindhi pockets as well. The candidates Kanwar Naveed Jameel (MQM): During his tenure as the mayor of Hyderabad, he performed exceptionally well. He has also served as a legislator both in the provincial and national assemblies. Imran Ismail (PTI): He is not very well known to the residents of Karachi. He originally belongs to the business community and his claim to fame is his loyalty towards Imran Khan and the fact that he is amongst the founding members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Rashid Naseem (JI): He is a non-controversial figure who is more famous for his lectures on the Holy Quran and Sunnah than for his politics. He was also one of the candidates in the general elections of May 11, 2013 from the same constituency and has been serving the people in different capacities. Jamaat-e-Islami has served the people of Karachi with dedication and commitment during the mayor-ship of Naimatullah Khan, therefore JI is kept in high regards in some of Karachi’s circles. PTI’s bold entry After the raid on 90, the arrests of party workers and the chain of events that followed, MQM went on the back foot and took a plethora of media vitriol head-on. During these testing times, the Rabita Committee tried to keep things in order despite revelations and confessions by some former and current party workers that opened up a new Pandora box altogether for them. PTI was fast to respond by announcing its candidate, Ismail, as a contestant in the by-elections, hoping that this vacuum will be filled with the help of their ever growing popularity in the metropolis. To me, this seemed more like a calculated move with the help of the “establishment” in order to dent the popularity of the MQM in its own stronghold. PTI’s plan seems more like giving a tough competition – just to prove a point – rather than a clean sweeping the elections. Where did PTI go wrong? Ismail committed the biggest blunder of his political career when he started roaming around in a luxury vehicle as part of his election campaign, in an area where a majority of the voters use public transport or two wheelers to commute to work and back home. That move ended up in bad taste and all the rage and fury was unleashed on Ismail’s land cruiser followed by an early departure by the candidate. PTI should have done its homework before sending in its candidate for public support. The residents of the NA-246 constituency have, habitually, campaigned only for someone they are familiar with and their vote has always gone to a political party that keeps its doors open to its voters. PTI has brought forward a candidate who belongs to the upper crust of society for a constituency that consists of middle and lower-middle class voters. This will create a great deal of disparity which may not go in favour of the party. With no connection with the general public of NA-246 and a negligible street campaigning up till now, PTI still claims to create an upset on election day. That is yet to be witnessed. The reason behind MQM’s popularity In its majority areas, MQM has been serving the people of the constituency since the last two decades. Their popularity graph sky-rocketed during the time of their mayor-ship and Mustafa Kamal’s hard work gave a new dimension to public service. The MPAs and MNAs of the MQM are readily available to listen to the complaints of their voters at the party headquarters almost on daily basis, which actually creates that required bond between the public and its representative. MQM is therefore more comfortable and confident about winning on this seat with a wide margin. PTI’s edge PTI has been successfully turning the tide in its favour since day one. Imran Khan’s charisma and the element of “change” have given PTI a competitive edge. The last elections gave MQM a reality-check, as they had not anticipated such massive voters’ turnout in favour of PTI and were caught off-guard on many fronts. The recent revelations by Gabol have given another twist to the entire polls-rigging story – that made rounds during the PTI dharna in Islamabad – and his statements have not only given some strength to PTI’s electoral campaign but paved way for the veteran Baloch politician to grab a position in the PTI hierarchy, which seems highly possible. Another possibility is a last minute alliance with JI (which enjoys a considerable following in NA-246); this can give an instant boost to PTI’s election campaign. Recipe for success? NA-246 comprises of educated and politically aware voters who can’t be lured into voting for a specific group just on the basis of general perception or popularity. The people of this constituency demand performance on ground. With such a deep-rooted connection between the voters of NA-246 and MQM, it won’t be easy for PTI to change minds and make a clean sweep. They will have to put forward an agenda that can click with the general masses. Their claim to cleanse Karachi of terror and fear won’t necessarily earn them any sizable votes but some out-of-the-box thinking and creation of a strong bond with the residents might tilt the result in their favour.
Today is The Express Tribune’s five year anniversary and while it is a jubilant moment for the whole publication, it is one that is also tinged with reflection. The publication started as the first Pakistani newspaper which, partnered with the International Herald Tribune initially and the International New York Times now, offered a mix of domestic and global news to the masses. It provided a different perspective by allowing blogs from ordinary individuals on its website, opening up a whole different field of “online” or “citizen” journalism. Additionally, Express Tribune has greatly utilised social media like Twitter and Facebook to spread the news and this has mushroomed its influence in Pakistan, with other English language newspapers now following suit. The publication is a true trendsetter. Although The Express Tribune has revolutionised the way news is dispatched, it has been a difficult road and one that has been hampered with sadness. Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to practice journalism due to prolific attacks on media personnel and The Express Tribune is no stranger to courting controversy. On January 14, 2014, the media group’s van was ambushed resulting in the death of three of its workers – driver Khalid, technician Waqas and security guard Ashraf. Prior to this attack, The Express Tribune office in Karachi was targeted twice, in August 2013 and then again in December 2013. Gunfire and bombs were thrown at their offices in an attempt to sabotage operations. Although no fatalities were reported, a security guard was injured in the first attack and an aura of fear developed. However, despite working under such threats, the newspaper has thrived and will continue to stand tall in the face of repression, terrorism and censure. My first interaction with The Express Tribune Blogs came in October 2013 when I wrote about the difficulty of travelling if you are a Pakistani and how airlines behave with such blatant discrimination towards Pakistanis. This was received with praise by the staff at The Express Tribune and it ignited a fruitful relationship with the newspaper, which continues to this very day. I now have a resourceful avenue to air my thoughts on any particular point of interest. Some of my blogs are controversial, like the one I wrote on “Why do Pakistani men have a roving eye?” to more thought provoking pieces, like my blog on “10 situations which highlight why educating women is vital in Pakistan”. No matter how people opine, the point of such blogs is to ignite a debate and make us stretch the limits of our thinking beyond societal constraints. No other publication encourages such freedom to think like The Express Tribune and in a conservative society like Pakistan such revolutionary thinking is desperately needed to break the chains of unquestioned acceptance of the status quo. My impression of The Express Tribune will always be positive and I am very impressed with the professionalism the staff has shown in their dealings with me. I wish the newspaper and its hard working staff the very best and, here’s to another five years of great stories, suspense and a whole lot of drama! Congratulations to The Express Tribune! The whole team should be very proud of itself.
faisa cover copy
“The biggest struggles we face exist within ourselves.”The line caught his attention. In front of him, a young student sat on a seat, sifting through the pages of a worn-out paperback. He stood adjacent to the boy’s seat, clutching on to his satchel with one hand, while the other firmly wrapped around the holding rail. It was around evening time and he was commuting back home from work. This travel was nothing new for him. For 25 years he had worked as a bookkeeper and every day, he would wake up at 5:30am without the aid of a clock to get to work. He would slip out of bed, careful not to wake up his wife, and make himself a cup of tea. An hour later, he would walk to the bus stand and wait for his bus. That particular day, he had missed his bus in the morning. The next one to arrive was overflowing with passengers. He tried to hop on, but his back would not allow it. Being 64-years of age, he was not as flexible as required to catch the bus in Karachi. He opened his wallet and counted the bills within. Reluctantly, he had to settle for a rickshaw. But now, he had managed to leave work on time and he boarded his regular bus for his home. Through experience, he had learned to occupy his mind during his daily commute. It helped alleviate the pain in his back, and kept his mind off of the distance to be covered. The public buses were particularly slow, and it was difficult to find a seat during the rush hour. He had seen most of these faces during his previous commutes. The boy was reading a book, seemingly oblivious to the old man standing right beside him. He was comfortable in his seat, and had no intention of giving it up. It was easy to assuage his guilt by burying himself in a book. The bus took a sharp turn from NIPA Chowrangi, jolting and rattling as gravel crunched underneath its tires. As he got off, the old man heaved a sigh of relief. His legs had numbed from standing in a cramped position. Taking a respite to regain his composure, he trudged off in to the distance, cutting through a short alley and entering his apartment complex. Strength seemed to leave his body with every step he took. At such times, the only thought that kept him going was that of his wife and his son. She had been waiting for him for half an hour. He was late.
“It must be the bus,” she thought.However, her worry was short-lived. The key turned in the lock and she heard the familiar click-clack of moccasins on the tiled floor. He was drenched in sweat, and his chest was heaving as he struggled for breath. She maintained her distance. He gave a slight smile and nodded to his wife. It had been 37 years since they were married and even today, she could see the same glint in his eyes as she did back then. It was something she took immense pride in. Without uttering another word, he proceeded to loosen his tie and went off in to the bedroom. She got up from her seat and headed for the kitchen. Twenty minutes later, he emerged from the room after freshening up and the two sat down to discuss the day’s events.
