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7 Most Inspiring Pakistani Women 2016

I am honoured and delighted to be included in this list of women doing Pakistan proud. Alhamdulillah.
Thank you Faseeh Haider for this.
https://infolabsite.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/7-most-inspiring-pakistani-women-2016/
January 11, 2016

After reading about these legendary women, you’ll know you can contribute towards the society no matter what – you don’t need to be in a specific field, time or environment to make a difference to the world in this lifetime.

1. Muniba Mazari

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Muniba Mazari is an artist and a writer. Muniba Mazari believes in playing with vibrant colors and flawless portrayal of true emotions. Her work speaks her heart out and is all about people, their expressions, dreams and aspirations.

Although wheel chair bound, her spirit and artistry knows no bounds. In fact, Muniba Mazari takes the agony of spinal cord injury as a challenge and is more determined to express her sentiments through her art work.

While doing her bachelor in fine arts she met a road accident which made her paraplegic. Currently, she is running her brand by the name ‘Munibas Canvas’ with the slogan ‘Let Your Walls Wear Colors’.

Muniba Mazari is named as Pakistan’s first female goodwill ambassador by UN women, United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women. She also have been featured on the BBC 100 Women list for 2015.


2. Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz among 15

Becoming a shining emblem for Pakistani female journalists, Farahnaz Zahidi was nominated by Women Deliver, a global organisation that works for women’s rights, as one of the 15 most powerful female journalists around the world, for her features on women’s rights. She is the only Pakistani woman to have made it to this list.

Farahnaz has been able to bring pressing issues regarding women’s emancipation and health in the limelight and was able to inspire her co-workers and readers alike to strive for a better tomorrow for everyone, especially women.


3. Salma Habib

salma-habib

Working with children who belong to the more destitute, slum areas of Karachi, Salma Habib has been a positive force in helping children and harnessing their artistic skills. She works with them by providing the resources, stationary and place for these children to draw and showcase their talent.

By helping these children express through art, Habib is able to create a sense of individuality and self-esteem in them, which is often lacking in street children. Every week, she focuses on a band of children and assists them in addressing their qualities, which is inspirational to say the least. More people like Habib need to be present in our society, so that these children may be able to find some colour in their perpetually grey lives.


4. Mehak Gul

orgsize_327Mehak Gul

Gul started playing chess at the early age of six. She is now 14-year-old and is creating a pro-Pakistan image by being an internationally acclaimed chess player.


5. Ayesha Farooq

WOMEN_1691522

Pakistan’s first female fighter pilot is not a woman to be messed around with. Like a scene out of Top Gun, Ayesha dons her military attire and olive green hijab with aplomb and ease, even though she works in such a testosterone-fuelled profession.

Ayesha has been involved in purging Waziristan off Taliban strongholds and is thus a hero in her own right for risking her life for the security and safety of Pakistan. She still maintains close links with her faith and culture yet is breaking taboos and cultural norms by pursuing this profession.


6. Sayeeda Warsi

Conservative Party Conference - Day One

Although Warsi was born and resides in the UK, she still shines the light for Pakistanis based overseas. Her name is mentioned here not because of her political or lawyerly prowess but the stance she took on Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in the summer of 2014.

Warsi sent a strongly-worded letter to David Cameron, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, about how she could no longer partake in mainstream British politics because of the UK’s “morally indefensible” stance on Gaza. This was a slap in the face of quiet servitude within politics and proved that Pakistani women remain strong-willed.


7. Maria Toorpakai Wazir

Maria-Toorpakai-Wazir

Maria, born in South Waziristan, is a professional squash player who has won international acclaims for Pakistan. She is currently ranked 54th in the world rank. She is a prolific speaker against extremism in society and has spoken at events such as TedxTeen.

I Study, Therefore I Am

Last summer, multi-tasking breathlessly between free-lance writing, part-time teaching and being on my daughter’s case, I met a friend who, when I asked her the ritual “what’s up”, told me smugly that she was preparing for her Masters exams from Karachi University. My interest peaked instantly, as I badgered her with her questions: Why, how, what, when, and where. She is the same age as me, same profile, married, teenage kids, happily into the home-maker zone, with a stint or two on the side to ward away boredom for the thrill of it.

“Studying? Now?” I confess, was my response too. Books? Notes? Being thick-skinned and wanting to give exams that require coffee to keep you awake at night and have ink-stained fingers during the day? Between playing mommie, wifey, taking care of elderly parents, the socializing, the cooking, the groceries, the rounds to the tailor, maintaining a home … the best I can do is catch a show on TV, read or write for mental stimulus, and use Facebook to catch up with friends. Studying seemed a far cry. But something on her face told me she was enjoying every minute, even though she complained of exhaustion. She had the glow of forbidden excitement all over her face – an excitement that we often write off way too early in our lives. The feverish thrill of challenging yourself, of having a new dream and the anticipation of accomplishing something you as well as others think you can’t do!

