Aafia and Mukhtaran Mai

While Pakistan is witnessing a series of protests over the conviction of neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui for charges related to terrorism, I would like to pause for a second and think: do we really mean to respect our women living on our mercy or is this heat wave because anti-US sentiment sells hot in Pakistan?
Let’s go back a few years and remember what happened to Mukhtaran Mai, the way our society responded to it and then compare it with Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s much-hyped case.

An innocent villager, Mukhtaran Mai, was tortured to the extreme for being a woman; she was violated and exploited by the dominant male society. Just being a woman made her a safe target for the oppressor, but she was brave.

She fought for justice and proved her innocence in court. But those who committed all those crimes against her are still at large. Her innocence and her bid to fight against chauvinism were acknowledged in the US more than in Pakistani society.

I remember I waited for days looking for a front-page statement from our religious leaders, both political and apolitical. No one ever made a statement in her favour. She didn’t apply for US nationality. She was a true Pakistani and married a Pakistani policeman, established a school for poor village girls, and settled in a remote area.

I salute her bravery, truthfulness and honesty. I also want to remind our society that her perpetrators haven’t been punished as yet.

Dr Siddiqui may be an innocent woman too. She might never have had any relations to any extremist group whatsoever, though her certificate of training to use heavy weapons, presented in the US court, is enough to change one’s mind.

But even if we consider her as innocent as Mukhtaran Mai, shouldn’t we be ashamed of our dual standards? On the one hand, those who committed a crime against our own innocent sister or daughter are at large within our own country, within the reach of our own law, within the reach of our police and the Supreme Court.

Yet no one from any of the politico-religious parties ever spoke against them.

But everyone wants to cash in on Dr Siddiqui’s case only, and only because it sells at a much higher price. It wins political mileage.

What happens to our ego when girls are raped under police custody, killed in the name of honour or humiliated on the roads and streets of our country?

However, we are ready to devote ourselves to get justice for Dr Siddiqui because it brings us political benefits. Even the most secular parties have jumped into the same bandwagon.

I believe that every woman who is humiliated in our own country should be given equal attention. We should treat Dr Aafia Siddiqui and Mukhtaran Mai equally and shun hypocrisy.
Published in DAWN on 02-10-2010.


The endangered me!

Statements by two people about the possible extinction of human race from earth in a couple of hundred years has worried me. The statements carry some weight because they have come from the people whom we know for their knowledge and research. First one came from the Australian scientist of extinct species, 95 years old FRANK Fenner. The detail of his preidction can be seen here. The gist of what he said is that human race is going to be extinct in a 100 years and there is no hope of the dangerous game being reversed by whatsoever be done. Trennnnnnnn!!!! Danger bell............

I read this story a few weeks back and shared the link on facebook for my friends to have a look, on June 22 to be exact. A forum where a joke about Zardari or a controversial political statement would readily convert into a prolonged discussion, especially if participated by someone from the fair sex initially, this particular post didn't make anyone follow the story...... Trennnnnnnnn again... We are unaware of the danger, and we don't want to be aware of such bad news......... A bigger danger......

Today I came across a statement by Stephan Hawking, the legendary astrophysician, in which he has advised humans to prepare to colonize the space in order to survive as the only option left. Had he been left with any hope of survival on this planet, his words would have been softer. The news can be followed here. Can you ignore these two scientists' advice? From my side, the answer is no. But the question is, can I do anything in this respect? The answer is again NO. I belong to a nation which has little time to spare for environment. I come from a place where deforestation has brought earth quakes and floods and they are contented to have all this as a will of God. But if I cannot do anything for the protection of human race from threat of extinction, why am I worried? Here starts the problem...........

My physical age is projected between 6 to 7 decades at the best. The possibility is quite rare though as the probability of dying is on the rise due to various factors including increasing traffic and other scientific accidents, natural calamities, pollution, stress, terrorism and from the loads of homegrown and neighbouring weapons of genocide. So I am sure I am going to die before the end, rather the beginning of the end. I have due care for my generation who will see the difficult times in their lives. What is important to me is that if we go extinct, that would mean all that we learned and built to date is of no use, and that we are leaving the planet in such dismal state, loaded with bombs and hate. We certainly didn't prove our worth. Perhaps we have been looking for survival, dvelopment of means to survive longer on this planet, and in the course of such progress, we eventually hastened the processes that predisposed the end. Whatever it is going to be, a nuclear accident, war, dooms day, climate change, catastroph, a planet coming to hit us or sun going to engulf earth, it seems quite near as extrapolated by weather changes ad warming of the globe.

