August 6, 2011
“Faraz, turn the car and head towards home quickly!”
“But why, mom? We are about to reach Zamzama Boulevard!”
“We shouldn’t. I’m getting messages about the blast that has happened only several minutes ago outside Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s Mazaar.”
“Oh, no! Not again!”
The sudden out-burst of my grief expressed over such incidents was not uncommon. It has looked like, since the past four years, as if it has been usual for the bombs to be blasted in the biggest cosmopolitan city of Pakistan as whenever the number of causalities rise, people only bother seeing each other and utter, “tch!”. Those trapped in the city, lucky enough to have found themselves to be alive, would rush towards wherever they would find a safe temporary abode – their babies in their arms, their faces absorbed with fear, their forehead filled with perspiration and their heartbeat running faster than ever. While driving my car back to home, I pondered whether they will be killed in the moments to come? If they survived, how long are they going to survive? If they die, who will take care of their babies – too little to feed themselves and too needy for the parents’ love and care! And then there are many questions that daunt them and which makes them to run, as fast as they could.
The magnitude of violence that has become prevalent in Pakistan today can best be grasped from basic arithmetic. Between 2003 and 2010, a total of 13,063 (and rising) casualties have been reported (http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/pakistan/). Although the number of attacks have reduced each year, the number of people who have become victim to those attacks have increased proportionately. No wonder, the people becoming victims of such attacks, either directly or indirectly, would find themselves to be emotionally and/or mentally affected. Even those who would just watch a reporter on television briefing a local bomb blast, would start holding pessimist views about the progress of the country and its power incurbing violence. This makes people more vulnerable to their environment and whatever they do is associated with a common fear of being hurt.
The teenage group in the country is the one that has been affected cognitively from the violence the most. These very teenagers, due to fear of being bombed or hit by a bullet, remain confined to their houses. The result is that they do not get enough exposure to their surroundings and travel less. This limits their creativity and thinking capacity, and puts them at an unfavorable position than the children in the peaceful parts of the world. More importantly, in the face of growing religious fanatics and extremists who use various tactics to persuade youngsters from less well-off and uneducated backgrounds to suicide in the name of God (by, in fact, killinghundreds of innocents), we see youngsters becoming emotionally twisted and used. Their thoughts divert from books and libraries to guns and Jihadi-training centres. They become brain-washed and are trained in a way that their morals degenerate constantly (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUICJlRjYeQ&feature=fvst – from 1:55). When such age group starts using violence as a means to pursue their targets, it becomes hard for a nation to curb violence.
The people aged between 20 and 45 also tend to be affected emotionally by violence in Pakistan. They are the one belonging to various professions; from a wage-earning farmer in Charsadda to a high salary-earning CEO of a company in Lahore. When violence in a region becomes wide-spread, they find it difficult to work properly and their frequent absenteeism results in increased loss of productivity, output and profits. Frequent bombings and sounds of bullets being fired across the region not only adds to tension and depression amongst people but can also be a cause of the demolition of their habitats and work-places. They would often ask themselves of the crime they have committed for the high price they are paying.
Waheed, a driver of my cousin, says from his personal encounter, “Violence is like a flood. It washes away your home and loved ones in a flash.”
Even people in minorities in Pakistan face terror when they preach their religion. The Ahmadi group is one such minority group that has long been persecuted in Pakistan and has remained the target of sectarian attacks. On an attack on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore in late May 2010, 80 Ahmadis were killed (http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/05/28/80-killed-in-pakistan-ahmadi-carnage/). The culprits, to date, have not been brought to justice. Now these very Ahmadis are afraid of preaching their religion freely on the land to which they once called their ‘home’.
And then there are many instances to be cited which reflect how growing violence in the society have deteriorated people’s perceptions and intellect. But the best part will be to discuss the ways in which violence, something that has taken deep roots in Pakistan today, can be counter-acted and fought.
Foremost, the law-enforcement agencies and government of Pakistan should come to realize their dutiful roles in curbing terrorism and violence. Although not a piece of cake, but an array of solid counter-violence policies can pave the way for society to prosper. This would include making all bureaucrats and politicians who work against the interests of people to be held accountable, ensuring that wrong-doers are brought to justice, increasing the size and presence of police-force in different areas of Pakistan, severing punishment for those who violate law etc. With such policies formulated properly and implemented, we will only be a step away towards apeaceful co-existence.