On way home, I kept thinking about it. My inner soliloquies were never-ending. Somewhere after my graduation as a position-holding student with Business Studies and Economics as majors, I had figured out that Business Studies had never been my calling. I was “prone” to literature; it made me happy, while writing provided me with Catharsis and purging of emotions. But back then, we did not have career-counselors, a choice to mix up subjects of Sciences and Social Sciences, and movies like “3 Idiots” telling us that the world is your oyster.

But today, I had a choice to make a more informed decision. And so Masters in English Literature was my new goal in life. Little did I know that this would be a great learning experience, teaching me more than what the Greats have written. My husband was all for it, saying he believes that the role of a parent, a spouse or a friend is to let each other grow, and support them to fulfill their dreams.

The general reaction I got was “Why?”, and “What are you going to do after that?” But then those friends who believed in following dreams encouraged me in ways that I had never imagined – dropping by cooked food, picking up my daughter, leaving a pack of groceries and offering to lend me their driver so I wouldn’t have to drive to the University. In many of my girlfriends, I saw a feeling of living their dream through me.

Standing in queues for the admission process wasn’t easy. I had forgotten how to rough it out in a government institution. No concessions were made for me by the multitudes of students, even though I was older than most of them by a decade. The ride in the rickshaw the day of my first exam when my car broke down wasn’t a joyride. Neither were the long walks to the centre when I missed the university shuttle. The lecherous innuendos of a particular bored male invigilator were disturbing, specially the fact that whenever any student asked him for a B copy, he would say, “fikar mut karo gurya, mein hoon na!” Yet most of the invigilators were cooperative and respectful.

The Masters syllabus was tougher than I had anticipated, and acquiring the prescribed books was not easy. One particular day, after endless trips to Urdu bazaar and still not finding the books I needed, I landed up at Karachi University’s English Faculty’s Photostat shop. Standing in lines in the sweltering May heat, I sent an sms to my daughter saying I think I want to give up, to which she replied, “Come on mom, it’s all worth it in the end.”

From the day I filled out the form, a plethora of happenings has impacted the way I think. I have seen the brightest students coming from the humblest backgrounds. I have sensed how invigorating being competitive is, something that a comfortable and complacent life takes away. I have felt charged by the viable energy that seems to flood an educational institute. I have pushed myself to the limit of physical and mental endurance by studying till late night and waking up at five in the morning and writing till my fingers ached, in a bout of flu. Above all, I am a richer person in terms of knowledge, as a profound study of literature teaches you much about yourself and humanity in general. I fell in love everyday with a new writer. One day it was Keats with his Odes, the other day it was Marlowe dancing his way into my heart with “Dr Faustus”, and yet another day Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” would make me understand life much better.

It is fascinating to learn that a growing trend world-over is people going back to school at any stage. Mental idleness leads to aimlessness and eventually despondency. To be a contented and creatively-active person, one has to keep doing something that keeps your zest for life alive and inspires you. For me it was a study program. For another, it might be learning a new language, baking or venturing into something entrepreneurial. Who knows whether I clear all the papers this year or not, but I hope to persevere till I do. After that? Well, maybe learning product photography professionally. Whatever makes me feel alive.

farah80

Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam is a freelance writer.The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

http://www.dawn.com/news/813345/i-study-therefore-i-am

International Women’s Day: On provincial stage, women issues still glossed over

Published: March 8, 2015

Rights activists note movement in legislation for gender equality, but say it is time to walk the talk.

KARACHI: Encouraging movement has been seen in women-friendly legislation across the country in 2014. Provincial legislators in Balochistan passed the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2014, while their counterparts in Sindh adopted the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, which outlawed marriage below the age of 18.

Just two days before the International Women’s Day, amendments were made to the Punjab Muslim Family Laws Act 2015. The penalty for underage marriage has been increased, with offenders facing a prison term of up to six months and a Rs50,000 fine. The failure to pay alimony to a woman or a child will lead to enhancement of payment.

Why, then, are the women of Pakistan continuing to suffer? “There is too much emphasis on enactment of legislation but not enough stress on implementation of the laws,” said Fauzia Waqar, chairperson of Punjab’s Commission on Women.

Mahnaz Rehman, resident director of Aurat Foundation Karachi, agreed that implementation of laws is not satisfactory. “I suggest that the government and/or judiciary should make it mandatory that after the enactment of any law, rules of business and other necessary measures will be taken within three months. If concerned departments don’t do it, they should be summoned in the court,” she said. Rehman pointed out that though the Sindh Assembly enacted a law against domestic violence in 2013 it has not drawn up the rules of business or constituted protection committees yet.

Lawyer and human rights crusader Maliha Zia Lari believes that enforcement is sometimes held back by budget problems.

“There are only three to five medico-legal departments in all of Karachi, and none in Peshawar,” she said, sharing that medico-legal officers do not have basic facilities like a space to examine women. “We have heard cases where they had no electricity and had to examine rape victims in the light of cell phones. How can we have implementation, then?”

Women’s issues – a federal issue?

