Pakistan is beautiful – and it’s mine

By Shehrbano Taseer

2011 was a bleak year for Pakistan — even by its own harrowing standards.

My father, Governor SalmaanTaseer, was assassinated by his own fanatical security guard in January for his stand on Pakistan’s cruel blasphemy laws, and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the federal cabinet, was gunned down in March allegedly by the Punjabi Taliban for holding a similar view. In April, five of the six men accused of gang raping village woman Mukhtar Mai on the orders of a village council of elders were set free by the Supreme Court. Since the sexual assault on her in 2001, Mai has braved death threats to have her victimisers punished. She has appealed the verdict, but the court, it is widely believed, is unlikely to reverse the acquittal.

In May, Pakistanis around the world hung their heads in shame as Osama bin Laden was found and killed in sleepy, sedate Abbottabad, a stone’s throw from our premier military academy where Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani spoke just weeks earlier declaring that the “terrorists’ back” had been broken.Then the tortured body of journalist Saleem Shahzad was discovered and suspicion fell on the country’s intelligence services. Pakistan had yet to recover from the devastation wrought by the 2010 floods when the August monsoons inundated Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and especially Sindh affecting tens of million of people. My older brother, Shahbaz, was kidnapped on August 26. It’s January 2012 now and he is still missing.

These are just some of the highlights from a ruefully eventful year. All of these events played out against the cacophonous discord that we have become accustomed to: target killings, routine disappearances in Kashmir and Balochistan, suicide bombings, riots decrying the overall economic condition of the country, protests mourning the loss of Pakistan’s sovereignty, the unsettling hum of rote learning at poisonous madrassas.

But there’s nothing that’s bad about Pakistan that can’t be fixed by what’s good about it. The narrative of lost hope is a tired one.

After the Arab Spring, the first question I was asked by journalists and interviewers was “When will it be Pakistan’s turn?”. General Zia tried hard to convince us that we’re Arabs, but we clearly are not. Watching Muammar Qaddafi’s bloodied and bullet-riddled body paraded up and down streets as protesters cheered, and seeing desperate dictators inflict violence on their own people, I realised that in many ways Pakistan is far ahead. Our transition from a dictatorship to a democracy was relatively smooth — no bloodshed, no political prisoners, no violence. And in 2010 — long before the Arab Spring — Pakistan’s nascent democracy returned the powers usurped by dictators back to parliament with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, passed unanimously in parliament. As a people, we are more critical, more engaged. We believe in peaceful evolution of existing structures, not revolution. A record number of people have registered to vote in the upcoming elections and the deadline isn’t even up yet. We’ve snatched our democracy back and we’re not letting it go.

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Sindh and Its Sindhiyat – By Geet Chainani, M.D.

- Sindh, the land of Sufis, the hope and ultimate destination of my quest!

The time I’ve spent in Sindh, Pakistan over the last year and a half has been life changing. It’s taught me much about the history of South Asia, the cultural heritage of Sindh,  our Sindhi brothers and sisters, the dynamics of the Muhajir- Sindhi relationship among a few things. But I believe these to be the more obvious lessons that every second generation removed Sindhi Indian American would also search for when they visit.

There’s been a deeper and much more personal journey involved for me as well: a spiritual one. I came to the land of Sufis to find myself with the hope to find my God as the grand triumph and ultimate destination of my quest.

I’ve learnt that I’m still learning and still looking. On this journey I’ve found beautiful hidden messages that I’ve read in books or inscribed on the walls of temples and Sufi durgahs:

Vasudeva Kutumbakam”

“Ekam sat viprah bahuda vedanti.”

“Satyam amritasya putrah”

To give pleasure to a single heart by a single kind act is better than bowing your head in prayer a thousand times. -Shaykh Sa’di

*

I believe not in the outer religion,

I live ever in love.

Say Amen! When love comes to you.

Love is neither with the infidels nor with the faithful.

- Sachal Sarmast

*

If you are seeking Allah,

Then keep clear of religious formalities.

Those who have seen Allah

Are away from all religions!

Those who do not see Allah here,

How will they see Him beyond?

- Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai

My time in Sindh surrounded by Sindhi Muslims has shown me the other side of Sindh’s story and another side of Sufi Islam. The stories of the Sindhi who provided their Hindu counterparts their homes to hide out in during the violence that broke out, the Muslims that bid a final farewell to their Hindu friends with tears in their eyes, the Sindhis who still hold those memories close to their hearts and feel the loss of the Sindhi Hindus as something Sindh never recovered from.

