By Habib R. Sulemani
ALYS Faiz (1914-2003) was a motherly figure not only for her two talented daughters but also for many of those liberal and educated people who preached love, peace, human values and social justice in Pakistan. As a journalist, human rights activist, social worker and teacher, she endeared herself to all. Being the author of two books, she had also written poems in English, some of them were published in Government College of Lahore’s magazine Ravi.
During my decade-long stay in Lahore, as a silent observer of the literary-scene, I was fascinated by her life-story which made me believe that women are stronger than men and have an immense power and talent for reconciliation and bridging the gaps between two families or nations. Although, Alys was a western woman, she married a man from the east, lived in Pakistan and is now buried here as “daughter of the soil”.
Alys gave courage to many western women who were married to Pakistanis and now live here as citizens. In our society the western woman is portrayed as a stereotype, which is either based on movies, written materials or hearsay stories. The grace of the western woman can be seen through the life of Alys and women like her.
Alys gave many sacrifices. Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s life and poetry have influenced hundreds of thousands of people in one way or the other, but Alys has shaped his life and poetry. A study of Faiz, as a person and a poet, cannot be complete without a study of Alys. Rather I should say she needs a special treat on her own right as a writer and a poet.
Anthologies of Pakistani writers, who write in English, must contain her writings. Her poems, columns, reports, letters and other writings must be published. That will benefit both general readers as well as those who are interested in studying Faiz. Both in happiness and in misery, Alys always stood beside Faiz for 43 years, but God separated them for 19 long years, when Faiz died in 1984.
Now Alys is again standing beside her soul-mate in a Lahore graveyard. Faiz Sahib might be happy in the heavens’ but people do not write poetry from the heavens, so we cannot see his reaction but the legend will go on. (Dawn, March 18, 2003)
PROF ANNEMARIE SCHIMMEL
By Habib R. Sulemani
THE famous orientalist, Dr Annemarie Schimmel (1922-2003), was known for her friendship with Islam and Pakistan. She developed an interest in religion at the tender age of 15 and kept visiting this country since 1958.
Prof Schimmel was the most renowned and esteemed German scholar in the intellectual arena. At home she was given the Peace Prize of the German book trade, which is the most prestigious award for writers in the country, while here in Pakistan she was awarded the coveted awards of Hilal-i-Imtiaz, Sitara-i-Imtiaz and the International Presidential Iqbal Award. Besides naming a road after her, the government of Pakistan has also established the Annemarie Schimmel Scholarship to enable young Pakistanis to pursue studies in Europe.
I had the honour to listen to her lecture in 1996 at the Goethe Institute in Lahore. It was really amazing to hear her speaking her mind with eyes closed. Psychologically, it was a difficult relationship between the speaker and the audience, as obviously she used to disconnect her contacts with the audience — no eye-to-eye contact. It seemed as if she connected herself with a divine power and got her thoughts from it. As it is a common practice here in this society to ask someone’s faith, after the lecture, someone asked her if she had embraced Islam? After a scholarly lecture it was indeed a very difficult question, but she said neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’. Thus, she handled the situation very successfully.
Today, though she is not in this material world of ours, she will be remembered for bridging the gap between the Christian and the Islamic faiths, furthering mutual understanding between the followers of the two religions and cultivating the seeds of tolerance.
After the tragic events of 9/11, cracks are felt in the traditional relationship of civilizations: specially between the Islamic and the Christian worlds. In such a situation we need liberal scholars like Prof Schimmel both in the East and in the West to bridge the gaps.
It is the need of the time because our religion says that we, the people of this small planet, are members of the same family that God has created. Therefore, we need tolerance and a complete understanding of each other for co-existence in this surging global village. Furthermore, we need such scholars who preach love and peace, and not hatred. (Dawn, February 4, 2003)
HOW TO PROMOTE ART AND LITERATURE
By Habib R. Sulemani
DO art and literature still matter? Do we really need a local-intellectual perspective of national and international affairs? What are our national institutions/organizations doing for the development and promotion of art and literature? These are some of the burning questions for those who are anxious about the future of art and literature in Pakistan.
Art and literature are facing great challenges globally and serious efforts are being made to counter them in the developed world. But looking at the state of affairs in the developing countries, it seems that art and literature are “clinically dead” and the intelligentsia is no more capable of guiding society in keeping with the needs of the 21st century. To be a writer or a painter in Pakistan today means to be prepared to undertake financial and social hardship.
There are few writers and painters in this country who write or paint as full-time professionals and make a living out of it. For the majority, art and literature is a labour of love. They have to undertake other jobs to make both ends meet.
Unfortunately, the education system in the country is not meeting the social and cultural needs of the people. Illiteracy is the root cause of all evils. In this state of ignorance and lack of creativity how will we ever meet the challenges of the new century?
No government can reform society and bring about progress and prosperity without the intellectual development of the people. It is a matter of fact that most of our national institutions/organizations concerned with the promotion of art and literature are virtually dormant. They are scattered, in a state of decay and are inefficient. Millions of rupees are drained out by these organizations every year without their producing any output.
The managements of these organizations consist mostly of non-professionals who are paid substantial salaries but are unable to do justice to their jobs. Many of these positions are filled by people who the government wants to reward for political services. Many of them would be a big burden on the taxpayer while the standard publications being produced in the country are in the private sector.
There are said to be more than a dozen government-run organizations said to be working for the development and promotion of art and literature in the country. Many others are sponsored directly or indirectly by the federal, provincial and local governments. Some of the most prominent ones are: Pakistan Academy of Letters, National Language Authority (Muqtadira Qaumi Zaban), National Book Foundation, Urdu Science Board, Writer’s Guild, Majlis-i-Tarraqi-i-Adab, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Institute of Islamic Culture, Urdu Dictionary Board, Jinnah Papers Project, Alhamra Arts Council, Lok Virsa, Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA), Punjab Arts Council.
Additionally, the Federal Ministry of Information publishes a monthly literary magazine Mah-i-Nau and a weekly Pak Jamhooriat from Lahore. The Punjab Civil Secretariat in Lahore also publishes a magazine Urdu Akhbar while the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation’s (PBC) monthly magazine Aahang is also known as a semi-literary magazine. Anjuman-i-Tarraqi-i-Urdu Adab, Maghrabi Pakistan Urdu Academy, Centre for Persian Research, Pashto Academy, Urdu Academy, Sindh Adabi Board, Pashto Adabi Board, Punjabi Adabi Board and Balochi Adabi Board are also intended for the promotion of art and literature. Paradoxically, the Gilgit-Baltistan region which is the “anthropological garden” of Pakistan has no government-owned or sponsored organization for the promotion of art and literature.
This bird’s eye view of the literary scene in the country makes it clear that the process of “right-sizing” in the public sector must benefit art and literature as well. For this purpose our national organizations need serious reform. I would suggest the merger of many of the government-run organizations which are scattered and superfluous into an autonomous Academy of Arts and Letters which should be run professionally. Its goal should be to promote art and literature in the country and project it abroad. A professional chief executive officer should run the academy under the guidelines of a board of governors consisting of intellectuals, academics, writers, poets, painters, journalists, scientists, sociologists, businessmen and people from the performing arts. The academy should not be under the control or influence of the government even though it is funded from the treasury. Thus alone can the literary talent in the country be scouted and given an opportunity to find expression. (Dawn, Books & Authors, March 30, 2003) [http://www.dawn.com/weekly/books/archive/030330/books7.htm]
THE QUEST FOR PEACE
Reviewed by Habib R. Sulemani
UNTIL recently, non-Muslim Pakistanis, known as religious minorities, were somewhat totally out of the national mainstream. Politically they had a separate electoral system and from textbooks to everyday-life, they would ‘softly’ complain about discriminations being served to them.
But after 9/11, the president accelerated his social reforms of ‘enlightened moderation’ due to emerging global pressure. Due to the reforms many religious minorities are gradually gaining confidence and they no longer consider themselves condemned second-class citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. They are now feeling the zest to play an active social rule in the Muslim-dominated country in a pluralistic way.
