How Ahmadis are braving the educational apartheid

It was a relatively cool evening in Rabwah, a few days ago. I was there on an invitation to attend an enthralling seminar on “The shroud of Turin”, held in a state of the art Auditorium of Nusrat Jehan College for girls.


My host was the exuberant Faateh Bajwa, deputy director of Ahmadiya community’s central education Department, referred to as Nazarat Taleem.

After the seminar I was shown around, and I must confess I was dumbstruck by the sprawling campus, fully furbished canteens, quality of facilities and the dedication of somewhat fledgling but highly motivated staff at the college.

   
Nusrat Jehan means “universal victory”. Probably, it is the name of the college that has been talismanic in helping it achieve success against all odds.
As Ahmadiya community’s flagship institute, Nusrat Jehan college in Rabwah, not only caters to girls but a separate boys campus goes by the same name as well.

For a boys college to borrow its name from a woman is unprecedented in a country where male chauvinism and patriarchy have been a norm. 

 

  

Associated with  education sector myself, I took keen interest in visiting various institutes operating under the auspices of Nazarat Taleem

Out of their 13 non-profit schools in the town, boasting a strength of over 9,000 students, the one that moved me was the Institute for special education, a school for kids with special needs.

The facility was small,  but the teaching staff had big hearts and broad smiles on their faces. 

Currently 95 Students with Celebral palsey, Epilsepsy, Physcial handicap, Intellectual and hearing impairment and  Down’s syndrome are given quality treatment regardless of caste, creed or religious. 

  

As I entered, I noticed that most of the students were going outside for their routine sporting activities. The dedicated principal, Amtul jameel sahiba, was optimistic that one day her kids would partake in Special Olympics even though no official from Pakistan’s Special Olympics committee had bothered to visit the institute, despite her regular insistence.

  

  
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to chilling indifference towards Ahmadis, as indicated by the  tumultuous history.

The biggest jolt Ahmadiyya community faced in terms of education was the policy of nationalization of private institutions enforced under Zulfiqar ali bhutto’s regime in 1970’s.

Post Bhutto’s era, all educational institutions that were nationalized were acquired back by the real owners barring the Ahmadiyya community. Till date, the community is striving unsuccessfully to reclaim the three educational institutes that were nationalized. The famous of the lot was Taleem ul Islam (TI) college, Rabwah.


The close affinity of most Ahmadis with TI college, Rabwah can be gauged by the fact that either them or their acquinatances have been associated with the once coveted insititute  in one way or the other.

A few residents also highlighted the enviable debating culture at TI colllege that even gave Government college Lahore a run for its money during its heydays.

That robust culture died a long time back, when the institution was nationalized by the state.

 Fearing persecution under the draconian regime of Zia, who succeeded Bhutto, the community members kept their lips mum.

Putting it plainly, an educational apartheid was carried out, where the state chose populism over principles by usurping educational institutes run by the peaceful minority to assuage the Mullahs.

With their backs against the wall, top leadership of the community sat down to devise a cogent program to safeguard the future of Ahmadi students in adverse circumstances. In 1991, the intial  fruit of their serious deliberation was reaped in the form of Nusrat Jehan academy, a school that caters to both boys and girls on separate campuses. 

Ever since the scheme’s inception there has been multiplicity of facilities, institutions and ideas despite limited resources. 

The pivotal aspect of this model is that it breathes the essence of volunteerism and community work. It embraces with open arms dedicated educationists from all over Pakistan who are willing to chip in with their valuable contributions.

Most Ahmadis working in Nazarat taleem are volunteers. Some have even left lucrative jobs at blue chip companies like ICI and Telenor to work in the remote town of Punjab. Mirza Fazal Ahmad, the director of the department and a Charter Accountant by academic qualification, is no exception. He is investing all his energies and resources in building the system into a sustainable one.

It was inspirational to see that low wages and limited resources have not let their shoulders droop; in fact the positive vibes have been permeative and contagious.