“Women are 50 per cent of the population. How can issues related to them be just provincial?” asks Lari. In her opinion, the 18th Amendment may have had a positive impact in other areas of development, but not when it comes to issues related to women. “We are happy about legislation regarding Child Marriage, but that is in Sindh and Punjab. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan will not even look at it,” she said.

Lari also pointed out that it was unfortunate that the country no longer has a separate ministry for either women’s affairs or human rights.

Silver linings

The Punjab government, according to Waqar, has set up a helpline for women exclusively. “Call 080093372 and you get help of every kind if you are a woman in distress.” She expressed satisfaction over the improvement in data collection.

Activist and researcher Nazish Brohi said that this is “a time of huge possibilities, we have more space”. She said that it was encouraging that more Swara cases were being reported and more people were being arrested for crimes against women, showing a slow but stable improvement.

A changing Pakistan

As the dynamics of Pakistani society change, the lines between urban and rural culture continue to blur. “The massive scale of urbanisation has altered the demographic culture,” said Brohi.

Talking of provincial comparisons, Brohi said there is huge provincial variation. “What is true for Balochistan doesn’t resonate with the culture in Sindh.”

The situation is not bleak in Waqar’s opinion. However, proliferation of small arms in Pakistani society has affected the dynamics of violence against women (VAW) too. “In Punjab, from 161 cases in 2012 to 205 cases in 2014, there is a definite increase in the use of small arms,” she said.

“Religious extremism has increased the incidences of violence against women,” said Rehman. She added that justice and peace are prerequisites of women empowerment. For this, we have to “deweaponise society,” suggested Rehman.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2015.

Farahnaz among 15 most powerful female journalists

 http://journalismpakistan.com/news-detail.php?newsid=1986
Farahnaz among 15 most powerful female journalists JournalismPakistan.com
March 06, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam, senior sub-editor at The Express Tribune, has been selected by Women Deliver, a global organization that works for girls and women’s rights and wellbeing, as one of the 15 most powerful female journalists around the world for her stories on women’s health and rights.
In an interview with JournalismPakistan.com, she said her selection means that there is more to Pakistan than terrorism, violence against women, poverty and corruption.
“It means Pakistani women have a voice. They speak. They are heard. My pride is being a Pakistani and part of this awesome nation,” she said.
Farahnaz said her inspiration is the strength of the human spirit, especially Pakistanis and women in particular. “I have connected with women across the world in the course of my work: from villages in Africa to areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Tharparkar and have realized that women are more similar than we know. They are the backbone of communities,” she said.
She said that tragic stories about the girls and women usually get headlines in both the print and electronic media but her focus always remains on the positive stories.
“In the red light area of Lahore, the story that touches me most is the mother who has succeeded in getting her daughter admitted in a medical college. The women suffering from obstetric fistula for decades get treated at Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar and Koohee Goth Karachi – that’s my stories,” she said.
“The poor Hindu woman gang raped in Tharparkar, after the story I wrote, gets justice because the Chief Justice takes suo moto – that’s my motivation,” she said.
Farahnaz is a writer, editor, photojournalist and blogger. She is also a peace and gender activist and teaches students of media sciences as visiting faculty. With a Masters in English Literature and a keen love of languages, she teaches classical Arabic and takes interactive classes in theology, comparative religion and Islam.
She said the award would not help improve her work but would definitely help place Pakistan in a positive light globally. “Pakistani women are strong and empowered. Their stories will be more widely read. That’s enough award,” she said.
Advising aspiring female journalists, she said they should not write for a local or foreign audience or for any other motive rather they should focus on writing on the issues they believe in without compromising on the ethics.
“Journalism is a wonderful profession that allows us to contribute to our communities and the world. One should use that opportunity responsibly. Whatever is written with honesty and passion has a way of reaching the hearts of your audience and readers,” she said.
Farahnaz is a lively and jolly person as her joys in life are chaai (tea), travel, books and motherhood.
The Women Deliver will now select top three journalists from the list of 15 through an online voting contest. To vote for Farahnaz, one can visit http://www.womendeliver.org/vote-for-your-favorite-journalists-delivering-for-girls-and-women. The voting closes on March 20.

International day to end obstetric fistula: ‘Help me stay dry’

Dr Saboohi Mehdi is one of Pakistan’s 38 surgeons who are trained to repair fistulas, but few of these 38 surgeons work in this field. “It pays no money, so most don’t want to pursue this. But I can’t do anything but this.”

Dr Saboohi Mehdi is one of Pakistan’s 38 surgeons who are
trained to repair fistulas, but few of these 38 surgeons work in this
field. “It pays no money, so most don’t want to pursue this. But I
can’t do anything but this.”

KARACHI: 

She wept inconsolably, and the doctors at Koohi Goth Hospital Karachi could not understand why. They had treated this young woman in her 20s already, and they were ready to discharge her so that she could go back to her family near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

A translator was brought in who told them the real problem. “My first born is with the money-lenders as girwi (mortgage). I developed the fistula during his birth. But I was so desperate to be healed of this constant leaking that I took the chance. I needed money to reach here to get treatment.” Doctors at the hospital raised the money and sent her home. One life saved out of the nearly 5,000 women that develop the fistula every year in Pakistan. But thousands await treatment.