Violence, Memories and Peace-building: A citizen report on minorities in India and Pakistan is an effort to reinstate that a religious minority in India is the majority in Pakistan and vice versa — and religious minorities have the same difficulties on either side of the boarder and they must be addressed seriously.
The report is also an effort to highlight the positive social role of the minorities during the violent partition when almost one million people were killed on the basis of their faith. During that violent time many Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were thirsty for each others’ blood — yet there were people in all communities who had faith in humanity at large and they saved the lives of many from other religious groups. They also helped many migrants reach their destinations and some even sacrificed their own lives and properties for the cause.
The report is divided into ten major sections along with three supplementary parts and an introduction. The first section deals with the colonial face of India and states that despite the political strife and mutual friction, the ancient Indian state was a centre of different religions and cultures, which coexisted for centuries. But the British Raj divided the people into ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ groups to keep itself in power. This section also traces the history of Christians, Parsis and the Theosophical Society in South Asia and highlights their philanthropic services.
The second section is about minorities in Pakistan after the partition. According to which the founding party, the Pakistan Muslim League, had been divided into two groups — Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan led those who were insisting on observing Islamic principles in the new country while Finance Minister Ghulam Mohammad led the secular group. The report explains how an Urdu newspaper (Nawa-i-Waqat) started a campaign against the liberal ideas of the founding father, Quaid-i-Azam, who was championing the rights of religious minorities in the new country.
This section also traces the history of early militancy in the country with the emergence of Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan’s organisation Sarfaroshaan-i-Islam — aimed to ‘conquer East Punjab and unfurl Pakistan’s flag on Delhi’s Red Fort.’
Memories of partition, violence, trauma, hope and harmony are the subjects of the next two sections. The compilers have gathered stories of love, generosity, hope and peace from people of different faiths from across the border. There are so many stories and eyewitness accounts of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis, which make the reader believe that humanity has no religion, cast or creed. These real-life stories and events give one hope for the emergence of a peaceful South Asian region.
Kalyan Singh’s story is an example of the centuries-old traditional Hindu-Muslim tolerance in the region. During the 1969 riots in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Hindu gangs raided an area of the city where 35 Muslim houses were scattered among 120 Hindu houses in the neighbourhoods. When asked to identify the Muslim houses, the Hindus of the area refused and the gangs resorted to setting all the houses in the neighbourhood on fire out of frustration. When a resident of the area, Mr Singh, was later asked: ‘Why did you let your property worth two lakhs be reduced to ashes?’ he answered: ‘They [Muslims] are like our kith and kin, and we address them as uncles and cousins. If we had allowed their places to be burnt down — with what face would we have gone to our Maker?’
Political and constitutional activism among minorities in Pakistan and India has been discussed in sections six and seven. Contributions of minorities to both countries are the topic of the next two sections and the tenth section is about the ‘hateful images’ portrayed in school curriculums, which alleges that successive governments in Pakistan have used textbooks for propagating their ‘biased outlook’ towards history, politics, society and religion. The outcome is an intolerant and prejudiced generation which is the reason for the nation’s backwardness.
Finally, the researchers have provided peace-building measures and recommendations for both Pakistan and India. References and a selected bibliography are also available. Despite some narrative, editing and compilation flaws this is a unique report with stunning pictures, memories, historical events and human sentiments. It is neither a typical research paper, nor a historical account written in the traditional way — rather it is a report of the common people, by the people and for the people. It looks at history from the public’s vantage point.
The bitterness, rivalry and enmity of decades in the subcontinent will not change over night but such reports and other peace-building measures at every level would increase the pace of reconciliation. The report is a must-read for all those who are interested in the region’s history and politics. It is also useful reference material for researchers, scholars and media personnel.
Violence, Memories and Peace-building: A citizen report on minorities in India and Pakistan
Compiled and edited by Ahmad Salim, Nosheen D’souza and Leonard D’souza
South Asian Research & Resource Centre (SARRC), Islamabad
264pp. Price not listed (Dawn, Books & Authors, October 21, 2007) [http://www.dawn.com/weekly/books/archive/071021/books7.htm]
By Habib R. Sulemani
(GEORGE BUSH’S WAR ON TERROR HAS HAD AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON PAKISTAN’S CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY)
“HUMAN beings are members of a family God created on this planet. Whatever belief, religion or race we may have, it doesn’t matter to God. He is the Creator of those who believe in Him and of those who don’t. All religions teach love and peace, but if a member of a faith is misbehaving with another that is not the fault of the faith, but a problem with the individual. There should be an open dialogue among the people of different faiths and cultures so that we can feel ourselves under the umbrella of the same God, whom we have given different names.”
I pasted this message on the Internet, soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US and got a tremendous response, especially from the Western Netizens. Some were amazed that Pakistanis can also think like that! On my part, it was an individual effort to calm down the aggressive chat-rooms and start an inter-faith dialogue based on rational. But after the US-lead attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, a big gap between Islam and Christianity (Western World, especially the US) has become obvious.
Today terrorism is a global issue and efforts are being made to deal with this menace. Despite rapid accusations, US President George W. Bush has assured on many occasions that the American actions are not against the Muslim world, but the terrorists who are killing innocent people. The President of Pakistan, Pervaiz Musharraf has also claimed recently that he is trying to bridge the gap between Islam and the Western World. These efforts of bridging the gaps is taking place at the macro or state level by politicians and governments. But, there is a dire need for a people-to-people contact or efforts of peace and harmony at the micro or gross root level, so that religious, social and political misconceptions between the two greatest faiths of the world are minimized, if not removed totally.
Recently I came across two organizations in the Twin-Cities: The Christian Study Centre (CSC) and the Liberal Forum Pakistan (LFP). These two are working for peace and harmony among the Muslim majority and religious minorities in Pakistan, through inter-faith dialogue at the gross-root level. Christian and Muslim intellectuals are running these two organizations. I visited both and it was really encouraging to find that intellectuals, writers, poets and people related to the arts in our society are not silent in these difficult times and are working for the promotion of tolerance and peace.
Mahboob Frances Sada, director of the Christian Study Centre (CSC) in Rawalpindi said, “After 9/11 the (Pakistani) Christians are suffering with hidden-fear which never existed before.”
No doubt, minorities have also played a vital role during the struggle for Pakistan. They are patriotic citizens of this country. However, “Today, some people are thinking that Americans are Christians, but the fact is that the majority of them are non-believers — moreover, America’s agenda is political not religious. If America’s agenda were religious, there would have a Christian majority in Pakistan. Even we are not getting a US-visa easily. Thus we are suffering in both ways,” Mahboob said in an interview with Dawn.
“People need to be educated and properly communicated the realities. Inter-faith harmony is a slow process and it takes time,” he continued.
“I hope this situation of horror and mistrust will finish soon and the brotherhood of the past will return back to our society. Symptoms are already appearing on the scene. Sometime back people were not even willing to sit together. But now they are going to share things once again.
“In July this year, my mother died. On this difficult occasion my Muslim friends came to my aid and shared my grief. I live amongst them. I have five children and my Muslim sisters raised them. We love each other. We should discover the things that separate human beings from each other. We should build a society where at least man should breath freely.
“Some events happened just because of ignorance, there are ignorant people everywhere. It is the need of time to built a society based on justice, love, truth, equality, harmony, peace and human values, so that there is happiness and prosperity for all. Pakistan’s very existence depends on mutual respect. Those who are doing the business of hatred should be accountable.” He concluded.
“I don’t like the word ‘minority’ — it is a discriminatory term which should be avoided,” says Gulmina Bilal, of the Liberal Forum, in Islamabad. “We have a tradition that we start our meetings with the recitations from the Holy Quran, the Bible and Gita. We take the society in the holistic perspective.
“Indeed after 9/11 a big change on the state level has taken place, but on the ground people were peace-loving and even today they want it in our daily lives.”
