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Articles on this Page
- 06/17/17--00:52: _Does Pakistan stand...
- 06/18/17--23:30: _Surreal Pakistani p...
- 06/19/17--23:16: _As an Indian visiti...
- 06/20/17--22:39: _Pakistan's win agai...
- 06/21/17--21:56: _How Sarfraz Ahmad '...
- 06/22/17--21:06: _How a medical exam ...
- 07/12/16--00:48: _I'm a Pakistani Hin...
- 06/28/17--00:13: _My hometown Parachi...
- 06/29/17--03:10: _Mohammad Amir: Paki...
- 06/30/17--03:19: _Here's what we can ...
- 07/02/17--19:18: _'I wish I knew one ...
- 07/03/17--19:18: _Modi didn't create ...
- 07/05/17--01:38: _How a Hindu temple ...
- 07/05/17--19:31: _The 6 best local po...
- 07/06/17--19:34: _Courage lies in the...
- 10/28/16--23:52: _I'll never forget t...
- 07/08/17--01:33: _'Do you see such tr...
- 07/09/17--19:13: _How women in Kashmi...
- 07/11/17--19:19: _The high environmen...
- 07/16/17--19:16: _Some solutions to P...
- 07/17/17--19:21: _A weak rupee is a r...
- 07/18/17--19:33: _'Hans gayi aur phan...
- 07/19/17--05:43: _'All I can say abou...
- 07/20/17--19:22: _It's the PCB, not c...
- 07/15/17--19:36: _Makli, once a respl...
- 07/23/17--22:35: _Lahore is a city ma...
- 07/24/17--21:31: _My momentary encoun...
- 07/25/17--22:03: _Why Iranian math ge...
- 07/26/17--23:50: _Seven years after t...
- 06/17/17--00:52: Does Pakistan stand a chance against India in the CT final?
- Behind this surge is the rise in the scores of these two batsmen. Zaman has struck 31, 50, and 57 and Azhar has made 9, 34, 76. The two, however, will be up against the most potent pace attack in the history of Indian cricket.
- Pakistan have beaten India twice in ICC tournaments, both times in the Champions Trophy in 2004 and 2009. They have met India six times across limited-overs formats in ICC tournaments since their 2009 triumph, losing every time.
- 06/18/17--23:30: Surreal Pakistani performance in the CT final dazzles the world
We’re all scurrying to work in the United States, or vacation in Europe, when there is so much we can learn from our next-door neighbours.
- My journey elicited stories from others also personally impacted by the Partition. I had an overnight layover in Ambala, where a Pakistani friend told me his grandparents lived before Partition. An Indian friend asked me to find the home his father had left in Lahore. Partition felt like recent history, despite having taken place 70 years ago.
- I cherished my time in Lahore, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being somewhat of an outsider. But my newfound family ties alongside the cosmopolitan nature of Karachi erased that distinction. Here, ethnic Sindhis rub shoulders with Pashtuns, Punjabis, Baloch and even a few Hyderabadis like me. Karachi teemed with the infectious spirit of a bustling metropolis rapidly evolving, even reinventing itself, and I was hooked.
- 06/21/17--21:56: How Sarfraz Ahmad 'accidentally' rose to cricketing fame
- 07/12/16--00:48: I'm a Pakistani Hindu. So what business do I have missing Eid?
- 06/29/17--03:10: Mohammad Amir: Pakistan's raging phoenix
- 06/30/17--03:19: Here's what we can learn from the volatile history of Sudan
- 07/05/17--19:31: The 6 best local pop songs … ever: A detailed review
- 07/06/17--19:34: Courage lies in the hearts of Kashmiri women who dream of freedom
- 10/28/16--23:52: I'll never forget the day Burhan Wani was killed
- 07/08/17--01:33: 'Do you see such traits in any other public figure in Pakistan?'
- 07/09/17--19:13: How women in Kashmir's Neelum Valley ensured ceasefire at the LoC
- 07/11/17--19:19: The high environmental cost of Islamabad's latest metro bus project
- The 25.6km track, which is being constructed on the left side of Kashmir Highway, would require the cutting of nearly 960 trees, mostly <em>shisham</em>, destroying the habitat of wild species like jackals, wild boars and cuckoos.
- A total of 80 million litres of water will be consumed for the project in a city which is already water-scarce.
- 07/16/17--19:16: Some solutions to Pakistan's professor mafia
- Sonia Ashraf, Karachi:
- The farce
- The facts
- The questions
- 07/23/17--22:35: Lahore is a city made better by the indomitable spirit of Pakhtuns
- Medicine for the heartbroken
- Two seasonal cogs in Lahore's machinery
- A treasury of wisdom
- Gender inequality and cultural stereotypes lead to a lack of confidence in women by their peers. When reflecting on my own experiences and speaking to others in my field, I believe that self-doubt is also a common obstacle preventing women, especially from minority backgrounds, from pursuing a STEM career.
- There was no modern early warning system in place. This kind of flooding had not happened in this region since 1929.
- However, disaster preparedness in Pakistan has to reach right down to the grassroots level and become mainstream in the process. Also, land-use planning is an area that requires much needed attention.
London will be painted green and blue come Sunday in anticipation for one of the biggest games in cricket history. Pakistan play India in a 50-over ICC tournament final for the first time.
It cannot get bigger than this in the game of cricket, barring a world cup final between the two South Asian giants. But for now, the India-Pakistan final is the event and has already brought the cricketing world to a standstill.
Just a few weeks back, any notion hinting at Pakistan making it to the final of the prestigious ICC Champions Trophy would have induced laughter. After all, the Sarfraz-led unit entered the tournament as underdogs. The top eight teams in the ICC’s ODI rankings compete in this tournament – and Pakistan stood eighth.
But the Men in Green surprised everyone by becoming the first side to secure a berth in the final.
With a resurgent Pakistan, it is difficult to predict the outcome of the contest. One can never be sure which Pakistan will turn up to play this Sunday. Whether it would be the one that got humiliated against India exactly two weeks ago or the one that thrashed the best one-day side two days later.
Just two Sundays ago, India thrashed Pakistan by 124 runs. Virat Kohli’s men have an edge over their rivals this Sunday as well because of the latter’s fragile middle order batting.
Pakistan’s middle order (from number three till number seven) have scored 300 runs in the tournament at just 30 runs per wicket. The Indian middle order, on the other hand, have added nearly 500 runs at a staggering rate of 90.6 runs per wicket.
Four out of five in the middle order are right-handed batsmen and the only left-handed batsman of the order, Imad Wasim, comes in at the end, at number seven. This is an area that India will be targeting.
Left-arm orthodox Ravindra Jadeja averages 29 against right-handed batsmen as compared to 60 against the left-handed in the ODI format. However, after the match against Pakistan, in which he removed Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez, Jadeja seems to have lost his lustre, bagging just two wickets for 140 runs in the following three matches.
Pakistan will be heavily reliant on their openers to get them a steady start. Since the introduction of 27-year-old Fakhar Zaman at the top of the order, Pakistan has seen a surge in the opening stands.
Pakistan’s first wicket posted 40 against South Africa. In the next match against Sri Lanka, the Azhar-Zaman duo put up 74 runs. During the semi-final against hosts England, they struck Pakistan’s first 100-plus opening partnership since May 2015.
Behind this surge is the rise in the scores of these two batsmen. Zaman has struck 31, 50, and 57 and Azhar has made 9, 34, 76. The two, however, will be up against the most potent pace attack in the history of Indian cricket.
Both Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who entered the tournament at the back of a fruitful IPL, and Jaspreet Bumrah, have been bowling at meticulous lengths. In a must-win game against South Africa, they choked Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock in the first power play, leading to a disastrous batting collapse for the best-ranked ODI side.
India will approach Pakistan’s opening pair in a similar manner, especially Zaman, who looked uncomfortable against English pacer Mark Wood in the semi-final, when he was being cramped for room.
After their loss against India, Pakistan resorted to their old tactics of unleashing their pacers on the opposition. Their spinners prepared the ball for reverse swing (legally) on an abrasive Edgbaston wicket in the match against South Africa. Hasan Ali, with his scorching reverse swingers, did the job in the middle overs.
This has been the pattern ever since.
23-year-old Hasan tops the tournament’s most-wicket column with 10 scalps in four matches. Left-arm fast bowler Junaid Khan stands at number four on the list with seven wickets.
Mohammad Amir has picked up only two wickets in the tournament from the three matches he has played. He missed the last contest due to a back spasm, but his impeccable bowling throughout the tournament keeps him in contention for the final. He will undertake a fitness test before the final and if deemed fit, will have a daunting task ahead.
Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma top the most-runs-of-the-tournament section with 317 and 304 in four matches apiece. In their journey to the final, the pair have struck two 100-plus opening partnerships, the first one coming against Pakistan.
Indian captain Kohli, who bats at one-drop, has struck three 50-plus scores, with his best score of 96* coming in the last match.
Pakistan have beaten India twice in ICC tournaments, both times in the Champions Trophy in 2004 and 2009. They have met India six times across limited-overs formats in ICC tournaments since their 2009 triumph, losing every time.
With a resurgent Pakistan, it is difficult to predict the outcome of the contest. One can never be sure which Pakistan will turn up to play this Sunday. Whether it would be the one that got humiliated against India exactly two weeks ago, or the one that thrashed the best one-day side two days later.
But unlike the Sunday when they were drubbed by India, Pakistan have a side full of self-belief this time. A side that has picked itself up. A side where juniors stepped up when seniors faltered.
From being beyond abysmal, this Sunday the Pakistani team will enter the Oval with a shot at the championship.
This is certainly a contest that promises to live up to its expectations.
The stage is set: Pakistan vs India in the final of the Champions Trophy. Mother of all contests. For the Indian captain Virat Kohli,“it is just another game”. According to Wasim Akram, it is poised to be a “battle of nerves” between two countries that were once one.
Ex-Indian captain Saurav Ganguly gives India a 73% winning chance. The bookies somewhat agree and give 1/3 for betting on Pakistan. India are clear favourites.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani public, the social media, and the entire nation do what they know best. They pray a little harder.
First conundrum of the morning: win the toss and bat? Or bowl?
Pakistan cannot chase well, and well, India can chase anything. Looks like a flat pitch, but a fresh one. For Virat, it is simple: win the toss, bowl first. For Sarfraz, probably a good toss to lose. He could have very easily fallen into the death trap of chasing a big total in a massive final against India.
Pakistani openers Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman start the proceedings. First over is a maiden by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. India have done their homework. They bowl a tight line to Fakhar and give him no width. India are prepared. They are wired to win. They are facing Fakhar for the first time, but they know he likes width. They give him none.
Fakhar has been pegged on the stumps for eight deliveries and then Bumrah floats one outside off. Fakhar follows it and edges to Dhoni behind the stumps. But Pakistani prayers intervene and the first signs of magic appear. Bumrah has overstepped, it’s a No Ball. Fakhar gets a life.
It is the start of lady luck playing in Pakistan’s favour. Inside edge goes for four, outside edges go for four, and it even races off the helmet for four. India miss clear run out chances against both Pakistani openers. And luck continues favouring the brave.
Fakhar and Azhar take their chances, keep stealing quick singles and flash their bats at anything on offer. But it is not just boom-boom, bam-bam Pakistani batting. They have a plan too. They have targeted men in their minds. They know whom they are going after today.
Ashwin, who was not picked for the first game against Pakistan, bowls the eighth over. And Azhar charges down the ground and smashes Ashwin out of the park for a six.
The tone is set. Pakistan will attack Indian spin.
Pakistan blow punches, but are also circumspect. India feel the heat, and their fielding standards drop a notch. Fakhar hits straight to Yuvraj Singh but it goes through him to the boundary for four as Fakhar gets to his third consecutive fifty.
Is Fakhar the opener Pakistan has been searching for? Three fifties in four games with a career strike rate of 113 – so far, so good. Keep going, lad.
They run hard and take risks, till they are caught ball watching. Azhar is finally run out and is visibly upset. Some of the blame for the blunder is on Fakhar, but most of it is on lack of communication.
Azhar had taken the initiative in the partnership and was surprisingly scoring faster than Fakhar.
But this is where Fakhar changes gear and scores 58 off the next 37 deliveries, smashing three sixes and five fours. Reaching his first maiden hundred in style, but holding out in the deep not much after.
It was not the classiest hundred that one would see, but it was as important as any.
Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik tick the scoreboard but are not able to really explode.
Then walks in Mohammad Hafeez. The first ball he steps out of the crease and hammers it down the fence. For once, Hafeez is not given the liberty to play himself in. He does not have to rotate strike cause he’s striking so clean.
We know that Hafeez can time the ball as good as anyone in Pakistan. Maybe coming in at number five is more suited for his game play. Maybe when the professor has fewer options, perhaps when the game dictates play, he will not need to complicate things, like he so often does.
India are on the back-foot and feeling the pressure of a big game. They give away 25 extras. In their first game against Pakistan, they had given eight.
With runs on the board, Pakistan is in command.
But this is India. If there is anyone in the world who can chase down a mammoth total, it is Kohli and his men.
However, they are up against the most potent bowling attack of the tournament. In the last three games, Pakistan restricted South Africa to 219/8, bowled Sri Lanka out for 235 and bundled England for 211.
The new ball is in the hand of Pakistan’s ace fast bowler, Mohammad Amir. He angles two of them out and brings the third one back in – truly reminiscent of Pakistani left-arm god, Wasim Akram. The ball is too good for Rohit Sharma, who has scored 301 runs in the week with an average of 101. But he now returns to the pavilion with a duck.
Fast bowlers hunt in pairs. And Junaid Khan is steaming in from the other end. The last time Kohli had to walk in this early was in June, 2015. He is not used to this, and he is up against Pakistani fast bowlers who have their tails up.
Amir bowls another jaffa that catches the outside edge and flies straight into the hands of Azhar Ali at first slip, and then falls out of it. Kohli is dropped on five. Kohli, who has 17 hundreds when batting second. The 23-year-old Kohli had clobbered Pakistan for 183 not out and chased 330 runs in less than 48 overs.
Now he is 28, Indian captain and the number one batsman in the world.
Amir is livid, and rightly so.
Then something very Pakistani happens. Amir gets Virat twice in two balls. Pure Pakistani magic!
Amir is on fire, so is Junaid. Both have bowled maidens. But it is Amir who strikes again. This time, his victim is Shikhar Dhawan, the holder of the Golden Bat, the leading run scorer of the tournament.
India are reeling at 33-3 in nine overs, and Amir has taken 16-3 in five.
Amir has stream-rolled through Rohit, Virat, and Shikar; the top three Indian batsmen who had contributed 82% of the runs (894 out of 1094) that India had scored in the championship, before the final.
Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni stand as the last ray of hope for India. They stand between Green Glory and Bleeding Blue. But there is little respite.
Fast bowlers hunt in pairs, but Pakistani fast bowlers are known to hunt in packs. And they are deadlier when they have a leg-spinner in their ranks.
Sarfraz soon unleashes his second line of attack. Hasan Ali is bowling from one end, and Shadab Khan from the other.
The 19-year-old Pakistani leg spinner was two years old when Yuvraj made his international debut. But Shadab has the zest of youth and tosses one up to lure Yuvraj into a cover drive. It is from the back of Shadab’s hand. Shadab’s wrong’un is not easy to read as it goes past Yuvraj’s outside edge. Yuvraj is half out.
And then the second half is out on the next ball, one that pitches on a similar length but turns back in. Yuvraj tries to jam his bat, and the umpire adjudges it not out. Shadab thinks otherwise, he knows better and directs his captain into taking a review. He is right.
Shadab is sure he has got his man, Yuvraj Singh.
Technology confirms that Yuvraj was plumb.
Hasan Ali sets his field against Dhoni. Deep square leg in place. It is an obvious trap. The ball is short and climbing into Dhoni’s ribcage. He takes a dab at it and puts it straight down the trap, where Imad completes a fine diving effort.
Hasan starts the generator and opens his arms in trademark celebrations. He is already the highest wicket taker in the tournament, but this moment is more important to him. He has come, he has planned and he has conquered the Indians.
In the space of four balls, both Yuvraj and Dhoni are parcelled back to the pavilion. India are 54/5, with the top five back in the hut. That’s game, set and match for Pakistan.
Hardik Pandya later launches himself into Shadab, but it is too late. A lot of the Indian crowd is leaving the stadium and the writing is on the scorecard.
India are eventually bundled out for 158 runs. Pakistan win the match by 180 runs and are crowned as the champions. They received white jackets that are two sizes bigger, perhaps tailored better to fit the English team.
Sarfraz and his boys celebrate.
The entire team goes down in prostration.
The streets of London turn into Lahore. And celebrating fans surround Sarfraz’s house in Karachi. Television sets break across India, and Rishi Kapoor’s twitter account is painted with green graffiti.
Almost every Pakistani player who comes for an interview starts by first thanking Allah. It is as if Pakistan believes that they play with supernatural support from a superior being. As if they have a team of twelve instead of eleven on the field.
Pakistan’s performance is paranormal, it is pure magic and it is almost unfair.
Britain Cricket - Pakistan v India - 2017 ICC Champions Trophy Final - The Oval - June 18, 2017 Pakistan celebrate winning the ICC Champions Trophy Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I finally received my visa to visit Pakistan. As an Indian-American, it was not an easy process.
That I was born in Hyderabad – Deccan, not Sindh – made India home, but rendered Pakistan almost impenetrable. My first application was scoffed at by the embassy in Cambodia where I initially applied.
But still I persisted, finally succeeding through the help of a college roommate, another Hyderabadi-American, who connected me with an official at a Pakistani Consulate in the US.
It always surprised me that nearly everyone I know has visited either India or Pakistan, never both. That these two nations are born out of the same cloth; out of a shared cultural and linguistic tapestry that stretches back millennia, has been unfortunately obscured by the politics of a few decades.
During Partition, my entire family, as far as I knew, decided to stay in the relative security of Muslim-majority Hyderabad in southern India. Amidst a slightly different situation, I could just as easily have been born in Pakistan. I was, of course, as proud an Indian as any, but that never hampered my curiosity for my fraternal nation.
We’re all scurrying to work in the United States, or vacation in Europe, when there is so much we can learn from our next-door neighbours.
I couldn’t remember the last time I was so excited to go somewhere new. I had already visited some 40-odd countries, attempting with each to broaden my understanding of the world. But there was something especially evocative about Pakistan.
As a South Asian Muslim, it was the indignation of a birth right interminably delayed due to political complications. After all, Pakistan was created in the spirit of inviting and protecting the rights of Muslims.
As a proud speaker of the language, I was also excited at revelling in Urdu in all its glory in Pakistan. The Devanagari script used to render Hindi is, of course, just as beautiful to my eyes. But I yearned to immerse myself in the elegant curves of Nastaliq outside of the select Muslim-majority neighbourhoods where it’s prevalent in India.
Of course, this was not the first instance I seriously considered visiting Pakistan. I flirted with the idea every time I was in India. Yet, I always let myself be dissuaded by a well-meaning family friend or another advising it was ‘too complicated a process, or worse ‘too risky.’
I wasn’t going to be stopped this time.
This time, passport and visa finally in hand, I boarded a train to Amritsar, on the other side of the Wagah border from Lahore.
I arrived at Amritsar Junction around 9am, exhausted from the modicum of sleep I could muster amidst the overnight frenzy of a train station. Still, I was eager to head as early as possible to the Wagah border to solve any issues I was worried might arise. I hailed a cab and sat in eager anticipation during the 45-minute drive.
As we pulled into the Attari Integrated Check Post, my passport and visas were verified. The taxi driver’s license was held before we were allowed to enter. I had meticulously prepared backup documents: duplicates of invitation letters, passport copies, photos; anything I could think of, the absence of which might justify rejecting my crossing.
I held my breath at each step, worried that a wrong answer or a misstep would get me denied entry or detained. Although the security was thorough, every single person I spoke with was courteous and professional, on both sides.
I was joined by a few working-class Indians: some Kashmiris, and a few Sikh pilgrims visiting temples in the Pakistani Punjab. Cleared through Indian security and customs, we boarded the bus to head to the famous Baab-e-Azadi.
I’d seen it before, ten years prior in my first trip to India from the States. I had come to Wagah to witness the daily military parade. Like every other visitor in attendance, I had no visa to cross then. The border seemed impassable then.
But on this day, Quaid-e-Azam’s portrait and the qaumi parcham welcomed me. It was an almost spiritual experience as I took my first steps into Pakistan. It was hard to believe. I would be the first in my family to ever visit Pakistan; a nation close to my heart as a South Asian Muslim, a nation separated from me as an Indian-American.
I would be joining the unfortunately small ranks of individuals who have recently experienced both India and Pakistan, communities cleaved apart after Partition that had lived peaceably together for centuries. I was about to see through my own eyes how Pakistan compared to its international perception and perhaps more intriguing, with its sibling rival, India.
My friend’s father was the first familiar face to greet me on the Pakistani side. The hour-long drive to Shahdhara, Lahore kicked off an unforgettable week.
Watching the Mughal-era Baadshahi Masjid rise up in the horizon as we drove into the city was a majestic experience, perhaps rivalled only by joining the jamaat inside the following Friday.
I marvelled at the Lahore Metrobus, riding it routinely as I shopped for shawls at Anarkali Bazaar or kurtas from Junaid Jamshed.
I was even fortunate enough to participate in a Punjabi wedding, enjoying the most tender and flavourful mutton across any of my travels.
As memorable as my time in Lahore was, I had just uncovered a much more profound revelation. While there, I received an unexpected phone call from my mother in the States. The excited tone in her voice indicated something was up.
I had, in preparation for my trip, requested her and my dad to ask around on the off chance we might have any distant relatives who had migrated to Pakistan. Most inquiries had led to nowhere. It seemed like all of my living relatives stayed in India, or otherwise opted for the Gulf or North America.
However, on the phone this time, my mother informed me of recently receiving an invitation to a wedding in Chicago from a distant uncle. When she told him about my trip, he suggested a cousin of his, whose number he didn’t have.
My mom perused old phone books of my late nani to find this person’s number, a distant relative of whom she had heard, but never met. With this, my mom made her first call to Pakistan. She was ecstatic to deliver me the news, that I had a relative in Karachi who was excited to meet me.
I couldn’t believe it. I had lived 29 years of my life, believing my entire family (and by extension myself) to be solely Indian. That this journey might question that monolithic ancestry, and reunite me with family separated by Partition, imbued the journey with a much deeper sense of purpose.
Originally having planned just a week for Pakistan, entirely in Lahore, I changed my schedule. I ate as much chargha and murgh chhole as I could before I boarded my flight to Karachi.
When I landed at the Jinnah International Airport, I was the first in my family to meet Moin nana, the maternal cousin of my nani.
Given the distance, it was unsurprising that we only just learned of each other’s existence. More remarkable was how deep the familiarity still ran. I recognised him immediately, the spitting image of my nani’s younger brother in Toronto.
We quickly discussed our shared family. My nani had only met his older siblings in India over half-a-century ago. It was more than enough to forge the consanguine bond that tied us together.
I learned that Moin nana was born in December of 1947 just months after Partition. His parents packed up their life, and along with their kids, left Hyderabad in 1950. Like millions of Muslims immigrants, they were eager to settle in the Dominion of Pakistan and selected Karachi as their new home.
It was evident that Hyderabad remained with many of them. A replica of the char minar, Hyderabad’s most iconic landmark, welcomed me as we drove in to Bahadurabad. I recognised it immediately as an homage to the Deccan origins of the resident’s central Karachi neighbourhood.
