Who are the Criminals?

23 Aug

Words fail us when we start describing the grotesque killing of two youthful boys at Sialkot. What confounds us is that it did not happen in a god forsaken dungeon. Rather, this ghastly inhumane act took place in a broad daylight in the midst of a herd of humans.

It puzzles me to my wit’s end at the impeccable silence of the crowd. Throngs of people gathered to see two boys pulp beaten to death. We always saw two opposing parties in a mob skirmishing with each other. However, there were always some hands that tried to disentangle them and watered down the anger. While no eye brow raised, the media personnel there angled his lens and captured the scene for exclusive scoops on TV channels. Has our humane instincts mutated into morbid insensitivity? Puzzling, it maybe, but it is utmost shameless, heinous and barbaric.

Now, as the media, politicians and our judicial bodies mulls over the punishment of the criminals, the question arises who are the criminals?

Criminals take law in their hands. This leads to anarchy when everyone starts publicly executing those they deem befitting criminal in their dictionary. This is what the racist Ku Klux Klan did to the blacks in America.

Criminals commit crimes against humanity. They indulge in anti social behavior and create mayhem in society.  We have unending examples of arson and hooliganism by protesters. It always anguished me when I saw protesters setting fire to a poor man’s bus, snatching away his lifelong hard-earned only source of income. And this in some way explains to us the origin of Sialkot incident when an unruly mob descended on those defenseless, helpless brothers like a pack of wolves.

Criminals perpetrate dishonesty and distrust. The policemen present at the scene have obliterated our trust on the institution which was supposed to risk their lives for our safety. The corruption plaguing our system, which mind you is not restricted to our parliamentarians or our so-called honchos, but these criminals are found in every strata of our society. The Sialkot incident is not an isolated event. It happened because the criminals knew they, with the influence of high-ups, could be easily let off the hook.

Criminals are reckless toward their duty as humans and citizens. The media person who squeezed into the crowd and captured the scene second by second forgot his duty as a human for some capital returns. This indicates not only the height of our insensitivity but also our wicked materialistic nature.

But, this is not the end. Criminals are also those who witness the crime, but maintain silence. Their silence is an implicit approval. It is said that the world does not suffer from the violence of bad men, but because of the silence of good men. This is the worst crime. When one does not stop an evil, he/she becomes an accomplice of it. The barbaric silence and the numbness of the mob that laid siege to the Sialkot incident is the worst crime. The swarm had the power to step forth and stop it. Being more in number, but still they had let it happen is their tyranny.

Similar is the silence we maintain at the ever-widening schism between the rich and poor. The Prophet SAW, before breathing his last, enjoined us to take care of two crucial things: prayers and the weak among us. This expanding inequality between the rich and poor is only paving way to frustration and exploitation of poor by us.

The silence of the mob is metaphorically our society. Hard to admit, but identify yourself in it. We are all the part of that silent mob. We are silent, not because circumstances have desensitized us, but because this criminal system suits us. We are all criminals at some point of this chain.

This is the time to see how we knowingly or unknowingly perpetrate this string of crimes. Because, maybe we are not accountable in our defunct system of law, but we sure will be held on the Day of Judgment.

23 Jul

Our first electronic media project.

Prisoner no. 650

12 Feb

We are the generation of Muslims that grew up fearing our own kind. We pigeonholed all the practicing ones as extremists. We dreamed of fleeing abroad and making our future in the center of learning and knowledge. However, we soon realized our flawed construction of reality. The promising slogans of Peace and Democracy proved to be hollow. Shard by shard, our emotions were hurt by those claiming to be humanists; from Abu Ghuraib prison, Iraq WMDs farce to this never ending phony war of terrorism. Now, the case of Dr. Afiya Siddiqui has once again set us ablaze.

