Sunday, 2 March 2014

Revisiting Abbas Town - Karachi's Ground Zero

I visited Abbas town today on the eve of the first anniversary of the biggest day of destruction Karachi has ever seen. On 3rd March 2013, the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi blew up a bomb in the centre of two residential apartments Iqra City and Rabia Flower. More than 160 families fell victim losing their homes, savings and loved ones. Amongst the martyred were Shias and Sunni. The bomb did not discriminate between sects. Children were orphaned, men and women were widowed and parents lost infants. The bomb also did not discriminate between age and gender.

It was my visit to the site of the blast one year ago that changed me the most as a person because I realized that the bomb and the terrorist did not discriminate between its victims but it was us the civil society which discriminated when reaching out to victims.

 Abbas Town is popularly believed to be a Shia Majority area. The common view was that almost everyone killed or affected by the Abbas Town blast was a Shia. Hence it was not surprising to see that the NGO’s working on ground were majority Shia. The protestors on the streets were majority Shia. The politicians condemning the attack most vocally were majority Shia. Thus if not the victims then at least the tragedy was mostly Shia. When I along with fellow members of the Abbas Town Humanitarian Response, a youth initiative formed overnight to collect funds for the victims, reached out to the affectees we were greeted with confused faces and inquiries about our real motives as we were a majority Sunni group of youth activists.

I and a few others were allowed access to go and witness the devastation ourselves as we were taken through apartment after apartment. Amongst the debris on the floor, there were broken family photo frames, shoes, toys, ripped clothes and blood. On the third floor of Iqra city, I came across a broken baby cot with its sheet drenched in blood and stuffed fawn teddy bear lying nearby. To us that infant was just a statistic, a number which was reported in the news. To the people who lived in that apartment, that infant was perhaps made their family complete, their most cherished treasure.

3 days of Medical camp in Abbas Town dealing with people suffering from physical injuries and mental traumas it hit almost everyone who were part of the Abbas Town Humanitarian Response that we were living in a bubble. War was really upon us. It was just a few kilometers away from our streets and home. It was just a matter of time. As a Karachite this incident was our 9/11, our 26/11.

That day the only way forward for me was politics. Charity seemed damage control. We as people need to play our part to ensure that damage does not happen to begin with and for that we have to actively participate in policy making and government administration.

Today Iqra City and Rabia Flower are standing tall again. Karachi has fought back. Karachi has shown its resilience. I have arranged pictures taken from my phone a year ago with the pictures I took today to show the destruction and the subsequent development. I have photographed the exact same building and apartments to show how these buildings have risen again from the ashes.

 The families who were forced out of thess apartments are to return soon. But the fear has not gone away. Nothing has been done by the Government to make Abbas Town safer. I for one casually strolled in the area with my camera without anybody stopping me or asking me questions. It could very well have been a terrorist in my place carrying out another survey for another attack.

The nearby residents told me that through the course of last one year many construction workers ran away complaining they heard strange noises at night and can't sleep at the site.

Perhaps these buildings have become haunted. Perhaps those voices are there telling us to wake up to protect ourselves or be reduced to another haunted voice speaking out from another home destroyed by terrorists.

A memorial is being held tomorrow at the blast site at 3:00pm. Those who cannot attend in person are requested to remember the victims, our brothers and sisters, our fellow Karachites in their prayers. May God be pleased with them and may their family be blessed with the courage to carry on. Ameen!

#3MarchNeverForget #DownWithTTP #DownWithLEJ #AbbasTown #KarachiFightBack

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Friday, 27 September 2013

Is Your Imam addressing Minority Rights Issues?

Like most of the readers of this post I was shocked, disgusted and angry at the Peshawer Church Blast incident; a terrorist attack during Sunday Mass. It is a time when a person is reaching out to God sharing his fears, his worries, his emotions and his secrets. It appears such a natural, private and fundamental right and to imagine that one cannot even have that personal time with God Almighty anymore. Nothing appears a more gruesome manner of threatening the right of life.

I thought I at least ought to hold a vigil to pay my respects to the departed. A mere 40 people joined outside the press club. We lit candles, prayed and said words of protest. Half hour later I realized I was preaching to the converted and though it was necessary to pay respect to those departed, the vigil was a so futile otherwise.

It hit me again that the solution of every problem lies in education. In a Muslim majority country where the minorities are being subjected to endless atrocities how can I get a word about what Islam teaches us to do in terms of minority rights? The answer was simple. The Mosque. The one institution where by a safe measure 90% population of this country is ‘informed’ if not ‘education’ on Islam is the mosque.
I launched a facebook campaign asking friends to visit their local mosques and request their Imams to condemn the Peshawer Blast and talk about minority rights in Islam in their Friday Sermons.  Friday prayers are the biggest weekly congregation of muslims and the best way to interact with every possible class/sector/segment of society.

