In Defense of #Malala – A Pakistani’s Guide To Deal With Anti-Malala Bigotry

I will make this my last post on the current discussion about Malala Yousafzai. Anybody who can’t be reasoned with should ignore this post and move on. (Also, those who have a hard time reading/writing ‘essays’ do not have to indulge in this post.)

Firstly, thank you Sajawal for suggesting this short-film. ‘Burning Paradise’ documents the conditions and happenings in Swat under Taliban-rule when ‘Nizam-i-Adl’ was enforced in the region, and also the scenario after the successful ‘Operation Black Thunderstorm’ by the Pakistan Army in 2009. It was made by a Pakistani NGO, run by Sajawal’s father, and I can assure you that no Yahoodi/Zionist device was used in its making (it was Japanese, probaby). The Dramatic representation in-between helps to fill in the gaps and shows the day-to-day lives of the common folk. This documentary was made before Malala was attacked or her work covered in the mainstream media or as she has been disgustingly referred to as the ‘West’s darling’. She speaks the same message with the same confidence that she spoke at the United Nations 3 days ago; of Education, Peace, and Humanity. After watching, if you still think that she suddenly speaks for the West now, please keep reading on.

Part 1: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xu9pid_burning-paradise-part-01_shortfilms
Part 2: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xu9ph4_burning-paradise-part-02_shortfilms

[WARNING: The videos contain some strong images, view at your own discretion.]

Secondly, this is the full-text of her speech: http://www.cnbcpakistan.com/Full-Text-of-Malala-Yousufzais-Speech-At-UN-news-17506.html. If you haven’t read it please go through it to realize how nice Yahoodi/Western/American/Illuminati agents are, that is if she really is one, the chances of which are equal to the chances of the sun rising from the West. Still let’s assume that it’s true for the sake of debate, since any of her haters can not be expected to be even a little open-minded.

Thirdly, here are the answers to some of the insane suggestions that have been put-up to delegitimize her:

1) Why her, among the thousands of girls living in Swat?

Because you need to ‘put a face’ on a cause. Just like Benazir Bhutto became a champion for women’s participation in government in patriarchal societies, or Jinnah became the leader of the Muslims of Sub-continent, or Nelson Mandela became a symbol of African Nationalism. There were millions like these three individuals, but their charisma and dedication made them the best people for their respective causes. (If you read/heard her speech, you will realize that each similar example she quotes has the exact same story.) Malala didn’t just suddenly shoot up to limelight. She fought for education well before the Taliban started blowing up girls’ schools in Swat. She kept a journal when she was restricted to her home and wrote about the conditions of Swat and the women there. Except her, I for one didn’t see anyone of you standing up for the same things, while knowing that education is a necessity and human right for all; SHE DID, which got her shot.

2) Her speech was written to further Western/Yahoodi/American/Illuminati agendas and she is part of a psychological operation by the CIA.

One problem about this claim: Let me remind you of two other human beings who spoke for women’s education, peace, and humanity: Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of this country, and Mohammed (PBUH), the Prophet of Islam. By all your logic and reasoning, if those two great human beings accidentally ever came across a people like the modern Pakistani nation, they’d be labelled agents of Western conspiracy and lampooned for their beliefs too.

Oh, wait…they were; Mohammed (PBUH) was derided by the pagan Arabs and Jinnah was labelled a ‘Kafir’ by fundamentalists because both of them spoke for Women’s Rights and Education, among other things, in obscurantist and misogynistic societies. Now, history not only remembers them as great leaders and reformers, but thousands follow them and their way of lives.

3) The ‘higher powers’ are using Pakistan’s daughter to spread their agendas and damage the Islamic Ummah and our country.

Those ‘higher powers’ are only supporting her message of Education, nothing else, as can be noted from her address. If Malala is being ‘misused’ by the West to promote civility among an ignorant people, I’d gladly let myself be misused too. Higher powers wouldn’t use ‘Pakistan’s daughter’ if Pakistanis hadn’t allowed them to. She was attacked under our watch; girls’ schools were blown up under our watch; she was receiving death threats while being treated under our watch; we couldn’t protect her, and when she chose to stay away for her own safety, you start calling her a Western agent.