Gulmina recognizes that today we have more freedom of thought and expression, which was not before. “But still there is hesitation and we can’t express ourselves clearly (as it should be in a democratic society) — anyhow now we are heard at least and the world community is also ready to help those who want to work for social betterment in our society. It is a good sign.”
Dominic John, a Christian social worker and teacher in Rawalpindi said, “Principally we don’t like the army in power, but under President General Pervaiz Musharraf minorities feel safe. The social and political changes brought by him gave strength to the minorities and they feel themselves in the main stream now.
“Before the election reforms, the Christians of the Rawalpindi constituency used to go to Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed and he would refer them to J. Salik who would in turn be unavailable. But now Sheikh Sahib hears us carefully because he has to get our vote in the next elections — it is indeed a great change. Now we are valued as citizens of Pakistan, “ he concluded.
“After 9/11, Pakistan’s foreign policy changed. Siding with the US enraged (a lot of) people, thus there is hatred in the society. Our people need to be educated that Christians are not from America or any other country, they belong to this very land and are our own brothers,” says Prof Dr Rukhsana Masood, a social scientist and Chairperson Sociology Department, Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad. In Pakistan some think that the US and other western countries are helping and promoting the Christian community. But according to Dr Rukhsana, “This is not true, if it was so then the hundreds of thousands of Christians, who are sweepers and are in the lowest class in our society, would have reached a good social status.”
There are some 15 million Christians (Catholics and Protestants) in Pakistan. They are mostly in the profession of teaching, health and sweeping.
If efforts to remove the root cause of aggressive behaviour and terrorism are made and at every level efforts to bridge the gaps wherever they happen are continued effectively, only then can it be hoped that in the next five to ten years’ time the world could be entirely different from the one, today we live in. (Dawn, November 16, 2003) [http://www.dawn.com/weekly/dmag/archive/031116/dmag6.htm]
A WAR VICTIM’S CRY FOR PEACE
By Habib R. Sulemani
(INDIA-PAKISTAN WARS HAVE CREATED WIDOWS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER)
THE other day I had a phone call from the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. I was pleased to know that after Pakistan’s announcement of ceasefire and an equal response from India, there is now peace on both sides of the LoC. Thus signs of hope for permanent peace and a new life are appearing on either side after a long enmity of 56 years with many clashes and wars, particularly in 1948, 1965, 1971 and in 1999.
As, on both sides, the guns are silent. This has allowed not only the scared human beings to freely go about their business, but it has also given the birds, opportunity to begin their much forgotten chirping. If this continues then the fire-pouring soil will turn into lush-green in the coming spring, as it was originally intended. Signs of life are seemingly replacing death-sirens, which is a good omen not only for some 1.5 billion people of the South Asian region but for the stability of the world as well.
Pakistan and India are two nuclear powers of Asia. The world has been fearful of a nuclear clash between the two archrivals, which would have catastrophic for the entire world. So there was immense pressure on both to come to the negotiation table to resolve their longstanding disputes through peaceful means. But fortunately, they have realized now the sensitivity of the ‘new world’ and are seeking friendship and peace. It is dead sure that the people of both countries are now tired of the traditional war mongering attitudes of their rulers. The growing poverty and unemployment in the region has changed the meaning of the traditional ‘patriotism’ and the rhetorical statements of the governments and politicians have no more any appeal for the common man.
The recent elections in India prove this changing attitude, where out of the four states, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ruling party, BJP, won in three states. It was an endorsement of his government’s policies toward a better relation with neighbouring Pakistan. People think now that their economical conditions can only be better and prosperity can come their way when the two countries finish their enmity and start better mutual relations.
The leadership of both the countries, have to be equally flexible for the success of permanent peace and stability in the region. They have to break the inertia, because this is what the people want. Rationality is the need of the time. The war mongering elements, emotional literature and pieces of arts, rhetoric speeches/statements and bitter events should now be buried in the grave of the past for a better future for the coming generations. Only this way the demands of the ‘Cyber Age’ can be fulfilled. Even those people whose families were directly affected by the long enmity of both countries are also willing to bring peace. They want an end to revenge and destruction of poor families on either side of the border. This is their moral support for their leadership.
Nazir Begum, the 60-year-old widow of Major Muhammad Hanif Malik (Shaheed), Sitara Jur’at (SJ) is one of the hundreds of thousands victims of Pak-Indo wars, who is appealing to both the governments to bring peace. Her husband was martyred during the 1971 war, on December 3, in Hussain Walla border, Kusoor (Punjab), soon after his 41-Baloch regiment of the Pakistan army conquered the famous fort of ‘Qasr-i-Hind’.
“The wars between Pakistan and India have destroyed entire families and generations. There are hundreds of thousand widows and orphans of wars everywhere. War is a curse and it should be avoided. It has given us nothing but snatched everything. Now, if there is a truce and reconciliation it will be better,” Nazir Begum said while talking to Dawn at her residence in Rawalpindi.
Nazir Begum was married to his cousin Major Hanif in 1966. At that time she was barely 19 and his husband was almost 30 years old. Their happily married life lasted, unfortunately, five years latter, when war broke-out. She became a widow at the tender age of 24.
“My daughter was three and half years old then, while my only son was born just one month after the death of his father. There was complete darkness and I was left alone,” she says.
Nazir Begum is a lean and thin soft-spoken, polite and graceful old-lady. Before she could speak, her grey hair and deep dark fearful eyes told her tragic story.“My painful life is worth a novel, not just an article, son” she said with a gloomy voice, she told me. “When my husband was martyred, I was given a piece of land and Rs300,000. I sold the land and bought this house in Rawalpindi. I bought this house and since, I lived a dignified life; never requested anybody for help. My husband’s Rs1100 pension helped me raise my two children. My son got scholarship regularly and that reduced my financial burden. Now he gets Rs7000 from his job, the pension and the rent of a portion of the house is helping us make our ends meet.”
One can just imagine the agony of a young woman in this male dominated society, who is widowed at 24, with two kids and decides not to marry again and raise her kids despite all odds.“After becoming a widow, I never wore good colour clothes. My shirt, trouser and scarf would always make no combination. I wouldn’t comb my hair in months and thus I would look like a beggar. My mother-in-law lost her senses after the death of my husband. She slept on his grave, from morning till night, in hot and cold weather, in the hope to hear his voice. She died 10 years after the death of her son.
“Despite an offer I did not let my only son to join the Army. Because I was too scared. A child who has not seen the face of his father, what will be his state of mind? It is unimaginable. Due to my limited income yet I have not married him (son). My husband’s batch fellows have retired as generals; if he could have lived this long, today we would have had a different lifestyle. Those, whose families and quiet lives were destroyed by wars, what remains for them in life? But as a Shaheed (martyr) we are proud of my husband. That is our religious faith.”
Advocating for peace she said, “Our entire family is in the Army and there are such houses where more then one person lost his life in a war between Pakistan and India. Now there should be peace — no more wars and sufferings. Today our economic problems have increased many times than the past. Even the price of vegetable has run out of the common people’s reach. Joblessness is destroying lives of the youth. The use of narcotics has increased and suicides are on the rise. Incompetent and corrupt successive governments took advantage of the war-like situations — it should all come to an end now. We can hope for peace only. There is no remedy to the sufferings my children and I went through, but if there is a permanent truce between Pakistan and India at least there will be no more people like us,” she said.
It is true that our dreams of peace can come true only when the governments of Pakistan and India are take big initiatives.“President General Pervaiz Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee have the writ and power to bring peace in this region,” says Mrs Saiqa Malik, daughter of Major Hanif (Shaheed).
“Out of our countries and on the Internet I have seen tolerance and respect for each other. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians all respect each other’s faiths. The hatred is only within the governments and now there should be an end to it.”Saiqa denounced war and said she has just a vivid memory of his father, who died when she was just three-and-half years old.“My younger brother and my life has remained empty of the presence of a father, but our mother did not let us realize it,” she concluded.