Secondly, the media, which is amongst the very few institutions functioning properly in Pakistan, should be moderate when reporting incidents of violence. Although freedom of expression is honored, the reporting of incidents which may seed dissidence and turmoil amongst the masses must be discouraged. It is sometimes furious to see media reporting one-sided when in fact, on a broader level, the role of the media should be to show people the news without being partial and inspire them to take an action. Talk-shows must be held on regular basis, with guests being students and members of common public, unaffiliated with any political party, where ways to combat violence should be discussed.
Lastly, it is we who actually can make a difference in shaping the way our country thrives. Rather than talking chunks about how violence and terrorism has ripped the country off on our comfy TV Lounge’s sofa, we should get out of the house and practically do what it would take for a person to do his/her part to curb violence. People should not be afraid of organizing rallies, demonstrations and protests; as they are a way of registering your concern in promoting peace and curbing violence in the society. Moreover, we should endeavor to approach our local MNA/MPA or other politica lofficer and raise our concerns and voices against violence to him. Repeated pressures on such political officers from different areas of Pakistan will eventually take the issue to higher authorities and an action that will prove to be in the best interests of people wanting to promote peace will be inevitable.
It is the high time that solutions to combat violence and terrorism be planed, framed and implemented immediately; as even giving an inch of space to terrorists on the land may change the fate of the country, forever.
June 28, 2011
When I was a kid, I remembered how my maid used to bring her children to my house whenever she came to execute her duties. She had two sons; Saeed and Rashid. Saeed and Rashid were twins and unsurprisingly, they were obsessed with doing the same kind of activities and work. I often called them ‘knitted’ (and sometimes “Shaadi Shuda” – translating as “Married”) as wherever one went, the other followed him and whatever one did, the other replicated. I enjoyed my company with Saeed and Rashid, whenever I got the chance. Often, I would keep my notebook aside after finishing my homework and would hold Saeed’s and Rashid’s hands to make our way to ‘verandah’ where we played badminton and sometimes cricket.
Once, while we were having a 15-minutes break from the long, tiring session of cricket, I asked my maid’s children what would they like to be when they grow up? “I want to be a doctor”, “An engineer” came the replies. The replies were as bold, vivid and filled with enthusiasm as their faces, at that moment. They seemed energetic more than ever… energetic in fighting every obstacle that may come in their way and destroy their aspirations. “InshAllah!” I said in a quick, subdued manner while pointing my hand towards the ball to give Rashid an indication that it is his turn to bowl.
It was 2003 when Saeed and Rashid were in 5th grade in a local school in one of the impoverished areas of Larkana (a sub-urban city, 18 km from The Indus Valley Civilization). Once when they were coming back home from school, they were told that their father was lying on the bed in the hospital and that they should go and see him immediately. Upon reaching the hospital, the boys were told that some of the organs of their father’s body have stopped functioning due to excessive working and that he should cease to work as soon as possible. This would mean Saeed and Rashid having to stop themselves from getting education and instead working somewhere in the city to earn some cash to pay for medicines and other household goods. And that is what exactly happened; Saeed was appointed at a local ‘chai’ (tea) restaurant where he served tea and biscuits to the customers, while Rashid was hired by a local dentist to work for him as his compounder. The lives of Saeed and Rashid began to change; they were obliged to take the course of life they never dreamt of. Now they only saw each other’s faces only in the morning when they were leaving from their house and at night when everyone was gathering for the dinner. Whatever left-over of money remained with them, they handed over to their mother while reminiscing the days when they spent the left-over on ‘Qayoom’s burgers and bun-kebabs’. The time was indeed hard on them; inflation kept on rising while the employers of Saeed and Rashid did not give them the pay rise in the same proportion. The need for household goods and medicines for their baba became astringent and they were thinking of seeking desperate measures to sustain their living. My parents approached my maid and guaranteed her not only a significant pay rise but also to bear the medical expenses of the entire family whenever they incurred. The family heaved a sigh of relief as a greater proportion of their expenditure, which was spent on medicines, was now saved. The left-over money was now saved by our maid in a local organization which claimed to give them a handsome interest on their savings. The savings rose in value and so did the hopes of the family of a better future. Now Saeed and Rashid, both 19, own the only general store in their area, and I remember they telling me of making a gross profit of 1.5 lacs monthly. The family of Saeed and Rashid is now not only enjoying a better standard standard of living but is also adamant of the fact that with hope, hardwork, sacrifice and assistance comes the most awaited reward.
