Sound of the Soul…

A quite evening at home, dimly lit, experiencing piece and pure tranquility as the legend Abida Parveen sang “Gar Yaqeen”. This is a routine setting of my time with my Creator. The connect is almost impossible to explain but can be felt by those who belong to the soil and spend a lifetime in search of the sacred bond between the loved and the beloved. Quite often I find myself juggling with the words of Baba Bhullay Shah, Sachal Sarmast, Maulana Rumi, Sultan Bahu, ever so amazingly recited by legends like Abida Parveen, Pathanay Khan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Allan Faqeer and others, quietly listening with eyes closed, trying to absorb the essence of every single word, trying to feel the soul, the soil on which these legends treaded, the secrets of life, the relationships and the divinity within. Such was the evening, intense, enchanted, lost and never wishing to be found.

Amidst the peaceful chaos, a friend, who knows me well, sent me a link of a song to which my response was obvious. “Thank you, I will check it later…” However, the insistence was such that I had to stop what I was listening to and click the link. It was a sufi medley by Abdullah Qureshi. It started with a thank you note in a very mature, deep voice in perfect and slightly accented English.

At this moment, I thought to myself… Sufi??? As my limited imagination could not relate to the way those words were spoken to a Sufiyana Kalam… A few seconds more and it was as if I was struck by lightning. The medley commenced with Baba Bhullay Shah’s poetry, each word stemming from the soul, smelling of the soil, the most perfect of pronunciations. The strength, the power of each word could be felt. I listened to the whole medley many times, over and over, each time sinking in deeper and deeper, each time, connecting at a different level, each time higher. The voice communicated to be of one like that of a Bedouin who has spent a lifetime amidst the sands of the deserts, one who knows of untold stories, one who has befriended the higher ups, one who has transformed into a being sought after. It was not possible not to find out more about this great voice which has etched the soul.

A simple search put me through to Abdullah Qureshi Page and it was no surprise to note more than 100,000 fans. I wondered briefly why I never heard of him before. The pictures, however, puzzled me. It was almost impossible to relate to the voice I heard and the pictures of Abdullah I saw. Did the voice not belong to a faqeer of age who has seen life up close and embraced its ups and downs? Was the voice not one which has been molded over decades of search? Utter disbelief!

Upon communicating with Abdullah, it was learnt that he is a young man belonging to NUST Class of 2015 who will be turning 21 on August 6 of 2014. A bright, humble young man who indeed reflected on belonging to the soil. After communicating with Abdullah, I stand corrected. Seems that there is no correlation between your age and the level you may reach in terms of understanding the mysticism, the bonds, the belonging. Abdullah’s thoughts can be summarized by his own words:

Abdullah Qureshi’s sufi medley now makes an integral part of my evenings, my time with my Creator, right alongside of some of the greatest, including Abida Parveen, Pathanay Khan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and others. Presentation1

One of my close friends, a die-hard fan of the legendary Abida Parveen expressed concern over my inclusion of Abdullah Qureshi in the league and my response was simple. Did any of those legends know in their teens on what path they tread and what will they become?

This is a small representation of how Abdullah is taking over hearts and souls:

Kudos to Abdullah and his partners, Ussayd Khan, Tabbish Mahmood, Syed Hasan Haider. It is indeed a blessing to be able to reach souls and leave a mark. May they all reach the heights made just for them.

I request all the readers to take time out and listen to Abdullah’s Sufi Medley. All compliments, comments may be shared directly with him. He tweets at @AbdullahQureshi.

Pakistan Idol & Law of the Land…

IMG_20130920_020701-300x3001Pakistan Idol, probably one of the biggest platforms for aspiring singers, was a much awaited arrival.  Much excitement had been witnessed on social media ever since the announcement of schedule of auditions while a vast majority waited for the episodes to be aired.

