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.


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


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.


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


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…



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…


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.

I am Karachi…

reimaginingReimagining Karachi is a heritage preservation initiative by Seedventures. It is an endeavour to restore Karachi to its former glory, prolong architectural and historical assets and rehabilitate old neighbourhoods around the city.

“Our dream was not just to start a conservation project; it was to create an environment where everyone joined hands to save these stone legacies and provide hope for the future. Reimagining Karachi is all about what we own, have overlooked for a long time and are now striving to protect and restore. What makes this project unique is the effort to bring together all the work that has been done separately so far, continue on with that and initiate and develop extensive, timely and focused programs to preserve and restore our glorious architecture. We strongly believe that this project should not be just about aesthetics, but should also have a direct and very strong impact on the environment, the economic, social and cultural activities in and around the historic areas.” – The Project Team

As part of this initiative, “two books titled Reimagining Karachi — Perspectives and Reimagining Karachi — Memories on the different historic facets of the city were launched” on May 25, 2015.  It is an honor to share my essay which was benevolently selected to be a part of Volume I.

I Am Karachi!

In a day and age when many find raising two children an uphill task, I raise book1nearly 24 million. Mothers age and grow
frail, becoming dependent on their children as time goes by.  I, on the other hand, grow stronger, with every passing day.

My children, many of my own, many whom I have adopted from all over, from the beautiful mountains of Kashmir, the valleys of Gilgit Baltistan, the northern beauties of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa & FATA, the lush green lands of Punjab, the beautiful plains of Balochistan, to the deserts of Sindh, all unite within me, weaving life in one of most beautiful symphonies.

re v IIFrom dawn to dusk, the children are doing what they do.  Some are at work, some at are play, some laze around doing nothing. There seem to be natural sources behind it all as it all starts and concludes each day.  While I house what may be the highest number of mendicants on the streets, I am home to the wealthiest as well.  I am often labeled very dangerous, yet I don’t lose the pull which keeps the influx in full swing.  I can’t turn away from the fact that my children die.  They die every day. Yet, Edhi, Cheepa, Adeeb, they too are my children, who give life to many.  All day, every day.

What is my identity? Who am I? I am all of my children. Nothing more, nothing less.

“A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” – Dorothy C. Fisher

Within my own bounds, I try and make sure my children are provided the book2tools to become whatever they wish, offering a wide strata of primary, secondary, graduate and post graduate schooling under private and public set-up.  Knowing my children the way I do, some are just not cut out for formal education while others just don’t want to, I try to create an environment with the help of my other, established and educated children to help out and lead the way, either by coaxing them into formal education, or vocational training.  If that doesn’t work, there is always on-the-job training, which I do not endorse as it gives rise to exploitation of my young ones.  Nevertheless, I offer various opportunities, guides, mentors, should one choose to seize the opportunity.

It is a dream of every mother to see her children grow up and be independent.  Having such dreams for 24 million is quite a task in itself.  From a bricklayer to a Chief Executive Officer of a Bank, the opportunities are unlimited.  Each and every post, as important as another.  Ask the president of a bank how productive the day was when the tea-boy took off!

book3My children can’t be working and studying all the time.  That is just not possible.  So I make sure there is something for everyone.  There are Makkah and Medina, the Karahi places on the highway for those adventurous ones and the resilient truck drivers.  Then there are Sakura, Okra, Flo for the sophisticated ones.  The variety of food is unlimited.  Almost everything, not only from all parts of Pakistan but from around the world is available to satiate the venturesome desires of not only my children but their friends who are visiting from time to time.  Be it Kashmiri Chai, Chapli Kebab, Makai Ki Roti with Sarson Ka Saag, Sajji or simple, Karachi Broast, all is available in ample quanity. Tea at the dhaba or hi-tea at Asia Live, tea is a must for everyone for all my children.  At times I really wonder if it is blood or tea that runs in their veins.  They have come up with so many varieties of tea, I have actually lost count.  I just smile as they play along, from simple Kahva and Doodh Patti to Green, Mint, Orange, Lemon Grass, and the list goes on.  But tea is a must! And I make sure there is a perfect environment for each one of my children and their friends to enjoy tea.   The early morning Paratha, which now is served almost all day, to my dislike, as it once carried its own peculiar value being served early in the day only, is something few can turn away from.