“Ali kahan hai? Subha mulaqat nahin huwi meri us say,” he said. (Where’s Ali? I didn’t get to meet him today) “Haan, woh puri raat bahar tha. Usko promotion mil gayi hai centre mei. He now manages 20 other employees in the call centre. Toh, aaj ke din he had to stay late. Aap chale jaate hain jaldi. Woh wapis hi nau bajay aaya tha. Aaj university bhi nai gaya. Abhi tuition parhanay gaya huwa hai” she replied. (He was out the whole night. He got promoted at work; hence, he now manages 20 other employees at the call centre. You leave early, because of which you missed him. He returned at nine in the morning. He didn’t even go to his university today. He’s out to give tuitions right now.) “University se yaad aaya, maine uski fees pay kardi hai. Subha bus choot gayei thi, toh mujhe rickshaw laina parha. Bank kareeb hi tha, toh mai wahin utar gaya tha. Account mei ab Rs980 parhe hain. Ajeeb baat hai, 65 saal ke hogaye aur thodi si bhi saving na hosaki.” (University reminds me; I managed to pay his fees. I missed the bus in the morning, so I had to settle for a rickshaw. The bank was nearby, so I got off at the branch. The account now has Rs980. It is perplexing that, even at 65-years of age, we don’t have any savings.)He took a deep breath, as reality began to sink in. His words hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity.
“Aap pareshan na hoyein. Humaari kamaayi Ali hai. Yeh uska last semester hai. Yeh aapki mehnat ki wajah se hua hai sirf. Kal ko humara baita aik bara admi bannay ga. Karachi ki subse barhi university se parha hai usne. Ali hi humaari saving hai. Aaj hum sub ke saamne fakhr se kharhe hosakte hain. Khud sochein. Aap itni mehnat kiske liye karte hain? Humne itni mushkil kiske liye uthaayi hai? Khuda ka shukar hai ke woh samajhta bhi hai yeh sub. Warna aaj kal ke bachay toh...” (You must not worry. Ali is our wealth. This is his last semester and we have made it this far because of your hard work. In future, he will be a successful man. He studies in one of the most prestigious universities in Karachi. He is far better than any savings account. We can stand with our head held high. Think about it, for whom did you work so hard? For whom did we bear such hardships? Thank God that he understands our struggles, otherwise you know how children are today.) “Phir bhi. Khair, yeh kya baat hai karne wali. Yeh batao halaat kaise hain?” (Anyway, why are we pondering over bygones? Tell me, how’s the condition in the city?) “Karachi hai. TV pe dekhte hain,” she replied. (It’s Karachi. Lets watch the TV)The two got off their seats, and headed for the lounge. The TV took a few seconds to switch on. The old CRT screen was about to give way, as was evident with the distorted colours on the screen. He thumped the side of the television, and the colours brightened and the TV spurted to life. The old cane sofa creaked under their weight as they sat on it. It, too, was on its last legs. Subconsciously, he changed the channels until he found the news. The news anchor was talking about Pakistan’s progress in to the World Cup. There was no ticker running at the bottom of the screen.
“Shukar hai. Sheher mei sukoon hai. Ali ne kia kaha tha kab tak wapis aayega?” he asked, his eyes focused on the screen. (Thank God, the city is peaceful. Did Ali give any time for his return?) “Aap ko pata hai uska tuition kaafi dur hai. Aajaye ga, pareshan na hoyein,” she replied. (You know his tuition is quite far. He’ll be back, don’t you worry).He nodded in silence as he continued to flip channels, lowering the sound of the TV in the process. The silence was broken by the shrill ring of the mobile phone. The old man realised that he had left his phone on the table. He gestured his wife to wait, as he got up and headed in the other room. It was an unknown number. He received the call and put the phone to his ear.
“Hello?” “Jee aap ka baita Ali hai?” (Is Ali your son?)The voice on the other side was distraught with fear and panic.
“Jee bilkul. Kiya hua?” (Yes. What happened?)He immediately straightened up. He could feel his heart beat rising in his chest.
“Uncle aap Abbasi Shaheed Hospital aasakte hain? Aap kay baite ko goli laggai hai.” (Can you come to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital? Your son has been shot.)The line went dead. For a second, the old man was in a daze. What had just happened? Who was this man? He called the number again, but the phone was off. He gathered his wallet and house keys, and turned to his wife.
“Chalo mere saath.” (Come with me.)After a brief exchange, the two left the house as fast as their ageing legs could carry them to discover the fate of their only child. In their haste, they had forgotten to turn off the television. The news channel was still on.
“Breaking news: We are hearing reports of a firing in Nazimabad. One casualty has been reported so far. The victim is a 24-year-old university student whose identity has not been confirmed as yet. Eyewitness accounts state that he was caught in a shootout between two rival gangs. We will provide you with more updates as and when we receive them.”March 20th 2015: In Memoriam
“My son was not affiliated with any political party. He had no personal enmities that we knew of. He was everything I had. These hands raised him with love and care. I taught him how to walk and talk. I saw him grow before my eyes. He was the light of my eyes. I have tried my hand at writing a diary, and I have failed miserably. Today marks his third death anniversary. This is a father’s tribute to his slain son. This is the voice of a broken man. We have developed a close bond with pain. Every day, it reminds us that we are still alive. It tells us that we still feel. Ali is, and will always be my hero. He was the realisation of my dreams. He was a cherished son, a loving man and a devoted student. He was a man with goodness in his heart. My son was wronged. I do not seek vengeance. I do not seek closure. Three-years-ago, I lost everything I had. While I pray that nobody gets to feel what I feel every day, I know that is not possible. How does a father explain what his son meant to him? Man has not created a language powerful enough to express such emotions. I do not know what he did wrong. I do not know our fault. All I know is that somewhere in the heavens above, angels cried the day my child was murdered.”The old man closed his diary for the last time. The room went dark.
The non-issuance of visas to India continues to irk thousands of Pakistani Americans as the former remains hell bent to grind an axe with Pakistanis, regardless of borders or their new nationalities. At the moment, there are an estimated 500,000 Pakistani Americans in the US and the rate of their continually burgeoning numbers makes them the second fastest growing group of Asian immigrants in the US. According to the Pew Research Centre, the entire population of Asian Americans, which includes Pakistanis, is among those in the highest income bracket as well as the best educated in the country. However, despite all the good check marks Pakistanis have in front of their names and despite their coveted blue passports, India continues to trivialise their backgrounds, denying them visit visas to its esteemed land only because they are expats born in Pakistan. It is absurd for India to assume that no Pakistani would ever want to visit India at some point in their lives. Everyone still has relatives, ancestral homes, ties, backgrounds, and memories of childhood visits to the country even though they themselves were born in Pakistan. The migration that occurred with the division of the country in 1947 was the greatest mass human migration in the history of mankind. Do the Indian authorities seriously assume that simply on account of being born in Karachi or Lahore, a man’s ties to his entire history could be severed and his whole slate of reverence for the land of his forefathers could be wiped clean? Even if one removes the emotionality from the picture, the whole situation reeks of brazen, glaring discrimination, not only on the part of India, but also the US authorities by reason of being perpetrated against as US citizens. Why do these people want to go there? I am pretty sure it is not with the intent to bomb Mysore or raze the Taj Mahal to the ground. The majority only wishes to visit family, gaze at the homes of which they have heard stories of all their lives, visit the monuments built by the Mughal rulers and reflect, sadly, at the preserved relics in the museums which tell the tale of one of the greatest empires in human history. The fact of the matter is that the soil of India has the roots of the millions of Pakistanis who immigrated to the new country in 1947. As per the rules on the Indian visa website, the visa processing time for US citizens born in the US is one to three days, whereas the time for people of Pakistani origin, it is six weeks. Even this time requirement is just a scam; visas are not issued at all even after the person has waited for six weeks. According to the US Code Title 42, Chapter 21 of civil rights,
“Discrimination against any person ‘based on age, disability, gender, race, national origin and religion (among other things) in a number of settings—including education, employment, access to businesses and buildings, federal services and more’ is prohibited.”Yet the Indian consulate carries out this blatant discrimination most unabashedly on US soil against US citizens. The Indian government’s excuse for taking so long for visa processing, although in reality no visas are issued, is to curtail violence in the country. This excuse is, however, most flimsy and unconvincing. 500,000 US citizens of Pakistani origin cannot be held accountable for a handful of miscreants who also happened to be of Pakistani origin. Prior to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which were masterminded by the American citizen of Pakistani origin David Headley, all expatriates with foreign passports were exempted from any such visa issuance rules. These rigid rules only came into effect in 2009 and have yet to see any alleviation. When the officials at the US State Department were questioned about this grey-area-case-of-discrimination, they said they had “raised concerns with the Indian Embassy in Washington” but were unable to do more since visa requirements were engineered by each country in question. Though one could understand that it takes longer for the Indian consulate to do background checks on expats of one country than of another, could it really take six weeks? Today, it takes minutes to check a person’s background history so why isn’t the Indian embassy able to judge within at least a couple of weeks if a person can or cannot enter the country? The fact that everyone is denied the visa despite this background check only reflects stark bigotry against Pakistani Americans enabled by US authorities on US soil – an interesting occurrence in this day and age. Adding further insult to injury, India requires Pakistani Americans to file their visa applications using their Pakistani passports and not their American ones. Whoever chooses to do so, if they even happen to have their Pakistani passport any longer, will not only have to go through the Pakistani consulate to get these passports renewed if required but will also lose all benefits of travelling as US citizens. Of all the bizarre rules that any country could come up with for keeping the people of a certain birth background at bay, trust the Indian consulate to come up with the most outstanding ones. The sad irony of the entire matter is that despite all these loony-bin tactics India creates to keep Pakistani Americans off their soil, the Pakistanis’ ties to that land keeps them applying for visas repeatedly. Going through similar frustrations and in response to Washington’s ‘non-committal stand’ on the subject, a Pakistani American even filed a petition in court titled ‘Ask India to End Origin-based Discrimination of Visa applicants’. However, so far, all pleas have been falling on completely deaf US and Indian ears, and Pakistani Americans remain barred from the land of their ancestors. It would be interesting to see how this matter is resolved, if ever. Maybe there will be a day when I too shall be able to visit Dehli, the great seat of Muslim learning, Ghalib’s hometown, and the grand Mughal capital that ruled Hindustan for nearly 350 years.