Sponsored by big names including Pepsi, Mobilink, Q-Mobile and Clear, Pakistan Idol has been brought by Geo Television Network.  The official website of Pakistan Idol claims it to be “Dil Ki Awaz (Sound of the Heart), The Biggest Singing Platform, Comes to Pakistan, Gracing Your TV Screens Soon… “, with Bushra Ansari, Hadiqa Kiyani and Ali Azmat as judges and Mohib Mirza as the host.

Ever since the commencement of airing of episodes, Pakistan Idol has been the talk of the town.  The viewing was followed by the expected agreements and disagreements of the judges’ decisions to the qualification of the judges themselves, to favorites and not so favorites and many more such subjective nuances with a number of people on each side of the argument.  While such debates will continue for much time to come, there are certain issues which cannot and must not be taken lightly.

An episode of Pakistan Idol was aired where a contestant was attacked personally by Ali Azmat and supported by Bushra Ansari.  In this particular episode, Ali Azmat makes fun of the contestant in a derogatory manner, insults him on a public forum and derives utter pleasure out of his acts.  Considering the age and stature, it would be expected that Bushra Ansari would check the situation.  However, to the surprise of many, she too joins in and mocks the contestant.  Hadiqa, on the other hand, seems to be one of the sane ones and tries to scale it down as the contestant’s eyes well-up from the constant personal blows by the other two judges.  It is pertinent to mention that this is just one example while there have been other instances where the looks and other physical attributes have been commented upon.  This behavior did not go un-checked and was followed by a public outcry.  Even renowned Dr. Shahid Masood, along with many others reacted on social media.Shahid MasoodA piece appearing in Tribune “Ali Azmat, you crossed the line.” by Noman Ansari aptly encapsulate the public reaction.

While many limited their response to such atrocious behavior to tweets and status updates on Facebook, others went a step further and created a Facebook Page titled “Pakistan Idol Humiliation” and a petition demanding a public apology by the sponsors and judges was quickly signed by about 1,000 people in 24 hours.

Is it just a matter one someone made to feel bad? Is it as simple as Ms. Asma Munawar feels? asma2asma1It may not be as simply put as Ms. Munwar feels.  The Constitution of Pakistan (Introduction, Clause 4 ‘Rights of Individuals to be dealt with in accordance with law, etc.’) states:

  • 4 (1) To enjoy the protection of law and to be treated in accordance with law is the inalienable right of every citizen.  Wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.
  • 4 (2) (a) No Action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law.

How is it that the above excerpt applies to the humiliation witnessed in the cited instance?  A “Code of Conduct for Media Broadcasting/Cable TV Operators”  was introduced as suggestion/guidelines under PEMRA Ordinance 2002 to bring in the element of responsibility.  Relevant section of the said Code of Conduct states:

  • 1. No programme shall be aired which: (L) denigrates men or women through the depiction in any manner of the figure, in such a way as to have the effect of being indecent or derogatory.

While suggestions/guidelines cannot be enforced by law, according to an expert on the subject, the cited Code of Conduct, which, more often than not, is ignored by our Media, does indeed have force of law behind it following the PEMRA (Amended) Ordinance in November of 2007. Quoting from page 234 of “A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan”  by Yasmeen Aftab Ali:

  • Sec8 (4) states that, “A Licensee or permission holder shall ensure that nothing is transmitted or broadcast in violation of the provisions of the Ordinance or rules or regulations, and Code of Conduct and for this purpose shall install time delay equipment within its system to prevent any such violation.”  The rules therefore are binding upon our electronic media and noncompliance can result in punishment.

Commitment of such an act is a major issue and challenges the overall morality.  In this case, it may actually be a legal issue if the analysis contained herein is correct.  Most perturbing is the reaction of this icon who continues to mock the sentiments of the nation and possibly continues to fall on the wrong side of the law.  From the following tweets, it seems that Ali Azmat’s sole agenda was to get signed for another three seasons at the cost of causing humiliation and insult to individuals.  Many may have mistaken the objective of this platform to provide opportunities to aspiring singers.