Dr. Afia Siddiqui, a Pakistani citizen, went to Manchester to graduate in neurobiology. She had been an accomplished student since her early years and got into MIT and Brandeis University through scholarships. Later, she got married with Amjad Khan but the marriage came to a breaking point in 2002, the year she got divorced. In December 2002, she made another trip to US to find a job for her. The US suspects the real purpose was to open a PO Box Office for an alleged al Qaeda operative. In 2003, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, a chief al Qaeda person was arrested by FBI from Rawalpindi. Around the same time, Afia Siddiqui was catching a flight for Islamabad from Karachi airport from where she was hustled off by the ISI agents along with her three children. Her family was threatened to remain hushed about the matter. However, later ISI denied all the reports about a woman being handed over to FBI by Pakistan.Moazzam Beyg,an ex detainee of Bagram Air Base, wrote a book Enemy Combatant and mentioned the horrifying screams he heard of a lady. This was corroborated by other detainees and Lord Nazeer. The book was read by Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist who travelled to Bagram and confirmed about an imprisoned woman known as The Ghost of Bagram jail and Prisoner no. 650. After the hue and cry, she was removed to Guantanamo Bay where she was repeatedly raped and brutally tortured. She was kept in a male facility and there was no privacy for her shower and bathroom. She had lost her sanity. She was charged with the crime of being a courier of diamonds and for shooting an FBI officer in Ghazni.

Throughout this time, her family was kept in dark about her whereabouts. Her mother cried vehemently waiting for the shreds of news about her extraordinary bright daughter. It was Yvonne Ridley who broke the ice and presented the case to the public. Her case was reopened in Feb 2010 and the court passed the verdict against Dr. Afia and gave her life imprisonment.

Rehashing the facts is not my purpose, neither am I trying to plead her innocent. I simply want to share with you what bewilders me. The question arises in me is that even if she is guilty of aiding al Qaeda, should she be yanked away from airport to the gloomy dungeons of Bagram, without any news to her parents? Why should her children be detained and made to suffer? Why aren’t the courts issuing verdict against those officers who subjected her to sexual harassment and physical assaults?

The role of agencies in this quagmire is equally dirty. Pervez Mushurraf, in his book mentioned about earning million dollar bounties for capturing and handing over suspected al-Qaeda persons to the US. I feel indignant at us first. Islam considers women sacred, yet she was treated so atrociously and shamelessly by the Muslims. There had been news about her manhandling and gruesome torture, but nobody flinched.

I see this as blatantly against fundamental human rights. The law says that everyone is Innocent until proven guilty. She might be more heinous than Osama bin Laden in the eyes of US, but does that give them the right and authority to molest her, to abduct her along with her children and torture her? I demand that we should put our foot down and force the government to pass a verdict against this injustice and extremism.

If the case is scanned chronologically then one finds sheer inconsistencies. First, the ISI had been telling the family that she is wanted for mere interrogation, and later she is called as one of the dangerous al Qaeda operatives. Secondly, the FBI report contradicted the blame on her since the finger prints on the bullet does not match her DNA. Moreover, the site where she allegedly shot the police shows no signs of bullets. Amjad Khan, who had been in the forerun in alleging Afia of being an aide of al Qaeda, said all the news reports about her are false. He says her son had been killed and her lawyer says that Afia’s identity had been stolen.

I am not taking any side, but a comparison needs to be drawn. Ridley, a UK journalist was held by Taliban for ten days but she wasn’t hurt a tad. So much so, that after her release she embraced Islam. What about the civilized and humanitarian claims of the US? Is Mukhtara Mai the only Pakistani woman worthy of their humanly consideration? I don’t know what torture is like, but we can see a glimpse of it in the picture of Dr. Afia from Guantanamo Bay. Her face has withered. Her radiant smile of her graduation day seems of a totally different person. It shows not only the physical pain, but also the mental scars.

I am not here trying to awaken anyone because all of this should have scrambled us to action a lot before. It’s too big a loss for us to just sit and whine about it. Allah SWT says in Surah Nisa “And what is wrong with you that you do not fight in the Way of Allah and for those ill-treated and oppressed among men, women and children?”We are a nation which boasted about woman’s honor. We are a nation of Muhammad bin Qasim, who flocked to Sindh on the plea of a woman and liberated her.

The Holy Woman

3 Feb

How many of us have heard of Holy Woman? It evokes an image of a nun, clad in black robe and scarf. Well, it’s not that! Holy woman or Shahzadi Ibadat, as in Urdu, is a woman created by the feudal lord who is married off to Quran or more exactly to the land in case there is no male heir, or if the men of the family do not want to marry off their daughters. I can sense surging anger already!

