A young leader, Omar Bilal Ahmad…

12885874_10209266081753106_231989603653230480_oOmar Bilal Ahmad, a face all too familiar. A successful model having showcased renowned products and services from Pepsi, Cadbury, Djuice, Suzuki, Qmobile, Clear, Pizza Hut, Jang Classified, Hashmi Ispaghol, UBL, and the list is unending, proves that age is just a bias when it comes to leadership.

Only three days of young Ahmad’s life of over two decades are the subject here.  It is a matter of pride to be writing on this great initiative recently undertaken for our beloved city, Karachi.  The superfluous garbage, the lack of attention from the government and the recent statement by Chief Minister Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah, has brought a new life to one of the most important issues this great city faces.  The towering pile of garbage at almost around every nook and corner of the city has unfortunately become its identity.

While tens of thousands took to social media criticizing the provincial government, Ahmad reminded us that there is a lot more that can be done.  Ahmad, a successful model, an entrepreneur, an entertainer, took to self along with his friends to lead the way under the banner of corporate social responsibility by SavYour which he owns, and turned a location around not only by cleaning but planting trees in places infested with garbage, smell and disease.

11053242_10207527684534262_7810515503631601497_nFrom the various pictures of Ahmad, the one with Sir Edhi is perhaps the truest reflection of young Ahmad and what he stands for.  Quoting Brigadier Rashid Ali Malik, President APSAA, from Yasmin Aftab Ali’s article, ‘On Edhi-ism’, “Edhi should be coined into a new word; into a concept of life. Of care. We should teach Edhi, about his life, his care and love for humanity…”, and here, we have Ahmad, practicing humanity, love, care in his own way.

This video details the initiative. Here is what Ahmad was up to along with his friends for three days:

 

Considering Ahmad’s age, profession, his passion as seen in the video calls for many more to follow.  As long as this nation is a mother to such youngsters, there is hope.

Ahmad’s passion to serve and bring happiness to others is reflected in his line of business as well.  Do visit SavYour website to learn more.

Thank you Omar Bilal Ahmad.  Salute.

Note: The garbage doesn’t just pile-up on its own.  While cleanliness is the responsibility of the government, we cannot be absolved of the same.  It is an attitude and has little to do with the level of education or wealth.  Windows of chauffeur-driven cars have often been rolled down to throw out wrappers of food, used tissue, fruit peels right in the middle of the roads without hesitation.  We need to stop being part of the problem in order for our voices to be heard when we raise them reminding others of their responsibility.

Storm brewing in Mandi Bahauddin…

PMWho is Imran Masih

Imran Masih, son of Sharif Masih, resident of Chak 44, Tehsil Phalyian, Mandi Bahauddin, Punjab, employee of a local health care center and works as a janitor.

April 16, 2015

Imran Masih, attends wedding of a Muslim colleague’s daughter and records a small video clip just like any of us do at such occasions.

April 19, 2016

Imran goes back to work where his colleagues ask him to show them the video clip of the wedding.  Imran hands over the phone without hesitation, thinking he has nothing to hide, and continues to finish his work.

Upon returning, Imran finds Bilal, a drug store owner, showing provocative lectures by Pastor Sami Samson to other workers.  Upon asking Bilal to return the phone, Bilal hits Imran on the face accusing him of watching anti-Islamic lectures on his phone.

Imran swears that he has never watched any such video but he is not believed and is locked up in an empty room.  Imran calls members of his Catholic Church Committee to apprise them of the situation using another phone which he fortunately had.  Aamir Masih and Arif Masih tell a senior doctor at the health center that Bilal is not educated enough to be able to browse and use search engines.  After persuasion, they are able to get Imran Masih released.

April 22, 2016RT

Coworker, Maulvi Manzoor tells Imran Masih that Bilal is very upset with him and that Imran should seek Bilal’s forgiveness.  Imran accompanies Mansoor to Bilal’s shop to ask for forgiveness.

Bilal, being absent from his shop, is called on the phone by Manzoor, only to learn that he is in Sargodha seeking opinion of religious scholars on the incident.  Bilal informs Manzoor that a decree (fatwa) has been issued finding Imran Masih guilty of blasphemy and is entitled to be killed.

Imran Masih is advised by Manzoor to run and hide to save his life.  Imran does not go back home, instead, goes in hiding.

April 23, 2016

Sharif Masih, Imran’s father, contacts the health center to ask about his son and is told that Imran never showed up to work.

Sharif is not satisfied with the response and asks a few Chuch Committee members to accompany him to the health center.  Upon visiting, they learn from Maulvi Manzoor about the conversation with Bilal because of which Imran Masih has run away.