Pakistan Idol, in response to the claim on your website “Gracing Your TV Screens”, what has been witnessed is utter disgrace.  Perhaps it may be in the best interest of the sponsors to reconsider overall stance.  What exactly is sponsored here? Talent hunt, opportunity to aspiring singers OR insults, derogatory (possibly illegal) behavior?

Meditative Health… Corporates?

timthumbAn official email was received yesterday inviting us to an introductory session on Achieving Personal Excellence. The message mentioned terms like meditation, healing, spirituality, which obviously resulted in an instant smirk. It was very difficult to draw relevance considering the heated environment of a bank I am associated with for 15 years. Not only the inability to relate but such a message being received from senior management was another surprise.

SONY DSCThe email definitely warranted further exploring. A search on Google led me to an article published in Newsweek Pakistan on November 19, 2013. “Pakistan’s Corporate World Turns to Spirituality & Meditation”. It was this article which introduced me to Mr. Naushad Thariani who is into the business of teaching how to breath… Yes, he teaches how to breath, which, in turn, results in achieving personal excellence by way of reducing stress level.

artofliving_logo_1_0Mr. Thariani, who works with the “Art of Living Foundation” has introduced staff of many companies around the world to this simple yet one of the most complex secrets to serenity. With this program, Naushad attempts to reduce/eliminate the gap between capacity of and expectations from an individual in a company. In the cited article, it is mentioned that the Pakistani workforce is highly stressed and the situation is quite bad and requires urgent attention for the deteriorating conditions to be arrested and improved.

The introductory session was one fun activity while the most serious of issues were touched upon with a smile and laughter. In addition to being a brilliant speaker, Naushad communicated as if we have all known him for ages. Since it was just an introduction intended to gauge the acceptability/need of the program/workshop, it lasted for only about 45 minutes. 45 minutes of intense introspection of the most serious facets of life. However, I must say, at least I have never thought about the most such situations with such a light heart and laughter. His message, in a nutshell, was to control/eliminate the vacillation between anxiety of what the future holds and regrets from the past, both of which we have no control over.

stressCollageI know what all of you must be thinking… “I’ve heard this before…”, “Easier said than done…”. You may find it surprising from a person who lives with “Carpe Diem” as his motto, I went in that room with the exact lines in my mind. However, my views changed during the session. For once, someone, instead of just asking you to live in the ‘now’, was actually telling you how exactly to do it. From there on, the session continued into small activities reflecting upon how wrong we may be perceiving the simplest of messages/communication in our lives and what leads to that. Simple breathing techniques can help revitalize the mind. It is the mind which reacts to certain situations being stressed as it is. Should the mind be at peace, daily life may actually be much simpler than we perceive it to be.

The session was able to generate enough interest among the attendants for a workshop to be announced in the near future. I, for one, am very excited, being a strong advocate of the “live in now” concept. On a lighter note, at the end of the session, I asked Naushad how is it that we can live in “now” and be stress-free when we are required to develop a strategy for 2016! This was followed by a brief assertive chuckle and a promise for the capacity to be enhanced in order to handle such requirements as well.

On a personal level, after that 45 minute session, I felt light. I took the same route home. Stuck in traffic. Usually tweeting frantically over the traffic situation. Abusing a few here and there. This time, it was different. I had no such reaction. I actually had a smile on my face, listening to some nice music, clearly understanding my tweets and abuses will certainly not clear the traffic.

Looking forward to the workshop…

Doosra for life

It was in late 90s that I watched in an Indian television channel – the legend Pakistan leg spinner Abdul Qadir, widely famed for his fast flippers and googlies, speaking for an emerging off spinner Saqlain Mushtaq whose team mates pet-named him ‘Saqi’. Saqi was a spinning sensation in his times. Qadir looked on cloud nine while illustrating how Saqi invented this new form of delivery, doosra, that is bowled by the same action but went on the other way as it pitches. After him, the craft spread like a wild fire and all finger spinners in world Cricket polished their skills to be apt in delivering this doosra.

