Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

First published in the youth magazine, Laaltain.


When one thinks of sacrifice, two historical figures stand above the rest – Jesus Christ and Imam Hussein. Jesus, according to Christian belief, climbed the cross to save humanity, while Imam Hussein offered himself to the desolate desert of Karbala to uphold certain values and rights. Imam Hussein’s sacrifice however remains singularly distinctive, as human history knows of no other individual who sacrificed not just himself but his entire kith and kin for a higher cause, a greater struggle.

I will not go on at length about the events that took place in Karbala, but the significance of a 1400-year old incident that still inspires organized activism around the world cannot be doubted.

There are times when one loses interest in a struggle, or the charm of the cause one stands for begins to fade away. Hopelessness creeps in, urging us to just give up. But it is precisely at such moments that our will is tested. How we then choose to respond is not only a testament of our resolve but a defining moment, because what we stand for defines who we ultimately become.

Pakistan is going through upsetting times, but the fight is not over just yet.

If outcomes were determined solely on the basis of greater resources or numbers, Karbala would have been a forgotten story. But the truth of the matter is that the alam (banner) of Hussein’s army, which was carried by the fallen Abbas Alamdar (standard-bearer) in Karbala, is visible in streets, villages and metropolises even today. I have personally witnessed the overwhelming effect on people that the story of Karbala has had. This is as clear a proof as any that strength is not derived from material advantage, but more often than not, is a result of un-wavering belief in one’s struggle and an unshakeable will. Perhaps the poet who penned these lines said it best:

Aik pal ki thi bus hakumat Yazeed ki /
Sadiyan Hussein ki hain, zamana Hussein ka

The future does not exist in the present, nor has it been promised to any of us. The glorious past depicted in the (distorted) books of history cannot be conjured, no matter how hard one tries. Thus all we truly have is the present – a present which reveals that 100 million-strong youth of Pakistan are yearning for a better tomorrow.

If the current situation of Pakistan were to be compared to a season, I would say it is like autumn. Autumn is when nightingales are melancholic because their gardens have lost spirit. Late-autumn days are thought-provoking; the shadows that fallen yellow leaves cast are overcome by hope that fresh ones in their place will bear a better garden.

As I currently complete a fellowship miles away from home in Europe, I yearn to return as soon as possible. I miss the struggle I saw on the streets of Pakistan every day. Every woman, man and child is a warrior fighting for their right to the basic necessities of life, and sometimes even their right to live. Even if some have given up, a vast majority still carries on. Every day they wake up to challenge a corrupt system, an unjust judiciary and an insecure security establishment. The astonishing thing is that most of them have not lost hope and continue to believe in ‘change’.

I have travelled all over Pakistan in the last few years, working on the ground with different communities and addressing a variety of issues. The smiles that appear on the faces of such people despite all their troubles, the courage that I see in the face of adversity and the will to carve out a better life and a better country resonates in every corner. We battled through the worst natural disasters of modern history, we ousted dictators, fought for our democratic rights – we are in the midst of a war that has caused unprecedented damage to our social fabric, but despite the extremism and intolerance that threatens our way of life, we find a way to co-exist in this melting pot of languages, ethnicities, cultures and ideologies that we call Pakistan.

The struggle that we see on the streets every day relays a silent message of hope; we might just find treasure in the ruin. The harsh conditions we face might end up helping us as the relentless rubs might polish the gems in us. The cracks in our society might be the opening points for light to enter. We only have to believe and shrug off the fear of failure, for even if we don’t succeed, we have a chance to fail better. We need to learn from Karbala how not to lose the most important resource we are gifted with: our determination.

Har daur apnay saath laata hai aik Yazeed
Har daur ku zarurat rahay gi Hussein ki

May the right to witness the spring, the yearning for true love and the event of Karbala inspire us to take Pakistan forward.

To every autumn, spring
To every heart, true love
To every struggle, Karbala

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi 

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Dedicated to multiple sit-ins across the world in solidarity with Hazara Town sit-in. The world will not forget how even after recurring, unprecedented attacks, the persecuted community remained non-violent and instigated a spontaneous movement against religious extremism. 

The poem was recited a month ago, when we sat in Islamabad to show solidarity with Alam-dar road sit-in. 

