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The Internationally renowned Alliance for Youth Movements interviewed me concerning youth activism & flood relief work:

The Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA) is one of a cluster of civil society groups that emerged on Facebook during 2007’s emergency rule. The organization focuses on strengthening Pakistani civil society, ensuring that young people—a demographic that the alliance sees as largely indifferent to social or political causes—are its biggest contingent.

Since emergency rule ended, PYA’s presence on Facebook has grown into three separate groups with over 5,000-plus members and a fanpage with 7,000 members. “Facebook is a gift from God,” PYA’s chairperson, Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi, told me. The social network serves as the cornerstone of the group’s efforts—they use it for everything from recruiting, communicating with members, fund-raising, and outsourcing expertise. They also have a nearly 20,000-strong email list and an SMS list with between 10,000 and 12,000 numbers.

When this summer’s heavy monsoon season turned into the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history, all these resources were diverted to flood relief. Since July, PYA has been delivering the basic goods and services that flood victims initially hoped to see come from the government. As one anonymous organizer told Foreign Policy: “A few of us thought that if no one is willing to help our own people—not the world community, not our own government—then it’s our job.”

How has its foray into relief efforts impacted the PYA as a civil society organization? Will they be able to redirect attention generated by the disaster back into their pro-democracy efforts? I caught up with Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi this week.

AYM: What type of support do you most need right now?

PYA: In disasters as big as this one all support and funding seems like less than it is. We need volunteers, we need relief workers, and we need donors. We need doctors, paramedics, and street activists along with digital activists.

AYM: To what degree is the flooding disproportionately affecting some Pakistanis over others?

PYA: This being the biggest disaster in the history of Pakistan, it is affecting both rural and urban settlements to the core. But rural populations surpass the country’s urban population, and their sources of earning (i.e., crops and cattle) have been completely destroyed.

Even if the flood recedes, what will people go back to? Nothing is left. This flood has broken the backbone of people with lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Not only their life earnings but the source of these earnings have been washed away.

AYM: How are you using social media in your relief efforts? Which tools are most useful?

PYA: We started PYA in 2007 as a Facebook group; since then, a mere Facebook group became the biggest and the most potent youth movement of Pakistan. What was initially digital activism has been transformed into street activism. We’ve helped over 25,000 families in need.

Most of the fund-raising, propagation, and messaging is done through Facebook and Twitter. According to my personal estimate, more than 60 percent of 17 million PKR (approximately 200K USD) we have raised to date has been because of Facebook.

Mobiles, Blackberries, iPhones—all aid not only activism but relief work. As live feedback is sent to donors they get to see where and how their money is helping people. It helps us, as workers on ground, to communicate in inaccessible areas.

AYM: Could you talk about some of the long-term consequences of the flooding as you see them?

PYA: Pakistan will be back to where it was before the flood in around a decade.

The political consequences are already evident, for example how some political forces are using it as tool to get political advantages. Local politicians and landlords use relief aid to get more voters. Extremist organizations use flood relief work to recruit more people.

But not all of the consequences have been negative. From Pakistan’s flood, I see Pakistan’s young generation emerging. I see amazing passion and patriotism in youth all over the country shrugging off their apathy and reaching out to their fellow countrymen in need. This is the future, right here.

AYM: Can you relay the attention PYA has received for its flood relief work into your democracy activism?

PYA: We work on short-term objectives and long-term goals. We work from initiative to initiative basis—and yes, we do social development along with sociopolitical activism. Right now, the immediate crisis is flood relief. But our hope is that our goals for a democratic Pakistan will resonate with new members.

We can’t force issues; many young people are just interested in rebellious street protests and many are just into social development. But overall, as the organization grows [we hope to] gather more respect and attention among an increased membership, which will make us matter more when lobbying for democracy.

And our membership has grown magnificently. Since July 2010 there have been approximately 2,000 to 3,000 new registrations on our site, 2,000 new people on our SMS list, and 3,000 to 4,000 in Facebook groups and fanpages.

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Ilm was kind enough to paste me this amazingly powerful poem, conerning youth & apathy. The original is written by Armaan Khan (from India)
 
Ab utar ke ayen machaanon se, keh do ja kar naujawanon se.
Kitnon ko nigal gaya lekin, cheekhein atee nahin karkhanon se.
Rupye ki jab ho gayi toffee, athanni udas lauti dukanon se.
Duniya jhooti hai yeh ehsaas hua, jab bahar nikle shashanon se.
Koi cheekh cheekh ke mar bhi gaya, lekin nikle nahin makanon se.
Sham dhalne par lashein niklein gi, kuch daftar kuch karkhanon se.
Bus adha chaand hi yaad hai humein, puri roti dekhi nahin zamanon se.
Yeh aankhein phot phot kar roti hain, baandh toot te hain jab dahanon se.
Khud badlo yeh halaat ke ab, maseeha aate nahin asmanon se.
Zindagi guzarne ko guzar gayi, kuch baton se kuch bahanon se.
Jao ke ham bhi ho gaye baghi, ab kaun darta hai hukmranon se.

