Tag Archives: pakistan

Horror, Horror! Who is the cruelest person in the world?

Standard

By Farkhanda Qaiser

Children paying homage to the young martyrs

Children paying homage to the young martyrs

I cannot describe the gut-wrenching massacre at the Army Public School, Peshawar nor can I make a politically or historically correct analysis about the losses suffered by Pakistan in the war against terror. I can only express my feelings as a common Pakistani citizen. In the past few days, I have gone from shock to horror to grief and then again to shock (as more pictures of the gruesome inhumane act were released on the electronic media).

Peace is the ONLY way forward

Peace is the ONLY way forward

All around me, I see people losing composure. Whether it is news reporters covering the ghastly incident or anchors on Television programs; little school going children or their parents, everyone is in tears! Ever since 2001, there have been above 14000 terrorist attacks in Pakistan in which almost 50,000 innocent people lost their lives but why has this reaction not come earlier? Why did we not shed tears on the merciless killings of Hazara Shias or those of Ahmadis or Christians? Or even of mosque-going Muslims? Or of Pakistani army and military forces? Why did we not realize at that point that we were dealing with monsters and not humans? I know why. Because we are a nation whose conscious is fast asleep and we need loud drum beating to wake up. Simple alarm bells are not enough for us. When the first terrorist attack was justified on the basis of sectarianism or superior knowledge of ‘Islam,’ that is when alarm bells should have gone off in our minds that something is not right. That is when we should have tried to put a stop to this senseless mindset. But we didn’t. We kept on waiting because the ‘terror’ had not yet reached our doorstep. We waited and that is why we have been brought to this black day of 16th December 2014.

When even schools are not safe

When even schools are not safe

That day teenage school going students lost their carefree attitude forever. Their school became a shooting spot where they were the hunted ones. However that is not why all of us are in mourning. No, we are too selfish for that. The reason our parents cry is because they feel that it could have been their ‘own’ kids. The reason why you and I cry is because we feel that it could easily have been ‘us’ instead of ‘them’. It could have been my friends whose dead bodies piled up on me would act as a shield for me. It could have been my favorite teacher who was burnt alive in front of me. It could have been your principal who preferred to die rather than save her own self. It could have been you hid under a bench and fearing the approaching black boots. Yes that is why we all bemoan. Because now we feel the ‘terror’ has truly reached our threshold.

We are terrified and we feel helpless. There is nothing we can do, our politicians are too corrupt and self-centered, we lament. Our borders are too porous to contain the foreign terrorists, we grumble. This is not our war, it has been enforced on us, we protest. We lament and grumble and protest. We point the accusatory finger at others. But did we realize that the remaining four fingers were pointing at our own selves? Oh, this is sure to raise a few eyebrows. How are we to blame, you ask.

We are to blame because we have failed to identify our enemy and even if identified, have taken too soft a stance on him. ‘He’ is the cruelest person in the world. He can finish nations like a rot eats wood. And if we fail to stop him now, then indeed he will finish us too. Every last one of us! Well, I know that Pakistan was created on 27th Ramazan and that it is only the second state after Madina that was acquired in the name of Islam. But even this ‘holy’ background will not save us. Because remember that

Khuda nay aaj tak us qoum ki haalat nahin badli jo qoum khud apni haalat na badlay

(God has never changed the fortunes of a nation that failed to turn the tide itself.)

This is one fact that we need to accept with all our hearts and minds. We will definitely and surely perish if we don’t stop this deadly enemy! So WAKE UP Pakistanis! This is the time for immediate action. We don’t have ‘7 days’ for an action plan.