Well.. Everyone has to die. But inside this fact of mortality, there is a struggle for immortality, through our deeds and generations. That is why extinction seems more scary than death. When we die, we know that there are people behind to take care of our belongings and complete our unfinished projects, promises, revenges and stuff like that. But after extinction, like there would be no one to uncover what we couldn't dare to share with the world in life, stuff for controversies, hidden folders of our hard drives and anonymous email addresses. No one will come back to discover trees where we engraved our names, decieving ourselves of a false together-hood. Facebook hasn't come of age as yet and we are near extinction. Is this the climax? No, social networking could have been more real than this without playing havoc with the environment, we could have been able to see the real climax of internet. But as they said in Matrix, fate is not without a sense of irony. Two decades of internet and we literally villegized the globe, yet all is going to be wasted in 100 years. Thats sad, really sad.... Specifically speaking about Pakistan, we will not be able to utilize all the natural resources and wealth given to us or told to be given to us, except what was discovered by our wealthy establishment. Thar coal will go wasted too...... Alas!!!

There is yet another type of sickness associated with it. Human are going to go extinct. But other creatures, or for that matter, some of other creatures will persist... Animals... Like animals will persist and we, the most developped primates will disappear, like dinosaurs. I go mad when I think that animal will roam around in the buildings and homes constructed by us.... And they will wonder how we could climb upto top floor of a multi story building without stairs... I suppose they will not be able to maintain the electricity flowing.... as we think how were the pyramids constructed... All this is sad...

So, let us accept it. We are gona disappear in 100 years. AGREED...May be a mutant species of humans is produced by some experiments which may survive. At least it should be taken into account as a project. Or we should start learning to live here the way we would live in space or another planet. Without the help of science and instruments, let us go back to forests and start a new life. Let us live in harmony with nature this time or lets hope someone will escape to space. They will establish a colony over there, somewhere, and will survive all the ill effects of weather and stuff. Generations after generations in space, may be they return to earth some day, only to find that we existed... But how would they know us. We don't engrave stones anymore. Language will be difficult to understand. So we must leave some sign, something which can withstand the ill effects of centuries, like Gandhara people did for us, although we are yet to decode all of that. But before that, let us suppose we are few people on a boat, in a wide open sea, sure to die in a day or so. Would we be killing some to feed deadly sharks so that others can find a survival or would we prefer to stay together, all equal human beings, all having equal right to live and die, destined to survive together or die together, go extinct? I think the answer is not difficult to find. But the exciting thing for those of us who believe in Day of Judgement, it will be near. I mean for someone who died 10,000 years back, it is still to happen. But for our generation, it will take a mere 100 years. One less thing to worry. But who knows, I mean I don't know whether it will happen after our extiction while the earth still continuing with life or otherwise. All this is so complicated. One last thing, do you think God planned all this? And suppose He didn't, then why would He let it happen?  


Facebook for all!

Ever since social networking websites and blogs have come into being, we have seen a different face of internet. Within a lapse of two decades internet has revolutionized our lives. From telemedicine to online news bulletins, videoconferencing to Google earth and GPS, Skype to eBay, and Orkut to Facebook, human life is dipped into millions of internet applications. With the decreasing size of devices and increasing coverage areas of telecom signals no one can resist it anymore. Internet has proved to be a media of great potentials for mankind. It has made great contributions to health, education, communication and world peace. The nomination of internet for Nobel peace prize 2010 is a sign of acknowledgement for the same.

Besides bringing people closer, helping initiate a dialogue between religions and civilizations and other contributions to world peace, internet has also become a source of spreading conspiracies and misleading stories about issues and non issues and committing crimes of all kinds. While it would be useless to criticize the minority of people who take advantage of this great human invention to spread hate and intolerance, the attitude of the great majority of people who render themselves hostages to such propaganda, however, deserves criticism. In another way it is the only side of the picture where we have better chances to expect an improvement.