Khatti daal and mahi khaliya cut adorned the dining table of my nana’s house, staples of Hyderabadi cuisine from 1,500 kilometres south.
My cousin, despite never having been to Hyderabad, could pull off a dakhini accent that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow near the original char minar. He introduced me to other relatives, as well as the best biryanis, niharis, and lassis Karachi (and perhaps the world) could offer.
I met friends from college and even attended a mushaira. I was beginning to see Pakistan less as a tourist and as more of an insider.
I know I’ll return someday, and soon. I intend to bring others along – to share the most important lesson I’ve learned.
My voyage to Pakistan was originally born out of intellectual and cultural curiosity. Driven by a desire to understand the broader canvas of South Asia, I thought I was heading to a foreign country. This Indian-American didn’t realise he was actually discovering another home.
All photos by the author.
Are you an expat living in Pakistan or have you visited the country as a tourist? Share your experience with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the last few weeks, the weather in Kashmir has been a bit irritating. It rains every late afternoon after a sunny and hot morning. June 18th was no different. The sun started strong but by mid-day, lost its intensity. Clouds gathered overhead and rain was not far behind.
We left the mosque after zuhr prayers and sat outside a shop, giving our ‘analysis’ of what was about to come — the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 — between Pakistan and India, a match that brings both excitement and fear to Kashmir and Kashmiris in India.
As we discussed the possible outcomes, Nab Kak, the most senior ‘analyst’ of the locality, joined us. He is in his late 70’s, prays on a chair, and uses a walking stick. Half of his teeth are missing and the other half have eroded and are nearing decay.
Throughout his life, he has watched cricket only because of Pakistan. He remembers the famous Miandad six, and the World Cup win in 1992. Name any important moment in the history of Pakistan cricket, and he is there to tell you a story.
For generations, maybe even cutting across ideological lines, people in Kashmir have cheered for Pakistan as their panen (own) team.
On Sunday, Nab Kak looked nervous. “Be wary of Kohli”, he said, adding, “but have faith in Amir”. The boys at the shop told him Pakistan is going to win. The sale of firecrackers had already started.
Even before the tournament started, it was the Kashmiris who held hope for Pakistan’s victory. Only a people who brave bullets with stones in hand, can vouch for Pakistan to win against the likes of South Africa, England, and India. Hoping that we will prevail against the odds is in our blood. The rankings don’t matter.
As we left the shop, all of us agreed that the toss is important. So we hoped for Sarfraz to win the toss, but he lost the call. It was a disappointing start to the match.
A self-imposed curfew of sorts was established. There was no movement on the roads. Men, women, and children, were all glued to their TV sets.
My 14-year-old cousin, a crazy Pakistan fan, sat beside me, taunting her younger brother who supports India because they have MS Dhoni on their side. She thinks it is unnatural for a Kashmiri to support the Indian team.
My grandfather arrived to give us more support. He predicted a 100 by one of Pakistan’s openers.
When Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman made their way in, I began to criticise Azhar, even before he faced a delivery. I have always found him an odd man in the Pakistan ODI squad.
But then, he is a Pakistani cricketer. He had to prove his critics wrong (although I still believe he has no place in the ODI squad).
Fakhar Zaman looked sloppy at the start. The Indian bowlers were playing according to plan. But soon the plan fell apart. Fakhar went on to score a 100.
My father had an appointment with a neurologist. I didn’t want to leave. Close to 12 overs were still to be bowled and Pakistan had yet to cross the 300 mark.
Finally, we left. On the Baramulla-Kupwara highway, traffic was next to nothing. The market was deserted too.
When we were done, the Indian batsmen were already out for the chase. As I collected the medicine from the only chemist store open at that time, I heard a loud bang. “A firecracker,” somebody in the shop said.
I picked up my phone to check the score, to find Rohit Sharma making his way back to the pavilion. Amir had struck in the first over. There was jubilation all around. More firecrackers followed.
By the time we reached home, Kohli had been dropped by Azhar Ali and dismissed by Amir in the following ball. His spell seemed like poetry in motion.
With Shikhar Dhawan back in the hut, people were out on the streets. They knew it was all over for India.
Slogans followed firecrackers. Firecrackers followed slogans. There was no chasing the total now. The Pakistan pace attack bulldozed the Indian top order. They made the Indian batting look ridiculously incompetent.
In Kashmir, it was Eid a week before Eid.
Nothing could have been better for the battered and bruised people here than a humiliating defeat of India at the hands of Pakistan. A momentary celebration amid the perpetual state of mourning was probably needed to stay sane — or insane, perhaps.
The revelry on the streets was never seen before in these parts.
Shortly, the retribution followed.
Reports poured in from various places that the Indian army had beaten up people. As expected, there were clashes between stone-pelters and Indian forces in Srinagar.
Kashmiris have always had to pay a heavy price for any cause of celebration. However, this time there was no loss of life reported. For a day, there was no mourning.
The celebrations continue. For now.
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Sarfraz Ahmad made his ODI debut in 2007 at the age of 20. He had come into the side after leading the Pakistan U19 team to victory in the 2006 youth World Cup in Sri Lanka. The team’s opponents in the final of that event were India.
In 2007, Sarfraz was selected in the country’s national side during its tour of India as an understudy of Pakistan’s then regular wicketkeeper-batsman, Kamran Akmal. Sarfraz’s ODI debut was quiet. He hardly grabbed any catches and was not required to bat.
Born in Karachi into a middle-class Urdu-speaking family in 1987, Sarfraz, like most cricket enthusiasts in this city, began playing the sport in streets and alleys. From the streets, he eventually graduated to playing for various clubs.
Inspired by the exploits of Pakistan’s wicketkeeper-batsmen of the 1990s, Moin Khan and Rashid Latif, Sarfraz adopted wicket-keeping.
For some reason, Karachi has produced the most number of quality keepers. These include Wasim Bari (1967-83); Shahid Israr (1976); Taslim Arif (1979-81); Anil Dalpat (1984-95); Saleem Yousuf (1982-89); Moin Khan (1991-2002); Rashid Latif (1992-2003) and now Sarfraz Ahmad.
Many believe that cricketers from Karachi are always more innovative in their technique and thinking compared to those emerging from other parts of the country. This may be due to the way cricket is played in the narrow lanes and streets of this city. It creates an entombed and almost besieged cricketing mindset which demands innovative methods and thinking from the players.
As batsmen, they need to come up with unique strokes to navigate the limited gaps and spaces available to hit the ball in; and as bowlers and fielders, they, through tight lines and regular sledging and bantering, reinforce the entrapped feeling in the batsmen’s mind.
This mindset remains with those who manage to enter the city’s widespread club cricket scene and even when some of them rise further to play international cricket for Pakistan.
Karachi’s first batch of famous cricketers came from the same family: the Mohammad brothers – Hanif, Wazir, Mushtaq and Sadiq. Hanif had played much of his initial cricket as a child and teen in Junagadh, where he was born, in pre-Partition India.
So when he was selected for Pakistan after the country’s creation in 1947, he played with a straight bat and was the most conventional cricketer among the brothers. Same was the case with Wazir.
However, even though both Mushtaq and Sadiq were also born in Junagadh, they were much younger and started playing cricket on the streets of Karachi when the family moved from Junagadh to Pakistan. Mushtaq was arguably the first batsman to use the now-common reverse sweep. He pulled it out in a side game against the visiting Indian side in 1978. In his 2006 autobiography Inside Out, Mushtaq wrote that he had been playing the reverse sweep as a kid in Karachi.
It was also Mushtaq (as captain) who introduced the whole concept of sledging in the Pakistan team during its 1976-77 tour of Australia. In his book, he wrote that though the Australians invented sledging, he thought since Pakistani players (especially from Karachi) had grown up doing it all their lives, it was easy for them to counter Australian sledging by doing it in a more effective manner.
The most intriguing example of how street cricket in Karachi shapes many curious innovations is associated with Sadiq Mohammad, the dashing left-handed batsman who went on to become one of Pakistan’s most successful openers.
Sadiq was born right-handed but when as a kid he began to play cricket with his elder brothers on the streets, they forced him to bat left-handed by tying his right hand behind his back!
Mushtaq wrote that they did this because where they played, there were more scoring areas for a left-handed batsman and also the fact that there were not many left-handed batsmen in the city’s cricket scene at the time.
However, the cricketer who most famously reflected the curiosities that Karachi’s street cricket instills in a player was Javed Miandad (1976-96). Considered to be the best batsman Pakistan has ever produced, Miandad’s whole cricketing demeanour – sly, pragmatic, vocal, expressive, innovative, observant, distrustful and bearing a besieged mentality – brought to the world the eccentricities of Karachi’s cricket scene when foreign cricketers and media tried to understand why he was the way he was.
In his book Cutting Edge, Miandad wrote that the label of street fighter was actually given to him by the British press.
Most interesting, however, is the way Karachi’s wicket-keepers have come in and fallen out of the Pakistan team ever since Wasim Bari’s retirement in 1983. In fact, Bari is also part of these curious, fateful tales.
Bari was a regular in the Pakistan team since 1967 until he was suddenly dropped during the third Test of the 1976 series against New Zealand. He was replaced by another Karachiite, Shahid Israr. But Israr vanished as suddenly as he had appeared, and Bari reemerged.
Bari’s longest understudy was Karachi’s Taslim Arif, a much better batsman than Bari but not as clean a keeper. Bari lost his place again in 1979 and Arif finally managed to bag a place in the side. He made an immediate impact, smashing one century and two 50s. But during the 1981 series against the visiting West Indies, Arif suddenly lost all form (both as a batsman and a keeper). He was discarded and never seen again, though he did reappear after a few years as a TV commentator. Sadly, he passed away in 2008, aged just 53.
Bari returned to the side again and held on till he retired in 1983.
In 1982, when Bari became part of the ten-player rebellion against Miandad’s captaincy, Miandad brought in another Karachi wicket-keeper, Saleem Yousuf. But after his first Test, Yousuf fell ill and was replaced by Bari’s then understudy, Lahore’s Ashraf Ali.
Yousuf, briefly returned to the side after Bari’s retirement, but failed to impress.
Another Karachiite, Anil Dalpat (a Pakistani Hindu), made his way into the team in 1984. He impressed with the bat and gloves, but just a year later was discarded when, during an important ODI in Australia, he dropped a few chances off Imran Khan’s bowling. He was never heard from again.
Dalpat was briefly replaced by Ashraf Ali before Yousuf returned in 1985, but soon he was gone again, losing his place to Lahore’s Zulqarnain.
Zulqarnain made his ODI debut in 1985 and after his very first Test series in 1986 (against Sri Lanka), he was described by Imran as “the find of the series.” However, Zulqarnain fell ill after the series (jaundice) and was advised rest. Saleem Yousuf was once again called in as a stop-gap measure.
But as fate would have it, his performance with the bat (termed “gutsy” by captain Imran Khan) meant that for the next four years, he became the regular wicket-keeper for Pakistan . Zulqarnain never returned.
Yousuf’s bashful, vocal and street-smart demeanour greatly impressed two other young Karachi-based keepers, Moin Khan and Rashid Latif. They idolised him, but it was Moin who replaced Yousuf when he finally lost form in 1990 and was dropped.
From 1990 till 2004, Moin and Rashid were Pakistan’s frontline keepers. Both were as bashful and aggressive as Yousuf, but unlike Yousuf (and Moin), Latif was the most technically correct. Latif came in 1992 after Moin lost form. Then between 1993 and 2004, both kept replacing each other for various reasons.
Moin would come into form then suddenly lose it, whereas Latif always seemed to be at loggerheads with the cricket board and most of his captains. By the late 1990s, it became clear which of the two was preferred by the time’s leading fast bowlers, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younus. Akram, as captain, clearly preferred Moin; whereas Waqar, when he became skipper, ousted Moin and brought Latif back.
At one point, both the keepers were in such good form with the bat that one played purely as a batsman in the side (Moin)! Both also became captains: Latif in 1997 and then again in 2003, and Moin in 2000. Both retired in 2004, thus ending the long era of Karachi-based keepers in the Pakistan side. Until the emergence of Sarfraz.
The accidental rise of Sarfraz Ahmad
As a child and then as a teen, Sarfraz had been inspired by the likes of Moin and Latif. Like them and those before them, he was the archetypal Karachi cricketer – cheeky, vocal, innovative and yet wary.
He managed to be selected as captain in the Pakistan youth team in 2005, and in 2006 led the team to that year’s U19 World Cup win. Kamran Akmal had been the senior side’s regular keeper since 2005. In 2007, Sarfraz became his understudy.
But Sarfraz failed to make an impact whenever he was given a chance in ODIs. Finally, when Akmal lost his place in 2010, Sarfraz made his Test debut.
But also emerging during the time was Kamran’s brother, Adnan Akmal. Sarfraz wasn’t able to adjust to the rigours and pressures of the big arena and was eventually surpassed by Adnan who became the Test side’s regular keeper.
In the ODIs (and later, T20s), the team kept rotating Adnan and Sarfraz, and for a while the volatile Zulkarnain Haider and even Kamran. But by 2012, it was becoming apparent that Adnan was to be a regular in all formats of the game. Though a technically-sound keeper and a good batsman, he lacked the power-hitting abilities of his brother.
He was considered to be a notch above Sarfraz who, by 2013, had all but lost the confidence of the selectors and was almost completely discarded. Then, an accident happened.
During the first Test of the 2013-14 series against Sri Lanka, Adnan fractured a finger. Sarfraz was flown in as a stop-gap measure. He smashed a 50 in the second Test and then made a quick-fire 40-plus during Pakistan’s frantic series-equaling run chase in the third Test.
Just as illness had made Zulqarnain lose his place to a struggling Saleem Yousuf in 1986, Adnan Akmal lost it to a discarded Sarfraz due to an injury.
Sarfraz’s fighting 50 in his comeback Test against Sri Lanka in January 2014 finally cemented his place in the side.
After this, Sarfraz never looked back. He began to score big in all formats of the game but still, it wasn’t until after the 2015 World Cup that he also became a regular in Pakistan’s ODI and T20 squads. Ironically, Adnan’s batting brother, Umer Akmal, was asked to keep wickets in ODIs and T20s to make room for an additional bowler.
Nevertheless, after the 2015 World Cup, Sarfraz finally became a regular in the ODI squad and after Misbah-ul-Haq’s retirement from ODIs, was made the deputy of the ODI team’s new captain, Azhar Ali.
In 2016, Sarfraz became the ODI and T20 skipper and right away called to induct fresh talent in the side, something the team’s coach Mickey Arthur was in complete agreement with.
Sarfraz then became the vice-captain of the Test side and is now all set to become the skipper of the Test team as well.
Unlike the recently-retired Misbah who carried Pakistan to great heights during the country’s most testing years with his calm, reflective and subtle demeanour, Sarfraz is an extrovert, very vocal and animated.
Like Miandad, he loves to chat on the field and, like Shahid Afridi, he openly exhibits his emotions. But unlike Afridi, Sarfraz has a much sharper cricketing brain.
He loves to sing, recite naats and crack jokes. At age 30, he has now suddenly risen to become a well-respected character and senior in a dressing room which is now increasingly being populated by younger, hungrier players.
Last week, I went to one of the leading hospitals in Karachi to get checked for some pain in my lower back. My mother went with me to the doctor's office, but not into the examination room.
It was a tiny room where I was led, about the size of a medium walk-in closet. There were only two people in the room at this point — a female nurse and myself.
The nature of my medical concern required me to take my pants off and expose bare skin to the nurse and the doctor.
The nurse gave me a gown and prepared the site of examination. Then entered the doctor.
He took a look at my back and inquired what the problem was. I told him I was experiencing some pain post-surgery. He proceeded with his examination i.e. applying some pressure on the point of concern, waiting for my response.
I let him know where it hurt and where it didn’t, and just when all necessary examination was done, out of nowhere— there came a smack on my butt.
I tried to phrase that elegantly, but it really was just that. A slap on my posterior, completely catching me off-guard.
The icing on the cake: he followed it up by smugly saying “ab naheen hoga” (you won’t feel the pain now).
This spatial interval on your screen mimics my mental situation at the time. I went blank, speechless — all sensibility flew out of the room with the doctor as he left right after casually smacking my butt.
I pulled up my pants and my eyes fell on the only other occupant of the room — the nurse. She looked down, avoiding my gaze, and in her silence I could feel her saying “I am sorry, but I am helpless.”
I walked out of the tiny room and into the doctor’s office, where my mother was sitting, waiting to read my expression, trying to get a preview of what the doctor was going to say, completely unaware of what had ensued behind closed doors.
“Honestly, there’s nothing wrong. You’re fine”, he said to me, without batting an eyelash. I avoided eye contact, trying to absorb what had just happened.
My mother spoke concerned, “Are you sure? So what about the pain she’s feeling?” He replied nonchalantly: “You see, I don’t want to say I can give you something for it, because that means I’m making you think there’s a cure for it. Just get it out of your head and you’ll be fine”.
After leaving the hospital and all through the drive back home, I kept replaying in my head those three minutes inside the narrow confines of the examination room, restarting the mental movie with the sound of a slap. Apparently my face looked washed-out as my mother asked me why I was so quiet and ‘off’.
In-depth: Pakistan: No country for women
It was then that I decided to bury it deep into the recesses of my mind. I started to shrug the memory off of me as if I were brushing a bug off my shoulder. I longed to take a shower as I felt absolutely disgusted.
The word came nowhere close to encapsulating my feelings in the aftermath of such an agonising encounter.
I tried hard and failed to justify one scenario where that action by that man on my body was okay. My intellect and intuition strained to come up with a single justification for that man to have touched me in that way.
Maybe it was informal? Maybe he thought I was a little girl and it came as a joke? Maybe that’s just his way of expression?
Be that as it may, in no way, under any circumstance, will it ever be okay for a doctor to touch their patient the way he did. Neither was it in any way necessary for the purpose of medical examination, nor was it warranted in any other situation.
Also read: The hell of harassment
A smack on the butt is not the same as a whack on the shoulder or on the arm. It is not a casual or even remotely acceptable gesture for a doctor to make toward a patient; more so, a male doctor toward a female patient.
The act of smacking the butt is inarguably sexual. I say this for any of you who may be wondering why I am turning it into such a 'big deal'.
Let me put it this way: a highly-esteemed surgeon, sitting at one of Karachi’s top-notch hospitals, smacked a female patient’s butt while examining her. Now, does that make you uncomfortable?
I wasn’t going to write anything about this, but I was convinced otherwise by the sensible minds around me.
Should I have gone back to the hospital afterward? What are the odds my complaint would not have fallen on deaf ears?
Should I have gone to him? What could I have said if he denied that it ever happened? What if it was something so trivial and common for him that he wouldn’t even remember it? Who knows.
The question I asked myself then, and I ask still, while writing this is — what do I want out of this? Do I want an apology? No. Do I want some compensation? No.
What I want is for any person who has been through any form of sexual harassment to stop re-imagining and reconstructing a scenario of when it is acceptable for the perpetrator to act the way they did.
Stop trying to look for excuses to justify their actions. Do not try to reposition yourself as an instigator of harassment. Staying quiet must never be the course of action for being treated inappropriately.
I took to the media because even if one person reads this, and feels a little bit more comfortable in owning their story — it is worth the effort to translate my thoughts into words.
I didn’t want to be that girl who complains about ‘minor issues’ but the fact that we might consider this a ‘minor issue’ is an issue. A serious issue.
More on the topic: I was a victim of verbal sexual harassment at work and blamed myself for it
The hospital and the clinic is one place where stripping down bare does not mean you are willfully naked, and surely does not give license for anyone to take undue advantage of your vulnerability. It is the responsibility of the doctor and their management to make sure you are comfortable in these situations.
I don’t want to delve into conjecture about what this doctor could have possibly done with other patients (conscious or unconscious) or how he may have treated his female subordinates, because maybe he never did something like this before. But the point is, he did it to me.
Sexual harassment is not limited to a culture, a society or a race — it is a condition of the human self. The pain in my back might be, but sexual harassment is not ‘just in my head’ — or yours.
If you are facing sexual harassment and would like to file a complaint, please follow the government's guidelines here and here. You can also reach out to NGO helplines. If you wish to share your story at Dawn, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog was first published in July, 2016.
Last summer during Ramazan, I shared the Shan Masala Eid commercial like Pakistanis all over the world. The ad showed two brothers spending the occasion away from home. For the purposes of the advert, a simple plate of Sindhi biryani was the balm to their feeling of homesickness.
This year, I found myself in the characters’ shoes.
Away from Pakistan for my graduate studies in Honolulu, Hawaii, I was scrolling through Facebook when I found the usual Eid-related posts flooding my timeline.
Unending stories about tailors and broken promises, event pages for chand raat meet-ups, and the perpetual confusion on whether the next day would be Eid or another Roza (followed promptly by jokes at the Ruet-i-Hilal committee’s expense).
Soon enough, WhatsApp groups were abuzz with ‘Chand Mubarak’ wishes. While my friends in Karachi made plans to grab chai on the eve before Eid, I was literally stuck on an island. Sitting alone in my dorm room, I couldn’t help but feel blue — I missed home, my friends and my family.
I found myself thinking back to the Shan commercial. But while the ad’s protagonist and I were experiencing similar homesickness, we were quite dissimilar. He was a Muslim man from Pakistan; I am Pakistani Hindu woman.
What business do I have missing Eid?
Growing up as a Hindu in an Islamic republic is full of contradictions. My mother is often hesitant and wary of my Muslim friends. A bit strange, considering she is more than happy if I invite them to our home.
Perhaps this perplexing attitude is passed down through generations. As a young girl I loved listening to my grandfather’s partition stories. He would tell us incidents where Muslims went door-to-door killing any Hindu in sight (I’m sure Muslims grow up with similar stories of cold-blooded Hindus).
But then, he would also talk about his Muslim neighbours. The ones who protected our family, who made a human chain around our house when the riots broke out.
The obvious takeaway here was that good and bad people exist everywhere. But my grandfather’s stories carried an underlying warning: you can get close to Muslims, but remember that you are not one of them (and they know it too).
Following this tradition of mixed messages, every Ramazan, many Hindus living in Pakistan fast. My mother herself happily sets an alarm to wake my sister up for sehri. She prepares an elaborate sehri, and reminiscent of the Thadri festival — where Hindus fast — her fried lolis make an appearance at the table.
No one else in my house wakes up with them, but we make it a point to join in for Iftar, and jokingly try to convince my sister that eating five minutes before the azaan is acceptable.
And then comes Eid. At least in Pakistan, Eid and Diwali have much in common. Both are marked by an abundance of mithai. It is customary to wear new clothes if one can afford them, and like Eidi on Eid, it is traditional to give presents on Diwali too. Every year, my family welcomes our friends over for Diwali, and come Eid, we visit our Muslim friends’ houses.
Yet, each time a story breaks of another Hindu girl being kidnapped and forcefully converted, my interactions with male Muslim friends start causing my mother distress. “Be careful around Muslim boys,” she warns me. It is frustrating, but I can see where she is coming from.
When I heard news of the Hindu reporter in Karachi who was forced to drink from a separate glass, my blood boiled. Sitting thousands of miles away, I was instantly transported back to my childhood when something similar happened to me (and I am sure, many religious minorities like me): a classmate had refused to share utensils with me because I was Hindu.
