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

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Poetry Meray Leader (Our Impotent Government) - Teen Talwar Dharna Day 2

A poetry on the impotence of the Government and the ignorance of all those Pakistanis not  willing to take part in the Protest actively on the streets. Recited on Day 2 of the Dharna  against Shia/Hazara Genocide.

Meray Leader: (Full Version)

Kia yeh hai tera laho? Ya yeh hai mera laho?
Galiyon main jo ajj beh raha, hai yeh kis ka laho?

Har simt ek cheekho pukaar hai, har gali main bo-qaate ka shor
Kay qaatilon kay haath lag gayi apni zindagi ki dor

Woh jo raat gaye se tak rahi hai raasta apnay chiragh ka
Dar kay bethi hai kay kuch pata nahi halaat ka
Himmat hai toh meray Leader ja kay us maa ko bata
Booriyon say tapak raha hai us kay laal ka laho

Khabie tasveer dekh ker woh hasti hai khabie roti hai
Maa! Baba kab ayen gey subah tak poochti rehti hai
Toh Us kam sin ko yeh kaisay samjhaye ga meray leader
Kay toh Khamosh tha jab zaya hoa us kay baap ka laho

Us Bhuray kay Kaandhay ajj, janaza utha utha kar thak gaye
Jo reh gaye hain zindagi kay chand saal, woh matam kay liye bach gaye
Woh pagal teri galiyon main mara mara phir raha hai meray Leader
Kahin dhoondh na le teri aasteen pay woh apni ulaad ka laho

Abhi kuch hi dino ki baat hai, hum ek general ko bhaga rahay thay
tumharay waadon par takia kar, jhamoriat kay geet ga rahay thay
Hum kam zarfon ko kahan tha itna hosh itni khaber
kay jhamoriat main mehenga hota hai sirf sahib-e-iqtedaar ka laho

Tum bus Committeeyan bana rahay thay, woh lashain gira rahay thay
Tum mushawrat aur mufahmat kay naam pay bahanay bana rahay thay
yeh sirf ghaflat hai teri ya asal majra kuch aur hai
yahan fironiyat bhi jhamori hai, yeh bara jadeed dur hai

Woh Karachi, Quetta, Gilgit main intezaar kertay reh gaye
Socha kay meray Leader kay tum bus ab madad ko aa rahay ho
Muaf kerna woh badnaseeb bawaquf bhool gaye
kay tum vote lay ker 5 saal kay liye araam farma rahay ho

Tum toh Leader bannay kay liye ajab tamashay bhi lagatay ho
ek dojay kay firqon ko gali de ker nafrat ki aag bharkatay ho
Ajeeb tassub main jee raha hai mera Awami Numainda
Awam ko awam say lar waha raha hai khud mera Awami Numainda

Taliban, Sippa-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi aur Taiba
Haye, meray Leader tum kis kis say laro gey?
Tum toh aam say admi ho, hum tumhay yun hi dalair samajh bethay
Yeh awaam kon si sagi hai jo is kay liye maro gey

Yahan fauj bhi majboor hai, kay abhi upar say order nahi ayen hain
Toh phir General tu hi bata kia sach yeh afwaayain hain
Kay in Saapoloon ko tunay  toh hi nahi paal rakha
Shayad isi liye pila raha hai tu inhay awaam ka laho

zulm-o-jabr aur haiwaniyat ka ajeeb mahool bana dia
tum bhi kam yazeed nahi, roshni kay shehar ko qarbala bana dia
jab inhay mehangai, berozgari aur bemari na maar saki
tum nay un kay ghar main ghus kay khud unhay maar dia

Tumhay sadarat mubarak ho, tumhay wazarat mubarak ho
Hakumti mehloon main rehnay walon, tumhay tamgha-e-jisarat mubarak ho
Bus ab hum per itna reham karo, hum per itna karam karo
In janazon per apnay jhanday na lehrao, bus ab thori toh sharam karo