“Daarhion ne phir marwa diya hai” (The beards [bearded men] have gotten us into trouble again)These were the first words I heard on a dreary school morning as news of the attackon the touring Sri Lankan team made the headlines. A desolate shroud enveloped Zinda Dilan-e-Lahore as news broke that the bus carrying the touring Sri Lankan cricket team was fired at by a coterie of Kalashnikov toting ‘na maloom afraad’ in broad daylight. The nearby elite would hear of such incidents up in the agencies next to the Afghan border and seldom, the Taliban types would make it as far as Peshawar, but a gun massacre somewhere as central as the Liberty Square in Lahore had a grim and deafening impact which left a bitter taste that the average Pakistani sensibility was becoming all too accustomed to. Mayhem ensued, an investigation started, theories were spun and naturally fingers were pointed to the other side of the Wagha border as being a part of their bigger plan to monopolise world cricket. It sounds absurd, but they may well have pulled it off. What followed though was the calamitous collapse of Pakistani cricket. Haroon Lograt, the then International Cricket Council (ICC) chief led the charge of condemnations as Senator Rehman Malik and his men down at the R-Block in the Pakistan Secretariat at the Ministry of Interior haplessly tried to trace down the perpetrators of this attack. New Zealand and Bangladesh pulled out of their upcoming series in Pakistan. Insurance costs for series in the region shot up. The land of the pure was stripped of her World Cup hosting rights. Certain players found themselves in a spot of bother over the security situation at the Indian Premier League (IPL) following this incident and as would soon became clear, no international team would be visiting our grounds any time soon. As a nation prone to nervous breakdowns, as Fatima Bhutto very eloquently puts it, cricket was a faintly glimmering lifeline in an otherwise sea of chagrin and chaos, but now the average Pakistani cricket fanatic’s situation was akin to that of a starving addict. He is not only suffering from withdrawal symptoms but he also finds his lips parched with thirst to see one of his express fast bowlers run off to the crisp 22-yard strip at Gaddafi Stadium and bowl at over 150 clicks. The ever-friendly Arab Gulf was quick to lend a hand (even though that might not remain the case soon) as the UAE offered its facilities to be used as Pakistan’s ‘home turf’. It has been six years that the men in green have played a home game. An entire generation of cricketers has not relished in the feeling of having a zealous home crowd cheer them on. Pakistan’s most successful captain, Misbahul Haq, has not led his side at home. Saeed Ajmal has not made the odd one go the other way on Pakistani soil and an entire generation of young Pakistanis has been robbed of the ecstasy – that is a packed cricket stadium. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="595"] Photo: AFP[/caption] As a zealous patriot, I must say with a heavy heart that as a nation we are prone to blaming our problems on others and sermonising whilst we are at it. If it is not RAW, then it is CIA, or worse, the Zionist lobby. The cricket problem is different though; we cannot blame it on anyone, especially not when 17-year-old fast bowling prodigies are bribed into overstepping the popping crease at Lord’s. It leaves us seething, helpless, and at a loss for words. The frustration leaves us hapless, leaving an otherwise emphatic cricket fan to pause and painfully reflect. The spot fixing melodrama of 2010 was a punch to the gut as was the IPL omission. Soon enough the post of chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was reduced to a joke. Asif Ali Zardari’s classmate from Petaro and seasoned Punjabi industrialist, Zaka Ashraf, saw himself locked in a vicious legal battle with freedom fighter-turned-journalist-turned-caretaker civil servant, also known as Najam Sethi. Say what you will, Sethi’s shrewdness proved invaluable in making sure that PCB’s isolation was short lived. In 2011, the hot-blooded Afghan team paid Lahore a visit for a non-international, shortly after which an International XI comprising of mostly retired players played a charity game in Karachi. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="595"] Photo: AFP[/caption] An ajrak-clad Sanath Jayasuriya vowed to make every effort to bring cricket back to Pakistan but his pleas fell on deaf ears. More recently our A team was matched up against the Kenyan national side which was brave enough to take the flight up to Allama Iqbal International airport. But these were mere breadsticks before the actual meal; no amount of friendly non-internationals would satiate the Pakistani fan that craved much more. Twice it seemed that the Bangladeshi team would be bold enough to tour but security concerns saw that visit getting bogged down as well. And then, a tiny sliver shone through. The emergence of the ‘Big three’ in the ICC was not met with much optimism at home of course, but the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had been drawn into agreeing to play five bilateral series with Pakistan in the coming years. With December fast approaching, no tangible progress seems to have been made but a resilient Zimbabwean side has pledged to tour Lahore and Karachi this coming May. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="592"] Photo: AFP[/caption] Even though reports are preliminary, the possibility of seeing the stands at Gaddafi light up once more as one walks through the cobweb-laden corridor leading up to the Fazal Mahmood enclosure has breathed new life into the PCB’s efforts. In his recent visit to Islamabad, freshly elected Sri Lankan president, Maithripela Srisana, assured Nawaz Sharif, an avid cricket fan himself, that the new Sri Lanka team would visit Pakistan very soon. Like a rhythmic Punjabi dhol (drum) beat that steadily gathers momentum, the revival is well and truly on its way. Ireland and Kenya have expressed interest and bigger and better things are only a matter of time. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: AFP[/caption] Azhar Ali’s freshly inducted ‘boys’ are most certainly cornered but not as tigers, as phoenixes; phoenixes awaiting resurrection from the ashes as they touch down in Dhaka.The Bangladesh series is the calm after the storm, a period for trial and error. Up against a relatively weak side it is perhaps the ideal and only chance for the likes of Sami Islam and Mohammad Rizwan to make a name for themselves. With the A team flying out to the Emerald Island to play against Sri Lanka soon, one can’t help but be reminded of Iqbal’s splendour when he said,
“Nahi hai na-umeed Iqbal apni kisht-e-weeraan se Zara naam ho tau ye matti bari zarkhez hai saaqi” (But of his barren acres Iqbal shall not despair, A little rain and harvests will blossom, O Winebearer!)
Ever since the last two devastating church attacks in Peshawar and Lahore, the pressing issue of minority rights has received increased attention. The government’s futile attempts to provide a safe haven for the state’s minorities have been all in vain. In the wake of this pursuit, yet another effort is being carried out to assure that the minorities are considered equal inhabitants of this country. A 140-feet tall cross is being constructed in one of Karachi’s oldest Christian cemeteries, which is also claimed to be the largest across Asia. Financed by the Henry Gill family, the construction work is supervised by Parvez Henry Gill himself. The cross is expected to be completed in the next three months under the supervision of the architect Musa Gill.
