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So what if Reham Khan is divorced?

Published: January 10, 2015

The stigma attached to a divorced woman resiliently continues, despite increased urbanisation and standards of literacy. PHOTO: REHAMKHANOFFICIAL.COM

There are occasions when the misogyny and gender-bias that exists in Pakistan becomes more obvious than ever. Imran Khan’s wedding to Reham Khan has been one such occasion that has brought to light the underlying and inherent concept that an “honourable woman” needs to have certain pre-requisites. On the top of that list is this: she must not be a divorcee.

For most men of Pakistan, even the so-called educated ones, the only women of honour are their own mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. Any other woman’s repute, especially that of a divorced woman, is something they can plunder, especially if she is a celebrity. People stoop to the level of digging into a woman’s past and relish anything they can find against her. In our culture, a “divorced” woman is mostly not considered a ‘good’ woman. A 60 plus male relative of mine over a family dinner said to me,

“How could Imran have chosen her? He could have gotten any unmarried woman he wanted. She is divorced… she must be at fault somewhere, right?”

“But he is divorced too,” I replied.

The gentleman obviously felt that was not an issue. Add to it the fact that in this day and age, digital technology keeps track of our deeds more than angels do, and Reham’s modern attire, a snappy wit and nature of work were all over social media. They assume that if an empowered woman is divorced, well, she must have been the reason. As a society, we share compromised photographs and recordings of women, laugh, share, enjoy, and silence our guilt by uttering “taubah astaghfar” (God forbid) intermittently. Through it all, our pre-conditioned bias is at work.

The stigma attached to a divorced woman resiliently continues, despite increased urbanisation and standards of literacy. Leave alone men, talk to women across the board, and seemingly modern women will also say “taubah karo, God forbid” that their unmarried sons or brothers were to marry a divorced woman. Even the religious men and women who want to emulate the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in every little act seem to forget that other than Hazrat Ayesha (ra), all of the Prophet’s wives were either widows or divorcees. We pick and choose cleverly between the Sunnah (way) of the Prophet (pbuh), and our religion takes a back seat when juxtaposed against cultural pre-conditioning.

There are a few unfair assumptions about a divorced woman and perhaps the most pre-dominant one is that she is someone who does not have her priorities right; that she has a messed up value system.

“Divorces are on the rise because women do not have tolerance anymore” is a common sentiment.

I recall meeting an advocate who confirmed that cases of Khula (Islamic divorce) are steeply on the rise in Pakistan.

“These are mostly human rights-type women,” he said, explaining the term that these are mostly women who are not willing to take it anymore.

Pehle ki aurtain bewafaai bardaasht kar leti then. Thappar khaa leti thi. Abb to Khula lene khari ho jaati hain.”

(Earlier, women tolerated infidelity. Or took a beating. Now they stand in line for divorce.)

If a lack of tolerance means that more women today will not stand injustice and insult, then such a woman, who took such a stand, should in fact be respected more. Somewhere deep inside, women who are most critical of other women who have opted for divorce are possibly envious that they did not have the same guts or chances.

Another painful assumption about divorced women is that they are not chaste women. A seemingly sensible woman said the other day,

Uss type ki aurton ki talaaqain hoti hain

(Those types of women get divorced)

And all I wanted to do was bang my head against the wall. Divorced women experience how even the closest of friends start avoiding meeting them in presence of their husbands, as if they are vultures on the lookout for men.

This is not to imply that all divorced women are tolerant, compromising, giving and saint-like. There will always be all kinds. But sweeping assumptions are extremely unfair, specially bearing in mind that a divorced man is not judged the same way. The divorce of any man or woman is not what defines them. Their actions and intentions do.

Everyone needs a companion and a second chance at happiness, more so when the first experience has been bitter. We should let people be. Everyone around us is fighting their own battles. Let’s not make it tougher for others, or karma may start acting up before you know it.

Apart from the many other healthy precedents that Imran and Reham’s marriage has set, one is that in a culture steeped in gender-bias, a divorced woman is today the wife of the country’s most popular leader and may end up becoming the country’s first lady in the future. Here’s hoping this will open up the minds of our people a bit more.

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Do human rights activists hate Imran Khan because he is not a leftist?