4) Why did she not spoke against the American occupation of Afghanistan and drone attacks, which kill Muslims daily?

One, her cause has no relation to World politics whatsoever. America is pulling out of Afghanistan next year and even the Afghans themselves have rarely objected to their presence in the United Nations. Pakistan has had representation in every UN general assembly since the first drone attack and not one envoy has ever raised the issue, and now it’s suddenly Malala’s fault that she didn’t talk about drones.

Drone attacks are an issue of foreign policy, education is an issue of social consciousness. If the Pakistani government (and by extension the Pakistani people) feel so strongly about drone attacks, there is the International Court of Justice, to heed their calls. I suggest they try their luck there, but stop maligning a courageous and hardworking girl.

5) There hasn’t been changes in Swat from the sort of activism she was doing, a girl can’t achieve this, and it’s pointless [among other sexist remarks].

Before the Taliban takeover the number of girls in schools in Swat was about 80,000 (ref: http://archives.dawn.com/archives/27830), which were back in school in after the Military operation ended. By the end of 2011, some 40,000 more students had enrolled (ref: http://tahirkatlang.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/education-in-swat-after-militancy-and-malala/) and further increases in the number of students in 2012 and 2013 – all of whom were not going to schools even before the Taliban started blowing up schools. That’s a 33.33% increase – just because of that ‘pointless’ activism. Swat’s literacy rate has also been in the past remained above the whole national average (ref: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/may/10/swat-ngo-solution-to-assault-on-education), which dipped drastically under the Taliban. Now, however it’s increasing again with 90% of the destroyed schools rehabilitated/constructed by locals, military, and the government.

6) She is defaming Pakistan by telling the world about the Taliban and the attack on herself.

Is she really? You’re defaming Pakistan by remaining ignorant to the problems of your country. The international media knows much more about the condition this country is in, there is no need to inform them of that. However, the fact that the World knows that Pakistanis remain silent when women are killed in Kohistan for dancing at weddings (ref: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-112782-Four-Kohistani-women-killed-for-staining-honour), are forcibly married at young ages (ref: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/07/12/malalas_forgotten_sisters_girls_marriage_pakistan), are abused in households and are killed for attending universities (ref: http://beta.dawn.com/news/1018631/female-suicide-bomber-responsible-for-quetta-attack), really shows who and what is defaming Pakistan; it’s you and your ignorance to what Malala stands for.

Lastly, please, first recognize your own faults before holding her accountable for any of hers. If she had the support of the Pakistani people when she needed, she wouldn’t have had to depend on anybody let alone ‘Western Imperialists’. Her message at the end of ‘Burning Paradise’ is, again, of Education, Peace, and Humanity (and even Religious tolerance). She wants the Pakistan we all want, and the first step in achieving that goal is to recognize our faults. So, let me know when anyone around here stands face-forward against the Taliban when they are about to attack them for speaking up for what’s right.

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The Politics of ‘Trolling’

Pakistan’s webscapes are often considered to be unchartered territories, with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) insofar completely failing to produce a solid policy to govern the interwebs other than frequently banning YouTube and websites it considers ‘anti-Pakistan’ (the most recent being Beyghairat Brigade’s new music video that targeted the country’s powerful military establishment). More importantly, the irrationality and ridiculousness displayed by individuals on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter has surpassed all limits. Cyber-bullying, abusing, slandering, dogmatism, racism, and all sorts of indecent behavior is a common occurrence these days. One interesting fellow thought my questioning of Musharraf’s conduct in the Lal Masjid operation and mentioning the fact that 50 or so unnamed graves exist today in its aftermath was probably because the women of Jamia Hafsa were my “moms n sisters” and not because any sane sole would investigate the real identities of those who were killed in the operation.