April 29, 2016

Till this day, the incident is spread across villages while Imran is still in hiding.  Local Muslim clerics urge all to socially boycott Christians and to not do any business with them quoting “harboring a blasphemer’ as the reason.

Irshad Jhakar, a Muslim businessman, announces Rs. 1 million reward to anyone who kills Imran Masih.

One committee of Muslims, led by Inayat Mahajir announce to organize an attack and torch homes of the Christian community and Church.

Another committee of Muslims, led by Mohammad Riaz, request Inayt Mahajir to not take any action until accusations are proven.

CMMay 2, 2016

Muslim committee members visit the health center where Imran Mash worked and inquired on the incident.  The committee was told that no such incident of blasphemy took place.  Committee is not satisfied with the response and continues to plan the attack.

May 5, 2016

Iqbal Masih, a Christian resident of Chak 44, approaches the mosque, seeking permission to have his daughter’s marriage ceremony on May 6, 2016.  Iqbal Masih is denied permission and instead, told if Imran Masih is not handed over, they will be attacked at midnight. Young men are deployed to keep an eye on Sharif Masih’s house.

May 6, 2016

After Friday prayers, Muslim clerics call upon all Muslims of adjoining villages to gather in ARChak 44.

Aamir Masih calls 15 (police helpline), sensing trouble as a large crowd gathers outside the mosque.  Police arrives fairly quickly and disperses the crowd.  Muslim committee members are taken to Imran Ghuman’s house to record statement while not a single Christian is asked for a statement.

Dr. Ashraf Fazi (convert from Islam to Christianity), standing nearby, is beaten up by a few of those who had gathered outside the mosque.  Police drags Dr. Fazi inside Imran Ghuman’s house and later take him along.

May 7, 2016

Dr. Ashraf Fazi is released after staying overnight with the police.

May 12, 2016

Ali Zain of Daily Pakistan Global reports that the local police has concluded that the blasphemy charges level against Imran Masih were fabricated.  Muhammad Nawaz, Assistant Sub-Inspector, says there is no evidence to confirm the crime.

DLSalim Iqbal (National Director of Care Council for Human Rights) accuses minority MNAs and MPAs including Kamran Michael, Shehzad Munshi, Tariq Masih and SHakil Marth and others of doing nothing while enjoying perks of representing minorities.  Iqbal is fearful any action by them will be only after tragedy strikes.

Iqbal’s fear may be justified as Muhammad Saleem Bhatti, who heads the mosque committee and who is an elected vice chairman of the union council on PML-N’s ticket, has announced to do whatever possible to bring the blasphemer to justice.

The Christians, many of whom have reportedly already left to take refuge with friends or relatives, are living in fear, having difficult access to food, security, peace… And how can they feel at peace or secure when there are only about 300 Christians out of total of approximately 3,000.

Should any one decide to record concern and raise the voice, contacts are given below.  Others can continue to watch the smoke from a distance till the fire is too close to be put out.

This is not the first time, but it can be the last!

DPO, Mandi Bahauddin: 0546-502324Fax: 0546-503068, E-mail: mbdinpolice@yahoo.com

SDPO Phalia (Circle): 0546-596126 Local Police Station Phalia 0546-596007

Mohammed Zafar, SHO, Thana Gojra: 0321 7777154

Sources:

  1. Centre For Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement
  2. Ali Zain, Daily Pakistan Global
  3. Shamila Ghyas, The Nation

Could they have stayed? A little longer…

One after another, Pakistan is losing her best.  The sane voices, which shout inclusion, pluralism, love, respect, mutual coexistence, which try to turn a pencil sketch into a brightly colored painting, are silenced.

PR

Parween Rahman

A fighter for the poor silenced…” said a staff reporter of Dawn.  Parween Rahman, gunned down on February 13, 2013. What was her crime? She was a kind soul who felt far too much for the less fortunate.  She wanted the poor to have something they can call home.  She wanted them to feel self-sufficient as she worked hard day and night to empower all who felt deprived.  She made the mistake of loving, of documenting about lands which have been grabbed and coffers being filled by billions.  And as a result, billions lost a kind-hearted person many referred to as a mother.

Rights advocate gunned down in Multan…” said the print.  It was Rashid Rehman this

RR

Rashid Rehman

time and the date was May 7, 2014.  Regional coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and a well-known lawyer, Rehman believed.  That was his crime.  He believed in the justice system.  He believed that every defendant has a right to a lawyer.  He was known by many as a helper, an enabler, particularly for the downtrodden.  He made the mistake of representing Junaid Hafeez, accused of blasphemy.  With full cognizance of the risks, he went ahead.  And as a result, he too was murdered in cold blood.