Children’s acts are a reflection of what they are taught at home. Many years later, seeing this news was a bitter reminder that even among supposedly educated, well-knowing adults, prejudice is alive and well.
The white in the flag
I have long known that despite having the same nationality, my Muslim friends back home and I are different in many ways.
During Pakistan Studies classes in school, teachers would make irresponsible claims about how Hindus were single-handedly responsible for the loss of Muslim lives. Reduced to a ‘cow-worshipper’ during the lectures, I would suddenly be othered, excluded, bullied.
Read next: Where should a Pakistani Hindu go?
As I grew up, my ‘otherness’ interestingly became exotic. The same identity I had been bullied over now became my ticket to being a ‘cool kid’— since I had access to all the firecrackers (thank you, Diwali), and invitations to holi parties.
As we grew up underneath the layers of systemically taught hate, my Muslim friends and I began to find common ground, and developed a better understanding of each other. I would sneak them into our temples so they could get a glimpse of my world, and accompany them to Mughal era mosques to get a sense of theirs.
I still come across a simpleton or two who wants me to prove my Pakistani-ness. Every time Pakistan plays a cricket match against India, there is always that one guy who wants to know, “How come you’re not supporting the Indian team instead?”
Thankfully, more often than not, my friends take over the task of shutting such bigotry down.
I keep thinking back to my family enjoying their long Eid break in Pakistan. We are a huge family, and most of my cousins are older, working people. On Diwali (a working day for most Pakistani Hindus until recently) we are usually only able to manage a dinner, however, the longer Eid holidays are quality family time for us.
During Eid, we get together at a farmhouse or the beach. We laze around playing cards, barbecuing, and catching up on gossip. Eid mornings mean waking up to seviyan and other breakfast treats, with my uncles over, watching the news and discussing the current state of affairs in Karachi.
Away from home, I find myself missing it all. Whether it is the memory of spending time with my family by the waves; or the calming sound of the azaan; or Eid plans with my friends to get mehendi.
Home, after all, is home, no matter how dysfunctional.
And so, on the first day of Eid in Hawaii, not unlike the characters in the Shan Masala advert, I picked up a packet of seviyan from a desi store here. I looked up the recipe online, managing to burn half the packet, and cursed myself for never waking up early with my mother to help out.
But my friends came over and made custard and fruit salad. I ended up spending the day recreating what Eid has always been about for me back home in Pakistan: good company, laughter, and a satisfied stomach. It was heartening watching my American friends try seviyan for the first time, while assuring them that the delicacy is indeed supposed to look semi-charred.
On the first day of Eid in Hawaii, I picked up a packet of seviyan from a desi store in Honolulu. — Illustration/Dawn.com
There was no Eid or chaand raat for us in Parachinar this year. Across the country, as people were getting ready for a happy Eid, so many of us here were buying shrouds to bury our loved ones, candles and incense to place on their graves.
As I was penning my sentiments, I could see on TV the scenes of jubilation as the Shawwal moon was sighted. My cellphone was ringing with messages of Eid Mubarak.
I felt disappointed, frustrated and hurt. My heart burnt in anguish thinking of the lives lost, children made orphans and wives made widows after the merciless attack in my hometown that killed more than 70 and injured hundreds more.
I feel like a stranger in my own country. The apathy of my fellow Pakistanis and the media hurts me more than the actual bombings. It is incomprehensible as to why a day of mourning was not declared in the country and why the national flag was not flown at half-mast.
The silence and negligence of our leaders in face of our tragedy is of criminal proportions.
I want to know as to why I am being treated as practically a non-citizen of this country. Where is the hue and cry in the media over the mass killing of people of my area?
I want to know why has there been no high-level meeting to urgently discuss what happened in Parachinar. Why didn’t any politician, high official or anyone of note attend the funerals?
TV channels across the board were broadcasting Eid-related shows; how many minutes were dedicated to the families who had gathered outside the offices of the Political Agent demanding justice, attention and words of sympathy?
I feel dejected and even though I would like to think that I am wrong, I cannot help but wonder if we are being ignored simply due to our sect, our ethnicity and the area to which we belong.
People had to transport dead bodies and the injured in handcarts because we don’t have enough ambulances. Many of the injured would have been saved had we had adequate emergency facilities.
The indifference of the federal government is there for all to see; the state of neglect only becomes more apparent when incidents like these take place. Even small towns like Sahiwal and Gujranwala have the basic amenities that Parachinar desperately lacks.
Why did the prime minister not cut short his holiday in London and come straight here after the mayhem?
Homes that were full of life and light not long ago have turned into places of mourning. I met a distraught sister: “My beloved brother, I had just stitched new clothes so that you look like a groom on Eid.” I saw an inconsolable mother at the grave of her 12 year-old child: “O my son, sleep well, your mother will remember your wounds till the last breath of her life.”
Heartbroken at what was happening around me, I went to see my mother. She was down on her knees, head bowed, thinking about her brother whose body was blown to a million pieces in a similar attack previously. My mother’s brother is now joined by her cousin Kamil Hussain who lost his life last week. Kamil was killed in the second explosion; he had rushed to the site to help after the first blast went off.
“My God! Where should I go?” asked my wife. Her father was shot to death on his way home from an Imam Bargah a few years ago. “All I see around me is either the mutilated bodies of the victims, or Pakistanis celebrating Eid in the rest of the country.”
The prime minister visited Bahawalpur and announced compensation for the fire victims there, but we are hurt that he has so far ignored Parachinar. A visit here would have sent a strong message to terrorists; silence is not the way to fight terrorism.
As the rest of the country ignores us, we are trying our best to help ourselves and survive on our own. Maybe our wounds will heal and tears will dry out, but the silence and the indifference to our ordeal will never be forgotten.
Are you part of the protest or helping the victims' families in Parachinar? Tell us about it at email@example.com
Smoke rises from the site of the explosion in Parachinar on Friday. ─ DawnNews
The ball that left Mohammad Amir's hand on July 15, 2016 had poetic justice etched all over it. It was released with the aggression he was once formidably famous for, only this time it was woven deeper into the threads of the seam like a cry for redemption.
The ball ingeniously betrayed Alastair Cook's bat, kissing it softly on the edge before clipping the bails off. It wanted to be noticed, to be feared, to be revered - again. Lords watched in wonder as Amir claimed his first Test wicket in six years at the same ground his career almost died a fateful death.
In the span of those six years, every fan hoped and prayed that whenever Amir returns, he must not have changed. We wanted the same 18-year-old with his contagious energy.
We wanted him to jump, yell, and smile with the same unrestrained passion. We wanted his long black hair that swung in rhythm as he ran. We wanted the same pace, the same swing.
We wanted the same old Amir back, but our wish was not granted. What we got instead was an older, wiser, better Amir.
His first international series after his return was underwhelming. Pakistan were in New Zealand and Amir was in the squad, much to the displeasure of some teammates. He kept a straight head and focused on the ball, even when two of his catches were put down in the first T20.
The pace was there, we could all see it, but something else was not. That is not to say that he didn't show promise; it was evident in his contained aggression and on-field morale that he wanted to go big. The crowd occasionally booed but he didn't care for them. He was there to get a wicket.
Amir finished the T20 series with one wicket and a myriad of expectations. He yearned for esteem, respect, redemption, and he knew he would have to wait.
In the following ODIs against New Zealand, Amir bagged five wickets in two games, with an average economy of 3.87. What followed next, however, was a beautiful culmination of six years worth of patience and faith.
Asia Cup 2016: the first ball of the first over of Pakistan's first game. The opponents were India and the setting was Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, Dhaka. Pakistan had 84 runs to defend and Rohit Sharma was on strike.
An exuberant Amir ran in with the new ball, bowling a loaded yorker that Sharma almost edged coming down on his front foot.
There were screams. Keeper, first slip, second slip, bowler all appealed in assertive harmony for an LBW. The umpire didn't budge.
A baffled Afridi exchanged looks with his boys; Amir could not believe his fate. Sharma survived, but Amir knew it was only a matter of time.
How short a time? Six seconds.
The very next ball swung straight onto Sharma's pad, escaping inside edge and flying towards middle stump. Amir appealed with double the force and Sharma was on his way.
There are moments like these with Amir, when he just knows. He appeals like he knows your darkest secrets and where they're hidden.
He doesn't forget scores unsettled.
Amir finished with 3-18.
Asia Cup 2016 was his resurgence onto the international stage, and the world held its breath as Amir prepared for England.
Fast forward to Champions Trophy 2017. Much was similar to the Asia Cup spectacle. The opponents were India and the setting was Kennington Oval, London. Pakistan had 338 runs to defend and Rohit Sharma was on strike.
The third ball of the first over came crashing onto the pad like last year's replay. The umpire raised a finger and in that instant, India knew Amir had arrived. Both hands in the air, he roared with every muscle in his body.
One over later, he bowled a blinder to Kohli who nicked it without due consideration to slip. As fate would have it, the ball was put down by Azhar Ali. Had we given the most dangerous batsman in the world a second life? Amir knew better than to let this setback get in his way; he had written a similar script before.
The next ball deceived Kohli into attempting a flick towards on-side, but he edged it straight to the fielder at point who carried it comfortably.
I like to believe that before his ban, Amir bowled like any insanely talented young pacer would. His ambition was limited to securing more wickets, setting more records, winning more matches. Since his comeback, he has shown signs of greater aggression.
Back then, he bowled to win; today he bowls to win something back.
The Pakistan cricket team is fondly known as Shaheen (falcons), though Mohammad Amir, I believe, must not be counted as one. He is Pakistan's phoenix, for he resurges from his ashes and continues flight.
For every catch dropped, for every appeal denied, for every wound sustained and for every disgrace suffered - Mohammad Amir rises again. He lives through and keeps flying, undaunted.
Lastly, to everyone who opposed his right to a second chance - has his return not been worth it?
The US Supreme Court recently reinstated parts of President Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. These include Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Iran, Syria, Yemen, and Sudan.
Whereas the situation in countries such as Somalia and Libya has become almost entirely anarchic; Syria, Iraq, and Yemen are in grip of complex wars and insurgencies.
Iran has been severely antagonistic towards the US (and vice versa) ever since the 1979 Revolution there, even though till only recently some major breakthroughs were achieved to stall the always-degenerating relations between the US and Iran by former US President Barack Obama.
So what is Sudan doing on the list? From the 1990s onward it has been declared a pariah state by the US (for ‘supporting terrorism against the US’). The common perception of this country is that of a chaotic land ravaged by crazy dictators nurturing crazier ‘Islamic terrorists.’
Indeed a lot of this was largely true, but Sudan is nothing like what has become of countries such as Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Iraq. As the regional editor of The Economist and author Richard Crockett mentions in his breezy 2010 study of Sudan, Sudan: The Failure & Division of An African State, in the early and mid-2000s, Sudan’s economy was one of the most robust in Africa, exhibiting a growth of almost nine percent. Since the early 2000s, Sudan became Africa’s biggest economy.
The economic growth was almost entirely due to Sudan striking oil in 1999. But then, its government had had a falling out with the US and most European countries and severe economic sanctions were imposed on it. China then stepped in and became the biggest consumer of Sudanese oil and also a major investor in Sudan’s economy.
Crockett mentions that the booming economy saw the emergence of a wealthy upper class and a prosperous urban middle class in Sudan; shopping malls, cinemas and stylishly built office and residential complexes became common in the country’s capital, Khartoum. What’s more, Crockett also suggests that at one point Khartoum was preparing itself to become to Africa what Dubai is to Asia! A powerful economic hub.
Though the economy began to somewhat buckle after the dramatic fall in international oil prices, Sudan remains to be one of Africa’s biggest economies – even bigger than its more prominent Muslim-majority neighbour, Egypt.
Crockett, who has visited Sudan on a number of occasions, mentions that no Europeans and Americans can be found in Sudan. But there are a large number of Chinese who remain to be the country’s biggest economic and trading partners and investors.
Crockett also informs that due to sanctions, European and US currencies are not available in Sudan and major credit card companies do not operate here. All business is done on cash – Sudanese, Chinese, and UAE.
Though Sudan did not plunge into anarchy like Syria, Somalia, Yemen or Iraq, its history of the past 60 years or so is one of the most vivid reflections of how during the Cold War (1949-89), major international powers manoeuvered regimes in various Muslim-majority countries for various economic and strategic gains.
They bolstered those regimes and then turned against them once certain ideological and geopolitical experiments which they had supported began to backfire and became ‘Frankenstein’ in nature.
A look at the rise and fall of perhaps Sudan’s most enigmatic leader, Gafaar Nimeiry, can clearly unfold the complex and highly mutable ideological and geopolitical intricacies which eventually led to the anarchic destruction of so many Muslim countries after the Cold War.
Independence and turmoil
Sudan won independence from the British in 1956. At the time, the country’s two main political parties were the conservative and quasi-Islamic Ummah Party (UP) and the secular Arab nationalist, National Unionist Party (NUP). The NUP advocated a union with Egypt. Sudan also had a large communist party, the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP).
Sudan emerged as a democracy, but intense power games in the parliament and a struggling economy gave the Sudanese army the peg to intervene and impose the country’s first military regime in 1958. The coup was pulled off by officers affiliated with right-wing quasi-Islamic groups, the Ansar and the Khatimiyya (a Sufi order in Sudan).
But the political situation and the economy continued to deteriorate, especially when unrest grew in the Christian-majority southern region of the country (South Sudan) against the Muslim-majority (the ruling elite) in the north.
Though Sudan as a whole was economically weak, the south was its most poverty-stricken region. The military regime reacted by expelling all Christen missionary and charity groups in the south, further compounding the problem.
No major power showed much interest in the affairs of Sudan.
In the north, the communist party led popular protests against the military regime which, in 1964, was finally ousted. Parliamentary democracy was restored.
Enter Nimeiry: The socialist
Though after the fall of the military regime in 1964, democracy returned, Sudan had to go through multiple elections when the voting continuously failed to give any party a majority. Weak coalition governments came and went as the economy continued to slide and resentment in the south grew even further. Sudan stood as an ignored, poor post-colonial African state, on the brink of an economic collapse and civil war. A failed democracy.
In May 1969, a group in the Sudanese military, operating secretly as the Free Officers Movement and led by the 38-year-old colonel, Gafaar Nimeiry, toppled the weak civilian government and declared Sudan’s second Martial Law.
Nimeiry was a great admirer of the charismatic Egyptian nationalist leader, Gamal Abul Nasser. Nasser immediately recognised the new Sudanese regime and this also attracted the interest of the Soviet Union which was aiding Nasser since the 1950s.
This way Nimeiry pulled Sudan into the Cold War. When the Soviets and Egypt began to dish out economic and military aid to Sudan, the US and its allies became concerned about ‘the spread of communism in Africa.’
Nimeiry had used pro-communist factions in the military to launch his coup. He was also helped by the strong labour, trade and student unions controlled by the Sudanese Communist Party.
With Egyptian and Soviet aid, as well as help from the newly installed radical regime of Colonel Qaddafi in Libya, Nimeiry began to implement ‘socialist’ economic policies, nationalising whatever little industry Sudan had. He also struck a peace treaty with the leaders in the restive Christian-majority south.
In 1970, the Ansar rose up against the regime’s ‘secular’ and ‘communist’ policies and launched a militant movement in its stronghold, the Aba Island. The Ansar were supported by the Sudanese faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, a largely Egyptian organisation which was brutally suppressed by Nasser. The Ansar and the Brotherhood were being financed by Saudi Arabia.
The Sudanese military, supported by Egyptian air force, crushed the uprising, bombing the Ansar’s headquarters and vanquishing the party. In 1971, after banning all political parties, Nimeiry formed the Sudan Socialist Union (SSU), turning the country into a single-party ‘socialist’ state. He also began ousting the more radical communists from the government, accusing them of ‘blackmail.’
The communist party activated its supporters in the military and attempted to topple the Nimeiry regime in a coup. But the coup failed and the communist party was driven underground through arrests, executions and exile. It could never revive itself again.
Nimeiry: The liberal
After crushing the Ansar and then the communists, Nimeiry’s ideology began to shift to the centre. He broke away from the Soviet Union (who he accused of facilitating the aborted 1971 communist coup against him). As a consequence, he was immediately approached by the US and oil-rich Arab monarchies.
In 1972 Nimeiry began to reverse his regime’s earlier ‘socialist’ policies by introducing economic liberalism and a nominal return to democracy. The US responded by beginning to shower financial aid on Sudan worth millions of dollars.
Nimeiry also managed to bring peace in the south where he constructed schools, hospitals, roads and bridges. Through a new constitution his government recognised the South’s Christian majority and it became an officially-recognised faith in Sudan along with Islam.
Economic and social liberalism was successful in heralding an unprecedented era of political peace and economic development in Sudan. But by 1975 it became clear that all was not quite well.
Economic growth largely failed to trickle down and the radical Islamic groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, vehemently criticised the regime for its lopsided economic policies, its social liberalism and for becoming an unquestioning ally of the United States.
As often happens in developing countries, a centralised and authoritarian government’s policies expand the social and economic influence of the middle-classes which, in turn, begin to ask for greater political power. The same happened in Sudan as well.
Since the communist party now stood crushed, young Sudanese, especially from the expanding middle-classes, and the intelligentsia, began to drift towards Islamic groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which seemed more ‘modern’ and ‘revolutionary’ than the more traditional Ansar.
In July 1976, Nimeiry faced a serious coup attempt orchestrated by officers sympathetic to the Ansar. Nimeiry responded by ordering severe crackdown on Islamic groups, killing over 400 members of the Ansar.
Nimeiry: The ‘Islamist’
In 1977 Nimeiry moved to reach reconciliation with the Islamic groups. He agreed to release hundreds of political prisoners and allow the return of opposition groups into mainstream politics, even though Sudan remained a one-party state.
In 1979, Nimeiry also recalled the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood’s main ideologue, Hasan al-Turabi, from exile and made him the Justice Minister. The regime however remained close to the US.
Turabi began to exercise greater influence over Niamey, who donned off his ‘western clothes’ and began to wear traditional Sudanese dress and turban. Corruption became rampant in state and government institutions and even though the US continued to dish out millions of dollars in financial aid, much of this aid landed in the pockets of crooked government and military officials and bureaucrats.
In 1983, as the economy began to decline, creating food shortages and widespread unemployment, protests erupted on the streets. As a reaction and on the advice of Turabi and the growing numbers of Muslim Brotherhood members in the regime, Nimeiry introduced strict ‘Shariah’ laws.
Amputation of limbs for supposed thieves was introduced and such punishments, including floggings and hangings, were televised live on state television. Sale of alcohol was banned and Crockett wrote that in one such exhibition, Nimeiry, who had been a heavy drinker all his life, appeared at an anti-alcohol rally to smash beer bottles against a wall!
The amputations, the floggings and the executions which was all televised live worried Sudan’s allies in the US and Europe. But the aid continued to come in and US President Ronald Reagan actually praised Nimeiry for keeping communism at bay in the region.
In 1985, the economy almost completely collapsed and a severe drought killed thousands of poor Sudanese in the rural areas. The civil war reappeared after the region’s Christian majority saw the introduction of ‘Islamic laws’ as a negation of what the South was promised in the 1970s.
Nimeiry refused to allow aid agencies to distribute food in drought-struck areas. In one meeting he shouted at an official who was requesting him to allow food trucks to reach the victims of the drought. He told him “No! They (the aid organisations) are undermining my revolution!”
In 1985, as protests against the regime grew and became violent, Nimeiry flew out to the US for a meeting with his main supporter, President Reagan. But when he was in the US, General Abdel Salam Swar toppled the regime and imposed the country’s third Martial Law. Sadiq Al-Siddiq of the Ummah Party became Prime Minister.
A series of democratic governments (mostly uneasy and weak coalitions) tried to reverse Nimeiry’s extreme policies and convince the International Monetary Fund to bail Sudan out of its deepening economic quagmire.
In 1989, General Ahmad Bashir toppled the civilian regime in a military coup. Bashir revived the harsh laws imposed by the Nimeiry regime (in the name of Shariah) and went to war against the South.
Under him, Sudan became a pariah state and a hotbed and refuge for radical Islamists. It is believed that by the late 1990s, the situation of the country was such that had oil not been discovered here and the Chinese not stepped in to become main consumers of this oil, Sudan would have descended into complete anarchy just as Somalia had done in the early 1990s.
But with the dramatic fall of international oil prices, old wounds in Sudan opened up again and protests and the civil war in the South became even more intense. In 2010, Bashir was forced to soften his stance against the South and in 2011, the South became an independent country, South Sudan.
Sudan is still on the US list of ‘terrorist states’ and hate crimes against minorities and suspected ‘anti-Islam elements’ are common here. However, China’s large economic involvement in the country has made Bashir try to cultivate a more ‘moderate’ image of himself and his regime.
I graduated from an Indian high school in Dubai, and I was one of the two Pakistani students in the whole school. The other student was a boy and we barely interacted since our school was segregated.
Throughout high school, I was very Pakistani. I got teased when Pakistan lost a cricket match to India and students used to ask me questions about anything and everything related to Pakistan.
But when I started my bachelor’s programme in a very popular university in Dubai, I was suddenly in the midst of many Pakistani students. I was excited, but only until orientation. A couple of those students asked me where in Pakistan was I from, and none of them knew Parachinar. Suddenly, I wasn't so Pakistani anymore.
Throughout my university days, I hid the fact that I was from Parachinar. I was young, naive, and wanted to be part of the Pakistani student circle. But I was too different to fit. My Urdu had an accent, I came from a place no one knew about, I grew up in Dubai where most of the Pakistani students hadn’t lived for long, and I didn’t look like the rest.
Nowadays though, I never hide that I am from Parachinar – and proud of it. Over the years, I have realised that those Pakistani students should have been embarrassed that they didn’t know enough about their own country.
Related: Parachinar pains
At the same time, I often wonder if it was the students’ fault for being so ignorant or was the Pakistani media to blame as well.
The media only talks about Parachinar when tragedy strikes. The rest of the country finds out about it through the hourly news, cast in the middle of other important news. Or when it's Eid, an attack like the one on June 23rd, is almost entirely ignored in favour of Eid shows.
Till date, I have not heard one positive story from Parachinar, Kurram Agency. Before you say, “well there isn’t”, let me tell you about the most obvious one. While so many parts of FATA were under Taliban control for the longest time, Parachinar was not.
Can you fathom how difficult life is when surrounded by the Taliban? In case you didn’t know, the Taliban did try to take over Kurram Agency, but our brave tribal force put up a valiant fight and defeated them.
Was there a sitara for them in recognition and celebration of their struggle? Don’t we deserve the rest of the country to be proud of us?
For decades, we have been ignored by Pakistanis. The rest of Pakistan must think Parachinar is a hellhole. Yes, it’s not perfect but the rest of the country isn’t either.
When the world thinks that Pakistan is just a war zone stuck in medieval times, you get angry. Yet, you think the same of many places in your own country, including FATA and Parachinar.
When there is some terrible incident in a major city in Pakistan, and the rest of the world ignores it, you get angry. Yet, you ignore Parachinar’s pain.
When you go to a Western country and face racism, you complain. Yet, your attitude is no different toward your own countrymen who come to make a living in your big cities from regions you have never heard of.
You are tired of seeing the rest of the world stereotype Pakistanis in their movies and news. Yet, the representation of Pashtuns in your own media is just as deplorable.
You complain that the rest of the world ignores Pakistani artists, philanthropists, scholars, intellectuals, sportsmen, musicians and so many more. But I can raise that same complaint against you.