For fistulas, precaution is the best cure. And the cure is simple: Women of Pakistan need to deliver babies into trained hands and with basic health care facilities. This cure is still a distant dream.

Snuggled away in the outskirts of busy Karachi, Koohi Goth Hospital is Pakistan’s only hospital exclusively built to end the scourge of this preventable disease. Only, there should be not even one fistula hospital in Pakistan, because fistulas should no longer exist. “The last fistula case in England was in the 1920s. Here we are with 5,000 new cases every year,” says Dr Shershah Syed, founder of this hospital.

“If the labour is prolonged, the baby’s head can get stuck in the birth canal. If it keeps pushing against the thin wall between the bladder or rectum and the wall of the birth canal, thereby causing strain,” says Dr Suboohi Mehdi, one of the surgeons at Koohi Goth Hospital.

Another way a fistula may be formed is if, by mistake of an unskilled surgeon, a cut is caused in the bladder or rectum during surgery. “We are able to treat just 500—600 every year. Lack of awareness and no accessibility to treatment facilities is the reason,” says Dr Sajjad Ahmed, project manager Fistula Project. The project, run by Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health (PNFWH) and UNFPA, has treated some 3,400 women since it started off in 2006.

Women suffering from fistulas leak urine or stool uncontrollably. Because of this, they are socially ostracised and lead isolated lives. The fear of leaking leads to them starving themselves, which in turn leads to malnourishment-related problems. They miss basic joys like socializing and traveling by public transport.

“I have forgotten what a normal life is. All I have done the last four lives is wash clothes,” says 40-year-old Rihana from interior Sindh. Rihana cries easily; she knows her case is a complicated one. “I don’t know how I will fix her. Sometimes, the cases are so messed up by the time they come to us that there is little we can do,” says Dr Mehdi.

“The first thing we do when a lot of them reach here is give them a shower,” says the dedicated Noor Gul, a senior nurse at the hospital. Gul is now a trainer, helping train young girls who come to the Koohi Goth Midwifery School and Hostel. Once trained, these girls will go back to their communities and be able to help deliver babies safely, so that more women do not develop this disease.

In a message on this day, the President Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan (SOGP), Dr Tasneem Ashraf correctly points out that doctors must identify high risk patients for fistula development, especially pregnant women below the age of 20 years or above the age of 40 years, women who have given birth to many children, those suffering from obesity or Anemia, or having larger than normal babies.

Husbands on Board

Naz Bibi is tiny in stature but gives a resolute smile. Suffering from a fistula since the last nine years, this woman in her 40s has come to Karachi all the way from Goth Dera Bugti. She lies on a plastic sheet spread out under her, and can’t wait for the day when she will be dry once more. “Every one left me. Family, friends. I smelled all the time. I leaked non-stop. Yet, my husband was the only one in my life. He brought me here,” she says.

Naz Bibi from Dera Bugti, Balochistan, has been suffering from the condition for nine years. “Everyone left me but my husband. On way to Karachi, travelling was tough in the bus because fellow passengers were disgusted with my stench. I hope that will be over soon.”

Naz Bibi from Dera Bugti, Balochistan, has been suffering from
the condition for nine years. “Everyone left me but my husband. On way
to Karachi, travelling was tough in the bus because fellow passengers
were disgusted with my stench. I hope that will be over soon.”

“We are seeing a definite positive change in the trend. More and more husbands now support their wives through the ordeal,” says Dr Ahmed.

“My husband brought me here all the way from Sialkot,” says Fozia, who developed a fistula during the birth of her first child. “I am so excited! Once I heal, I will be able to say my namaz. I have not been able to pray for the last seven years”.

Facts in numbers

Fistula is a poor women’s disease, and the patients are 99 per cent poor women who cannot afford to get their child delivered under proper medical care.

Every year, Pakistan has 4,500—5,000 new cases of fistula. Out of these, only 500—600 reach doctors for treatment.

Pakistan has an estimated 38 surgeons who can perform fistula repair surgeries, but because this is not a lucrative line of medicine, only an estimated 15 are regularly working in this field.

Life saving info:

For information, call 0800-76200

Pakistan National Forum on Women Health

PMA House, Sir Aga Khan III Road, Karachi.

Office number: 021-32231534

Karachi:

Dr Sher Shah Syed

Koohi Goth Hospital

0315-8230856

0333-3026437

Islamabad:

Maternal and Child Care Centre (Professor Dr Ghazala Mehmood, Dr Kausar Tasneem Bangash)

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS)

Phone: 051-9260450   Mobile: 0300-5510525

Lahore:

Professor Yasmeen Rashid, Dr Tayyaba Majeed

Gynecology ward, Lady Willingdon Hospital

Mobile: 0300-9487305

Multan:

Dr Rafeeq Anjum

Urology Ward

Mobile: 0300-6303574

Peshawar:

Professor Nasreen Ruby and Dr Tanveer Shafqat

Gynecology ward, Lady Reading Hospital

Phone: 091-5810779  Mobile: 0300-6303574

Quetta:

Dr Sadrak Jalal

Christian Hospital, Mission Road.