Shaitan pey larzaa tari hai
Lou dekhu dharna jari hai

Tum apnay amal chuka baithay
Dekhu ab apnee bari hai
Lou dekhu dharna jari hai

BumbarooN sey hum dartey naheen
Jitna maaro, hum martay naheen
Iss khoon ki qeemat bhari hai
Lou dekhu dharna jari hai

Yeh haath humaray seenoN par
Laanat hai tum bay-deenoN par
Aik azm yeh matam daari hai
Lou dekhu dharna jari hai

Hatt jao, dekhu baaz aao
Abaa’ key amal na dohrao
Pher aglee lash tumhari hai
Lou dekhu dharna jari hai

Taghoot key ayee pairo-karooN
ab saamnay aakey waar karu
Ab jagi qoum yeh sari hai
Lou dekhu dharna jari hai

Talwar banay ga apna qalam
Na khouf koi na koi alam
Emaan ju hum-pay taari hai

– Unknown





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First published and cross-posted from Huffington Post

I was in Kasur, a small town near Lahore, Pakistan, where the celebrated mystic poet Bulleh Shah is buried. Thousands gathered for the 254th anniversary of his death. Slogans chanted on that occasion would be branded ‘blasphemous’ by extremist organizations in Pakistan.

Neither Hindu nor Muslim,
Sacrificing pride, let us sit together.
Neither Sunni nor Shia,
Let us walk the road of peace.

Bulleh Shah penned these verses challenging religious extremism and orthodoxy that plagued Muslim society hundreds of years ago. He was exiled from his home town and, history has it, he was denied a burial in Muslim cemetery. His advice has clearly gone unheeded as my country is still yet to find peace. Not even the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah has been spared being labelled ‘the great infidel’.

Incidentally, the same ilk of religio-political parties who now manipulate public discourse were at the forefront of using religious narrative for political point scoring before Pakistan came into being.

4 January 2011 is a day I cannot forget. Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of Pakistan’s biggest province Punjab, was gunned down by his bodyguard. He was killed for supporting a Christian woman accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. He was shot twenty six times.

For the entire week after the killing, I was scared. I don’t remember being in that state of mind since Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. It’s not a very heartening sight to see fellow ‘educated’ countrymen glorifying a murderer and justifying his actions based on ignorant rhetoric. Scores of fan pages popped up on Facebook, many of my friends changed their profile pictures to one of the killer, Mumtaz Qadri, exalting a murderer as hero.

Very few turned out to pay homage to the slain governor in days to come, as ‘liberals’ arranged vigils in his remembrance. Yet thousands poured on to the streets to defend Mumtaz Qadri, his assassin. The media, which has been a primary tool in fanning conspiracy theories in public, had again played a pivotal role in enticing ‘religious’ emotions on this issue.

The killer of Salman Taseer had confessed proudly. The brave judge who sentenced him to death has gone into hiding and will not be re-appearing anytime soon.

7 March 2011. The start of another week of gloom and, if I’m honest, I was ashamed to be a Pakistani. We had arranged a protest to condemn the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities who was brutally assassinated on 2 March. He was an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and the only Christian in the cabinet. Only a few youngsters turned up.

When it comes to numbers, we can gather thousands but the ’cause’ has to be against India, Israel or America. Not many will show up if the demonstration is against radical organisations, or asking for introspection within.

Many who rallied for Gaza in early 2009 were not seen in protests condemning Taliban atrocities in Swat at the same time. Many who burnt down shops in anger at the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad never stood up for Parachinar, a small town near the border of Afghanistan where thousands have been killed in sectarian violence between Sunni’s and Shia’s.

9 October 2011. I was stuck on the Islamabad Highway, the main road that connects Islamabad with Rawalpindi as it was blocked by flash mobs protesting for the release of Mumtaz Qadri.

Two decades and 40,000 deaths later which includes top politicians, generals and clerics – not many things have changed when it comes to checking radicalism within Islam.

Many attacks on places of worship of minority sects within Islam, recurring violent brawls between followers of different schools of thought, reaction to the murder of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, recent acts of violence in Baluchistan and the tale of Parachinar are chapters in recent history which expose the extent of radicalisation in Pakistani society.

Soon, we as citizens of a country founded because a minority felt discriminated against and followers of the great religion of Islam, need to face up to the challenge of the radical minded and their extremist ideology.

This is a war of ideologies and is inevitably a war that must be fought with opinions and ideas; it must encourage discourse and exchange of reason. It is a war that must form the basic pillar of a new and improved national paradigm for Pakistan

We as a society cannot ignore an emerging threat from radicalism within our ranks, because if it gets too late, there might be no ‘music’ left to face.