Handful of bowlers did well with this technique but most of them were either picked by their ball-grips or lost the nip of their bowling in excessively trying to attempt the doosra. The word doosra was caught by a jovial Cricketer and commentator Mr. Tony Greig when during a match, Pakistan Wicket-Keeper Moin Khan grunted Saqlain near the wicket mic: “Saqi doosra nikal…” The Urdu word took no time to be interpreted of its real use in Cricket dictionary. Those who follow Cricket are fully clued-up that Saeed Ajmal, another Pakistani spinner has to be given the credit of having most lethal doosra in his bowling weapons. Saeed Ajmal is rarely picked with his pristine doosra with the action, unaltered. This particular delivery makes him quite a successful man of his trade.

Tonight, I think hard for why are we naming our Annual Youth Conference with this catch slogan.

When you can create, something exceptional from a simple life oozes out. In the quest of translating innovation in your life, you just need to attempt a new dimension. Now is that easy?

In Cricket, doosra is a marvel from a finger spinner. A ball bowled by usual action on a normal trajectory bewilders the batsmen more often than not. Doosra, to me, is an unconventional approach of life for bigger results. When it goes the other way, wonders start happening. All needed is making grip of your life knowing what exactly you want out of it.

We all live lives. At times happy or sad, we are found with most similar reactions: a person losing hope after crushing defeats – people expecting an outdone person to surrender to certain ‘realities’ on which a loser has to set his sights. Hardly any person living in subjugated condition is encouraged to watch big dreams in our material-assessed society. You are expected to run a family business once your fond dream is ripped apart for your profession and we feel relieved to seek acceptance from societies once being hit hard in life. After having lost with hopes of mastering in our talent, we find graves to bury them and mourn for life. As we become humiliation stock by close aides due to our born deformities, highly uncontrollable factor if you are born handicapped or physically challenged, we turn aback and live a life of frightful frustrations. When you are rejected by a set of society for your inability to achieve the results you claimed for or your qualities are not even being unearthed by yourself, you need to attempt doosra. That’s where doosra comes into play for those who know there are ways out after being demoralized or disgruntled by back to back set-backs.

What a spinner does is very relative to what could be done in such monotonous off the wall junctures of life – He grips the ball firm, the grip has a slight push in a manner that the ball gets the other than normal turn. A life gripped hard in such uncanny times, trying again with a plan that only you and your God knows and getting the pitch as people may expect you be doing in low times but achieving altogether different results startling everyone but you. Those who try that out of ordinary, would be the ones most curious for success and as a rule of life, success is lapped up by those who crave to acquire it by dint of their tireless struggle and sleepless plans. There is no way a doosra can’t save us in the moments of disarray. The keynote is how many of us have that knack of flying against the wind.

Doosra happens to those who believe in creating safe adventures, where it does go the other way.

”Don’t go with the flow, be the flow.” -Shams Tabraizdoosra

Chasing after a red light…

PakistanNot too long ago, the media was abuzz with the brutal killings in the northern areas of Pakistan. Total number of those killed was reported as 11 including 9 foreigners. Slightly before that, the budget took the hot seat. tax-burdenEach line of the budget speech and the bill was being scrutinized. And a little before that, karachi_violenceKarachi’s deteriorating law and order situation was under a microscope. Quetta_balochistan_bolan_medical_complexThe bomb blasts in Bolan Medical Complex – Quetta, the burning of Quaid’s residency in Ziarat, Quaid_e_Azam_Residency_ZiaratPakistanthe continuous carnage in Peshawar and the load shedding, especially in Punjab, were in the limelight. The police brutality witnessed in Faisalabad also remained in the media for a couple of days.