Coming to the point, with the rise of popularity of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), social media witnessed the creation of an entirely new breed of political ‘trolls’ (previously only associated with jingoists like Zaid Hamid). These young lads achieved new heights of absurdity in their aim of defending their ‘Quaid’, Imran Khan. From consistently referring to the Sharif brothers as ‘ganjay’ (bald) to calling the calling the party ‘Noora league’, they didn’t leave a single opportunity to target the PML-N. So much so that the party itself had to eventually create and propagate a ‘social media code of conduct ’ for anyone associated with PTI. Now, gladly, as that’s over and PTI’s supporters do partially follow the code, the rest of the country’s political parties still remain unaccountable and unstoppable and numerous individuals have become collateral damage in these parties’ campaigns of personal attacks on each others’ leadership and candidates.

One recent example is the case of Abdullah Khan, a student and acquaintance from the Lahore University of Management Sciences. Over the past one week, Abdullah has been targeted numerous times by supporters of the PML-N, particularly, and other parties, generally, just because of his resemblance to Imran Khan. Facebook became flooded with images of him attending the PTI rally on Lahore’s Mall road in close proximity to the PTI chairperson. The images alleged that Abdullah was Imran Khan’s son and is going to join politics soon. The primary purpose was to personally target Imran Khan, who has repeatedly hit out at parties that have resorted to family-based and ‘dynasticism ’ to maintain their hold in Pakistan’s politics. For the record, Abdullah is not Imran Khan’s son nor does he have any intentions to join Pakistan’s dirty politics. However, once the images went viral on anti-PTI pages on Facebook it was too late to undo the harm.

Even the Election Commission has turned a blind eye to instances of such behavior. All over the world, it is a norm for Internet regulators and Election authorities to create policies that penalize parties and individuals who resort to personal attacks and slander in the course of electioneering. Any claims that have no factual basis (as in case of Abdullah Khan) should be punishable under law with charges of libel on the claimant. The so-called ‘well informed’ media instead of clearing up the misinformation is making millions by airing advertisements of political parties which openly make personal attacks against each other, while giving no thought to their disrespectful nature.

Another recent case was of a well-known a Bangladeshi blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was brutally murdered after he struck out on the country’s right-wing Jamaat-i-Islami, whose leadership has been found guilty of aiding and abetting the Pakistan Army in its 1971 War of Independence. He featured prominently in a community of online activists who are using social media to generate support for their demands of death penalty for those found guilty. Consequently, his demands led to him being first targeted online and then murdered by supporters of the Jamaat. As a result, the country was swept by wave of mass protests, first by the activists, and then by the Jamaat to counter them, which left even more people dead. Wouldn’t much of this have been avoided if Bangladeshi authorities had a proper framework in place?

It might be justified to note here that this is completely reflective of how uncivil, dogmatic, and ignorant our society has become. Most people would rather choose to use utterly absurd insinuations than actual reasoning to further their arguments. Abdullah Khan is just one of hundreds of individuals whose personal lives have been affected in the course of these elections. At least the politically non-aligned caretaker government should try to play a positive role and curb the sort of offensive political campaigning out parties are using. Or will it take an episode similar to that of Bangladesh for the authorities to wake up?

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Mota bhai, Chota bhai: A Tale of [Pakistani] Dynasticism

The BrothersThe news went something like “Sharif scions lead rally on the opening of new office at Model Town.” Hamza Shahbaz drives the black SUV that is leading the rally, while his cousin Maryam Nawaz sitting beside him on the front-seat, tweets photos of energetic young ‘leaguees’ who are wearing t-shirts that carry the images of Nawaz Sharif and a tiger – the ever recognizable ‘Sher’, election symbol of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N). Meanwhile, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz sits on the back-seat, conveniently keeping a low-profile and letting the Sharif younglings have all the limelight. After all, Hamza and Maryam will eventually succeed as ‘political heirs’ to the aging top echelons of the PML-N. These two also serve as a counter to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), whose supporters claim that the growing young majority of Pakistan can no longer be left to be ruled by the old. Whether ‘papa kehtay hae beta [aur beti] barra naam karain gay’ or not, they are perfectly fulfilling their purpose; the PML-N voter base is rallying behind them and the fact that Hamza Shahbaz alone has been tasked with the party campaigning in Lahore shows the confidence of the party elders on them.