Hum awam khud bhi kuch kar saktay thay, magar andar say bahut dartay hain
shayad isi liye haq ki larai, sirf facebook aur twitter pay lartay hain
jesay humnay bhi apnay zameer ko ek lambi neend sula dia hai
Muharram ajj bhi hai mutabbir, mager Ahl-e-Bayt ka sabak bhula dia hai

Kia Ibn-e-Ali, Ibn-e-Hussain ki shahadat ka yeh nahi mafhoom
Kay jo haq ki rah main na beh sakay to beqaar hai laho

Tu ajj meray Leader hum bhi kuch kuch tum say ho gaye hain
Matlabi, nasal parast, firqon main bat gaye hain
yun hi khama khua nahi khulatay apna yeh laho
Poochtay hain pehlay kay baha Shia, Sunni ya Ahmadi ka laho

Hamaray liye yahi ghum kaafi kion nahi raha
Kay qaatilon nay giraya akhir meri maa, Pakistan, tera lahoo
kia yeh hai tera laho, ya yeh hai mera laho?
galiyon main jo ajj beh raha, hai yeh kis ka laho?

Poetry on Hussainyat - Teen Talwar Dharna Day 1

A poetry I wrote about Hussainyat and the menace of Sectarianism and recited on Day 1 of the Teen Talwar Dharna against Shia/Hazara Genocide.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Dharna is not Shia!

Yesterday I spent 12 hours at the Dharna at Teen Talwar, Clifton, against the Shia genocide. At the time of writing, the Dharna is still underway and it has been over 24 hours since its start now.

When I joined the Dharna at Bilawal House last month, I had arrived 10 hours after the proceedings had started. The place was already packed with thousands of Shia protesters and being a Sunni I was intimidated. The repeated chants of “Labaik Ya Hussian” and “Ya Ali” were deafening and frightening. I was confused whether I should join in as I actually pondered if these chants were blasphemous.

I felt alienated listening to various references to the Imams who aren’t discussed in our mainstream curriculum.  Speaker after speaker made references to how the Shia population was a target, how they were the oppressed, how they were the victims. I felt frustrated thinking that the Quetta bombing was first and foremost a human tragedy, a national tragedy so why wasn’t it being treated as one.

I looked around and found the answer. If the protest was not a national protest, then why should I expect the victims to be identified as Pakistanis. If the organizers were Shia and the vast majority of protesters were Shia then why shouldn’t they have the right to highlight their victimization at a sectarian level.

Belonging to the majority sect of Pakistan, it was embarrassing to find myself in the minority in this protest.

At that time I realized that I was not intimidated because the Shias were hostile or unfriendly upon learning about my sect. In fact every Shia who learnt about my identity, came forward, shook my hand and thanked me for coming. The fear crept from inside from my deep rooted bias which is instilled in most Sunni children as how Shias secretly hate Sunnis. Sadly, the opposite appeared to be true.

Hence, this time I had made a point to be at the Dharna from the very start and encouraged all my Sunni friends to do the same. When I arrived along with my friends, there were just three people standing on Teen Talwar looking in all directions trying to spot co-protesters. We walked up and joined in. People drove by paying no attention. 10 more people joined in, but the bystanders appeared unbothered. Suddenly, I heard someone scream at the top of their voice “Naray-e-Haideri!”. The cars slowed down, the traffic Police took notice. I turned around to find that the voice was not of a Shia protestor, but of my friend, Nadir, a Sunni. I couldn’t hold back the smile on my face. What started with 3, reached the strength of close to 3000 in a few hours.

This lot of protestors appeared more mature and well aware than that at Bilawal House. This time slogans were not chanted against America but against Taliban. Western Powers were not blamed for sectarian violence, but Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba were bluntly blamed. This Dharna was not in denial. They were willing to accept that terrorism is a home grown problem.

Protesters stopped chanting “tum kitnay shia maro gey?” and asked “tum kitnay insaan maro gey?”