Published: November 26, 2014

Imran may not be your typical human rights activist, but he is one all right. One of the best. PHOTO: AFP

The young girl who works as domestic help for me said,

Baji, do you know why our men don’t want Imran Khan to come into power? It is because they are scared that women in the villages will gain strength if he becomes our prime minister. Already, he supports women standing up for their rights. The jalsas are a proof of this. But we will make sure he wins. We are by his side.”

This was the morning after Imran gave an inspiring and honest talk from his container as PTI celebrated “Justice for Women Day”. I had heard that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) would be celebrating this day a few weeks earlier from a friend who is active in PTI, and a close aid of Imran. I had asked her if the date, November 25th, had been chosen to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

“Really? It’s the same day? I’m not sure. You know how PTI works. We do what feels right, for the rights of the downtrodden. Doesn’t matter if it’s a special day or not.”

My default setting had taken over, and I had asked her if they had invited any known human rights’ activists for the occasion. She smiled and said,

“They don’t like us very much you know.”

As a human rights activist and a journalist who reports passionately on human rights and has friends from the field, I also support PTI’s stances on most things, if not all, and look up to Imran as a real hope for Pakistan, as a sincere leader, a philanthropist and humanist. The two things seem like opposites, which is why for a while I procrastinated writing this blog because it would mean choosing sides. Only, the traction is interesting, because I am clearly on both sides.

As for Imran, I see him as a proponent of human rights. He may not be the stereotypical human rights activist of Pakistan, and may not fit the niche group. But he stands up for the underdog, always. And that is what human rights work essentially is – to stand up for the marginalised and vulnerable communities – women, children, minorities, people in conflict zones, people suffering from injustice, people who don’t have money to pay hospital bills and send their children to good schools. The man stands up for social equality. His humanitarian work is a reflection of his belief in equal rights for all.

What then is the problem? Why won’t the human rights activists accept him and his work? They love Shaukat Khanum Hospital and Namal College, but certain things he said and did seem to have ruffled just the right (or left) feathers.

Being the advocate of both the devil and the angel (and I do not know who is who in this case), there are certain things at play here. For starters, while people like Edhi and Chiipa, and organisations like Alamgir Welfare Trust and even Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) social welfare wing’s efforts are lauded, they are seen as ‘humanitarian’ efforts. Human rights and their advocacy are seen as a different animal in Pakistani society, and over its history of more than six decades, a certain niche group of people have started being associated with this in the country. They are, in fact, seen as the stake holders of human rights. And with the package come certain pre-requisites. You have to be leftist, or left-off-centre, or at least completely secular, and be someone who does not bring religion into any talk of human rights.

I recall at a recent moot about women-friendly legislation where I was a panellist, a suggestion was floated that following the example of Indonesia, local Imams and clergy members be sensitised to women’s rights, and this be made a part of primary education. At this point, a very known and respected human rights activist who has contributed much to the country stood up in rage,

“What has religion got to do with this? Why must we bring God into everything?”

As much as we tried to explain that this could be done for all religious sects and leaders of minority communities could also be brought on board to fight evils like domestic violence, her reaction remained angry, till the organisers promised that the idea would be dropped.

Imran, in comparison, is clearly centrist in his approach. He cites examples from the life of the second righteous Caliph, Hazrat Umar (RA) and is clear that his dream is that “Pakistan should be an Islamic welfare state with equal rights for all”. In October this year, he dared to question the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) regarding where their funding comes from. Imran’s take is that anyone and everyone should be open to being questioned. But the reaction, not surprisingly, was “how dare he”, given the truly amazing work that has come out of HRCP for the people of Pakistan. This came as a retort to the HRCP saying that Imran and his party’s sit-ins are distracting from more important human rights issues. Add to it the very open issues between the Imran Khan camp and the Asma Jahangir camp. There is a history here, which I wish to leave aside. But the fact remains that this situation has added yet another dimension to the polarisation in Pakistani society.

The human rights camp remains unforgiving of Imran’s earlier stances on many issues, for example his earlier take on certain women-friendly legislations, or his openness to the idea of talking with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). His present softer stances are seemingly not enough for them to give him a chance and work hand in hand for a better future for Pakistanis.

This leaves people like me in a predicament, people who see sincerity on both sides; people who feel bridges should be built between both sides.