Nazarat Taleem’s  financial aid office operates on no-discrimination policy as well. On the list of those drawing stipends is a non-Ahmadi Baloch boy, who belongs to Ahl-e-Hadis sect. Once he contacted the relevent office for help, the department obliged by funding his undergraduate degree on humanitarian grounds.

It  is even more remarkable that all funds are self generated within the community and not a single penny is provided by the government.

Such a sustainable educational model evolved by the community, is quite a rarity in a country which is grappling with educational woes with over 25 million children out of school according to a latest survey by Alif Ailan.

Perhaps Agha khan community is the only other minority in the country that has lead by example on this account. But unlike the Agha Khanis, Ahmadis had to deal with acrimonious circumstances on a consistent basis. 


The 2010 terrorist attacks on two Ahmadi Mosques ampilified the already prevelant  anti Ahmadi sentiments on campuses, a few notches. 

Then In year 2011, a new stipulation required all Ahmadi students appearing for Punjab board exam to identify them as “non Muslims”. It was an unwanton clause that added insult to injury.

At that crucial juncture, Nazarat Taleem took a leap of faith and switched their student body to the Agha khan Board instead.

With Time, the decision proved to be a blessing in disguise. As the cutting edge Agha khan board curriculum had more to offer compared to Punjab board syllabus. 

Under proper guidance and mentorship, numerous Ahmadi students around the country secure Top positions in board and university exams on a continous basis and Nazarat Taleem magnanimously recognize all high achievers.

  
With Success as its hallmark, Nazarat taleem has been instrumental in facilitating bright Ahmadi students into prestigious institutes like LUMS and IBA on full scholarship under the merit based national outreach program evey year.

But the stories of glaring injustices in our educational landscape seem to be present in every Ahmadi household. 

Faateh shared that his own sister, along with other Ahmadi students, was rusticated from the Punjab medical college Faisalabad in 2012 merely on the account of being an Ahmadi . It all happened in broad day light and sadly no action was taken.


Nazarat Taleem’s placement centre came to their rescue and helped them secure berths in various universities across the globe and around Pakistan, where on campus atmosphere was not hostile.  

 As I reached the fag end of my two days sojourn, I was given another gracious invitation of an international medical conference to be held later this year.

Despite my non medical background, I gleefully  accepted it when the benevolent purpose of the conference was ennunciated upon me.

Two years ago when doctor Mahdi Ali, a US based Ahmadi cardiologist and an important member of Tahir Heart Hospital, was cold bloodedly murdered in Rabwah, Nazarat Taleem bounced back and filled his void by initiating an international medical conference, where doctors especially cardiologists from all over the world participated with great oomph.

    
With the second installment of the international medical conference around the corner and Doctor Abdus Salam research forum operating in full pelt, the future looks bright but the consequences of educational apartheid carried out by the state in the past and at present is what perturbs the beleagured minority.

Advertisements

Confronting Wrong numbers?

IMG_2482.JPG

It was New Year eve a friend had come over from Islamabad, after high tea we decided to hit the cinema just to kill time before he left for home.

Three hours later i had this perturbing question hovering over my mind:
“Are we brave enough to tackle wrong numbers? ”

Taking a cue out of the awe aspiring didactic bollywood Blockbuster PK that puts superstition harboring God-men to the sword; i am pin pointing to the mullahs spewing hate on tv in Pakistan. The vitriol injected by Amir Liaqat Hussain and his toady clerics in a private tv show virtually snowballed into the murder of an Ahmadi in Gujranwala the very next day, but i reckon that’s business as usual for it was conveniently put under the mat.

I need to clear the air before crossing the thin red line that neither am i an Islam bashing ultra liberal nor a pseudo secular in search of limelight or a raw agent with nefarious agenda up my sleeves.