The goods things from the Bilawal House Dharna were also carried forward here and one had to be there to note those finer details. Teenage boys who were risking their lives by volunteering as security guards (unarmed), then there were volunteers who had made a makeshift kitchen and were serving tea, then there were those who were distributing juices, biscuits and biryanis, then there volunteers as young as 5 and as old as 70 carrying out trash bags collecting used paper cups and wrappers. No public or private property was allowed to be damaged. In all of those volunteers there were lessons to be learnt; the lesson of selflessness, the lesson of civic responsibility, the lesson of unconditional patriotism and the lesson of community.

Unfortunately, one sad fact also remained common between both Dharnas. Sunnis were again a minority. And now I want to ask the Sunni readers why? Why is Hazara killings not our concern? Why is Shia genocide not our concern? If it is then where were the Sunni Protesters? Why did we let this Dharna be reduced to a Shia protest too? Does only the death of a Sunni boy or girl has the exclusive privilege of being reported as a Pakistani death?

For those Sunni readers who really aren’t bothered about a Shia death, they should know that not all Hazaras who died in the bomb blasts were Shia.  

Every single time such a tragedy takes place the ignorance of the Sunnis results in only more ridicule for Pakistan at the international level as we expose to the world how polarized and inhumane we are that we cannot even condemn terrorism and loss of innocent lives as one united nation. But at home, the damage is worse. We make our Shia countrymen realize that they are alone. We tell them that we will celebrate 14th August together, that we will dance on the streets upon our cricketing victories together, that in the good times we will be there, but that’s where the brotherhood stops. In the time of mourning and against threat you are alone. At most, we will extend our sympathies on social networking websites.

Attending the protest as a Sunni did not make me a better Pakistani, but what did sitting at home and just updating your facebook status against the genocide made you?

There were thousands of Pakistani students who took part in the “Occupy University” Campaign in England in 2008 in protest against Israeli occupation of Gaza. Sadly, most of them choose to sit at home now because apparently Palestinians are more Pakistani than Hazaras.

Step up and step out. Be a part of something. Make the protest Pakistani. Make this tragedy Pakistani. Make the demands Pakistani. Make yourself Pakistani.

I end with the poetry I recited at the Dharna highlighting not just the impotence of the Government against these atrocities but also the ignorance of the majority of Pakistanis not willing to come out on the streets for active protests.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Why I am celebrating Valentine's Day as a Pakistani Muslim

Jamat-e-Islami is observing Youm-e-Sharm-o-Haya day today. If you ask Pakistani women they would like Pakistani men or Taaro Maroons to observe this day every day.

Sadly there is a difference in perspective for observing the day. The Jamat wants to observe it to prevent young singles from indulging in public display of affection on account of Valentine’s day whereas Pakistani women in general would just like to keep uninvited stares and advances at bay and like the real Muslim men to respect their privacy.

However, Pakistani women being the more graceful and patient group of the two will sadly have to wait for their turn, again. The Jamat needs to be addressed first. After all they have given me a guilty conscience for celebrating Valentine’s day by quoting Hadiths and Quranic verses on billboards all over the city. These religious commandments are to be interpreted as declaring Valentine’s day haram.

Bravo! Now I just cannot wait for the Jamat to post Hadiths and Quranic verses advocating minority rights and women rights. I mean that campaign is next right? The Jamat being the just, credible and honest flag bearers of Islam should not be impartial in preaching Islam right?

Clearly, the campaign against Valentines days has little to do with Islam and more to do with the anti-American sentiment. Ironically except for F-16 every single import from America or the West in general is looked at with contempt and hate even if it is a love filled day like Valentine’s day. Apparently, it was also Haram to wish Christians Merry Christmas this past year.

As a Pakistani Muslim there are two ways of looking at Valentine’s day; the first in my religious perspective and the second in my cultural perspective. Not so surprisingly, I found Valentines Days to be NOT un-Islamic and as Pakistani as it is American.

And it was then when I realized that perhaps the Jamat confused the ‘American’ Valentine’s day with the American ‘Prom Night’ from the American Pie Movies. The general idea today is to express your feelings towards your loved ones, not to impregnate teens outside wedlock.