Indeed war has given us nothing except miseries. In 1948 my grandfather Mr Snober, in the 1965 my elder uncle Mr Ghulam Akber and in 1971 my younger uncle Mr Amirullah became disabled for life, one after another; while in 1999 my younger brother Ajaz Rehman was martyred in Kargil. No doubt, we are proud of their services to the nation. But today, like millions of other peace-loving people of Pakistan and India, my family and I have also a dream for permanent peace so that happiness and prosperity can touch our lives as well.
President Musharaf as a solder and Prime Minister Vajpayee as a poet/intellectual know better, the importance of peace over war — so let us hope our dreams of peace will come true and the disgusting chapter of hostilities will meet an end. (Dawn, January 11, 2004) [http://archives.dawn.com/dawnftp/22.214.171.124/dawnftp/weekly/dmag/archive/040111/dmag5.htm]
A CRY FOR JUSTICE
By Habib R. Sulemani
(AFTER HEARING ABOUT TARIQ KHAN WHO IS IMPRISONED IN A SAUDI JAIL ON FALSE CHARGES BY HIS BOSS, AND THE AGONY HIS FAMILY IS GOING THROUGH, ONE WONDERS HOW CRUEL MAN CAN GET)
THE 1980s saw the hype to go to the Middle East to earn a livelihood reach its peak. Phrases like Dubai chalo (let’s go to Dubai) became famous throughout the country. As a result, many people from Pakistan, specially from the rural areas, went to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and other Gulf states. Besides professionals, a majority of these people consisted of the labour class.
Muhammad Tariq Khan was a young and energetic man in his 20s at the time when the cry was raised. He lived in Sherwan, a small village 35kms from Abbottabad. They were four brothers and one sister. His father, Haji Muhammad Ashraf Khan, had retired from the Pakistan Army and worked at a nearby school to make ends meet. Tariq had had some formal schooling, but due to poverty he could not continue his education. Like many young men at that time, he dreamed of going to the Gulf region for better opportunities.
Lady Luck favoured him and he got a sponsorship in Saudi Arabia to work with a beverage company and left with a lot of hope and prayers in 1982. Young and energetic, Tariq worked day and night and in a short span of time, he won the heart of his Saudi employer, Sheikh Hussain S. Al-Amoudi, the owner of Al-Amoudi Beverages Industries, Jeddah.
Tariq thought it safe to keep his salary with his Saudi employer rather than with himself, thinking to draw a huge amount on his final return home. In 1984, one of his brothers, Muhammad Taimour Khan, died in a road accident. Tariq went on a short visit to grieve his brother’s death. It was his first visit in two years. Then Tariq came to Pakistan for his marriage in 1990. This was his second visit to Pakistan which lasted for some two months. When Adeel Tariq, his only son, was born, Tariq was away from home. Tariq wished to see his son, but Sheikh Hussain S. Al-Amoudi didn’t let him go.
Tariq had become a major employee of the Sheikh’s business and there was no alternative available to take care of affairs in his absence. The Sheikh promised Tariq to let him go home in the near future. Time passed and in 1994, Tariq got the first shock of his life — the news of his son’s death whom he couldn’t even see. Determined to go home, he approached the Sheikh who again declined permission. The Sheikh had started a new business in Makkah and Madina, and Tariq had become the in charge.
Tariq’s father, Haji Muhammad Ashraf Khan, was suffering from cancer and wished to see his son. In 1997, he finally died. This time Tariq decided to go visit his hometown and requested the Sheikh for a short leave, who again bluntly refused. He refused to return Tariq his passport and other documents (which he had collected from Tariq at the beginning of his job), and even refused to pay him his dues and savings.
The death of his only son and then his father upset Tariq and he argued with Sheikh Hussain S. Al-Amoudi, which the latter declared an ‘act of insult’ from a foreigner (kharji) to a native (kafeel).“I’ll teach you a lesson,” the Sheikh threatened Tariq.According to his family members, with the help of a police officer in Madina (Mudeer-i-Madina), the Sheikh sent Tariq to prison.“Taking advantage of Tariq’s ignorance of Saudi laws, his cruel kafeel (boss) charged him with financial misconduct worth SR28,000, which he later on increased to SR566,089, and sent Tariq to jail,” Javed Khan, his brother-in-law said.
When the case appeared in a Saudi court, it passed the following verdict: “This is a court decision against a Pakistani national, Muhammad Tariq Khan, who did fraud with his kafeel while he was there as a storekeeper. The defender, Mr Tariq, admitted the allegation. This court decided that the defender should pay SR566,089 to his kafeel.” (Dated: Hijra 06-08-1419)
About the Saudi court verdict, Javed Khan, a graduate from Peshawar University, said, “His former employer, Sheikh Hussein S. Al-Amoudi, deceived my brother-in-law by telling him that if he confessed to the charges, he would be let out of prison after some time, otherwise he would get his hands cut off. Thus, a frightened Tariq confessed to all the charges against him.”Javed adds, “The Sheikh made a false case, without any proof, and threatened Tariq into accepting it, and on that acceptance the Saudi court of law gave its decision.
Thus, the honourable court itself was also misguided/deceived.“Actually, the Sheikh didn’t want to pay Tariq his life-long savings, which he kept with him. He tried to get rid of Tariq by sending him to jail. With the charge of embezzling a huge amount, the Sheikh has almost made it impossible for Tariq to get out.”
Tariq Khan’s father-in-law, Ahmed Sultan, with his attorney, went to Saudi Arabia to meet Sheikh Hussein S. Al-Amoudi in 1999. According to him, the Sheikh told them that he loves Tariq more than his own son, because he did good business for his company. The Sheikh told Ahmed Sultan that he had forgiven Tariq and he would soon be freed from prison.
“We waited anxiously for Tariq’s arrival, but instead of freeing Tariq from prison, he increased his claim from SR566,089 to SR7,000,000, an unimaginable amount for poor people like us. This came as a rude shock and we tried to contact the Pakistani Consulate in Jeddah,” Ahmed Sultan said.
After hectic appeals to the government, Tariq’s family took up the matter directly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan. The Pakistan Consulate in Jeddah recently informed through letter no CWA/01/377 (J) /2002, dated March 1, 2003, that the Community Welfare Attache “held a meeting with Sheikh Hussein S. Al-Amoudi, former employer of Mr Muhammad Tariq Khan on January 20, 2003, and he agreed to cooperate with the Consulate General of Pakistan in securing the release of Mr Khan from prison, in case Mr Khan agrees to collect the outstanding money from the creditors and deposit the same in the company account.”
The Community Welfare Attache of the Pakistan Consulate adds, “I visited the Bariman Jail in Jeddah on Feb 23, 2003. However, the jail authorities informed me that Mr Muhammad Tariq Khan had already been released therefrom.” The Community Welfare Attache, in his letter, inquires, “We have taken up the matter with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Makkat-ul-Mukarramah Region Branch, Jeddah, to know the present status of his case. Meanwhile, it is requested to confirm from Mrs Ajaib Khan if her son has actually been released or not.”
Some relatives visited the Bariman Jail in Jeddah to confirm the above claim of Tariq’s release. They were shocked to know that Tariq is still in the same jail and tragically, he has lost his memory and sense. Due to a serious illness, he has lost a lot of weight and now weighs a mere 45 pounds. He is so weak that he can’t even move without help.
“Tariq Khan’s case speaks volumes about the inefficiency of our missions abroad,” says Mahboob Rahman, a journalist of the Hazara division. “There are many innocent Pakistani citizens languishing in foreign prisons and the government needs to run a campaign to free them.”
In an appeal to the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, Tariq Khan’s mother, Mrs Ajaib Sultan, says with tears in her eyes, “If we had that much money (as claimed by the Sheikh) we would never have sent our beloved son so far away from home to suffer this much in the first place. I am on my deathbed and it is my last wish to see my son before leaving this cruel world.