Do you know what it feels to be treated like foreigners in one's own country? Are you ignoring us because you think we are not ‘Pakistani enough?’
I wish I knew one reason why the rest of the country ignores us. Is it because we live in an area too far away from the Pakistani mainland? Is it because Urdu is not our first language? Or is it because we are Shia? Is it because of all these reasons?
It hurt me to wake up on Eid and see the rest of Pakistan celebrating, oblivious to the plight of the people of Parachinar. There was no one to mourn with us.
Do you need proof from us to show you how patriotic we are? If you do, I can give you a personal example.
When I went to the US in 2010, I did not want to tell anyone that I was from Pakistan. Whenever asked, I would say Dubai.
My parents, who were born and raised in Parachinar, were disappointed in me for doing so. They told me to always be proud of my origins.
My mother told me my good behaviour as a Pakistani will convey a good message about the country as a whole. It can change foreigners’ opinions who might think of Pakistanis otherwise.
The people of Parachinar aren’t asking much from the rest of the country. We wanted the media to give coverage to our sit-in protests. We want you to help amplify our voice, to protest with us against a prime minister who was late in expressing his condolences, late in announcing compensation for the victims, and who still hasn’t bothered to visit the area.
Linguistic, cultural, religious, and ethnic differences should be no more than cosmetic differences at the end of the day. What we share with each other is our common humanity. I ask my fellow Pakistanis to realise that and stand with us and treat every attack on another human being as a personal injustice.
Have you been affected by terrorism in Pakistan? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
On the 22nd of June, 15-year-old Junaid Khan left his home in Khandwali, a small village in Haryana, along with his three brothers on a train bound for Delhi to do their annual Eid shopping for their family.
Somewhere between Mathura and Ballabgarh stations, while playing a game of Ludo to pass the time, Junaid and his brothers were confronted by a group of men wanting their seats, a common enough occurrence on Indian trains, and a scuffle ensued.
What should have ended with harsh words and perhaps a shove or two, quickly escalated. Within minutes, Junaid and his brothers were accused of eating beef, knives were wielded, and Junaid was brutally stabbed and murdered on the platform as a large group of people stood by and watched.
Junaid was not the first person to be lynched in India on suspicion of eating beef, and he will not be the last. In fact, only a week later, another man was beaten to death for allegedly transporting beef in his van in the state of Jharkhand.
Unfortunately, such violence is quickly becoming the norm in Modi’s ‘new India’. Since 2010, 28 people have been killed in ‘cow-related violence’ and 63 other cases of violence have been registered in total.
Also read:A train ride to India in better times
The vast majority of these incidents have taken place in states that are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party and have been targeted at Muslims and Dalits. Very often this violence is prompted by rumours, which spread like wildfire in an increasingly communally charged environment.
Junaid’s murder came as a shock to many because of where it took place. Delhi was assumed to be relatively sheltered from the wave of communal hatred that is otherwise engulfing large swathes of the country.
If a lynching could take place in the nation’s capital, then truly no place was safe anymore.
For me as well, Junaid’s killing was particularly distressing. It is has been 12 years since I spent an extended period of time in the country of my parents’ birth conducting my PhD research on Muslim insecurity in the area of Zakir Nagar — a Muslim-majority locality not far from where Junaid’s murderers boarded his train.
My research focused on the narratives of women in particular who spoke about their sense of marginalisation from the city and from the country as a whole as a result of repeated episodes of communal violence beginning with Partition and continuing till the 2002 Gujarat pogrom.
I wondered why Muslims would feel so insecure in a city that had itself not experienced large-scale communal violence since Partition with the exception of the 1984 anti-Sikh massacres. My research showed that despite the fact that actual incidents of large-scale violence may have been relatively few and far between, the reverberations of this violence could still be felt many years after the event and in places far away, and this contributed to a pervasive and growing sense of fear amongst Muslims, which led many to prefer living in Muslim-majority areas.
In-depth:How oppressed are Muslims in India?
At the same time, my research also demonstrated long-standing and deep bonds between people across religious boundaries. Women spoke about childhoods spent playing with Hindu neighbours and celebrating Diwali.
There was also a sense amongst the younger generation that, whilst insecurity lingered, things were getting better. Young people spoke about how their parents may have cheered for Pakistan during India-Pakistan cricket matches in the past, but they were staunch India supporters.
The new generation was confident that India was their country, and they were ready to claim their rightful place as full citizens.
While I concluded my research arguing that the marginalisation felt by Muslims was very real and that a general hardening of religious boundaries had taken place since the 1980s, I was also naively hopeful that I might be documenting the decline of communalism and of the Hindu Right in general.
The Congress Party was in power at the Centre, and although their record was far from spotless when it came to the manipulation of religious sentiments for political gain, they at least maintained a veneer of secularism, which provided some level of solace to religious minorities.
Few, including myself, could have imagined that less than a decade later, the man who many believe was the mastermind behind the Gujarat pogrom would become the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy.
This followed by his seemingly unshakeable popularity and the election of other even more venomous politicians such as Yogi Adityanath seemed to be sounding the death knell of Indian secularism.
The nature of violence in India has evolved considerably. While the large-scale communal riots that took place throughout the 1980s and 90s have declined, religion and caste-based violence has in many ways become more pervasive and acceptable.
This is reflected in the media, with mainstream television personalities such as Arnab Goswami dominating the airwaves with their blatantly anti-Muslim rhetoric.
This is also reflected in social media, where average Hindus defend the killing of those who eat beef as justifiable.
All the while the government remains silent at best and laudatory at worst in response to the vigilantism of so-called ‘cow protectors’.
Of course these divisions were not created overnight. As my research and that of many other scholars has demonstrated, the roots of Hindu majoritarianism can be traced far back in Indian history to the period preceding Partition.
The seeds of this majoritarianism were not only present in the explicitly right-wing BJP but were also present in the rhetoric of the Congress Party. And alongside the bonds of cooperation and friendship between religious communities were also strands of resentment and distrust, which flared up periodically.
Modi did not create Hindu majoritarianism. He only stoked the embers that had been simmering in the Indian polity for several decades.
However, India is not exceptional; majoritarianism is not an exclusively Hindu malaise. Like twins separated at birth, India and Pakistan both continue to carry the same toxic ingredients within our countries’ DNA.
The only difference is that Pakistan is perhaps more blatant about its majoritarianism and has never claimed to be secular (despite those few lines from Jinnah’s speeches that may lead us to believe otherwise) while India has, at least in the past.
If frenzied mobs are rallied to lynch supposed beef-eaters in India, similar mobs are rallied in Pakistan when they hear another b-word. The brutal murder of Mashal Khan was the latest in a long string of violent attacks of those suspected of blasphemy, again most often belonging to the country’s religious minorities.
And of course this rise in majoritarian, xenophobic politics is not exclusive to the Subcontinent alone. The last few years have demonstrated the growing appeal of right-wing majoritarianism in countries around the world with race, ethnicity and religion all being used as a means of creating fear and distrust between communities as a means of gaining political mileage.
The need of the hour in both India and Pakistan is to step back from reacting to each of these incidents in isolation and to instead think carefully about what in our shared history has produced this violence and why these exclusionary ideologies are gaining so much traction at this particular moment.
It is only through careful analysis and collective action that we will be able to overcome the wave of violent majoritarianism that is engulfing both of our countries at this time.
Have you been discriminated against based on your class, religion, or ethnicity? Write to us at email@example.com
Indian Muslims hold a banner protesting recent attacks on them by Hindu fringe groups on the issue of beef eating which is taboo for Hindus as they arrive to offer Eid prayers in Kolkata. ─ AP
The long turret of a temple rises unexpectedly amid tall minarets and round green domes in a busy area.
It stands like a reminder of an unwanted past, a memory we would like to bury deep within our communal subconscious, afraid it might challenge how we want to see ourselves.
The top of the turret carries a scar of battle that has been fought several times, between two groups locked in perpetual conflict.
The latest round of this battle roar its ugly head on a cold December morning in 1992, when passionate supporters of Jamaat-i-Islami and others not attached to any political party surrounded this temple, determined to bring it down to avenge the demolition of the Babri Masjid about 1,000 kilometres from here in a country they fought tooth and nail to separate from, but one that continues to be an obsession.
The temple, however, stood its ground. It was not willing to concede the space it had occupied for several centuries. It was not ready to hear that it did not belong in this new country.
It eventually won the battle – the mob lost interest and left, while the residents of the area who had evacuated the temple upon the mob’s arrival returned to their homes.
Brick by brick
Bheru da Sthan or the abode of Bheru is one of the oldest standing temples in Lahore, an ancient city believed to have been founded by Lav, one of the twin sons of Ram and Sita.
The temple was built on the spot to which Godar, Prince Dara Shikoh’s treasurer, was brought after being rescued from the dungeons where he had been kept after he was caught deceiving the prince.
Godar was visited in the dungeons by a man who later identified himself as Bheru. The man asked him to shut his eyes and brought him here. A free Godar started living in Shah Alami area in Lahore and constructed a small temple here at the spot he had last seen Bheru.
The temple was given its contemporary shape (including a vast complex and several rooms) during Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule over the Sikh Empire in the 19th century. The Maharaja’s Muslim concubine, Mora, gave Rs 1,400 for the temple’s construction.
When Mora’s mother had taken seriously ill, all the hakims and healers failed to cure her. She was then informed of a man who lived in this temple, a descendant of Godara and a magician, who exorcised the djinns from Mora’s mother.
As a reward, Mora summoned bricks from all the 100 villages that had been granted to her by the Maharaja for the construction of this temple and donated money.
The mob in a frenzy to bring this temple down may not have known that it was constructed thanks to the generosity of a Muslim.
Even if they were made aware of it, the story would have been rejected as an anomaly because it would not have fit the framework that they use to understand history.
In this framework, Muslims can only destroy Hindu temples and Hindus do the same to Muslim shrines.
Rise to fame
Just outside the walled city of Lahore is one of the most important Sufi shrines of the city, Data Darbar, dedicated to the city’s patron saint Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh. This shrine lends Lahore its monker of Data ki nagri, or Data’s city.
About 1,000 years old, the shrine has witnessed the evolution of the city – the arrival of the first Muslims, the construction of the walled city under Malik Ayaz, the governor appointed after the Mahmud of Ghazni’s invasion and its transformation from a small town to a grand urban centre under Mughal emperor Akbar.
The shrine stood its ground through the rise of the Khalsa Empire, the emergence of the colonial bureaucratic state and the transformation of the city from a multi-religious metropolitan to a Muslim-dominated city that saw the exodus of Hindus and Sikhs during Partition and the erosion of their religious symbols.
In post-Partition Lahore, it emerged as the most important shrine in the city. In the new state, with increased symbolic significance came political patronage. From ZA Bhutto to General Zia, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, all made multiple visits to the shrine and contributed to its extension.
A vast courtyard was constructed around a small shrine, including a basement for qawwali, a madrassah and a library. The tall minarets of the mosque behind the shrine are a part of Lahore’s iconic skyline that includes Badshahi Masjid, Lahore Fort, Minar-i-Pakistan and the smadh of Ranjit Singh.
Data Darbar did not always enjoy this social and political significance. For much of its long history, it was only a modest structure even as state patronage was extended to other Sufi shrines of the city, including that of Mian Meer, believed to be the patron saint of Dara Shikoh.
Once again defying popular perceptions, it was during the tenure of Maharaja Ranjit Singh that shrine began to grow. A library was built here, the first of its kind, with a vast collection of handwritten copies of the Quran.
The religious texts were donated by Maharani Jind Kaur, Ranjit Siingh’s youngest wife who, after his death, briefly served as her young son Maharaja Duleep Singh’s Regent.
This rare collection of handwritten Qurans brought many admirers to the shrine, gradually increasing its significance.
Today as thousands of devotees pay homage to the patron saint of Lahore every day, it is conveniently forgotten that a Sikh Maharani played a crucial role in the development of this shrine, just as the fact about a Muslim concubine of the Maharaja renovating a Hindu temple has faded from memory.
This article was originally published on Scroll and has been reproduced with permission.
From I am Sweetie to Eye to Eye, NFP rounds up the most memorable pop songs of our times and what led to their fame.
No 6: Jab Sey Hoi Mohabbat: Rasheed Ahmad Tabrezi
Rashid Ahmad Tabrezi (aka RAT) emerged in 1989 with a bang. He was very much a part of the Pakistani pop scene which had begun to develop and grow at the time.
But more than his vocal style and songs (which were a conventional fusion of light pop and Pakistani filmi music), it were RAT’s innovative dance moves in his videos which caught the attention of young Pakistani pop music fans.
The ‘RAT Wave’ (as it was called) truly caught on when he released the video of Jab Sey Hoi Mohabbat in May 1989, impressing not only Pakistani fans with his brilliantly choreographed dances, but also some major players in Bollywood.
Indian actor, Jeetendra, immediately offered RAT to appear as his dancing double in a Bollywood film, but RAT refused. He told an Indian newspaper: "Jeetu Bhai Motor Chalay Pum Pum Pum …" Explaining this perplexing response, RAT added: "I have nothing to add."
But just as Pakistani and Indian fans were making RAT’s video the most requested video on TV (some even asked it to be played on radio), RAT’s fame went through the roof when he received a call from the King of Pop, the late Michael Jackson.
In September 1989, the New York Times reported that Jackson had placed a call to Pakistani pop star, RAT, and praised his dancing. Jackson was reported to have told RAT that his (RAT’s) moves in the video have surpassed even the Moonwalking dancing style popularised by Jackson in the early 1980s.
Jackson invited him to Los Angeles to help him choreograph a dance sequence in a video he was working on, but RAT politely declined. He told NYT: "I dance alone."
RAT’s rigid attitude, unwillingness to collaborate with other performers and refusal to toe the line of the recording companies isolated him. He did not record another song or release another video after Jab Sey Hoi Mohabbat. He became a recluse.
In 2009 when Michael Jackson passed away, UAE’s Khaleej Times quoted Jackson’s sister Jennet Jackson as saying that one of Michael’s greatest regrets was that he couldn’t dance like Riaz Ahmad Tabrezi.
Jennet said that her brother had watched RAT’s video multiple times but he just couldn’t replicate the innovative brilliance of RAT’s momentous moves.
No 5: Started With the Desert: The Royals
The Royals were a Pakistani pop band formed in 1979. After failing to achieve much success in their own country, the band relocated to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
The Royals often fused carefully constructed pop tunes with the more complex rock genres such as Prog-Rock and Neo-Psychedelia. They also wrote socially-conscious lyrics.
Their brand of pop could not find any takers in Pakistan. So, in 1987, the Royals moved to Riyadh where they managed to attract a more responsive audience. The band constantly topped Saudi Arabia’s pop charts. Then in 1992 they became the country’s biggest-selling pop act with their single, Started with the Desert.
The song, which incorporated elements of Techno-Pop, Prog-Rock and the then newly emerging House/Trance music genre, added a cutting-edge dimension to the Saudi/Pakistani pop music variety.
Enriched by a complex but highly danceable groove constructed through some dexterous synthesiser antics and a rugged, thumping drum-machine beat, the song’s other strength lies in its rather insightful lyrics.
The words are a mediation on the harsh desert life. It is based on a concept in which a man called Al-Fahad spends his harsh desert life hunting foxes and contemplating the meaning of harsh desert life.
Then one day while he is trying to dig a well in the harsh desert life, instead of water, he strikes oil in the harsh desert life. As the oil spills over the harsh desert life, the harsh desert life turns green. Buildings begin to appear and roads and bridges and shopping malls too. The harsh desert life is transformed. And it all happens in September.
It started with the desert
Started with the desert,
Started with the desert,
Came from the desert
It started with the desert,
Started with the desert,
Started with the desert,
Came from the desert,
Came in September,
Came in September,
Came in September!
It is remarkable the way the band manages to express the multifaceted composition in the most pop-friendly mode and communicate the astute and heavily conceptual lyrics in an uncluttered manner.
American music journalist and the founder of the influential Rolling Stone magazine, Jann Wenner, described the lyrics as being "very Dylansque". Wenner was largely impressed by the vivid imagery that the words reflect:
Life was the difficult,
Nothing in the desert,
Suddenly with the help of god,
Life became much better.
Raveling, oh besting
By wisdom of the founder …
Easy to remember,
Desert life was harder,
Saud, Faisal, Khalid and Fahad,
Together, stronger, they are the maker
Make weight in desert,
Make weight in desert,
Him ripe in the desert,
Demolishing the desert
It started in September,
Started in September,
Started in September,
Started in September!
The Royals were nominated for the Saudi Lux Style Awards in the Best Video and Best Lyrics categories. It is, however, unfortunate that the band still couldn’t find much fame in their own country, Pakistan.
In 1995, the group disbanded and one of its (four) lead singers, Tufail Akram, told The Saudi Gazette: "Pakistan people never understood our complex kind of music. They like simple, romantic songs. But thanks to Saudi pop fans, we were able to find fame and fortune in harsh desert life after we came in September, came in September, came in September!"
No 4: I am Sweetie: Naheed Akhtar
Naheed Akhtar’s fame quickly rose in the 1970s as a film playback-singer. In the midst of her rise, she also branched out towards pop music. However, her stay here was brief, but highly potent.
In 1975, she recorded a few original English pop songs one of which, I am Sweetie, became an international hit.
Penned by historical novelist, Nasim Hijazi (who at the time was also briefly exploring pop territory), I am Sweetie was composed by a lesser-known Pakistani jazz musician, Anwar Sarwar.
Naheed Akhtar, who at the time was extremely agitated by the growing Women’s Lib movement in the West and especially the way it had started to impact the lives of young women in Pakistan, approached Hijazi to pen an anti-feminist anthem.
She asked the song to be in English because she wanted to reach Western women as well and expose their follies.
Hijazi penned the lyrics which were then set to music by Sarwar who used a plethora of contemporary Western instruments such as keyboards, guitars, bass, bongos, drums and a blistering saxophone interlude which Sarwar played himself, busting a lung.
To expand her vocal range and sturdily express the powerful words, Naheed listened to songs by British heavy-rock band, Led Zeppelin, and tried to match the range of Zeppelin’s lead singer, Robert Plant.
The song’s lyrics potently address the concerns of women who want to become wives and not ‘sweeties.’ The song became an immediate hit and went a long way in halting the spread of feminism in Pakistan.
Though Naheed unfortunately did not record any more English pop songs (because Robert Plant sued her), she still considers I am Sweetie as one of her finest moments as a vocalist. She said that this was because this song became very popular with men and "move society as per their love and directive."
No 3: World Cup Has Come: Tahir Jabbar
Originally written and recorded as the official song of the 2015 cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi loved it so much that he asked his sponsors, Boom Boom Bubble Gum, to buy it from Tahir Jabbar. Jabbar gladly obliged.
The Pakistani team were greatly inspired by the music and words of the song and it managed to lift the team’s spirit. Afridi told reporters: "It smells like team spirit."
Though sung and composed by the rising Pakistani pop star, Tahir Jabbar, it is believed that the words were actually penned by former England cricketer and TV commentator, Geoffrey Boycott.
Unfortunately, this funky, inspirational ditty was largely forgotten after Pakistan were knocked out of the tournament. However, recently, former Pakistani batsman and TV commentator, Rameez Raja, was heard singing it in the shower. Jabbar has sued him for royalties.
No 2: Goodbye: Danish Ghafaar
Danish Ghafaar was born to Pakistani parents in Reykjavik, Iceland. Being a fan of the Pakistani band The Royals (see entry), Ghafaar was heartbroken to learn that The Royals were largely ignored in their home country and had to move to Riyadh for success.
When Ghafaar turned 16 in 2013, he penned an angry/emotional song Goodbye. It was targeted at Pakistanis who did not appreciate real talent. He then recorded the song in his bedroom cupboard because he felt the overt emotions of the music and the lyrics might melt the glaciers of Iceland.
The song first became a huge hit in Greenland and then topped the Vatican pop charts. It turned Ghafaar into a pop sensation. But he refused to tour Pakistan, his home country, despite the fact that he was invited to perform the song on the country’s popular pop show, Coke Studio.
Talking to the BBC, Ghafaar said that the song is about an ingenious and highly talented Pakistani band (such as The Royals) who are addressing their lovers and haters in Pakistan, telling them goodbye, they are leaving and never coming back.
He further told the BBC: "Many of my fans think this song is about me having a breakup with my cat. Indeed, I did have one when I was writing this song, but it’s about The Royals. It’s about how genuine creative talent is ignored and shunned in Pakistan. And how this talent moves out, saying goodbye. The Royals moved to Riyadh and I got born in Iceland, so you see the pattern?"
He however added that his next song is about the cat and should not be mistaken for anything else. "Or else I will have to say goodbye to Iceland," he said.
No 1: Eye to Eye: Tahir Shah
The Pakistani pop scene seemed dead and buried when this song not only revived it but put it on the world pop map. Just about everything clicked on this song: the music, the vocals, the video and the lyrics – especially the lyrics.
The composition is inspired by the soft-pop of crooners such as Berry Manilow and the rich elevator-jazz of Kenny G, but Tahir Shah insisted that the tune actually came to him in a dream.
Talking to Al-Jazeera in June 2013 when the video had already received millions of views, Shah said: "I never heard of Berry Mellow and only ever so often unfrequently hear tapes of Kenny Jee. Tune of this tune came in my sleep, maybe third eye was open when two eyes closed from sound of snoring."
As mentioned earlier, though the melody of the song is extremely rich and manages to immediately enter and settle in the listener’s head, the lyrics of the song generated the biggest debates on social media forums all over the world.
Some fans in India suggested that the words ‘eye to eye’ meant ISI (the Pakistani intelligence agency). These fans believed that it was a subliminal recruiting song funded by the ISI. When a ZEE News anchor mentioned this to Shah he smiled and replied: "You watch too many James Bond films. You must use eye to watch true fiction of cosmic peace, not earthly pumpkin."
Shah has always remained enigmatic about the lyrics, but he somewhat tried to explain them when he was invited by famous TV host, Larry King, on his show on CNN.
King quoted the lyrics of the song and tried to extract the meaning from Shah. He first asked him about the following verse: Keep your love in the soul/make love with eye to eye/your face and glorious eyes/I can see with my spectrum eyes …
To this Shah told King that this verse is about tight jeans. In these words Shah is suggesting that one should avoid wearing tight jeans and should exercise abstinence and celibacy and instead use their energies by moving their eyes.
He said that the words your face and glorious eyes, I can see with my spectrum eyes, came after years of practice and research gave him the ability to see through the glorious but dangerous eye of the Illuminati on five-dollar bills.
He told King: "This lyric is deep-sea-like so anyone can fish meaning …dolphin, shark, whale, pomfret, crab, polar bear, panda, whatever … but I use spectrum eye that I got after staring at wall for 24/7 until they turn blue from Charlie Brown …"
King then quoted these lyrics: It’s a genuine classic love/serious feelings, romantic love/my pride, eye to eye/glowing with your sparkling eyes.
He told King: "It’s about Pakola ice cream soda."
King didn’t get it and decided to move to the spoken words section of the song: Eye to eye makes epic era love life time once in a life/Substantial love is heaven for precise eyes/spectacular eyes, our eyes, my eyes and your eyes, eye to eye, eye to eye …
Shah told King that this was his favourite bit of the song: "I talk here about 24/7 hours non-stopping pleasure gained from one eye ball to other eye ball when two eyes of same person meet people think he cock-eyed but he just enjoying act of eye to eye lovemaking eye ball of left eye bouncing with eye ball of right eye on and on defining epic era of epileptic love. Very simple."