“The image of Pakistan, as far as minorities are concerned, is really tarnished. We are trying to tell the world that there are good people here too,” says Parvez. “We are trying to tell the world that there are good people here too.”However, this made me question as to how setting up a holy symbol at a graveyard is an indicator of proving there are good people in this county. Of course there are good people who have always been supportive of the minorities, but how can putting up a cross depict that the nation as a whole is good and considerate towards minorities, or in specific, the Christian community? To me, this step comes across as compensation for the recent cases of blasphemy which have made Pakistan the recipient of a lot of criticism and negativity from across the globe. The world views Pakistan as a terrorist-centric and terror-stricken country, a land where there is no place for the minorities; so how will erecting a religious symbol change anything? Though I respect the opinion and goodwill of the doers, however, I believe that a giant cross would not grant any security or rights to the Christians in this country. In fact, this construction will provoke many anti-peace entities to wreak havoc and cause unnecessary problems in the country. The reason is simple; our precious land is not safe from ill-minded destructive souls. Mosques and imambargahs are not secure, let alone churches and temples; they have been targeted and desecrated. Did we not mourn the deaths of those innocent souls who were just offering prayers? So how can we expect a holy sanctuary of a minority to be safe in Pakistan – that too something as prominent as this cross? Christians were targeted in the past and will continue to be targeted in the future, based on whatsoever reason. A cross as a symbol cannot prevent them from being targeted. Sometimes, too much attention is not a good thing. There has to be some other way for the government to express their concern and support towards minorities. One of the apprehensions experienced on behalf of the Christian community is that once the cross is erected, many religious bigots may feel threatened and there may be acts of destruction or vandalism towards the property. Their fears are not ill-formed. The minorities in Pakistan are already suffering from the trauma of the recent church attacks and many of the bereaved families harbour hard feelings against the government. Now if this cross is desecrated or vandalised, it would worsen the already existing animosity between the targeted community and the leadership. So I see this new idea developing as yet another incident of injustice, and a case of blasphemy waiting to happen. Also, what about the other minorities? Why only make an effort towards Christians? Why not create a prominent holy monument for other religions too? This will further create a gap amongst the people and will harden relations between Christians and followers of other religions. Our nation is vulnerable to all sorts of terrorist activities; therefore, the agenda here should not be to propagate the rights of minorities by putting up holy monuments, but to contemplate the possibilities of phasing out differences between the majority and the minority communities. It is pertinent to inculcate a mind-set of being Pakistani first, and ‘Muslim,’ ‘Christian,’ or ‘Hindu’ second. As long as this mentality of segregation will prevail in our country, nobody can fully and freely practice their rights. As a Christian, I request my brothers to focus on strengthening our faith and belief rather than emphasising on constructing holy symbols. The same resources can be utilised towards uplifting the Christian community in many other ways. We are in dire need of standing together as a nation, and I do not foresee that until we all unite, keeping our religious differences aside and coming together as citizens of one country.
Ali* was on bed 16. He was 10-months-old and critically sick. According to his mother, Ali had been quite normal when he was taken to a neighbour’s house by the neighbour’s daughter a few days ago. This was not the first time the neighbour’s child had carried Ali to her house to play with him. However, what was different this time around was that the child brought Ali back comparatively earlier after taking him, presumably because he was fussy. That, in itself, could have been a red flag for the parents to suspect something. The parents, unfortunately, let hours pass assuming that Ali was just colicky. When Ali went from being fussy to lethargic, his parents panicked and rushed him to a nearby clinic. The facility was far from optimal to take care of the infant, given his critical condition, hence the parents decided to bring Ali to the emergency room (ER). Ali was rushed directly to ‘resus’ (resuscitation or shock room). He was gasping periodically, and there was hardly any movement in his body or his eyes, which were ominous signs. Ali was immediately intubated and moved to the CT-scanner, where the results revealed massive bleeding in his brain and infarcted (dead) brain tissue. Could the bleeding in the brain and subsequent coma be explained by trauma of some kind? Yes, it could. Could it have been an accident? Yes. But what was more concerning was the trauma inflicted on Ali, although no obvious signs of bruising or swelling were evident on his body or scalp. My years of practice in the paediatric ER have made me realise that as a child advocate, I must automatically assume violence has been inflicted on the child, especially in situations where brain imaging reveals bleeding. There might not have been any way to prove that Ali had been abused, but as his ER physician, my index of suspicion remained high. What concerned me more when I questioned Ali’s parents was that in between the 18 hours, they had still not interrogated their neighbour’s child regarding what exactly had transpired. Over the course of my ER shift, I observed Ali very closely. He was being bagged – a nurse was forcing oxygen into the baby’s lungs through the tube that we had placed in his wind pipe. A better situation would have been putting him on a ventilator. However, in a developing country like ours, ventilators are a costly luxury in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the paediatric ER is way down on the pecking order for those devices. Ali did not move at all during the time I observed him. His vital signs, heart rate and blood pressure were precariously maintained by medications that we had him on. He urgently needed a ventilator but there were none available in the ICU of the hospital. We were certainly not doing the child any favour by bagging, adding insult to injury because of the trauma to the lungs through such a primitive process of managing Ali’s breathing. But what else could we do? Though, from another perspective, Ali did not need that ventilator. The lack of oxygen, bleeding and dead tissue that had already occurred in the brain was likely going to put Ali in a vegetative state. The ventilator was simply going to prolong the inevitable. By then, Ali had been seen by neurosurgery, neurology and critical-care department, and a consensus had been reached, a grim outlook that had already been discussed at length with the parents. Ali’s parents seemed to be in denial. More so the mother. I was surprised that she was quite convinced that the baby would miraculously recover soon, which is why she had refused to sign the ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) form. She validated her decision to maintain full life support for Ali because her religion and her God would not allow her to do otherwise. It is great to have hope, but I believe a rational approach to hope must be exercised, especially in the ER, given such humongous odds of poor outcomes. I felt frustrated by the status quo and it was then that I took the matter into my own hands, and approached Ali’s mother. In my anglicised Urdu, I explained to her, with as much objectivity that I could muster, Ali’s poor prognosis. I told her if Ali were to survive the ER stay and be admitted to an ICU on a ventilator, chances were his development would be impacted. I also mentioned the substantial costs of ventilator usage in an ICU setting. She told me to go away and return when Ali’s father was back. Ali’s father was on a wild goose chase to find a ventilator in a credible paediatric ICU in some other hospital in Karachi which would prove to be a tall order for him. I did return to Ali’s bedside once his father was back and repeated all my long-term concerns for Ali. I didn’t expect much ‘success’, as had been my general experience with parents in the ER I used to work in while I was in the US. However, when Ali’s father reported he was waiting for Ali’s aunt, a physician, to get to the ER to make a decision, I felt hopeful. It is strange that I strongly felt like advocating for Ali by not escalating his care; by discouraging placement on a ventilator, primarily given what the future for him looked like. In my five years in the ER in the US, I had never spoken to parents about DNR status. I had never seen a patient die in the ER there during my shift. That was my gauge of success. Resuscitating every critically sick child and placing them on ventilators, regardless of likely outcomes, favourable or unfavourable. Here, in Pakistan, for the first time in my life, I was cognisant of what I, as a medical practitioner, was doling out and it was not always in the patient’s best interests. Ali’s aunt came, took stock of the situation, upheld my thought process and made the decision to not have Ali moved elsewhere. She convinced Ali’s father to sign the DNR forms. Amazingly enough, she convinced Ali’s parents to extubate (pull out the breathing tube), stop all cardiac support medications, and to let Ali die. I was even more amazed when Ali’s parents consented. I felt an intangible optimism. Perhaps an inappropriate feeling given the situation, but I could not help it.
“Will he struggle to breathe prior to dying,” asked Ali’s mother. “I don’t know,” I said, while I frantically hoped that he would not struggle. “How long will it take?” asked Ali’s father. “I don’t know.” I replied, hoping that it would not be a protracted process.When it was time to pull out the tube, I wanted the ICU team to be there; I wanted them to pull out the tube. But being the most senior and, presumably, the most experienced, the burden fell on me. The tube came out without any resistance. I thought to myself,
“What resistance were you really expecting?”It wasn’t like the tube, though Ali’s life-line, was tied to his trachea. I then stopped his cardiac support medications and just observed him and his breathing. But then there was no breathing as there was no bagging. Yet his heart rate chugged along in the 70s (beats per minute), slow for a 10-month-old baby, but expected given his critical condition. His oxygen saturation remained in the 90s initially, but then started dropping; 80s, 70s, and then hung around there, as if providing company to the heart.