SM

Sabeen Mahmud

Director T2F shot dead in Karachi…”. The date was April 24, 2015 and it was Sabeen Mahmud’s turn.  The lively, chirpy Mahmud, a human rights activist, loved by many all across.  What was she thinking challenging the injustice and discrimination? Everything about her was all inclusive.  She lived for the people and their smiles.  Perhaps that was her crime, to think more for others than herself.  She wanted to give a voice, wanted to make sure all were heard, brought everyone to the table and there was almost nothing which could not be resolved over a cup of tea.  She held a session for the voices of Balochistan.  Was it ‘Unsilencing Balochistan’ that silenced her, or was it her various stands against the injustice and defending the rights of one and all.  Whatever the reason, hope for many was lost.

Rights activists killed in Karachi gun attack…”.  May 7, 2016 was the last day for Khurram

KZ

Khurram Zaki

Zaki, a journalist, a human rights activists, one who had to raise his voice for all minorities and against self-proclaimed gods.  He took on the big ones, Maulana Aziz of Laal Masjid and Aurangzeb Farooqi of ASWJ for the hate-speech against Shias.  He was equally vocal for Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis, rather all minorities which are being persecuted.  His crime was that he took others to heart.  He felt and wanted to alleviate the pain.

Various groups claimed the fate of all these wonderful human beings.  Ruthlessly killing all, rendering Pakistan to a poorer state.  Ever wonder how easy it is for them to kill? These lives were precious for they spoke for many, stood up for the not so privileged, screamed for harmony, peace, coexistence and love.  Silencing these voices equate to silencing of hope for millions.

While the claims are there, the responsibility, perhaps, lies elsewhere.  It lies in the silence.  The killer silence which thinned these beautiful voices.  Why was it that these heroes, celebrated at the scale they are upon and after their death, are not celebrated at the same level while alive?  Why were their voices so thin and not that of millions when they were out taking on the monstrosity that plagues our nation?  Did their lonely voices, only joined by a handful, not make them an easy target? If every call made by them were joined by hoards, would it have not made the killers realize they are outnumbered?  Or are they?  All of them made top trends on social media upon their death.  Facebook, twitter, whatsapp groups and all other forms of communication are full of support.  Where was all this support when these voices silently whispered in all our ears to join them?  They were let to be alone, left to be silenced.  One only wonders if millions or even thousands were out with them taking a stand, would the monsters find it so easy?

It is our hypocrisy, our silence that killed them.  We are all responsible for letting them fight the fight on their own sending a loud and clear message that they are dispensable.

Join your hero while alive, become an invincible wall, make it happen.  The rogues may think twice before trotting those guns and spraying bullets.  And we might, just might have such voices live a little longer, stay a little longer…

#Lorilei

ssDecember 20, 2015, a play, Lorilei – A Meditation On Loss, produced by Olomopolo Media, presented by Justice Project Pakistan, featuring Sania Saeed, followed by dinner, a silent one with occasional exchange of thoughts with my wife, subdued, gentle, measured statements, calm responses, agreements, disagreements, moving on to retiring for the night.  I was going to sleep, or was I awakening?

The question asked in the very beginning, ‘Do you believe in capital punishment?’, set the tone for the evening.  Discussions broke out, audience turned to each other, shared views, argued, with people sitting next to them being complete strangers in a lot of cases.  The narration of Lorilei’s story by Sania Saeed was vivid, as if I were there, right there, saw it all happen in front of me.  The captivating delivery, countenance, emotions pulled me into the story and made me a part of it.  I could feel the helplessness, the anger, the pain, the vacillation, the solace, perhaps in that order.

6 year old, Jeremy Guillory, murdered by Ricky langley

6 year old, Jeremy Guillory, murdered by Ricky Langley.

Delving into history, the case revealed certain astonishing facts.  Ricky Langley was tried three times.  After being arrested for murder of 6 year old Jeremy Guillory, whose body was found in Langley’s closet, his first conviction for first degree murder and death sentence was overturned because of the way the jury foreman was picked.

Rickey Langley, charged with more than 100 cases of child molestation and murder of Jeremy Guillory.

Ricky Langley, charged with more than 100 cases of child molestation and murder of Jeremy Guillory.

Upon conclusion of second trial and conviction, the second degree murder was again overturned because the Judge had walked out of the courtroom during concluding arguments rendering the trial unfair.  Third and final time, a life sentence was awarded prior to which Lorilei had heard Langley call for help.  He may have called for years, he may have called many, Lorilei chose to respond.