It is ironic that I am writing this a day after my paper published a report by human rights group Reprieve, stating that the CIA killed a whopping 221 people, including 103 children, in Pakistan in the hunt for just four men, and that 24 men were reported killed or targeted multiple times; missed strikes on these men killed 874 other people, and account for the 35% of all confirmed civilian casualties in Pakistani drone strikes. The humanist in me cannot write-off Imran as a humanitarian as well as a human rights activist, knowing that he took the strongest stance against “collateral damage” in drone attacks, which is a gross violation of human rights, and his work in the field of public health, education and his stand against injustice.

We live in times where things are neither simplistic nor black and white. If Pakistan has any hopes of uplifting the downtrodden in our society, the thing to do is to appreciate whatever good is being done by any one, whether from the left, the right or the centre. Imran has and is doing a lot of good for our people and stands up for their rights. He may not be your typical human rights activist, but he is one all right. One of the best.

Imran Khan’s Followers — His Weakness or His Strength?

Posted: 09/09/2014 5:00 pm EDT Updated: 09/10/2014 12:59 pm EDT
FARAHNAZ ZAHIDI

Pakistan’s political frenzy is continuing as the world looks on. It is almost a month since the wave of protests began in Pakistan’s Federal Capital Islamabad. Thousands have left their homes at the call of Pakistan’s most popular political figure, Imran Khan, and the relatively progressive cleric Dr. Tahirul Qadri. The demonstrators have camped outside the Prime Minister House and Pakistan National Assembly, demanding their voices be heard. The protests are in essence against Pakistan Muslim League-N’s elected government and the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who both Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awaami Tehreek (PAT) wish to oust. Their reasons differ, but the end goal of both parties seems the same: “Go Nawaz Go” is the resounding chant in Islamabad, reverberating across Pakistan. Whether Sharif goes or not remains to be seen, as for now, democratic forces have saved him from a forced resignation. Khan and his followers believe that Sharif came into power through heavily rigged elections, and so it is not a democratically elected government in principle. Evidence supports Khan’s claims, but heated debates continue whether democracy should be “derailed” or should Sharif be allowed to complete his term.

Through it all, Khan, already the nation’s “national hero” has emerged as a populist leader. Cricketer and philanthropist, Khan is undoubtedly one of the most followed leaders Pakistan has seen. His integrity because of his past record is unquestioned. Pakistan’s disgruntled masses love him even more for being non-political and non-dynastic. Khan’ s charismatic good looks and his image as one who leads from the front has added to it. He gives his supporters the much-needed hope of freedom from the clutches of dynastic politics, nepotism and corruption. His followers believe he will eventually be the prime minister of Pakistan and solve all of Pakistan’s problems and create a just, fair and secure Pakistan, which he calls the Naya (new) Pakistan.

It is natural then that parables are drawn between Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Khan. Bhutto was a revolutionary and mobilized Pakistan’s masses politically. His daughter, Benazir Bhutto (BB), carried the torch of democracy after her father was assassinated, and was eventually killed at the hands of extremists. Yet their political party, the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) remains a major political force in the country.

While the mass appeal is similar, Bhutto and Khan have many differences. If the Bhuttos were leftist in their ideology, Khan is considered right off centre. His ideology, his background and his political prowess differ from the Bhuttos. But there are, ironically, jarring similarities.

Let us take a look at Bhutto. Some 35 years later, Pakistanis still remember Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in an awe-struck manner. They never got over Bhutto, whether they agreed with him or not. Bhutto was charismatic, a visionary, one of the proverbial leaders who “come along in centuries”. He connected to the awaam (masses) and his voice resonated with them. His manifesto addressed the pains of the people. He seemed God sent. The way he was snatched away from this country made him an even bigger hero. And Bhutto is that point in the history of Pakistan where the Jiyalas (staunch loyalists) were born. Infact, the term so effectively described the state of mind of Bhutto’s followers that the word became synonymous with his loyalists. His were a breed of loyalists who were ready to protect their leader and to die for him because they believed in him blindly. Rich and poor, urban and rural, illiterate and from the intelligentsia, these loyalists were varied in many ways but common in their reverence for Bhutto.

Till this point, it was all good, and natural. Except for one thing. These staunch supporters, somewhere, left their sense of judgment buried behind their admiration for the messiah. The purpose and the vision of democracy and equal rights to all citizens of Pakistan became packaged in one and only one package. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Without him, they were lost.