The story of the hardships suffered by Saeed and Rashid is one of the many stories of young boys and families in Pakistan. Lucky were they to have been supported by someone who relieved their burden while there are countless boys who still do not have, daily, a three times meal to eat; water to drink; work to do; friends to pass time with; family to share love with and a home to live in. With 23 % of population earning below $1.25 per day in Pakistan (http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/pakistan_pakistan_statistics.html), the hopes of many poor households have been over-shadowed by darkness. It is this very reason why Pakistan is experiencing growing suicidal rate; as poor citizens of the nation prefer ceasing to exist rather than making their living on a $1.25 per day. It is not uncommon to find parents selling their children for a minimal petty gain, young girls of the poor family sacrificing their dignity and respect to make a living, the poor children of the families, who in fact should be holding books, begging in the streets, etc. It is the high time, the government of Pakistan realizes the plight of the category within which the poor citizens of the nation fall and take practical measures that gives a beacon of hope to several hundred thousands of people still living on streets and tents that they too can rise to their feet, live a worthy life and with a mixture of hard work and hope, transform their lives like Saeed’s and Rashid’s or even, better!
Posting a write up of a friend regarding the popularity of the ‘rickshaw-ism’ in Pakistan and the slogans/verses written on their back.
Islamabad: missing out on Rickshaw ramblings
By: Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi
Islamabad is just perfect, except that it does not have rickshaws. For the rest of Pakistan rickshaws remain to be the most popular means of transportation.
The exuberance and joy of a topsy turvy ride aside, one is most intrigued by ‘rickshaw art’ which gives a blunt insight into what a common man of Pakistan really thinks.
Rickshaws are usually decorated from bumper to bell.
The front end is religious while the backboard serves as the focal point of more broad based artistry like rural scenes, animals, flowers, pictures of inspirational leaders, monuments, religious symbols and poetry.
The final look of rickshaw varies as per taste of the owner.
The most important aspect of the rickshaw art is perhaps the poetry written on it.
Some verses and quotations written on the back of these fast moving-three wheeler vehicles are collected below:
• Maalik Ki Gaadi Driver Ka Paseena – Chalti Hai Road Par Ban Kar Haseena
• Buri Nazar Wale, Tera Moonh Kala
• Qismat Aazma Chuka, Muqadar Aazma Raha Hoon – Aik Bewafa Ki Khatir Riksha Chala Raha Hoon
• Kabhee Side Say Aatee Ho Kabhee Peechay Se Aatee Ho – Meree Jaan Horn Day Day Kar Mujhay Tum Kyon Satatae Ho
• Pappu Yaar Tang Na Ker!
• Zehreeli Nagan
• Koi Jal Gaya, Kisi Nain Dua Di
• Main Phir Aaon Ga
• Tappar Hai To Paar Kar Warna Bardaasht Kar
• Dekh Magar Pyar Se!
• Khatharnaak Rambo
• Horn Day Ker Paas Kerain
• Chal Dhanno
• Phir Milayngay
• Akhri Shahzada
• Tera Jadoo Chal Gya
• Hosh Ker Kherghosh
• Wo Dekho Mastani Ja Rahi Hai
• Zid Meri Majboori hai
• Ae Eagle tujhay qasam hai himmat na harna, jaisi bhi fizaen aen hans k fly karna.
• Zindagi ne aik baar phir dulha bana dia
• Aag aggay waikh pichaay na waikh
• Palat kar daikh zalim tamana hum bhi rakhtay hain.
• Fasla rakh warna mohabbat hojaegi
• Shikar karma hai to ankhon se kar, talwar mein kia rakha hai-safar karma hy to rickshaw mein kar car mein kia rakha hai.
• Chalay jasso ya chhor avan
• Zid na kar sonhaya main aap bara ziddi aan
• Bismillah Parr Kar Swar Hoon Shaid Yeh Aap Ki Zindgi Ka Akhri Safar Ho
• Model 2010 Raftaar 65 KM Fee Ghantta
• Tu Lang Ja Saddi Khair Ey
While some are just plain humorous others are overwhelmingly political and sarcastic:
Cantt say guzartay huway horn ahista bajaen, Pak Fouj soh rahi hai
Roti 2 Rs. CNG 100 Rs – Khadim e Ala, day zara jawab!