The family was finally ready to start the healing process after 17 long years of an unfathomable ordeal.  This story, however, is not just a story, it is a test, a test of faith, realization, resolve and unflinching believe.

Lorilei testified on Ricky’s behalf. I asked her whether she felt that the killer of her child had been mentally ill when he did it.

“I think that Ricky Langley has been crying out for help since the day he was born,” she said, turning to the jurors. “And for whatever reason, his family, society, the legal system has never listened to him. And as I sit on this chair, I can hear the death cries of my own child, Jeremy; but I can still hear Ricky Langley crying out for help.”

After 17 years, “I think the ultimate judgment to him would be given to him another time another place”, says Lorilei with eyes welled-up, as she battles to keep herself calm and composed.

Watching the play and going through the history of this case has left me with a lot of questions.

  1. Is one going through a rough childhood or any other incidents in life a justification for someone to turn into a cause pain?
  2. Should the troubled background of a criminal result in leniency? If at all, one who has been sexually abuse, for instance, and turns into an abuser later on in life, should be held accountable more as this person has experienced the worst of it and knows exactly the sort of physical or emotional pain such abuse can cause.
  3. Even if it is agreed that the mental illness or soundness of mind must be taken into account, is it not true that any single person committing any crime of any sort is not of sane mind, at least while the act is being committed? If the soundness had prevailed, the crime may not have been committed.

At the end of it all, the fact that human intelligence is limited, a life ordered to be ended based on human intelligence seems to be a transgression.  At home front, there is hung jury on this point.  And I am sure everyone who has watched the play is facing somewhat similar situation within the circle of family and friends.

“Lorilei” has been a success as it has certainly been able to create the atmosphere and given a reason to discuss.  I feel the discussion may last long.  There may not be quick answers, no rights, no wrongs, but there certainly may be a lot of questions.  And that, in my humble opinion, is a good way forward.

In case of Ricky Langley, I feel divine intervention, death sentence twice overturned on technical grounds, saved as the heart of Lorilei Guillory fills with mercy, not to forgive, but to listen to the cries for help, 17 long years, perhaps it was meant to be a test case for the world.  Who knows?

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” – Socrates

I am a Muslim. I won’t apologize!

Yes, I am a Muslim, and I am tired. I am exhausted.  For having to prove myself and justify my existence every time some hell breaks loose in any part of the world and the Muslims are quick to be blamed as a community.

noapology-300x300I will not apologize for anything I do not do, any harm I do not cause.  I will not get into what my religion teaches me
or how I interpret it.  The question I put up is simple.  Why am I made to think I need to justify my existence? Why I am made to beg for mercy? Why am I made to live in fear? I have nothing to do with those who kill and terrorize in the name of Islam.

I also do not agree with the veil of perfection put on by many Muslims in response to the hate hurled in their faces.  Muslims, just like Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists or any other, are average humans.  Without getting into what they are supposed to do or how they are supposed to be, many, or at least more than just a few, sing, dance, pray, lie, steal, party, drink, feel sad, feel happy.  They too act stupid and crazy and responsible and religious.  Yes, just like any other human, many Muslims too, feel sad when they see people being killed and terrorized without thinking about their religion or sect or color of skin.  Likewise, they go all out to help each other in times of need.  Some make a living working hard, some cheat others, some are poor, some rich.  Isn’t that how people are around the world?

I am a muslim, PleaseBut no, that is not enough for an average Muslim in today’s world.  An average Muslim needs to go all out, be extra nice, put up a face of near perfection, almost that of an Angel, one who is trustworthy, most loving, merciful, who can’t even spell ‘sin’, in order to be able to create that little peaceful space on this Earth, the space a Muslim can call his/her own.

Today, a Muslim is made to feel this way, to be constantly proving, justifying, putting up a face…of perfection, more often than not, a false one.  Why? Because the slightest bit of negativity will toss a Muslim directly into the realm of terrorism and make him/her unfit for the world.  People around the world may lie, but when it is a Muslim, it becomes a conspiracy to take over the world and implement Shariah.  If you are a Muslim, a fun hunting trip can turn into a carnage.

While every single breath taken by any Muslim seems to be under a microscope, it seems as if ‘Muslims’ too like to invite trouble since we just can’t seem to leave our passports home.  Perhaps the passports and the loud “Allah o Akbar” is required since the promise is entry to heaven.  Now how would one embark on such a holy journey without taking God’s name and proper travel documents?

I will not apologize to anyone.  I will not beg.  I will not be on my knees to have people be nice to me.  I will just be.