No more Intolerance

No more Intolerance

   Our enemy is within us. He is the ‘mindset’ who believes that only he is practicing the right brand of Islam and the remaining people are infidels. He doesn’t stop here. He justifies killing people because they were not following his version of ‘Shariah.’ However we need to realize that this mindset did not occur over night. It evolved slowly. It started from the time when we became intolerant of people who were different from us whether in political or religious views. I see it every day when youngsters like me indulge in meaningless arguments on social media viciously attacking the opponents. I see it when every minor, harmless act is brutally subjected to scrutiny and questioned whether it’s Islamic or not. People ask what use is burning candles or keeping vigils when hundreds have died. Oh please, stop being so narrow minded! If you express your feelings about a tragedy by keeping a Facebook status or by turning your profile picture black, then so be it. If I express myself through a blog then why can’t I? If someone else tries to remember the innocent martyrs by lighting candles then what’s wrong with it? Islam is a religion for all times and all regions of the world. Do not limit it with your boxed thinking. And the best way to serve Islam is to learn about it so that you don’t besmirch it with your ignorance. So if you really want to do something to end terrorism in Pakistan then start by increasing knowledge about Islam. Read Quran and Hadith. Learn about the life events of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions. Only then would you realize the true values of our religion.

Another dimension of our defective thinking which has made us an intolerant nation is being judgmental about others. We are constantly judging people around us and passing our ‘expert’ opinion about whether they’d end up in paradise or hellfire. Please change this attitude now before it brings more destruction for us. Only Allah knows our ultimate resting place. There have been many incidences mentioned in Ahadith where extremely pious men were sent to hellfire because of some bad habit or other. Or apparently devious people were sent to paradise due to some hidden good attribute. Know this that we are not ‘all-knowing.’ We don’t know the intentions and all the life circumstances of ANY person (even if it’s someone very close to us). So if we don’t know this then we can’t pass the right judgment about anyone. Besides, it would be so much better to spend this energy and time trying to make ourselves better humans. Trust me; there is so much that needs to be done in this aspect that we would not have any time left for scrutinizing others’ actions!

Say no to hate speech

Say no to hate speech

While we change our mindset, we also need to be mindful of suspicious activities taking place around us. This was explained quite eloquently by the Interior Minister today. Finally our government has acknowledged that we are in a state of war. And no war can be won without the support of its citizens. If we become the eyes and ears of our law enforcement forces then no terrorist stands a chance against us. We should discourage and report hate speech wherever it’s being preached. We should monitor our neighborhoods and most importantly we should ask our leaders to openly condemn the enemy. There is no space left for soft mouthing. All terrorists need to be dealt with force. Enough is enough! Accountability is the best way to ensure justice in a society. Every individual must be held accountable for his deeds especially these monsters who claim to be righteous!

enough

However, even if the overall situation of the country appears dismal and hopeless, don’t lose hope. We have the best example from the young victims of the Peshawar attack. One such young boy with bullet wounds on his face said,

“Is umar me goli kha li hai. Ab kabhi goli se nahin darun ga.”

(I have been shot with bullets at this age. Now I will never be afraid of bullets!)

Other boys showed the determination to join Pakistan army and rid their country of all terrorists. If these traumatized adolescents have not lost hope then we have no excuse to be hopeless. Hard times befall all nations but only strong nations rise out of the ashes. Are we a strong nation?

 The author is a medical student.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

My take on Elections 2013 (Part 2)

Standard

By Farkhanda Qaiser

Before the results of elections started pouring out, many people were anticipating large scale change in the national political scenario. I believe, changes did appear but not as expected.

Congratulations on Voting!

Congratulations on Voting!

Change # 1: In Punjab and KPK:

PTI was foreseen to sweep the province of Punjab and replace PML N to a large extent. This may have been due to unexpectedly large turnouts at PTI rallies in the last few months. However as the election results proved, the ground realities were diametrically opposite. PTI failed to impress a large portion of the Punjabi electorate and PML N was able to maintain its stronghold in many of its constituencies. Good governance by the previous Punjab Government; well thought-out distribution of tickets among electoral candidates by PML N and beraadri setup in rural areas were some of the causes for the success of Sharif Brothers in the largest province of the country.

However PTI did manage to turn the tables in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. ANP – which formed the preceding government in KPK – was almost if not completely wiped out from the political set up.  I think, gross blunders by ANP in the last few years took precedence over the revolutionary charm of PTI.

pak pie chart

Change # 2: In Sindh and Balochistan:

Even though PPP cried itself hoarse (via media campaigns) maligning its rival party i.e. PML N, it was unable to make its mark in the General Elections 2013. Whereas it had secured 50 seats from Punjab in National Assembly in 2008, it could only cling onto 1 seat this time around. This is the biggest revenge democracy could take! And every one of us, who voted in these elections, should pat themselves on the back for this huge reprisal of the ex-ruling party which was unable to deliver good governance and was rampantly corrupt. This is what happens to bad governments! Democracy rocks!