Mobile: 0300-8381724

Professor Saadat Khan, Dr Haq Nawaz, Dr Masha Khan

Sandeman Civil Hospital.

Mobile: 0321-8198024

Larkana:

Professor Rafi Baloch, Dr Shaista Abro

Gynecology ward, Shaikh Zayed Women Hospital

Chandka Medical College

Mobile: 0300-3415322

Fistula relief centres

Karachi:

Professor Dr Nargis Soomro, Civil Hospital

Dr Azra Jameel, Sindh Government Qatar Hospital

Orangi Town, Karachi.

Hyderabad:

Professor Dr Pushpa Sri Chand

Isra University Hospital

Dr Nabeela Hassan

Liaquat University of Medical Health Sciences

Abbottabad:

Dr Rahat Ansa

Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Women and Children Health Centre

Nawabshah:

Dr Razia Bahadur

Peoples Medical College, Civil Hospital

0345-2750470; 0300-2162392

Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2014.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/712365/international-day-to-end-obstetric-fistula-help-me-stay-dry/

Slide show: http://tribune.com.pk/multimedia/slideshows/712507/

Help me stay dry – Stories of hope in pictures (Photo credits: Faisal Sayani)

Its elemental my dear Singh

 

By Farahnaz Zahidi / Photo: Myra Iqba

 

Published: December 30, 2012

Saidpur Village exists in present day Pakistan but chunks of it look like they’re straight out of the Mughal era.

Saidpur Village, Islamabad, exists in present day Pakistan, but chunks and parts of it look like they’re straight out of the Mughal era. Nestled among the picturesque Margalla Hills, this tiny village has bits and pieces that are restored remnants from an age gone by. One can picture a bazaar set up by Sultan Said Khan, the Gakhar chief of the region during the reign of Babur, after whom the village was named. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, going about their daily business — buying, selling, co-existing. Peacefully.

20-year-old Suraj Singh would have fit right in that era. A look at him and the time machine seems less of a myth. Basking comfortably in the sunshine of a sunny winter day in Islamabad, Singh looks unfazed by the fast pace of life, as he sits on a chair perched outside his shop on a slope of Saidpur. His flushed, reddish-fair complexion and striking green eyes stand out under a magenta turban, tied on his head in the typical Sikh fashion. The heavy-set young man is almost shy on approach.

“I’ve never thought about doing anything else,” says Singh, who dropped out of school and is now learning the ropes of herbal medicine from his older brother Sardar Amarjeet Singh. It is, after all, a part of his Sikh-Afghan heritage.

Singh tends to his father’s Yoonani dawa khana, which offers traditional herbal medication in the genre of hikmat. His father, a Sikh hakeem called Sardar Rawail Singh, owns three stores: one in Rawalpindi, one in Saidpur Village and the oldest one in G-11 Markaz. Rawail and his three sons shuttle between their home in Hassan Abdal to their shops in the twin cities. “Ask anyone in G-11 where the hakeem sits and they will guide you to my father,” says Singh with pride.

On an average, the Singh family’s shops earn between Rs6,000 to Rs20,000 a day which allows the family a comfortable living. However, business was better when competition was not so tough. The influx of Sikh migrants over the years, and more Sikh hakeems setting up shops, has reduced their clientele.

Some 22 years ago, Suraj’s family migrated from Kunduz, Afghanistan, to Hassan Abdal, a small town in northern Punjab, and made a modest home near the Gurdwara Panja Sahib, one of Sikhism’s holiest sites. Singh and his family live as part of a tightly knit Sikh community, near the revered temple where every year thousands of Sikh devotees gather for pilgrimage.

Sikh 03

PHOTO: AURANGZEB HANEEF

Yoonani, in Arabic, means “Greek.” This very title pays tributes to its origins, as it is said to have been developed by the legendary Greek physician Hippocrates, who expanded on the medical traditions of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia Though it’s been practiced in one form or another for thousands of years, it is now considered a formal branch of what allopaths may term “alternative medicine”. While many still believe staunchly in treatment through hikmatand not allopathy in Pakistan, speculations that steroids are heavily added to it make users skeptical. It makes it therefore imperative that the hakeem they go to is not a quack but a trusted one. Singh’s family seems to have earned that trust over the years.

Hikmat is based on the ancient concept of the four ‘humours’ that exist in the human body, and their corresponding ‘element’. These are Blood (air), Yellow Bile (fire), Black Bile (earth) and Phlegm (water). These elements must be in a state of balance, or else the body can suffer different kinds of ailments.

It occurs to me at this point, that Pakistan’s own elements — the religious majority and minorities — are anything but balanced. Were they to exist in a state of harmony, peace and coexistence, Pakistan would undoubtedly be a happier, healthier and more functional place.