On November 7, 2011 three Hindus were killed in Shikarpur district of Sindh, Pakistan. As many of you already know, I worked in Shikarpur at the start of my time in Sindh. I still maintain close contact with my co-workers. A member of my family also sits on the board of a Hindu association of Sindh. Here’s what I must say, as it is the other side of the truth that exists.

Immediately following the killings the religious (Hindu in this case) spokesperson jumped on the bandwagon to claim religious bias as a cause of the killing.  I turned to my personal network in Shikarpur for answers: there had been an election recently in which the Hindu community had supported the ruling party which won due to the large number of Hindu votes they received. The opposing party didn’t take their loss lightly and instead decided to teach a lesson to the opposite party. The end result of which was the death of the three Sindhi Hindu of whom only one was a doctor. Religious bias was not the reason for their death, politics was. Anyone who follows politics closely shouldnt be shocked to learn of the ways in which politicians use religion as a political strategy. As they say, ” The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

What followed next was an absolute uproar within the Sindhi community and an alternate backlash against the government for their inadequate response and towards Sindh warning all Sindhis that this type of violence and is anti Sindhiyat and will not be tolerated by the residents of Sindh. They further emphasized that Sindh is the land of Sufis and believes in living in a tolerant society. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend as I was in Islamabad on official business. A young activist was kind enough to send me pictures.

Following the killings thousands of Pakistanis, both Hindu and Muslim, gathered publically across Pakistan to stand against the death of the three victims and the inaccurate message of intolerance it displayed. There was also a hunger strike that followed.

Sayings in books thousands of years old that we claim as ours aren’t good enough. It is far more necessary to put those words to action and there is no better time than now. Hate only breeds hate. History is meant to learn from not to regurgitate. It’s wrong to paint today’s canvas with yesterday’s paint. When you reach into the paint jar you may end up with dried out, useless paint. This is perhaps why they say one should not live today in the past of yesterday.

No one is saying that the sentiments of the Hindu Sindhis are wrong. Anger for being removed from motherland and from  sacred river Sindhu is justified. But another truth follows suit: there’s a time for anger and then there’s a time to let go, to change and to move on.

Tides must turn. Peace must prevail.

Only then will their be prosperity in South Asia again.

Praying for peace

Reference reading:

http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=76954&Cat=2

http://www.thehansindia.info/News/Article.asp?category=1&subCategory=4&ContentId=17528

http://www.demotix.com/news/924585/civil-society-protest-against-killing-hindu-doctors

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/11/protest-against-killing-of-hindus/

Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mohandas Gandhi

To find out more or to support our work in Sindh, Pakistan please visit our website at www.thelifebridge.us

Saudi wives feel Moroccan women are beautiful and could snatch their husbands

- Maid from Morocco? No thanks, say Saudi wives

Feel Moroccan women are beautiful and could snatch their husbands

By Nadim Kawach

A few weeks after uniting against a long-standing ban on female car driving, Saudi women are again joining hands in another common cause—this time against the recruitment of housemaids from Morocco. Their excuse is that Moroccan women are beautiful and could snatch their husbands off them. ….

Read more → Emirates 24/7

A Rubberband Kind of Year: See You Later Pakistan – By Bryan Farris

Excerpt;

…. Pakistan is a land of extremes: from extreme heat to extreme hospitality. From extreme religious sentiment to extreme devotion to food. From extremely exaggerated journalism to an extremely undervalued global reputation.

What most of the world fails to realize is just how beautiful this country is and how spectacular its people truly are. It is impossible to overlook the problems: Pakistan is facing lawlessness in Karachi, a violent political system, jaw-dropping inflation, an insufficient power supply and terrorists staking claim over the northern areas. These are real issues that do exist: but they do not define Pakistan—as much of the world would have you believe.

While it may be impossible to overlook the problems, it is (apparently) quite possible to overlook the splendor that a country like Pakistan offers.

Where else do you greet every stranger with the phrase “Peace be with you”?

Where else do you find BBQ Chicken Tikka that melts in your mouth?

Where else is being 20 minutes late considered on-time? ….

