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Archive for February, 2011

Just found through an incoming link on my blog, that I have been listed in the World’s Bravest Bloggers

Around the world, netzien activists face harassment, arrest, and worse for using social-networking tools to spark change. But now, after cyber-inspired revolutions in Tunisia and Cairo, twittering muckrakers seem to be standing their ground more than ever. Here are 17 who are chaning the world, one click at a time.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

The artist-activist brings a bohemian flair to his call for greater religious tolerance. Zaidi says hes working towards  a ‘progressive’ & ‘democratric’ future his country

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First published in The Islamabad Dateline on 24.02.2010

Raymond Davis has been on the front-page of newspapers for quite sometime now. He will remain to be, till the parties involved extract their ulterior motives out of the issue and us, the ignorant sheep will dance to the tune of the shepherd, as planned.

The British newspaper that broke the news of Raymond being a CIA spy quotes: The New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press and other media outlets reported for the first time that Davis is a CIA employee. They said they had been aware of his status but kept it under wraps at the request of US officials

The American media outlets, who cry about “freedom of press” every now and then, only gathered the audacity to report the same after London-based newspaper had broken the story.

American media’s mum-ness and Pakistani media’s hue and cry over Raymond Davis’s CIA links puts a big question mark on freedom of press, both here and in the US.

Youth all over Pakistan are disgruntled and angry over Raymond Davis. Protests are being planned out throughout the country, and if set free, the government will find it hard to control the street agitation. But some important points to be considered before coming out on streets:

Do we seriously think the mighty Intelligensia of Pakistan was un-aware of Raymond Davis and others working within our borders?  I mean, a British newspaper is more ‘intelligent’ than the agencies that need to be checking exactly the likes of Raymond? Are we sharing Intelligence and receiving billions of dollars for signed contracts and only way to make those who become a nuisance, flee is by creating public backlash by orchestrating such drama, on the street?  Do we think that our boys are not monitoring diplomats, and that too of Raymond’s history and profile?

More puzzling is the Raymond’s link with banned terrorist outfits and his potential link to drone strikes. America is striking Taliban with drone attacks, but their top spy in the country has links with Taliban and has been visiting them quiet often? The riddle is yet to be fully solved, one wonders if it ever will be solved as American media still had the guts to acknowledge it with-held information, our media still cries of being “free”.

We are living in troubling times of wars between intelligence agencies and our collective energies need to be directed at finding common grounds in rallying for democracy, in trying to infest democratic norms in our society, in working for freedom of judiciary and media, in rallying against extremism and in finding peace within, before aspiring to have peace outside.

Let us not be carried away by “spy-games” as not everybody loves Raymond, in that world.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is an aeronautical engineer by force, an activist by mind, a wanderer by soul & a lover by heart.

Geo News released today: Davis row creates rift between ISI, CIA

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Ink Magazine’s Jan-March issue interviews me in detail regarding PYA:

1) What lead to the formation of Pakistan Youth Alliance in 2007?

Pakistan Youth Alliance was my dream. I dreamt to matter, I dreamt to give a platform to 62 % population of Pakistan i.e the youth. I yearned to “live the change” I wanted to see around me. The melting point was emergency proclamation during Musharraf’s government when everything went black and we were forced to be ignorant, by barring media. This tyranny by that regime became a blessing in disguise for the likes of me as the ignorant youth in me became this activist who wanted to play a part in our future.

2) What is the aim and ideology of your organization?

We aim to unite the youth of Pakistan, irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, caste, race or language, on an unbiased platform through which they could contribute in nation building processes in their limited capabilities. We wish to create political and social awareness amongst the youth of Pakistan. We want to provide a platform to the youth through which, they can raise their voices against injustice, exploitation and other social ills of our society.We also, engage youth in constructive and healthy activities through which their positive energies are synergized. We enlighten the youth to feel responsible for this country and prepare them for future leadership tasks. Protest against any stance taken by any authority to destabilize Pakistan or hurt the national integrity. We through many medoums spread the message of enlightenment, hope, responsibility and patriotism to masses through unconventional but effective mediums like music, poetry, prose and art. We aspire to create a spark in the youth of our nation by a variety of inspirational events like conferences, seminars, panel discussions, art exhibition, concerts, debates and peaceful protests. Moreover, we indulge youth in social welfare activities through fund-raising for those affected by national disasters, war or political instabilities. We try our best to bridge gaps between youth studying in different universities\colleges and bringing them together to form a collaborative force.By infesting trust and leadership skills to youth, we refine the positive attributes of youth and prepare them for challenging tasks ahead when they enter the system.

3) PYA desires to provide an unbiased platform to the youth of Pakistan, from where their voices can be conducted to the masses. What are you doing to ensure that unbiased decisions are carried out?

We have recently completed 150 events worldwide, every initiative was voluntarily implemented. To ensure every initiative is unanimously endorsed by the public, we through our Central Executive Body, which has representation from throughout Pakistan and Pakistanis living abroad, ask for prior approval. This body through 2/3rd majority gives a green signal. Almost every initiative was well received by the public and in the media. We rallied for democracy, human rights, we saluted brave martyrs and showed solidarity with victims of terrorism. We practically helped disabled, displaced and victims of disasters. We through our “Art For Change” campaigns made aspiring artistes use their artform as a tool to reform mindsets.