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Re-doing  Richard Aldington’s original with a touch of mine:

We passed and left you drowning. Let there be no oratory, no sad melody in the background, no heart-wrenching lament. No need for tears shining on your cheek, shining like a diamond, no need for regrets. We left you drowning in those monstrous waters, when every rising inch of water, meant more deaths, cries and homelessness. We even saw you gathering your kids, hanging on the last pile of wood, to find dry land & to shelter your beloveds, leaving behind your homes, businesses, kettle & fields.
 
It was a painful watch & kismet had its own plans; you died and we live. We eat from your fields yield; we salute for the last time those fields which grew food for us, kettle which fed our babies, those kids whose joyful faces made our day. More painful it was, to see, some amongst us, still lying in apathy and pretending nothing has happened.

Who was more fortunate, can you tell? For you there are tears, shelter-less nights and cold twilight drooping in awful desolation over those motionless lands drowned in water. For us sunlight and the sound of cheerful voices, song and hope and laughter, despair, gaiety, love — life.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

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Asif, from peddling drugs to steroids to possible sell-out

Some readers, on my facebook took offence when I wrote earlier [ No match fixing in Denialistan ] about Pakistani cricketers invovlement in spot-fixing fiasco recently, perhaps they didnot understand what I was trying to say. Things have changed considerable since then, with changing stances of Pakistani players and Yasir Hameed’s hidden-cam video admitting things we didnot want to hear.

My blogpost earlier was cross-posted in Gaurdian UK requoting my words:

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi prints what he says is the article from the Daily Jang linking Afridi’s resignation to the Majeeds on his blog although it appears to be in Urdu.Zaidi writes:From Generals to Judges, from politicians to cricketers – who hasnt been selling out in the land of pure? We need to realize our mistakes, only then can we embark on a journey towards enlightment and progress. There will no progress if ‘sell-outs’ are not punished and made an example of. There will be no betterment, if rotten eggs are not thrown out the window. Closing eyes to reality wont change reality, running away from facts wont change facts. Standing tall and confessing to errs, rethinking, revisiting and vowing never to do it again — might

Just today, Maheen Usmani wrote a wonderful blogpost on Tribune summarizing the the events and changing stance of Pakistani cricketers which again points at the very same:

The statements are getting increasingly ludicrous, the denials more strident, the twists and turns more and more dizzying, as the precarious house of cards, built on the foundation of mismanagement, nepotism and toadying, by the Pakistan Cricket Board, lurches and collapses around it’s ears.

 

Things are yet to unveil, but the recent tide of official interviews by the PCB and ICC alongwith articles published in International media give troubling news regarding the fate of Pakistani cricketers, leaving aside the disgrace and shame Pakistanis had to bear worldwide because of these ambassadors. I am pasting an email, sent to me by my uncle living in UK:

The news on all UK News Channels since yesterday evening about Pakistani cricket team betting scam is extremely devastating. Just yesterday, when I went to work in the morning (before this news broke), one of my colleagues said what’s happening in your country (target killing, bombing, floods) and to your cricket team.

Many of my colleagues have been giving donation towards flood relief and with these new development with the cricket team, I feel totally let down by our nation, and feel that I must return the money back to each contributor. Even though these are still allegations and nothing has been confirmed but the damage has been done by betting mafia. I feel bad to face up to my colleagues at work. 

Them conspiracy theorists fantasize “foreign” powers wanting to cripple Pakistani cricket, like we are the only team worth-matching on International arena. For the love of God, see our ranking in ODI’s and Test cricket [ as of Sept, 2010 Pakistan is ranked 6th & 7th in Test & ODI’s ], see the players other teams like India, Australia, England, Srilanka and even West Indies have. My dear friend Asim tried convincing me that it was all a conspiracy — saying Yasir Hameed took money to say what he did, and my reply was: Eitherway, a Pakistani was sold.