Follow Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Ali_Abbas_Zaidi

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First published in The Friday Times

The war of ideology is inevitably a war that must be fought with opinions and ideas; it must encourage discourse and transactions of reason; it must develop spaces for freedom of speech and of expression as the objective of ultimate victory. And it is a war that must form the basic pillar of a new and improved national security paradigm for Pakistan

The process of radicalisation in Pakistan took hold over three decades. After political organisations began using religion as an implement of social power (by defining Muslims, and therefore kafirs and murtads, in the 1973 constitution), radicalism became a force potent enough to engulf the apparatus of the modern state, render it redundant, and eliminate its writ from within its very territorial jurisdiction. In essence, Islam was no longer just a faith that bound a worshipper to the Almighty, it became a structural institution that could manifest in social, political, economic, and even military forms. Abuse of religion for political ends sowed the seeds of hatred that continue to bear fruit after decades.

This radicalisation took hold of Pakistan’s north-western tribal and Pakhtun-populated areas during the “Afghan jihad”, and slowly spread into the marginalised and poverty stricken areas of Pakistan – both urban and rural. Massive inflow of funding for religious institutions (mosques and madrassas) created an education system that espoused both a radical discourse and the eventual induction into a radical or extremist organisation, where the madrassa graduate found a career in becoming an ‘activist’ or ‘office-bearer’. However, these psycho-social processes that affect both individuals and communities are not irreversible; de-radicalisation is a rehabilitative process that moderates radical thought and principles, thereby reintegrating a former militant into society as a peaceful citizen. Counter-radicalisation means providing a counter-narrative to radical ideology and challenging the extremist discourse.

Having grown up in 1990s, we are silent spectators of this sequence. Some of us are even victims of this mindset, which is reflected in surveys highlighting the Pakistani youth’s propensity towards extremist ideologies. A Gallup poll released in May this year showed that a majority of Pakistanis (59%) view themselves as Muslims first, and Pakistanis second, making the very concept of the nation-state redundant.

That was precisely the problem in Swat, that led to the military operation against the Taliban. After a military victory, the army called for a ‘de-radicalisation programme’. Between July 4 and 6 this year, the ISPR held a seminar on the phenomenon of de-radicalisation. Scores of activists and journalists were invited to observe the reclaiming of Swat.

One noticeable element was that almost all locals seemed hesitant in voicing their honest opinion. Far from where the seminar was organised, we sat with a group of locals in Mingora city who were glad that Swat was cleansed of extremist militants, but considered the army and Taliban ‘two sides of the same coin’. “We saw them having tea together, when the Taliban were taking over. They literally had checkposts besides each other,” a local said. The army’s inaction while militants took over the streets of Swat is reminisced with anger. Some segments still consider army as too ‘liberal’, stating that funfairs and musical concerts caused the 2010 floods. This is the typical conspiracy theory mindset that we, as a nation, ought to counter: it perplexes our introspective ability to rectify errors. It was exhibited by locals of Swat who saw the siege and counter-insurgency happen in front of their eyes.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commanders like the loathed Mullah Fazlullah and his equally dreaded lieutenants Shah Doran and Bin Yameen capitalised on the religious ethos of the community, and eliminated rule of law and customs from Swat by capitalising on the enforcement of so-called “sharia law” which was granted assent by Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi’s Sufi Muhammad, and later, by the government as well. Fazlullah, the self-proclaimed ruler of Swat, did not control the streets of Swat overnight. It was a gradual advance, and that explains how this ideological war should be fought. His ambition was emboldened because the stakeholders of Pakistan pretended to be ignorant of the looming threat whilst Fazlullah was busy broadcasting a radical version of Islam and coercing local people to abide by his “shariah” laws. The conservative ethos of Swat’s society was manipulated, and its indigenous cultural values of pluralism, interfaith harmony, and even Pakhtunwali (the Pakhtun code and tradition), were destroyed by the Taliban, according to Swat Qaumi Jirga leader Ziauddin Yusufzai.

The foundations of terror had been laid; the government and the army appeared apathetic. Slowly, dead bodies started piling on the streets. The Green Chowk was renamed Khooni Chowk. And those visions have been imprinted on Swat’s history, on the mind of its children and of the youth. “Some people were terrified, while others were excited,” said Saddam, a local youth. “Communities and even families were divided over whether to support Fazlullah in his so-called jihad or to flee.”