I got a few positive response but most expressed concern and fear of backlash from the Imam. I could not blame them for feeling discourage. One would never know how the Imam may respond and you may very well be toying with the idea of being possible victim of blasphemy law. Wednesday evening I decided to do the test run myself. I do not offer my prayers regularly so I stayed up the whole night to ensure I make it to Fajr prayers on Thursday. I went to the neighborhood mosque and none of the familiar faces there were willing to come and talk to the Imam with me once they got to know I would ask him to condemn the Peshawar Blast Attack and seek his views on TTP. I sat with the Imam post fajr and tried hard to put the proposition to him in the most mildest manner to judge his reaction. The 30 minute conversation which followed made me try hard to control my frustration and amusement. A request for condemning an attack on a church turned into a debate on America, Taliban, Malala and the Arab Spring. Finally my patience paid be fruit. I found support from an elderly stranger who saw the wisdom in my views and who helped persuade the Imam. In the end he finally agreed to discuss minority rights in Islam in his Jumma Bayan with the condition that he will discuss the rights of the majority too.

Today, I left office my office to offer Jumma in the neighbourhood mosque. I was a little late and joined the Bayan midway. Tried to make my way through the crowd to find a spot in front of the Imam. The Imam noticed me and smiled. A few minutes later he started talking about the concept of Justice in Islam and said that as Muslims we should do justice without discrimination and even if a Non-Muslim is right he should get justice. There was no condemnation of the Peshawer Blast and there was no insight into the actual rights of minorities. I was to a certain extent heart broken and dismayed. I thought perhaps the Imam may bring it up in the Dua at the end. He didn't. The moment the Dua ended I felt the need to address the Imam across the hall and request him to pray for the Minorities and the protection of their worship places. It would definitely have had shock value but it would have also rubbed him the wrong way and I would have lost a medium of communication in him. So I waited for the crowd to clear up and spoke to him in private. He smiled and said "I did try to bring up the issue. Were you hearing?" I clearly did not look convinced to him. I told him "Imam sb what about discussing their rights? I came all the way here to listen to you talk about their rights." He said "I'll go for it next Jumma" and I replied "I will come here to offer prayers next Jumma too then." I learnt and realised that as someone preaching tolerance I need to be tolerant and patient as well. It does not matter how many Jumma it takes, our society.

Quite a few of my friends went to their local mosques to talk to their Imams for a long time. Imams of four different mosques in Defence Karachi happily agreed to discuss the issue.

Below is the relevant clip from today's sermon given by my Imam.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

May 28: Remembering the Bomb, Forgetting the People!

Today marks the best of days and today marks the worst of days. May 28 or as a true Patriot would call it “Youm-e-Takbeer” marks the day when Pakistan registered its might in modern warfare and arsenal by successfully conducting a controlled nuclear explosion.

Pakistan with its sensitive and strategic geographical location also became armed with perhaps the most powerful weapon (though there are some who still believe education is the most powerful weapon). Pakistan had the attention of the world and especially had its good neighbor, India, and our favorite piƱata (minus the candies), Uncle Sam, up in arms. What followed was a series of embargoes, the Rupee getting devalued by 50% and the then Nawaz Government being left with no option but to freeze US$10 billion in private forex reserves. Interestingly, according to Nawaz Sharif himself, he denied an aid package of US$ 5 billion by President Clinton which was offered conditional to Pakistan not carrying out the tests.

15 years later one may ask how has the common Pakistani actually benefitted from Pakistan developing its nuclear arsenal? We currently have surpassed India in terms of our nuclear reserves and by some estimates are scheduled to take the third place after America and Russia in terms of nuclear bombs by 2020. Between the Ministry of Water and Power and various government bodies, Pakistan’s electricity demand is 14000 to 17000 MW. Appallingly, our nuclear program which has produced over 100 bombs produces less than 1000 MW electricity for the country. This looks even sadder when one recalls history as back in the 1950’s under US President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace Program, Pakistan, India and Iran were supposed to be prototypes of promotion of positive use of nuclear energy such as electricity. However, given India intentions of building a bomb, Pakistan joined the rat race.

The nuclear bomb has not entirely been a waste. It does serve as an undeniable deterrent keeping violence from escalating between India and Pakistan when unfortunate incidents like 26/11 take place. Saudi Arabia which vicariously massages its Muslim ego through Pakistan on military turf has been visibly happy with us since 1998 and loves cozying up to the Sharif Brothers as it is doing these days.

 It is also the one and only (and wrong) reason for proud patriotic Muslims to call the country the “Fortress of Islam”.

