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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.

“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.

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)

imran-khan-fb-cover-timeline-images1

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

“I keep telling Imran that we have to make tough decisions”. Asad Umar Speaks

Some 27 years ago, his first pay cheque at Engro was Rs 8170. When he made a suave but much debated exit while he was CEO of the company, his pay cheques of 2011 are reported to be Rs 5.7 million a month. He was the Midas behind Engro, who took the company from mainly fertilizer manufacturing into being a giant venturing into food, energy, chemical storage and petrochemicals among others. The conglomerate diversification helped and within a span of 7 years, Engro’s revenues in 2011 had climbed up to 114 billion as compared to the 13 billion in 2004. Another feather in the cap of not just the Institute of Business Administration Karachi, this home-grown wonder-man is also a feather in the cap of Pakistan.

As a speaker, Asad Umar’s mettle is undisputed. He engages with the audience, has them spell bound, makes them say what he wants them to say, convinces and makes the whole experience of listening to him rewarding. And he does all this in a very humble yet in command way. He makes the GDP sound like the most interesting topic. And he does not use a display of melodrama and histrionics to achieve this.

Asad Umar believes in Pakistan. And change. And for such a man, his strong sense of social responsibility being translated into political leanings was just a matter of time. But his joining PTI (Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf) soon after he took an early retirement was both expected and unexpected. While it was expected that he would not join the other tried and tested political parties, it was unexpected that he would make a leap of faith and take a risk with Khan’s PTI, often called an idealistic spin by the intelligentsia who believe Khan cannot deliver all that he promises. But Asad Umar believes there is no other way.

His “conglomerate diversification sensibilities” have made him use his own potential to the maximum. Asad Umar has entered the political realm. And his joining PTI is not just a good omen for the party but also a reason people start respecting the party more before they write it off saying the party is inducting the same tried and tested faces.

Asad Umar has joined and is actively participating in PTI’s “Insaaf Professional’s Forum” (IPF) sessions.

Enough said.

Let us look at some of the things he said at a recent session of IPF members held at Karachi on 28th April, 2012:

  • I have not joined Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf for Imran Khan. I have my own selfish reasons. 
  • I have no foreign passports. I have no bank accounts outside Pakistan. Everything I have or own is at stake in this country.
  • I am convinced that the status quo in this country cannot last for long now.
  • When we look at the situation of this country, there is fear. But there is also reward.
  • I want my two sons studying abroad to eventually WANT to come back to this country.
  • People tell me why don’t I become just an adviser to Imran Khan. My answer is: Pick up any fundamental issue of Pakistan and the answer lies in the core political system. There is no dearth of technical advice. But that is not enough. What we need is fundamental reform. Just good governance will not be enough.
  • We need a political party who is committed to political reform and is not sitting on top of vested interests.
  • I do not believe in personality worship. Mein azmat e insaan ka qaail to hoon Mohsin, Lekin kabhi insaan ki ibaadat naheen karta
  • The first part is the correct vision. And the second part is that the vision should be grounded in correct good values. Imran Khan has both.
  • To bring change, you have to be in power. But how you will come into power will decide whether you can bring that change or not.
  • Building a just, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan!
  • I keep telling Imran that we have to make tough decisions. So he recently answered back: “What could be tougher than deciding to hold a jalsa in Quetta?”. And I said no, even tougher decisions will have to be made.
  • What PTI is trying to do is the most dramatic revolutionary scheme ever brought to Pakistan.
  • PTI, admittedly, has a lack of diversity. Which is why the communication coming out of it also has a lack of diversity. This is not out of malice but due to human limitation.
  • The common man has a lot of sympathy for Imran Khan. All that needs to be done now is to translate that sympathy into political change.
  • This political party will HAVE TO go through the process of inducting new people.
  • There is nothing less Pakistani about a man from Daadu (Sindh) than a woman from Karachi or a boy from Lahore.
  • (On the subject of devolution of power and land reforms): Most of what people say, with sincerity of course, is what they say sitting in Karachi or any other city. The things we say is a very urban phenomenon. On ground level, visit the rural constituencies with me and understand their sensibilities. Then we’ll talk.
  • The leader does not have a choice in whether he can displease some or not. His choice is to choose who to displease and who not to displease.