“Is there anybody to tell the Sheikh that he has punished Tariq enough — his only son and father died in his absence, I’m on my deathbed, Tariq himself has lost his senses, his wife has become old without him, our family is totally destroyed — what else does the Sheikh want from us, what will be his answer to Allah on the Day of Judgment?” Tariq’s mother cries out.
“Is there anybody to convey the cries of a poor old mother to the ruler the sacred land of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) and to free my son from prison? Who will convey my request to the Imam-i-Ka’aba and Masjid-i-Nabvi to free my innocent son who is languishing in prison?” Tariq’s mother adds.
“I can only request the governments of the two Islamic countries (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) for the release of my innocent husband, whom I have not seen after marriage. If something happens to my husband in jail, on the Day of Judgment I will seek justice from Allah against the Sheikh and the heads of the two Islamic governments,” says Tariq’s suffering wife, Sabiha Bibi.
“We appeal to all of humanity in the name of Allah to help us release Tariq from prison. We request the Custodian of the holy shrines, Shah Fahad, Crown Prince Abdullah, the President of Pakistan, Pervaiz Musharraf, Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, President Muslim League (Q) Chaudhry Shujaat, Human Rights Commission and activists in both the countries and around the world to help us get Tariq released from prison on humanitarian grounds,” says Javed Khan.
Looking at the suffering of Tariq Khan’s family, no person can hold back tears and wonder how cruel man can get. (Dawn, September 14, 2003) [http://www.dawn.com/weekly/dmag/archive/030914/dmag19.htm]
PAKISTAN ON THE CYBER MAP
By Habib R. Sulemani
EXPERTS say the Internet is changing forever the way we think and share. It is affecting the wider culture even for those who never use it. It is not just a way of sending a letter without a stamp or a full colour leaflet without a printer’s bill. It can create communities of people, which are non-geographic and international. It can empower people by giving access to knowledge and information. It can remove barriers and bring people together. The Internet brought many new things and terms to the society. Terms like information technology, e-mail, e-commerce, cyber chatting, netizens etc are now in common use and many new things and terms are taking birth with the passage of time.
Pakistan has started a big and difficult journey on the ‘Cyber Highway.’ Today some 450 cities and towns of Pakistan are connected to the World Wide Web and more connections are expected. Looking at the discussions in the corridors of power, it seems as e-commerce and e-governments are evolving out of the tradition — almost all of the main government departments, organisations and institutions have now their own websites and the concept of "paper free office" seems will become a reality very soon. During the 2000 presidential elections in the United States of America (USA), the Internet was used as a tool for electoral campaigns for the first time in history and it is really amazing that within two years’ time it was fallowed in Pakistan, where in the general elections of 2002, some political parties used this new tool (Internet) for their election campaigns and now are also using it for political gains. Indeed it is a big change in the political approach of politicians and policy makers. From this point it is crystal clear that Internet’s role in the next elections will become vital, because, the cyber community or ‘netizens’ are increasing rapidly in number.
Day by day the Internet is penetrating into the daily life of the people very deeply. Pakistan’s 70 per cent rural population is also joining the cyber world and with the use of the Internet ‘urbanisation’ is taking place and the ‘great divide’ between the rural and urban societies is taking a new shape. Now, at least in the field of information a ‘rural guy’ is not less equal to a ‘shehri babu’ or ‘urban guy.’ The Internet has made the world a ‘Global Village’ in the real sense. It has become an integral part of the civilised world. After food, clothing and housing a computer set (PC) has become an equal need for all those who can afford it at home. For many use it at many places to meet their needs.
Not only in Pakistan but also throughout the Third World countries Internet has opened many doors of opportunities. For the conservative traditionalist it has made life difficult as well. But for the majority, especially the young ones it has provided a chance to achieve their dreams. They think it a blessing, which has exposed everything to them. Many activists, religious and political leaders have chosen to use the net to help and strengthen their fellows or followers.
There were cyber-communities but now virtual countries have also taken birth. Thus a new style of politics has started in the world we live in today. Each day, more and more people are reaching out to join the cyber world. Our behaviour, everyday life and the entire sociology, are changing at this primary stage of the 21st century. Thus there are many a great challenges to the mankind as a whole. The Internet has played a vital part making the people aware about human rights, peace, environmental issues, terrorism, and other social problems. It has provided a new way for businessmen to reach their wanted markets.
Once there was a trend to become ‘doctor’ or ‘engineer’. Then came the ‘MBA-boom’ and now there is the information technology (IT) euphoria. Everywhere IT institutions are mushrooming and big cities are special targets for those who want to make smart money out of this boom. Thus bogus IT institutes and ‘plaza universities’ are emerging rapidly. These fake educational institutes (without proper facilities and non-qualified staff) are making huge money as the MBA institutions set a trend for them. Thus half literate so-called ‘IT specialists’ are coming out of these institutions adding to the unemployed lot of the country. Therefore, all of the changes in our society can’t be viewed favourably. The Internet is both dangerous and helpful just like any tool or instrument. To avoid any misshape social awareness about this new medium is a must.
Copyrights and security problems, especially cyber crimes are emerging on the surface. After some unpleasant events Pakistan has finally formed a ‘cyber police’ to counter heinous crimes committed through the Internet. It is said that recently some ‘al-Qaeda’ suspects were caught only because of their ‘cyber activities’.
Pakistan has taken a good initiative in the direction of information technology but there is a long way to go on. Today there is this impression that the aggressive start of Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rehman as a federal minister of science and technology has become slow now. This is a challenge for his young successor Awais Leghari today. A failure in the field of IT will have dire consequences for the future of this nation. If the government wants to see Pakistan on the ‘cyber map’ of the world, like India, then it should do some basic things:-
• The government must attract investors in cyber (IT) projects.
• Make sure that quality IT education is provided to the students who are paying heavy fees.
• Keep a check on fake institutions and the rule and regulations of the Higher Education Authority must be followed strictly.
• Telephone and Internet services should be available to every corner of the country and there should be a reduction in the rates/bills. For the far-flung rural parts of the country, like Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan etc there must be a special rebate in the bills so that the poor are practically involved in e-business and other cyber activities to change the lifestyle.
• The ministries and other government owned organisations should maintain regularly updated websites, so that there is a good impression on the visitors especially from the foreign countries.
• Computers and other IT related tools should be available at cheap rates so that common people’s reach is made possible to the new way of life. (The News International, Oct 23 2003) [http://www.jang-group.com/thenews/oct2003-daily/23-10-2003/oped/o6.htm]
NO GO FOR NGOS?
By Habib R. Sulemani
(THE WRITER PRESENTS THE CHANGING FACE OF NGOS AND THE CHALLENGES THEY ARE FACING IN THE 21ST CENTURY)
IN Pakistan, the word ‘NGO’ has become a controversial one. For the common man, it represents a foreign-funded organization (read West) where good looking, educated men and women work together in huge offices and drive expensive vehicles. Such people are often referred as the ‘mummy-daddy-group’ or the ‘burger-family’.
Lay people make fun of them in their private sittings — thus gaining pleasure and inspiration both at once. Is there any truth to the theory that NGOs have always been confused about their identity in society? NGOs undoubtedly face resistance from many corners of society for their alleged weak points.
In the post 9/11 era, the NGO-phenomenon has undergone big changes. Many NGOs are being showered with unaccountable sums of money, some are banned and others have had their accounts frozen. Although the scenario is not yet clear since the dust of terrorism is not settling down, let us analyze the phenomenon.
Sociologists have defined a non-governmental organization (NGO) as “an independent, flexible, democratic, secular, non-profit people’s organization working for assisting in the empowerment of economically and socially marginalized groups.”
According to the World Bank an NGO is a “private organization that pursues activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development.”
In wider usage, the term NGO can be applied to any non-profit, value-based organization, which depends, in whole or in part, on charitable donations and voluntary services. NGOs range from large charities such as IUCN, CARE, Oxfam, World Vision, Islamic Relief and the Aga Khan Development Network to community based small and self-help groups.