“Give him a chance; he might live through this and what happens next is really not for you to worry about,” said my inner voice.But I stood my ground and I quelled the urge to re-tube him. I watched Ali for another 20 minutes; he remained limp, his pupils completely unreactive. I also continued to closely follow the cardiac monitor.
“Why is he still on the monitor? Take him off,” that inner voice chimed in again.Although I came really close to turning off the monitor, I was obsessed with that screen. I was willing it to show what I was hoping. And then Ali’s pulse started dropping; 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s, 20s, 10s and then a flat line. Ali did not struggle. He passed away, peacefully. It was God’s will. *The patient’s name, age and details of the event have been changed significantly hence any resemblance to someone real is purely coincidental. The author acknowledges Drs MMK and AJ for critically reviewing the article and providing feedback.
sick child afp
While doing my undergrad in Lahore – one of Pakistan’s most beautiful cities which is rich in cultural heritage and offers the best food you can find in the country – I remember getting into a rickshaw at night and taking a bumpy 30-minute drive to the famous Coffee Tea and Company (CTC) for their distinguished rich, moist and chocolatey lava cake with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. We always ended up ordering order two or three and would share it amongst the eight or nine of us. Although each person would only manage to get just six bites between the girly chatter and giggles, that lava cake was the bomb. It kept bringing us back to it almost every two weeks and they would always get it right. I had a friend who once had such a bad craving for it that she started crying because it was too late at night to go to CTC on a rickshaw. After moving back to Karachi after school, I tried lava cakes at three different places, but none of them were close to the one CTC served. They were either very floury or not quite moist. There also could never get the taste of the chocolate right; they tasted more sweet rather than chocolatey. After unsuccessfully searching for the perfect lava cake in Karachi and now in the Bay Area, I decided not to give up and try to make it myself using a recipe from a magazine I came across and tweaking it to my own liking. The key to getting a perfect lava cake is to use high quality baking chocolate and to grease your ramekins or custard cups well. Also, you can add a little piece of white chocolate in the middle of the ramekin before baking to achieve a white swirl in the middle of your lava stream. Ingredients: (Serves eight ramekins or four custard cups) Ramekins – 8 (6 oz – or 4 standard custard cups) Semisweet chocolate - 8 ounces (chopped coarsely - I used Ghirardelli) Unsalted butter - 8 tbsp Eggs -5 large (Use 4 and use only the yolk of the fifth one) Granulated sugar - ½ cup Vanilla essence - 1 tsp Salt - ¼ tsp Flour - 2 tbsp Icing sugar- for dusting Method: 1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat your oven to 400F or 200C. Grease the inside of each ramekin generously with butter and then dust with flour or cocoa powder and set aside. 2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over slightly simmering water until smooth (stir only occasionally). Once it is smooth, set it aside. 3. In a separate bowl, using a whisk or stand mixer, whisk together the eggs, yolk, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt. You will need to whisk on medium to high speed for five minutes till the mixture lightens in colour and becomes smooth and thick. 4. Pour the egg mixture over the chocolate mixture or vice versa, and add the flour. Using a spatula, fold all of the ingredients together until they are mixed well. Pour the batter into the ramekins so they are almost full. 5. Stick the ramekin into the oven (placed on a rimmed baking sheet/tray) for about 13 minutes or until the cake has risen to about half an inch above the rim. You will have to adjust the time according to your oven, so keep checking after every 12 minutes. 6. If the top has a thin crust and the cake jiggles in the centre, they are done. 7. Run a thin knife round the edges of the ramekin to loosen the cake and then invert each cake onto a plate and let it sit until the cake releases itself. This might take up to a minute or two. 8. Do not shake it to release. You can dust the cakes with icing sugar and add strawberries or raspberries on top with a scoop of your favourite ice cream on the side. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Zainab Khan[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Zainab Khan[/caption] I hope you enjoy baking and eating this delicious chocolate lava cake! Do not forget to share this recipe with your loved ones – they will love you for it. This post originally appeared here.
I am glad that the first post I will be writing here will be about one of my trip within Pakistan. Those who aspire to travel spend a lot of time planning trips to foreign lands. But what they don’t know is the fact that the same time can be used to explore the unique worlds that exist within Pakistan. I got such a chance this March, when I joined a small group of travel and photography enthusiasts led by Jibran from Tangerine Media and Sanam from Funverks on a day trip to the out skirts of Thatta. This entailed a combo of visits to Makli and Bhambore, both of which are situated near this small city. Makli is one of the largest necropolises in the world, which is also a UNESCO world heritage site. It is approximately a two-hour drive from Karachi and is perfect for a day trip where you can go early in the morning, see the place and get back home by evening. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="594"] Hundreds of years old it looks mostly like a desert but a closer look reveals many beautiful monuments and structures weathered away by time. Photo:Urooj Hussain[/caption] I had no idea that such a famous site existed in my very own backyard. The place, although being mostly dry and barren, is very serene and peaceful. Essentially, one is hiking through what in simple terms is a very large and ancient graveyard; the open roads and clear landscape make up for a very calming experience. I don’t know if it was the weather that day or simply just the way that place was, but the light scattered everywhere in the most beautiful way and it helped me take some really good photographs with just my camera phone. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="594"] An ancient tomb in Makli. Photo: Urooj Hussain[/caption] Look at the man in the turban sitting in front of this tomb in the picture above. He was just sitting there motionless with no expression. He looked pretty awesome to me. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="599"] Walls intricately carved with Quranic verses hundreds of years old. Photo: Urooj Hussain[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="599"] The remains of a beautiful wall? near the tomb of “Mai Makli’ the female after whom the necropolis is apparently named after. Photo: Urooj Hussain[/caption] The open landscape was just breath-taking here. The winds were so strong that at times, they would not even let you walk in a straight line (or maybe it was affecting me so much because I am kind of tiny). A word of advice, take the ‘scenic’ route and walk through the cemetery rather than driving through it. It will be a bit of a walk but it is definitely worth it. Just make sure you go during a time when it is not too hot. Once we got through this area, our tour bus took us to see the famous Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="594"] I took this picture while hiding behind a pillar. I thought he might get offended if he saw me taking a picture of him while praying. Photo: Urooj Hussain[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="599"] Inside one of the many domes. Photo: Urooj Hussain[/caption] Our last stop was Bhambore, an ancient city now in ruins, near the bank of the Indus. Being closer to the port, it was also near to where Muhammad bin Qasim had arrived in the subcontinent. The ruins themselves are quite interesting remnants of forts and mosques. Sadly, it is not as well preserved as it deserves to be. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo: Urooj Hussain[/caption] The last bit of the trip was a small traditional boat ride on the creek. We had to take off our shoes and walk through the clay-like mud to sit in the boat. It was a great experience. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo: Urooj Hussain[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo: Urooj Hussain[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="594"] Photo: Urooj Hussain[/caption] By the end of the trip, I was badly sun-burnt, had walked about 16,000 steps (as per my iPhone pedometer), had gotten a bad cut on my foot, and had also – accidentally – eaten a bug or two; but for all the beauty that I came across in this trip, these problems were worth it. I saw some amazing artifacts of history and it made the experience awe-striking. Not to mention, I had some really fun people to travel with. The dos and don’ts I learnt from this trip were: - Take lots of pictures - Take a mini first-aid kit (pain killers, bandages – but nothing too heavy) - Sun-block (it is a must) - Wear proper walking shoes - Take an extra pair of socks - Take sunglasses - Take some chocolate or candy along to keep your energy levels up while walking - Keep a small bottle of water – just enough to keep hydrated - Keep a tube of lip balm and a tiny bottle of lotion – it can get a bit dry out there - Take a scarf to cover your head (some places are sacred – it can look disrespectful) - Don’t drink too much water (you will not find a good and clean bathroom in the middle of ancient ruins) My trip to Thatta was very rewarding and I look forward to visiting more such hidden treasures in Pakistan’s culturally diverse landscape. This post originally appeared here.
Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), is gearing up to host the region’s largest gathering of techies, entrepreneurs and designers – the Digital Youth Summit 2015 (DYS). First organised in 2014, it is a joint venture of Peshawar 2.0, World Bank and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa IT Board. Popularly known for its hospitality, Peshawar is one of the oldest existing cities in Asia. This tells the story of its resilience, and its ability to survive and stand tall even in the most testing of times. However, this is an age where the most likely cities to survive and remain on the global map would be the ones who can innovate fast and leverage knowledge and technology. Apart from rebranding Peshawar as a city of technology, design and art, there are three big motivators which compelled the organizers of DYS to choose Pakistan for their conference. One, a huge chunk of Pakistan’s population is between the ages of 18 and 30. Two, with increasing unemployment, there are not enough jobs available to most of the young people in the country. And lastly, most of these young people do not have marketable skills for 21st century careers, let alone essential skills required to build a successful start-up. All great ingredients for a conference like DYS, which brings the spotlight on online work and tech entrepreneurship. The organisers of DYS took these challenges head-on and pushed the youth-led movement of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in Peshawar to the next level. And what better way than bringing together all the digital innovators from both within Pakistan and from abroad under one room to share their expertise, experiences and ideas. It has not only inspired local students but is also helping to stir a revolution of entrepreneurship and innovation in the region. The first edition of the conference in 2014 had almost a thousand attendees – from Gilgit to Karachi – and 66 speakers – from Singapore to Silicon Valley – who shared their views and expertise during the panel discussions and workshops. The conference was able to create a lot of buzz on social media, leading its official hashtag to trend on Twitter, thus reaching a far greater number of audiences online. Not just this, DYS was able to create a lot of positive news about Peshawar in both print and digital media. The first edition was a success because it was able to inspire the student community of the city by providing them the opportunity to listen to success stories of local entrepreneurs. The conference also gave them a chance to listen to talks and panel discussions related to some of the most important trends in the digital industry. It also touched upon some of the most important aspects of starting one’s own venture, from conception of ideas to incubation and funding sources. Another positive development to have come out of DYS 2014 was the ownership of the conference and its objectives by stakeholders from the academia, private sector, government and the development sector alike. All three organising partners are very serious to give the city a new image and to rebrand Peshawar as the most hospitable city to techies, entrepreneurs and start-ups. Progress on the ground is bringing us all closer to that goal. This year’s DYS would build on the previous year’s success. Scheduled for May 7th to 9th, 2015, this year’s DYS is dubbed ‘bigger and better’. The organisers of the event hope to attract more number of participants, start-ups, experts and speakers from across the country and beyond. Also, it wants to reach a far greater number of audiences through both print and social media. For an old city such as Peshawar, with its image tarnished by security issues and meagre law and order situation, what’s better than reinventing and re-branding itself by opening its arms to technology and innovation?
Who bags NA-246 and which party stands victorious tonight makes little difference. What matters is that today’s election will put an end to the environment and politics of fear prevalent in Karachi for years. Active campaigning by other candidates in Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) stronghold, polling agents standing brave at polling stations that were once no-go areas for all political parties and candidates except MQM and fearless voters walking into polling booths with the intention to not vote for MQM, and then being able to walk out and go home, are all a breath of fresh air for Karachiites. This by-election is little about a seat in the Parliament; it has been more about creating political space, and room to breathe in Karachi’s once suffocating air. Tonight will reveal only one victor, but many claimants. In their statements, everyone will be a winner. One can only predict these statements, but one can also add a tinge of presumed honesty to his predictions. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) may be the first to claim credit for ending fear. They have been doing so well before the Election Day. They may state,
“Winning the NA-246 seat was never our objective, the real aim was to eliminate fear from the voters' hearts and minds, and in that we have succeeded. It is PTI, and PTI alone who is responsible for the fearless environment that we witness in Karachi today. We intentionally did not attempt to rid Karachi of this menacing fear in the 2013 general elections. It was always our plan to fight this battle in a by-election. The fact that Rangers had already done what we claim to be doing is yet another anti-PTI propaganda”.Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is contesting the election too, as they have several times in the past. JI and PTI are often on the same page on several national and political issues. Tonight’s statements from both these parties are also expected to be from the same page. MQM’s statement, in case they win the seat – as expected – is likely to be very dramatic. With Altaf Bhai on the phone, drama is inevitable. The statement from Altaf Bhai is expected to be the most entertaining, consisting of pauses, songs, some really funny English pronunciations, threats and what not. MQM will reveal a hundred different interpretations of this one victory. Some aspects of Altaf Bhai’s statement may be, - How this is a slap on the faces of all “anti-MQM” forces. - How the people of Karachi have “spoken”. - How brave MQM followers have crushed all conspiracies hatched against the party under the feet of their political and popular force. - How the Scotland Yard should now drop all cases against MQM leaders as they have won a seat they always win – only with lesser votes this time. - And, of course, a resignation and then its withdrawal by Altaf Bhai. However, these statements will not be restricted to parties contesting the NA-246 by-election. This bandwagon will be open to jump on for all. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), through any of its many spokespersons, will claim credit. Their expected statement may read:
“It is the PPP that deserves credit for improved law and order situation in Karachi. After ruling Karachi for over seven years, we suddenly decided it was time to clean this city of all that is evil. Under the guidance of our sab pe bhari Zardari, we decided to nod in affirmation to everything the rangers say or do. The fact that we did not have a choice has nothing to do with our consent to the Karachi operation.”Last, but in no way the least, will come Mr Pervaiz Rasheed. This guy has his own version of Newton’s third law of motion, which reads:
“For every press conference by Imran Khan, there is an equal and opposite press conference by Pervaiz Rasheed”.As soon as PTI ends their press conference, PML-N will begin theirs. Mr Rasheed may be heard saying:
“Imran Khan jhoot boltay hain (Imran Khan lies)”, following his set format for opening press conferences.He may continue to say,
“Karachi owes its improved law and order situation to no one but the honourable Prime Minister and his government. The army and rangers sometimes tell us what they plan on doing. Sometimes they tell us after they have done it. The fact of the matter is that sometimes, we are told and informed. Karachi operation is one of such planned and done things. And the government may or may not have been told; nevertheless it is the government and thus deserves credit for anything good going on in the country. Anything bad though, is a conspiracy against us hatched by Imran Khan in connivance with anti-Pakistan elements. I would like to end my statement by saying that Imran Khan aik ganda bacha hai (Imran Khan is a bad boy).”
Dear Mr Sharif, There is no doubt that you have heard about the murder of Sabeen Mahmud. Other members of parliament and politicians have extended their grievances. And I’m sure that even as I write this, your PA is vigorously typing out your official response; one that will attempt to soothe the flaring tempers of the people who knew her and those that didn’t. But Sir, haven’t we been here before? Someone beloved and irreplaceable gunned down because they said something that upset someone more powerful than them, and everyone condemns their murder via an official channel. What more will you do Sir, as the prime minister of a country home to those brave enough to say that which you cannot openly admit? Isn’t it strange Sir that you, the ‘democratically’ elected leader of a nation 18-crore strong weren’t a threat, but Sabeen, a humble woman running her library-cum-coffee shop from a quiet part of Karachi would threaten factions strong enough to silence an uprising that broke Mohandas Gandhi’s world record? You’ve never lived in Karachi, so I don’t know if you’re familiar with Sabeen or her work. She was incredibly sweet. When I was 17, I was involved in a student NGO. We had big dreams and no money, and Sabeen was one of the five people who agreed to help us. My friend and partner went to visit this lovely lady, recovering from a knee surgery, who humoured the ‘I want to change the world’ sentiments of a teenager. She invited Karachi’s public and its intellectuals over for coffee and conversation, keeping the spirit of community alive and vibrant. And most recently, she took a stand against oppressive elements and agreed to let the gaping wounds of Balochistan use her tiny ‘second floor’ as medicine. Please don’t misunderstand me, Sir. I am not advocating her case to you. Her genius does not need your endorsement. Her bravery does not need your medals. But as a Karachiite, I need you to understand what has been taken from us. I need you to understand what we have lost. She was more important than your campaigns Sir, because she never had to claim to understand our grief, feel our pain or value our opinions. She never had to pretend to be one of us; she was one of us! And I know that just like before, her murder will be dismissed with a brief ‘condemnation’. But it cannot stop there. You cannot let her death end what she had the courage to start. You cannot let the Balochistan cause disappear into the abyss once again. Before this, there were few who spoke about the atrocities in Balochistan. Many tried in vain, and were silenced. And now there are reports that Sabeen too was threatened. But she went ahead with it sir. At the risk of her own life, she went ahead with it. The least you can do is honour her sacrifice. If a single woman with little power, and lots of knowledge, could raise her voice against this dangerous subject, then the most powerful man in the country should have the gall to ensure that death does not silence her cause. I will not condemn this country; because I have lived in Pakistan long enough to know that it is a brave and resilient nation. I know that the children of Pakistan value the lives of others more than their own. I know that the mothers of Pakistan can recover from the massacre of their children. I have lived in Karachi long enough, and have met enough of its people to know that in some circles Sabeen wasn’t the exception, she was and will always be the norm. But sir, neither you nor I can ignore that the government has failed this brave nation one too many times. Since news of the tragedy broke, I have heard the voices of naysayers. I have been told that Sabeen’s example wasn’t that of inspiration, but of a warning. That there are some aspects of civilian rights that must remain anonymous. And I’m sure that you would caution me in the same way. Why am I even writing this? I suppose these are the outpourings of one who is truly powerless. I suppose they are the confusions of the child in me, who saw Sabeen’s little space and said,
“I wish I could do that!”Ultimately, I suppose it is a feeble act of desperation, of disillusionment. But it is to remind you that you and I both have a voice; yours is louder than mine, and perhaps this is to urge you to, for once, use it.