Sikh 01

Luckily, Singh jolts me out of my somewhat depressing reverie by telling me, “I have never suffered any discrimination or persecution in Pakistan. It is my home.”

Above the shop’s door, a signboard hung over baked red clay bricks says, “Dawa hum dete hain. Shifa Allah deta hai (We prescribe medicine. It is Allah who Heals).” Underneath the signboard, Suraj Singh, a follower of Guru Nanak Dev, sees you off with a smile. Here at least, it seems the elements have some together.

(With additional input by Myra Iqbal)

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, December 30th, 2012.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/485319/its-elemental-my-dear-singh/

A story of the “Others” – Hazara Shias lose all hope in Pakistan

Published: December 31, 2012

Muslim groups demonstrate against the Taliban killings of Shias in Pakistan December 7, 2012 during the “10,000 Souls March” in New York. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: Shabana Khan* speaks from behind a screen put up to protect her identity at a recent women’s assembly. I cannot see her. I do not know what her age is. I have no way of observing her non-verbal communication. But what I do know is that this is a person in pain. Intense pain has resulted in eloquence as well as a defiant, almost rebellious fearlessness. She is a young woman from the Shia Hazara community and lives in Quetta. This is an excerpt of the story she tells of herself and her community:

Death is waiting around the corner. Before that, I must share what it means to be a Shia Hazara. Today, I am going to share a bit of my story – the story of me and my people. When one of us comes in front of you, you mostly label us Chinese or Korean. Our complexions are not like yours, neither is our race or genetic composition. We are the ‘others’. And our pain is that of the others. We are Pakistanis but not considered a part of you. Very few will raise their voice for us, even when 27 of us are taken off a bus and are shot and killed just because we are Shias. Just because we have Mongol-like features. Just because we migrated here from Afghanistan.

What is our crime, I still don’t understand. We pay taxes. We make useful things out of spare parts. We want to be peaceful contributors towards the progress of our country, Pakistan. We dream of a beautiful Pakistan where all sects and ethnicities work together towards a common goal.

But what is the reality? How many of you can relate to 5 dead bodies being taken out of a house – father, brothers, sons. What do the women of that house go through? What is the future of these women? Of the Shia Hazara women? When they step outside the four walls of their homes once the men have been slaughtered, to earn a living because they have no other choice, vultures start circling. These are men who have been directly or indirectly responsible for lifting the roof off their heads. Responsible for killing the men in their lives. They offer help to these women in exchange for not cash but kind. I am one of those women.

As a girl from the Shia Hazara community, I know my life is forever at risk which is why I am hidden behind a screen for my safety as I speak to you. But trust me when I say that if tomorrow I am killed, my death will not make newspaper news unless a mass massacre happens.  Most killings of my community don’t make it to national news.Do you know

Why do you take each other’s pictures? Mementos? We, the Hazaras, now photograph each other knowing that probably these photographs, especially of our men, will be placed on their dead bodies during their funeral. The area of the Ganj-e-Shuhada graveyard for the Hazara community is being extended. More dead than alive. And the rest a community of the living dead…constantly living in a state of fear.

We are marginalized. As a working woman, I have seen better days. There was a time when I could travel to 30 districts, safely, even at night and my parents didn’t worry. Now, I  cannot walk even a kilometer down from Meezan Chowk to buy something I need. A Shia Hazara girl today cannot go till the Sariyab Road, Quetta, to the Balochistan University, to get an education. Do you know what it is like to live in a constant state of fear? To be surrounded by people who are also equally afraid? When fear becomes a way of life. Even if the sound of thunder or lightning strikes, we think someone is here to attack us. If a bus is stopped by the police for checking and we are on board, we are sure that this is it – that death has arrived.

These days when Shia Hazara mothers hand over chadars to their daughters when they are stepping out, they advise them to kill themselves in case someone approaches them with wrong intentions. To save their lives, our brothers flee the country as part of a mass exodus, travelling by sea, and many become food for the fish on way. Many are kidnapped in that dangerous journey, and then their families are asked for ransom. If they are lucky enough to reach Australia, they will never be 1st grade citizens of that country.

I often wonder why the contributions of my community are not mentioned in history books. Our ancestors may be from Afghanistan, but we have made contributions for Pakistan. Even today, Hazaras are a silent force, working towards a better Pakistan, peacefully and sincerely. We are doctors and engineers. If nothing else, we are labourers and janitors. We build your homes and lift your trash. All we ask for in return is the right to be able to live a peaceful life in this country we call our own. Is that too much to ask?

My mother always used to say ‘pray for your brother. Allah listens to the prayers of a sister for her brother’. But now I sometimes think none of my prayers are being heard.950

There used to be a time that my community was doing so well as traders and businessmen because of fair dealings. Hazara boys and girls got jobs easily because of their efficiency and integrity. Now, fear forces us to stay at home. Even going to the hospital for treatment is an ordeal. Our dead in hospital mortuaries are also not peacefully handed over to the families till their wives go and identify the bodies.  Even our children suffer. Look carefully at a Hazara child’s eyes.