People from Europe and America started benefiting from electronic globalization before rest of the world. So they were first to fell a prey to capitalist propaganda for waging war all over the world. And although the lies that they were spoken to, have started to surface, yet the public opinion doesn’t seem to wake up from the dream. On the other hand, a handful of individuals from Middle East, who dedicated their lives to the solve their problems by some unpopular means a few decades ago, find themselves in real peace by attracting sympathies of people from all over the world to their (no more unpopular) strategies.

Drawing images of Holy Prophet PBUH has been one such issue in recent years. People of Muslim faith have been hurt by this offensive, without any distinction between those who have extremist ideas and those who don’t. But the sentiments haven't been acknowledged accordingly. It has been repeated again and again yet no effort has been made to stop it from happening. This apathy in the name of freedom of expression from the western world has only helped the extremist party win more popular opinion on the subject that west is particularly targeting their faith and there is nothing wrong about their extremist modus operandi. Facebook has been part of latest controversy about drawing similar images. Someone from across the globe has been so persistent in his bid to spread hate that he has gone on to holding a competition to draw such images. Thousands of entries on Facebook, twitter, blogs and emails are being made to protest against it. People are campaigning to boycott the forum on certain dates, others are choosing to deactivate or even delete their accounts. But there is no listening to it. Offensively titled group have been there already but no effort has ever been made to correct this. Ban on minarets and veil, discrimination at workplaces and airports and indiscrimination between terrorists and innocents in war zones have only helped the extremist party win more hearts than they could ever do. The prevalent opinion is that rather than being a minority of people in west who have hatred against Islam, it is the majority who is responsible for electing those who implement such agenda of hate and discrimination.
For us, the question is, is it the majority in west only that has been behaving irresponsibly? Let’s have a look at this. A criminal mind, a negative thinker, an evil genius, a racist, an advocate of hate, a malicious disrespectful man or whoever we think he is, does he deserve this much attention that we are paying? Had it been overlooked at the first place and not been reacted to at all, would he ever dare to repeat it?  What impact would it make on the person involving this act if someone deletes his or her account on Facebook? Would it stop it from happening? Would holding out manifestations and agitation help solve this issue? Would imposing a ban on Facebook or issuing a verdict against its use improve the situation? In my opinion, it wouldn’t help at all as it hasn’t been helping in the past. We must define our circle of influence out of our circle of concern and react intelligently to such inflammatory stimuli. I would rather say, let’s ignore it. There are countless other ways to show that we love Hazrat Muhammad PBUH. We can save our time, adrenaline and energy by refusing to act the way they want us to. Let’s not fell a prey to conspiracies. Let’s not render ourselves hostages to either of them. Let’s give it a try.


Remembering our arrival in FRANCE June 2008

It will include many people from the batch that landed in Paris on 25th June 2008. But the story would rather begin from sometime before the actual arrival.

I was lucky to have a very nice batch of HEC scholars at Alliance Français Islamabad for the language course. Naughty Naeem Ashraf, mysterious Ahmad Junaid, giggling Omer Hayat Malik, different Raheel, good looking Usman, evergreen Zeeshan, very french Sajid, very pakistani Raza, literary Shahzina, Taimoor, Batool, Rafi and me made a perfectly heterogenous crowd. Our pakistani teacher Madam Farah tried to bridge us from urdu-pakistan to french-pakistan while our french teacher Madam Elisabeth took us from french-pakistan to french-france. Later when she returned to her own France, we were left with another very nice but a bit angry lady, but we stayed happy nevertheless. Group activities and discussions were always dominated by Naeem, Sajid and Zeeshan while mark sheets were dominated by Junaid, Sajid and Usman. I used to be either absent or in the last row in these and all other categories as well as many of the classes. When the course concluded, we had our exams in HEC H-9 building and a reception by French ambassador to Pakistan in Serena Hotel Islamabad. The evening before our proposed departur, we were given (or some of us were not-given) visas. I boarded with many other comarades from the class from Islamabad but was eventually destined to land in CAVILAM Vichy with none other than Shahzina only, people from other groups of AF Islamabad as well as from AF Karachi constituted the whole group.