Nevertheless PPP was able to maintain its dominance in Sindh despite its dismal performance in power. This could be due to lack of alternative Sindhi political leaders; remnants of Bhutto-loyalists or jiyalas and emotional blackmailing of illiterates. Yet credit is also due to some PPP politicians like Dr. Fehmida Mirza who kept constantly in touch with locals of her constituency during her last tenure. Sometimes it’s very easy to please the simpletons of our country. All they require is the satisfaction that their leader visits them once every often and has not forgotten them. These voters are not concerned with the bigger picture of democracy, corruption, law and order situation or foreign relations. Hence, the slogan roti, kapra, makaan was engineered for these very commoners and was very popular.

The ruling powers also did not change in Karachi and Hyderabad. These are the citadels of MQM which it managed to keep under its control. Massive coverage was given on media channels regarding rigging in Karachi. Such was the hue and cry that ECP was forced to take action. Now it has been announced that re-polling would be conducted in 43 polling stations of NA-250 (of Karachi) within 10 days. This decision should be applauded as it would clear many doubts about the transparency of the elections 2013.

As far as Balochistan is concerned, no single party has emerged as a clear winner so it is still unclear that who will form the government in this province.

Change # 3: Comparatively Free and Fair Elections:

After the announcement of election results, protests erupted all over the country. These protesters complained of widespread rigging in the elections. Most of them belonged to the parties of PTI, MQM and JI. Lahore (particularly NA-125 where Hamid Khan of PTI lost to Khawaja Saad Rafique of PML N), Karachi, Hyderabad, Jacobabad, Jhang and some areas of Balochistan are believed to be the shady areas of rigging.

fafen

During these processions, there have also been skirmishes between supporters of rival political parties. This is very sad and is highly reminiscent of the politics of 90’s when PML N and PPP were at each others’ necks. Therefore, I appeal to these educated elite of Pakistan not to indulge in such lowly activities. This country can’t afford any more political brawls. There is a dire need to start solving the problems with political consensus. A healthy opposition would serve as a watchdog so now is the time to move on. Get over the election results and celebrate the day that was!

However, having said that, there is no denying the fact that rigging did take place. According to an independent body called Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), there are clear evidences that elections in 49 polling stations (out of the 8000 observed by them) were rigged. This comes out to be a mere 0.6125 %…!  Well yes, rigging is bad but we must appreciate the fact that we’re living in a third-world country whose dictatorial history is longer than that of democracy. Our institutions are still young and inexperienced. These irregularities are due to mismanagement of the staff of ECP and not due to their ill-will. We should try to resolve the issues according to law. In this regard, PTI’s petition in Supreme Court is a welcome step. True, street politics is powerful and heady but we shouldn’t get carried away if there are alternatives. Other than rectifying the gross irregularities, the losing parties should accept defeat and congratulate the winners. This would create the much needed good will after the mudslinging during the elections!

 Change # 4: International Image:

After witnessing greater than 60% turnout in the General Elections 2013, I was sure that International community would no longer think of us as illiterate savages fit for dictatorship only. After all, these elections were the triumph not only of Pakistan but also of democracy. However the post-election protests and blame games are dampening the mood in the country and this is not a good omen for the successive 5 years. It is highly imperative for leadership of political parties to let by gone be gone and instruct their political workers to calm down. I’m hopeful that these good-will gestures will come one day. (Indeed, PTI will prove to be different than PPP and PML N of 90’s inshaAllah). Better late than never!

Change # 5: Democracy is the best revenge:

If nothing else, these elections have definitely fortified my belief in democracy.

Who would've thought that  tables would turn so violently?!

Who would’ve thought that tables would turn so violently?!

Democracy ensures that corrupt and bad politicians are one day shooed out of the parliament if they don’t mend their ways!

Abbreviations: PTI = Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, PML-N = Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, ANP = Awami National Party, KPK = Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, PPP = Pakistan Peoples’ Party, MQM = Muttahida Qaumi Movement, ECP = Election Commission of Pakistan, JI = Jamaat-e-Islaami, FAFEN = Free and Fair Election Network.