‘Mota bhai’ means elder-brother in Gujerati and fat-brother in Urdu (coincidentally, it serves both our purposes). Nawaz Sharif, the elder of the Sharif brothers, was introduced into Pakistani politics by his highness Zia-ul-Haq sahab as Punjab’s Chief Minister under his experiment with ‘controlled democracy’. Little did anyone at the time realize that Sharif, even after the dismissal of Junejo’s government and Zia’s death, was able enough to consolidate the support of almost the entire anti Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) bloc. The power vacuum left after the fall of Zia was swiftly filled by Nawaz, with help coming from the establishment and rightist elements whose numbers had significantly grown under the Islamist policies of the dead Military dictator; all aiming to respond to the secular PPP’s growing popularity after the return of Benazir Bhutto (late) from exile. Today, Nawaz Sharif is seen as the last major player of the ‘old order’ of Pakistani politics and this gets him the label of being the most experienced. His governments of 1993 and 1997 have been largely forgotten and what failures did occur are blamed on interference from the Establishment, Judiciary, or the Military.

Another reason, perhaps, is the deeply entrenched ‘Biradari’ and ‘Dhara’ based politics in Punjab. The Sharif family is ethnically Kashmiri; originally belonging to an upper-middle class community in a region that is now Azad Kashmir. However, they identify themselves as ‘Arain’ – an agrarian caste, which, for decades, has dominated the region from the upper Indus plain to upper Sindh. Both these Biradaris constitute the major proportion of Lahore’s populace and have, almost always, overwhelmingly voted in the family’s favor. In Urban areas, another factor comes into play: the local ‘Dhara’. Dharas are loosely defined as a specific (and, usually, powerful) family’s area of influence. Urban areas in the Province like Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, etcetera, have been, in effect, divided into these areas of influence, with some dominant families dating back to the era of the colonial British. Having said that, the Dhara is locally seen as beneficial by the people; it provides them security, easy access to their representatives, and a voice in the legislatures from their own ‘Illakah’. But, as these families grow in power and size, their Dharas grow and these areas are then further divided among themselves. Hence, effectively, starting a family based mini-dynasty on its own. Though, other parties like the PPP and PTI, have similarly used this tactic to their benefit, it is the PML-N that more or less largely depends on these Dharas for support.

Punjab, also, unlike other provinces has remained content with the federation (even under colonial rule), mostly because of its dominance on it in the past – hence, the expression, ‘Punjabi Establishment’. Therefore, it has not witnessed any major instances of Nationalism or felt the need for ‘national responsibility’ – since the fall of Ranjit Singh’s mighty Sikh empire and Bhagat Singh’s liberation movement – and this has significantly affected the maturity of politics in the province. The peasantry and small-scale farmers remain submissive to powerful landlords and traders to the elite business class, and they in turn seek patronage from either the establishment or powerful political parties; it still remains dominated by classes with vested interests which acquiesce with the dynastic politics of the Sharifs.

The case of the ‘Chota bhai’, the younger brother i.e. Shahbaz Sharif, is slightly different. Although, both hold autocratic tendencies, the masses opinion about him has been entirely reshaped after his government in Punjab in the last 5 years. The highlights of his Chief Ministership in the province were major failures in Health policy and rampant persecution of minorities, at the same time, however, major development projects were introduced, corruption was the lowest of all the provinces and Punjab remained relatively more secure than the rest of Pakistan. He is also known for his passionate speeches and poetry recitals (moves, perhaps, designed to evoke nationalistic sentiment), strict governance, and tight control over the civilian bureaucracy. Although, the latter has made the provincial apparatus more efficient, it has also stretched it to its limits in the sprawling province and increasingly becoming a cause of discontent. The Shahbaz government’s high-handedness was also evident by its use of government policy and machinery to settle political vendettas and benefit their own associates.