Recently Civil society showed maturity and chutzpah by protesting against maulana Abdul Aziz outside the red mosque in the wake of the grisly Peshawar attack, though some thought it was an ephemeral catharsis on part of a few bold people who took to the streets in the Capital. I believe the short lived demonstration created a few ripples in status quo where fighting against the religious cult is an exercise in futility as unfortunately social media (which has a limited scope) seems to be the only battle turf to tackle the religious fascists.

Take the case of the christian couple that was cold-bloodedly thrown in the kiln in bright daylight on false allegation of blasphemy by a bunch of demented maniacs but despite all the clamour on social media the ailing justice system has yet again disappointed by resorting to delaying tactics before giving a verdict over a case that is as clear as a may’s morning.

I hope that peshawar attack becomes the water shed moment. Though paradoxically 43 years ago the same day (16th december) should been the critical juncture for us to come of age as a nation when the country was dismembered, rather we went back a few steps attributing to the pyrotechnics and shenanigans of Mr. Bhutto and Zia, which are now of part of history books to take heed. Eventually in 1997 Nawaz Sharif government hit the last nail in coffin by recognising the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Though Musharaff and general Kiyani coped their share of flak for not curbing the dirty game of good cop and bad cop played with talibans under their noses in post 911 Pakistan, yet I would laud Perveiz Musharaff for taking pivotal decision regarding operation silence on the red mosque which quizzically backfired.

I reckon it backfired because we ‘the awaam’ badly miscalculated the ambitions of the operation that was meant to quell the fundamentalists, who had taken refuge inside, without desecrating the sanctity of Mosque or islamic values.

I vividly remember during the days of operation silence i was staying in hostel of Pakistan’s premier business school pursuing my MBA degree, with the so called liberal student body. Witnessing live telecast of operation in the hostel’s lounge it was manifested by the reaction of some of my mates that religious jingoism had got the better of national interests as many questioned the morality of the operation on a mosque, without delving into the crux of the matter.

Rationally scrutinised, It is evident that the fundos inside abducted ladies on account of debauchery and misdeeds, i wonder what yardstick or divine authority they had to punish someone on basis of morality? maybe Zia Ul Haq’s ghost had permitted them, i can’t fathom. Just to set the record straight they even used burqa clad women as shields and failed to relent even on the intervention of imam of Kaba, who flew all the way from mecca.

Peshawar incident is an eye opener. Its high time that those who still believe that Malala is a CIA backed educational drone or a jewish conspiracy and the attack on her was a set up should put their malices to rest now.

#Neverforget hash tag would only embelish our twitter profiles if we do not translate it into a meaningful movement on grass root level and become bold enough to call spade a spade and understand the true teachings of islam ourselves rather than permitting the mullahs to set the religious doctrine and carve a narrative for our coming generation to follow.

Before it is too late let’s awaken the PK inside us( that is so alien to the prevailing narrative in the country) and start questioning the authority of hate-mongering religious bigots having wrong numbers.

Saudi Arabia: No country for Pakistani brides

IMG_1569-0.JPG

Here is Express tribune’s link: 

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/23544/saudi-arabia-no-country-for-pakistani-brides/

The untoward behaviour from the Saudi government of reportedly laying off 30,000 illegal Pakistani workers hit yet another ebb when Saudi men were recently banned from bringing brides from four nationalities including Pakistan that is amongst the relegated list. Other countries languishing in this ill-famed category are Bangladesh, Burma and Chad.

A cursory glance at the names of aforementioned countries makes me wonder how insignificant Pakistan has become in the greater scheme of things. It reduces Information Minister Pervez Rasheed’s recent claim, during a conference held to discuss Gaza, about Pakistan being the world’s sixth largest force to reckon with to a mere farce.

Revisiting the historical context of the phenomenon of (sham) brotherhood between the two Islamic states unravels the indifference dished out by Saudis towards Pakistanis in general.