This is when King asked Shah whether he was on drugs.
Shah told him he took two Panadols, "but only because of headache from carrying big locks of spectacular hair."
King told Shah that he was greatly impressed by the lyrics and especially found the following verse rather beautiful: Your love is faithful forever and ever/ without you I am like a butterfly/without flower….
Shah thanked King and told him these words came to him when one day he forgot to put a rose in the front pocket of his favourite white suit and felt like a butterfly without a flower. "It was very stressing event," he told King. "I wept 24/7."
After the interview, King and Shah were seen sharing a Panadol.
Disclaimer: This article is categorised as satire.
We stop, first at Nowpora. A crowd of boys is gathered. They could be pelting stones at the police vehicles in the distance but it is hard to see things clearly.
Miniature clouds from tear-smoke shelling hang mid-air like monuments of ether. We veer off the highway into a by-lane and wait for some minutes.
A faint moon rises, held above the stilted poplars and electric lines, submerged in the cobalt of the evening light.
The police leave, the boys disperse. The moon follows us for the rest of the night past Pampore, Pulwama, Haal, Pinjora into Shopian.
Faint impressions of Pakistani flags drawn on shop shutters emerge from underneath the erasure attempted with black paint. Go India!… made into Good India. After some point, the flags emerge clearly, seemingly too many to paint over.
Milestones by the roadside are painted green as well, as if to speak to the scale of contestation to geographies and orientations made normative by statist narratives.
Arrows point in the direction of “Lahore”, “Karachi” and “Abbotabad”. The road, I am told, merges with the Mughal Road further ahead – another approach to Poonch and Jammu.
At Pinjora, the road is littered with half-bricks; a mass of rusted concertina wires sprawls the entire breadth of the eight-foot-wide road.
It is usual to find tangles of concertina everywhere in Kashmir, especially around army camps and police stations. It also finds its way into domestic landscapes – enclosures for orchards, homes and kitchen gardens.
In-depth: The pursuit of Kashmir
We arrive in Shopian, home to my maternal family. By the evening, news reports confirm the killing of eight protestors in Budgam and Ganderbal; seven of them – Faizan Dar (15), Abass Jahangir (22), Shabir Ahmad Bhat (22), Nissar Ahmad Mir (25), Akeel Ahmad Wani (22), Amir Ahmad Rathray (20) and Amir Farooq Ganie – killed by being fired on; Adil Farooq Sheikh (19) died of so-called pellet injuries. Election Day is past.
The next morning, my cousin Habeel Iqbal – a lawyer based in Shopian – and I leave early to visit two women at the forefront of protests following the killing of a 22-year-old rebel, Burhan Wani, commander of the Hizbul Mujahidden in July last year. The women, a 23-year-old engineering student and her cousin, a 26-year-old teacher, ask me not to use their names.
“Gun kateh chu? / Where is the gun?” The mother of one of the girls is looking for a spray gun as we enter. Apple trees are to be sprayed with insecticide this time of the year. My mother says the bitter scent of the leaves of the walnut tree embodies to her, her childhood in Shopian. Now, there are few walnut trees in “Apple Town”.
– ‘It just happened yesterday. Eight people are dead. This is not insignificant. My family was talking of my marriage yesterday night. “What are we doing?” I said to them. In these circumstances, even routine things are different. We have cancelled the tent… it should be as simple as it can be… how do I start?
[I ask her about the protests] Yes, I remember, it was the third day of Eid… I was ironing upstairs. We keep the iron and the television at the same place. My brother came in, he told me to turn on the television.
“Burhan has been killed”… I did not register it…“Burhan has been killed”, he said again.
I must have sat at the same place for an hour with the iron in my hand. The cycle of protest, which is still ongoing, started after that. In the first three days, 35 people were killed.’
–‘That was the first number we heard – 35.’
I told one police officer that it is you who lecture us on the merits of peaceful protests but they started shelling tear-gas at us.
– ‘There was a day in a week marked on the calendar issued by the Hurriyat for women to protest. We prepared in advance… the first thing we did was to make flags. We made them from our clothes, whosoever had anything green, we took it; we made crescents and stars. I have a young niece, when I would give her a star she would say... “Make a full Pakistan!”
We made a lot of this samaan, shopkeepers wouldn’t sell spray paint to boys… even with women they would ask what we needed it for… later the military came to this area looking for flags and banners… we hid them well…[laughs].’
–‘On the day of the first protest, we left following the afternoon prayers for our grandparents house… there were eight or ten of us. From there we carried the flags and gathered by the masjid. Slowly, more women came in. There must have been 1,000 women sloganeering that afternoon. Go India, Go Back! Kashmir Banega Pakistan! / Kashmir will be Pakistan!– which it will be… these were our slogans.
The atmosphere is hard to describe. I cannot say what it was that gripped people. Announcements were made in mosques for men to be at the peripheries of the protest. The police picked up the boys who were protesting with us from their houses the same night.’
“We must come out for the cause, men and women, at the same time. Otherwise we keep getting martyred, one by one, dying a slow death.”
–‘As women, we have limitations, there is fear. Being a woman means knowing that condition of vulnerability all the time. It is not possible to go beyond that.
There was a case in 2006 I think… in our district… there was a crackdown in which all the men of a village were taken outside their homes… a mother and child were in a house… the military raped them both. It is not that women are afraid to die. No one is.
In 2009, during the agitation following the rape and murder of Asiya and Neelofar by the forces… we protested… it was like that in 2016 as well… we didn’t think about being fired upon. Women went with fire in their kangers [traditionally made earthen pot used to keep warm in winter] even though it was summer, with chillies in the pockets of their pherans [long tunics worn by both women and men]…'
–"We did not go out of compulsion, neither can one say we went out of frustration. We went because we don’t want to be plunged into an abyss from our suffering. Now when we see there are still a few people voting in these elections, we think it is they, not those hit by pellets, who must be blind."
Sabeeta Ganaie is a resident of Memendar, Shopian. Her father, Tariq Ahmad Ganaie, has been in jail under provisions of the Public Safety Act (PSA) on and off, since the 1990s. He was arrested most recently at the beginning of the 2016 summer uprising.
Under the PSA, the due process required before a person can be jailed or arrested is severely curtailed. A person may be detained without trial for a period of three or six months, which may later be extended to up to two years. Often, persons of interest are named in multiple First Information Reports [FIR], effectively keeping them “out of circulation” for decades.
–“Starting from when I was born, I am accustomed to this… yesterday it was someone else’s fate, today it could be mine. This is the norm here. A student was martyred yesterday… he was in seventh class.
I recently passed my 12th standard exams… I am 17 years old. If I remember anything, it is these unspeakable cruelties. I have seen a lot… I don’t know my father much because he was never able to be at home. He has not been involved in pelting stones, he is a political prisoner… yes we want freedom… we are pro-freedom but we believe in non-violence. My father was first affiliated with the Hurriyat in the 1990’s, now he is the Area Head of the Muslim League. We are fighting for the cause of history.”
"When we see there are still a few people voting in these elections, we think it is they, not those hit by pellets, who must be blind."
–“They [the police] know my father is not here, yet they come in the dead of the night. There are three of us in the house – my mother, my ten-year-old brother and I… my elder brother is not here… they knock at one in the night, they smash our windows and dent our trunks with their guns. I tell them, “You are also Kashmiris… don’t you see what is happening here?”
–“This year I took my 12th class exams. I want to attend Jawaharlal Nehru University or Aligarh Muslim University but I wasn’t able to study as much as I wanted to. I wasn’t able to concentrate. More than anything else I regret how my father’s arrest has affected my education… the education of my siblings… my father says he hasn’t come away with much in life but he wants his children to be educated well. During my exams I wasn’t allowed to stay at home, my mother feared for my safety… I stayed with one relative for a month, then with another. Even if I were to stay at home… the police destroyed all the electricity transformers in the area, what would I read in the dark?”
–“It is difficult to not have your father around. You receive a lot of sympathy, sympathy that I don’t want. Nobody comes forward with anything else. I cannot share what I am going through with anyone… keeping it inside makes me unwell… my father was not here for Eid [starts to cry]. We had Eid without him. Where else does this happen?”
The next morning, we travel from Shopian town to Sedow, a picturesque village en route to the Aharbal waterfall. We are here to meet 14-year-old Inshah Mushtaq – whose face became symbolic of the mass blinding of Kashmiri youth from the use of bird-shot by the Indian military following the uprising last June. A transformer outside the house, perched on four bare deodars – a makeshift trellis – is buried in sandbags. I am told this is to protect it from army firing. Darkness, like blindness, is a collective punishment too.
We find Inshah’s mother, Afroza, sitting by the stairs to her house.
–“There are many who have come here since my daughter lost her eyes. The doctors grafted the wound in her head at the All India Institute of Medical Science… we spent the winter there… Dr. Natrajan operated one of her eyes in Mumbai but her eyesight has not revived. We have been told the other eye is beyond repair. I have narrated the events to many.”
–“Inshah is not here. She has gone to Srinagar for treatment… her aunt is accompanying her. Her teeth [she points to her own front teeth] were broken when the pellets hit her. Parents want their children to be independent at a point, to walk without the support of their parents… even those closest to you may not do this.”
–“Shaheed Asiya, Shaheed Neelofer – In donoon ne azeem shahaadat paye / Martyr Asiya, Martyr Neelofer – Both have attainted the highest martyrdom”, reads the epitaph of the grave of Asiya Jan (17) and Neelofer Jan (22), sisters-in-law who died on the 29th of May, 2009.
She says she is an ordinary housewife, a mother to four children. When she was younger, her father encouraged her to speak at congregations of the Jama’at-e-Islami, of which he was a member, but she hasn’t addressed a gathering in a while. She asks for her name to not be published.
“Though my family is affiliated with the Jama’at-e-Islami, I don’t want Pakistan. What have they been able to do for themselves? I want independence for Kashmir."
–“… When in the Battle of Badr, men were being martyred, women said to themselves, “Why are we not martyrs?”… “Why can’t we seek the heavens?” The women came to see the Prophet Mohammad, May Peace Be Upon Him, and said to him, “Men have the opportunity to be martyred in battle, but we women don’t go to battle, are we sinning in our inaction?”… The Prophet told them that they may attain martyrdom from their home too… carrying on the day-to-day struggles of domestic life is in itself valuable though this not the same as putting one’s body on the line... that is the highest martyrdom. As Muslims, we are not allowed to spend our lives as victims…we must raise our voice against zulm… when Indian forces enter our houses and beat our men, how can any self-respecting woman be silent? The oppression is such… a young girl from Sedow has lost both her eyes…what greater sacrifice can there be?”
–“Yeth kyaha che waen wanaan/What is it called now?” asks my aunt, a native of the area, to which my cousin retorts, “Janoobi Kashmir/ South Kashmir”.
My aunts have come to see me. We have lunch together. Afterwards, I go to meet a young woman whom I have been told is someone I must meet. She says she is happy to talk but asks not be named. 27, she has recently completed her MPhil.
–“That I will be in a protest here is a given. When the event with Burhan saeb happened… the next day I heard a woman call out “Nara-e-Takbeer!/Allah is the Greatest!” in the streets… I went out. From two, we were 2,000 women. I covered my face up to here [pointing to her eyes] and entered the nearest mosque. I told the men in the mosque that I needed to make an announcement there. I went in, switched on the loudspeaker and said, “An appeal is made to all women to come out and protest”. Five or six women came out.”
"I am 17 years old. If I remember anything, it is these unspeakable cruelties. I have seen a lot."
–“The night before, the police had broken doors and windows of the houses in the neighbouring locality. They caused a lot of damage. One woman… the police had torn her pheran. They were looking for a boy… a stone thrower… who was leading protests in the area. People didn’t give him up so the police beat them. A woman was hurt… police personnel slapped her five or six times. She received multiple stitches in her leg.”
–“I also made announcements in the mosque at the Main Chowk. In some time a sea of women gathered. We told the police, this is a peaceful protest. They wouldn’t allow us to move further than the Chowk. I told one it is you who lecture us on the merits of peaceful protests but they started shelling tear-gas at us. During the shelling, the women dispersed… some left behind their veils… others their purses… still others their footwear…”
–“Later, I gave a bag full of stones to boys from our neighbourhood. I must have emptied a whole truck of construction materials this way [laughs]… I picked up one for myself and hurled it at the police. A large group of women-police came hurtling towards me. God! how they beat me but I too must have gotten a few punches on them [laughs]. I was bed ridden for the next 40 days. My leg was broken. Even then, though my parents would bolt the door from outside, I would clamber out of the window to join the protest, supporting my limp leg with my hand…”
–"The police have destroyed the windowpanes of our house several times. My family understands this is because of me. The entire neighbourhood says this girl is out of the control, that her family has let her be this way. They call me names. They cannot understand… thankfully I am engaged already… [laughs] if I am called to the police station, it is considered shameful. It is not so for boys. For the sake of my sanity, I don’t tell my parents anymore. Sometimes, they don’t know what I am up to. When a militant from the neighbourhood was martyred, I was at his funeral… my parents kept calling my phone but I wouldn’t take their calls.”
"When Indian forces enter our houses and beat our men, how can any self-respecting woman be silent"
–“I don’t have the patience to bear zulm… especially from military men. I swear by God, if I had the support of my family… I feel for the cause so deeply… if there were a place for ladies militants, I would be the first to join them. I want to attain martyrdom. Unfortunately, there is no tehreek of women. A lot of women… my friends in university feel this way too. As far as my point of view is concerned, I believe women can attain martyrdom through struggle but because of society… society is something… we are behind in the attaining our freedom.”
–“Though my family is affiliated with the Jama’at-e-Islami, I don’t want Pakistan. What have they been able to do for themselves? I want independence for Kashmir… I believe we can survive that way. It may be difficult in the beginning but our future generations will be safe. We must come out for the cause, men and women, at the same time. Otherwise we keep getting martyred, one by one, dying a slow death.”
I head back to Srinagar. Narrow rivulets inch their way through a vast field of stony soil, which is the Ramb-e-aar. Into this Asiya and Neelofar were purported to have drowned in narratives of officialdom.
At Pulwama, a large group of students is gathered outside the Degree College. They scatter at the Rakshak's siren. Cars pick up pace. Later, a video emerges of a student, reportedly of the same college, held under jackboots by military personnel while being beaten, apparently shot from the edge of a military jeep.
Two days later, students – boys and girls – from colleges and universities all over Kashmir are out on the streets in protest. Unafraid of being bloodied, they are seething. Iqra Sidiq, a protesting girl student, suffers a fracture to her skull from a stone thrown from a paramilitary bunker. Dozens others are injured. Schools have to be shut. In a protest streamed live on social media, students from Women’s College, Maulana Azad Road are chanting…
– “Yeh cheez nahi hai, Azadi!
Hai haq hamara, Azadi!
Hum le kar rehenge, Azadi!
Bharat se lenge, Azadi!
Hum lad kar lenge, Azadi!
Hum gun se lenge, Azadi!
Inshallah lenge, Azadi!
Burhan ke sadke…”
How has the conflict in Kashmir affected your life? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
"I think these are the words of Omar Al-Mukhtar.”
This blog was originally published on October 29, 2016.
The news first broke when I was in the north of Kashmir in Vijbal, a town of less than a hundred households.
My cousins had invited me for dinner as I was scheduled to leave for New Delhi right after Eid.
One of my friends from Tral, south of Kashmir, informed me through a Whatsapp text: Burhan Wani has been killed.
I didn’t believe him. It was just a rumour, I thought. Half an hour later, the Indian media erupted in celebration, announcing victory.
Abhijit Majumdar, the managing editor of Mail Today, chipped in: “with Burhan Wani's killing, Indian forces have eliminated entire gang of Facebook terror poster-boys of #Kashmir one after the other. Salute.”
Cars, trucks, and motorcycles began to honk mindlessly. My aunt worriedly asked her son to check if everything was alright.
Burhan gove shaheed (Burhan has been martyred), I told them.
They looked back at me in shock.
My aunt began to wail.
Ye kusu tawan cxunuth khudayoo (what tragedy did you send upon us, oh God), she lamented.
The heavens opened up at the same time and the sound of rain hitting the tin-roof of the house got louder.
I looked at my cousin, red-faced, eyes welling up, his body shivering.
His phone rang and he finally noticed on the fifth ring. It was my mother calling.
By the next morning, the internet was blocked. People were expecting mobile networks to be shut by the government as well in order to restrict communication in the valley.
People know how the state functions. The Indian state’s oppression is as routinised in war-time as it is in peace-time.
People knew that in the coming days, the only way to communicate and find out what was going on would be to travel, on foot, from village to village. They knew that they had to avoid the highways which are constructed to allow smooth movement to Indian military convoys only.
'They know everything'
Rafiabad, the place where I live, is as militarised as any other place in Kashmir. Indian army camps are located every five kilometres from one another, allowing them to bring every village and its people under the army’s view.
The army knows the number of people in each household, including how many males and females, educated and uneducated, where they work, newborns, adults and old.
They have numbered our houses and categorised the localities. They have marked our streets, shops, playgrounds, even the apple orchards.
They know the size of our courtyards and backyards, as well as the the shape of our cowsheds.
They know everything.
As the protests and stone-pelting began, so did the congregational funeral prayers.
People began to count the dead. And the numbers kept rising.
The protest demonstrations kept swelling.
The campaign of killing, blinding, maiming and torturing people continued.
The Pakistan bogey
The protests were a sign of the Indian state losing all ground. The divisions that they had constructed — Shia-Sunni, Muslim-non-Muslim, Kashmiri-Ladakhi, Tableeghi-Salafi, majority-minority — to obfuscate the truth went up in smoke as the air was now incensed with songs of freedom.
But in the newsrooms in India, it was the perennial threat that was being accused of fomenting the trouble. Pakistan, they said, was responsible for causing unrest in Kashmir.
Sometimes, one imagines, if Pakistan were to tectonically shift from here to Antarctica, where would the Indian state and its jingoistic media derive their narrative from?
Who will they blame for their own failure and guilt, their own deception and debauchery?
Soon after (dates have lost their significance) the death of Burhan Wani, people of Rafiabad assembled near the Eidgah in Achabal.
The announcement was made through the mosques’ loudspeakers. People from adjacent villages poured in as well. As the numbers kept rising, so did the volume of the slogans, causing panic inside the Indian army camp nearby.
As the protesters neared the army camp, two armoured vehicles blocked the way on one side.
Rest of the road was sealed with barbed wires. The demonstration came to a halt, but the sloganeering did not.
Soon, there was chaos.
As stones were hurled at the armoured vehicles, more army men from the camp arrived and started moving toward the protesters with guns and lathis. A few protesters started to turn back.
A direct confrontation with the Indian army, we are told by our elders, should be avoided. But some among the protesters didn’t relent and stood their ground firm.
Several of them were later picked up. All security installations in Kashmir are equipped with high-quality surveillance cameras to keep watch on the people's every movement.
From the footage, they identified the persons who were at the forefront of the march. They knew who these men were. They knew their addresses. They could pick them up from inside their bedrooms.
Inside the camp, they were tortured. One of the boys later told me about how they were made to stand naked, abused, spat on, and beaten with guns, sticks and belts till their bodies bled. They were given death threats and some were even made to jump naked in the river. Yet, after he came out of the prison, he was determined to protest again.
Another boy, in his pre-teens, lying flat in his room, smiled as I entered to see him. He didn’t appear to have been affected by the torture at all.
He was waiting for a bandage to be removed from his back. “I remember the face of the army man who beat me up”, he said, “I won’t spare him”.
He was clearly enraged. He wanted to avenge what was done to him.
It is this anger and this sense of revenge, especially among the youth, which the ‘experts’ on Kashmir amplify and manipulate to present the issue as a problem of inteqaam (revenge) alone.
They also see in the youth a rage informed by religious extremism.
Building a false narrative
For years now, these Kashmir ‘experts’ have dedicated all their energy and resources to maintain control over the Kashmir narrative that comes on TV screens and newspapers.
In April this year, when an Indian army trooper was accused of molesting a teenage female student in Kupwara, a group of reporters were dispatched from New Delhi to report the aftermath in which five protesters were killed, including a woman.
The Kashmiri reporters working for various Indian media organisations, barring a few exceptions, were asked to stand down or take leave of absence or just assist the reporters airdropped from New Delhi.
While the reporters filed contradictory versions of the actual incident, India’s Kashmir ‘experts’ were quick to process the information and construct a narrative which helped the government to systematically shift the focus from the molestation to the protests.
Praveen Swami, one of India’s leading Kashmir ‘experts’, a journalist who has the audacity to tell Kashmiris that he knows more about Kashmir than Kashmiris themselves, tried to historicise the violent protests. For him, “the underlying crisis in Kashmir needs to be read against the slow growth, from the 1920s, of neo-fundamentalist proselytising movements.”
He implied that allegations of sexual violence against an Indian army man do not merit any protests as per secular traditions and only religious movements, like the Jamiat Ahl-i-Hadith and Jamaat-i-Islami, can inspire people to take such a recourse.
Two more ‘experts,’ David Devadas and Aarti Tickoo Singh, whose writings have a clear streak of right-wing bigotry, indulged in victim blaming and in theologising the movement for self-determination in Kashmir.
Devadas wrote that the different “narratives emphasise that unarmed ‘civilians’ were killed by armed forces, with no reference to the fact that the mobs attacked an army bunker and a camp before the army retaliated”. Four months later, Devadas said that “it still isn't clear what exactly lies at the heart of the current unrest.”
Aarti Tickoo Singh believes that in 2010 “stone pelting phenomenon that led to the death of over 100 youth during clashes with the forces was restricted to urban poor Sunni Muslim youth in Srinagar”. She also cites a study by Indian police officials that “lack of entertainment resources and Saudi-funded religious radicalisation” motivate the youth towards violence.
These ‘experts’ have time and again warned the people of Kashmir about the capabilities of the Indian State: you will be killed if you come out on the streets.
For them, the responsibility of Kashmiris getting killed by an Indian soldier is on the Kashmiris and not on the Indian state.
However, their ideological manipulations have been of little consequence to the people of Kashmir.
Men, women, young and old, come out daily in the streets of Kashmir with the slogan: Hum kya chahtey? Azaadi!
Freedom, self-determination and the right to live in peace are innate to a people. No matter how much violence the Indian state resorts to and no matter how much the country’s media manipulates the narrative surrounding what’s going on in Kashmir, the people of Kashmir will keep coming out on the streets to demand for their rights.
There's perhaps no other person in Pakistan who enjoyed the undivided adoration and respect that the great humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi did. His death, on July 8th last year, plunged the country into deep mourning. One year on, the sense of loss still lingers. Who was Edhi for you? Send us a few lines of your tribute at email@example.com
He once laughingly told Nariman Ansari and I a story about how he was held up by a notorious gang of bandits in Sindh while on a rescue mission. As they were robbing him, the ringleader recognised Edhi. He immediately fell at his feet and began to cry. He said: "I've done unspeakable things in my life and I am prepared to answer for my deeds, but if I harm one hair on your head I will never be able to face my creator."
The bandits returned the money and also insisted on donating zakat from their loot. Of course, Edhi refused and instead urged them to give it to the poor. Edhi found this story very amusing, but nothing describes better how his countrymen, even the worst of them, saw him.
The world may not know him, but for us all, in this bitterly divided society, he was a saint.