Counter-radicalisation and de-radicalisation are two different things. Fighting radical elements and ideologies is as important as rehabilitating those who are misguided or exploited. But in order to successfully do both, a coherent distinction between ideological propagators, militarised elements, and fringes, or foot-soldiers, must be made. Unfortunately, counter-radicalisation is weak because neither the state nor the Pakistani society has been able to cogently challenge terrorist ideology, or the prevalent phenomena of religious intolerance and extremism. Lt General (r) Mustafa Khan, former CGS of Pakistan Army, emphasised this fact and said that the media and religious leaders must play a pivotal role in neutralising radical ideologies that exist across Pakistan. The war of ideology is inevitably a war that must be fought with opinions and ideas; it must encourage discourse and transactions of reason; it must develop spaces for freedom of speech and of expression as the objective of ultimate victory. And it is a war that must form the basic pillar of a new and improved national security paradigm for Pakistan.

Policy circles in Pakistan fail to understand that counter-terrorism is one part counter-insurgency and three parts counter-extremism or counter-radicalisation. The counter-insurgency component is essentially military in nature, but also implies transition to civil administration. The three parts of counter-extremism are ending political marginalisation, extending economic opportunities, and ensuring justice, rule of law, and writ of the state as basic services to the citizens. Since there are no clear parameters – no definition of friend and enemy, for instance – the War on Terror has sadly become a war of terror for the people of Pakistan. Afzal Khan Lala, who fought the Swat Taliban, urged the participants of the seminar to develop policies that devolve elected bodies and authorities to the district and tehsil levels so that local communities could make their own rules and abide by them.

Although Pakistan has suffered more military and civilian deaths than any of the other 49 allied nations in the War on Terror, we are unable to boast of mass consensus against radical elements, let alone any significant victory where we can brandish the “Mission Accomplished” banner. Every terrorist incident is viewed, popularly and misguidedly, from the prism of anti-Americanism. The resilience and sacrifice of the people of Swat in particular, and of Pakistan in general, must not go to waste. We as a society cannot ignore an emerging threat from radicalsm, that, if left unbridled, would bring no harmony and certainly no music.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is the founder of Pakistan Youth Alliance, and is affiliated with Khudi Pakistan and Hosh Media.

Shemrez Nauman Afzal is a researcher and defense analyst with Spearhead Research, and is a social media consultant for Responsible Citizens – Zimmedar Shehri

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Slightly edited version was first published in english daily Islamabad Dateline [20th April, 2011]

Great poets were a product of their times. I am sure had Shakespeare been alive today, he might have considered rephrasing his famous ‘to be or not to be’ to ‘to veil or not to veil; that is the question’

I recall when I went to Swat to deliver relief aide to IDP’s right after military action had come to its successful end in August 2009 I came across a barber shop. The glass window said: Hajamat karana mana hai [hair-cut is banned]. I got a chance to talk to the owner of the shop and he said when Taliban had taken over his neighborhood the first announcement made via radio was to force women to wear niqab and men not to dare cut their beards and hair. Such has been the case wherever Islamist militants took over. We called it extremism.
Personally, I remember being really agitated when ‘elders’ advised me to keep a certain hair-cut and not to wear shorts in public. The temperature was too much and I believed it to be a personal choice. Leaving religion aside, restricting the right to wear as you want infringes on personal freedom of conscience and thought.

Two months before my visit to Swat in June 2009, French president Sarkozy called the entire parliament, national assembly and senate to announce one of his grand ideas. He is known for his antiques to be honest, but this time what he had to say did not help the already polarized world we live in. He said: There is no place for the burka within the French Republic.

After much debate and hype – the law has finally been enacted in France. Some say now the Taliban and France have one thing in common; they both force women to dress a certain way. Not to mention the French Republic is now compared to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

For Sarkozy and his government, the veil is dangerous and illegal. For certain Muslim communities, the veil is essential. Political commentators consider it ‘veiled’ agenda of the French ruling government. Women wearing veil over their faces would be asked to uncover their faces. If they refuse to co-operate, they can be fined €150.

Activists both pro and anti-niqab ban law devised new ways to make their voices heard. Activism saw its new form when video two women wearing the niqab with mini-shorts and high heels, wandering in the streets of Paris came on Youtube. The video went viral.
These anti-ban activists called themselves Niqabitch(es). I had been in touch with them since last year and got hold of them again regarding the ban.

Both of the women are in their early twenties, and one of them is a Muslim. Though, none was really affected by the law but they still felt the need to voice out their concern, in a rather unusual way.