Where many beam with national and religious pride on May 28, to me at least it is a day or mourning and national embarrassment. Where so many of us recall hills and mountains moving in Chagai with the thunderous roar of a successful nuclear test, how many of us reflect on the massacre of members of the Ahmadiyya Community at Lahore. The attack took place at the Community’s house of worship and I am not legally allowed to call it a Mosque. 94 people were killed and more than 120 were injured during Friday prayers. The so called Fortress of Islam could not protect the people inside it. US did not need to put an embargo or send a drone nor did India need to conduct any covert operation or surgical strike. It was the work of home bred terrorists who continue to creep into our mosques, cultural centers and streets and are not limited to FATA anymore.

Various political parties had issued statements of condemnation when the attack took place but no prominent Politician was seen at the mass Funeral held at Rabwah for the victims. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan along with the Punjabi wing of Taliban (considered to have links with Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and SSP) accepted responsibility for the attack, the same group with which the current Nawaz government is gearing to negotiate with. Moreover, former members of the LEJ and SSP such as a Chaudhry Abid Raza Gujjar and Sardar Ebaad Dogar were awarded tickets to the National Assembly by PML-N.

The Lahore massacre is perhaps just the tip of the iceberg. It defines the circumference if our society is conceived as a circle. The genocide of the Hazara Community and the targeted killing of Shias in Karachi (three including two children were gunned down today) is a clear sign that this circle will keep getting smaller and smaller.

Our grudges and holier than thou attitude had dehumanized us to the extent that now we do not even condemn brutality or terrorism if our own kin has not suffered from it.

To those who want to continue to live in the bubble with their misplaced sense of nationalism believing that Pakistanis are gatekeepers of Jannah and Pakistan is the cradle for the next holy army, remember May 28 for the successful nuclear blasts. But those concerned with struggling to return basic human values and rights to this society, remember May 28 as also the day we failed our people.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Contesting Elections as a Common Man!

My name is Mohammad Jibran Nasir. I am 26 years old and a lawyer by Profession having completed my LLB followed by a LLM. I finished my studies in 2010 and upon my return to Pakistan after my two year stay in the UK, I started my first philanthropic venture, "Pehla Qadam".

Pehla Qadam was a flood relief camp I set up in Karachi with another friend to generate Rs. 100,000 in a month so that the same may be donated towards relief efforts. At the end of that month we had collected funds and donations in kind worth over Rs. 1 Crore. We had reached out to 4,500 flood affected families in 10 different cities of Pakistan with one week food supplies. That two member camp turned into an organization of 200 willing and dedicated volunteers. Out of the Rs. 1 Crore donations we collected 99% was donated by individuals as opposed to corporate entities.

That month was my first introduction to the will of the common man, the ordinary citizen of Pakistan.
That experience not only gave me the confidence in the youth of this Nation but also burdened my shoulders with the responsibility of continuing my efforts in whatever capacity for the social welfare of my countrymen.
I felt that burden because I realised that this country had given me everything. My birth in a decent hospital, my polio drops, my school education, my college education, my friends, my job, experience, exposure, my love for food, my love for cricket, roads to drive on, parks to walk in, malls to shop at, a language to speak, an anthem to sing and an identity to own. All these amenities and facilities were made possible because of the will, hard work and investment of my fellow countrymen in this country.

But what had I given it in return? And why hadn't I given anything in return? If I was telling myself that the reason I mind my own business is because I cannot bring any positive change in society, then my experience with the flood camp had proved me wrong.

Since then I have been involved with various charities as a volunteer or have as as individual contributed towards relief work. I with my very limited means but the support of my generous friends and fellow citizens of Karachi have managed to sponsor surgeries, child care, school books and bags for the underprivileged. I have volunteered at protests against ethnic and sectarian violence. I was recently actively involved in the relief work for the Abbas Town Blast victims through “Abbas Town Humanitarian Response”. The reason I am sharing these experiences is not to blow my own trumpet but to inform the reader that I by the Grace of God was exposed  to these various environments to develop the perspective I have today.

The perspective that all I have been doing so far has been damage control. It has been remedial relief and that is all that one can possibly do as an individual or a private organization.

We need to change our mindset, our laws, our policies and our education curriculum to develop a new positive thinking for the Pakistan of tomorrow. I want the generation after me to grow up in a relatively mature, civilized, tolerant and peaceful Pakistan. And this change will come from the top.

If our lawmakers and legislators can pass a law which increases their benefits as MPAs/MNAs and makes those benefits available to them life long then I am pretty sure that they with a five year term can also develop, amend and reform laws which would benefit the Pakistani Nation at large.

Our politics is only as dirty as our politicians. Our parliament is only as ineffective and corrupt as our parliamentarians. The resources, powers and tools the office of a parliamentarian has are immense and sacred. Unfortunately our parliamentarians do not realise its true worth.
If the hunger, poverty, injustice, illiteracy and the tyranny in my country cannot change the mind of the Parliamentarian for the better than it is better that we change the Parliamentarians.