We also have brave Malalas among us. But we are just not in the limelight.

People ask us where is your ghairat (honour)? Why doesn’t your community fight back?Whom do we fight against? Our ignorant Muslim brother who doesn’t even know why he is killing us? And we who are being killed don’t know our crime!

Political bigwigs have made statements saying ‘death is in Allah’s hands’. Why this fatalistic attitude only for the Hazaras? It is not so easy to accept the death of a little boy who dresses up for Eid namaz and goes but comes back home not alive but dead. Allah has every right to take our lives because He is our Creator. But murderers taking innocent lives, this is not by the will of Allah. This is tyranny. This is oppression.

In Muharram, our Sunni brothers used to set up sabeels for us when we mourned the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. Now, since 2002, we mourn ourselves and lift our own dead and bury them ourselves. We no longer prepare jahez or baree. Because it is cloth for shrouds that comes by the yards.

When hope is lost, all is lost. The Hazaras are reaching that point where we lose hope permanently. Save us before that day comes.”

*Name has been changed

http://tribune.com.pk/story/486883/a-story-of-the-others-hazara-shias-lose-all-hope-in-pakistan/

Numbers:

 In Pakistan there are an estimated 956,000 people belonging to this community of which 600,000 live in Quetta city alone.

 
So far, at least 1000 have been killed in terrorist attacks across the province of Balochistan. More than 1600 have received severe injuries.
 
Many Hazara asylum seekers reach Jakarta and from there, by a perilous and risky sea journey, try and make it to the nearest Australian point, the Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. At least 950 have lost their lives while going to Australia. In addition, more than 300 have lost their lives while going to Europe via turkey boarder during the last one decade.
Source:
1. Human Rights Commission for Social Justice & Peace
2. Hazara Town graveyard, Barory, and Ganj e Shuhada graveyard, Alamdar road.
3. Local hospitals & the local Hazara community

Breathe in Bali

Breathe in Bali
An island where your inner
pace slows down and peace trickles in
By Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam

From the moment I found out that I would be travelling to Indonesia for a journalism fellowship, I knew that work and pleasure had to be combined. Anticipation of a visit to Bali Dwipa Jaya (‘Glorious Bali Island’ in Kawi language) started to build up. I googled it. I asked friends who had been to Bali. I saw images of spectacular beaches and intricate art — things that define Bali.

But nothing had prepared me for the experience Bali was.

Pleasure is quite an insipid word to describe Bali, really.

The flight from Jakarta to Bali, close to two hours in duration, reminded me of the flight from Islamabad to Skardu because of the breathtaking scenic views one could see from the window. But here, it was not glaciers. It was volcanoes. Beautiful, high, majestic. Gaping craters with very obvious molten matter inside. Mostly quiet but not inactive. A silent, mysterious, potential danger, yet beautiful.

At Denpasar International Airport, the first whiff of Bali touches you as you see a sparkling ocean on both sides of the runway as you touch down. You step out of the flight without a fancy airconditioned jet bridge. This is not the Jakarta Airport — big, high-tech, contemporary and modern. Bali’s airport is a bit rustic. A bit run-down in a charming way. More character and less material investment. It sets the pace for Bali.

Everyone you will bump into has left behind a lot of baggage — the fast-pace of the city, some troubles and woes, the pressures of society and peers, the stress of staying on top of the game, some unfinished business, a rattled relationship. You and everyone else has left behind all of that and is in Bali for some rejuvenation, some detox, some refreshment, a little escape that gives you enough energy to go back and say to life: “In your face, because I’ve just been to Bali”.

One of Indonesia’s 33 provinces, Bali is one of the country’s 6000 inhabited islands. Yet, none of the archipelago’s 17500 (estimated) islands has gained the romantic popularity Bali has. One of the world’s top-most tourist destinations, it attracts not hundreds or thousands but millions of foreign tourists each year. Many things make it worthy of this.

Scenic, green, full of beaches and volcanoes and rice-terracing areas and temples. And people with very distinct unique faces. A photography buff, Bali had me clicking non-stop.

Amiable, friendly locals are a huge reason, who are very used to tourists and therefore they are social, not camera-shy and willing to become your guides. It is besides the point that they have also learnt to charge for their friendliness. Caretakers in a temple I visited next to Ubud charmed us without either party understanding each other’s language. They garlanded us, smiled their ways into our hearts, but also at the end made it clear that in life, everything has a price! You will find a certain street-smart third-world sensibility in Bali. But somehow, unless you get conned, it is not very offensive due to the general feel-good nature of the island.

Perhaps the biggest magnet Bali has is its heavenly beaches and wicked surf. You know that when you see the conveyor belts where you claim your baggage full of surfboards avid surfers have carried back from home. Seeing those waves in action is believing! Reports of ten foot plus swells attract surfers. Combine that with pristine beaches, coral reefs and every water sport in the world. Bali is unomissible. While most wave hunters go to the Kuta beach area to witness the surfs and indulge in water sports, Kuta’s crowded popularity may be a slight put off. Thus, me and my daughter ended up in a pristine, quiet part of Bali called Serangan to have some water fun. It was not just the parasailing, jet skiing and other sports that we enjoyed in Serangan.