His death was the first time in my life that I wept for a national hero — that’s the love he deserves. I promise myself that I will do better for humanity and the needy, whenever I am granted a chance. If we change ourselves for the better, that in itself will be a tribute to our hero: Edhi.
His demise is a loss for all of the humanity. I am from India and deeply saddened. He was a hero for every Pakistani and for me too. Around 20 years back there was a cover story in India Today on this great man, and now I watch his dedication to serve humankind in the form of Suzuki vans driving here and there to help the needy. I am surprised as to why he was not conferred a Nobel Prize. Long live the Edhi Foundation!
I had the privilege of meeting him. He was so humble. We are blessed with two children whom we adopted from his centre. My nine-year-old said when Edhi passed away: "It is an emergency — Mr. Edhi died! Mama, if it were not for him, I would not be here with you today!"
May we all have a little bit of Edhi in our souls.
We mourn a messiah: a man that always wanted others to live with dignity, and wished for the dying to not worry for their burials. The mothers were not hesitant to leave their unwanted children in his cots. His love for their children, the mothers knew, was of purity. Those addicted to substances found a shelter at last, a place of refuge. Nobody can ever take Edhi's place.
I fervently appeal to the Indian government to rename Bantva in Gujarat, India, where Edhi was born, to Edhinagar, in honor of this great human being who stood above all the differences that assail us today. Let us all ponder his memory for a while, and feel the warmth in our hearts, and try to understand this great personality, and feel inspired to emulate even a fraction of his achievements. That is the only true tribute we can pay to Edhi.
Edhi was very quick with his wit and one-liners. I often saw him engaging in humorous conversation with the locals. Few may have witnessed his greatness up close and in person. I had the honour of not only meeting him casually in the neighbourhood, but also witnessing his charity when I was seven years old.
I grew up in the Aram Bagh, Karachi, where many homeless men slept on the benches, grass, and footpath. One cold morning, a homeless man died in his sleep. Many passed by, ignoring the dead body; many looked from their balconies (including my parents), only to pull their children inside and close the doors.
Around zuhr time a young bearded man arrived in a white kurta pajama with a chaddor in his hand. He simply covered the body with the chaddor, hailed a rickshaw, and requested the bystanders to help him lift the body onto his lap. He then sailed away in the rickshaw. Rest in heaven, Edhi.
Many years ago my father was driving down a lonely road in Islamabad and saw an elderly man walking in the hot summer sun. He stopped to give him a ride, only to find that the elderly man was Edhi, walking to the Edhi office. He could have used any one of the hundreds of ambulances, but his conscience did not allow him. Do you see such traits in any other public figure in Pakistan?
I was raised in Kharadar, Karachi, and first became aware of Edhi's humanitarian efforts in the mid-1960's, when I was a child. Monsoon rains used to cause damage and flooding in some areas in our neighbourhood, and the name Edhi came up as the one helping those affected.
At that time, he used to personally ask for donations on the streets of Kharadar. With his hard work and dedication, he converted that tiny operation into the network that we see today. I only have respect, lots of respect, for Edhi.
In this photograph taken on February 15, 2016, Abdul Sattar Edhi (2nd L), the head of Edhi Foundation, sits with his wife Bilquis Edhi outside his office in the port city of Karachi.
The mountains right in front of our house are under Indian control. They would fire from there. Most of my childhood has been spent in the midst of this firing. Did you see the bunkers on your way up? We would hide there all the time but not everyone could afford to make bunkers and even if you had them, they served little purpose in the middle of the firing. The shelling would be so intense that they would collapse.
Many people from our village became martyrs. We are sitting at my auntie’s house. My first cousin, her eldest son, became a martyr. A mortar hit him and nothing was left of him. All his organs, everything had come out… we had to collect pieces of his flesh to carry out a burial. He was only 22 years old then.
In 2015, I visited Athmuqam, the headquarters of Neelum District in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Seated at the bank of the Neelum River – or Kishanganga as referred to in India – which serves as the Line of Control (LoC), the residents of this town faced the brunt of mortar shelling during the 1990s.
As armed rebellion escalated in Indian-held Kashmir in the late 1980s and 1990s, the Indian state responded with heavy shelling across the LoC in an attempt to target alleged training camps and infiltration that Pakistan was accused of backing.
However, as prevalent in conflict zones, it is often ordinary people who get caught in the crossfire. In the context of the Kashmir conflict too, it were women, men and children desperate for peace and stability who all too frequently fell victim to the shelling and cross LoC attacks.
Neelum Valley in particular became a target given its close proximity to the LoC. Some locals also allege that this was because of the presence of militant camps in the vicinity, and that Neelum Valley was used as a strategic location for training and infiltration given the easy cross over points during the 1990s.
By the time the 2003 ceasefire was agreed upon between India and Pakistan – bringing temporary relief after over a decade of shelling – close to 3,000 people had lost their lives in Neelum Valley alone. Thousands more had received devastating injuries and life-altering psychological wounds.
In many ways, and as in most conflicts, it were the women and children who suffered the most. With several men relocating to larger cities for work, it was often the women who were left behind to look after the old and the young, the livestock and the agricultural crops.
When the road was shut in the winter of 2016 after shelling incidents, women came out into the streets, marching with white flags and demanding that peace is restored.
During my trips to the valley in 2014 and 2015, I heard horror stories of famished women hiding in cowsheds for days; roads were blocked and no ration would arrive. Lighting fire to cook food would make them easy targets. Instead they lived in the pitch dark, some of them bearing labour pains, others fatally sick, unable to step out to seek respite.
I heard of a generation of boys and girls who grew up in bunkers for schools remained closed for more than a decade, especially after a mortar hit a school, killing 28 children. And I heard about mothers picking up chopped up body parts after a splinter cut their child into pieces.
By the turn of the century, many of these desperate women began to consolidate into a movement for peace. They began to organise marches for the roads to open, for the firing to stop, for the infiltration to be halted.
In 2013, BBC documented the struggles of these women in a story, titled The housewives taking on militants in Kashmir. Having lost family members and livelihoods, with homes damaged and future prospects bleak, the women, many from the Athmuqam itself, relinquished all fear.
They would march to the commanding officer in the area and demand that the army cracks down heavily on any militancy taking place in the region. Their rationale was simple: when the LoC is activated, it is us who suffer. If the militancy stops, so will the firing.
Many locals believe that these women are the reason why firing halted in Neelum Valley between 2003-2015. While other areas on the LoC continued to face intermittent firing even after the 2003 ceasefire, Neelum and its residents were somehow salvaged.
When I met these women on my trip to Athmuqam in 2015 they told me:
“Initially, in the 1990s, we had supported the mujahideen who would come from across the LoC. We gave them shelter, food and blankets. We performed our duty as Muslims and we genuinely believed in their cause of freeing Kashmir from the Indian occupation.
But when the Indian forces started to fire on us, we couldn’t take it anymore. Now there is no room for supporting the mujahideen in our area.
A couple of years ago, one of our boys went across the LoC as a mujahid… we told his mother to banish him upon return… we told him he didn’t have a home here any longer… we have actively opposed the mujahideen through our marches, against all odds.
If the men would march, they would be picked up but with us women it was hard to do that. We would march in large numbers and we would tell them that we won’t stop unless firing stopped.”
I had left the women on that trip rejoicing the brief window of peace they had helped secure for their families. Little did I know that a year and a half later, I would be sitting amidst them again, hearing one dreadful story rolling in after the other.
In July, 2016 when the commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, Burhan Wani, was killed at the hands of Indian forces, Indian-held Kashmir erupted in violent protests and clashes between civilians and armed forces.
It was estimated that 145 civilians died while more than 15,000 people were wounded – with over 4,500 injured by the use of pellet shotguns, and over 1,000 civilians receiving full or partial eye damage in 2016 alone.
India accused Pakistan of facilitating cross-border terrorism. Within a couple of months, 18 Indian soldiers were killed in Uri, an attack once again blamed on Pakistan. India soon resorted to alleged surgical strikes, a claim denied vehemently by Pakistan.
Regardless of the accuracy of these accusations and claims, the LoC was once again activated and the residents living in the bordering villages found themselves increasingly vulnerable. For the first time since the 2003 ceasefire, even Neelum Valley came under firing with approximately 13 civilians being killed and another 25 being injured by the end of 2016.
A tourist resort in Keran was also attacked, injuring tourists and serving a huge blow to the bustling tourist industry and a significant revenue source for the locals. Then in November, a passenger bus was attacked killing at least nine people and injuring another ten.
Soon after, the main road between Muzaffarabad and Neelum Valley was closed, internet and telephone facilities were curbed, tourists were stopped from coming in and people were instructed to renovate their bunkers.
It is estimated that over 1,000 families were displaced from Neelum Valley in the summer of 2016, rushing off to areas further away from the LoC and the shelling. Azad Jammur and Kashmir had once again plunged into an era of darkness and instability.
When I traveled to Neelum Valley again in May 2017, I visited the homes that had been struck with shelling, I met the families that had witnessed the firing and I smelt the sense of uncertainty and fear looming in the air. The brief window of peace had given way to violence and loss.
Whenever tensions escalate in Indian-held Kashmir, the Kashmiris on this side of the LoC also become victims.
When I went to meet the women in Athmuqam again, they showed me the cracks in their walls caused by the firing, they gave me a tour of the new bunkers they had made and the old rusty ones that had once again been refurbished.
One of them told me:
“The young children have grown up post firing… they aren’t used to it. When Indian and Pakistani forces fire at each other, they fall to the ground covering their ears, screaming loudly… I took my younger siblings to Muzaffarabad when the firing was at its peak but you could hardly find space because so many families were moving to the city… rent prices skyrocketed.
It would cost Rs 10,000-15,000 a month to rent a small room. 80% of the families from our area ran away. Even now most of them are still displaced. I would say less than 1/3rd of the families have returned. The rest are too scared to come back.”
While Indian-held Kashmir reels in violence and escalating conflict, the residents of Azad Jammu and Kashmir too suffer from insecurity, instability and bloodshed.
Ceasefire violations have become increasingly common since 2016, with areas such as Nakyal Sector and Poonch particularly vulnerable. Between the summers of 2016 and 2017, more than 60 civilians have been killed and 300 have been injured in cross LoC shelling. The firing, the deaths, the wounds are an eerie reminder of the pre-ceasefire years.
On the same topic: Courage lies in the hearts of Kashmiri women who dream of freedom
So are the cries for peace. The locals, including the women, from Neelum Valley told me that when their road was shut in the winter of 2016 after shelling incidents, they came out into the streets, marching with white flags and demanding that peace is restored in the area.
“We were being told that schools and colleges would remain shut as would the road, that we should get prepared for firing and renovate our bunkers. As compensation, the government promised us atta (flour) at half price and some material to build bunkers but in reality no one got anything. And anyway, we don’t care about their atta. We want peace. Do you think half priced atta is compensation for our lives?”
I left Azad Jammu and Kashmir on this trip cognizant that whenever India-Pakistan relations sour, whenever tensions escalate in Indian-held Kashmir, the Kashmiris on this side of the LoC also become victims, victims who recede into a mere figure, a causality count in the corner of big newspapers, only remembered when it serves as a tit-for-tat political debate to show which side gave a more ‘befitting’ response to the other and which side is the aggressor as opposed to the victim.
Though they live in what is popularly referred to as 'Azad’ Kashmir on this side of the LoC, they were not spared in the 1990s nor are they spared today. Their fates are interwoven with those across the LoC, with carnage and insecurity marring their streets and alleys, villages and cities even 70 years after Partition.
Are you an activist or someone living in Kashmir who wants to write about the present situation? Tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Is this what you call a public hearing, held in a 5 star hotel? These projects are for the betterment of the public but this is not even a public place!” accused one of the stakeholders and member of an NGO.
I was attending a public hearing for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report that had been readied for the latest metro bus project connecting the Federal capital with the New Islamabad International Airport.
The new airport is to be inaugurated on 14th August this year, hence the government is in a rush to have the new Rs18 billion metro bus operational in time for the airport's opening.
Pakistan has decent laws but the country suffers from weak implementation of these laws, and this certainly holds true for the rather comprehensive Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA), which was passed back in 1997.
PEPA mandates EIA reports for mega projects that are likely to cause adverse effects on the environment. Part of the assessment involves holding public hearings to determine how a mega project will influence the lives of all those affected.
Under the act, those implementing a large project have to file an EIA before commencing construction. It is the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) which then gives the go-ahead for a project to begin.
I was at the hearing to learn about the impact the construction of the new metro bus route would have on the adjoining residential areas of the Kashmir Highway (from Peshawar Mor to the new airport) and the flora and fauna of the area.
The 25.6km track, which is being constructed on the left side of Kashmir Highway, would require the cutting of nearly 960 trees, mostly shisham, destroying the habitat of wild species like jackals, wild boars and cuckoos.
Despite a clear need to have rigorous EIAs and their implementation, the mechanism has yet to be developed properly in Pakistan due to weak monitoring and resource constraints.
EIAs are rarely integrated into decision-making and are treated more like legal rubber-stamps, a nuisance to be done with in order to complete a mega project. Often they are not even completed before a project starts!
Take for example the earlier metro bus project from Rawalpindi to Peshawar Mor in Islamabad, which completely violated the PEPA by conducting public hearings after the project was already in progress.
Around 600 old trees and 4,000 smaller trees and shrubs were cut down during the construction of the project, which went ahead in the capital despite protests from civil society.
Also, more recently, there was the case of the expansion of the Islamabad Highway from Zero Point to Rawat, widening it to five lanes on each side.
In the process, around 300 fully-grown trees were cut down. In fact, the bulldozers ironically arrived while the EIA was being discussed, conducted by the National Engineering Services Pakistan. Trees almost 30 to 40 years old were uprooted overnight.
Environmentalists concerned about Islamabad’s rapidly disappearing greenery point out that the green belts that were mowed down for these projects are yet to be replanted with trees and that there are still no pathways for pedestrians and the handicapped. They lament the rise in temperature due to rapid defoliation, in a capital renowned for its greenery.
The metro bus bus project is a favourite of the ruling party and it continues to be pushed ahead with clear disregard to the environment and concerns of those affected.
Mome Saleem, an environmentalist who attended the public hearing expressed that, although she is not opposed to public transport, she could not understand why the existing highway lanes could not have been used by the metro buses.
Why was taxpayer money being used for unnecessary expansion when there is a wide road that could have served just as well as a bus lane?
More importantly, money could have been saved, with only less than a quarter being required out of the amount currently allocated, had the expansion not taken place.
The major accusation at the hearing I attended was that the National Highway Authority (NHA) – which is the executing agency – and its contractors, had already begun construction work on the track back in April this year without the required approval.
Read next: On The Wrong Track?
However, the Director General of the Pak-EPA, Farzana Altaf Shah, in charge of the public hearing, clarified that the approval to widen the Kashmir Highway had already been issued after an EIA was presented in 2009 and environmental clearance for the new airport was granted.
She explained that this public hearing was called only after the NHA changed the design of the new lanes, around 7km from Peshawar Mor near NUST University, hence the need to assess the environmental damage from the new changes in design, with a fresh EIA.
The hearing, which was crowded with officials from the NHA, was clearly not going the way that officialdom had wanted.
“You can’t start a project without an EIA and you have already cut half the jungle in the area!” came the accusations from the residents of sector G-13 who had shown up in full force at the hearing. “You have blocked access to our sector and we have severe water shortages in our homes now,” they continued. “You can’t imagine our suffering. You have not followed procedure”.
A total of 80 million litres of water will be consumed for the project in a city which is already water-scarce.
Asim Amin, General Manager Design from the NHA, took the mike that was being passed around the table and tried to calm the tempers. “Think positively; this is a good project. The airport will need public transport connected to it as all airports around the world are connected with public transport systems. We will replace the cut trees with new plantation like we have on the Motorway. The project has not started; there is no asphalt on roads. We are still working on mobilisation and land acquisition,” he assured.
The voices opposing the project were becoming shrill as it was noted that many trees had been cut already and residents affected even before the EIA approval.
This public hearing, I was told later, was unique in that there was active participation by civil society and the affected residents. However, the fact remains that the EIA had clearly not been initiated at the earlier stages of the project.
What we need is a vigilant review and monitoring of each EIA through active participation by civil society.
I left the public hearing with the sombre thought of this being just the beginning – under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, we will soon have hundreds of new roads and highways to construct all over the country.
To prevent Pakistan’s mushrooming cities and towns from turning into concrete jungles, we the citizens need to become more involved and raise our concerns so that our advice is taken long before mega infrastructure projects begin development.
Is your community being affected by mega development projects across Pakistan? Tell us about it at email@example.com
Earlier this month, Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy wrote an article describing the mechanisms of what he termed Pakistan's professor mafia and the various "academic crimes" that this racket commits to the detriment of Pakistan's higher education system.
To demonstrate the dysfunctionalities of Pakistani universities, Professor Hoodbhoy gave a startling example: at the Faculty of Management Sciences at the International Islamic University, a "world record of sorts was set last month" when five PhD degrees on various topics were awarded under a single supervisor who received his doctorate merely five years prior.
Professor Hoodbhoy went on to explain how the country's higher education system legitimises and gives room to such instances, analysing in detail the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) PhD-related policies which are to blame for the academic disrepair.
"A major setback happened in 2002," he says, "when, in a bid to boost research and production of PhD degrees, the Higher Education Commission hooked the promotion, pay, and perks of university teachers to the number of research papers they published."
This gave rise to the professor mafia, which works as follows: a good friend of mine sitting in a university will publish my papers along with my students’ in their journal and I shall return the favour. This trading of favours is the beginning of the racket. The more publications the members of the mafia have to their name, the easier it is for them to get the attendant perks and benefits.
In this article, I wish to offer what I believe can be solid solutions to the issues highlighted by Professor Hoodbhoy.
To start off, the HEC should raise the bar and make it mandatory for PhD scholars to publish at least one conference paper at a reputable international conference and one journal paper in ISI indexed and impact factor journals.
What qualifies as a publication also needs to be changed. A paper presented at a high-quality conference and in an impact factor journal with cited works of reputable researchers should be defined as a publication. Any other definition must be discarded.
This will ensure quality and set a high standard by which someone's contributions are measured. A researcher with 50 publications in dubious, local journals will not have contributed nearly as significantly and will rank lower than their counterpart with even a single publication at a renowned conference/journal with quality citations.
If this step is taken, I'm sure Professor Hoodbhoy would agree that the 'world records' that Pakistani universities are proud of would be set by only the most extraordinary and experienced researchers, while the mafia will be dealt a harsh blow.
Related: Bogus university rankings
Having said that, I don't see a problem with incentivising publications and basing promotions on them. Such mechanisms for motivation can remain. However, it should only happen once quality of research is made top priority.
Secondly, professors should be tasked with bringing in funding on their own through collaborations with various agencies and institutions in different industries and sectors. This is something that's of equal importance but is missing in Pakistan.
This will help link academic research to concrete development goals and projects, social programmes, and private or public sector policies and initiatives. As a result, research will become more useful and will contribute to the betterment of the country. It will also pop the bubble the HEC has created thanks to its myopia.
The HEC can assist by funding different private and public sector institutions that have well-defined projects for which they need researchers' help. It should be left to these institutions to decide who is the most competent researcher to hire.
ICT R&D funds, Plan9 and Institute of Research Promotion are setting excellent trends in the technology domain. New organisations should be formed and tasked with distributing funds in the social sector as well.
Read next: Misjudging universities
Now, as far as teaching is concerned, whether or not instruction and research can go hand in hand is a subject of widespread debate. A good teacher might not necessarily be a good researcher and vice versa.
For example, teaching is not incentivised in North America as it used to be, with the focus now being on research. How much funding a professor can bring in from the outside and how many papers and books they publish determines the prestige of a university. A large number of courses, especially at the undergraduate level, are taught by part-time professors, which is having a negative effect on North American universities.
The HEC has also gone down the same route of 'publish or perish' and the consequences of imitating North America are there for all to see.
Focus on churning out research papers means that serious issues have been overlooked, such as the need for better monetary incentives for teaching, developing subject specialists, identifying individual faculty weaknesses and ensuring their development.
Pakistani universities need to work on teaching, pure research and applied research, and entrepreneurship. Fixating on only one of these aspects will end up limiting the impact and usefulness of our universities, which would be a disservice to education.
Are you an educationist who would like to offer solutions to the problems facing the Pakistani education system? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
It's a boon for some and a curse for others. The sudden devaluation of rupee has gone largely unnoticed in Pakistan. Yet the devaluation will impact most Pakistanis.
Those receiving remittances from abroad will see some extra cash in their pockets. At the same time, the price of imported goods (petrol, tea, cooking oil, etc.) will rise, tightening household budgets all around.
The 24/7 coverage of the political circus combined with a judicial inquiry has left little room in print and electronic media for matters that matter. An exception was Khurram Hussain's exposé in the Dawn about the larger economic impact of currency devaluation.
Currency exchange rates are explained in most beginner texts in macroeconomics. Pakistan's import bill will increase whereas exports will be cheaper and hence more competitive globally, leading to growth in the export sector.
The increase in the price of imported goods will support inflationary pressures. The resulting uncertainty could lead to lower domestic consumption that might not be offset by the growth in the export-oriented sectors.
If the rupee continues to slide, the government might have to revise interest rates upwards to arrest the flight of capital. The same instrument will be deployed to arrest higher than expected inflation.
Pakistani rupee, like all other currencies, has gained and lost value in the past. It will do so in the future as well.
What should be of interest to our readers is if the timing and determinants of the current devaluation are an outcome of larger macroeconomic conditions or if there are other dubious forces trying to manipulate the markets, as finance minister, Ishaq Dar, alleges.
Is Mr. Dar to be believed or the central bank? Is every development, or the lack of it, in Pakistan a conspiracy against the ruling class, or is there a greater economic system whose fundamentals impact Pakistan as much as they impact other nations?
Currency manipulation, or at least the accusations about it, is not uncommon. Export-oriented economies are often accused by others of manipulating their currency to lower the price of their exports.
For instance, the US President, Donald Trump, in the past called the Chinese “grand champions of currency manipulation.” During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump often accused the Chinese of lowering their currency to maintain the competitiveness of Chinese exports.
Mr. Trump did have a change of heart in April this year when he declared that China was “not a currency manipulator.” He found another reason for the strong US dollar. “I think our dollar is getting too strong, and partially that’s my fault because people have confidence in me,” declared the American president.
Mr. Dar, it appears, takes inspiration from Mr. Trump and takes credit where it's due and also where it’s not. In a statement after rupee devaluation, Mr. Dar declared that “[d]espite the eight to nine-billion-dollar current account deficit, if the reserves are still, by the grace of God, sitting at $21bn, it is because our team has performed that they are there.”
The operative comment in Mr. Dar’s statement is about the eight to nine-billion-dollar current account deficit, which exposes the sustained decline in Pakistani exports that now lag imports by billions of dollars, an untenable financial scenario.
For years, the Pakistani government has deliberately propped up the currency. Bloomberg reported recently that commercial banks were told not to trade rupee at levels unacceptable to the State Bank. In fact, Pakistan's rupee remained the only currency to hold its ground against the US Dollar when almost all other regional currencies slid.
There is, however, an obvious downside to artificially propping up the currency. While it may provide justification for some false sense of pride or financial stability for the naive, it erodes export competitiveness.
Pakistan's $9 billion current account deficit (a measure of weak exports against imports) will continue to widen if rupee were not devalued.