Fortunately for Pakistan, the reigns of the PPP were taken over by the defiant, strong, politically groomed and well-meaning BB as her father’s political heir. The military dictator General Ziaul Haq’s era of oppression and the fact that BB was a woman fighting a dictator further brought out the protectiveness in people. What came out of it was not just a belief in Bhutto’s ideology, but also a belief in the Bhutto dynasty being saviors and almost infallible. They, and not the vision, became the focus.
Sadly, this is what was exploited by those with hidden agendas. Absolute adulation corrupts. This is what many good leaders have fallen prey to in human history. Their followers stopped seeing their leaders’ shortcomings. What remained of a brilliant ideology were slogans and a reactionary brand of personality-worship.

BB’s widower Asif Ali Zardari made an entrance as a non-Bhutto yet the closest in line after BB. He may have successfully completed five years of a democratically elected government, and is today being lauded for his political wisdom, yet his very advent into politics was dependent on this unquestioned adulation. BB’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the coveted political heir of the dynasty, ultimately expected to take over, whether he is deserving or not.

Let us come back to Imran Khan. People either follow him with absolute conviction or are against his fiery, often agitational brand of politics. But undisputedly, Khan’s biggest strength, like the Bhuttos, is supporters who are ready to lay down their lives for him. They believe in his sincerity of intention and his integrity when it comes to money matters. He has proven his persistence. And he is the one man who has the guts to challenge the status quo to the point of dismantling it. This is all good and all true.

However, the flip side is that the pitfall is ironically the same as what the Bhuttos faced. While the PTI is a completely non-violent party, members are known be hasty and reactionary if anything against Khan is pointed out.

As one who believes that Khan is well-meaning and can do a lot for Pakistan, the one thing I wish I can say to him would be, “O captain, my captain, the last thing you need is blind following. What you do need is a sincere following.”

The state of mind being pointed out here is not just limited to followers of Bhuttos or Khan. We see the same in other political parties in Pakistan as well, where a hushed silence ensues when the leader speaks, and there is no allowance for disagreement with the leaders who are seen as saints. Till now Khan has done well, because his followers love him despite knowing his shortcomings. The “human-ness” owing to these shortcomings either increases people in his love or his opposition.

For Khan, it is just the beginning. While he does need the sincere support of his followers, he needs, as a part of that sincerity, that they point out where he goes wrong. He needs to develop a culture in his party where the people who are his support are tenacious enough to stand by him, but awake enough to alert him to his mistakes. This will help Khan be the change he promises. A welcome fact is that Khan has repeatedly said that if hypothetically he were to be Pakistan’s prime minister, he would want that his faults be pointed out. Will that actually happen remains to be seen.

The hope is that the great Khan remains under check and balance. Only then we can hope for great things from him. Otherwise, it will be de ja vu all over again, where a good leader would fall prey to being idolized.

5 reasons I still support Imran Khan

It is sad that even the brightest of us have so resigned to the fact that the system in Pakistan is corrupt that it has, over time, become a non-issue. For me, integrity is a huge issue. And that is what is unquestionable about this man.

At least once a day, I am asked,

“You support Imran Khan? Seriously?”

It is mainly because I do not fit the stereotypical image people have about PTI people. Emotional, young, immature and what we call “trolls”. I like to think I am none of these. Very few in my field of work are open about their political tilts, if any. Maybe because there is a remote chance it may interfere with journalistic objectivity. However, I have been very clear since day one. Anything I report will say the truth and nothing but the truth. Even if it goes against the Khan. Blogs, tweets and social media are based on purely personal opinions, and hence are a different matter.

The next remark usually is a grin followed by,

“Aah. You are one of Killer Khan’s female fans smitten by him.”

While I do not deny admiring Khan as one of the most charismatic men in Pakistan, this is certainly not the reason he got my vote or why I support him. People have to start giving people with differing views more credit.

The last week or more has been a trial for Khan’s supporters, me included. His very off-beat brand of politics has had Pakistanis who were never in favour of him smugly say,

“See! We always knew it would come to this.”

Jokes about his questionable political wisdom (I can already hear readers saying “does he have any?”), the “unusual” jalsas with an aura of festivity, and Khan’s very ad hoc, and at times incoherent and repetitive, speeches have not made it easier for supporters like me. It is not easy explaining why someone has moved from believing in PPP as the party that deserves the vote to PTI. But that debate is for another day.