To analyze Valentine’s day from a strict religious perspective one cannot just base their premise on how Valentine’s day is observed in pop culture. One has to look at its historical account. Now all those people who think I am qualifying my analysis to justify my beliefs I would like them to consider for one moment how would Islam look like if we analyzed it in terms of how it is practiced by our Mullahs as opposed to what Islam really is in terms of the Quran and Sunnah.

Saint Valentines in whose memory this day is observed is popularly believed to have been imprisoned for performing marriages of those soldiers who were forbidden to marry by the then Roman Empire. He eventually died in jail. If I were to celebrate his memory how can the same act be deemed un-Islamic? Marriage is encouraged under all school of thoughts of Islam and no group of Individuals belonging to any profession be it the army or be it muftis or mullahs are forbidden from getting married under Islam. Now, I am sorry if Saint Valentine did not use to read the Nikah Khutba, since Islam was introduced much after he passed away.

Now coming to the cultural perspective, one has to admit that this day is not entirely kosher. Valentines is also an excuse for unmarried couples to give each other gifts, make cheesy promises of love, have candle light dinners and other stuffs your parents asked you not to do.

But the more you think about love between unmarried couples the more one is reminded of our folklore. Romance is perhaps the most celebrated theme in Indo-Aryan literature where we are amazed by the sacrifices given my two lovers just to be together. Sahiban eloped with Mirza against her brothers' wishes, Ranjha denounced wordly pleasures and became a jogi, Sohni used to meet Mahiwal secretly even after her marriage and Mumal set herself on fire to convince Rano.

These tales and many others like them are still being taught in our curriculums and still being celebrated and adapted in our Dramas and theatres.

Perhaps we should rebrand Valentine’s day as Waris Shah day or Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai day to make it more acceptable.

At the end, if for one day we are socially obliged to make a special gesture of love towards our parents, siblings, better halves, children or girl/boy friends then so be it. I took my mom on a date to a musical last Valentine’s day and she loved it. There was nothing un-Islamic or anti-Pakistan about how special she felt.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Dr. Abdus Salam: Give back our History its Hero!

Yesterday was the 37th Birth Anniversary of Preity Zinta. I was never concerned with her age or her work but almost every ‘notable’ Pakistani News Channel made it a point that along with all other cable tv viewing Pakistanis I am made aware of this important development in Ms. Zinta’s life. This week also marked the 87th Birth Anniversary of Dr. Abdus Salam. However, unlike Ms. Zinta ‘s special day I was not informed of the news by the tv media as perhaps they did not see any point celebrating it. I learnt about Dr. Salam’s birthday on my own initiative and out of my own curiosity about Dr. Salam and because unlike 82% population of Pakistan, I have access to the internet.

My curiosity was sparked by one of the most beautiful yet tragic videos I saw on Facebook. It was a teaser of a docufilm on the science and life of Dr. Salam produced by two young Pakistanis. It was beautiful to me because it was a Film about Pakistan’s first and only Noble Laureate. It was tragic because the filmmakers had made the teaser to interest the viewers in funding the post production phase of the Documentary Film. They are seeking monetary support to celebrate the life of a man, a Pakistani, who literally changed the way mankind conceptualized the universe. As it was just a teaser it left so many questions unanswered and as I didn’t really know anything about Dr. Salam besides his Nobel Prize I took to the internet.

The more I read about the many achievements of this brilliant mind the more ashamed I was of my ignorance and the more frustrated I felt that I am a product of the Pakistani education system. How come this man was never presented as a role model in any of my physics and chemistry lectures in school? How come this illustrious name was omitted in our glorified history books which I studied while taking Pakistan Studies? Why was I made to rote learn the name of every single Soldier who was decorated with the highest medals in our wars with India but never educated on the life of a man who earned Pakistan the greatest medal in Science, the world had to offer.

Almost every Pakistani knows that Imran Khan used his World Cup victory to generate support for a cancer hospital. But how many know that Dr. Salam used his Nobel Prize to gain support for his dream project, the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy which is at the forefront of serving scientists for developing countries by providing them continuing educations and skills. Or that Dr. Salam was instrumental in getting over 500 physicists, mathematicians and scientists placed for doctorates in prestigious universities in the UK and USA.