“Agar Rabb ne Chaaha to manzil tak pohancha doonga, aur agar aankh lag gai tou Rabb se hee milwa doonga”
• Sawari labbay na labbay, Speed aik so nabbay (190)
• Jis ne Maan ko Sataya Uss ne rikshaw chalaya
• Chal Pagli Sajan Ke Dais
• Lag jai te Rozi na lagaay too Roza
• ”Teri Yad Aie Teray Janay Ky Baad”
• ” Pak Foj Ko Salam”
• ”Mint Di Fursat Nai Dheelay Di Amdan Nai”
• ” Kharchay Malkan de Nakhray Lokan Dy”
• “Dollar Ki Talash Mein”
• “Haseenon Sy Nafrat Piyar Sy Toba”
• ” Baba Easy Load Ghawari” (Pushto)
• ”Baba Pa Khafa Ki Ghi” (Pushto)
• ” Zid Na Kur Sohneya Time Sadi Majboori Aye”
• ”Jeenay Nai Doon Ga”
And while truck art is entertaining, sometimes it lends out an honest advice as well:
• Aye admi haram khana chor dey
tyre mehngay hain race lagana chor dey
• Mera sheher, Mansehra
• Afridi Tayyara
• Kabhi to aao na Sargodha, surmaa laga ke
• Pakhtunkhwa Khappay Khappay Khappay!
But if I were to compare rickshaw ramblings to truck quotes, one notion that becomes distinctly clear is that the truck drivers are mostly a ‘heart-broken’ lot with their poetry divulging into melancholic seriousness.
Ata Ullah Esa Khelvi, who is famous for his sad numbers is a favourite of truck drivers and is played from Karachi to Khyber.
He doesn’t enjoy the same support from rickshaw-drivers community who are more into Abrar Ul Haq and the likes.
If you want to learn about what Pakistan is all about, ride a rickshaw during rush hours through busy streets and markets but don’t forget to talk to the driver about anything on your mind and get a reflection from the back end of his ride. And yes, one more thing, never tell him to drive fast.
June 20, 2011
“Good Afternoon, sir! Can you please let me know the research opportunities available in your department (The Institute of Clinical Psychology) for students aged 18?” – I asked curiously.
“Sorry sir, but we offer this facility primarily to students who have completed their masters or are doing a Ph.D in Psychology.” – responded the receiver.
“But sir, I am a student of great academic interest. Being passionate about doing some research work in my favorite subject Psychology, I’m sure there must be some space for me!”
“Sorry, we can’t help you in this matter. Thank you for calling Institute of Clinical Psychology, Karachi University.”
Alas, the hope dies (again). This is not the first time someone has tried not to offer me assistance pertaining to doing a major research work in my subject in Karachi. The past few days I have mastered the skills to convince people of my academic ability and enthusiasm in carrying out a research work, but, apparently like other students of my age, all attempts have ended up becoming a mere failure.
Do I attribute the reason of not ending up doing a research work due to my age (because I’m just 18?), or towards the strict policies of the institutions I am calling, or I attribute it to the government’s inept of not providing research facilities to young enthusiasts who are passionate in brain-storming their ideas and want to do something beyond the ‘texts’ of their course books? I will attribute this reason to the government failure of not taking seriously the growing interests of youth in Pakistan. I admire quite a few of the latest policies of government when it comes to education (such as building of more schools in rural areas, allocation of more funds to government schools, stricting policies with regard to drop-out rate and other malpractices etc. – http://www.moe.gov.pk/Pakistan%20Education%20Statistics%2007-08.pdf) but I am far from admiring the ‘lack of innovation’ in the Pakistani Education System.
One such innovation failure, as said above, is the lack of basic and professional research facilities for teenage students in Pakistan. It is reported that the research output by universities in Pakistan in terms of number of research publications as against the total faculties of universities is not more than 13 %. (http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/19/pakistani-universities-lack-research.html) My personal opinion is that these teenagers which comprise of 24 % of the total population in Pakistan(http://undp.org.pk/undp-and-the-youth.html), on average, are more satiated with zeal and zest in pursuing their academic interests than people in their 30s, 40s and higher doing their Ph.Ds’ and thus, can yield an exalted productive output from their research work, when given the opportunity. This research will not be only useful to the students themselves in terms of learning more, as an add to their CV and of getting an early-age rich research experience but will also be healthy for the image and economic growth of the nation in the long-term as these very teenagers, with their innovative capabilities, will build new, efficient, cost-effective models of products as they progress on with their age. It is not uncommon to find young students in developed countries such as United States, Portland(http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/education/student-services/education-diversity/prospective-students/hands-on-research-experience.cfm), Norway, Singapore etc gaining a research experience before going to college. This is the reason why these countries are far ahead from many nations, including Pakistan, in innovation, R&D and creativity.