As regards this man, undisputedly a national hero, there are very few who have centrist feelings. People either admire him to an extent that they become rude “trolls” in his defence, or write him off and are so put off by him that they react by laughing at him and at everyone who supports him. It is doubly difficult for his supporters who continue to support the man but question and disagree with certain decisions he has taken. I am one of those many. And openly so. Others from Pakistan’s intelligentsia prefer to stay under cover, because the amount of mockery you get from non-PTI trolls for being a PTI supporter is immense.

I disagree with Khan on many grounds. I disagree that he and his ministers resigned. I disagree that he is not budging on his demand of Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. I disagree with the words he sometimes uses, in a spell of euphoria and emotion. And these are just a few points.

Yet, I continue to support him and trust him.

All the mockery has not made me give up on him and his vision. The reasons are many, but here are the five major reasons why Imran Khan is still the only politician I continue to believe in.

1) He is not after the money

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is no mean feat. We, as a nation, are unfortunate that we are in a system that is steeped in corruption and bribery. That is a critical and basic problem with what’s wrong with Pakistan. And this attitude of “le de kar kaam chalao” starts from the top and trickles down at every level. A wonderful journalist friend who is very anti-Khan politically, but has worked with him on projects regarding Shaukat Khanum, once said,

“I will never vote for Khan. But I would trust him blindly with my money.”

For how many politicians in Pakistan can you say that?

It is sad that even the brightest of us have so resigned to the fact that the system in Pakistan is corrupt that it has, over time, become a non-issue. For me, integrity is a huge issue. And that is what is unquestionable about this man.

2) He is who he is

I admit that the man is not perfect, like all humans. He can irk the best of us the wrong way with never-ending cricket analogies that sometimes backfire. But he is who he is. Call it naivety, but how does one trust the “seasoned politicians”? Either you love Imran Khan, or you hate him, because at least you know what he is. As a voter, I have a connection with the political leader I vote for. I must know what he stands for and who he is. For someone who has little patience for hypocrisy, Khan is a natural choice.

3) His is not the politics of violence

Khan does not have a history of having had people punished brutally or beaten or attacked. The worst mudslinging his opposition can come up with is that he has been a ladies’ man, and that they don’t cease to remind the world about. But this man has not been involved in any indirect or direct criminal activity that ever harmed or took another human’s life.

4) He leads from the front

Khan’s courage is unquestionable. Barring a bullet-proof jacket, the man hardly has any security. His well-wishers often worry about him for this reason, but he is the fearless man that he is. This faith gives his supporters faith. Those who would use others as their shield do not inspire me to support them. He also is always the first to walk the talk.

5) He has truly served the nation

This one man has helped saved millions of lives in this country. Is that a small thing? People criticise him a lot for what they call his “self-absorbed” behaviour. Yet, this man has selflessly and tirelessly worked for public health and education of the under-privileged. For that, not only is the nation indebted, but I know what his priorities will be if he gets the reigns of the government of this country for an undisturbed five years.

It is sad that as a nation we have become so used to being led by people that lack these qualities that for us, dishonesty and corruption is acceptable, but a straightforward and sincere leader with much less serious mistakes is lambasted. Our leaders are a reflection of who we are. Time to choose our loyalties carefully.

Would you vote for Imran Khan?

  • Yes, absolutely (83%, 1,578 Votes)
  • No, not a chance in hell (11%, 208 Votes)
  • Maybe, I don’t hate him… yet (6%, 116 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,902

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/23771/5-reasons-i-still-support-imran-khan/

Published: A

“OMG, is #ImranKhan getting married?”

Published: August 7, 2014

Imran Khan Niazi, even at age 60 plus and a divorce later, is considered one of the most eligible bachelors alive.

Those alluring eyes and that almost shy, sheepish smile; a self-assured gait of a true sportsman; a naive idealism that one can disagree with but is charming nonetheless. Add to it that tinge of genuine humanity and a good heart that the world has seen in his philanthropy and an overall drop-dead gorgeous personality despite the wrinkles that give away his age.

Imran Khan Niazi, even at age 60 plus and a divorce later, is considered one of the most eligible bachelors alive. May be that is why the news that he is under pressure from his family to remarry made front page news. Across the border, Indian tabloids are also animatedly talking about whether ‘The Khan’ is ready to bite the dust yet again. The Twitterati, of course, are feverishly hash-tagging the guy once again who has bigger issues to worry about, particularly right now with August 14 days away. Yet, the obsession with the eternal hunk’s marital status and romantic liaisons (or their absence) seems related also to a dirty culture of mudslinging fuelled by political agendas.

