Khush Amdeed (Welcome)

Welcome to Chowraha - crossroads!

Chowraha is the crossroads of thoughts, events, opinions and feelings...all that have been shaped by individuals living in an increasingly complex world inter-connected through various means of communications.

This blog is about the crossroads in society - whether it is those of a diaspora community, global media complicating the structure of nations and cultures, or individuals finding parallels in spaces unknown to them.

The above picture is courtesy a much-admired photographer (Ali Khurshid) whose work is a source of inspiration and reaffirms the belief in the complex beauty of this world.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lessons from Islamabad #manwithgun episode

When the man with the gun, overtook Jinnah avenue in Islamabad, parked his car near the important Blue area and air fired using his Kalashnikov while
smoking and drinking energy drinks, all forms of media joined the
breaking-news bandwagon. Everyone turned into crime experts, terrorism
analysts, police advisers and law enforcement critics. Everyone was more
intelligent than those managing the situation - as is always the case in
Pakistan perhaps. Some found it tragic, whilst others found it entertaining,
yet none could turn away from the story. Lessons learnt? Many actually, and
I want to pen them down before more is learnt about these terrorisers and
I'm proven wrong.

A super bored nation
We are a super bored nation - despite all the bombings, target killings,
drone attacks, spy attacks, honour killings, etc we still find it
entertaining to cling on to a family in Islamabad.

We love drama and especially family drama. His name varied from Sikander
to Kamran and Ramzan, he is said to have a 40 year old Arab wife in Dubai,
he had killed his brother in Sialkot and escaped...we heard it all on TV and
tweeted it!

Women re-defined
Women aren't really that suppressed - here was a partner in crime, very
calm for someone who had no clue what her husband was upto until she was
caught in the situation playing the most crucial negotiating role.

Woman brought sanity - taking care of her husband's demands, the loo her
child needed to go to while on live tv, handling telephone calls, and being
the messenger between police and husband including writing down the demands on a notepad, she was really the saner of the two.

Burka isn't that oppressing - as upsetting as it may be for those human
rights advocates opposing the burka avenger for glorifying the oppressive
burka, this wife of the #manwiththegun should have made them re-think.

An educated nation?
Our media isn't true to its word when it says education is the only key.
To be honest, had they spent even 1% of this time to the Egyptian massacre,
we would have been a more educated nation. A point that calls for

Hollywood or no Hollywood? Our media forgot what it always said about the
lack of education in the country. One of the leading television channels
titled their screen in urdu and translated here "jinnah avenue a scene from
hollywood" but the news anchor kept advising people to move away from the
site of crime, warning that this was not a hollywood movie. says its not
Hollywood movie but that's what their title says I'm confused

Terrorism and consumerism:
Thanks to the breaking news nature of media running out of things to say,
we heard several times that the #manwiththegun was drinking energy drinks.
That couldn't have made a good ad for the energy drink!

At least we are better than General Al-Sisi:
Whereas in Egypt thousands of peaceful protestors can be massacred, at
least we should be proud that we still have humans in our security forces
not killing a single armed man. While young women can be killed ruthlessly
for asking democracy, here a woman aiding her terrorist husband can walk
freely between the police and her car safely.

The media dilemma:
Hamid Mir had little to say about media responsibility but blamed the
government for not knocking sanity into the heads of the media and asking
them to leave. He has a point though. Had media not sensationalised this
event, perhaps as many people as did collect in the area wouldn't have, and
then perhaps the police would have been able to do a better job. But had the
media not been there, someone like Zamarud Khan wouldn't have been disturbed enough to resolve the conflict!

Children have it the worst:
In all of this drama, we can't help but wonder what lasting negative
impact this episode will have on the children. They saw their father
smoking, holding on to weapons, (air)firing, stealing the car at gun point
and then being taken down in the most terrorising way too. What environment
were they growing up in? What will they learn when they will grow up to
google this day in Pakistan history? What will they think when they see the
videos, the analysis, the words and the tweets.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 16, 2013

Family politics - PTI versus JI

What happens when one brother supports PTI and the other JI. You have a highly politicised house that has learnt how to play its own politics within its boundaries.

My blog post published in The Express Tribune 

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When the storm spoke for Imran Khan's PTI

The following blog post has been republished with the permission of the author Fayez Asar and originally appeared as a Facebook note on the author's page - this post is an account of the 23rd March 2013 PTI rally in Lahore, Pakistan. 