The concerns about an overvalued exchange rate are by no means new revelations. The IMF had warned government last year that the rupee was overvalued by as much as 20%.
In a July 2016 report, Bloomberg reported IMF’s concerns about the overvalued exchange rate and its impact on the weakening of Pakistani exports especially when other regional economies had adjusted their currencies to compete in the international market place facing a slowdown in consumption.
Currencies rise, and they fall. That’s not a concern.
What matters is when political brinkmanship takes precedence over national interest. When those elected to mind the nation’s finances view everything from a bipartisan political lens, problems arise.
When the rupee devalued last week, the finance minister, Ishaq Dar, accused“individuals, lenders, and entities” of “exploiting the current political situation.”
However, the State Bank of Pakistan saw the devaluation to be “broadly aligned with economic fundamentals” and that devaluation is likely to support growth in exports in addition to addressing the “emerging imbalance in the external account.”
Is Mr. Dar to be believed or the central bank? Is every development, or the lack of it, in Pakistan a conspiracy against the ruling class, or is there a greater economic system whose fundamentals impact Pakistan as much as they impact other nations?
It is an opportune time for the government to do the right thing. The recent appointment of Tariq Bajwa as the new governor of State Bank must be followed with a commitment to grant operational autonomy to the central bank so that it may conduct its affairs (including managing the exchange rate) independently and in the best interest of the nation.
Are you an economist and have a take on whether a weak rupee is in Pakistan's national interest? Write to us at email@example.com
In the record of a woman bearing witness to her own life when other people wouldn’t, I found the following line: "…the men walked away, still laughing and singing ‘Lahore Lahore aey’". This sounds like a happy ending, but sometimes laughter is just an animal showing its teeth.
That woman was brave to tell her story of harassment. Most of us do not. There are many reasons we are reluctant to tell the stories of what happens to us on a daily basis.
In the best case scenario of our silence, we are trying to protect others from the knowledge of their own helplessness. This country is full of loving, good-hearted people and we don’t want them to be shot, stabbed, beaten or set on fire.
The other day, I walked out of a bookstore with my husband, my baby in my arms. Two men lounging on the street gave me the cat’s tongue as I passed, rasping the clothes from my skin.
‘Kya dekh rahay ho?’ I always ask, in these situations, in case the person is just lost in thought and the eyeballs are drifting unsupervised. These men laughed.
My man strapped the baby in his car seat then bounded across to the men, grabbing one by the shirt and asking what he was laughing at.
Some of you stand with us and we don’t tell you because we don’t want you to fall with us too.
In this country we are mostly unparh but we can all do the BODMAS of love; agar kuch ho gaya, to pehlay kis ko bachaoon?
Sometimes when we don’t tell, it is the worst case scenario. This country is full of bitter vacant people weaned straight to the urine of whichever misogynist raised them.
Last week a woman was separated from her sister at Islamabad airport and molested by an FIA official. She told the other FIA officials. They laughed at her.
I don’t know if that particular woman laughed with them but sometimes – strange as it seems - we laugh too.
When I worked in television production, an executive producer called me into his capacious office and complimented me on my keen intelligence and devotion to social justice evident in the conversation he had previously had with me on set.
I wasn’t like the other women, he said. His flattery agreed with my estimation of myself; I wasn’t like the other women. Of course I would work with him to set up a dedicated, issue-based documentary stream!
To ensure his availability at all times so my worthy films would not be beached on the cruel shores of budgeting where frivolous projects went to die, he offered me an office next to his. Would I like to see it?
Rising from his desk he opened a door in a corner I had assumed led to a bathroom, and ushered me into a windowless room with no furniture other than a sofa. At which point, I started laughing.
I don’t remember the manner of my leaving, but I remember my laughter. I was laughing, I like to think, at the idea that the casting couch was actually a couch.
That is a more flattering interpretation than the alternative, which is that I was laughing because I was reminded that I was just like the other women; I was laughing because comedy is tragedy plus time; and time moves so fast for us, from disaster to disaster.
I was trying a new restaurant once and I saw the owner was a man who had once lifted the cloth on a table I was hiding under – I was 9 or 10 and playing hide and seek with my cousins in a restaurant my uncle owned before it opened to the public – and scooted under with me.
After the time it took me to learn he was not, after all, a friend, I had shot out the other side. I didn’t tell anybody then.
Our secrets are gifts and children can be stingy. The man I gave that secret to said, when the bill came, “Well it probably wasn’t very good for him because he didn’t even give us a discount.”
It’s fine, you can laugh, I laughed too.
I wonder if reading these sentences is as uncomfortable as writing these sentences. The words resist, as if I am dragging them out of crevices and they don’t want to come.
Each day we feel resistance in a million little ways in public too. Stares, comments, glares, touches, filth, fatwas, a total and complete lack of toilets. Don’t sit here. Don’t walk there. Don’t be.
Sometimes the push is so hard we slide all the way back over the boundaries of ourselves till we become sore, infected, incomplete people. The sore, infected, incomplete people who will bear and raise the next generation of you.
But this is not about me. It is about certain stories, which all women have, and ways to tell them, which most women don’t.
F, who works in retail, once told me one about the night after Benazir was assassinated. She had managed to catch the last bus out of the secret city where the rich can pull up the drawbridges.
Passing an empty plot in the dark, the headlights played across a pale dog running, a darkness after it. At home the adrenaline receded and the pale dog became the naked torso of a woman, the darkness the men behind her.
For some out there, every day is that day. Last month a woman shot her husband because he kept raping her daughter-in-law. Her son said his wife had told him the story but due to “parental respect” he couldn’t do it.
The newspaper recorded no laughter. I wonder if laughter is what happens when we all live to see another day?
The last time we met, F was complaining about the bus driver on her route. He would wait for her to put a foot on the step, then jerk the bus forward. Wait, and jerk again.
I asked her what she was going to do about it. She said she was going to buy a gun. I said “Tum kitnay aadmi maro gi? Har ghar say aadmi niklain gai.”
In her story the bus driver was also laughing.
Sometimes when we tell our stories, others complain that we have bookended Pakistani men, that we have not spoken of the vast majority of men who don’t harass.
These people cannot seem to wear even for a second our pretty, useless shoes. Even now they prime themselves for a pithy comment about generalisation, or embellishment, wondering if I really think it is better elsewhere.
I wonder, when I think about these hordes of the silent who miraculously discover speech when their self-image is at risk, if they even know that their idea of who they are is more important to them than other people’s real wounds.
When they want us to be quiet about the hostility and intimidation and molestation employed to drive us away from vast, open spaces, cramped professional ones, their screens, their Facebook pages, they are telling us our stories are not worthy.
Our stories don’t flatter them. Our stories don’t make them heroes, or villains, but lumpen, broken things, like furniture rotting in an old house meant for demolition. That is the house we have built, here in the land of the pure.
I wonder, about these people, these slaves of piddarshahi, if they realise how much space they already take up in the world, and how selfish it is for them to demand more, to invade our very selves and call for silence inside it.
Let us not even speak of the garden-variety harassment of the cat’s tongue and poondi genus anymore. Let’s turn the dial on this impulse, unchecked, to the intensity it acquires in private.
Explore further: Sunday magazine special: Sexual harrasment
There are stories in the news archives of this country about men punishing women for crossing the lines drawn around them with acid, bricks, bats, knives, bullets, whips, stones, soldering irons. But I am not allowed to detail how, in this space.
Someone waits to tell me it is against our culture to talk so nakedly about the body. As if culture is a fixed, tangible thing and not a work in progress both he and I are working on.
When we tell stories about bodies we are not talking about the body, meray aziz humwatno, we are talking about the soul. In the case of a country, that collective consciousness that chooses when the whole is animated.
The soul of this place we call home is a sick, twisted thing. It rages when it should feel shame and laughs when it should cry. The screens in the cinemas of the sick play on loop stories that worship at the altar of violence, and never ask how a story house built of only those stories invariably crumbles.
Men laugh on talk shows and in parliament when ‘women’s issues’ are discussed. Men laugh as they walk away, women laugh as they are left behind, children laugh as they keep their secrets.
Even the dog, that is actually a dog, approaching the men on their benches in the dusk, slides its gums back as it rolls over hoping for scraps.
Everyone laughs but the feminists. Who are humourless.
The author is a performance artist.
If you are facing sexual harassment and would like to file a complaint, please follow the government's guidelines here and here. You can also reach out to NGO helplines. If you wish to share your story at Dawn, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
It's quite possible that you received a notification from Careem this morning proclaiming, "Your rishta has arrived."
What is your reaction to this rather unexpected manoeuvre? Here's what some of Careem's regular users are saying.
Send us your thoughts as well at email@example.com
Sonia Ashraf, Karachi:
I didn't realise how much I'd need Careem.
As a single, working woman, it would bother me ─ and still does ─ that I can't use public transport. I have to depend on my father or a driver for travel.
If I have a plan with friends, it can never be an impromptu, fun plan because we have to figure out the ride situation. And what's sad is, we've gotten used to it.
But Careem helped. It made me feel independent to some extent. It helped me gain control in aspects I didn't think I'd get it. It got rid of my dependence on others and fixation on minuscule factors that should never have been a concern.
This rishta thing may seem like a joke. I laughed when I saw it. But it does serve as a grim reminder that the most basic element of our lives — our daily commute — is also laden with a culture we are desperately trying to fight.
It reminded me of all those moments when my external family would be concerned for my well being.
I didn't expect the one place that contributed so much to my independence to be a place that would make me feel awkward about it.
Awkward. That is what I feel about this whole situation.
When I laughed it off, I did so because I felt awkward. I know it's entirely my choice to go for such an option. I know I won't go for it, but do we really need a transport service providing such an option?
Is the concept of marriage so ingrained in our culture that it takes over everything in such a manner?
Natasha Japanwala, Karachi:
There was something dystopic about the push notification I found on my home screen this morning.
"Your rishta has arrived…" is an alarming enough alert to receive, but it was particularly disconcerting when coming from Careem ─ an app that has, for the most part, been much more than a car-hailing service.
For me, and many other young, single, working women in Pakistani metropolises, the app has provided a safe alternative to public transport — making it easier to get to work and to socialise, particularly later in the evenings.
Careem is an important part of a millennial's arsenal — one of the biggest differences between the Karachi of my teens and the Karachi of my twenties.
It actively supports the lifestyle many of my female friends and I dream of making possible for ourselves in our home country: the lifestyle of the modern career-woman who leaps from the office to parties, flying across the city while answering emails, swapping her workout shoes for heels.
I imagine that the very last thing this woman would want while juggling her gym bag and smartphone in the back of her Careem, is a rishta aunty — an older woman who takes it upon herself to play matchmaker — peering at her through the rearview mirror.
It’s the poorest marketing ploy I can think of — where a brand will come up with a promotion that runs antithetical to the values that it has built its name on.
But it’s a ploy that does a lot more harm than just bad PR. Rishta aunties aren’t funny anymore — in fact, they never were.
They strip us of the freedom to date in a messy, scandalous, utterly necessary way.
They police us, suggesting that the gorgeous intoxication of falling in love with whom we please is fodder for their harmful gossip. And they reduce us, by the very fact of their existence — reduce our ambitions, our agency, and our dreams through the relentless way they suggest that nothing is as important as who we marry.
And it’s precisely their relentlessness that has created and maintained a culture that celebrates heterosexual marriage as the ultimate achievement ─ the structure to exist within, other possibilities notwithstanding.
To insert a stereotype that ultimately halts gender equality into a service that plays a role in facilitating it is backward, harmful, and frightening. It’s the unravelling of progress and, yes, the stuff of dystopia.
Hamna Zubair, Karachi:
I'm a fan of Careem, I think the service is a necessary step towards normalising male-female interactions in public life. I appreciate that male Careem captains are courteous and that they are coached to view female customers as clients first and as women or an object of romantic interest second or not at all.
Which is why I think this rishta aunty initiative is really regressive.
All the effort that was made to delink sex, romance and innuendo from everyday commerce in order to make a Careem a safe space for women is going to be reversed by bringing in discussions about rishtas.
Tomorrow, after this initiative is over, what's to stop a Careem captain from turning around and asking a female customer 'toh aap ko rishta mila?'
It blurs boundaries and opens the door for uncomfortable or even inappropriate discussions.
I feel I'm a lot luckier than most of my friends who are my age. They all seem to have stories about being approached — either by their parents or others — for rishtas, but I've never had to face any of that.
So I was pretty excited when I saw that Careem was offering rishta aunty services. I'm curious about how they work and I've always wanted to see what they're like.
I am of 'marriageable age', but I can never find any decent partners for myself. Most men I come across just aren't interested in marriage. Those who are are just too boring.
Bas kya karen, hamain sub na-qabil-e-shaadi samajhte hain. Shayad rishta aunty se koi faidah hi ho jae.
Sukena Rizvi, Karachi:
Ride-hailing services should be more worried about harassment and nosy drivers chauffeuring female patrons instead of cheap marketing tricks.
The pressure to get married, especially for young women, can be paralysing. Let’s not turn such a thing into a gimmick for publicity.
They might think that they are helping people and ‘keeping it halal’ but in reality, they are pushing onto us a rather sexist construct.
Also, what kind of rishta aunties have they hired?
The ones most of us have encountered in our daily lives spend the whole time gawking at you, sizing you up, and a lot of times shaming you for being kaali or moti, and other haw hayes.
The message being conveyed with this campaign is that you need to give in to the pressure of getting married because that is the only way you’ll find ‘happiness’ in life.
Youssra Jabeen, Karachi:
As a young, middle-class woman trying to regain control of my life and break away from patriarchal chains, I rely heavily on Careem to move around.
I was able to earn money as I could go to work in a comfortable ride and did not need someone else to pay for it.
So many times, an elder in the family would question my choice (as they did for many other things) to use Careem and say, "Jabeen, Did you take Careem again? You know you probably spend around Rs15,000 of your salary on it."
With the advent of Careem, more and more young women started exercising bodily agency and moving around the city on their own, without having to depend on a brother, father, husband or an uncle to take them places.
It also relieved men of their ‘responsibility’ to take women in their house shopping, though many patriarchs still object as the women in their houses have stopped depending on them.
We had started to disrupt the order, fidgeting with the heavy chains of patriarchy around our legs.
We were sending a message that we didn't need a husband, as long as we had a loving family to come back home to.
That we'd much rather focus on our plans and ambitions than slap a fake smile on our faces and spend the evening pretending to like a bunch of strangers looking for a ‘perfect girl’ who will take care of their man-child.
That we'd much rather find ourselves a companion than force ourselves to share a bedroom with someone we have nothing in common with.
That we'd much rather the rishta aunty disappear into the wilderness and never again return to haunt our lives.
But I guess, as a woman trying to do her own thing in a conservative and patriarchal society, I was asking for too much.
Oh well! Gotta go! My rishta has arrived.
I'm confused, perplexed and horrified. All I can say at this point is, "Careem, what the hell?"
Careem, for me, signifies liberty, freedom of mobility and a form of independence. However, this morning it felt anything but.
When I woke up today (and thought of booking a ride to work), I got an email notification from Careem saying, "Your rishta has arrived!"
I panicked! No joke. I gasped and my heartbeat almost stopped. And I didn't even bother reading the rest.
For a car company that provided me with unconstrained movement in my city, it suddenly took all that away from me. I felt like prey again. I felt cornered. I felt targeted.
So many questions ran through my mind and I found it hard to contain myself. It was jarring.
Careem promising to provide women with a safe and secure car service, the ability to travel on their own, betrayed many of its female customers.
Do I not deal with enough of this rishta business, that I now have to put up with it through my car-booking app?
Rishtas are personal; they are meetups in a private setting between people seeking a partner. All of a sudden, Careem encroached that personal space and put it in the public sphere.
Making people meet a rishta aunty in a car so that they can discuss intimate details about their lives in front of a Careem driver is an invasion of privacy, not to mention awkward.
Where the Careem captain once saw women as customers, now he may view them in a sexualised manner.
Such a let down by Careem to give women the space and comfort of owning their city and then taking it all back with such a regressive approach.
In what seems like a complete farce, an unnamed source from PCB has told APP that the captain of the Pakistani Women’s Cricket Team, Sana Mir, is likely to lose captaincy as well as her place in the team after Pakistan's dismal performance in the ICC Women's World Cup in England, saying: “She [Sana] failed to lead Pakistan in a proper way. Her own performance too was not satisfactory.”
Ms. Shamsa Hashmi, Secretary Women’s Wing, has also been reported in the news to have called the captain’s performance as “not very encouraging”.
I followed all of Pakistan’s matches and it is not true that their performance was “dismal”.
First of all, ours is one of the youngest and least experienced teams who qualified for the World Cup. The qualification itself is an achievement for our team.
They played against teams who had been playing for decades before our team was formed in the mid-90s; with facilities and resources many times those that were available to our women’s cricket team.
Even so, they almost beat South Africa, and restricted India to their lowest score of 169 runs in the tournament (in contrast India made 281 against England, ranked number 2; and 226 against Australia, ranked number 1).
To teams who were better matched, Pakistan lost by small margins – to the West Indies, by 19 runs (D/L method) and to Sri Lanka by only 15 runs. The bowling and fielding ranged from brilliant to good in many of the matches; the batting, however, was weaker, made more brittle by Bismah Maroof’s injury.
Bismah Maroof’s injury and replacement exposed the lack of depth in reserve players, which the top teams have and we do not. The batting also showed just how utterly ineffective the coaching had been.
Diana Baig, who made her debut, shone among the younger players with her bowling and enthusiastic fielding.
But the Pakistani star of the tournament, despite losing all the games, was the captain, Sana Mir.
For the PCB to indicate that Sana Mir should lose her position in the team sounds at best like a bad joke. And at worst, a craven attempt to scapegoat the most valuable player.
With an average of over 30 runs in 5 innings, Sana had the highest batting average and performed with the bat and the ball, even in games when the rest of the batting side collapsed like dominoes.
Sana also took six catches, one of which was Nissan Play of the Day. She took the highest number of wickets (3), two catches and made the highest number of runs (45) against Australia – the top ranked team in the world. (In contrast the second highest batting score from Pakistan in that match was 21).
Sana Mir’s was the best and most consistent performance all around; the ICC statistics speak for that.
She is the only Pakistani woman cricketer to be ranked number 10 all-rounder in the world, and number 12 bowler in the world. No one else from Pakistan is even ranked in the top 20 in any category. Sana Mir is also the 6th and the only Pakistani woman who has a record of 100 wickets and 1000 runs.
Sana Mir’s consistent performance and captaincy in a high pressure environment indicate strength and maturity of character, which cannot be quantified in numbers but are obvious to anyone who has seen her play and heard her speak. She received high praise from the tournament commentators, who said that of all the captains, they thought Sana led her side the best.
For the PCB to indicate that Sana Mir should lose her position as captain and a player in the team, therefore, sounds at best like a bad joke. And at worst, a craven attempt to scapegoat the most valuable and accomplished player.
Who in their right mind fires the best performing and highest ranked player after a loss?
Is this how you take care of young women who are doing the best they can, with the modest resources and facilities you have provided them? Is this how you recognise the courage and achievements of those who represent you? ? Is this how you expect to improve and grow your team?
If all the blame for the losses is on the captain then what is Mr Najam Sethi’s role? What is the Chairman’s role? What is Ms Shamsa Hashmi's role? What is the coach's role? What does management draw a salary for if everything is the captain's fault?
Yes there should be a review and quite a bit of soul searching. All the players, including the captain, should learn from the mistakes so that they can improve and grow.
But the management cannot and should not be allowed to get away with heaping all the blame on a single player – the captain – and firing the coach (who was also engaged by the management). PCB's top management – Mr Sethi, Mr Shehryar Khan, Mr Aizad Sayed and Ms Shamsa Hashmi – should review its own performance first.
Has PCB provided the players all the resources, facilities, coaching, training and other support to expect them to win world cups?
I suspect the answer is 'no.'
Therefore, according to ethical standards of management, it's the PCB’s top brass, not the captain and not the team, that should be held accountable for these losses.
Are you a female athlete? Would you like to say something about the state of sports infrastructure in Pakistan? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Witnessing its present-day maze of narrow lanes and decaying houses, one can hardly imagine that Thatta was once the seat of learning and culture, a flourishing centre of commerce and industry and a cosmopolitan city sustaining hundreds of thousands of people.
Thatta is located 100 kilometres east of Karachi near Lake Keenjhar. Two miles nearer to Karachi, on a long ridge forming the western escarpment of the dry riverbeds, lies the extensive necropolis of Makli — the centuries-old burial ground of Thatta.
The Makli site consequently contains numerous tombs of historical and cultural significance in contrasting architectural styles.
The earliest burials on Makli Hills date back to the 14th century, when there were two sizeable habitations of some significance adjoining the Makli Hills: Samuee (the village of the Samma community) on the far northern tip and Thatta adjoining the southern tail end.
The Sammas (who ruled from 1351-1520) used to bury their dead there. That early Samma graveyard later became the official burial site of the Samma rulers till the demise of Jam Nizamuddin Nanda in 1509 CE.
As mentioned in Makli Nama (c. 1760) by Mir Ali Sher Qani Thattavi, Makli had spread southward accommodating all the burials through the subsequent eras of the Arghuns, Tarkhans, Mughals, and the post Mughal period.
Situated at the edge of the 6.5km-long plateau of Makli Hill, the necropolis of Makli is one of the world’s largest ‘graveyard’ cities and is at least 700 years old. In Makli Hill, one can find almost 125,000 tombs and graves covering an approximate area of 10km in radius.
According to historians Annemarie Schimmel and Charles Hughes Cousens, Makli was established as a holy place for worship and burial by the famous Sufi saint Shaikh Hammad Jamali (1366-1375), and his royal devotee Jam Tamachi (1388-1392) of the Samma dynasty.
Some other legendary persons buried at Makli are the saint Shaikh Isa Langoti (d.1428) and Pir Murad Shirazi (d.1488).
A 700-year-old necropolis rich in historical and cultural significance stands in need of preservation
The physical and historical geography of these monuments is remarkable. Its charm and beauty is evident along with its historical significance — historian Thattavi points out how shrines of Pir Aasat and Shah Piryan, Chashma Naran Serv Bharasar, Ma’abad Kalkan, Khir Sir Talab, Jalwagah-i-Imamin, Ard-i-Pak Mualla, Sehse Lang Talab, Meeka, Khund Sir Kunwan, Aghoor Talab are located there, as well as religiously important caves and temples of the Hindus.
The epigraphs installed at the monuments provide biographical details of the renowned saints of Sindh who are buried there and who devoted their lives to spreading the message of love and humanity. They also played a vital role in the sociopolitical milieu of the era.
The tombs and gravestones spread over the cemetery mark the social and political history of Sindh. Many have been built using local sandstone; others are plastered brick buildings.
Running from south to north, there are three main groups of monuments, arranged in inverse historical sequence.
The first group includes the monuments of the Mughal period (1592-1737). The tombs of Jani Beg Tarkhan and Ghazi Beg Tarkhan, Baqi Beg Uzbek, Tughral Beg, Isa Khan II, Jan Baba, Shurfa Khan and graveyard of Nawab Amir Khan’s family are the outstanding monuments to this group.
The second group belongs to the Arghuns and Tarkhans (1520-1592). This group includes the graveyard of Isa Khan Tarkhan I, Baqi Beg Tarkhan, Ahinsa Bai, Sultan Ibrahim, Mir Suleiman and many others.