They also include research institutes, mosques, churches, temples, professional associations and lobby groups etc. NGOs are operating in almost all countries of the world.
A good proportion of NGOs are based in the US and Europe. Besides these, Far Eastern and Middle Eastern based and home-grown NGOs are also present. They mostly work in Africa, Asia and Latin America, but are also operating in Europe and North America with a different methodology.
Many of the NGOs have relationships with inter-governmental organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, IMF, the Asian Development Bank, the European Union, International Labour Organization, the World Trade Organization and International Committee of the Red Cross.
The majority of NGOs work primarily on three issues: environmentally sustainable development; human rights and women in development. They have been classified into many categories which are involved in advocacy and lobbying, policy issues and debates, emergency relief, rehabilitation and implementation of development projects/programmes.
They also work in the fields of children/youth, communications, conflict resolution, disarmament, disaster relief, drug abuse, education, environment, ethics/values, family, health/nutrition, human resources, law, natural resources, peace, security, religion, trade, finance, transport, population welfare, refugees, science and technology.
With the process of globalization and free market economy, societies around the world have changed a lot over the years and NGOs are being encouraged as packets of change. Governments and international organizations consult them in matters of public interest. A major part of development aid is channeled through NGOs, which has made a significant impact on the social, economic and political activity of a country or a region involved, particularly in the developing world.
Consequently, NGOs have become influential in world affairs. The pros and cons of NGOs have been discussed since the very beginning — not only amongst people but also in the corridors of power. The nature and quality of NGOs varies greatly and it is extremely difficult to make generalizations about the sector as a whole.
Generally NGOs have strong grassroots links and field-based development expertise. They have the ability to innovate and adapt to society through their process-oriented approach to development. Participatory methodology, long-term commitment, emphasis on sustainability and cost-effectiveness are the main features of NGOs.
These organizations have the ability to experiment freely with innovative approaches and, if necessary, to take risks. They are flexible in adapting to local situations and responding to local needs. Therefore, NGOs are able to develop integrated and sectoral projects.
They enjoy a good understanding with people and can render micro-assistance to their needs. They have the ability to communicate at all levels, from the neighbourhood to the top levels of governments. They are able to recruit both experts and highly motivated staff with fewer restrictions than the government.
As is true of other social organizations NGOs have flaws too, which are often pointed out from the public and are highlighted in the media for the benefit of the public. The most commonly identified weaknesses of NGOs include: non-representativeness, paternalistic attitude, limited financial and management expertise, limited institutional capacity, low levels of self-sustainability, isolation and lack of inter-organizational communication and coordination, small-scale interventions and lack of understanding of the broader social or economic circumstances.
Since the mid-1970s, the NGO sector has experienced a rapid growth, not only in the developed countries but in developing ones as well. In Pakistan, NGOs mushroomed in the early 1980s. It was a tumultuous period for the country. The cold war between the US and the Soviet Union was at its peak after the latter’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Pakistan was hosting the world’s largest number of refugees — 35 million Afghans. Thus, despite ambiguity and suspicions, a mushroom growth of NGOs with different motives took place in the country.
It is widely believed that there are 70,000 plus NGOs present today. Most of them are believed to be fake; some allegedly have vested interests and others are said to be not sound technically. Only a few NGOs are practical and have the analytical skills and detailed local knowledge of the complex social, economic and political processes of the country.
These NGOs changed traditional social life and gave rise to a new breed of people — especially in the rural areas. In a society where once a scholar or a teacher was admired and respected, there has been a change and those with high wages, big vehicles and lavish lifestyles have become role models.
The once invisible line between the “haves and have nots” have now become prominent. The influential have hijacked some NGOs and made them a source of income. There are allegations that there are many NGOs which exist on paper only. Some politicians and civil and military bureaucrats are allegedly involved with the NGO business.
Some of them have taken NGOs directly under their wings. They grant definite favours to certain NGOs when in power and get executive posts when retired. For the last few years there is this new trend that serving bureaucrats are taking long leave from their government jobs and joining top NGOs with lucrative packages.
Such NGOs come under the government’s influence directly and thus are no longer non-government organizations in spirit. Some intellectuals claim that after joining NGOs their fellow intellectuals became moneymaking machines. They also say that NGOs were used against democracy and in an engineered way Pakistan was depoliticized — never let democracy flourish in the country.
In the 1980s, General Ziaul Haq had given representation to the NGO lot in his cabinet and General Pervez Musharraf did the same after coming to power. NGO people have never been happy with elected governments and have always been under direct attack.
The fundamental question for the NGOs is how to move from the current position as unhappy agents of a foreign aid system, to vehicles for international cooperation in the emerging global arena. Looking at the rapidly changing world today, it seems as though the NGO phenomenon is in a state of inertia — whatever it has done or achieved in its prime time over the last few years is now a thing of the past, nothing special has happened nor is expected to.
For many NGOs it has become a big challenge to continue or maintain their past works/achievements; thus they are facing a lot of threats. Maintenance and consistency of projects and donations are the main problems for NGOs today. Meanwhile there are some multinational companies which have taken the work of NGOs directly into their hands.
For example, some oil exploration companies operating in Sindh and Balochistan are also doing community development work and initiating social welfare in their areas of operation. They have opened schools, training centres, health centres, assistance with irrigation, installation of hand pumps, construction of water canals and supply of portable water to the public on a daily basis.
There are companies which are donating a certain amount of their income to charities. This seems a new and growing market strategy of the process of globalization, and may be an effort to cool down the growing anti-globalization movement.
NGOs are in a deep crisis administratively as well. The visionary pioneers and experienced lot are out, or no more remain active as projects are being terminated and down/right sizing of employees is creating chaos in society. The social, psychological and economic impact of NGOs is very complicated.
Despite the bleak situation in this new century there is plenty of excitement regarding new possibilities. There is a need to think and act globally. It is difficult to say how NGOs will re-shape themselves. After the tragic events of 9/11, a change in the activities of NGOs and in the behaviour of the donor agencies is being observed. The donors have somewhat assumed that their funds in developing countries were misused in the past at different levels, and they don’t want a repeat of the same pattern.
Nowadays the West and developed countries are more interested in the economic strength of their own societies. So a shift of direction has become obvious. In future the well-established or self-sufficient NGOs may be able to continue their development works and social reforms. Others may go out of sight and out of mind soon (the intelligent ones are tailoring themselves according to the changed world).
Many donor agencies are taking the work of NGOs directly into their own hands and at the same time some NGOs have started successful businesses. What will be the role of NGOs in the changed world? Governments, non-governmental organizations, communities and the private sector have to redefine their role in the new world. (Dawn, December 18, 2003) [http://www.dawn.com/weekly/review/archive/031218/review4.htm]
TREASURES OF THE NORTH
By Habib R. Sulemani
(TREASURES UNTOLD ABOUND IN THE NORTH OF PAKISTAN. MINERALS, BEAUTY AND FRUITS, THE LIST IS ENDLESS. AND IN THIS LONG LIST OF SWEET SUCCESS, APRICOT IS A MAJOR SOURCE OF INCOME FOR THE LOCALS)
WITH the arrival of cold breeze, streets and bazaars of Rawalpindi/Islamabad are seen decorated with dried fruits. Among them is the dried apricot of Gilgit-Baltistan, famous for its dietary and taste.
In Europe and America ‘Hunza Apricot’ has achieved a divine status. It has been cited in many books, articles and papers by explorers and researchers of all over the world. Many have considered apricot as a major force behind longevity in the region. Apricot and its oil are used as a ‘chill killer’ during winter, especially during the hibernation period.
For centuries, this mountainous region of present Pakistan used to get cut-off from rest of the world during the harsh winters. It was during this hard period that apricot used to run the wheel of life in the valleys of Karakorum, Himalaya and Hindukush. Apricot was the main ingredient of the local diet as well as the nucleus of the rural economy. People used to eagerly wait for it as one of the first summer fruits. Apricot also has a cultural importance in the area.