My vast beaches offer the tranquility for the early risers.  As the sun starts to spread the gold over me, each morning,Faraz-Khan as if pouring life, one ray at a time, slowly, softly. From the beaches to farmhouses on the other end, an array of locations, once again, there is something for everyone, to make sure none of my children are unhappy.  From the Malls, to Sunday Bazaars, to parks, to stadiums, to bowling alleys, to cinemas, everyone has an outlet.  Various activities year around keep me alive which include but are definitely not limited to Food Festivals, Concerts, Carnivals, Circus, Road Shows, Car Shows, Shopping Festivals, and the list is far too long.  I offer a lot to do and see for my children between the beaches and the mountains and beyond.

reI have seen much extremism on my streets.  Extremism based on ethnicity, class, religions, sect, yet, my children are one of the most diverse group of individuals.  Belong to almost all colors of skin, all ethnicities, I am a mother of Urdu speaking, Baloch, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pakhtoon, Kashmiri, Shia, Sunni, Ahmedi, Hindu, Christian, Parsi, Atheist, and many more.  I am often presented as unwelcoming and dangerous, which may be so, situational, but it hurts me when situations are blown out of proportion for personal gains and vested interests.  I have Christians heading largest organizations, Parsis as CFOs, Memons leading the business community, Ahmedis in leading positions and there are many other such examples.  Yes, they are all my children.

Who am I? What is my culture? What is my religion? My ethnicity?

I am Karachi.  I am home to all.  My culture is your culture.  My ethnicity is your ethnicity.  My religion is your religion.

Come to Karachi.  Come home.



Sabeen Mehmud, A Human Par Excellence…

875557-SabeenMahmud-1429909478From April 24, 2015, till now, much has been said about an individual who was ruthlessly murdered in the streets of Karachi.  A city which has grown just too fond of bloodied streets.   During these seven days, Sabeen Mehmud, a human par excellence, has been put on a pedestal as high as the highest ranking angels, at the same time, dragged in mud, on the streets, completely denying the respect she warranted.

From a messiah to a foreign agent, from an elitist to a dervish, from a national asset to a threat, she has been labeled almost anything and everything during these past few days. What has been most perturbing is that those sharing extreme views about her, when asked if they knew her, responded “NO”.

Without referring to my personal affiliation with this individual who defined humanity, love, respect and a lot more, here is sketch of Saturday, 25th of April, 2015, outside T2F as a cross section of the society gathered to bid farewell to Sabeen Mehmud.  Perhaps that is what reflected best on who Sabeen was.

Sabeen was the men and women who drove to T2F that day in their fancy cars,Sabeen_Mahmud_smile-600x400 in most cases, driven by their chauffeurs.  They came as silently as the rest.  Amid the crowd, just like everyone else, they tried to locate someone they knew, said a few words and stood there with eyes welled-up.  The women made their way inside.  Sabeen was the men and women who rode in buses, took rickshaws and taxis, just to be there.  They too, walked up to T2F, silently, and stood there, saying nothing at all, yet saying it all.  Sabeen was the men and women who came along with security guards.  Sabeen was also the journalists, most of them were not there to cover the event.  They were there, just to be there.  Sabeen was also the professionals, the well established businesspersons and at the same time Sabeen was also the small shopkeepers, the vendors of the area, the tailor behind T2F.  Sabeen was almost everyone ranging from teenage to late 60s and 70s.  Sabeen was that one tumblr_nnden4yXWa1sd8vq8o1_500women, most probably in her late 40s, who wore a complete hijab and cried silently in the crowd.  And Sabeen was also this young female, who may have been in her late teens or early 20s, wearing a sleeveless shirt, with a tattoo, smoking away in the middle of the crowd, crying, very obviously and personally disturbed.  Sabeen was that man in the 70s wearing a prayer cap with a long beard, eyes wet with streaks of red, who kept reciting Kalma-e-Shahadat, silently as his lips quivered.  Yet Sabeen was also that young teenager with the funky hairdo, wearing a stud in the ear, crying, communicating his pain only through the look on his face.  Sabeen was also all the celebrities who had taken time out to be at the venue and Sabeen was also the people no one knew, but Sabeen did, and they knew Sabeen.

All throughout the hours that day, personal stories of how Sabeen had touched so many lives were pouring through the mumbles and whispers in the crowd, amid sheer pain.  One would find it difficult to understand or comprehend how was it possible for a single individual, ‘Sabeen Mehmud’, to be there for so many, so personally, to be a friend and to make the other feel to be the one and only best friend.


This is who Sabeen was, is and will be.  The light.  The hope.  The enabler.  Sabeen was ‘all inclusive’. Her cause was ‘humanity’.

I have been in mourning for days, yes, due to a personal loss, but much more for a bigger reason.  A reason unfathomable.  I mourn for Pakistan.  I mourn for the world.  For Pakistan and the world is poorer today.

Live amongst people in such a manner