Political Dynasticism is not new to South-Asia; the Gandhi family in India, the Bhutto family in Pakistan, the Sheikh and Zia families in Bangladesh, all have greatly influenced national politics. However, the Sharifs present the most successful model within the region. They have maintained their hold even with their negatives and a rapidly evolving electorate, through a mix of Biradari-ism and serving the interests of land-owning and trading classes. The PTI might be its strongest opponent yet, sharing the same stronghold as the PML-N: Lahore. But, its reluctance to field any strong candidates against Nawaz and Shahbaz shows that the party knows well about their power. Considering that political and ethnic boundaries are already firmly drawn throughout the rest of Pakistan, PTI needs to understand that by taking Lahore, it could take Punjab, and by taking Punjab, the country. This is, perhaps, the only way through which political monopolies such as that of the Sharifs can be effectively broken, and the province could move towards more ideology and merit-based politics.

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A Fine Specimen of Bravery and Stupidity – How this generation sees Musharraf.

Originally published on The Express Tribune on 20th April 2013.

Image_Musharraf

Having never liked the former military dictator-cum-politician, it is not very easy to present an unbiased case for Pervez Musharraf. Thinking back to the days when he assumed power after overthrowing Nawaz Sharif in a military coup, he had been hailed as Pakistan’s savior for delivering it from a ‘corrupt and autocratic’ regime and timely preventing Sharif from ‘declaring himself Ameer-ul-Momineen’. As a young boy, my firm distrust of the military man never went away, even after witnessing grown-ups close to me staunchly standing by the mentioned narrative – and myself being too politically naïve at the time to counter it. Generally speaking, the young generation today – 18 and above – might be demographically united in its liking for Imran Khan (as suggestive of recent polls) or on vital (but, diverse) issues like Education and Terrorism. However, the case of the General remains, perhaps, the most hotly debated and problematic among the youth. His American and Saudi aid fueled economic progress and Kemalist tendencies won him support among the upper and upper-middle classes, while others were critical of his dictatorial measures, anti-democratic repression, and later the decision to join the ‘War on Terror’.

The first major debate became the Army operation against Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, after which Musharraf had triumphantly declared his success and now faces a murder charge in the Supreme Court. Much like most of the similar events that occurred under his rule, many important details about the operation were never made public and remain scanty, even today. Though, his role in the 1998 Kargil conflict, clampdown on media, and unlawful jailing of many politicians and hundreds of political workers were early instances of his high-handedness, it was Bugti’s killing that led to the polarizing among the youth that we observe today. At the same time, Pakistan was witnessing economic growth and stability (very rare in the country’s 66 year history), taxes and tariffs were low, the stock market became lucrative, and investment from all over the globe came to the country. The fact that his ‘successes’ are often measured by the value of the Pakistani Rupee during his government highlights how much economic factors had swung the public’s support in his favor. Both Bugti’s killing and the end of the economic upsurge were to occur in 2006 and, so, the year became the turning point for General Sahab’s fortunes.

The Lal Masjid operation and increasing occurrences of Terrorism started to slowly turn public opinion against him. His freedoms given to the media – though, intended to gain favor for him and counter the fall in popularity – resulted in the exact opposite outcome. The Media houses became a vocal critic of Musharraf and by doing so started influencing the previously constructed public-opinion. The co-option of political parties which supported his rule that came in the shape of ‘controlled democracy’ after the 2002 General Elections was never approved of by his original support base and by the time D-Day was approaching for Musharraf at the end of 2007, in the aftermath of the Judiciary movement and emergency rule, had lowered his supporters’ morale to an unsalvageable level, who to this day blame the move for all of the his failures. Of course, there is absolutely no truth to this claim; the military establishment has always remained in the front seat when it comes to policy-making in Pakistan and Musharraf had its reins all to himself.

Now, disenchanted about his political future, General Sahab faces as many as charges against him in the courts as he could count. His decision to return to Pakistan can be termed both brave and stupid, considering the long list of threats against his life and court cases resulting from his own misdeeds. There won’t be a National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) to bail him out; neither will be there any major public outcry. The once cigar smoking, blackjack playing, devil may care General Sahab now lies arrested at Islamabad Police Headquarters – becoming only the second former Chief of Army Staff to meet this fate after the infamous (late) General Tikka Khan. Alhough, nothing can be said about the Judiciary’s own resolve to go ahead against him bearing in mind its unpredictability in recent times and it’s too soon to make any predictions, but Musharraf might have finally met his match. Meanwhile, conspiracy theorists have found themselves another venture; from terming today’s Supreme Court proceedings an attempt to divert attention away from the 11th May elections to making it a pretext for the military to intervene, all has been said and heard. Whatever the outcome maybe or the side the youth is on, the genuine voice of this demographic can only be perceived through electoral participation and only by doing so realize the claims of “Saving Pakistan” made from both sides.