In her extremely stirring and exquisitely written book, Qaisra Shiraz weaves a plot where a drop dead dame is forcefully turned into a Shazadi Ibadat. The story starts with Sikander, a business tycoon from Karachi falling in love at the first sight with Zarri Bano, who has been rejecting many suitors in search of Mr. Right. However, Sikander is a guy who finally sweeps her off the feet. Soon, she gets engaged experiencing a new kind of love spell cast by Sikander. Period.

The tragedy starts when Jafar, Zarri Bano’s brother dies, and her father finds alleged reason to not let Zarri, a feminist, modern and well educated damsel from marrying. Crying bitter tears and not believing she was being brought in the lap of a tyrant, she was forced into doing something she had fought against all her life. She had pitied and crusaded for those oppressed girls but little did she know that once she herself will have to surrender under the pressure of her father, his izzat and Siraj Din’s love for the mere acres of land.

Shahzadi Ibadat is devoted to a life of worship and religious preaching. As the whole concept of Shazadi Ibadat unfolded, it seemed brutal, inhuman and downright ironic. Though outwardly, one gains respect, but the inner remains shattered, desiring human love. It shows man’s absurd sense of proprietary. He cannot allow another man’s gaze to set upon his daughter. It shows that though our society has outwardly made progress, women are still mere puppets, their strings in the hands of man who can pull and drop it on their whims. Their happiness and sadness are manipulated by their ideas. Qaisra showed how male can twist the logic by connecting the most natural and noble of things and feelings with innuendos and degraded remarks to blackmail and stop woman from going against their way.

One also questions the logic behind making her a Shazadi Ibadat, in which case she is forbidden to marry thus cannot bequeath the property to a legal heir. Her father said that the next heir, according to the tradition will be her sister’s child, then one questions why not allow Zarri to marry who might as well have passed down the property to her own son? Qaisra showed in the end that pulped down by whatever circumstances, human nature is indomitable. It retains its essence, as in the end Habib realizes the havoc he has played with his daughter’s life. Zarri Bano, though alienated from human feelings in the end assents to marry Sikander.

Another story that goes parallel with Zarri Bano’s is Chaudhrani Kaniz who plays the role of a tyrant mother. It is a typical plot where the Chaudhrani is against her son’s wish of marrying washer woman’s daughter, Firdaus. In a typical hyper theatrical style, he flits away from his house and Kaniz has no other picking but to yield to her son’s desire. It gets very humorous too, when both, soaked in their pride, spewed abuses at each other. In the end, she admits defeat and makes Firdaus her daughter in law.

At one point, it seemed the book has been unrealistically weaved into tragedy and melodrama. One almost starts crying at the heartlessness of parents when Ruby marries Sikander. At that point, the reader is teeming with hopelessness and disappointment. I would have loved the read more if Qaisra had not martyred Ruby and Habib, and instead showed that Zarri or her mother stood up against the injustice and gave the ‘happy’ ending to their lives. This way the story would have been a powerful lesson and an example for the entire women who have surrendered to their kismet, carved by their male bigots and their nonsensical traditions.

The language and flow of Qaisra is flowery as well as captivating. She has an intellectual conversational style. The dialogues are passionate, which makes the book an easy read and a page turner. It seems Qaisra deliberately and very astutely crafted a story intermingled with a fine humor and intense tragedy that makes reader cruise swiftly through the chapters.

Stupid White Men

7 Dec

Who doesn’t know about Michael Moore, the guy from Michigan where another rebel activist Rosa Parks dwells?
Recently, my editor flung his all time famous book Stupid White Men at me. Guess what, it was no less than a fun reading it. His piercing humor makes you rolling with laughter. The book caused hullabaloo around America. Though initially, the publishers advised to pulp the books printed. It was considered too dangerous and homeland-threatening. However, soon the book went up to No.1 New York Times Bestseller and thanks to Penguin, they published the paper back version too.