The very reason to look inside for errors is to progress, to realize, to introspect, to become so strong and determined inside that no “foreign” powers buys you ; living in a state of denial makes ones ability to look inside for errs, impotent, as everything is seen a conspiracy. No one denies foreign powers hatching conspiracies, like we did, many times over — but the core reason to point at those who were sold, within us, is to make examples for the generations to come and as things get clearer in coming few days, I believe, some names would be made an example of.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

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As flood devastated Pakistan and nearly half of Pakistan was under water, the terrorists led a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan. A fellow activist & friend, Ali Irtaqa lost his brother in the Sept 3rd attack on Al Quds rally in Quetta. As I received the news, I was in middle of delivery to flood victims in South Punjab and it really tore my heart. As if the floods werent enough to devastate the already blood-soaked streets of my country.  The irony of this particular attack on Sept 3rd was, the rally was takien out against occupation of Al Quds (Palestine) and was predominantly an anti-American/Zionist initiative. Those killing innocent Pakistanis arent even ready to find “common grounds” with other sects/schools of thought. America/India/Israel might be a problem for Pakistan, but the bigger evil resides within and has been ignored for decades. I wanted to write about this but found a very touching piece written by Rab Nawaz about the on-going sectarian clashes in the country.

My friend’s brother has just died, a cute teenager starting his college. He was injured in Quetta Blast few days back. I feel shattered and ashamed. This is a mournful day. Every day is mournful day here; the only difference is that we seldom feel it. Before that another friend’s brother died in attack on Ahmedies’ mosque, and before that another friend’s aunt died in Moon Market blast. My friend, relative, brother or even I could have died in any of these incidents. What difference does it make except that the family and relatives would mourn for a day or few. A person is worth a day’s mourning.

How pathetically selfish I am. Why don’t I count people beyond my acquaintance? Why don’t I mourn for them? Indeed I do. Whenever I shed a tear for a person, it is not only for that person but for the loss of a human life. Human life, the most precious thing I can imagine in universe. How cheaper it has become. How many precious lives have we lost by this monster of religious fanaticism. How many bight minds and healthy bodies!

I wonder folks are still denying the cause of this mayhem. They present excuses for what is happening around. They happen to deny it only because they share their religion with those who are responsible. Through their denial they not only deprave those whom we lost but abet the loss that we may have in the future. I tell you this is a fire that would annihilate us and our future generations. We would even not be able to escape it. As a matter of fact the time has come or will come very soon when you have to decide whether you stand for human life or you just go on fooling yourself that you will be safe. Latter is to live like you are dead.

For my part, I say that they may take any life they can, including me, but will not be able to stop me from standing for the lives we are left with. In other words, I will not die while I live.

By: Rab Nawaz

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Following letter was written by Ali K. Chishti to General Aslam Beg:

Dear Aslam Baig Sahib,

I heard you over a television program sometime back where you once again disputed your role in forming IJI and your involvement in Mehrangate Scandal to a sheer shock of audience. Sir, I will be short and precise in whatever, I write because, I am traumatized at what you said in the court of law and that too under oath of the holy book.

Let me remind you General to what you said at the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1997(Human Rights Petition 19/96 filed by Air Marshal Asghar Khan). Aslam Baig Sahib your quotes from the SCP records are “the money was donated by Younas Habib. ISI was acting under the directions of higher authorities. As chief of the army staff at that time, when I was informed of this matter, my only concern was that the money received by the ISI was utilized properly and an account was maintained and beyond that I had no concern with the money……” referring to the amount raised by the ISI for possibly helping right-wing political parties.

But, your astounding claim that you only “over-looked” the operation was rebuffed by your own ISI Chief during the time, General Asad Durrani who filed an affidavit in response to your rather, innocent claim. Gen.Durrani who later in 1996 became our Ambassador in Germany, when approached by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the former spy-master wrote an affidavit, confirming that he had received instructions from COAS General Beg (you) to provide ‘logistic support’ for the disbursement of donations made by certain ‘businessmen of Karachi’ to the IJI election campaign of 1990, and was told that the operation had the blessings of the government rebutting your claim that you acted only as a ‘watchdog’.