Apricot has a long history. It is said that nearly 4000 years ago it was discovered in China, from where it was brought westward and introduced in Gilgit-Baltistan. Latter on, it was spread to other parts of the world. According to Qayum Ali Shah, an agriculturist who also works in the fruit business, “an average apricot tree rises to 15-20 feet tall and properly produces fruit for 25 years. The trees require an extensive cold, foggy period for rest.”
Dr Zakir Hussain, a doctor from the Diamer, who also writes on health issues, says, “Apricot is full of vitamin and minerals. It is cholesterol free, low in sodium, low in fat and is a good source of potassium. Thus is a natural defence against heart diseases.”
Many myths are associated with the apricot. It is considered a fertility enhancing fruit. Some nutrition experts even contend that the ingredients of the apricot may reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.
The apricot tree is of a reddish-brown bark, with heart-shaped leaves and the blossoms are pale pink or white in colour. The flavour is usually sweet to tart; some are even of free flavours. It is a versatile dried fruit, which can be used in sweet, savoury and many other dishes. It is also used for jam, chutneys and sauces etc. It has many varieties; at least 50 of them exist in Gilgit-Baltistan. It has a relatively short fresh season, available fresh in the summer and dried for the rest.
Major apricot producing countries are Turkey (13 per cent), Russia (10 per cent), Italy (9.7 per cent), Greece (nine per cent), Spain (8.2 per cent), France (five per cent) and USA (five per cent). Pakistan is, unfortunately, not on the ‘apricot map of the world’ despite having a world-class apricot. Due to poor economic and trade policies the agriculture sector remained in a state of apathy while many trade-companies in the West are making a lot of money with the sale of fake brand ‘Hunza Apricot.’
Apricot and other delicious mountain fruits have been ignored in the country and thus growth of the regional economy remains sluggish. Fortunately some non-governmental organizations have started to make the mountain people aware of their precious fruits and they are trying to attract the government and private sector to take initiatives.
The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) acts as a catalyst for rural development, organizing local human and financial resources in order to enable the communities to bring about their own development in an equitable and sustainable manner. The Dry Fruit Project (DFP) is an initiative of the AKRSP with the objective of supporting small-scale local fruit producers to increase their income through training in improved techniques of fruit preservation. With an investment of Rs6 million and under-qualified experts, DFP started working in 2000. They have a small processing plant in Danyore Gilgit, with six machines, 10 full time employs and 100 seasonal workers (mostly women). Initially they exported five tons of apricot to the UK. This year, they are hoping to export 75 tons. According to official, demands are rapidly increasing and now the business should be in the hands of businessmen instead of the NGO people.
“Due to the lack of skill and unflavoured climate, fruit worth millions is being destroyed in the region,” Sher Ghazi, manager DFP told Dawn by telephone from Gilgit. “Today the total production of apricot in Gilgit-Baltistan is 4442 tons. The average price of a kilo of apricot is Rs21.25 while the total consumption is worth Rs91,845,000,” he concludes.
“Our aim is not money-making but to guide the poor how to utilize their available resources properly and increase their income to change the old lifestyle.” Noor Khan, a young MBA and Enterprise Development Officer of the AKRSP said in Islamabad.
“We have shown a way to the private sector — if it invests money in the dry-fruit business it can venture into new global markets and get full benefit of it,” he adds.
No doubt! From the mountainous Karakorum region to the Arabian Sea, Pakistan is full of natural resources. Unfortunately, most of them are either yet undiscovered or the authorities are not aware of their importance. In the agriculture sector, apricot is just one example. If modern technology and marketing methods are applied the ‘apricot economy’ can play a vital rule in the development of Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan is a haven for apricot and many other world-class mountain fruits. If the government patronises the local farmers then Pakistan can achieve a great market in China, Central Asian, Europe and America.
According to Fazal Rabani, vice-chairman of the Sost Dry Port, Gilgit, the present government taken a keen interest in the development of Gilgit-Baltistan. “Their initiatives can bring this strategically important area out of abject poverty and political dilemma,” he said.
“The agricultural resources of the region really needs the thoughtfulness of the government.” Mr Rabani is of the opinon that if the government patronises the farmers and gives incentives to the investors to invest in the fruit industry. This will help to start an industrial revolution in the deprived region.
Murad Shah, a tourist guide says, “Gilgit-Baltistan has half of the natural resources of Pakistan but still is the only area in Pakistan where literally not a single industry exists.”
It is estimated that 80 per cent of Gilgit-Baltistan’s population is living below the poverty line. Thus the production and proper marketing of apricot and other mountain fruits can improve the lifestyle of the poor and can bring a smart amount of money to the national treasure. (Dawn, December 7, 2003 [http://www.dawn.com/weekly/dmag/archive/031207/dmag8.htm])
THE MASTER OF MASTERS
By Habib R. Sulemani
(MANY HAVE DONE MANY A THING TO ENTER THE GUINNESS ALMANAC. MUNAWWAR ILAHI PLANS TO DO IT BY SECURING THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MA DEGREES)
THE other day, I came across a rather unique man. Munawar Ilahi has, at the age of 34, completed six Master of Arts (MAs) degrees. His educational trophies includes, MA in Political Science (1998, 2nd division), Pakistan Studies (1999, 2nd division), History (2000, 1st division), Urdu (2002, 2nd division), Islamic Studies (2002, 2nd division) and Persian (2003, 1st division).
Other than these, he has an LLB (2003) and a BEd degree (1997) as well. Other than the MA in Pakistan Studies, that he secured from Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, he received all his degrees from the Islamia University Bahawalpur. A seventh Master (MSc) from Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) is in progress. So what is it with so many Masters? Simple, Munawar plans to do the maximum Masters so that his name is included in the Guinness Book of World Records.
I met this interesting guy at a workshop in Islamabad. He had come from Bahawalnagar, a far-flung district of Punjab. At the workshop he confessed to his passion for getting Masters degrees. Other than a couple of more MA’s his future itinerary includes an MPhil and a PhD. He did two MAs at the same time and claims that he can do three Masters within a singular academic year. This is incredible but the strangest fact is that despite his abilities and high qualification, he is still serving as a primary school teacher, in pay scale nine, earning a monthly salary of Rs5500/-.
When I asked the reason for his doing so many MAs, he told me, “Actually, after graduation I got a job at a government primary school, in my native district Bahawalnagar. However, after school I had nothing to do, so I did my first MA. I couldn’t get leave for MPhil or PhD, so I did another MA and it went on.”
He did his MAs privately in Urdu medium. Being an Urdu-medium-guy, he seems afraid of English language and literature but doesn’t confess to it. “There are a lot of people who are MA in English, but are out of job. I therefore didn’t do MA in English.” His answer sounds more like a lame-excuse!
Looking at his lean and thin five and half feet physique, he seems to be a regular rural guy. During the workshop, a person told me, “Even after this high qualification there is no change in his behaviour and personality. Look, he is sitting with his feet on the very chair he is sitting on.”
During our conversation I asked Munawar, “What kind of changes do you feel before and after these university degrees?”
“Before doing my MAs, I was not aware of national and international affairs, but now I can talk on any issue. Moreover, now I am a well-known person in my area,” he proudly answered.
When I asked, “Do you really think yourself as a master of these subjects in which you have done MAs?”
“I feel myself master of the university syllabuses not of the whole subjects. However, in Political Science, I feel myself well enough,” came his honest answer with a twinkle in his eye.
Munawar Ilahi’s father, Noor Ilahi, got education up to the Intermediate level, while his mother is illiterate. He is the first highly educated person in his family. He married six years ago and now has two lovely children, a son and a daughter. He said that he had not enough guidelines for choosing a career or selecting a subject for specialization.
“Thank God! Now I can guide my children properly,” he says with satisfaction.