Another highlighting lack of innovation in Pakistani education system is the lack of ‘say ‘of students in the formation of educational policies. Although international development agencies and active NGOs consult government on educational policies – as required by National Education Policy (1998-2010) – but it is far from obvious that any concrete, viable policies have been implemented so far. Like politicians know best about the politics in their countries and therefore are thought to be ‘relevant’ when it comes to forming government policies or making amendments, students are best aware of education system in their countries and thus SHOULD be thought as best consulting source when it comes to reforming educational policies. I agree that students can lack experience and every one of them can come up with their own reforms and problems, but we can at least put few best policies forward and work on them. In this way, the students will feel a part of decision-making process in educational sector and will be motivated to work harder for boosting the image of the country that gives them a right to contribute in the process that affects them directly.
Similarly, there are other countless innovations that can be done in education system in any country. Such innovations, although associated with high costs in the initial stage, can ensure long-term massive benefits to the country. Also, the need for such innovations have become an immediate demand of the nations including Pakistan today because of the growth in the number of students who want to take their own initiatives and get exposed to things before they actually enter into their practical lives.
The government of Pakistan should take this matter seriously and agree to the fact that lack of innovation in education system is a significant hurdle in the progress of nation. In this regard, the government of Pakistan should establish more research institutions in Pakistan for youth, (with an ability to carry out advanced forms of research such as ‘Action Research’ and ‘Program Evaluation’) starting off with initial pilot-institutions in the main cities of Pakistan such as in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. For less well-off students, some sort of research-grants/scholarships must be introduced so that research institutions are accessible to students from all walks of life. Secondly, creativity and independent thinking should be encouraged amongst students from the day they join school and emphasize on critical thinking should be exerted. The teachers should come to realize that the cognitive development of child is what gives oneself a peace of mind and a ‘job-well-done’ satisfaction, and not the monetary gains. The teachers, by forming a liberal-thinking approach, should also create a space in their schedule to welcome academics and personal problems from students on a one-to-one basis and solve it maturely and skillfully. Lastly, the Pakistani government should welcome students from different educational institutions and backgrounds so that they can give their say in the educational policies whenever they are formed. After keeping in view the contributions retrieved, the government can then select a few of them which it thinks are possible to be implemented in the mean time and can yield the best possible outcome.
With such measures taken by the government, we will, assuredly, be able to see a marked improvement in the education system of our country, and see most of the problems that arise from the lack of education such as extremism, poverty and divide between the rich and poor being curbed. Along with this, the youth of the country will get an accessible opportunity to develop their initiatives whether it is carrying out an empirical research on the ‘effects of gun-violence on children’, starting an NGO that provides a cost-effective health insurance to poor-stricken people or joining a local student government body to work for the development of the community. The tip is to just come forward and ‘do’ it!
June 18, 2011
You can never really expect a ‘good’ morning in Pakistan.
After waking up from the sleep last morning, I logged into my facebook account to just get a daily dose of news updates. As I scrolled down my home page, a link shared by a friend caught my eyes that completely bewildered me. The news headline read, “Pakistan ranked as THIRD most dangerous country in the world for women.” (http://teeth.com.pk/blog/2011/06/16/pakistan-ranked-as-third-most-dangerous-country-in-the-world-for-women) I tried to ignore the news ‘labelling’ it a false, rumor story but then I thought to undergo a process of research and thinking on it.
The process that I did was just a track down of events in the past few years in Pakistan where extremism, radicalization and terrorism had dominated the image of the nation, and where poor-stricken and underprivileged women were often seen as innocent victims of the disease of extremism and terrorism. I recalled how women in Pakistan are just not ‘equally’ treated like men; how they are deprived of their basic rights to live with freedom – free from all sorts of impositions; how they are less accessible to education; how they are less accessible to different sectors in Pakistan when it comes to employment; and how they are treated when what they do is just ‘defend’ their rights or ‘voice’ their concerns.