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Ojhiri Camp Tragedy – The Right To Know

The last week marked the 25th Anniversary of the infamous Ojhiri Camp disaster. However, not surprisingly, news channels gave it very little coverage. That may well have been due to their preference for more ‘news worthy’ incidents, like ECP’s returning officers asking aspiring candidates about their honeymoons and Barrack Obama dancing at a Jazz concert (because Pakistanis, generally, take pleasure from peoples’ private matters, and we all enjoy seeing the American President’s dance moves in the 9 o’clock news, no?). Or, perhaps, more likely, because of the lack of reports available from the time, partly thanks to the extremely professional cover-up of the whole tragedy by the ISI, and partly his highness Mard-i-Momin Hazrat General Zia-ul-Haq sahab. Even the most thorough search over the Internet churns up only bits and pieces of information. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across a few personal accounts of people unfortunate enough to be present in the twin cities on the 10th of April, 1988. PTV, of course, chose to not report the incident at all, while independent estimates put the casualties from 4,000 to over 5,000 dead including some 1,000 Army Jawans, and thousands more injured. Nearly 300,000 Stinger antiaircraft missiles, antitank missiles and long-range mortars – all destined for the Afghan Mujahedeen via the West’s ‘frontline’ state i.e. Pakistan – rained over a 10 mile radius that included both Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

“We were sitting in a classroom … when we heard a loud blast… we were immediately evacuated. A huge mushroom cloud appeared over the horizon far off in the rough direction of Rawalpindi.”[1] “Four thousand have died. It was like Qiamat.”[2] “The road going towards the CDA colony was littered with hands and feet of little children.”[3] These are some of the accounts available online. This single event surpassed the civilian causalities within [West] Pakistan as a direct result of the 1965 & 1971 Indo-Pak conflicts and Soviet reprisals during the Afghan War, combined. The two separate investigative committees formed gave different opinions, and both of them were unacceptable to Zia sahab. The first, headed by serving Generals, blamed General Akhtar Abdul Rehman (DG-ISI from 1979-88 and father of Humayun and Haroon Akhtar of the PML-Likeminded) and other senior army officials; this was, of course, dismissed. The second, led by PM Junejo’s cabinet members, interestingly, became very problematic for Hazrat Zia, who saw it as a challenge to his ‘divine’ rule. However, at the end, the head of the committee, Aslam Khattak concluded, “No one was responsible. It was an act of Allah.” (Who this hand-picked government referred to as ‘Allah’ remains questionable.) But, eventually this committee became the prime cause of the dismissal of the Junejo government.

The final verdict (or what is considered to be final, until and unless secret documents from the time are declassified) implicates Zia himself as the main guilty party, who after selling Stinger missiles to neighboring post-revolution anti-West Iran had ordered the weapons dump blown hours before an American inspection team was to arrive at the depot. Indeed this is one of the main claims in Begum Kulsum Saifullah’s book Meri Tanha Parvaz . The fact that a Stinger missile is designed to withstand the sort of chain of explosions that occurred at Ojhiri, and needs to be ‘primed’ in order for it to blow, further strengthens this view; it was an inside job. The Americans themselves tried to downplay the causes of the incident by blaming it on KGB backed Afghan agents. While yet another opinion holds the CIA to be involved as well, which might have been aiming to restrict Pakistan from having an excessive amount of Western-made sophisticated weaponry and using it to its own ends as the Afghan war was nearing its ultimate end.