My take on Elections 2013 (Part 1)

Standard

By Farkhanda Qaiser 

A day to cherish,

A day to celebrate,

And most importantly, a day to ponder upon…

Yes, I’m talking about 11th May 2013General Elections Day in Pakistan.

For the first time in the short history of this country, young and old; rich and poor; educated and illiterate; healthy and disabled; normal and 3rd gender all headed towards the polling stations to cast their precious votes. Some enthusiastic first-time-voters reached even before polling started. Such was the excitement in the air that if it could be transformed into electrical volts, it would’ve been enough to run an entire garments factory for a year at least…! Unified exhilaration like this is only seen on huge cricket victories by the men in green. But NEVER in the past have people been so thrilled about the process of electing their representatives.

So what was the rationale for this unprecedented election fever?

Many observers believe that it was the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) factor which pushed the voters out of their houses – Voters who believed that their votes could bring a much needed change in a repeatedly-plundered country. Whereas PTI might have been a huge reason but I believe this wasn’t the only one.

Bat - Election Symbol of PTI

Bat – Election Symbol of PTI

       The journey of change has been slow but steady. It began with the freedom of media and the         mushrooming of dozens of news channels on the cable network. Being a novice at first, media also made many mistakes (read sensationalism) but its largest service was awareness among the masses. Moreover, the 2007 lawyers’ movement served to mobilize the sleeping nation which rose up quite forcefully to the challenge. This is when the common man realized the power of street politics. Hefty words like supremacy of constitution and rule of law became part of local jargon. With the restoration of Chief Justice of Pakistan in 2009, various other bodies (like doctors, paramedical staff, teachers etc) also took to the streets to fight for their rights. Thus a culture of ‘change’ evolved within the society. Governments mended their ways at the outcry of the public. This in itself was a huge achievement for the battered citizens of a third-world country.

Then came the year 2013. The Election Year. People believed in democracy despite all its weaknesses. They understood that Pakistan is still a sapling (where democracy is concerned) whose growth has been stunted by dark oppressive powers for too long but not anymore. Now it has the free air to breathe, fresh rainwater and nutrients to grow and most importantly uninterrupted space to spread its roots both in depth and length. And this I believe is the reason for the large turnout of these elections.

A PML-N rally with their election symbol – Lion

Not only was the turnout huge but the excitement was tangible too. People thronged the roads with the colorful flags and symbols of different political parties. Party affiliation differed even within families. In Punjab, youth and women sided mostly with PTI and men with PML N. These voters persevered despite the intensely hot weather. Some polling stations had no shade or facilities of drinking water but no word of complaint was heard. In fact, in a few residential areas of Karachi where polling was delayed due to technical reasons, inhabitants of nearby houses provided water to the voters standing in long lines! This was the level of camaraderie and sportsman spirit among the people. I even overheard people saying, “Aaj tu Eid ka din lag raha hai…” Perhaps, festivities of Election Day were greater than that of Eid because they were visible on a greater scale – all over the country on the same day! Hamari tu Eid bi ek din nai hoti, lekin election tu ek din ee hua na…!

Furthermore, as soon as I logged onto facebook after having cast my vote, I was overwhelmed by pictures of Stamp-marked-thumbs and statuses regarding ‘Naya Pakistan.’ At first, I couldn’t stop laughing at the pictures of thumbs of all sizes some hairy and others non hairy. But then I regretted not having taken a similar picture – not to put up as a facebook DP (no thank you :p) but as a memory of my first ever vote!

Facebook display picture

However, one thing is for sure – 180 million people of Pakistan would never forget this day in their lives. This includes both the fortunate voters and unfortunate non-voters. An interesting incident in this regard was the bridegroom in Multan who cast his vote with his entire barat. That would’ve definitely made a very interesting DP – Dulha with the ballot box!

Nevertheless, the turnout for these elections could have been even greater, had the Election Commission of Pakistan taken a few more steps. Firstly, the idea of postal ballots should have been advertised more. Its last day was 25th April which slipped by quietly. By and large, people didn’t even know about it. Secondly, a lot of voters were registered in their hometowns where they no longer lived. Consequently they missed the opportunity to vote. Either the text-message service (to find out the location of polling station) should’ve been initiated earlier or the ECP should’ve confirmed the voters’ lists and their present addresses.