And I am baffled by the irony that we celebrate Dr. A. Q. Khan, the father of the Atomic Bomb of ‘Pakistan’ and the world condemns him whereas the world celebrates Dr. Salam and we condemn him. Why don’t we remember Dr. Salam like we cherish Dr. A. Q. Khan despite that he fact the Dr. Salam was dubbed the ‘Scientific Father’ of the Pakistani Nuclear Programme for having established the Theoretical Physic Group within the Pakistan Atomic Commission. I am not the only one. The whole world is as baffled on how Dr. Salam’s motherland shunned him while this son continued to serve her. How many times had it been that foreign countries specially Western countries have advocated the appointment of a Pakistani to an international office. While the world endorsed  Dr. Salam’s candidacy for the post of Director General of UNESCO, the Zia regime refused to put his name forward.

Is it because he was an Ahmadi? Is our country’s prejudice against this minority sect so deep, so preposterous and so insulting of the teachings of Mainstream Islam that we chose to condemn a man for his personal beliefs over celebrating him for his contributions to science and humanity? Were our leaders and people of this Islamic Republic so insecure about their religion that they could not afford the question of how someone so genius and informed on the subject of the evolution of the Universe prescribed to a different interpretation of Islam? They did not even need to answer this last question as Dr. Salam was not awarded honorary Doctorate of Science by 36 universities in 23 countries for the way he offered his prayers perhaps because the way Dr. Salam approached God affected only him, but the way Dr. Salam approached his work affected the world.

Dr. Salam lived as a Muslim for the first 48 years of his life during which Pakistan loved him and decorated him. He was declared a Non-Muslim for the remaining 22 years during which he was shunned by liberals and conservatives alike. His faith did not change for the entire duration of 70 years nor did his services to the Nation stop. What changed was the power dynamics in Pakistani politics; what changed was the ideology of Pakistan and what changed was Jinnah’s vision that religion was not the business of the state. 

The filmmakers of the docufilm are Pakistanis so how come were they bothering themselves with this tribute to the legacy of Dr. Salam? How come they did not hate and condemn him? My instant reaction was they must be Ahmadis living somewhere in self-exile and trying to highlight the persecution of their sect and politicizing Dr. Salam’s memory. What I learnt when I made the effort of actually finding answers out myself, an act which Pakistani’s (including myself) rarely indulge in, was quite the contrary. Both Zakir Thaver and Omar Vandal are non-Ahmadis and both of them as young Pakistani science majors in college felt betrayed by their country’s history books. They met at the College of Wooster in the U.S., the year Dr. Salam passed away and it was there outside of Pakistan where they discovered how well respected by the rest of the world, well received and influential was Dr. Salam.

These two individuals with their limited resources started work on the docufilm in 2002. The Documentary which took them to various countries to capture Dr. Salam’s life on camera. Thu far it has not been funded by any Ahmadi Institution but by individuals belonging to various sects and religions. They have dedicated the past 10 years in trying to research and develop the story, locate archives and film interviews pay a sincere homage to a man who to them was first and foremost a scientist, a teacher, a philanthropist an innovator, a patriot and a first-rate mind who challenged the limits of what was defined ‘humanly possible’; he challenged the status-quo.

If this initiative had been taken by our Government, this docufilm could have been completed in months if not weeks. In an era where Pakistan is globally perceived as a savage country and Pakistanis as regressive people what has our Government and our civil society at large done to celebrate those who thought and achieved things deemed beyond their times. Dr. Salam was a man who championed the cause of technological and scientific advances in third world countries; a man who was not schooled at Aitchison or Karachi Grammar but received education at a government school in Jhang; a man who belonged to a lower middle class family and had to fight economical and social pressures of taking conventional jobs such as the civil service to stick to his love, Mathematics and Physics. Dr. Salam’s journey is a beautiful romance between a student and education and given his socio economic background it is a journey with which every poor but eager student of this country can empathize with and get motivation from. It is a story every young Pakistani should be made to study and realize the power of the words of Dr. Salam’s spiritual mentor, Allam Iqbal:

“Jo Ho Shauq-e-Yaqeen Paida, toh badal jaateen hai taqdeerain”

The Government did not adopt any such initiative to pay him tribute but the Government did not forget him either. On the orders of a local magistrate Dr. Salam’s grave stone was effectively desecrated by removing the word ‘Muslim’ removed from his epitaph.