During the petro-dollar era of the 70s, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto banked on the Saudis to pave the way to a new Islamic block. His shenanigans of playing the religion card to catapult himself as the new leader of the Muslim Ummah at the second OIC conference in Lahore was hailed by many myopic observers as a game changing move by the hitherto secular leader.

In the course of four decades, Pakistan has witnessed chickens coming home to roost; starting from the Saudis backed jihad in Afghanistan that engendered militancy in the country to the current discriminatory policies on part of their government against Pakistanis.

The jaw-dropping aid of $1.5 billion must not be misconstrued as a mere generosity of the oil rich state. In fact, it is a bait to pitch Pakistan in the epicentre of the conflict zone considering the footprints of Saudi Arabia in retailing the war in Syria recently.

The new edict that bars Saudi citizen to betroth a Pakistani lassie seems like a belated Eid greeting from the Saudi monarchy to Mian Nawaz Sharif, who visited the kingdom during the last 10 days of Ramazan but did not mutter a word on bilateral relationships or confidence building measure between the two Muslim countries.

I can vouch for it with full aplomb that had the law been passed by any non-Muslim country from the Western world, the uproar against the respective nation would have been significant in terms of maligning its laws, religion and cultural norms. The possibility of severing all ties with that particular country wouldn’t have been written off either; whereas big daddy went unscathed.

Obsessed with unconditional love for the Saudis, Pakistanis fail to realise that the regressive regime in Saudi Arabia has pigeon-holed women on a number of accounts. The prohibition of women drivers in Saudi is a strong case of discrimination against women by making them dependant on the male species.

Similarly, there was an uproar in the Saudi media after a female TV anchor became the first woman ever to read the news without a veil, which was against the Islamic norms of the country. In stark contrast, the new rule imposed against women of four nationalities is a glaring denial of Islamic teachings as Islam doesn’t restrict marriages within particular regions, tribes or states.

In the light of changing political kaleidoscope, Pakistanis shouldn’t pin high hopes with the Saudi royal family – they are busy grinding their own axe and safeguarding their personal interests ever since assuming power in 1932, when they changed the name of Hejaz and associate dominions to eponymous Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER, IF YOU ARE SINCERE WITH PALESTINIANS!

Pray-For-Gaza-Picture

Post Israeli blitzkrieg in Gaza, I feel heart rending pain and anguish seeing the Palestinian public helpless in front of barbaric aggression.

This time round though I have resorted to introspection in order to find solutions as opposed to the religious scholars and leaders across Muslim world who have aimlessly gone all guns blazing against Jews and jumped on the band wagon to annihilate the oppressor through public rhetoric rather than getting their houses in order first.

Praying and supplicating to God to alleviate Palestinian brethren miseries, my soul searching endeavour has exposed the failure of Muslim Ummah in finding logical remedies to the recurrent crisis.

Introspection phase 1:   How helpful is the boycotting gimmick?

For starters, I am weary of conspiracy theory mongers who have given a farcical dimension to the crisis by luring indiscreet public to boycott products carrying the barcode 7 29. I reckon it is probably an attempt on their part to cleanse Muslims from sins during the holy month of Ramadan.

DONT_BUY

Throwing spanner in the work, how about boycotting Google and Facebook (both Jewish owned)?

I guess I would get an overwhelming “NAY” as an answer,since both Google & Facebook are part and parcel of our routine lives.

Boycott seems a valid option where perhaps the protesting entity is a cohesive unit and not a disparate crowd as in the case of Muslims today.

When the blacks boycotted public bus service in 1955 for 381 days in Montgomery after Rosa parks incident, not only did it hurt the revenue stream of the transportation company but the civil rights movement also gathered impetus from there on in. I attribute that success to the sincere focus of black people to end segregation in the US.

On previous occasions, Muslims remonstrating against Facebook or boycotting Danish products has lead to a zero sum game — attributing to the misplaced priorities of the Muslim fraternity in resolving issues.

Introspection phase 2:   Are all Muslim countries tolerant?