4) PYA has come out to help Pakistan during disasters for the past three years that is The Baluchistan Earthquake in 2008, Military action in Swat, Flood in Abbottabad Lake and most recently the recent floods in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. What has been your most successful campaign so far?

The most successful campaign so far has been the ‘flood relief campaign’. We from nothing, raised over 45 Million PKR (donated items not included) and managed 36 deliveries till date (from Aug 03 to 09 Dec, 2010). We managed to practically help 44000 families and were the first ones to reach many far off & inaccessible areas battling through raging waters, snakes, stampedes and security issues. This extra ordindary bravery from our passionate volunteers was acknowledged at UN Headquarters at New York City.

5) Your campaign for the flood affectees has been a huge one. Can you describe how PYA has been carrying out this campaign?

We started from 70 Rs. We dont get any direct or indirect funds from anyone. We raise funds through streets and planned fundraisers on our own. Our previous experience with natural disasters helped us carry flood relief campaign with utmost efficiency. Salutations to the hundreds of volunteers, who under our guidance have now become experienced relief workers. This is what we always dreamt of in 2007. We aspired to create sparks that would eventually make the jungle catch fire. When we started, only one or two non-politically aligned youth civil society groups existed, but since then a cluster of civil society groups have sprung up. If Pakistan will change, it will be through these youngsters.

6) What is next on the agenda for PYA in the year 2011?

We are in middle of flood relief campaign which is now focused towards rehabilitation and renovation of schools, libraries and hospitals. These floods have taken us back several years and constant effort is required to completely rehabilitate the 20 million affected. Also, educational project for juveniles (children in jails) will be started from Lahore which will be cloned else-where after successful implementation. Our short-term objectives vary as the situation of Pakistan varies every fortnight. We have in the past, been very pro-active (started working for many causes, which were-to become big disasters like Swat IDP, floods etc) so lets hope the same trend continues.

7) What message would you like to give to the youth of Pakistan?

I would like to urge the youth to stand up and speak whenever they believe their country is taken hostage by a noisy minority. We need to take our country back from them and stop being a silent majority. We need to build Pakistan before eyeing on other lands and succumbing to war-hysteria created by a particular segment of our society. We need to revive and re-own the very ideology for which Pakistan was created.  Moreover, we need to turn our words into actions. Nothing would reiterate my message louder than Martin Luther King saying: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people,”

 

 

 


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First published in Islamabad Dateline on 01.02.2011

WAVES OF REVOLUTION

The ways of world have changed; tune is new, instruments have changed / Free your mind from mental slavery; make the young, masters of the old!

Indeed, instruments changed significantly since Iqbal penned down these inspirational lines. It is the age in which powerful authoritarian governments are overthrown by the youth, using social media and music, tools that seem trivial to elder generations. 

“Half the population is oppressed and living in misery/ President of the Country/ Your people are dead!” - lyrics of Tunisian rap artist Ben Amor commonly known as El General, who was put behind bars and his music taken off-air as it was causing an uprising in the youth of Tunisia few weeks ago. Today El General is setting the microphone on fire once again as thousands gather to celebrate Ben Ali’s exit and welcome the dawn of a new era in the history of Tunisia.

This was not it. The spark that ignited fire through El General’s political rap and social networking sites has taken Egypt and Yemen by storm. The authoritarian governments of the region try to ban “tools” igniting this rebellion but the young ‘are masters of the old’ when it comes to playing with radio frequencies encrypted with data that overthrow governments.
 
Egyptian activists like their Tunisian counterparts are using internet to effectively plan out their protests. Ahmed Salah one of the main organizers of protests against Husni Mubarak’s regime says “No one is accepting the people being assigned to government – they are oppressed & corrupt. We need support – we are being killed”. Ahmed was taken in custody and beaten, but his bravery knows no bounds and he says he won’t stop, even if they replace rubber bullets with real ones. Husni Mubarak will have to succumb to people’s power. Some already chant “Mubarak! Mubarak! Saudi Arabia awaits you!”

The pattern is identical, tools almost the same, this is the power of new media which if used effectively can cause decade’s old regimes to collapse. Same tools were used by us during the lawyers movement, and emergency relief efforts when floods struck in Pakistan.

Oscar Morales, whose facebook group “One million voices against FARC” transformed into the biggest demonstration against terrorism in the history of the world in 2008 and which eventually caused the debacle of guerilla organization FARC in Colombia expresses solidarity with Egyptians and says: “I am in tears of emotion and pride. My heart is with you in these defining moments of history”

People like Oscar and Ahmed Salah did not make history; they ‘typed’ it with their own hands.

Would this be the end? Certainly not.

Digital activists around the world relay a warning to world leaders which can be best described in the words of Stephanie Rudat, co-founder of Alliance for Youth Movements: “This is for you Ahmadinejad, Mubarak, Chavez, Jong-Il, Castro, Mugabe, al-Qaddafi, Jintao, Abdullah, Shwe, al-Assad, Karimov, Lukashenka, Zenawi, Deby, and Berdimuhamedow, Listen to your citizens – oppression & corruption is unacceptable! It will no longer be tolerated”

These waves of revolution which are already causing a domino effect in many countries will surely make this decade the era of social media.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is an aeronautical engineer by force, an activist by mind, a lover by heart and a wanderer by soul

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