Posts Tagged ‘dawn blog’

Crossposted from my piece on Dawn on Yaser Abbas and mentions on Newsline Magazine’s blog reg PNS Mehran attack.

The night of Sunday, May 22, 2011, will be remembered as one of the most haunting nights in the history of Pakistan. While Pakistan was still reeling from the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2, the 16-hour operation against terrorists at PNS Mehran served to add salt to the wounds of the nation.

At 10:40 pm I received a message from some course mates while having dinner together that a “P3-C Orion has been hit”. I tweeted this instantly, seeking confirmation from the media as I did not know whether the aircraft was hit in the air or on ground. This was the first and last message I would hear from my friends, who were now engaged in the operation.

At 12:54 am my social media feed read: My junior Lt Yaser and guards in his Squad are in the operation theater, the doctors are not confirming their condition, but saying that they have been shot – O negative blood is needed at PNS Rahat.

Just a few minutes later, we learnt that our brave junior had breathed his last. A couple of my close friends had also been shot.

I remember playing cricket with Yaser; he was an amazing athlete and one of the brightest students at the College of Aeronautical Engineering, Risalpur.

His course mate Abdullah talks about his personality:

“I haven’t known a more genuine person. The academy really puts you to test and only a fortunate few come out victorious. Lt. Syed Yaser Abbas represented the best of his kind and always managed to pass with flying colors. As per tradition, we called him ‘Naval Yaser’ (since he was part of the Pakistan Navy). Yaser was very close to me. Any person who has been at a boot-camp, will realise that when we call our course mates, our brothers, we mean it in the truest sense.

Ever since the PNS attack, I have endlessly recalled and relived the memorable times I have spent with Yaser – teasing seniors, late night gatherings, group study sessions, sitting on the roof-top chatting until late night, watching T20 world cup matches, mast qalandar sessions and the MOHA, CS gaming sessions – the list is endless. Yaser would also be early to bed the night before an exam, while we crammed but somehow he still managed to get better grades than us. He was also the one in the group who always had a bag of eatables on hand.

Yaser’s most distinctive feature was perhaps his loud, hearty laugh that could be heard long before anyone saw him coming. He always insisted he was an introvert back home, but we never really got to see that side of him. He was always joking and fooling around.

Spontaneity was his forte. Yaser executed unplanned, last-minute trips with ease. He never shied away from helping anyone who asked for his help. Even if you asked him at 3 am to come over, there he would be with his car.

All of us had been, in the last four months, planning a reunion. Just a day before the PNS Mehran attack, Yaser told me, he probably wouldn’t be able to make it for the reunion because his leaves had been postponed. He asked that we carry on without him, to which I replied that we could wait until he was granted leave. Who would have known then, that he would be the cause of our much-awaited reunion. May Allah bless his soul.”

Yaser was chatting with his friend, Umair before resuming duty that night. His last Facebook status update reads: finding it hard to bear the unbearable, need guts!

And much like the proverbial teaching in the military: no guts, no glory – his bravery, courage and sacrifice will be remembered for a long time to come.

Written on the walls of College of Aeronautical Engineering are the words ‘The Few, The Proud’. Yaser is most certainly among the few who have made his college and everyone who knew him proud by being nominated for the Nishan-e-Haider.

With the media coverage Yaser has received, he may be known to many as the face of the PNS Mehran attack, but there are tens of thousands of young men like him who have died fighting for their country.

Terrorist sympathisers are quick to point out that it is the US who has brought their war into Pakistan among other defenses for these heinous attacks of terrorism. In the face of haunting attacks such as that on PNS Mehran, even the thought of a terrorist sympathiser among us is appalling.

I believe nothing can be more tragic for a nation, which is still confused about who their real heroes are.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is an aeronautical engineer, a poet and a social activist who is the founding force & chairperson of the Pakistan Youth Alliance. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

— interview on Channel News Asia

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Crossposted from The Dawn Blog:

Pakistan has been through a lot in the last decade. We have had Taliban displacing millions, tremors leveling complete settlements and floods washing away our cities. But it is the current disaster that by far surpasses all. Amidst these natural and man-made disasters, I witnessed something positive, something which gives me hope. I saw unity, selflessness in Pakistanis who reached out to their fellow citizens irrespective of linguistic, religious and regional boundaries.

The Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA), a youth-based organisation that comprises volunteers who want to create awareness and want to be the change that everyone talks about, started fundraising for the flood victims two weeks ago. So far we have made three deliveries to the worst-hit region, Nowshera and its surrounding towns; regular deliveries to relief camps will continue until the flood-waters recede. This week, three more deliveries to Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be made simultaneously.

We made trips to Nowshera last week where families were living in government schools that had been turned into relief shelters. We reached Ziarat Kaka Sahib on August 3 to find out how some locals found water coolers floating in the water, with babies inside them. Even as we made our way to the camp, a heavy downpour raised sirens of another potential flood.


 Video of stampede in Nowshera: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150236940350177

I share a special bond with the region – I studied at the PAF Academy Risalpur in district Nowshera for four years and most of the people who lived in the region were reasonably well-off, owning small- to medium-sized businesses. I met an old acquaintance from my university days whose business was completely destroyed. It was also in our first food delivery that we witnessed a stampede as women, desperate to feed milk to their babies started fighting over the supplies.  The worst hit cities of Mardan, Nowshera, Swabi and Charsadda had hosted the IDPs from Swat when nearly three million people were displaced due to military action in 2009. The Pashtun, known for their bravery and determination, are once again being tested to the core.

People at the relief camps seemed agitated by the authorities and complained of no proper evacuation plan when the flood was about to hit their vicinity. One such victim, Bano lost her husband, 5-year-old son and could not even save her ID card when water-level rose at 3 am that morning. According to locals, the Army, Air Force and other institutions had been evacuated three days ago, while the residents were left to survive in the monstrous floods.

After years of experience in relief work and delivering relief aid by hand well worth over Rs 10 million (all collected from streets, by literally begging in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad), I have realised how some of the aid being sent is also sometimes not needed, with those items being sold in black market on prices much higher than normal. Relief workers must conduct assessments of the region and only take those items needed instead of assuming what’s needed.

The monsoons will not end anytime soon and even if the rains do subside, there is still rehabilitation work that requires billions of rupees. But we cannot give up hope – trust me, we will see this through just like we have with other calamities that have hit our country.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is the chairperson/founder of Pakistan Youth Alliance who tweets @Ali_Abbas_Zaidi and is available on Facebook as Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi. He can also be reached at damanwiddaplan@hotmail.com

Pictures can be viewd at: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=197961&id=125954437061

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