A cursory look at recent past and current state of affairs in Muslim countries shows that they have blood on their hands.

It is commonplace in Pakistan for the radical mindsets to brazenly condemn Shiites and Ahmadis to death, while keeping mum when a Hindu girl is forced to convert.

Similarly, Malaysian court has barred Christians from using the word “Allah”, making it look as if Muslims in the country have patented that word. Even Somalia has passed a bizarre law, where converting to another faith from Islam is a crime punishable by death.

The Bangladeshi government  for that matter has banned the Rohingya refugees from their fundamental right of getting married whereas paradoxically they shout hoarse in condemning the ongoing Rohingya genocide in Burma, next door.

From the perennial persecution of Bahai and  Copt Christian minorities in Iran and Egypt respectively to the terror activities of radical Islamic groups like Alqaeda or Boko Haram, there is ample food for thought for all Muslim pacifists.

Moving on to the holier than thou Saudis, who are busy retailing yet another genocide with their accomplice by funding the war in Syria and unleashing the notorious ISIS in the Levant, after successfully orchestrating the Iran Iraq war, decades ago.

Allow me to say that an Israeli may argue that he has as much right to push for a separate state being the top dog, as Saudi family had in changing the name of country Hijaz to their tribe’s name, ascribing to their rise to power in 1930’s.

Hats off to Saudi royal family’s hypocrisy!

With the baggage of human rights violations, injustice and intolerance in tow, the million dollar question is whether Islamic countries be able to fight the cause of suppressed Palestinian brethren for sustainable peace in the region?

The plain answer is no.

Introspection phase 3:   Will retaliation resolve problems?

Being the underdogs, Muslims nations must realize that retaliation will not simmer down the aggression. As hate only be-gets hate.

I reckon, the current aggravating crisis in Gaza would only fuel racial profiling by creating more fissures between Muslims and Jewish people, without us realizing that that it is not the people but the oppressive Israeli regime that is the sole culprit.

As recently in Tel Aviv, Jewish people carried out  protest rallies against their own government’s trigger happy attitude towards Gaza.

BscbyW0CAAAg3KI

Further alienation could have serious ramifications that could lead people into being hoaxed by the phony jihad campaign launched by the ISIS. Falling bait to which would take the world on the brink of catastrophe.

Introspection phase 4:   Has Muslim Ummah utilized international diplomatic forums?

The following image from a recent gathering in Jeddah held to discuss Gaza crisis, paints a picture of indifference and misplaced priorities of Muslim fraternity at the current point in time.

BsoMqGcIUAAUF6e

To better analyse past performances, in hindsight we find only one figure in the Muslim Ummah in the form of  Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, who stood tall for the Palestinian cause. Many international observers maintain that his speech at the UN security council on the Palestine issue on 7th October,1947 was the most vociferous case in favour of Palestine till date. The Statesman, Delhi editorially paid homage to his unrelenting service to the cause:

“For the first time the voice of Pakistan was heard in the counsels of the United Nations on a burning topic of world-wide significance when leader of this country’s delegation, Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan, addressed the United Nations Palestine Committee at Lake Success on Tuesday. It was a telling speech which tore into shreds the specious pleas put forward by the advocates of the partition of Palestine. Chaudhry Zafarullah did not merely indulge in rhetoric when he described the partition plan as `physically and geographically a monstrosity’, he proceeded to prove this by unassailable arguments. Answering the contention that the migration of more Jews into Palestine should be permitted because the Jewish displaced persons desired to go to that country, Pakistan’s spokesman asked whether the Americans would consent to relax or abrogate their own immigration laws if displaced persons of various other nationalities desired to enter the United States and settle there? Would America, he further asked, agree to take in the five million displaced persons of the Punjab if they desired to leave the scene of their suffering and cross over to the United States. We have little doubt that the Arabs will rejoice to find the voice of Pakistan so powerfully raised in the United Nations in defence of their cause. The addition of the independent sovereign state of Pakistan to the comity of free Muslim peoples of the World is already beginning to have its effect on international affairs,” 

Furthermore King Faisal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia also appreciated Sir Zafarullah Khan’s effort for the Palestinian cause in his letter to the satalwart.