My degrees are original, my taxes are paid, my assets have been declared, I have paid all government dues, I have no unpaid loans from any bank, I don't have any criminal conviction, I am also not roaming around on bail and I do not have dual nationality.

I have filed my Nomination Papers from NA-250 and PS-113 as an independent candidate. I am middle class man who has lived all his life till date in a rented accommodation. My father is currently out of employment with limited savings. I know exactly the fear of not knowing how I will be paying my bills a few months from now. My personal total savings were Rs. 25,000 which I have put in my Election Fund. In the quest to see how far can a common man go to take ownership of the problems of his country I have already risked my job and given the intolerance in our politics I, in the words of my parents and friends, am risking my life. I with the support and criticism of my friends and the readers have decided to overcome my fears. 

My question to you is that if I as a common man can risk it all to contest elections and endevour to bring change through the electoral and democratic process why cannot you risk a day and come out on Election Day and vote, regardless whoever you may wish to vote for. To the youth, this is your country. It is about time you start taking interest and you start being a stakeholder.

Your ignorance is worse than any drone, any terrorist attack and any corruption. Pakistan Zindabad!

Friday, 15 March 2013


Us baigunah ko kia uski sarfaroshi nay mara?
Ya jo iqtedaar kay nashay main hai uski madhooshi nay mara?

Usay fatwoon kay shor nay ya fitnoon ki sarghoshi nay mara?
Usay Jahil kay junoon nay ya phir ghafil ki bayhooshi nay mara?

Main Nadaan Dunia say shikwa hi kerta reh gaya...
Samajh na saka kay meray bhai ko meri khamooshi nay mara!

Speak up and Step up against Terrorism and Intolerance.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Happy Women's Day - Mukhtara hai meri Maa aur Malala meri Beti.

Happy Women's Day. This Poem is Dedicated to Ammi, my sister, Bilquis Edhi, Zahida Kazmi, Benazir Bhutto, Mussarrat Misbah, Bano Qudsia, Parveen Shakir, Haseena Moin, Bapsi Sidhwa, Naseem Haider, Abida Parveen, Malka Pukhraj, Madame Noor Jehan, Mukhtara Mai, Malala Yousufzai, my female friends and to all brave women fighting their battles for their identity at homes, schools and offices in this Patriarchal Society.

Khuda ki saari namaton ka tu kul jama hai
Teray pairon talay jannat, tu meri Maa hai
Hamshira bhi, dhuktar bhi, shareek-e-hayat bhi hai tu
Jo neem-shab meray liye dua ko uthain woh haath bhi hai tu

Teray inhi haathon main meray qaum ki taqdeer hai
Har daur main har Haal main tu Benazir hai

Sinf-e-Nazuk samajh ker jo mard tujhay batata hai kamzoor
Sharmata hai dekhay jab bazoo-e-Asma-Zahida-o-bilquis ka zor

Himmat jo karay tu, dunia teray peechay aur tu agay
Toh Ayesha hai, Naseem hai, toh hawaon say tez bhagay
Khud zulm sahay tunay baray, per tu ab bhi khari hai
Udaas chehron kay liye tu Mussarrat ki ghari hai

Teri Awaz nay runga admi ko ishq kay rung main
Teray geeton nay kiye hoslay buland maidan-e-jung main
Har sur say teray jhoom uth ta sara jahan hai
Tu Malka, Tu Abida tu Noor Jehan hai

Har harf tera taleem-o-tarbiat-o-tehzeeb ka hai paikar
Likha ho jaisay azmaish ki sihai main kalam dabo kar
hai shaista, shagufta, shokh per bhi kitna sada andaz-e-bayan hai
Haseena, Bapsi, Parveen, Qudsia ki tehreer ka sani kon yahan hai

Itni azeem hai tu, kay kerdia tera ahteraam khuda nay bhi lazim
phir kion rond raha hai teray wajood ko apnay gharoor talay zalim
Tu yeh khud say bhi nahi poochti, kion kerdia tujhay itna majboor
Khawab toh dekhti hogi – dard tujhay bhi hota hoga zaroor

Kion ghar main hai band bhen, kion school nahi jaati
Bhai kay school ka khana toh tu hai roz pakati
Teray chehray pay yeh zakhm Maa, tujhay kis nay hain diye
Kia is baar bhi wohi waja kay tunay kion na betay paida kiye

Toh mujhay mauf kerday aey aurat, main bahut badnaseeb hon
Teri hifazat kia, tujhay izzat bhi nahi de sakta, main itna ghareeb hon
Gar waqai main hota mard, toh meri ghairat mujhay zulm say rok deti
Yaad rehta mujhay kay Mukhtara hai meri Maa aur Malala meri Beti