It was a bright sunny afternoon when we landed at l'aeroporte Charles de Gualle, Paris, my first ever travel to another country, first ever in an aeroplane too. There were many other first evers as well. I made my way out of the airport where SFERE people were waiting for us. We boarded a bus to Paris city. I use we because there were many other people with me, but the truth is that I really felt alone at that time, perhaps because I was not friends with anyone as yet. Aysesha Ashraf helped me activate international roaming of Jazz, by virtue of which I told Maryum that I had safely reached. I slept at night without remembring who was our guide to a nearby Kebab, where we listened to metro noise under our feet. By 8 in the evening I was tired. I heard people leaving for visit of Paris but hardly knew anyone. So went to sleep without having a chance.

Next morning, we had breakfast and then left for our destinations. Ayesha Ashraf gave a boring talk. Wahid Bakhsh Jatoi told us about our accommodation in Vichy and Clermont Ferrand for girls and boys respectively. Salma Hasan had a typical reaction to that one. I talk to Jai Pirkash, when we were in a lunch midway to our destination, perhaps at Moulin. Shariq had a cunning look at me when I was posing for a photograph before a nerby nothing. He didn't seem asking, but seemed telling me that he knows it. "First time abroad?" He lit a cigarette. I nodded, saying yes and continued the same disinhibitedly. Happily shifted in our rooms, I discovered that I had a familier face in the crowd, Naveed, from a morning batch of AF Islamabad. We talked to eachother and bought some grocery for ourselves. Rest of all passed very well. Jabbar Tahir Madah and all karachïtes were very friendly.

For me, everyday was discovering a new thing. I learned how to call from a booth, both inside France and outside (obviously to Pakistan). Later I found various landlines in the neighbouring floors where calls could be easily attended. Making photographs and sending them home through emails from CAVILAM internet facility was a favourite thing. Always looking for a phone booth where a call from Pakistan can be recieved was quite notorious than famous thing about me. Adjustment issues raised their ugly heads with some otherwise very nice people. I have always believed in learning through mistakes so everything taught me a lot of things.

Cultural shock was an undeniable happening. Someone coming from the rural areas of Pakistan where I remember talks went on for more than a week when a woman passed on the road driving a car by her own, was naturally vulnerable to such things. Language centre was less toxic though, travel by train, railway station unions, reunions and dis-unions were aweful. Sunny days were even difficult. Soirées at CAVILAM were really inspiring and the independance day was celebrated with vigor.

Coming this long, if I count, I have a good number of friends around, even Shariq is far less toxic than those words of first time abroad thing :). There is nothing bad about those days, all cherished moments all around. Now that PhD has got underway, it seems good to remember those funny days of Clermont-Fd. They passed like a dream, I regret we didn't made good use of them and there were not much adventures except Puy de Dome visit. But still those days and nights (rainy, lonely and sad) are a wealth to guard. Good days are always to remember as good friends are always to keep. Share your views please.


Leadership CRISIS

A look into election compaign for by-election in NA 55 Rawalpindi gives an insight into the political mindset of our politicians and the deepening leadership crisis in the country. The ruling party in Punjab vacated the seat, setting high standards of morality that a person involved in fraud cannot deserve a seat to national assembly. Why is this that such high standards are only laid down for ordinary party workers and not for the hereditary top leadership of the same? Had Ch Nisar Ali khan been found in the same case, how would the party have reacted? And right now, what are they compaigning for? Votes once again votes from the same people whom they let down before Sheikh Rasheed more than once during past two years?

People's party didn't send their candidate even. The ambiguity is so much there that even party leadership doesn't know whether this has been done to support PMLN or to support Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad against them. The remnants of Musharraf are again poking their ugly heads in the form of AML PMLQ PPPP silent coalition.

Imran Khan has nominated Ijaz Khan, the man who got 136 votes as an independant candidate in previous elections. What a crisis. Leadership crisis. In addition to sugar, flour, electricity, gas, petrol and other countless crises, we have crisis of leadership at its peak now. I heard them compaigning, saying that members of larger parties are afraid of leaders, leaders are afraid of America, no one is afraid of Almighty Allah. And these words were said by none other than Sheikh Rashid Ahmad.

Imran Khan has been a ray of hope for the people. He has refused to the agencies-funded politics and claims a vision for the masses. While he is not currept and seems quite clean as a politician, even he has failed to fill the gap. He speaks of problems faced by common people but in 15 years of his existance as chairman of a political party, he hasn't been able to get out of "neutral empires" and "fighting till the last delievery" phrases. Masses need a leader and if he cannot become what they need by himself alone, he must let someone guide him. His stubborness often stops him from listening to even some sincere voices around him.