BuYidlfCYAA6c-L

Despite being the lone ranger, Sir Zafarullah Khan’s struggle for the Palestinian was cut short when his home country Pakistan disowned him for his religious affiliation as an Ahmadi – which sums up the vested interests and myopic vision prevalent amidst the Muslim world.

THE WAY FORWARD:    

                     1.   BETTER ADVOCACY

The only way forward for the Muslim Ummah is to leverage international diplomatic and peace forums through better advocacy.

I reckon the OIC forum should be utilized by all Muslim nations to come on the same wavelength and bridge gaps between each other. It can be achieved by framing a charter of tolerance, peace and justice in all Muslim countries across the broad spectrum.

At the United Nations, Muslim fraternity should try to find a powerful voice to raise their grievances to the international world. The paradigm of bold and influential personality like Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, who fought tooth and nail for their rights should be emulated. 

Shouting expletives and heaping anathema upon the barbaric Israeli regime would not resolve issues as it has never done before, only dialogue and discourse would help develop a constructive narrative for long term and sustainable peace in Palestine.

                   2.  COEXISTENCE

There is a dire need of an invigorated PR campaign that could help Muslims rebuild their image in order to lobby effectively with countries holding sway in deciding the fate of Palestinians on international peace forums.

The Holy Koran has set the basis of the best public relations campaign for all nations across the broad spectrum and that is called “coexistence”, an ingredient missing in most Muslims nations at the current point in time. The Koran says:

There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion”    (Sura Baqra Verse 256)

Even a closer look at the life of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h), makes us realise how he championed the art of coexistence when he allowed a Christian tribe from Najran, that had come to meet him, to offer their prayer in the Nabwi mosque.

We must realise that today Muslims stand divided, which has led the oppressor to kill innocent children in Palestine with utter impunity. Following Islamic values and scruples, Muslim ummah can help find peaceful solutions to the Palestinian issue.

The current crisis is a wake up call for all Muslims nations that they immediately end trust deficit by fostering attributes like tolerance, harmony and coexistence to pave a way for a brighter future for the Palestinian generations to come or else it will be too late.

Express network’s latest hire : The unholy Cash cow!

20140626-015702.jpg

Dear express media group,

I want to express my grave concern over the hiring of Dr. Amir Liaqat Hussain as president and head of religious affair programs at your august Organization. I bring this up not as a distraught audience but as a proponent of minority rights as well.

My views are resonated by many a cognizant tweeple across the board.
Jibran nasir tweeted:

20140626-015922.jpg

20140626-020006.jpg

Whereas Nadeem paracha chirped in his signature sarcastic tone:

20140626-020105.jpg

On commercial grounds ostensibly it seems a good deal for both parties ( the express media group and Amir Liaqat) in reinstating him for a second stint, since he is known for his shenanigans of commodifying the holy month of Ramadan. Where as on the mere basis of merit i don’t think any channel should have given him a chance to host during ramadan in order to uphold the sanctity of the holy month.

With the cat already out of the bag as far as Geo tv is concerned, i don’t think there is any doubt left as to how instrumental Dr. Amir Liaqat was in positively leading the religious mind set on media screen during his tenure at Geo. Rather than developing a sense of unity amongst various sect, he created more fissures. In the past He has spread venom against minorities. In one of his religious programs his vitriol ( fatwa against ahmadis) led to the murder of members of the minority community in interior Sindh. Eventually the top echeloen at Geo (Imran Aslam) had to apologise in public for his naivety.