Mike leashes out against the White men. He is indignant at a variety of things; the Corporate America, the commercialization of education system, the black racists, the pretentious hoodwinking democrats and stings at the male sexist. The first chapter relates to the Bush sham of rigging the elections. According to him, the democrat supporters were put behind the bars in large numbers and polls counting were not even started when Bush was declared the President by the Fox news. Other channels followed suit. This must have sent chill down the Republican’s spine especially when he questions Bush about his education and discloses his family felonies.

Kill Whitey was super humorous. He recounts all his unpleasant experiences in life and says that a strange but an unmistakable pattern emerges in which every cruel act has a Caucasian face attached to it. With his biting satire, he recalled that all the dangerous things, be it H-bomb, Holocaust, PVC, PBC all have whitey in it. He also explained the response he got from his documentary Roger&Me in which he showed a woman clubbing a rabbit to sell off the meat. The video was R-rated because it was considered too violent. Teachers called him up and told they have to omit that part because it is too violent for children. Everyone shed tears for the cute little bunny. However, just two minutes later in the same video is a scene of black man being shot by a police officer. But strange, nobody feels against this cruelty. This seems familiar to us as well where we have also accepted the suffering of poor as usual, like in America where people think killing or imprisonment of a black guy is a standard operating procedure.

The People’s Prayer is a good and vicious prank to make the high ups think of what goes on actually with the people who are at the receiving end of the idiotic laws their government legislated. He prays to God that every member of the House of Representatives be condemned to a life of flipping burgers and dodging bill collectors. He pleads sincerely that may Jack Welch swim the Hudson he has polluted. Once they are in the same mess the other people are languishing in, will they realize the suffering and correct it. So all say, Amen!

The chapter on Democrats is outstanding. It must be painful to all those who foolishly stick their hopes at those liberals. He strikes at Bill Clinton-Al Gore duo at this time, though he says son-of-a-Bush is still worse. Okay, but Bush followed most of the policies coined by Clinton. The arsenic seeping in drinking water streams by the industries started in his time, but he kept the public in dark about it. So, whether it’s the Democrats or Republicans, it’s the same thing forced down your throat. The government doesn’t listen to people; they only nod at the financially powerful people who brought them to power.

However, only carping about the crooked ways is not Mike’s strategy. At the end of each chapter, he calls people to counteraction, with few stupid as well as radical and workable ideas. For all those who want to learn about the similar crooked governments with the high ups having the same devil-may-care attitude as ours, read it, and let’s put some of his ideas to practice in our extreme scenario! Peace!

Ground Zero

31 Oct

On 20th October, we all felt a lurking danger! To lighten up our moods, the three of us whirled out through various corridors of the campus to the café. It was our sanctuary in IIU where we could sit for like five hours in a go on the same bench, discussing everything under the sun. Buying a scrumptious plate of Biryani, one of the reasons that pulled us to university, we indulged in never ending tattles on celebrities, updating each other on latest secrets of friends, sometimes discussing hard core politics, being disgruntled at society, telling family stories and sharing our anger at why are we not doing anything against killings in Waziristan. Later, we took a round to the shopping area and tested and bought kajals and lipsticks.

The café had such an air that the first step in it, brought you up! Girls laughed in raging decibels, hand slapping, and sometimes, the extra-bubbly ones had water fight running around the café which lifted our spirits and we could not help laughing at the whole scene. But, who knew about the doom it was waiting? Who knew, instead of laughing and energizing ourselves, we will cry and weep here? Who knew it will brutally drown some of the smiling faces forever in the clouds of smoke?

The headlines said Blast at IIU which blurred everything. It seemed the world is falling apart. How desperately I prayed it was some sort of a cruel joke? There was a flood of calls from all over the world asking if we are safe. And I wondered about those parents who received the call informing them about the death of their beloved child who they saw off in the morning! Some must have been in too hurry to say good-bye!

There was turmoil in the university. According to the news sources, the first blast occurred at the entrance of the cafeteria at 3:07. The guard Shaukat Bhatti obstructed him from going in, who was shot by the bomber. Then, Pervaiz Masi stopped him, at which the bomber blew himself up. Sabahat of Computer Science told me there were around 300 girls in the cafeteria. Media department 1st semester were having their welcome party. She was sitting at the side wall of the café. She said she felt a strong jolt, and suddenly, it was all dark and the obnoxious smell of explosives saturated their lungs. Some of the girls fainted whereas others were screaming. Rod pierced through one of the girl. Few sighed their last breaths and bled to death. In the midst of this mayhem, there was another blast at Shariah block after 5 minutes. She told me guys from the male campus fled to the café to help the girls. One of the guys asked her to resuscitate the injured girl, but before she could reach, she expired.