The by-elections in the much hyped NA-246 constituency was a day of infamy for Karachi and its citizens, and I feel the federal and provincial governments owe an apology to us, the citizens. This constituency managed to gather an unprecedented interest as the by-elections were announced in the wake of the Rangers’ raid on Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) headquarters and a controversial ‘confessional’ statement issued by Saulat Mirza behind bars. The entire media, including political parties, sat in judgment to defame the party and created a frenzy predicting the coming of doomsday for MQM. I am in no way remotely linked with MQM, yet I am convinced that the entire focus was aimed at ridiculing middle-class educated Karachiites. Surprisingly, it was as if our citizens were experiencing such an incident for the first time. Focusing on the elections, it seemed to me as if a fight was going on between David and Goliath, or a messiah was coming to liberate us from the demons, or as if we are living in under tyrannical occupation and the only way out of this mess was Imran Khan, our saviour. The battle lines were drawn between the proletariats and the bourgeoisie. Predominantly it was a matter of class and racist behaviour. In any case, this turned out to be the finest hour for MQM, since the myth about bogus voting and over stuffing of ballots was shattered completely. I beg to differ on the praises being heaped on the authorities by the press as to how peaceful and democratic the elections were. The overwhelming presence of law enforcement agencies in and outside the polling booths is a sad reflection on the incompetence and shrieking of responsibility on part of the Election Commission of Pakistan. It is baffling as to why no one is giving an explanation concerning irregularities in the voters’ lists. At some polling stations, the polling staff was definitely not ready for voters, which delayed the process and extra time was not allowed either. Furthermore, some of the voters who by chance had brought their mobile phones despite the ban were asked to leave and denied the opportunity to vote. If a benign attitude had been adopted by the security agents, a person would have been designated to collect the mobiles and could have handed them back once their vote would have been casted – no big deal. The decision of polling on a working day is incomprehensible; instead of a Thursday it should have been held on Sunday – hell would not have broken loose. Did officials in the decision-making process not realise that this particular constituency is mostly comprised of lower-middle class and self-income generating professionals? They had to be in at work by 9am and the delayed polling process ended up excluding quite a large number of voters. As has been reported in a section of the press, an MQM candidate was denied his constitutional and lawful right of visiting polling stations in his constituency. Now, an important question which requires an unambiguous answer is will the Karachi election process model be replicated for the entire country, and if not, why was it thrust upon Karachi? Are the masses in this particular section rowdy or unruly? Or was it the extraordinary law and order situation which warranted such measures? The democratic process does not allow anyone to hold elections under the shadow of bayonets and repressive methods. If the policy-makers are really sincere in restoring peace and tranquillity to Karachi, they need to adopt a Delhi-like model with a separate chief minister and cabinet for the city. The divisive lines drawn on ethnic basis can only be quelled if all stakeholders are earnestly involved in the policy-making of the city. Otherwise, we should brace ourselves for a very bloody election next time.
The judicial commission set up to investigate the legitimacy of the votes casted in NA-125 has decided that there shall be a re-vote in the constituency. Shah Mehmood Qureshi deems this as one of the first steps towards a Naya Pakistan under Imran Khan. After the revelation, Khwaja Saad Rafique was found defending himself in front of reporters and journalists, blaming the returning officers of the seven polling stations where the irregularities in vote count were found. While these politicians blame each other face front, their parties have already begun deciding candidates for the empty seat. The war between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) began the very day the results for the 2013 general elections were announced. PML-N defended itself as PTI and many other major parties like Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) accused PML-N of having rigged the elections since the establishment in Punjab was already in their support. As the days progressed, videos of rigging from within the polling stations began circulating throughout social media as PTI started planning to begin its campaign against the ruling party. After months of urging the government to start a commission against the four seats where rigging instances had been spotted, PTI decided to launch its significant long march. Eventually on August 14, 2014, PTI began its long march to launch a commission against the rigged elections and also to make the prime minister resign. However, after the Army Public School attack took place, Imran and Nawaz decided to work together to handle the situation and the march came to an end. Towards the end, Imran let go of most of his demands and focused on the creation of a judicial commission to check for irregularities in the 2013 general elections. This judicial commission came into existence after PTI and PML-N signed an official agreement through a presidential decree, and focused its concerns with four constituencies – NA-125, NA-122, NA-110 and NA-154. Just days ago, PTI lost badly in the cantonment elections across the country and lost many seats, some even to members of underdog parties, like in Karachi, and independent candidates, like in Attock. After their humiliating defeat, people had widely started to speculate PTI’s demise, thinking that the party’s decline was inevitable, especially since it lost the NA-246 by-elections. However, these speculations died down after the commission proved that PTI’s claims were correct – partially at least. Now, PTI hopes to fight forward and win the re-polling in NA-125. Nineteen candidates competed for the seat in 2013 and 11 in 2008 and both times the candidate of PML-N (Khwaja Saad Rafique) won by an astounding margin to the runner-up. This is the final make or break point for PTI as it has another chance to win in the NA-125 and PP-155 seats. If PTI takes the election in the area by a compelling margin, they can easily get back to a stronger position to blame PML-N for rigging but if PTI loses to PML-N again or to any other candidate, the repercussions could be severe and dangerous for Imran’s party. One can easily predict, if PTI loses this by-election, people will largely start doubting Imran’s capacity as a leader. Having said that, Imran will still have the support that youngsters have to offer since they have been blinded by the reputation and bold personality of the World Cup-winner but as proven by several surveys, he will have to wait a few years before they get their turn to vote. If PTI wins NA-125, any other seat that opens up after the results from the judicial commission will be a possible win for the party. And that would increase the trust people have in Imran’s capability. By keeping itself in the limelight and maintaining itself as the centre of attention, PTI is making sure that people know that it is here to stay. And hopefully this would help them in the 2018 general elections. For now, it is up to Imran Khan to select his best candidate and set him/her up to compete in NA-125. If he manages a win, there will be hope again but if he loses, things can definitely go south.