pervez-musharraf-ruled-out-of-general-electionsAmidst all the chaos, out came the Musharraf genie. On June 24, 2013, news and comments had started pouring in on social media regarding the government’s decision to pursue the case of declaration of Emergency on November 3, 2007 and try General Musharraf (R) under Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Till late evening, the news was spread like wildfire and the mainstream media took the bait. Almost all channels, all talk shows focused on this issue.

media-manipulationSomewhere in the midst of all this, I got lost. I am a Pakistani trying to make ends meet, battling continuously to go to work and come back home safe (thankful for actually being employed and able to earn a living while many suffer with unemployment) as I live in Karachi where once you leave home, one can only pray that you come back home alive. Somewhere, somehow, those killed in the northern areas, the absence of security, the destruction of already marginal image of Pakistan because of this incident and many others, the people of Punjab suffering with 12 to 18 hours of load shedding, the poor of Faisalabad whose homes were broken into, where females were physically abused by Police, the carnage and Quetta and Peshawar, the burning down of Quaid’s residency, and probably one of the major concerns of anyone alive…the budget, which is all set to have an impact on the lives of the masses which can be compared to that of a huge bomb blast, all of this vanished in thin air.

file_20066In an ideal situation, media plays or should play an important role in highlighting the problems of the masses. With a finger on the pulse of the nation, media should play a vital role in the overall development of a nation with continuous efforts to steer and streamline the priorities of the very individuals democratically elected to not only represent the people but also to ensure alleviation. dog-chasing-carThe situation is like a dog chasing after the red light of a running car. The dog, obviously being the masses, the red light being acts of the government such as trying Musharraf under Article 6, and the most unfortunate of all… guess who is at the driving seat of the car… The media.

I am sorry for not being bothered about Musharraf and the case, my priority is to be safe and secure, to have electricity, to have a police which protects me and my family and does not work for influential and politicians…too much to ask?

“My Vote Is My Mandate”, I demand respect…

May 11, 2013 may go down in the annals as the biggest practical joke ever played. It was a day much awaited by anyone and everyone, irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc. A day on which I was to choose how my country will shape up. The overall turnout has been estimated at more than 60% (unofficial figures).

So what went wrong? Well, just about anything that could. From very early on the great day, videos and pictures started pouring in from all over, not limited to Karachi or NA-250. However, based on personal experience and available evidence, it can be said that NA-125 (Lahore) and NA-250 (Karachi) takes the cake. Both these constituencies witnesses brazen shamelessness including personal visits by contestants, forceful voting, stamping by officers, multiple vote casting and what not. It is quite possible that these constituencies got more highlight because of available evidence while the happenings may have been elsewhere as well. How can one forget the agreement reached between contestants barring females from voting in Lower Dir?

BallotMany are arguing that because of a few constituencies, one should not qualify that the Elections have not been free and fair. Here are a few thoughts. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), one of the truly national parties, could not campaign. Muttahida Qaumi Movemen (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) also took the hit. Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PMLN) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) had no such limitations. We all witnessed the overall process of nominations, scrutiny and finalization of contestants.

All throughout the process of nominations, scrutiny, campaigning to the election itself, various individuals, including media kept on raising multiple issues. A question which may be answered peacefully to oneself perhaps. Who is responsible for all that is mentioned? It is Elections Commission of Pakistan. Turning a blind eye and paying attention selectively. A speech by Imran Khan did not go unnoticed while alliances with terrorist groups and alleged terrorist suspects contesting is no problem at all.

It is up to the people to decide. It is not an issue between political parties. It is not MQM vs. PTI in Karachi or PTI vs PMLN in Lahore. A wider picture should be considered while getting all riled up for a cause. Bring in Balochistan in this picture, which is much neglected in the media. Now think, is all of this done by MQM or PMLN or PTI or PPP? We need to open our eyes and rise above our political inclinations.

Do come out, do raise your voice, it is your democratic right. But don’t come out because the party you voted for lost. Just come and raise your individual voice, claim your vote, claim your mandate. Even if you voted for a party that won but you had witnessed rigging, you are responsible to raise your voice. It is about long term establishment of the fact that we, the people are most important in this equation.