General Beg –Iqbal Haider whose now a Human Rights Activist defended General Nasurullah Baber and in a recorded statement (record could be verified by the SC Registrar) said, “ISI was involved in politics”. Lt General Hameed Gul, a former ISI chief, was on record as having boasted that it was he who created the IJI, and another ISI chief, Lt General Javed Nasir, had taken credit for creating the MQM Haqiqi…”

Supplementary to this in an another affidavit filed by Gen.Babur to the Supreme Court of Pakistan (HRC 19/96) included Asad Durrani’s (your ISI Chief) confidential letter to the later Late Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto which read like:

“My dear Prime Minister, A few points I could not include in my ‘confessional statement’ handed over to the director, FIA. These could be embarrassing or sensitive. (a) The recipients included Khar 2 million, Hafeez Pirzada 3 million, Sarwar Cheema 0.5 million and Mairaj Khalid 0.2 million. The last . .[illegible] someone’s soft corner that benefited them. (b) The remaining 80 million were either deposited in the ISI’s ‘K’ fund (60 m) or given to director external intelligence for special operations (perhaps the saving grace of this disgraceful exercise. But it is delicate information.) [Noted in the margin of this paragraph, by the writer in his own hand: “This is false. The amount was pocketed by Beg (Friends)”]

“If the idea is to put Gen Beg on the mat: he was merely providing ‘logistic support’ to donations made by a community ‘under instructions’ from the government and with the ‘consent’ of the military high command. In any case; I understand he is implicated in some other deals in the same case…” Asad Durrani claimed – fair enough but “money worth 60 million PKR which were supposed to be made to ISI’s K Fund were went to your pockets? General Baig this is serious because as per your own ISI Chief, “you” and “your friends” pocketed the money which account’s to corruption.

Friends, Sir? Apprently, Naseerullah Babar also filed in court a copy of a bank account sheet headed”G/L Account. Activity Report. Account 12110101 G. Baig (sic.)” The column heads read “Transaction, Date, Particulars, Debit, Credit.” The numbered transactions took place between October 23, 1991, and December 12, 1993. The first transaction listed was “Cash-P.O. Karachi Bar Association A/C Gen. Baig (sic.), debit, 5,05,680” (advocate Mirza Adil Beg, Aslam Beg’s nephew, the then president of the KBA, confirms that the KBA received the money). In January 1992 USD 20,000 was sold @ 26.50 and 5,30,000 was credited to the account. Thereafter all debits: “Arshi c/o Gen. Baig (sic.) 2,90,000; Cash paid to Gen. Shab 2,40,000; Cash Friends 1,00,000 [Aslam Beg’s organization, FRIENDS, Foundation for Research on National Development and Security]; Cash TT to Yamin to pay Gen. Shab 3,00,000; Cash TT to Yamin Habib 12,00,000 ; Cash Friends 1,00,000 ; Cash Friends 1,00,000 ; Cash paid through YH 10,00,000 ; Cash Friends TT to Salim Khan 2,00,000 ; Cash 1,00,000 ; Cash Towards Friends 5,00,000 ; Cash Asif Shah for Benglow 35,000 ; Cash Friends 1,00,000 ; Cash Friends 1,00,000 ; Cash TT through Yamin for Friends 1,00.000 ; Cash paid to Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim 2,00,000 [he confirms having received the money from General Beg as fees and expenses for defending him in the contempt of court charge brought against him – PLD 1993 SC310] ; Cash paid through TT to Yamin for Friends ; Cash paid to Fakhruddin G Ebrahim 1,28,640 [he confirms receipt for fees/expenses for contempt case] ; Cash Guards at 11-A 10,500 ; Cash TT for USD 240,000 Fav. Riaz Malik to City Bank (sic.) New York 68,76,000 ; Cash Friends 1,00,000; Cash Guards at 11-A 10,500 ; Cash Mjr. Kiyani 10,000; Cash mobile phone for Col. Mashadi 28,911 ; Cash TT fav. Qazi Iqbal and M Guddul 3,00,000 ; Cash Mjr. Kiyani 10,000 ; Cash TT to Peshawar 3,00,000 ; Cash deposited at Karachi A/C EC [Election Commission] 3,00,000 ; Cash Guards 24,000 ; Cash TT to Quetta 7,00,000 ; Cash mobile bill of Col. Mashadi 3,237 ; Cash TT to Peshawar Br. 4,00,000 ; Cash deposited at Karachi Br. 4,00,000 ; Cash Guards 11,520 ; Cash TT to Peshawar for EC 2,00,000 ; Cash TT to Quetta for EC 2,00,000 ; Cash Guards 5,760 ; Cash Mjr. Kiyani 5,000 ; Cash A/C Guards 8,640 ; Cash th. YH 2,00,000 ; Cash A/C Guards 5,760 ; Cash TT to Salim Khan 1,00,000.”

General Aslam Baig, its about time you come clean on the allegations and apologize to the nation of not only laundering nation’s tax money but artificially forming a right-wing political party or face, article 6. It is also the duty of the Supereme Court of Pakistan to take up the petition of Air Marshal Asghar Khan take it to it’s logical conclusion.

Warm Regards,
Ali K.Chishti

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