There are numerous incidents that happen daily in developing countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh etc. that are primarily centered around women. For instance, in the largest city of Pakistan, Karachi, alone, on average, over 100 women are raped every 24 hours. Furthermore, of those raped, only a minor faction have the courage to report their cases to the justice system. This is largely due to delay in justice system as well as lengthy medical processes. In 2007, over 2000 women were raped in Pakistan with only 20 % of rape cases carried forward. (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2008-05-12/pakistan/27752726_1_cases-balochistan-sindh). Surely, this number would have increased by 50 % or more today, but it seems that the justice system of Pakistan is far from bringing culprits to justice or even giving protection to the women. To add to the injury, we will find the image of women in Pakistan being put at stake every day ‘differently’. Just two days ago, two men stripped a woman naked and parraded her in a village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Pakistan’s most conservative province. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13766656) What else greater crime could those men be committing for deteriorating an innocent woman’s image in front of her neighborhood? Is this not a signal of growing injustice in the society or are we just too occupied to let that happen?
With so many problems digging the country further into erosion, the problem of ‘women protection’ in Pakistan remains prominent. It is the government’s foremost duty to make education more accessible to the women of Pakistan, especially the young girls residing in remote villages/rural areas of Pakistan, who due to absence of education or so, end up being a victim of local tribal tyranny and injustice. Together with this, the government needs to frame a solid policy regarding the treatment of those who violate the system of justice such as rapists and bring that it into action immediately. A system of monitoring such policy and ensuring that law-enforcement agencies do their job honestly should be formulated.
It is the time, the government of Pakistan and its justice system, recognize women as the valuable members of society who are just as equally rightful of living with tranquility and peace as men. Further worsening conditions of women in Pakistan, will just curb the power of growing libertarianism in the nation and once again, will give a handy opportunity to the extremists, of ‘legally’ (as they say) flogging, torturing and raping innocent women.
A woman’s hopes are woven of sunbeams; a shadow annihilates them. ~ George Eliot
June 16, 2011
Standing in the scorching heat of sun for around 15 minutes was ordeal and hard. But like me, there were hundreds others waiting to get an entry to be a part of one of the best technological-oriented event in Karachi: TEDxKarachi 2011.
The show started on 27th May 2011 in the evening. The registration process was a bit clumsy and time-taking, but the volunteers ensured we were not bugged with any serious issues. Getting the invite confirmed, I made my way to the auditorium where supposedly TEDxKarachi talks were to be given. It took me a while to find a ‘good’ seat and every invitee equally seemed excited and cherished to welcome an exciting array of speakers which included PTI chairman Imran Khan, the radio host Fasi Zaka, the aeronautical engineer Raja Sabri Khan, the long-hardships-sufferer Dr Quratulain Bakhteari, the Pakistani Pop-rock band Noori, the quadriplegic Marathon winner Sarmad Tariq and finally, the woman whose one incident in her life led her to struggle for justice: Mukhtar Mai. The theme for this year’s event was “Making the impossible possible” and apparently, every speaker was just a good match of it.
Dr Awab Alvi, Senior TED 2011 fellow welcomed the audience with a brief history of TED and introduced the first speaker of the evening: Fasi Zaka. Fasi Zaka is a television and radio show host, and pens his columns usually on politics. Fasi Zaka has made the impossible possible by initiating the most needed task in Pakistan: Education Task Force which focuses on upholding the cause of education in Pakistan and defining out its structure as a building block for the education policy in the country. Fasi Zaka re-emphasized on how much education is important to end the vicious cycle of terrorism and injustice and on the reasons that contribute to the failure of education system in Pakistan. He said that unlike a range of political and social matters in Pakistan receiving huge attention from Pakistani media, education is something that has failed to attract attention from this viably functioning institution which has led to time-lags in framing a solid education policy for education system in the country. “Meera’s 25th birthday gets more attention by media than the problems the people of Pakistan face in acquiring a decent education.” – He cracked. He said that with the sincere efforts and determination by Pakistani government and people, we will be able to see the results in educational sphere within two years in the form of high quality education being received by the low-income and destitute population of Pakistan. However, he did praise numerous aspects of Pakistani education. “The news is not bad at all. There is an innovation in education in Pakistan and a large number of schools now charge a very minimal or no fee from the students who cannot afford education. Also, the Punjab government sends children to school more than Switzerland which has 100 % population literacy.” – He said. He ended his talk by talking on how education can be reached to many more people within Pakistan. He said the Pakistan Education Task Force team is working on pressurizing media and government in the country to take concrete steps regarding education policy. Although Fasi Zaka’s talk was more like a presentation and less like a story, he did leave an impact on the audience by emphasizing on how can they play their part, as a member of society, in curbing illiteracy in Pakistan.