I wish good luck to all three candidates of NA 55 on 24 February 2010.


French nuclear offer: fact or fiction?

THIS is apropos of various news items that recently appeared regarding a nuclear deal with France. During his recent visit to Europe and various other countries, President Zardari met Nicolas Sarkozi, the president of France.
Mr Sarkozi announced some financial help for the internally displaced persons in the Pakistani territory. The issues of bilateral interest must have also been discussed. Pakistan has always had good relations with France in the areas of developing submarines and buying fighter jets. But we came across something quite ambiguous this time.
Speaking to a press confer ence right after the meeting, the foreign minister of Pakistan claimed that France has offered the transfer of civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan and that they are looking forward to complete the homework on this issue.
On the other hand, the press release from the French presidency claimed that they have offered Pakistan help in keeping their nuclear assets safeguarded from the terrorists’ reach.
The civilian technology offer was not taken into account. The minister’s claim grabbed much attention all over and even the leading French newspaper Le Monde quoted him saying the same thing. The Reuters observed that this claim was categorically denied in a following interaction of French government representatives with the media.
More recently, while on his visit to the UAE, a close source of the French president was quoted as saying that Mr Sarkozi may visit Pakistan later in the year to follow on the nuclear safety offer.
The Pakistani authorities again claimed that this visit would be to sign the civilian nuke deal. While we remember that India and America reached such a deal after good enough time of dialogue and endorsement from the Congress, no such formalities have been reported as yet in this case.
The issue of proliferation still remained unresolved. The world seems to have reservations on the already existing machines on our lands. In such an atmosphere, a similar offer from China might have had sounded realistic.
I don’t mean to say that it’s totally false. But if it is true, why are the French government representatives reluctant to acknowledge it?
In any case the idea of meeting the energy needs of Pakistan on such a scale looks very bright.

Published in DAWN on  11-06-2009.

Remembering the Bhopal gas victims

REMEMBERING the victims of the Bhopal toxic gas incident (Dec 3,1984), the world’s worst industrial accident so far, one cannot but remain stunned on the apathetic behaviour of the government of India.
While tens of thousands of poor people were killed in a flash, the government didn’t show a single gesture of sharing their pain.
The criminal industrialist who owns the infamous industry is still at large, living in America a peaceful life while the poor victims still await justice.
The government doesn’t prosecute him or other people related to him only because they don’t want the in ternational investor to be fearful of such prosecution. This behaviour has certain interesting implications.
First, it’s the poor of a country who make the country itself.
They bear all the bad effects of economic crises, law and order situations, health and education deprivation and even wars.
It is the poor who bear all the burden of taxes eventually as they are the end-consumer of many of the products. Industrialists merely transfer any increase in taxes to the prices and stay calm.
By securing the lives and improving the living status of the poor of a country, one can make the aliens (here non-resident Indian investors) realise that there is rule of law in the country.
Anyone who would be interested in making money out of the country will have to follow certain regulations and will be answerable before the court of law if he ever posed a problem to the people of the country.
Yet the message goes the other way. An investor is allowed to make money from the world’s largest democratic nation even if he has to sacrifice a few thousand poor of the country.
And what is the benefit of non-prosecution? The benefit is that although some of them (read the poor) died, yet the rich lot of Mumbai, sitting in the furnished lodges looking at their flat screen television sets and getting amused by the bollywood and hollywood productions, could spend their part of lives peacefully.
I mean if an investor is begged to come to a country for getting the capital and maintaining the growth rate high and he is given the licence to kill the people, who else is there to blame to?
The same goes for the future policies. They didn’t set an example of the culprit and that means everyone who promises to bring money for the rich is free to operate.
Who cares if he or she brings death to the poor?
A country where justice is not established as the supreme law goes into ruins and any level of industrialisation remains unable to save it.
Take the example of America and try to learn from it.
If the ordinary citizen of the country will feel good, it will bring much more stability than what brings the capital.
In the world’s largest democracy, there is one Arundhati Roy who speaks of justice for the poor.
Can the government prove to be the world’s largest democracy which cares for their poor?
Or at least for those who were unfortunate enough to survive the toxic gas, just to remain crippled, waiting for the justice to be delivered from the capitalist rich.

Published in DAWN on 08-12-2009.