While Imran has paid a price for his ‘popularity’ since his cricket days, he is not the only politician who has come under attack of political opponents who believe in tabloid tactics. Back in the day, Benazir Bhutto’s pictures with friends, in modern attire, from her Oxford University days were plastered all over Karachi as a part of a campaign to smear her name. In true dynastic tradition, the young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari suffered the same fate.

Imran’s first marriage to Jemima Khan, in fact, also suffered due to constant paparazzi attention, calling that woman of substance a ‘Yahoodi ki beti’ among other choicest titles.

What I truly respected was how the couple parted ways. He never badmouthed his ex-wife and in fact took the blame on himself, if at all there was anyone to blame.

But then, it is not just limited to character assassination. A photograph allegedly from Imran’s visit to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Bannu, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) in early Ramadan in July made rounds on social media. The picture showed him drinking a glass of water, with the glass circled in read, and fascinating cheesy captions implying him to be a bad Muslim, and thus a villain who could never do anything good.

The picture from Bannu had credibility issues in any case. It was released many days before the date mentioned on the lower left side of the photograph.

With fame of any kind, one’s private life does come under the spotlight. But a line has to be drawn. While we, the awam, don’t necessarily cook up these stories, masses have been known to let their opinions and votes sway as a result of rumours. But in all honesty, more than being an interesting bit of information about a politician, what difference does Imran getting married make to our lives? It didn’t make a difference what Pervez Musharraf or Asif Ali Zardari or Shahbaz Sharif did in their private lives or how many times they married or who they were seeing. All we knew about them were ‘unconfirmed reports’ which didn’t matter. What mattered was whether they made a difference to the country or not; whether they served the nation or not.

If Imran marries, good for him. And I wish the national hero all the happiness in the world. If not, it’s his life. As a Pakistani, my concern and prayer is that he is able to contribute to the betterment and progress of a nation that needs hope and inspiration. The rest is not my business.

Is it fair to blame Imran Khan for the Peshawar Church Blast?

 

By Farahnaz Zahidi 8 minutes ago

 

After all, something needs to come up on Google when in the possible near future the average American asks, who is the man that's shooting down our drones? PHOTO: REUTERS

The church blast in Peshawer took away more than 80 innocent lives. People had gone there to pray, not knowing their funeral prayers would follow soon.

As always, the shock had subsided the day after the blast, but there was sadness – a constant dull ache that refused to recede. A recurring realisation existed that so many had lost their lives just because they prayed differently. Nothing seemed to help. Tweeting and facebooking allowed people to vent and rave temporarily, but frankly, social media acts as temporary anaesthesia. It numbs the pain for a bit, but the pain and anger returns. Always.

Then there was a call to attend a vigil for the victims and it turned out to be just what I needed. I needed a forum to express my solidarity with Christian Pakistanis – stand by them and join them in prayer. I needed some semblance of peace in that time of turmoil. As a mother, I needed to teach my daughter that this matters to us.

Thankfully, the vigil offered all this.

Like most vigils, a handful of people gathered at 8:00 pm. outside the Karachi Press Club. There were representatives of the Christian community, activists, a few Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters, and some student activists of other parties – all with candles amid eerie peace that is always present on candlelight vigils.

While some people took the microphone to share their feelings, others quietly donated blood at the makeshift blood camp. They knew that their blood might never make it to Peshawer to the injured of the blast, but it would reach someone somewhere and someone would benefit.

That was the only thought on everyone’s mind – to help, to do something.

However, slowly the mood began to change. As the crowd spotted PTI supporters showing their respect peacefully, the quiet whispers became loud insults.  One person questioned,

“So you kill people in the day by being apologists for extremists, but you attend a vigil for those whom you murdered in the night?”

Another continued,

“You all have your political agenda.”

As the insults became louder and more direct, the anger escalated and the blame game started. Abuses and loud slogans of “Shame Imran Shame” became louder. The poor organizer apologised for the unpleasant allegations being hurled and the ‘peace’ that we had all come looking for, was replaced by the scapegoat syndrome.

As the pastor eventually began to recite a beautiful prayer for tolerance and harmony in Pakistan, the irony became all the more jarring. I realised that the lack of tolerance first rears its ugly head when people can no longer hear each other out. We all know that as a nation, whenever anything happens, we are quick to jump the gun almost as if our only way of trying to find sanity amidst the mayhem is by looking for a scapegoat.