Before the truth could come out, Hazrat Zia urf Ameer-ul-Momineen was ‘martyred’ along with his right-hand man General Akhtar Abdul Rehman, on 19th August 1988, and with him the secrets of Ojhiri Camp turned to ashes and any chances of accountability, finished. The Judiciary and elected governments, however, as equal ‘pillars’ of the state (at least, in theory) have a duty of making the truth known to the masses. More importantly, the citizens of the twin cities deserve to know who were the people responsible for causing and those who profited from the deaths of their loved ones and loss of thousands of innocent lives. The recent admission by another former military dictator, Pervaiz Musharraf, of allowing American drones to operate freely within Pakistani airspace and violate the country’s sovereignty, and the resulting similar but gradual loss of innocent Pakistani lives, highlights the country’s inability to deal with autocratic measures of unconstitutional rulers, which has time and again cost the people greatly.

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The Humans of Joseph Colony

The People
A week after the Badami Bagh tragedy, the people of Joseph Colony hope that their lives might go back to what they once were. Saying that they have lost everything won’t be an overstatement. Hundreds of families have been reduced to living in an unending line of tents – much like the sights of refugee camps in war-torn areas. The kids spend most of their time at a nearby Government school filling colors into the drawing books they have been provided, while the adults try to not let them think much about why this happened.

These are some of the people who I could personally talk to during a relief effort. The women thanked by offering the food they had been rationed. The men were generally happy with the response so far; for them, Badami Bagh Police is the biggest guilty party. The children run around helping and guiding anyone who comes to visit; the younger ones sing-along patriotic songs with some volunteers from NCA. In time, all their lives will be ‘fixed’ – some might even forget about this disaster.

But, could the same be said about the Pakistani society; can it be ‘fixed’? Would this intolerant, myopic, and extremist mindset, that caused this in the first place, be ever cured? We can’t blame that on the government. We have ourselves to blame for that; anyone who preaches prejudice, anyone who lets themselves be fooled into following them, and anyone who stays silent even after seeing all that has happened. All of us are equally guilty.

“Jou na jaanay haq ki taaqat, Rab na deway ussko himmat.” These are the words of Baba Bulleh Shah and for obvious reasons seem very fitting to our situation. Only when we become ‘intolerant to intolerance’ and stop believing in the ‘silent majority’ delusion, can we hope to heal what is left of our Pakistan. And seeing people come forth today to help targeted minorities is proof that we have the power to do so.

Originally posted on The Ministry of Loltype Affairs.

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[PhotoLOG] They Have A Dream

 

How many times have you been told, “Do what you love”? Just two days ago, in a talk with Adeel Hashmi (known for his Ufone ads and PTV’s famous 1990’s show ‘Teen Bata Teen’), this subject remained the topic of discussion. I can name innumerable other people – teachers, seniors, motivational speakers, professionals, entertainers, etc. – who have again and again repeated this mantra. But, very few of us are fully able to follow this ideal. The man in this photo is among those very few.

Faqir Muhammad, who prefers to be called F.M., has been working as a freelance tour guide at the Badshahi Mosque for the last 55 years. He earns more from the tips given to him by tourists than from the small stipend he gets each month. Before choosing this profession he taught at The University Of Punjab, and speaks in amazingly fluent English. He left his job to start writing Persian and Urdu poetry, before eventually becoming a history lover. Not only is he an avid follower of Jinnah, but only learned and later taught English so that people could understand his magnificent oratory.

On any normal day, you can see him, going around guiding tourists, about the acoustics of Badshahi Masjid’s corridors. When asked what he wished for Pakistan, he said, “An Islamic Democracy” – not the type of corrupt and half-baked democracy we have. He went on further to say, “No law based on Islam or any sort of morals at all, should allow rulers to be immune from being answerable to the people” – referring to the Presidential immunity. He was particularly angry at how the public representatives and dictators have, over the years, made the constitution ‘impure’ with subservient amendments.

But, for a man, who has witnessed the bloodshed of the partition, the secession of East Pakistan, decades of political turmoil and economic decline, he still remains optimistic. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream”. Today, millions of Pakistanis, like Faqir Muhammad, have a dream: of peace; of tolerance; of an egalitarian society; of faith, unity, and discipline. Be a proud democrat like Jinnah, and vote this time – for the right people, of course. If not for yourself, then for old Pakistanis, like F.M., who want to see their dream fulfilled in their lifetimes.

 

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