In addition, President Zardari should have passed the Ordinance for Overseas voters on time. Perhaps this delay was intentional because everyone knows that majority of Overseas Pakistanis whole heartedly support PTI.

Before the results of elections started pouring out, many people were anticipating large scale change in the national political scenario.

 (to be continued…)

Aftermath of Doctors’ strike

Standard

By Farkhanda Qaiser

“Baji aap ko tu mehanga kapra dunga main…!” The shopkeeper said maliciously.

“Hain Bhai sahib? Magar kyun?” The lady was bewildered.

“Kyunki aap doctor hain…!” came the reply.

This incident occurred recently with a friend’s aunt who happens to be a dentist-turned-housewife. And I fear more such incidents as an aftermath to the young doctors’ strike and the successful negative propaganda by Punjab Government. (I call it successful because it achieved its desired result – turning majority of the civil society against doctors).

However the matter is not so simple. It will have long-term effects. This defaming media hype has created a trust deficit between the physician and the patient. The patients have been made to believe that doctors of today are purely greedy souls who would go to any limit for their pay hikes. When in fact, the truth is quite different. The issue is not about increasing salaries rather it’s about job security via a proper service structure. It’s about diminishing bureaucratic and political influence from the induction, promotion and transfers of doctors. This measure would ensure the promotion of merit as opposed to a ‘sifarish culture’ which is prevalent in our society at present. Hence, the opposition from the Punjab Government can be explained by this simple fact.

Nevertheless the sacred trust that exists between a physician and his patient must be preserved at all costs. So now it is our responsibility to bring back that lost faith. Or else we could suffer a similar fate as that of Indian doctors.

Yes, our Indian counterparts have also resorted to strikes countless times. Theirs had been an old story spreading over the course of almost 10 years. The demands were – pay hike and time-bound promotions. The response of their government was very similar to that of Punjab Government but minus the brutal crackdown i.e. appointment of ad-hoc doctors and adoption of delaying tactics to sabotage the just demands of doctors. However the public reaction was very alarming. There were innumerable cases of assaults on doctors along with token-protests by social organizations like Gujars and trade associations of Rajasthan.

Let’s hope the situation doesn’t get this bad in Pakistan.

Inside the Lahore High Court (1)

Standard

By Farkhanda Qaiser

After having seen huge courtrooms in dramas and movies, I expected the Lahore High Court to be much like that. However I was in for alot of surprises when I entered this place for the first time in my life today. The occasion was the hearing of the YDA (Young Doctors’ Association) case in Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan’s court.

Lahore High Court

Despite the fact that I reached the courtroom as early as 9 AM, it was jam packed. Mostly the audience consisted of young doctors wearing their white overalls whereas lawyers struggled to find a vacant seat in this vibrant crowd. The room itself was a very small one with only 3 rows of chairs at the back for the audience so most of the people were standing shoulder to shoulder in the immense heat of July. In the center was a round table with chairs for the lawyers whose cases were to be heard that day. The table was littered with piles of legal documents and law books. And in the front of this all was the podium on which the Esteemed Judge was to take his place anytime soon. We were all waiting with abated breaths for the case to start. Some of the House Officers sitting with me were from Ganga Ram Hospital and were very vociferous about their support for YDA. Being a Third Year medical student, I probably was the youngest observer in that courtroom. However my spirits were quite high and I was very excited about this little ‘adventure’ of mine.

While we were still discussing the doctors’ strike and the Punjab government’s unprecedented brutal crackdown, suddenly the lawyers sitting in front of us rose up from their seats. As we were quite unaware about the protocol of a courtroom so we were very surprised at this gesture. Then we realized that the Respected Judge had arrived and the lawyers were showing their respect by giving him a standing ovation. Somehow it reminded me of my school days when we used to stand up just like this on the arrival of our teachers to classrooms. But now the scenario was diametrically opposite. The students had been replaced by well-versed solicitors and the teacher was the Judge in whose hands lay the decision of many lives and deaths.

Once the Honorable Judge was seated, the official proceedings started…

To be Continued…