For this incident, the scapegoat happens to be Imran Khan and PTI’s pro-negotiation policy. I saw this not just at the vigil; but on social media, talk shows and heard it in conversations. According to Twitter, he was even pelted with insults and tomatoes. His supporters were made to feel guilty as if they and their party were the reason for killing the slain.

As a nation, we are too angry, too bitter, too mistrusting and too awkward in the art of dialogue. We accuse, we abuse, we vent, we blame and we move on. Until the next tragedy and then the chain begins again.

However, this attitude is hardly surprising and our history shows this more than once. I recall clearly the Karsaz blast of October 18, 2007 that killed some 200 people. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had returned to Pakistan with utmost sincerity to lead her people to democracy once again and her welcome procession was attacked. Although she survived that blast, just hours after the blast, I remember these words being uttered:

“She must have gotten the blasts done herself to gain sympathy and support”.

These voices were silenced but only once she was assassinated. However, the inherent psyche still remains.

This blog is not about Imran Khan or the efficacy and legitimacy of proposed negotiations. This is not about the fact that Pakistan has lost 35,000 civilians and 3,500 security personnel to acts of terrorism between 2006 and 2011 only according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-2011 – years in which we had a strictly no-negotiation policy. This is not about whether extremists should be offered an office or not, though that move actually may help give them a face and make it more feasible to deal with them. After all, whatever the scapegoat says or does, even if it makes sense, people will oppose it on a reflex.

This is about the realisation that if we differ in opinion, we must first learn how to disagree with a certain decorum. We can’t hurl a shoe at Musharraf and insult Imran Khan, and then expect tolerance in society. If we do so, we will claim our sincerity as much as we like, but we will end up causing more dissension, which is not what this country needs at all. By playing blame-games, are we doing a service or a disservice to those who lost their lives last Sunday?

It is time we gave practical solutions rather than blame scapegoats with allegations of unholy alliances.

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/19020/is-it-fair-to-blame-imran-khan-for-the-peshawar-church-blast/

The morning after elections, a letter to my PTI family

The morning after update: My PTI family, I have been getting texts, calls, inboxes. You are asking what I have to say because I am forever the optmist, forever the pacifist.

It’s not making sense, is it?

Some of you are so sad, you vow never to vote & run away from Pakistan. Some are numb. Some wanna give up forever.

To you I say: wake up & re-think. If you were part of Pakistan’s dreamy, immature vote bank, then yes, it’s over for you. I am not. I voted for PTI not because Khan is so hot (which he is) but because of the ideology. With PTI in clear lead in KP, do we understand the impact this could have? Our problems of terrorism need to be countered by sincere leadership from the Frontier, and God has given us that. As a Karachiite, I have grown up in a city where we would be afraid to even whisper the name of the leading party here. Yesterday, we called them by name & fought back where they tried to intimidate us. NA 250 friends, you know what I am saying. This is not to say all “maaloom afraad” are wrong or bad. But any form of oppression must be voiced against & Karachiites did that yesterday, & PTI had a lot to do with that. We mobilized women & youth to vote. And that’s change in itself.

Realistically, other parties, much as we may dislike them, have gone through much more. PPP’s journey has seen genuine jiyalas in jails, in death cells, with most of the Bhutto family assassinated. PML-N: the less said the better. It saddens me that one province decided the fate of the country, though I am Punjabi too. And ideology-wise I disagree with PML-N strongly. But for Pakistan’s sake, I hope that the economy strengthens if nothing else under their rule. Because at the end of the say, it is about Pakistan and what’s best for it. ANP has lost so much this time, & I feel they still will not give up because they have an ideology they believe in.

PTI supporters: We still have a real leader, a cause, a strong position in the parliament and lots to do for Pakistan. So the mature PTI supporter will only get stronger, more mature and politically aware, as will Khan. And the fickle voters will ebb away. Choice is yours.

I am proud to call Imran Khan my leader. And well done PTI.

“Maana k ye sun-san ghari sakht bari hai
lekin mere dil ye to faqat ek ghari hai
himmat karo jeene ko abhi umr pari hai” (Faiz)

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https://www.facebook.com/farahnaz.zahidi/posts/10151490382888318?notif_t=like