Not only his indifference towards minorities coupled with his antics on tv screen (which entails poor impersonation of SRK) are repressible, infact his sincerity and loyalty towards his own Organization are highly dubious as well. Finding an opportune moment, Amir Liaqat ditched Geo tv in troubled times to mint money during Ramadan through another channel.

But the onus lies onExpress tv as well.

As if there was no better professional administrator or a religious scholar of higher pedigree left in Pakistan that recruiters at Express media group opted for him. As an outsider i see the hiring of a controversial figure like Amir Liaqat Hussain at Express tv as a blotch on the channels’ otherwise enviable reputation. One wonders if monetary benefits, ratings and ROI are the key indicators in hiring procedure of our media groups. Having an abysmal loyality quotient, it is highly likely that the Doc will say Adieus to his new found employer, when the going will get tough for the channel.

Even his administrative and managerial expertise were found wanting at Geo where anti army invective was broadcast live for hours but he didn’t intervene to stop that media howler carried out by his Geo management.

In hindsight It seems as if local media industry has not learned any lessons from the recent Geo episode that led various electronic media outlets into a fit of cannabalism. I can vividly recall that when Geo hired the Doc for the second tenure, a handful of conscientious journalists and anchors voiced their reservations. Sana Bucha for one did resign in protest.

For the moment though It seems as if Express TV is taking full leverage of the fact that doctor Amir Liaqat is amongst 500 most influential muslims across the world and exploiting it wonderfully as a marketing gimmick to their advantage.

Looking forward, One can only hope that in order to safeguard its brand equity and goodwill Express Media group will rein the doctor in, so that he doesn’t make mockery of religious norms in coming Ramadan by turning religious programs into Neelam Ghar and animal circus.

Yours sincerely,
A distraught viewer

The Pakistani Saga

20140622-162741.jpg

Recent developments in Pakistani society has led me to the conclusion that the ongoing orgasm of schadenfreude is not only restricted to local media industry — which has resorted to cannibalism through mudslinging and nitpicking — In fact it has engulfed all spheres of our society.

Farzana Parveen and Doctor Ali Mahdi are the latest casualties — One a helpless pregnant lady and other a hapless Ahmadi doctor; both victims of defeatist mind set.

These recurrent tragedies call for a postmortem of our societal norms in general.

20140808-213004.jpg

Robert Bolt’s epic play “A man for all seasons” seems to epitomise the prevailing societal norms in Pakistan to the core. I reckon our society runs rife with the characters of Lord Thomas More, Richard Rich, Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII. Analysing each is pivotal.

Take the case of Lord Thomas More, the protagonist in the play. He comes across as a conscientious and devout to his faith Pakistani. Periodically he wrestles between his moral uprightness and moral turpitude. Just like any regular Pakistani, he is forced to bend rules under rampant corruption, a gift of inept system.

On one instance just to safeguard his guiding beliefs, Thomas More is seen as finding legal loopholes in the constitution after being wrongly accused as a traitor by state machinery (King Henry VIII and his aides) — Liberal and outspoken Pakistanis from civil society including a number of journalists, social activists and some politicians can correlate with the tag of a “traitor” for staying steadfast to their set of values.

Then there are the likes of Richard Rich, who are always on the look out to cut corners and get worldly means even if they had to stoop to slander and smear campaigning, merely to settle old scores. Juxtaposing the scenario, we observe that not a single day passes by when an Ahmadi or a christian doesn’t get wrongly accused on account of blasphemy by an opportunist like Richard Rich.

Next in line is Thomas Cromwell, who has vested agenda. He covertly works to lure the strayed Richard Rich into his bait. Thomas Cromwell is a mentality that incites the arson attack on girl’s school van in Panjgor, Baluchistan, triggers the shooting of Malala Yousaf Zai and provokes family members to stone pregnant Farzana Parvin to death in bright daylight. Thomas Cromwell is not part of the mob, in fact he incites Mob mentality across the country.