Munawar is not happy with the government’s employment system, especially in a sensitive department, like the education. “People with third-division BA are serving in grade 19, while highly qualified and young people are languishing in the lowest grades. This has increased frustration in our society. Our education system can’t improve unless the teachers are not given their due rights.”
Disheartened, he continues, “The government gives awards for writing a piece of Ghazal (poetry) but the talented lot of the society is ignored by the authorities. It is a great dilemma of our times.”
I was thinking about the flaws in our education system and the social and psychological aspects of Munawar’s life when he diverted my attention to a topic, which I had thought to heavy for him!
“I want to make a point clear for you,” he started without any query, trying to impress me with his insight. “The World Trade Organization (WTO) will destroy the economy and resources of Pakistan. To follow the ‘intellectual property rights’ will only benefit the rich industrial countries. They will control the knowledge and wisdom and the poor countries will be deprived of inventions and progress.”
He wishes to write on political issues in Urdu, but, “The major newspapers, magazines and periodicals come out from big cities and they have no space for writers from the rural areas.
“In our southern part of Punjab there are no libraries. Thus there is lack of awareness in the society. However, things are improving now.”
When I asked if he had seen or heard about his equal in degrees?“No, not at all,” he concluded with a smile.
But I wanted a better insight of this man’s educational adventure. Therefore I contacted Dr Najma Aziz, a psychiatrist at Government Poly Clinic Hospital Islamabad, who at first was really surprised, “Does this man actually exist?” When assured, she told me, “There might be some problem in his personality, he seems to be unsatisfied with whatever he does — he is in search of something special but has yet to find it. There seems no practical application of the degrees in his real life, otherwise he could have been a professor.
“I have seen two to three Masters degree holders, but three are really rare,” Dr Najma concluded.
Professor Dr Muhammad Pervaiz, an educationist and head of psychology department, Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, said on contact, “I have seen up to four Masters degree holders in relevant subjects. More than that, is not only insane, but also becomes a useless obsession.”
His analysis was, “Our university degrees have become absurd and meaningless. Anybody can get a Master’s degree in six months time by the traditional ratta (rote learning) method. In this way the degree comes in hand but the very essence of the understanding the subject slips away.”
Despite the ground realities, Munawar Ilahi may bring worldwide fame to his country tomorrow or even may get a better pay scale, to support his increasing family. Miracles can happen even in this new century. (Dawn, November 2, 2003 [http://www.dawn.com/weekly/dmag/archive/031102/dmag9.htm])
By Habib R. Sulemani
WITH the increase in population, areas of outdoor activities are fast decreasing. Consequently, there has been an increase in indoor activities. And among them, there has been a significant rise in the number of gyms and bodybuilding clubs. This is a good way of providing an alternative, especially to the young generation. But there is a dark side to these activities as well. Especially, if the youth attending these gyms start using performance-enhancing drugs (PED) and become addicted to it.
This is a menace that is destroying innocent young lives. And a number of the gyms ad clubs are contributing to the decay as they push these PEDs themselves.
Over the past few years, the number of gyms have rapidly increased all over the country. Close to 70 gyms are situated in Rawalpindi/Islamabad alone. And though it should have been a healthy activity, a number of these gyms are prescribing steroids and other drugs to their clients. Locally produced, these PEDs are taken by the youth in the hope of quickly achieving a muscular body without having to do too many tiring exercises. But as one grows addicted to them, these PEDs result in several diseases including disability of some sort and at times could prove fatal.
There are horrible stories and tales that tell of broken men, and families, just because of the uncontrolled use of PEDs. Young men who wanted to become body builders like the globally acclaimed Arnold Schwarzenegger, ended terribly with physical, psychological and social sufferings.
Both members of the middle and upper class are affected by this phenomenon. There are heart rendering tales in many houses of the lower class as well. However, not many are willing to tell their tale of despair. Despite health problems they are more afraid of the social sufferings in our conservative society.
Nevertheless, people in the bodybuilding business contend that the use of PEDs and steroids is rampant in the sport in Pakistan. Though tight control at international level has restricted the use of PEDs in bodybuilding. But in Pakistan it’s rampant. There is not a single dope testing laboratory in the country for the purpose of testing steroids. A test abroad costs nearly $300, an amount not affordable by Pakistani organizers.
For a better insight of what a steroid is, I asked Dr Sharief Astori, in charge Blood Bank, Government Polly Clinic Hospital, Islamabad, to explain. “Steroids have terrible side effects. Once you are addicted to it, no other medicine will work during sickness. They can cause toxic and hormone-induced side effects; most common being liver damage. It can result in a low sperm count and testicular atrophy. This can also result in the growth of breasts. Blood circulation is badly affected and the bones, especially the joint bones are damaged.”
Most of the steroids used in Pakistan are home made desi-maqwi-adwiyat produced mainly in Lahore and Gujranwala by hakeems, chemists and druggists. Though these drugs cost Rs800 to Rs1000, they are sold to a client for Rs3,000 to Rs35,000. By this amount you get a course of four to six months.
Gyms sell or prescribe steroids usually because they want more money. Some of them are not getting enough money to run their show by charging a nominal monthly fee Rs100 to Rs200. Therefore, they sell drugs to earn more money.
Despite the local products, steroids from Iran, Afghanistan India and Western countries are in vogue too. Decca Durran, Dexamathasoin, Deiltacotil, Testosterone, Primabolan, Winstrol etc are some of the commonly used steroids/drugs.
Steroids are actually life saving drugs but their excessive use makes them killers. Those who produce/sell steroids are typically called Ustad (maestro), who habitually addresses a Shagird (amateur) with a typical abusive way, “Oh’ stupid — you want to be a man like Salman Khan, o’ come to me I will teach you how to be one. My father had given a Nuskha (prescription) to Salman Khan’s father but I will give you the one — I will make you really a superman ...” Then he goes all the way, injecting the first dose of steroid into the innocent soul, contaminating his blood forever.
Generally the gym-guys don’t confess that they are prescribing steroids to their clients and they will lecture you on the side effects of steroids. But the ground reality is very different.
I went to a gym in Rawalpindi, where the manager told me that they have 85 members and a member is charge Rs200 per month. Thus they make a total earning of Rs17,000 per month. I wonder how the owner of this gym manages his business? He has to pay the utility bills, rent, and salary of the coach and two other employees.
Noman Shah, chairman Pakistan Amateur Body Builder’s Guilds says, “The alarming situation of steroids can be controlled if the government makes a law to make it necessary for every chemist/druggist to appoint a doctor on duty so that the drugs are issued (sold) properly. That is the way in many countries. But unfortunately our chemists and druggists are making a huge profit at the cost of our national health.”
Umar Yousif, a gym owner and secretary general of the Amateur Body Builder’s Guild had this to say:
“A gym-owner in Islamabad was using steroids. The other day he confessed to me that his heart had increased in size. A local political figure’s son has got liver and kidney infections, while a famous restaurant owner’s brother is also suffering from steroid-syndrome.”
“Lahore is the hub of steroids,” claims Ahmed Sadiq, ex-Mr World. “They are sold there like hot cakes or vegetables. If there are 100,000 people doing exercises in the gyms, 95,000 of them are using steroids.”
Haris Akram is a young bodybuilder. He is very upset of the drug abuse in the gym-culture. He had started bodybuilding with the aim to win a great title. But now he is on a mission to fight against drug abuse. He goes to gyms and makes the aspirants aware of the side effects of steroids. “It should be the aim of every gym and body building club to produce healthy generations, not weak and drug-addicts.”
If the ‘gym-steroid syndrome’ is not controlled, within the next few years the land and nation of the ‘pure’ could be totally contaminated. Medical experts and social scientists are predicting a great dilemma. Those gym owners, body builders and social workers, who are willing to fight a ‘real war’ against steroid abuse, are yet alone. They are seeking help and assistance from the Ministry of Sports and various NGOs. It is necessary to save the future generations. (Dawn, April 11, 2004 [http://www.dawn.com/weekly/dmag/archive/040411/dmag8.htm])