Also known as the Turtle Area, Serangan has a pretty beach. But to me, the moments I sat there on the beach staring quietly at Mount Agung in the distance was one of the most powerful moments. Mount Agung, the stratovolcano, is the highest point on the island. It last erupted in 1963 and is still active.

The Balinese market Bali well, and so an unexplainable thrill accompanies the lunches or dinners you can have close to volcanoes.

Talking of rush versus serenity, crowd versus relative solitude and a slower pace versus a faster one, I preferred the latter of all of the above three, and chose a quieter area on the recommendation of some of my Indonesian friends. Sanur was my pick, which I never regretted. A mature beach town, it is a slightly upscale resort area, lined with darling little villas besides hotels and resorts. Besides a great beach, spas, cycling and motor biking rentals, it was the nightlife of Sanur that was a pleasant surprise. Not discotheques but in European essence a lot of Continental eateries and cafes, with live music in almost all of them. Shops line Sanur, full of local handicrafts like batik, woodwork, sculptures, metalwork and souvenirs that are must-haves like my daughter’s straw hat or my own “I Love Bali” tee and flip-flops.

But for me, the pièce de résistance was Ubud. My friend from Cambodia had coaxed me into promising to myself that I would travel to Ubud. “You will thank me, Farahnaz,” she had said. As she reads this, I want her to know I cannot thank her enough. While it was already on my list thanks to the book “Eat, Pray, Love” (don’t care much for the movie) as the “Love” part of the book is based in Ubud, it surpassed expectations. Situated at the north of Denpasar, this is the island’s cultural centre where you can see the strongest artistic influence of the 92.9 per cent Balinese Hindu population of Bali.

The drive to Ubud should be relished bit by bit, because on way you will find real Bali!

Silver and gold jewellery smiths and factories, small and big batik making concerns, art galleries by the hundreds, all on way. But it is the handmade stone-carvings on houses and temples that take your breath away. Labours of painstaking love, it seems that for hours you walk or drive through an art museum, with every local Balinese a curator who knows not just the art but the history behind each piece.

Once you reach Ubud, the abundance of European-style cafes remind you of those on the pebbled streets of Paris, for rarely will you find so many of them in one place. Shops of the most attractive rustic and indigenous pieces of art and craft lure you. It is in Ubud that I understood why they call Bali the “Island of Love”. With romance in the air, sit somewhere and sip the world’s most expensive “Kopi Luwak” or Civet Coffee (the beans of which are processed, yes, in the digestive tract of the civet!) and breathe in Bali.

 http://jang.com.pk/thenews/jul2012-weekly/nos-08-07-2012/foo.htm#1

The Tapestry of My Life

Image

I weave memories of moments that have left footprints on the sand on my heart…..fibre by fibre, thread by thread, nimbly, gently……memories of different colours and shapes and sizes…..

Memories of faces……

….many faces have whizzed past and are nothing but a photograph in creative motion blur….lasting but unclear…..

….Others faces are indelible…..etched…..carved………with each detail……..radiant smiles……living words….a tear drop snuck away carefully…..laughter that reverberates inside me, so distinct that I often turn back to see if that laugh is in the here, is in the now……

Memories of touch……

….the touch of my mother’s caress on my forehead…..the touch of my father’s pat on my back….my hand gliding over the silk of my wedding dress in anticipation…..my finger tracing each feature of my newly born baby girl in my arms….the feel of a pen, and progressively, a keyboard in my hand – my tools for sharing the never-ending rush of ideas and emotions that are piled up waiting to be unleashed; my tools for making a tiny difference in this world……the sense of that first laugh-line at the sides of my lips giving away that I have smiled a lot……the sense of that tear drop of mine I quickly wipe and slide under a smile……

Memories of sound…….

……My parents call me…..my siblings talk to me……my friends laugh at a joke I crack…….my man takes my name with a comforting sense of ownership…..a story of how the day went from my daughter……the sound of my heart pounding inside of me in a moment of excitement or fear, or in a moment of love…..the sound of someone reciting the words of God, forever altering my being……..

…Sounds of the rustle of leaves and the speed of wind and a wave crashing against the rocks and a bird beckoning the morning and the drops of rain lashing against the window….and the sound of a lover crooning in his beloved’s ear, a voice heavy with emotion…

…. I choose to have selective memory…..I sieve and sift and do away with the memory of a face or a touch or a sound that hurts….they re-surface, but I aim to calm down those memoirs….they pale in comparison to the good ones…

I live in today, but memories are an inseparable part of me…They make me the ME I am……

So I weave memories of moments that have left footprints on the sand on my heart…..fibre by fibre, thread by thread, nimbly, gently……memories of different colours and shapes and sizes…..

With these is made the tapestry of my life….