To wear a simple burqa would have been too easy, too simple. So we asked ourselves: how would the authorities react to women who were wearing a burqa and a pair of hotpants?- they say on why they chose to protest in such a manner.

Fearing an onslaught from Muslims they had already cleared their position on the matter: We didn’t intend to attack or insult the feelings of orthodox Muslims – to each their own. Rather, we wanted to challenge the elected officials of the Republic who supported the passing of a law that’s believed to be largely unconstitutional. And finally, isn’t it better to have a laugh while making a statement?

Sarkozy might be playing his cards for the next elections. But it might back fire on and he can lose 6 million Muslim voters — and many more from those who despise the law.
Across Europe there is a new wave of anti-Islamic sentiment, from the banning of minarets in Switzerland to the niqab ban in France. The move might have been more political than religious but it surely serves to add a chapter in a local conspiracy theorists notebook.

Niqabitch(es) were kind enough to answer a few questions of mine.

I asked them, now that that burqa ban law has been enacted, do you have any plans to take your innovative activism further?
NB: We are happy that the word was spread and if we maybe raised awareness on the situation in France; but for now we haven’t planned anything in particular ! We said what we had to say in our own way and if we find more relevant things to do, who knows 😉 !
SAAZ: Did you receive any threats from radical Muslims, against the name you use, etc?

NB: We did get death threats from all kinds of radical people, not only muslims. Those who do not want to see people mingle. Sometimes it was very surprising, for example hardcore feminists attacked us for wearing hot pants and shaving our legs, or islamophobes who think we are promoting the Chariah.
As for the name, we explained that “bitch” was not an insulting word to us, we call each other like that, it’s the new way to say “sister” 🙂 But indeed, some people got offended. We can’t make everyone happy ! Like the song on the video says, ‘If you don’t like it, then hey : Fuck you.’
SAAZ: Do you think this law would backfire on Sarkozy? Was it ‘veiled’ agenda for next elections?

NB: We are not political analysts, but from what we can see : It is easy to use hatred in politics, and to target immigrant populations in times of economic crisis, and Sarkozy understood that very well. Problem is, most of the 5 million musilms in France are french citizens. WTF !
SAAZ: How do you feel about France, now having laws that ask women to dress in a certain way, is being compared to Iran and Saudi Arabia?

NQ: There’s no uniform yet, but it is not the role of a democratic government to tell citizens how they should dress. In a small italian town they want to forbid miniskirts.  Today they’re forbidding niqabs, but what if tomorrow they suddenly realize that they don’t like hoodies or skirts anymore ? Seriously this is getting ridiculous.


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Have been writing extensively on the latest report by Fox News, which humiliates Pakistan for having the greatest number of searches for certain keywords relating to sex & porn. Fox News went to an extent of labelling Pakistan – “Pornistan” based on its biased analysis.

Read the blogpost: Is USA, United States of Abortions? Fox News? – Which clearly shows the level of journalistic ethnics Fox News’s staff possess.

So, finally sanity remains and truth comes out:

ISLAMABAD: Google officially denied the accuracy of its search trends that declared Pakistan as the top nation searching for illicit material on the internet, according to Dawn sources.

Internet Service Provider Association of Pakistan has also declared statistics regarding pornography in Pakistan as flawed.

Earlier based on these findings, a number of foreign newspapers and websites started humiliating Pakistani nation and even maligned the country’s name.

Referring to the news about illicit search trends in Pakistan, Google’s public affairs head of South-East Asia said that the statistics were based on limited data therefore they cannot be regarded as final opinion.

There are eight million users of internet in Pakistan which makes only five per cent of the country’s total population. — DawnNews

Last but not the least, I would demand an apology from Fox News for humiliating a nation based on flawed analysis & also recommend them to change their name from Fox to “Foxing News” – and for the love of God – stop foxing people!

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Of Gazans, Kashmiris & Human Rights

Yes, International community condemns Israel for the brutal attack on Gaza-bound aide convoy Flotilla. Our very own Talat Hussein, a much respected and known to a have neutral-view point-journalist was on board and all of Pakistan came out on streets to support the brave effort. Israel’s act of aggression needed condemnation and it finds itself cornered in the world, for except USA and India – every country and its foreign office issued strong statements against Israel. Gaza is burning and Gazans don’t have access to basic facilities of life — they needed this attention.