…… Pakistanis are hospitable. I’ve spent my entire time here living with a host family. At first I was a guest, but Jean, Wilburn, Asim, Maria, Susie, John, Ben, Thomas, Annie, Tashu and Ethan made me feel so welcome that they became family. I know I have a home here forever. Anywhere you go in Pakistan, people will welcome you with open arms (and probably a even a hug—from strangers too).

Pakstanis are loyal. I mean…crazy loyal. When you make a Pakistani friend, you’ve created a serious bond. Leaving is so hard because I feel such powerful ties with people here. For my farewell dinner, a co-worker (but really a new best friend), Jamshaid, made two 9 hour trips between our site in the flood affected areas and Lahore just to join for dinner. Another friend of mine who had moved out of Lahore months ago made a 250Km round trip to meet me for Sehri breakfast at 3am. I’ve never felt so honored.

Pakistanis love tea. If this isn’t self-evident, I don’t know what is. Pakistanis love to sit down, stir their chai and chat. Spending time with others and building quality relationships is so important. Back home people tend to fly through their days, but in Pakistan, every moment with another is cherished.

Pakistanis are optimistic. I’ve never been somewhere where young people were as energized about opportunities in their own country as here. There is a bright future ahead and Pakistan’s youth are driving it. A few friends of mine—Ali, Babar, Zehra, Saba, Jimmy, Khurram—have inspiring aspirations for change in PK.

This is the Pakistan that the world needs to come to know. Yes, there are terrorists and violence, and that can’t be forgotten, but if that is your perception, then you are judging a book by the headlines.

Sure, there are probably safer ways I could have spent this year, but then I wouldn’t have been stretched in the way that I have been.

Pakistan has become a part of me; it has forever changed me, my perspective on the world, and my trust in humanity.

To read complete article  → RisingPyramid

An other human dream comes true. A robot that flies like a real bird

SmartBird: the beautiful overlap of nature and technology

This robot is truly a thing of beauty.

One of the oldest dreams of mankind is to fly like a bird. Many, from Leonardo da Vinci to contemporary research teams, tried to decipher the flight of birds well enough to recreate it. Finally in 2011, the engineers at the German technology company, Festo, developed SmartBird, an avian robot that can take off and fly through the air by simply flapping its wings. In this video, Markus Fischer, Festo’s head of corporate design, shows a live audience what SmartBird can do ….

Read more → guardian.co.uk

They’re blood thirsty now

The Good Old Days of Fatwas and Anita Ayub

by Dr. Shazia Nawaz

I was reading an article the other day in which a female writer explains that how women too are going to get male virgins in heaven. While I found the article interesting and entertaining, it reminded me of Anita Ayub. Anita Ayub was a model and an actress in Pakistan in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. She also worked in an Indian movie called ‘ Pyar Ka Tarana’. Legend has it that she fell in love with a Sikh, married him, and moved to India. I don’t know if there is any truth to this news or not. Anita was a beautiful, smart, and intelligent model with serious lack of talent. She said things those days that most Pakistani women were not allowed to say. She did things those days that most Pakistani women were not allowed to do.

She got quite a few Fatwas (religious condemnation to be killed) against her. It has been a hobby of our mullas to give Fatwas for centuries. But things were not this bad in the 1990’s. I call those days “good old days of Fatwas”. When moulvi hazarat gave a Fatwa those days, few fanatics sent you death threats, you apologized, they forgave you. Everyone moved on and nobody got hurt.

Who knew that one day the Zia-ul-Haq era would be considered a relatively peaceful era!

Years ago when I was just a child, I heard that Anita Ayub had asked a very bad question, “If men are going to get hoors (virgins) in heaven, what are women going to get?”

I remember my mom commenting on Anita’s morality and mentality in a not so complementing manner. My teenage mind was confused. The question did not seem that unreasonable to me. Risking judgment on my own morality and mentality, I asked my mom if there was an answer to Anita’s question. My mom said very understandably that in heaven women would become hoors themselves. Asking any further questions meant asking for God’s wrath. This is where we are stopped. When you do not understand it, asking any further questions is a sin.

So, moulvis of Pakistan issued a Fatwa against her. Next week, Anita’s apology was published with the explanation that this is not what she meant. How could she possibly question the divine laws? The matter indeed ended. Mullas put her episode of temporary insanity (or logical thinking) behind. So this is what I call good old days of Fatwas. When you spoke your curious mind, few good moulvis actually tried to explain things politely, few gave Fatwa, you apologized, and you got to live.