Another highly eccentric character is that of King Henry VIII. He is portrayed as a flirting romanticist and at the same time a despotic dictator who toys with the constitution, religious norms and people’s fates — merely to grind his own axe.(To put things in the play in perspective, King Henry VIII resorts to religious reforms solely to marry Anne Boleyn. This leads to a reformation movement that turns the religious landscape in the country topsy turvy).

Throughout history, the shenanigans of a myriad of political leaders in Pakistan have stacked them with the likes of King Henry vIII.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a hitherto secular, drafts a constitution that ostracises minorities from the social fabric, summons the second islamic conference in Lahore and forms an Islamic Bloc to entertain his cheeky ambitions of becoming the leader of Muslim world. That changes the socio politico landscape of Pakistan for good.

Bhutto’s nemesis Zia Ul Haq is no different to King henry VIII either. In quest of the holy grail, he abets Americans to outsmart the communists in Afghanistan by engendering militancy. He virtually takes Bhutto’s Islamisation campaign to the next level by leveraging cold war to his own advantage. he drafts the Haddood ordinance and tightens noose over the minorities by reinforcing the blasphemy law through the infamous ordinance XX.

All of these character are still playing their part virtually according to the script in Today’s Pakistan, that has been officially turned into a confused milieu. The only difference is that the likes of Lord Thomas More are getting scant with every passing day. Where as unscrupulous Richard Rich are being empowered by the Thomas Cromwell mafia of the society.

On the other hand King Henry VIII every now and then, finds a way out to bend rules with utter impunity in order to safeguard his personal interests.

As far as Rule of law and Justice are concerned, well they are attributed with slang like RIP in the land of the pure.

Jinnah’s address : a perfect christmas wish and an apt new year’s resolution!

20131225-164834.jpg

I feel strong pangs of contrition as a concerned Pakistani before wishing “merry christmas” to the Christian diaspora while celebrating the birth anniversary of beloved Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah this year. The plain reason behind my remorse is the treatment dished out to the vulnerable minority group this year.

Barring the daily mundane discrimination, the christian minority witnessed all hell breaking loose not once but twice this year in the form of Badami bagh arson and the peshawar church bombing.

I find the cliched yet formidable words from the 11th august 1947 address of Quaid e Azam as the most appropriate and potent wish on this christmas. If applied In true letter and spirit, it would not only help assuage the woes of christian community in Pakistan rather it would also fit perfect as a new year resolution safe guarding the rights of all minorities inhabited in Pakistan.

Jinnah said:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state. … We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one state.”

If we could somehow translate the last line in the excerpt into reality, then we could have definitely bring a positive change in the mindsets of the populace in the country.

As I reckon calling equal citizens to the christians under current scenario would be wrong.

At times the christian community is treated the way “Dalits” are dealt with in India. For this we need to unlearn the negative narrative that prevails. Until we don’t abandon associating urdu pejoratives like “Choora” and “Masulee” with the christians, we can’t give them the status of equal citizens granted to them in Pakistan envisioned by the founding father Quaid e azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

For starters, giving a heartfelt hug on this christmas to our christian subordinates, servants, sweepers, janitors and all those christian workers whom we come across every day will touch a chord with them. It will help us dispel the hidebound stereotypes that prevail in society.

Similarly speaking for other sects, no one has right to call some one from another sect of islam as an infidel or a traitor. Unfortunately moulding others to one’s own interpretation of islam seems to be the hobbyhorse for many in this country for a rather long period now. This futile activity of coercing others has developed a sense of disenfranchisement amongst the suppressed minorities and created more fissures in Jinnah’s Pakistan.

With 2013’s sun about to set, we as a nation need to literally vow to safeguard the vulnerable minorities who have been contributing positively for the betterment of the country.

If we could give minorities their due then we would certainly feel proud for keeping Jinnah’s legacy alive to some extent, after losing his personal residence in Ziarat this year to the wrath of fundamentalists’ mentality that we ought to beat in quest for a prosperous new year.