Attention, a word often weighed in relative terms as priorities vary with perceptions. Talking about Gaza is necessary and is a must to unveil Israel’s true face but talking about Gaza alone does not suffice. Talking about injustice, disputed territories, declining conditions of human rights, rapes, illegal tortures and disappearances in one part of the world and ignoring the other might mean we have biased way of looking at things – of looking at human beings and humanity, irrespective of color, creed and faith.

I write to draw YOUR ‘attention’ towards Kashmir for a second, you can press the X button and close the window, as what I am writing here is not making headlines in world media. Human rights activists, who cry for Gaza, all of a sudden become quiet when it comes to protesting for Kashmir – Relief workers cannot access Kashmir and the idea of Freedom Kashmir-tilla, an aide convoy to Kashmir does not attract them as much as Gaza does

From 1990 to 1999 some organizations report that Indian Armed Forces have been responsible for the deaths 4,501 of Kashmiri civilians. Also from 1990 to 1999, there are records of 4,242 women between the ages of 7-70 that have been raped.

A 2005 study conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières found that Kashmiri women are among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world, with 11.6% of respondents reporting that they had been victims of sexual abuse. Some surveys have found that in the Kashmir region itself (where the bulk of separatist and Indian military activity is concentrated), popular perception holds that the Indian Armed Forces are more to blame for human rights violations than the separatist groups. According to the MORI survey of 2002, in Kashmir only 2% of respondents believed that the militant groups were guilty of widespread human rights abuses, while 64% believed that Indian troops were guilty of the same. This trend was reversed however in other parts of the state. Off late Amnesty International has called on India to “unequivocally condemn enforced disappearances” and to ensure that impartial investigation is conducted on reality of mass graves in its controlled Kashmir region. As the Indian state police confirms as many as 331 deaths while in custody and 111 enforced disappearances since 1989

A 1996 Human Rights Watch report accuses the Indian military and Indian-government backed paramilitaries of “committ[ing] serious and widespread human rights violations in Kashmir. Moreover, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) have condemned human rights abuses in Kashmir by Indians such as “extra-judicial executions”, “disappearances”, and torture.

And Gaza’s statistics reiterate the following figures with slight variation.


Apart from Kashmir, areas of Parachinar, Waziristan, Swat and Baluchistan have been witnessing greater number of deaths than in Gaza. Aide workers have been found butchered trying to access Parachinar many a times without enticing the same reaction over the years.

I do not write to undermine Gaza, please understand that. I write to compare Gaza with many other Gaza’s that have witnessed far more atrocities, and have not still been able to win an international citizens heart. Maybe, we Pakistanis need to focus more on our home before trying to solve world’s problems and maybe the ‘corporate’ human rights activists need to address declining human rights conditions everywhere in the world alongside Gaza.

Interestingly, in a ‘Letter to American People’ written by Osama bin Laden in 2002 he stated that one of the reasons he was fighting America is because of her support to India on the Kashmir issue – but the most-wanted man on this earth too had a different approach when it came to dealing with Kashmir issue, because we haven’t heard him calling out to wage Jihad on ‘Muslims’ being oppressed in Kashmir for a long time now, ever since our Intelligentsia changed its position on Kashmir during Musharrafs regime.

You see – humanitarians, aide workers, peace activists and militant organizations all go with the wind!

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

P.SL Y’all remember MCC? Music Channel Charts? The pioneers of Pop-Music in Pakistan in early 90’s? You must remember this song about Kashmir issue then: JAAAAGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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Many articles were published in Indian press, regarding Facebook ban. One such article which was published in Hindustan Times, Indian Express and Deccan Chronicle mentions my words regarding the facebook-ban-dilemma. The reporter or the source has mistakenly mentioned myself as Ali Shah (I dont mind that name either :P, in reverence to the Bullah Baadshah). The article is cross-posted below.

Some things need to be kept in mind regarding the facebook/internet blockade, every blogger/activist/journalist and citizen of Pakistan who is voicing out to get the ban lifted, is not in favour of the degrading campaign carried out by some ignorants. We, like every Muslim brother and sister, feel despised by the slanderous campaign carried out some “average” cartoonist, who made it to the headlines worldwide. Freedom of Speech and hate-speech collide at times, and one needs to understand the difference between the two before throwing tanturms and hurting feelings of billions of human beings. One cannot cry “bomb” in a hospital, disrupt peace and then say its my freedom of speech, because everything has a limit in this temporal abode. One cannot start a campaign saying “Lets draw XYZ’s Mom” and then link to Freedom of Speech, because someone’s feeling will get hurt – And here, Prophet (p) is held in reverence by 1/5th of humanity, who consider him (p) more closer to themselves than their parents.