Mercy no more my friends! Forgiveness no more. Asia Bibi has apologized a million times. Salmaan Taseer gave explanation after explanation that he did not mean to defend a blasphemer, but a weak and poor woman. They did not listen. They’re blood thirsty now. Now those good old days of Fatwas are over. …

Read more: LUBP

An interesting article on Hoors

Are all ‘houris’ female? – By Nilofar Ahmed

IT has traditionally been believed that good men who go to paradise will be rewarded with the beautiful women of paradise known as houris. Women throughout the centuries never thought of asking, ‘what about us?’ But in this century of women, this question keeps coming up, even in the most conservative of circles. …

Read more: DAWN.COM

The Power of Words

This short film illustrates the power of words to radically change your message and your effect upon the world. The Story of a Sign by Alonso Alvarez Barreda Music by: Giles Lamb http://www.gileslamb.com Filmed by http://www.redsnappa.com Director Seth Gardner. Cast: Bill Thompson, Beth Miller. — How we think, or how to communicate. The first sign appeals to our want or need to help another fellow who needs help. We give money to ease his pain. The second one places us in the shoes of the blind man, we give more money to ease OUR pain. Which brings out a interesting point, we tend to value our own pain more than we value the pain of others.

- You Tube

“Just so you do not have thoughts…” – by Shazia Nawaz

We all know that burqa does not have its roots in religion. Religion only asks women to dress modestly. Where did the burqa or veil come from then? Why do so many women in the world cover their faces?

Burqa is a mobile jail invented by men to hide the women they love. If love was involved, I would accept it. That makes the jail a little more acceptable in a twisted kind of way.

But then what kind of man will keep a person he loves in a jail?

So then, Burqa is more a jail to keep in the women they “own”.

Brain washing starts very early. At a very young age, you are told that you have to hide yourself from men. It is ‘piety’ to hide your face. You are also taught to fear men. From a very young age, you are told that men are dangerous and should not be trusted. Only your father and brother are the ones you can trust. As someone put it very eloquently the other day, ‘In Pakistan, women are told that men are wolves and women are sheep.’ and due to this teaching , most men do indeed start acting like wolves and women as sheep.

Our men say that women should cover up, so we would not have ‘thoughts’ about them. Thoughts of harming women and thoughts of raping them. So, they want to put me in a mobile jail just so their mind would stay clean?! What a twisted logic!

But then does it really stop their ‘thoughts’? In the real world, they do not care if you are in a burqa, they will harass you. Covering my face never protected me from street harassment.

In a smaller city in Pakistan, always either my father or brother had to accompany us on the streets, or in spite of all the layers of clothes on us, men would yell taunts, follow, and even try to rub against us when were passing by. Due to this very reason, women can not leave houses alone, and always have to have a male of the house with them. Men have to protect their women from each other in Pakistan and in all muslim countries.

When we moved to a bigger city, Lahore, and got rid of the big chador, sexual harassment, believe it or not, was less. Men around us there were used to women who walked around with out covering their heads and faces. Men were more educated and their own sisters and mothers had more freedom too.

Coming to USA and experiencing the behavior of their men on the streets was an amazing experience. I can walk around wearing whatever I want. No one dares to harass me. That told me that it is not the burqa that keeps the dangerous men away, it is the mindset of a society and it is the implementation of the laws that keep women safe in any country.

My first experience of the cool breeze touching my skin on a beautiful beach in Hawaii was wonderful . Men rob women of their basic right of enjoying the nice weather by putting them in a tent called burqa. It is dark in there and it is hot in there. Just because you do not have ‘thoughts’ about me, I should be suffocated?!

Doctors consider ‘thoughts’ a God made healthy phenomenon. Acting on your thoughts without other person’s consent would put you in a jail for 10-20 years in any civilized country.

It is difficult to understand for a man of an oppressed society that in a free world men indeed learn to control their ‘thoughts’ and do not blame women for it. …

Read more : Let Us Build Pakistan

Punjabi language movement – interview with Nazeer Kahut

Punjabi language is a most beautiful and melodious language of South Asia (sub-continent). Please don’t let it die. Do learn Sindhi, Saraiki, Balochi, Pashto, Brohvi, Hindi (urdu), English and other languages but keep Punjabi language to flourish along with them.