A lot many owe me an apology for robbing my right to a normal life and punishing me for crimes I never committed.

May peace and sanity prevail!

The wall…

wall1One day, early morning, earth was collected and a little bit of water was added to erect a wall.  Slowly and gradually, many took part in the shaping of the wall, particle by particle, brick by brick, layer by layer, as it started to rise in front of the eyes of those who put in their time and effort.

Time passed, the Sun made it impossible for them to continue.  Many left.  The wall, it stayed, risen, bearing the heat, providing shade to those who gave up on it.  All throughout, nature showed its many faces, the Sun, the heat, the rain, the dryness, the snow, the very earth the wall stood on shook a few times, but the wall, it stayed.  Parts of it were washed away at times.  At times, it cracked and parts feel apart.  But those very faces of nature helped the wall in their own way.  The rain would make the mud moist and fill the cracks which resulted from the dryness and the Sun would then provide the heat to make it strong again.

Those who started to put it together used the wall often, for shade and shelter.  wall2Some fixed it at times when they saw it damaged.  Mostly for their own selves and for their own time.  But they all moved on.  The wall stayed.  Yes it did.  It stayed.  All through the weathers and the people, almost as if having the power of self-healing, it stayed, for it felt responsible to provide shade and shelter.  The wall knew how the heat of the Sun, the dryness of the Autumn winds, the cold of Winters, the chill of rains felt.  It knew well.  Very well.  How could then the wall give up, though given up on time and again?

wall3The wall stayed for many.  It saw many come and go.  It was used by many.  The day passed and night fell.  The wall, tired, dilapidated, exhausted, slowly crushed in the dark, turned into the very grains it was made from once.

The next morning, those who once sat under the wall’s shelter and shade, walked all over its remains, crushing each grain under their feet, not remembering those grains once provided for them.  They walked.  They all walked.  Some got together to gather some earth and start a wall.

Oh the wall… the soul…

wall4

Socially responsible marketing and advertisement…

“Advertising is not just about selling products or services; it’s also about molding opinions on issues…”, said Yasmeen Aftab Ali in her article ‘Advertising and Ethics’ published on March 31, 2014.  A rather simple statement, a principle which seems to have escaped brand management far too long.

Advertising merely to make sales and marketing to steer society in a certain direction, curtailing social evil at a mass level, is how one can tell apart a short-term money-minting machine from a vision which probably stands to be a lot more beneficial in the long run for all those involved.

The myth that organizations which are being ‘socially responsible’ in one way or another or perhaps ‘doing a favor’ or ‘being good’ needs to be busted.  It is nothing but a basic ‘requirement’ for an organization to ‘be responsible’ for and ‘responsive to’ the people and the environment in which it operates.  Being concerned about the surroundings and ensuring amelioration is nothing but ensuring sustained business and growth with respectable existence. Any positive impact on the society at large can only result in a positive impact on business in the long run.

ethics 2It is rather concerning how marketing and advertisement in our part of the world has grown into lies, deceit, mis/overcommitments and much more.  When the very basics of clean, honest communication about the product or service being offered is systematically ignored, social amelioration through marketing and advertisement seems like a monumental task.

The darker shade of skin is still bad.  Really bad.  To the extent that one may not ever get married.  The Pathan (Pakhtoon) can never be intelligent, no matter how educated he is.  If these examples are to be listed, volumes can be written.  Instead of addressing these stereotypes, such sentiments are played upon to sell products and such social evils are further ingrained.

One such factor is how women are conveniently established has nothing more than housewives while men being in-charge.  Knowingly or unknowingly, women are shown providing service to men coming back home from work, no matter how hard the women of the house had worked all day, underlying assumption being male supremacy, men being bread earners while women existing only to raise children, keep the house clean and make sure the men are satisfied.  In this context, Meiji Big has proven to be hope.

Hats-off to the brand managers of Meiji Big and Synergy for such an amazing execution. It cannot be said with surety if all this was part of the creative brief but the commercial communicates a lot more than just the features of the product.  A man feeding young children and flaunting it.  Not only that but the children being all daughters and the emphasis on how important it is for them to be healthy and smart (educated) so that they remain “not out” in every match of life.  A lot touched upon and most beautifully.  Bravo to the team!

On the contrary, as customary, the wife well-placed in the passenger seat, husband in the driving seat in the Bank Al Habib (Apni Car) commercial, at least both of them should have been wearing a seat belt while the car was being driven.  It is a requirement as per law and more than that, a life saving practice.  Knocking in a bit of civic sense doesn’t hurt.