Facebook should have dealt with the matter more effeciently, and instead of judging “why” feelings of billions were getting hurt, it should have paid heed to the millions of abuse-reports it was getting. I have already written a blog-post regarding this (facebook or bias-book). However, we must also understand that facebook was not the campaign itself, banning the entire facebook was not wise, as it gave the “average” cartoonist and slanderous campaign the hype it yearned for, and started for – we must have instead sent an official complaint to Facebook HQ’s or used our foreign diplomats to pressurize facebook to take the page down, and had it not paid heed, we should have blocked the blasphemous groups/pages instead of banning the entire domain.

Why? Because Facebook has hundreds of pro-Islam pages (one such page, run by friend Abbasi has over 270,000 members) propagating the real message of Islam to the West, communicating with world in this global village, hundreds of charities, social welfare organizations, online blood donation groups, civil and human rights activists group and women/child-abuse initiatives use facebook to propagate their message and very effeciently. My organization (Pakistan Youth Alliance) has raised over 7,500,000 PKR using facebook and helped IDP’s, orphans, disabled, needy and juveniles. (read link mentioning PYA’s social work using facebook, see this interview with Dawn News and hear Naveen Naqvi mentioning how we used facebook to help IDP’s, also see this link to see MSN News’s report about how we used facebook to carry out a campaign against the dictator Musharraf, also read this report in Newsline Magazine, under the aegis of “The Facebook Revolution” mentioning us regarding facebook and activism).

So the gist of what I am trying to say is – A knife can be used to cut apples and cut throats, TV can be used to disberse information/education or destroy a childs mind, facebook/youtube/twitter/Flickr/Yahoo/Gmail/Hotmail and others can be used to start blasmphemous campaigns and at the same time, can be utilized for good causes. Are knives banned because someone cut a throat with it? Is TV banned because of one or two “bad” programs ? Why facebook, youtube, flickr and twitter were banned  then? Does banning help stopping the campaign or propagates it more? Is closing your eyes from an approaching danger a solution or digs in more holes? The campaign initially started with facebook and now is everywhere on the www, the minds behind the campaign exactly wanted that. Hiding from reality doesnt change reality – things are not simply black and white. There are issues to discuss and realities to be matched with eloquence, so there should be a discussion between opposing parties and eyes must not be closed.

This explanation was necesarry before re-posting the articles published in Indian press and elsewhere (DW Germany, BBC World, Radio FM 99) regarding my stance.

Hindustan Times, Deccan Chronicile and Indian Express:

Raza Rumi cross-posted a message by  Ali, who wrote: “They have banned the entire Facebook domain in Pakistan (and) barred Blackberry services for one ignorant rant? They have burnt the entire village for one bad guy and we must stand up to it”.


Hindustan Times : Pakistan’s e-space abuzz after Facebook, Twitter ban

Deccan Chronicile: After Facebook and Youtube, Pakistan blocks Twitter, Blackberry

Indian Express: Pakistan Seethes on Twitter, Blackberry Ban.

DW Germany:

Calls for free speech

But there were also other opinions. Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi,  from Islamabad, started a Facebook group against the ban, called “Protect Online Speech in Pakistan”.

“Facebook is used by many Pakistanis for good causes, too. There are many pro-Islam pages on Facebook, with members in millions. A friend of mine is running such a page, and he is spreading a positive message about Islam towards the world. Similarly, I myself and my friends have done a lot of good work on Facebook, helping people, helping humanity. So you cannot burn the entire village for one bad guy!”

Article: DW Germany: Reaction to Pakistan’s Facebook ban

– Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

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If you are confused about anything, from politics to geo-strategic analysis, from cricket to Jemima Khan, you can always stop a rickshaw hurling by and ask the rickshaw driver for his “expert” opinions.

Here, take a ride with Tariq

Like for instance, you are cursing the relentless heat and you utter “uff kitni garmi hai” unconsciously, you would immediately hear the expert opinion:

“Oh sir jee, iss baar buhat garmi huni hai, kyun key itnay bomb ju barsae hai sarhad mayn, unki garmi kahan jae gi ?”

I once asked Tariq, a rickshaw driver about Taliban and the on-going military operation and he replied: “Yaar koi Taliban nahi hain, Pakistan army paharoon pay firing kar rae hai aur dunya ku dikha rahi hai key hum Taliban say lar rahay hain, takay “dallar” atay hain, samajh aye?”