The next talk was by an aerospace design engineer from MIT: Raja Sabri Khan. Raja Sabri is known for carrying groundbreaking research in the areas of turbojet, GPS technology, closed loop feedback systems etc., and for designing scientific subsystems primarily to be used in non-military applications such as education, research, alternate energy and health. Among the first few lines of his TED talk were, “I do not support drone attacks in Pakistan. But I do support drone ‘technology’”. By this he meant that drone technology is not necessarily primarily used for military activities and that it can do what an ordinary machine or a person cannot. He told how he went on in being interested in manufacturing an unmanned aircraft but due to financial constraints, ended up in becoming a part of the Pakistani Fashion Industry to earn money and get back to making aircraft. “You may be surprised but it is a fact that Fashion Industry in Pakistan is one of the first contributing factors to drone attacks in Pakistan”. – He said. The audience giggled. He made the impossible possible when he made drones and projected it on a website. He received an overwhelming response from people around the world and authorities of various countries even approached him and bought the drones he made. These drones, exclusively made in Pakistan, were used to study ‘tuna fish’, give an assistance to mountaineers, in mapping eco systems of the most remotest of areas such as Arizon Forest and some parts of Antarctica. He ended his talk by showing a model of a compact-sized drone with an installed GPS technology, a camera device used for sending live pictures, which can be used to fly in the air for about 10 kilometers and is originially used for the security and protection of people. He emphasized that had this model of drone been used in the PNS Mehran on Sunday 22nd May 2011, a lot of lives would have been saved.
Raja Sabri’s talk on the alternative usages of drones shocked the audience and changed perceptions about drone technology of the most.
The next in line was the speaker who has made the impossible possible by believing that there is no ‘short-cut’ to the success in life and that “the greater the ambition, the greater the series of failures and more the hard work.” He was the PTI Chairman, Imran Khan. Khan shared his story about he was passionate to become a cricketer. He also shared with the audience his experience of how ugly turn did the circumstances take when Pakistani cricket team captained by Imran Khan was going to win the world cup in 1992. The circumstances made it almost difficult for Pakistani cricket team to grab the world cup. It was during this time, Imran Khan said, that the team was determined and committed to win despite all odds. The team indeed made the impossible possible by securing its first Cricket ODI World Cup. Similarly, Khan faced obstacles when he wanted to built the first private cancer hospital in Pakistan that now treats 75 % of admitted cancer-patients free and shows no difference in treatment between the rich and the poor, and Namal college in Mianwali that aimed to give training to the youth of Pakistan so that they are better fostered with knowledge and take their own initiatives to work vigorously. Khan said he faced those obstacles by not becoming vulnerable to them and instead became staunch and committed. “Failure has its own dynamics. If you expect failure, you can deal with it”. – He said. He also lessoned the audience that failure allows them to analyze their mistakes. In that way, it is a stepping stone to moving higher. In the last, he emphasized that Pakistan, as a nation, is full of talent and that it will only be exploited if there is a ‘good’ governance in the country. The audience nodded.
Talk by Imran Khan was followed by a half-an-hour break. The event resumed with a mesmerizing performance by Noori, the pop-rock Pakistani band, in a typical TED style. They initially performed a sufistic composition by Bulleh Shah and after the performance, Noori talked about how Bulleh Shah, wearing a woman’s clothes, roamed around in the streets in his time, dancing, and said to people to look at their ‘inner-self’ as the peace and the tranquility of the world lies within. The band then went on in emphasizing the potential that all of us have and that it takes only a moment to realize that potential and trigger it off.
