Winds of Change – Quetta Youth Conference 2012

Never in my life have I been so excited! Today, I write on a happening extraordinaire. Not too long ago, Talha Masood, a 24 year old son of Balochistan, an unsung hero, benevolently chose to discuss with me a plan his organization, Organization for Development of Youth (ODY), had been planning. I could see the excitement in his eyes and feel the fervor and zeal in his words. The man meant business. Come what may!

The idea was to hold a conference for the youth of Balochistan. A much needed platform for the young, bright Balochistan to shine. Basic premise of the conference was to provide a conducive environment to a cross section of youth of Balochistan, for them to vent out their frustrations and feeling of deprivation. While Talha expressed on many facets of life in Balochistan, the anxiety, the misconceptions, he continuously presented himself as a big thinker. Seldom did his thought process limit itself to Balochistan only. It was more of how he sees Pakistan as a whole. I am no judge, neither do I think anyone should be, but from what I gathered during my communication with Talha, Pakistan may just have a great future as long as we have a few Talha Masood(s) around.

ODY Dream Team

I will be very honest and share that Talha’s bombardment of ideas, possibilities, things-to-do, and a lot more, often perplexed me on the project materializing when I thought of financial limitations primarily. I do remember praying silently that he, along with his team, be successful in this endeavor as it will not only push the team to go for much bigger initiatives, but more importantly, prove to be success and hope for the masses. The Dream Team, included Jawad Ahmed Khan, Qudrat Shah, Jahangir Bazai, Zayed Khan, Masood Rehman, Sadat Baloch and Usman Khan. I am not describing these core team members individually as the power and zeal reflected as a team speaks loud and clear about every single member.

So began the preps and the uphill task of finding sponsors. The event was sponsored by American Consulate General-Karachi, Strengthening Participatory Organizations (SPO) and Anti Narcotics Force (ANF). Without mentioning any names, I am positive that those who declined sponsorship must regret not being a part of history in the making. The conference’s slogan was “Mera Paigham Muhabbat hai” (My Message is Love) and hence, after untiring efforts of the ODY Team, the conference was held on 7th and 8th day of June, 2012 at Quetta Serena.

Conference was attended by 250 participants with an almost equal participation of males and females as well as urban and rural. The two day conference envisaged life, hope, zeal, camaraderie, where various historic and contemporary experiences, sagas were shared followed by a discussion on each with full participation. The discussion circled around what one can get out of the greatest stories ever told and how each one can add to his or her life in personal capacity and how it can have a consummated effect at large at a communal level.

Indeed an event which must go down in history as it may well prove to be the much needed catalyst. The title of this composition is based on a comment made by Ms. Beena Sarwar, a journalist, an artist, a documentary film-maker, a human rights activist and I am positive I have missed something out. Heartfelt gratitude to her for her kind words and support in spreading the word about this event. Ayesha Tammy Haq, a renowned broadcast journalist and a corporate lawyer must also be thanked for her sharing the highlights and videos of this event. My brother, Amin ur Rahman, a Public Relations Manager by profession, and a few other friends also shared the excitement and shared the details of the even on social media for which I am grateful to each one of them.

On a personal level, I am seriously disappointed on not being able to take an active part in the conference but I do look forward to many such events by ODY Team as they continue their journey and break all barriers and rise like shining stars.

On a very serious note, I strongly suggest our media to have their priorities straight. Events described herein should be the focus instead of sensational reporting which may not add any value whatsoever but to the ratings. This is Pakistan, a progressive Pakistan which needs to be highlighted. These are people, the stars of my country which need to be celebrated. Despite various requests to many personalities (not naming any) associated with the field of journalism and media, not a single one paid heed to this event which should have been the highlight of every channel and headlines of every newspaper after successful finale. However, I express gratitude to PTV Bolan for conducting interviews of the organizers and broadcasting the same after the event. Geo, Khyber and Sabzbaat were present during the event. However, by no means justice was done with regards to coverage. These are my personal observations and do not reflect on the sentiments of ODY which may be different.

View ODY-QYC detailed report to explore how each minute during the conference was utilized every so productively and how the winds of change started to blow from all directions. Success of this event can be witnessed by a few testimonials in this video (courtesy Qaiser Roonjha).

ODY, let this be a humble beginning of great successes as you take charge and change the future. All prayers and wishes are with you.

For those who would like to follow, support and be a part of such wonderful efforts:

1. Follow Talha Masood on Twitter
2. ODY Official Facebook Page

Hindu’ana Rasm or a Radical Mindset…

A recent personal encounter triggered a thought process which made it absolutely important to document, and perhaps ease being a Muslim, especially in Pakistan.

A friend shared a small story about a “dholki” where friends and family had gotten together to sing and dance and celebrate an upcoming wedding of a dear one. During the festivities, a member of the gathering, who was quite uncomfortable to begin with, got up and qualified the event as a “Hindu’ana Rasm” which obviously was followed by anything and everything starting from whispers to looks to outrage. It is said with a degree of certainty that almost all of us have heard this at some point in time in our lives. Some even qualify certain activities, demeanor, etc., as “not being our culture”.

We take the first argument where the qualification is that of “Hindu’ana Rasm”. The term itself is quite oxymoronic. “Hindu’ana” referring to religion, while “Rasm” relating to culture. The term itself reflects on the utter confusion that exists. “Religion” is a set of beliefs while “Rasm-o-Riwaj (Culture)” primarily reflect on a locality, a social set-up or an accepted norm. While it is agreed that quite often religious beliefs of a community may impact its culture or social norms, the latter, however, relates more to the historic lifestyles of a particular area. Hence, it can be safely interpreted from the argument that the way things are done relate more to the ways they have always been done rather than the same being dictated by religion. A “Rasm” can be Asian, American, etc., but cannot be Hindu, Muslim or Jewish. Hence we have Muslim brides in the South Asia wearing red while in Afirca, they wear white. Hopefully we won’t qualify wearing of a white dress by a bride as a “Christian Rasm”.

Coming to the second argument where certain ways of doing things are qualified as “not our culture”. This is relatively easier. Where exactly did we come from? Did we migrate like the Americans who never had their own culture, which resulted in them being very open and adaptive to all cultures of the world? Have we not always been a part of this soil? Indeed we have a very strong and deep-rooted history. Our culture is that of the Indian sub-continent or what eventually became of it when people from different parts of the world inhabited this area. How can we then simply sever ourselves and claim to have a different culture since there is now a border. The fact remains that the border has not always been there. People, indeed have always been here, doing things in a certain way. The ways have evolved as the time passed till they became socially acceptable norms.

It is also mentioned that over time, it has been learnt that “names” too have religions. Quite humorously, John is a “Christian” name, Ali a “Muslim” and Vijay a “Hindu”. Let us settle for English, Arabic and Hindi, instead of Christian, Muslim and Hindu. These are words of a language having meanings. Vijay means victorious so why can a Muslim not be named “Vijay”. Names may often have religious connotations, yet each name carries a meaning. To what extent will we go out of our ways to create differences?

The world has gone through much torment. Each community may have uniqueness while at some level, that community may be a part of a country, a continent and must co-exist in order to prosper and flourish. Let us enjoy our uniqueness, celebrate our similarities and enjoy our differences and move towards a higher level of peaceful co-existence.