10 Magical Minutes at the PTI Jalsa

I wanted to write about the entire Jalsa at the Minar-e-Pakistan on 23rd March 2013, but I’ll save that for another day.  Right now, I just want to write about the last 10 magical minutes of the Jalsa.  Just those last few minutes made my entire trip completely worth it.

The weather was extremely pleasant throughout the day.  It was not too hot to begin with and the occasional light drizzle helped cool everyone down even further.  The mood was extremely festive as it always is at PTI Jalsas.  As expected, the crowd became much more focused once Imran Khan stepped onto the podium.  The crowd knew that this was a special day where he was going to officially kick off PTI’s election campaign by delivering a big speech.  People knew that Imran Khan was going to summarize the principles on which the Naya Pakistan would be built.  All singing and chanting came to a halt as they listened to every word attentively and clapped on all key points with proud passion and discipline.

2013-Mar-23: PTI Jalsa

However, things changed quite dramatically as Imran Khan started making his 6 promises to the nation.  As if his simple and clear promises were not enough to signal a refreshing wind of change, God wanted to give his own signals to the incompetent and corrupt leaders of the old Pakistan.  It was as if God wanted to show them how fierce and decisive the winds of change will be for them.  The drizzle quickly turned into a massive storm with intense thunder, lightning and wind.  Our clothes were completely drenched in rain water in no time.  The wind was so strong that the rain drops were blowing completely horizontally from behind the crowd straight into the strong and broad shoulders of the lion of Pakistan standing before us.  His strength and ferocity in this situation gave energy and courage to his young and old tigers alike.  It felt like each promise shook the very foundations (or whatever is left of it) of the old Pakistan.  With each promise the storm gained strength.

We had promised our leader only moments ago that we would stand there with him no matter how severe the storm got.  We were not going to let him down so soon.  We all stood there until as long as we could see him up on stage.  I turned around and all the nearly half a million of us seemed just as resolute in spite of the dangerous lightning, rain and wind.  We all wanted to make the Jalsa a great success by standing resolute, not realizing that the Jalsa was already a success long before Imran even stepped on the podium.  We did not know that nearly 0.5 million had showed up (there was no internet access there).  We could only guess by seeing how cramped up we all were in such a big park and the fact that we could see a sea of people even outside the park.

By the time Imran Khan was done explaining his third promise, the rain and wind were so strong that we could barely hear him any longer.  The entire crowd around me was convinced that God was signaling his approval of each word being spoken by our truthful and upright leader and the wind was a wind of change and rain was washing away the old, corrupt and incompetent and leaving behind a Naya Pakistan.  The realization that God was very visibly there with us caused everyone to enter a kind of trance where even the calmest of souls were screaming and roaring.  I have never experienced such loud crowd sustained for so long.  This felt like a scene from a movie (a Brave Heart or a Gladiator), except that this was real life and I was right there in the middle of all this.  We could tell that our lion continued with his speech in spite of the storm which added to the drama.  We couldn’t hear him, but that was OK.  He had already promised that he will only speak the truth and will always fight for justice.  We trusted him to continue shaking the foundations of the old Pakistan with each word that he spoke.

Imran Khan inspired everyone in those 10 minutes to become a lion like him.  When he leads, a whole nation follows.  I hope the passion from those 10 minutes spreads like wildfire across all of Pakistan over the next 50 days helping PTI sweep the elections and results in the emergence of a Naya Pakistan soon afterwards.  I hope our flags flutter as proudly as the flags were fluttering in those 10 minutes of wind storm.  I hope the strong and proud shoulders of the young men holding those flags form the foundations of this Naya Pakistan.  I hope my children and their children experience the same kind of pride and passion I did on the 23rd of March, but I hope that pride is based on who we are then and not just based on who we want to be.  The struggle will not be easy just like it wasn’t easy facing the storm that night, but with the right leadership and our resolve we will insha-Allah achieve this dream of a Naya Pakistan.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The debate on the meaning of Pakistan

Pakistan is a state. But what kind of a state is it? Is it a nation state? Is it a country for Pakistanis? If it is then we need to understand who Pakistanis are. Are they a group of people who speak the same language? Or are they from the same race? The only commonality amongst all Pakistanis (or at least 95% of them) is Islam. This is why during the movement for independence of Pakistan the slogan on the tongue of Pakistanis was پاکستان کا مطلب کیا؟ لا الہ الا اللہ (What does Pakistan mean? There is no god but Allah). The slogan was the heart beat of every Muslim of subcontinent who supported a separate homeland. And this is why the leaders of Pakistan movement created a slogan مسلم ہو تو مسلم لیگ میں آو (Muslims should be Muslim Leaguers). These slogans were rationalized by Quaid e Azam in his speech at many occasions. 