Punjabi is the language of Baba Guru Nanak, Baba Bulleh Shah and other Sufis. It is the language of love, peace and tolerance. Learning different languages are like skills. Punjabi language, Punjabi literature and rich Punjabi heritage are a treasure for the world. It is the moral responsibility of all to protect and promote Punjabi language and Punjabi culture and keep it alive for the global peace.

- You Tube

Ae Ishq hamein Barbaad Na kar (Nayyara Noor)

Wo sunta to main kehta, mujhe kuch aur kehna tha, wo pal bhar ko jo ruk jata, mujhe kuch aur kehna tha. kamai zindagi bhar ki, usi k naam to kar di, mujhe kuch aur karna tha, mujhe kuch aur kehna tha. kahan us ne suni meri, suni b un-suni kar di, usay maloom tha itna, mujhe kuch aur kehna tha. meray dil main jo dar aya, koi mujh main b dar aya, waheen ik rabta toota, mujhe kuch aur kehna tha. rawan tha piyar NUS NUS main, bohat qurbat thi apis main, usay kuch aur sun-ana tha, mujhe kuch aur kehna tha. ghalat fehmi ne baton ko barha dala younhi warna, kaha kuch tha,wo kuch samjha, mujhe kuch aur kehna tha.

- You Tube

Benazir Bhutto: Brilliant, Bold and Beautiful

by Faiz Al-Najdi

On 27 December 2007 Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was martyred in the garrison city of Rawalpindi where her father – another great and popular leader of Pakistan – was hanged some thirty years ago by a mean, vindictive and a heartless military dictator. It is needless to underscore that like many other Pakistanis, I was totally devastated at this tragic end of a great leader.

Who killed her? It is a million dollar question though. However it is very clear that her killer or killers hated her brilliance, beauty and boldness. These savages could not silence her messages so silenced the messenger, who remained a hope and aspiration of the poor of our country. They snatched away our Shehzadi from us – the symbol of democracy and a unifying force of the federation. It is hard to believe that she is no more and now all we are left with is her memories on this second shahadat anniversary of hers. We are only left to mourn her death and sing the requiem – our Pakistani requiem in her memoriam.

Robert Novak in his Op-Ed, “Who Wants to Kill Benazir Bhutto” (30 October 07), was all praise for her boldness. He said, “When I interviewed Bhutto in New York in Aug-07, I asked whether she thought she might be killed if she returned to Pakistan. She answered by saying she must return. She gives the impression that being in danger is her fate”. …

Read more : BoloJi

Fisherfolk held a joyful Match Kachahari

by Jamil Hussain junejo

Fisherfolk forum held a joyful Match Kachahari on the bank of Nareri Lake in South of Badin City near Arabian Sea. Match Kachahari (Chat around wooden fire) is a traditional form of Kachahari (discussion) accompanied with Songs, poetry and traditional dance in night time in winter. Nareri where kachahari was made is a historical lake which is Declared Ramsar Site. It spread on about Eleven thousand Acres.

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Umar Marvi

Umar Marvi (Sindhi: عمر ماروي) is a Sindh love story written in Shah Jo Risalo geographically in Sindh. This is another love story which is a history based in Sindh. It is the Identity of Sindh just like Sassi Punnun, Sohni Mehar.

Marvi (Sindhi: ماروي) was a Sindhi Heroine famous for her chastity, patriotism, and simplicity. Marvi found her ideal in Khet, a cousin who lived in a neighbouring village. He was handsome and brave, and he was deeply in love with Marvi. She lived in a village called Malir in Tharparkar desert. She was a beautiful village girl and was engaged to her cousin (Sindhi: کيت) Khet. One day while she was filling water in her pots from a well (which is now called “Marvi’s Well” (Sindhi: ماروي جو کوھ) Marvi jo khooh) to provide water for her goats, was seen by Prince Umar Soomro (Sindhi: عمر سومرو). At the first glimpse, Umar (Sindhi: عمر)was dazzled by her beauty. Umar proposes to marry her and tries to win her over with jewels and gifts, but Marvi refuses as she was deeply devoted to her cousin. Angered by her refusals, Umar becomes so head-over-heels that he abducts her and imprisons her his palace in Umerkot for a whole year, but she remains faithful and longs for her native terrain. Finally, Umar is deeply touched by her dedication and piety and sets Marvi free.

Courtesy: >> Marvi Search