The third group, which occupies the extreme north represents the Samma period (r.1351-1520). It comprises the tombs of Jam Nizam- uddin Nanda, Mubarak Khan, Malik Rajpal, a mosque and some canopies built over some unidentified graves.
The hallmark of the architecture of Makli is the variety of forms and techniques of decoration, which represent the aspiration and genius of the people of Thatta. It bears the distant marks of its variant ancestry and shows distinction from the imperial style of Delhi.
Since the Central Asian Turks such as the Arghuns, the Tarkhan and the Mughals dominated Sindh, it caused cultural interactions in the region, which, alongside vernacular values, have also left an impact on the Makli Hill art and architecture.
Therefore, as a blend of various cultures, a new form of building art emerged at the Makli Hill necropolis. Thus, different schools of architecture seem to be displayed at Makli Hills shown through these graves.
The hallmark of the architecture of Makli is the variety of forms and techniques of decoration, which represent the aspiration and genius of the people of Thatta. It bears the distant marks of its variant ancestry and shows distinction from the imperial style of Delhi.
As far as Makli’s social and cultural significance is concerned, people from Thatta and other parts of the country visit the necropolis. It has a festive atmosphere that provides visitors a unique experience: spiritual and ecstatic.
Some specific dates and days are considered the most auspicious time to visit the graves of the great mystic saints, who were able to exercise their influence beyond the grave to bring spiritual gains — perhaps a visit to their burial places could bring a transcendental experience.
Till the 18th century, Makli Hill had a beautiful landscape with lakes and lush green parks thronged by visitors. Today, Makli is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Site that is visited by pilgrims and tourists, but is in strong need of conservation and maintenance.
The writer is assistant professor of history at University of Karachi, and can be reached at email@example.com
Published in Dawn, EOS, July 16th, 2017
The tomb of Mirza Essa Tur Khan
From Tuesday to Sunday, for the past 40 years, a group of footballers have played at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore.
Among the current crop of players is Tariq Bhatti, who resides near Data Darbar. He is a deep-lying forward who likes to receive the ball on the turn and attempt to zig-zag his way through the middle of the pitch and have a pot-shot at the goal.
He gets a goal every few games from his numerous attempts per game. I have suggested for years that he pass the ball back into midfield. But that isn’t the way he plays.
It also isn’t how Bahu or Khurram play, both bullish defenders from Gawalmandi who like to push attackers off the ball by leaning into them with their shoulders and clearing the ball in any direction they can. They are formidable in the air and their positioning is wise and effective.
I stand in the middle of the pitch, watching as they hoof the ball from the defence, and dribble it away from the attackers. I hope one day the defence will finally pass the ball into midfield, and the attackers may too, slow down the tempo and eventually lay the ball back into midfield.
The Pakhtun as wild and violent is a colonial construct that continues to serve the post-colonial state among others
My hopes partially came true a year ago when Dost Mohammad and Saleem started playing with us. Dost’s family came to Lahore more than a 100 years ago from Mohmand Agency, while Saleem arrived recently from Mardan and works in the clothing industry.
Saleem, a young inside-forward, moves elegantly, with the ball glued to his feet. Pushing him off or running him into a cul-de-sac are the best ways to stop him. But when he is in midfield, he passes the ball to me and we play a one-two to set each other off on attacking runs.
Dost is a deep-lying midfielder, broad shouldered and robust, with thighs like the ancient trunks of the trees of Bagh-e-Jinnah. He plays in midfield with me, where he often passes the ball short before moving into space to receive it again.
Sometimes he can go on a dribble and have a shot – often, it goes flying wide. He scores less than Tariq but when he shoots and I shout at him to calm down and keep passing, I hear a refrain from others, ‘he is Pathan, he won’t listen’.
Related: The enigmatic Pakhtun
For all the love and happiness I share with my football friends, this racism – which I challenge – nonetheless persists. Its root and function are related to power and geopolitics.
The Pakhtun as wild and violent is a colonial construct that continues to serve the post-colonial state among others. The construct hides the lives of Pakthuns as they actually are. They, as a group or individual, are always overdetermined by this construct.
Here, partly to challenge this construct and partly in homage to my Pakhtun friends, I want to try and show the lives of Pakthuns of Lahore as I have come to see and experience them.
Medicine for the heartbroken
In late 2008, I lost my first cat. For days and nights, like Sassi searching for Punnu, maddened, in a trance, I wandered the streets putting up posters and calling out his name in every nook and corner. I circled all the spaces he might have covered.
Without my beloved Yuyu, life made no sense and still doesn’t.
After two days in this state, the owners of the dogs that had killed Yuyu took pity and returned his body to me, which they had been scared to do fearing retribution. The pain of the separation never goes away. And it never will.
Afzal Khan, from Quetta, a student of Forman Christian College perceived from my choked voice and reddened eyes, the helplessness of my situation. He had a remedy in mind.
He invited me to join him and his friends for dinner at Khan Baba Chapli Kebab and Fish Corner, located in the backstreets of Main Market in Gulberg.
We sat down on plastic chairs and, in Pashto, Afzal Khan called over waiter Javed Khan and ordered two kilos of fish, ten nans and two pots of Peshawari kahwah.
The moon and chill of the night lit the evening and as we sat, the students inquired my opinion on Plato’s philosophy of love. I talked for hours. They gave me the stage and let me play the role of an ‘intellectual’ that I had coveted.
Treated with this kindness, with a full belly and kahwah running through my body, I walked home a little soothed.
That was ten years ago. Since then I have been a regular at Khan Baba’s and spent many hours sitting in the back street on plastic chairs with kahwah and my notebooks. I have sat there alone, in the company of students, intellectuals and activists.
When short of money, I have walked there in rain or in the dry or humid heat of the summer nights and, on credit, got fish and nan for myself as well as for Gugu Guevara (Yuyu’s sister).
A decade on, something of that healing magic of that first night still remains.
What makes Khan Baba work magic are the people who put their labour into it.
Amir Khan, 25, from Mardan, and Javed Khan, 55, from Dir, are two such workers.
Amir has worked at Khan Baba since he was 14 and Javed since he was 12. Along with the 15 other workers – cooks, waiters, dishwashers, and cashiers – they wake up for fajr prayer. Then, following breakfast, they gossip and after some time spent on the phone, they start work at around 9 am.
First, they clean the seating and cooking areas, the chairs are wiped and the cooking utensils washed. Then, they move on to preparing the base ingredients for the day: Cutting onions, potatoes, chillies, preparing the sauce, and getting the oil heated and ready.
At 11 am, they are ready to serve customers and remain open till 1am.
During peak months, Javed and the others serve 500 to 700 customers a day. On average, the workers make Rs 400 per day.
They all hail from either Dir or Mardan and most of them return home every few months – taking their hard earned income to their family.
The shop also has a resident cat – CiCi, a beautiful Calico female that lives in an apartment above the shop.
As CiCi gets older, she tends to stay indoors in the apartment. Yet, I have seen her make quick guest appearances to check on everyone before running up the stairs and back to her cozy bed.
Javed has spent 43 years serving customers of Lahore at Khan Baba. If we take a conservative estimate of 200 customers per day for a year, and we multiply that by the number of years Javed has worked at Khan Baba, it means he has possibly served around 3 million people.
Khan Baba – with Imran, Javed, and CiCi – has kept me going when heartbroken and/or broke. Khan Baba will never heal the pain of separation, but having its fish and kahwah in the company of friends, soothsayers and those who fight for people’s rights, is the closest I have come to forgetting, momentarily, my pain.
Two seasonal cogs in Lahore's machinery
Habibullah sells sunglasses and other eyewear from his stand in Anarkali bazar. He first came to Lahore from Bajaur six years ago. It was then that I first met him. I needed sunglasses to protect me from the heat of the Old City. He offered a brown pair of replica Ray-Ban for Rs 500. We have stayed in touch ever since.
He is married and has two children, who live in Bajaur with his extended family. He started coming to Lahore when his father fell ill and the family needed extra income. He comes to Lahore to work for three months and returns to Bajaur for three months. There, he works his family’s land and looks after his goats, two cattle, and attends to his ailing father.
In Lahore, he earns a profit of around Rs 250- 400 per day. Out of this sum, Rs 60-120 goes toward his tea and food. He often skips meals to save money.
“I am here to work for my family. I try and save money as quickly as possible so that I can return to my village,” he told me.
Habibullah lives in a hostel, in Janazgah area near Lytton Road, in a room that he shares with five others who have also come to work in Lahore from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In-depth: Closing the gates of Lahore
The room is 16 feet by 12 feet. All six cannot sleep in the room at the same time so they take turns. The monthly cost for the room is Rs 4000, which they divide among themselves.
Life in Lahore for Habibullah is far from rosey. He told me, “I am here for my children and my family. If there were opportunities closer to home, I would stay but there aren’t, so we come here to work. I have faced a lot of discrimination and also support, but it doesn’t matter – we have to put up with our conditions for the sake of our children.”
Jahanzeb, too, comes to work in Lahore from FATA. In 2009, I bought a wooden cart from him with which one can roast and then sell corn cobs. I had the idea of using it one day outside a cafe I ran with friends. It never happened and, in 2011, I gifted it back to him.
Sometimes, he sells roasted peanuts and corn from his cart and sometimes he sets up a shoe polishing stand on the back streets near FCC kachi abadi. He works 10 to 12 hours a day and can earn between Rs 200 and 400 per day.
Like Habibullah, every three to six months he heads back to his village for a few months. When he goes, either his brother or cousins come to take over the business.
Habibullah and Jahanzeb are two of hundreds of thousands of lumpen workers who come seasonally to Lahore to work before returning to their homes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They live in cramped accommodation, take on tasks others are not willing to do, and better our city with their labour.
A treasury of wisdom
Dr Anila doesn’t live in Lahore anymore but she visits. For a while, she chose it as her home.
After completing her PhD in the United States and fieldwork in Kabul, she decided to teach at a university in Lahore.
Her family is from Kohat and many of her extended family live in Peshawar. She could have gone to teach anywhere, but she chose Lahore.
As fellow academics, we sit around in bourgeois cafes, grading papers, all the while carrying on with our debates. The key debate centres around the role of violence in resistance.
I argue that the violent acts by the oppressed cannot be dismissed politically or ethically. Anila disagrees; she supports non-violent approaches.
I cite Malcolm X and Fanon. She cites them too but adds Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and the history of the Khudai Khidmatgar – a history she has come to know from her father and his teachings.
I am yet to convince her of any of my positions, which is not surprising, because Anila is a far superior academic and intellectual to me.
Also read: Role for Pashtun intelligentsia
This, not only because of her academic publications, but because she has thought things out more, lived her ideas out more and, simply put: she has worked harder.
As such, though a friend, she is also my teacher. She has taught me two things.
Firstly, humility: cultural capital and capital do not give us the right to treat people without it as inferior. Anila keeps reminding me that before I give lectures at prestigious universities abroad, I should "remember to be humble, always humble." I don’t always follow this advice but it keeps me grounded.
Secondly, she argues that our "knowledge, as academics and activists, has to be grounded in the experiences of people".
And, therefore, this article is a footnote to her method.
Anila breezes across Lahore, picking up fabrics from Saleem Fabric, getting them stitched at tailors of Liberty Market, and today she wears them at Ivy League universities.
As a teacher and an example, she imbues Lahore and its people with her greetings of love and light, message of non-violence and injunction to humility above all.
They say Lahore Lahore hay. Of course it is, and it is my home. But in an important way, Lahore is Lahore because of the Pakthuns of Lahore.
Lahore is Lahore because Dost Mohammad and Saleem decided to live and play football here.
Because Imran Khan and Javed Khan put their labour into Khan Baba.
Because Habibullah and Jahanzeb put up with cramped accommodation and the discrimination so they can earn their living here.
Because Anila embroiders the city with her example and shares her hard-earned knowledge with Lahore’s students.
Each one of them has been violently over-determined by colonial constructs about Pakthuns – and often by state institutions. Yet, as with all discourses, at least, at the level of the street, it is us, the public, that has the power to rework and challenge these preconceived ideas.
It simply isn’t acceptable to joke, to make an aside comment, to jump to conclusions based on racist, colonial and postcolonial state-formed notions.
It is time we acknowledge the labour and efforts of the Pakthuns of Lahore and show them the same solidarity and humility that they have shown us. Let me be clear, it is time we learnt from them.
After spending the weekend with my parents in my hometown of Gujranwala, my younger brother and I woke up early yesterday morning in order to return to Lahore, where we live, so that we could get to work on time.
Our mother made us a heavy breakfast which we ate like kings. As we were leaving, she did her usual sadqah ritual so that we are protected from anything bad.
The drive was an hour and a half long, and it was pouring heavily. We were glued in our seats, almost sedated by the lassi we'd had earlier.
Halfway into the journey, on the GT Road, we saw a policeman waving at us for a lift. We didn’t want to leave him in the torrential rain, and decided to let him hop in.
He told us that he was late for duty because of the rain and that his fellow officers were waiting for him at a chowk in Lahore. He was evidently relieved at finally finding a ride to work.
The policeman brought a unique energy with him; it broke the silence and woke us up from our lassi-induced slumber. We suddenly started talking all at once.
I asked him what time his shift starts. Seven in the morning, he said, with a smile. And when does it end? "Hamari duty kabhi khatam nahi hoti" he replied, with another smile.
I told the officer that I used to work at a news channel and we always made sure to highlight the positive efforts of our police force in resolving many issues. I also mentioned that the media, in general, advocated for more resources for the police and compensation for the families of the policemen who lay their lives in the line of duty.
He retorted, "to kia ye sab kuch kaafi hai?" His question silenced me and made me ponder. With his vibes, straightforwardness and wit, he had brightened up my day.
We dropped him off at his destination when we reached Lahore. He thanked us and we were equally if not more thankful to him.
Later in the afternoon, a blast outside my office at the Arfa Karim Tower sent ripples through the building. Everyone was in shock. I was panicking but tried to tell myself that it was not as bad as it seemed.
I hesitantly went over to the window to see what had happened. I saw thick black smoke rising from the burning cars right in front of my office building. The next thing I knew, there were dead bodies strewn across the area.
Witnessing what a bomb blast does to human bodies sucked the soul out of me. There was blood everywhere and people on Ferozepur Road were in a state of frenzy. What I had only ever watched on TV was playing out right in front of my eyes and I could not make sense of anything I was seeing.
My brother called me to make sure I was OK. Family and friends started calling me as well right after. I reassured them that everyone in the office was safe.
When I went home, I turned on the TV to see the details that were coming in. The policeman who had lifted my mood earlier in the day was on my screen. It’s just that, he had been martyred.
I was depressed after the bomb blast; when I found out that the person I had driven in my car a few hours earlier was dead in the same blast, right outside my office, I was completely broken.
I still remember his smile.
Rest in peace, Assistant sub-inspector Fayyaz.
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As a child, Maryam Mirzakhani dreamt of being a novelist, at least until she was struck by the spell of mathematics.
Born in 1977, she attended Farzanegan School in Tehran, which has specifically been established by the Iranian state for girls of high aptitude. Mirzakhani was unstoppable. She was the first Iranian woman to bring home several gold medals from the International Mathematics Olympiad for two consecutive years at the early ages of 17 and 18.
After graduating from Sharif University, she headed to Harvard for graduate studies. There, she did her doctoral thesis under the mentorship of Curtis McMullen (a Fields Medalist), before moving to Princeton University as Assistant Professor and the Clay Mathematics Institute as Research Fellow.
At just 31 years of age, Mirzakhani joined Stanford University as a full professor, researching there till cancer consumed her at age 40.
Mirzakhani won more accolades in her short life than many men do in their entire academic careers. She received the Blumenthal Award from the American Mathematical Society in 2009 and in 2013, the Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize in Mathematics.
In 2014, she became the first woman to win the Fields Medal — the highest honour in mathematics, equivalent to the Nobel Prize. In the same year, she was named in the list of 10 most important researchers of the year in the British science magazine Nature.
More than simply a mathematician, Mirzakhani was a gifted artist who could visualise a world beyond what we can see.
Mirzakhani was an expert in Teichmüller and ergodic theory, hyperbolic geometry, symplectic geometry, and moduli spaces.
In simple terms, her work involved different forms of geometry, abstract surfaces, shapes, and structures in higher-dimensional spaces — topics which are a road block for mathematicians.
Her supervisor Curtis McMullen had provided a solution for predicting the path of balls on a billiard table, the table taking an abstract form resembling a torus-doughnut-pretzel-like shape. Mirzakhani’s appetite however, was not satiated by the work of her supervisor.
Undaunted by the complexity of the solution, she went on to extend McMullen’s work to more complex surfaces as part of her doctoral thesis. The three publications that resulted from her doctoral dissertations are distinguished for involving numerous highly-developed considerations.
So, what’s so great about the game of billiards? For decades, mathematicians have been fascinated with the game.
They have tried to predict what happens to the ball on a table. How does one shoot the ball in a way that it returns to its original spot after a number of rebounds/deflections? Will the ball return to the original path at some point? If it does, will it follow the exact path as before? Is the whole space covered by the flight? Or is the system chaotic? Problems like these are particularly relevant in having a better understanding of the universe, such as the role of periodic orbits.
More than simply a mathematician, Mirzakhani was a gifted artist who could visualise a world beyond what we can see. Her world was filled by geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces – spheres, doughnuts and amoebas.
Her work showcases important aspects of geometry, topology and deformation theory of Riemann surfaces, benefiting many other fields of mathematics such as optics, acoustics, classical mechanics, statistical mechanics, prime numbers and cryptography.
Being the first woman to receive a Fields Medal provoked questions on the under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs. In going through the profiles of successful mathematicians and scientists, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who is not male and white.
In 2015, women made up one-third or less of the total workforce in STEM fields in the US. In the UK, the figure was 17% in 2014 when it came to women professors in engineering and technology. Again, very few of these women are non-white or from immigrant backgrounds.
Gender inequality and cultural stereotypes lead to a lack of confidence in women by their peers. When reflecting on my own experiences and speaking to others in my field, I believe that self-doubt is also a common obstacle preventing women, especially from minority backgrounds, from pursuing a STEM career.
This is where Mirzakhani is an inspiration for all of us as a cultural icon. As an immigrant woman of colour, she defied all stereotypes by becoming an exceptional scientist and mathematician, and outdid many of her male colleagues. She can also serve as an example for women in Pakistan, where women are hardly ever employed or engaged in STEM fields due to several cultural restrictions.
Her curiosity and passion for tackling challenges is what made her discover and churn out solutions. She overturned the long-held belief that women can’t be good in mathematics. Mirzakhani was more than good; she was a genius.
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Zahra Lakdawala is a Research Scientist/Software Specialist at DHI-WASY Gmbh in Berlin and a Scientific Consultant for Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics in Kaiserslautern, Germany.
Header design: Nabeel Ahmed
Credit: Nabeel Ahmed
My last visit to Swat, once known idyllically as the emerald valley, was after massive floods had struck the region around this time in 2010. I remember sitting on the banks of the picturesque Swat river on the roadside, and being told: “See that pile of bricks on the other side? That’s all that remains of Mullah Fazlullah’s madrassa. It was swept away instantly by the floods.”
For years the former princely state of Swat, famous for its fruit orchards, snow-clad mountains, Buddhist stupas and trout-filled rivers, was a popular tourist destination – its hotels were clean and its people well-educated, at least in the main towns.
In 2007, the Taliban began taking control of the region, shutting down hotels and even destroying them along with schools. Anyone who had any means started leaving Swat until the army moved into the area to flush out the militants in May 2009.
The army operation, though bloody, did not last very long and by July 2009, the internally displaced persons of Swat Valley, began to return to their war-torn homes and villages.
I was told that there had been a nexus between the Taliban and the timber mafia which operates in the north of Pakistan. Wherever the Taliban grabbed power (as they did in Swat and Waziristan), protected forests were cut down and exploited with no regard for consequences.
Experts say that without trees and thick biomass to slow down the water flow, the flooding of 2010 took on greater intensity as the water, undeterred by surrounding vegetation, flowed at a faster speed.
When the Swat River burst its banks due to the unprecedented torrential rains that fell over the Hindu Kush and Karakoram, people barely had time to escape from their homes.
The locals say one or two heavy cloudbursts are enough to cause a flash flood. In late July 2010, there were as many as a dozen cloudbursts in a row.
There was no modern early warning system in place. This kind of flooding had not happened in this region since 1929.
The Swat River feeds into the Kabul River, which in turn meets the Indus River in Attock on the border with Punjab. The Indus, overflowing with water from the upstream, wreaked havoc in Southern Punjab and all along Sindh where it flattens out in the plains.
“What happened was that a cooler, westerly system over the north of the country interacted with hot, moisture laden winds from the east and caused a series of cloudbursts”, explained Dr Qamrul Zaman Chaudhry, who was the head of the Pakistan Meteorological Department office in Islamabad when I interviewed him back in 2010. “Extreme weather events are on the rise and their intensity is also increasing”, he had warned.
Dr Chaudhry, after leaving the Met office later that year, went on to author Pakistan’s National Climate Change Policy that was launched in 2013.
The policy was shelved for a while, and now needs to be urgently revised and updated. There are proposals to fast track it under the new Climate Change Act 2016 which was passed by the Senate in March this year.
Neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, India and Nepal have in the meantime all come up with climate change action plans that are already being implemented.
In Bangladesh for example, they have FM radios advising people about flooding and people know exactly where to run to for safety – even a school child knows what climate change is and what can be done about it.
Currently, Pakistan has one of the lowest forest covers in the region. I was recently shocked to learn that according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s Global Forests Resources Assessment 2015, Pakistan’s forest cover is an abysmal 1.9% (percentage of land cover). Much of this forest cover (around 40%) is located in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which has 17% of its land covered by natural forests.
The Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Project in KP (including Swat) involving large scale afforestation is a positive step implemented by the provincial government to prevent future floods.
However, disaster preparedness in Pakistan has to reach right down to the grassroots level and become mainstream in the process. Also, land-use planning is an area that requires much needed attention.
The disaster was made worse by the rapid growth in Pakistan’s population and the struggle to find land for housing. People exposed themselves to great danger by building homes in dry riverbeds or too close to the rivers.
The widespread destruction in the country, from the mountains to the coastline, showed our extreme vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change and drew international attention.
The floods were described as “the worst natural disaster the United Nations has responded to in its 65-year history”, by then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. At one point, approximately one fifth of Pakistan’s total land area was underwater due to the flooding.
The nation’s worst calamity ruined roads, bridges, schools, health clinics, electricity and communications in Swat and affected many other districts. After the initial rescue and relief work done by the army, NGOs and the government focused on reviving Swat’s economy and rebuilding hotels, schools and other infrastructure lost to war and floods.
Hotels in Swat finally started re-opening their doors in 2011 to receive tourists in the summer season. This year a record number of tourists went to Swat, and the hotels were overbooked.
I have not been back to Swat for a few years now, but local resident Ehsanullah, who is a board member of the Sarhad Rural Support Programme told me recently: “I would say normalcy has returned to Swat. Most of the infrastructure has been rebuilt – even the hotels right next to the River Swat! Call it greed or short memory, but people have rebuilt the hotels that were swept away by the floods of 2010. In fact, people have forgotten about the floods and the militancy to a large extent.”
Everyone hopes that floods on the scale of 2010 never hit Pakistan again. Unfortunately, the climate change experts warn us otherwise.
How have you been affected by the Swat flooding or any other natural disaster that hit Pakistan? Share your story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org