And as I sat safe in my home, I wondered about those girls who saw their closest friends dying, the friends who must have thought living together till the end, seeing each other married, making fun of their spouses and babies…But, line got cut in the middle….

One of my classmates Iram lost her best friend, Sidra of BS Mathematics on that day. She has become a legend. She topped the Pindi board. Now, Iram sits reminiscing about her. Her jokes are echoing in her ear. Then she gets startled remembering her face in the coffin, cold and serene, bringing her back to cold reality. She mournfully tells me how she loved wearing colorful, vibrant scarves. She told me that her parents forbade her to go to university due to the threats but she insisted that without education, people have no value.

Some of the major injuries were suffered by BS English 5th semester; since the whole class was almost there. Maria Azam, one of my friends, had been worried about her neighbor and friend Tayyaba, who was also in BS English 5th semester. She was in PAEC and lost the battle of life on 27th Oct. She told me that she was very religious and recently did a course from AL-Huda. She loved the university. I could not help laughing at her guts. She told me that once the group of friends was going somewhere when a thief snatched the bag from one of them. She ran after the thief and got the bag! I saw her innocent face and could not reconcile to the fact that she is no more in this world. I was awed by the life in her. She excelled in all her roles. Her mother considered her the backbone of the house because she kept everything in order.

Amna Batool, though I did not know her personally, but I sometimes saw her on the bus. Last time, I saw her at PIMS and she was beyond recognition. Even today, I can’t believe that such a smiling and intelligent face was the same person lying in ICU.

Countless tears, countless memories, countless wounds, countless thoughts….why did we have to go through that doomsday? What was the sin of those innocent students? How come life became so uncertain, so insignificant, squeezing out of our hands like sand? I wonder if we will ever be able to erase those horrific memories, those cries….but the story doesn’t end here. It is just one of the episodes. The series started when, we don’t know. We don’t know who is behind all this? We have just been forcefully made the actors….the fuel for this war! I wonder if we will ever be able to sleep peacefully after this trauma when a single odd thing reruns the whole scene again. It is ravaging us from inside.

But then I envisage that pair of green eyes, filled with fear, of the child sitting in shattered home at Waziristan, who is muted with the horror of the hovering drone out to kill his family. How long had they been living in this permanent fear? Why did we not ever raise a cry then, when the fire was engulfing our brothers in Northern Areas?

And now the fire has come to our doorstep. We plan to hide in our homes. But, for how long can we shut up ourselves? For how long will we just sit and watch these counts of dead bodies? Our enemies are preparing the hell for us, they are invading our home, but we remain quiet! This silence is Our sin. This is Our tyranny.

This is the price that we are paying for keeping silence at the brutalities in Palestine, and giving our soil to kill our Afghan brothers? This was our first mistake that is plunging us deeper into the abyss. Our Prophet SAW said that Muslims are like parts of the same body. Isn’t it time that all the Muslim countries unite and face the enemy? It is time that we cut off all NATO supplies going through our country, because they are here not to help, but to only destroy us. Remember, by keeping this silence, it is just the handful of years that we are buying, eventually they will turn against us too.

For how long will we feed ourselves on the foreign aid package, the ridiculous Rs.650 a year per person? Is this the price we have set for each other? For how long will we just switch sides between Taliban and Black Water? When will we, the gullible ones, start questioning everything that West wants us to believe? When will we consciously seek the truth and stand up for it? But, do we really care?? Speak Today, or there is no Tomorrow!

Pity the Nation

25 Oct

Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave,
Eats a bread it does not harvest,
And drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press.

Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

Pity the nation that despises a passion in its dream,
yet submits in its awakening.

Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.

Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
and farewells him with hooting,
only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.

Pity the nation divided into into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.

By Khalil Jibran