Pakistan Zindabad!

Don’t vote, don’t complain…

vote1Democracy is another name for true representation of the masses. Indeed it may prove to be one of the best forms of government with a built-in system of checks and balances at all levels. What is the single factor that makes any democracy flourish with progression and accountability? What is it that makes the voices of the public be heard? It is called “VOTE”. Our vote is the one thing and the only thing that can change the fate of our beloved Pakistan.

Voter turnout is one of the most important statistics which, historically, has been quite dismal. The highest ever voter turnout recorded was 55% in the 1955 elections. This figure has been ranging from 35% to 45% during the elections of 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2008.

vote boxes2008, being the most recent election and historic ones as the government formed after these elections was the first ever in the history to complete its term, deserves an in depth analysis of voter turnout, which stood at 45%. “PakReport” has done a tremendous job by producing this interactive map based on 2008 National Assembly data. This map provides location-wise details of registered voters and percentage votes casted. The percentages are alarming! The only few places in Sindh which had a greater than 50% turnout include Qambar Shahdadkot (53.7%), Sanghar (51.13%) and Tharparkar (64.64%). No, Karachi is not one of them where the turnout was recorded at 47.68%. In Balochistan, places greater than 50% turnout included Jhal Magsi (77.46%), Dera Bugti (52.23%) and Barkhan (50.66%). Punjab recorded the highest number of places with greater than 50% turnout which include Attock (55.82%), Islamabad (50.01%), Mianwali (52.27%), Chakwal (57.22%), Khushab (60.32), Bhakkar (65.99%), Layyah (61.12%), Mandi Bahauddin (55.09%), Hafizabad (62.26%), Nankana Sahib (55.11%), Gujrat (52.26%), Sialkot (53.94%), Narowal (55.25%), Sheikhupura (50.68%), Kasur (54.52%), Jhang (50.96%), Faisalabad (52.90%), Toba Tek Singh (60.35%), Sahiwal (56.72%), Pakpattan (56.89%), Muzaffargarh (50.62%), Khanewal (59.23%) and Lodhran (61.37%). In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, nowhere was the voter turnout recorded at higher than 50%.

These figures raise a serious question. Democracy, in the simplest terms, is defined as the rule of majority. How can the governments claim to have a mandate of 180 million Pakistanis is simply beyond comprehension. Perhaps this may explain why the issues of masses are conveniently ignored as those in power have historically almost never represented the masses.

There can be various reasons attributed to the low voter turnout, one of them being a voter’s wish or will not to support any of the candidates in the respective constituency. In the recent past, Election Commission of Pakistan considered a “None of The Above” option on the ballot paper which was raised by a Yasmeen Ali, a renowned lawyer and a teacher. “None of The Above” (NOTA) met with serious criticism, specially by political parties but was indeed a welcome gesture by many citizens. While the reservations of the political parties were quite understandable, award winning journalist/anchorperson Asma Shirazi labeling it a “conspiracy to derail democracy” is simply beyond understanding. Yasmeen Ali, amidst much support as well as criticism attempted to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of NOTA in order to ensure that we, the public, understand the concept in its true spirit. Nevertheless, it is indeed a good sign that such suggestions by the common citizens of Pakistan are reaching the authorities, are considered and discussed.

All in all, the overall voter turnout cannot be emphasized enough and it is of utmost importance that we, the Pakistanis, take charge and take part in the electoral process. This is the key to ensure that those at the helm ofvote voices affairs actually represent the masses and all actions/ legislation, etc., are aligned with the public and national interest.

A serious recommendation would be to make registration and voting mandatory. It is simply not an option anymore to sit back and watch. Time has come to be at the forefront and take part in the molding and structuring of this beautiful country which has always given us a lot and has gotten almost nothing in return.

Pakistan, vote and take charge or hold your peace!