One such occasion was his address to Civil, Naval, Military and Air Force officers of the Pakistan government at Khalaqdina hall, Karachi on 11th October, 1947.  He said: “The idea was that we should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play.” 

Just 19 days later (30th October, 1947) in a speech at a rally at the University stadium Lahore; the Quaid categorically said that “We have been the victims of a deeply-laid and well-planned conspiracy executed with utter disregard of the elementary principles of honesty, chivalry and honor. We thank Providence for giving us the courage and faith to fight these forces of evil. If we take our inspiration and guidance from the Holy Quran, the final victory, I once again say, will be ours.

Thus, Pakistan was founded on solid ideological foundation. This ideology was further communicated to the nation by the founding fathers in the form of Objective resolution. The forces of evil are till today conspiring against Pakistan. Our ignorance from our ideology and history is further complicating the situation. 

Many people not aware of Quaid’s vision for Pakistan assume that Pakistan was created to protect the cultural heritage of the Muslims. If that was the case then Quaid e Azam would not have appointed Leopold Weis as the member of “Islamic Education Board” and later as permanent representative of Pakistan to UN in New York. This Leopold Weis (Muhammad Asad) in May 1947 in his column in a magazine “Arafat” said: “It is impossible to create nationalism amongst the Muslims of India on the basis of race because Muslim nation over here is based on diversified racial background. But I am afraid that Pakistan’s ideological basis can be derailed because of another reason. That fear is because of overemphasis on “cultural heritage”. Instead of talking about “common ideological basis”; emphasis is being given on specific cultural, social norms and tradition and common economic benefits. There is no doubt that cultural norms and traditions and economic interests will play an important part in future shaping of the nation. But what needs to be remembered is that these important characteristics cannot be separated from our ideological vision”. 

So it is the strengthening of this ideological vision that will strengthen Pakistan. An ideology whose source of “inspiration and guidance is the Holy Quran”. It is this Holy book that directs us to find the best principles in the character of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him)
لقد کان لکم فی رسول اللہ اسوہ حسنہ
And his example motivates us to create a state on the lines of the Islamic State of Madinah. A state where the cornerstone of the society was love and brotherhood amongst humans. A society that ensured that no rich sleeps while a poor goes hungry. A government that was not only worried about the death of humans due to hunger on its border but also of animals. A country that respects the “family” as an important unit. A state that facilitates humans to recognize God’s love and pursue happiness in his love.

Enemies of such a state – commonly accuse that a state founded on the basis of Islam will be cruel to minorities. But they forget (and so do many Muslims) that an Islamic state does not protect minorities due to its secular duties but also because of its divine ordainment. Prophet’s instruction warns Muslims that he himself will be witness against those Muslims who will oppress minorities. The constitution of Madinah sets an example where the articles regarding Jews read something like:
  • Jews (of the state) will be treated equal and helped. They will not be oppressed and no one will be helped against them.
  • The Jews of Bani Auf along with Muslims will be one political unit. To Jews their religion and to Muslims their religion.  
This is why throughout Muslim history; people of other religions found safe haven in Muslim lands. Spain under Ummayyads and Turkey under Ottomans were the best examples. And this is what the Quaid had in mind when he said:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan.” (Presidential address to the constituent assembly of Pakistan at Karachi on 11th August, 1947)

Only three days later during the transfer of power ceremony; Mountbatten suggested tolerance like in the era of Emperor Akbar. At this the Quaid said:
“The tolerance and goodwill that the Emperor Akbar showed to all the non-Muslims is not of recent origin. It dates back thirteen centuries ago when our prophet (PBUH) not only by words but by deeds treated the Jews and Christians, after he had conquered them, with the utmost tolerance and regard for their faith and beliefs.”

19th January, 2013