What concerns me most is a word. It is a simple word that is not heard on the lips of people in most parts of the world, but for me it is a word that desperately needs to be heard more often. Whenever I do hear this word, or say it myself, it stirs emotions that I cannot explain. I cannot do justice to the memories they evoke. That word is Balochistan. I have grown up around politics and in politics. For a daughter of a Baloch tribal leader and activist, politics and life are irreversibly intertwined. The need to understand the ethnic and national tensions that have plagued Pakistani society for decades is integral to how I think, and as important as the lives-and deaths-of family to these struggles. To understand what drives individuals, tribes and nations to do what they do is necessary to understanding this conflict. Although many people are unaware of this, there has been resistance from the Baloch people to Balochistan’s inclusion in the Pakistani state since its forced annexation in 1947, when the state of Pakistan separated from India. The Baloch people have always viewed Balochistan as a proudly independent nation, asserting their right to self-determination and the right to pursue their own wishes in their own way; to employ their own mineral resources without the wealth being exploited by companies owned and run by the Pakistani elite. This select few make up the Islamabad government and the military that underpins its pre-eminence. The tribal system in Balochistan has been strongly held culpable for Balochistan’s impoverishment and ironically, most of the Baloch tribal deities serve the government. My grandfather, Sardar Attaullah Mengal joined politics as an activist member of the Baloch movement. He served as the first chief minister of Balochistan and it was during his rule that the first university in Balochistan opened. Years have passed, governments have changed but the number of universities has not. He spent 10 years in jail only because he stood up against the tyranny that prevailed in Balochistan. It was during his revolt that his family was first targeted. My uncle, Shaheed Asadullah Mengal was the first case of a missing person in Balochistan in 1974 during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s regime. My family refused to believe he was dead because no evidence of his body was found. There was always a ray of hope of his return; a hope which died the day my grandfather named my cousin after him. That’s when everyone knew Shaheed Asadullah Mengal, who was only 19-years-old at the time of his disappearance, was gone. My maternal grandfather, Shaheed Aslam Jan Gichki, another advocate of freedom for the Baloch people, was murdered in 2002. Following his death, politics assumed new and frightening proportions. Our family was not only divided but hatred amongst us elevated for one another. The tactic of ‘divide and rule’ is one that I strongly believe the British planted for our agencies to adopt. Even though his murder is assumed to be the cause of tribal enmity, the ones who are aware of deceitful Pakistani politics know who is responsible for his death. The torment imposed on my family and the Baloch people, initially created a feeling of vulnerability, but as the atrocities within Pakistani society increased, my desire to understand why these things were happening, and to do something to combat them, increased. Our wounds had still not been healed when my uncle, Shaheed Hasan Gichki, was brutally murdered in Central Jail Karachi in 2006. Not only was he a father figure to us but a man with profound dignity. After Shaheed Akbar Bughti’s death, my father had become extremely vocal in Balochistan and instigated a wake-up call for the Baloch people. To hinder his cause, the agencies’ new target was us, Akhtar Mengal’s children. My siblings and I were being followed to and from school. For our protection, he left everything behind, only to be trapped in a game he did not know was being played. He was arrested as a consequence of ‘harassing’ intelligence militia. Agencies and police surrounded our house in Karachi, as if a leading terrorist, and not a champion of freedom for our people, resided there. My father was released after the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) came into power. Luckily, he was neither killed nor tortured in jail but was kept in solitary confinement. Unluckily, his food was poisoned to such an extent that that he suffers to this day. After moving away in self-exile, my family thought things may get better but they certainly did not. Numerous Balochistan National Party’s (BNP) central workers were openly murdered on the streets. Shaheed Hassan Gichki’s father, Shaheed Nadir Gichki, was murdered in Tump allegedly by government authorities. My cousins, Shaheed Murad Gichki and Shaheed Zubair Gichki, were brutally murdered on the same day in Turbat. Many young Baloch brothers have gone missing and many bullet-riddled bodies have been found. We pleaded and knocked on every door there is in the name of justice. Yet, no one heard us. What have we received from the people of Pakistan except neglect and torment? The ones who are brave enough to stand beside us and hear our stories are targeted. Sabeen Mahmud was a fearless activist who not only stood up for what she believed in, but left a message which most of the intellectuals should make use of. If we, the Baloch, were ever considered a part of Pakistan, Sabeen would not be the only one debating. There is a growing and pressing need to come to terms with the issues of Balochistan so that we can calmly and peacefully address what really matters; the well-being of all people and how to make sure that repression and reprisal is turned into liberation, mutual benefit and cooperation. It is only through the means of political discourse and agreement between willing partners that this can be achieved. The state, with its immense resources (many of which are from Baloch sources) and institutions, continues encouraging disorder, disunity and fragmentation in the Baloch society. They use all possible resources to discourage any political and social opposition in the province-even those that are illegal and are opposed by western governments and human rights bodies. Both ‘pro-government’ and nationalist tribal leaders blame each other as causes of the problem, ultimately taking advantage of their power bases for their own selfish ends. They choose this, rather than working together for the betterment of Balochistan and its people. Fragmentation and disorder in Balochistan has adversely affected the political and social process. Disunity among both tribal chiefs and moderate political elements has encouraged the authorities to increase the ferocity of the promotion of their agenda with support garnered by military and the intelligence agencies. The Baloch society, awash with natural resources, has vital strategic importance as it borders the conflict hotspots of Iran and Afghanistan, but it is crippled by its low literacy rate, minimal communication resources, and worsening social indicators. What Balochistan requires is a change of perspective and to aspire to a visionary political approach to tribal leadership, to shun their minor differences and to work together to achieve lasting peace and bring prosperity to the traumatised Baloch population. There are many reasons why the current situation is as bleak as it is now, but the major cause of failure to achieve political progress is a lack of understanding and a lack of clear strategy to respond to the Pakistani establishment’s malicious and hurtful policies; put in place to subjugate the Baloch people in place of real negotiation. Each political party and group is responding merely to their own agenda, and Islamabad uses this to its own end. Baloch political groups need to come up with a plan to respond to Islamabad and create a win-win situation that benefits everyone. Whether this is feasible is arguable, the real sentiments that individual players in this scenario possess, is truly, anyone’s guess. On one hand, nationalists proudly assert their support for the oppressed Baloch, yet may only wish to keep hold of their power base and wealth that their feudal status confers. They accuse pro-government leaders of collaboration, yet they could be said to be as corrupt as their opponents given their refusal to step back from the tribal system that legitimises their territorial stronghold. Equally, those taking money from government contracts could be said to be the mirror image of their opponents. Indeed, the dividing line is often less than clear; many tribal leaders take advantage of the benefits offered by pro-government leaders despite their apparent disdain. Corruption in the Pakistani enterprise could be said to be endemic to the point where it cannot be avoided at some point without a resignation from power that both parties refuse to sanction. It will take something more than heated words from positions of privilege to effect change. What is needed in Pakistan and Balochistan is a real need to open up government to true democratic change that cannot happen under the current tribal and federal system, as selfishness is integral to running both the state and the opposition. Deeply entrenched as they are, it may be possible if the will to achieve real political change can take place. At present, this is a very remote possibility. The struggle of my people is why I wish to dedicate my life to the same goals as my family. To support our province, our people and achieve some degree of justice. But the status quo means I cannot do this alone, not until people as courageous as Sabeen Mahmud stand with us. The lesson of East Pakistan should have been enough for most Pakistanis to stand up against injustice but I do not blame most of you, most of you are not aware of our despair. I write this, not with contempt but because I implore you to open your eyes, to heed our suffering and help build a better future.
Last Friday, director Nida Butt’s little MAD School held its first comedy night and lovers of all things funny united in Karachi and showed up in droves. Now the excessive rush probably had a little sumthin-sumthin to do with ticket price being just Rs100! Most stand-up comedians were improv artists and were making their stand-up debut the same night. The line-up consisted of Hassnain Shah, Ehsan Yar, Umar Ahmed, Ali Junejo and Natasha Humera Ejaz, Faiza Saleem, Syed Osama Sami, Zuhaib Shaikh and Akbar Chaudry. Each comedian had their own unique sense of humour and style and surprisingly all of them were funny in their own way. But some were definitely funnier than the rest. Hassnain Shah, a stand-up first-timer, recently moved back to Pakistan from the US and had some good jokes about being a Pakistani in the US and how it is like coming back home. [embed width="620"]https://vimeo.com/126774439[/embed] Ehsan Yar had some adult-themed jokes that were controversial but hilarious. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="387"] Ehsan Yar. Photo: Saba Khalid[/caption] Umar Ahmed spoke about some mailas in Karachi, difficulties explaining Chartered Accountancy to his relatives and the controversial billboard of a telecommunication company. [embed width="620"]https://vimeo.com/126785744[/embed] [embed width="620"]https://vimeo.com/126777578[/embed] The duo Ali Junejo and Natasha Humera Ejaz did a completely improv bit on two people meeting for the first time and how the dynamics of their relationship change when the timeline is projected (one week, one month and one year) into the future. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="491"] Ali Junejo and Natasha Humera Ejaz. Photo: Saba Khalid[/caption] Facebook superstar Faiza Saleem got the crowd in fits with her jokes about the dynamics of her family, romantic relationships and rishtas in our culture. [embed width="620"]https://vimeo.com/126773285[/embed] Syed Osama Sami’s jokes were pretty funny on the very rich, the very fair, the skinny or the beautiful. [embed width="620"]https://vimeo.com/126888834[/embed] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="302"] Syed Osama Sami. Photo: Saba Khalid[/caption] Zuhaib Shaikh had some funny bits about the fear of one of his body members getting wounded and how Pakistanis aren’t as judgmental as we think! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="391"] Zuhaib Shaikh. Photo: Saba Khalid[/caption] And finally Akbar Chaudry, the improv extraordinaire, concluded the show with his hilarious contribution to the fun and laughter-filled comedy night. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="441"] Akbar Chaudry. Photo: Saba Khalid[/caption] With the success of this comedy night at MAD School, we do hope this becomes a fortnightly affair. Us Karachi-walay are comedy-hungry, and I’m sure we would not miss a single comedy night! PS: A word of advice to the open-minded comedy-loving parents… please use parental discretion and keep your 8-year-olds at home!