But what to say of the religious persecution of this tragic son when Pakistan is a country where the Superior Court occupied themselves for more than 30 years after the death of Quaid-e-Azam debating whether the Father of the Nation was a Sunni or a Shia.

Hoping that one day even though the Government may not be able to offer free education it can offer children the freedom to choose their role models. Dr. Salam, thank you and rest in peace Sir!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), I am willing to die for you, but not live like you

I, an average Pakistani guy, lose my temper very easily and end up saying really mean things to my friends and family. I also back bite a lot about people who support me, employ me and my friends. I use a lot of swear words. I do not think twice before spitting pan, throwing trash or even taking a leak in a corner in public. I am usually the first one to point out other people's fault and mostly the last to admit my own. I have pronounced by grandmother dead seven times; the four times I wanted a day off from school and the two times I did not want to go to the office. The one time she actually did die.

I have also made a lot of my female friends/peers uncomfortable because of my sexist views and I most certainly have also objectified women. But then again I condone a society which accepts a rapist as its own more easily as opposed to a rape victim. In fact I cannot say for sure if any woman besides my own mother and sister feels safe trusting me. I do not think my wife has the right to decide how many children she should have or should be study or work after marriage or if she should have her own space in the marriage household. How can she not get along with my mother and sister?

While shivering in this chilly winter I judge the intentions of the half naked child begging for money claiming that he is hungry. I hate the fact that my boss does not get that I need a leave because my mom is unwell and I really do not get why my driver also has to take a leave because his wife is unwell... ummm he must be making an excuse just to chill at home. I also need to give gifts to my new friends on their birthday but I am sure my cook who has been taking care of me since I was a child can use my dad's old clothes.

I condemn the corrupt government and bureaucracy but am the first one to suggest the Traffic Police to take bribe whenever I break the signal, which appears to be a national hobby. I hate all politicians but I will vote for the one who either belongs to my ethnicity or my sect. I never have and most probably never will read his manifesto. Similarly on religious issues I also associate credibility to the gentleman with the longest beard and who prescribes to the same conditions of loving Allah and the Prophet (S.A.W.) and his companies and his family members as my father does. I never really read the whole Quran or any of the books on Hadith with translation. May be I did when I was under ten years of age because but when I actually grew old enough to form personal views and perspective I did not bother reading it again. Accordingly, I love calling the other sect Kafir because that automatically makes me a Momin.

I also hold a personal grudge against certain ethnicities without any cogent reason even though I continue to make friends with or be employed by people belonging to those ethnicities. I refuse to live or even learn to live within my means. I love using the word "haram" for everyone driving a more expensive car than mine.

I proudly declare myself a citizen of a country which made all laws subject to Islam and enforced it in such a way that it made minorities so scared that they cannot even question these laws without fearing for their lives. I make hue and cry out on the streets asking justice for Aafia because she is a Muslim and I celebrated the murder of the man who wanted to protect Aasia because she was not. I publicly love abusing America and the west for their drones and conspiracies but I do not even secretly protest my country's dependence on their aid and goodwill, in fact I want an American Passport and I do not want American to stop supplying us F-16 because we need them to take down India. I love vandalizing public and private property whenever I am pissed even if I am angry because the public is suffering, which ironically is mostly the case.

In every aspect of my life, I myself insult your memory but still I proclaim that "Namoos-e-Risalat per jaan bhi qurban hai." Dear Prophet (S.A.W.), I would love to die for your honour any day but strangely I am not willing to make an effort to live like you for a single day. Hope you still keep praying up there for the Ummah. God knows we need it!