So, here – I dedicate the blogpost to the amazing Rickshaw art and Rickshaw “quotes” – that you find written on the back of these fast moving-three wheeler Ferraris in their own right.

• Maalik Ki Gaadi Driver Ka Paseena – Chalti Hai Road Par Ban Kar Haseena
• Buri Nazar Wale, Tera Moonh Kala
• Qismat Aazma Chuka, Muqadar Aazma Raha Hoon – Aik Bewafa Ki Khatir Riksha Chala Raha Hoon
• Kabhee Side Say Aatee Ho Kabhee Peechay Say Aatee Ho – Meree Jaan Horn Day Day Kar Mujhay Tum Kyon Satatay Ho
• Pappu Yaar Tang Na Ker!
• Zehreeli Nagan
• Koi Jal Gaya, Kisi Nai Dua Di
• Main Phir Aaon Ga
• Tapar Hai To Paar Kar Warna Bardaasht Kar
• Dekh Magar Pyar Se!
• Khatharnaak Rambo
• Horn Day Ker Paas Kerain
• Chal Dhanno
• Phir Milayngay
• Akhri Shahzada
• Tera Jadoo Chal Gya
• Hosh Ker Kherghosh
• Wo Dekho Mastani Ja Rahi Hay
• Zid Meri Majboori hy
• Ae Eagle tujhay qasam hy himmat na harna, jaisi bhi fizaen aen hans k fly karna.
• Zindagi ny aik baar phir dulha bana dia
• Aag aggay waikh pichaay na waikh
• Palat kar daikh zalim tamana hum bhi rakhtay hyn.
• Fasla rakh warna mohabbat hojaegi
• Shikar karma hy to ankhon se kar, talwar main kia rakha hy-safar karma hy to rickshaw main kar car main kia rakha hy.
• Chalay jasso ya shor avan
• Zid na kar sonhaya main aap bara ziddi aan

• Waqt ny Aik Baar Phir Dulhan Bna Diya..!!!!
• Bismillah Parr Kar Swar Hoon Shaid Yeh Aap Ki Zindgi Ka Akhri Safar Hoo…!!!!
• Model 2010 Raftaar 65 KM Fee Ghantta…!!!
• Tu Lang Ja Saddi Khair Ey…!!!!

Some are just plain humor; some are overwhelmingly political and sarcastic.

“Agar Rabb ne Chaaha tou manzil tak pohancha doonga ,
Aur agar aankh lag gai tou Rabb se hee milwa doonga “

• Sawari labbay na labbay, Speed aik so nabbay (190)
• Jis ne Maan ko Sataya Uss ne rikshaw chalaya
• Chal pagli Sajan ke Dais
• Lag gai te Rozi na lagate Roza

• “Teri Yad Aie Teray Janay Ky Baad”
• ” Pak Foj Ko Salam”
• “Mint Di Fursat Nai Dheelay Di Amdan Nai”
• ” Kharchay Malkan day Nakhray Lokan Dy”
• “Dollar Ki Talash Mein”
• ” Pass Kar Ya Bardasht Kar”
• ” Haseenon Sy Nafrat Piyar Sy Toba”
• ” Baba Easy Load Ghawari” (Pushto)
• “Baba Pa Khafa Ki Ghi” (Pushto)
• “Papu Yar Tang Na Kur”
• ” Zid Na Kur Sohneya Asi Aap Baray Ziddi Aan”
• ” Zid Na Kur Sohneya Time Sadi Majboori Aye”
• “Jeenay Nai Doon Ga”

And sometimes an honest advice:

aye admi haram khana chor dey
tyre mehngay hain race lagana chor dey

mera sheher, Mansehra

Afridi Tayyara

kabhi to aao na Sargodha, surmaa laga kai

Pakhtunkhwa Khappay Khappay Khappay!


Comparing the rickshaw ramblings to truck quotes, one finds the truck drivers are more “serious” and are usually suffering from a heart-breaking relationship. Ata Ullah Esa Khan Khelvi who mainly sings “sad” songs being played from Karachi to Khyber, a favorite of Truck drivers doesnt enjoy the same support from Rickshaw-drivers community who are more into Abrar Ul Haq.

To Pakistani Rickshaw Drivers – To the amazing quotes that entertain us!

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi | Plastic Tearz: An Insight

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Loved this one. 🙂

Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and people of other religions living in Pakistan. You are us and we are you!  

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