The next speaker of the event was Dr Quratulain Bakhteari. Dr. Quratulain shared the story of her life which was filled with a long journey of her sufferings and pains. She spent the first 12 years of her life in a refugee camp. She suffered hardships throughout her childhood and would often undertake tasks as a young girl that requires painstaking amount of laborious work. She attributes her boldness to her parents, especially her mother, who through their attitudes at home and outside, would reform the personality of Dr. Quratulain and her siblings, and make them more staunch and less susceptible to failure. Quratulain, against her own will, married at the age of 19, as was customary, and by the age of 21 had three children. She simultaneously completed her education whilst raising her children and worked hard to improve the communities of rural areas in Pakistan. Later, she chose to remain away from her family when asked from her husband whether she would like to remain in house as a decent, nice woman or would want to leave, in a supposed attempt to curb her social activities keeping in view the norms of society. While she was away, she invented a ‘latrine’ that was made from bricks and mud. This invention of her got her a call from UK to present her invention. She later enrolled in a PhD program of UK, but carried out his research in Pakistan while working for the community development. Dr. Quratulain later re-united with her family. Her talk, in the received received a huge applause and a great ovation.
Story of Dr. Quratulain is a unique example of the indifference between the rights of a woman and a man. She, through her struggle as an example, has led us to believe that women are equally capable of carrying out tasks that men are and that apart from a mere gender difference, we all co-exist equally.
The next in line of speaking was Sarmad Tariq, who I may say ‘stole’ the show. Sarmad Tariq is an Islamabad-based life coach and a motivational speaker. His talk was truly an inspiring one for most of us, as despite being a quadriplegic, he said, he never gave up on life. He told how he, after he had an accident, was affected in both the ways: physically and mentally. Yet, he held the belief ‘nothing is impossible’ so firmly that he decided to ponder over the ways in which he can make a difference at the time when he couldn’t move his shoulders and various parts of his body. His interest in cars and driving made him the first ever quadriplegic to cover the distance of 1,847 km from Khyber to Karachi via his hand-controlled car non-stop in 2004. After realizing his potential, he pushed himself further and participated in the New York City Marathon in 2005 despite having a 6-day-long hip injury before the race. Sarmad was the only wheelchair athlete to represent Pakistan and complete the marathon. He said that he has been spending his life with difficulties due to being a quadriplegic, but yet gives himself and others a lesson of “not complaining” and “not being afraid of past”.
Sarmad cheered the audience and left an imprint of his by giving the trick of becoming successful: ‘Absence of regret. Absence of fear. Absence of complaints. A feeling of constant improvement’.
After Sarmad Tariq was the last speaker who need no any introduction: Mukhtar Mai. Mukhtar Mai had suffered the calamity after which a typical woman in countries such as Pakistan go on in choosing death over life. Yet, Mukhtar Mai chose to be strong and staunch in the face of injustice that she and countless women in Pakistan face. She founded ‘Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organisation’ with the aim of providing education and a voice to call for rights to the women in the Southern Punjab. The question and answer session with Mukhtar Mai revealed that the core problem she found for inequality in society and injustice towards woman was ‘education’. She, like Fasi Zaka, emphasized on how education can change the life of an individual and tells us that had she been educated when she suffered injustice, she would’ve taken steps that may have led to bring her justice in a ‘fair’ way. She asked Pakistani people to live a life, believing that life is hard to live, which is full of struggle and endless efforts to promote equality, freedom and justice in the nation and elsewhere.
A splendid end to the evening. TEDxKarachi, through its amazing line-up of speakers, did wonders by bringing into our knowledge a bunch of good things that need most attention in Pakistan right now than anything else. With such events happening throughout Pakistan which are more accessible to people of lower-upper and middle-lower/middle-upper class, we will only be a moment away from making a difference; a difference in the promotion of peace, tranquility and unity for a better and prosperous Pakistan.
June 15, 2011
15th June 2011. 6:16 p.m. My first blog.
Yes, the first blog is the ‘my welcome’ blog. It has been quite a lot of time since I had been thinking of getting a space at a blog page but apparently, the laziness has been all but enough to overwhelm me and give me one more chance to ‘not’ pen my thoughts. Finally, an end to it! Oh really?
I will try to write often. I am interested in writing about current affairs, psychology, cultures, media, book reviews, technology (as I am a geek ), good things about Pakistan and any other thing that captures my attention and deserves a note. This is one good platform for me to voice my opinions and concerns, and at the same time get abreast of opinions and concerns of other people. I believe this will be an added-value to our knowledge and we will just begin to respect each others’s opinions, which is what is long-needed in every corner of the world!