Naya Saal

Ay naye saal bata, tujh main naya pan kiya hai?
Har taraf khalq nay Q shorr macha rakha hai

Roshni din ki wohi taaron bharee raat wohi
Aaj hum ko nazar aati hai har baat wohi

Aasmaan badla hai afsos na badli hay zameen
Ek hindsay ka badalna koi jiddat tou nahi

Aglay barson ki tarha hongay qarenay teray
Kisay maaloom nahi baran mahinay teray

January, February aur March main paray sardi
Aur April, May, June main hogi garmee

Tera munn dahar main kuch khoye ga kuch paye ga
Apni miyaad basar karkay chala jaye ga

Tu naya hai tou dikha subha nayee shaam nayee
Warna in aankhon nay dekhay hain naye saal kayee

Bay sabab detay hain Q loge mubarakbaadain
Gaalibann bhool gaye waqt ki karwii yaadain

Teri aamud sey ghatti umar, jahan sey sab ki
Ay naye saal bata tujh main naya pan kya ha?


-Ahmed Faraz

Pakistan Diaries 3: Politics these days

I joined Tamreez and Elhaan this week and it’s great to see them again. Elhaan seems to have been influenced by Pakistani politicians and greeted me with estranged looks, perhaps complaining about my unannounced disappearance from his life for over a month and a half. He has decided to change parties. He who would only sleep in my arms now refuses to even let me hold him when he is sleepy. I am sure I will lure him back into my party soon.

Changing parties is the order of the day in Pakistani politics at the moment, as Imran Khan’s PTI has undoubtedly registered itself as the third big force in the political arena. It is yet to be seen if it is for the good.

In the UK, the Lib Dem vote bank in the last elections was mainly boosted by those who resented the two main parties. Likewise, Imran’s PTI is banking a lot on those voters who are fed up of the PPP/PML(N) led governments in the past.

Lib Dems also came up quite strong in the pre election polls yet could not translate that into tangible success. The momentum was still enough to give them a stake in the coalition government. Since then, the amount of U turns and compromises they have done, has completely shattered any hopes for them to do well in the next elections. I know there is a big difference in the two parties but still I hope PTI does not end up in the same boat if they do well.

The basic day to day issues like inflation, shortages of gas and electricity and the deteriorating condition of transport and infrastructure etc. are what people want resolved. A conversation with my driver who cannot read or write but yet carries a good insight into politics, sums up how a general voter thinks about politics. He has decided to vote for PTI in the next elections. When asked what convinced him to vote in favour of Imran Khan’s PTI, he said, “All my life I have seen others rule. They have been given more than one chance and they looted and destroyed my country. Imran Khan has a clean track record up till now and I can only hope that he is different from others. Worse comes to worst he’ll also do what his predecessors did. At least he deserves a chance”.



Emel and Oxfam organised the screening of ‘Miral’ last Thursday in London and I am glad I attended it. Director, Julian Schnabel stirred controversy with this daring film, based on a biographical novel by Rula Jebreal. I was shocked to hear in the introduction, that earlier this year on April 4th, a few days after the film was released in US, Juliano Merr-Khamis, an actor and peace activist who played a role in the film, was murdered outside his own theatre in a Palestinian refugee camp.

I grew up hearing the horror stories of Palestine. It is one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of our time. The so-called “civilised” world knowingly has put a blind eye towards the unjustified atrocities committed by the Jewish state since it’s creation. In retaliation the other side also uses all means possible to inflict pain to their enemy. The fact is that human beings are suffering on both sides.

It’s very rarely that we get to see a glimpse of the lives of ordinary Palestinians. Miral is a daring endeavour to voice the human side of this conflict. It tells a story spanning 60 years, of 4 Palestinian women living under the conflict.

The first account is of Hind Husseini and her brave effort to establish an orphanage in Jerusalem after the Deir Yassin Massacre in 1948. Hind was an influential lady of Palestine, who one day finds 55 children on a street, orphaned by the massacre, and takes them home to give them food and shelter. Soon the number reaches over 2000, giving birth to an institute she names Dar Al-Tifel. The striking thing about her is her patience in the worst of situations. She knows there is very little she can do other than using her influence to shield these children from the wrath of the occupiers. Hind believes that education is the only way towards peace.

The story continues with the account of a female fighter, Fatima, who is serving 3 charges of lifetime after a bomb attack and the circumstances that led her to commit that act. In parallel, it shows the disturbed life of Nadia, Miral’s mother. In 1978, the 5 year old Miral (played by Freida Pinto) is brought to Hind’s Institute by her father following her mother’s suicide. Hind protects her too from the world outside the walls of Dar Al-Tifel. One day the girls are assigned to teach at a refugee camp when in an Army raid a local family is dragged out of their house and the house bulldozed to rubble. The rebel in Miral suddenly wakes up to the troubles surrounding Palestinian people.

She later falls in a romantic relationship with a character named Hani, who is a Palestinian political activist. Miral struggles to choose between her desire to join the cause of her people and Hind’s path of academia, keeping away from hostility. She gets involved briefly with the political activities but eventually decides to take on the route Hind paved for her. The film ends with her taking up a scholarship in Italy later becoming a journalist helping her people. Her courage throughout this struggle must be commended. Rula is that journalist who eventually wrote her biographical story under the name of Miral.

I don’t think the aim of the film was to highlight the conflict as a whole, but rather it focussed on highlighting a unique side to the lives of ordinary local women: from Hind’s patience, love and determination to Miral’s struggle from an early age and her dilemma to decide her path in life.

The film has still received a lot of criticism from the Jewish circles as it seems to put them is a negative light. Julian Schnabel however believes that “the film is about preserving the state of Israel, not hurting it. Understanding is part of Jewish way, and Jewish people are supposed to be good listeners. But if we don’t listen to the other side, we can never have peace”. He said this at a rare screening of the film at the United Nations.

I must say it is an honest and brave attempt by the Israeli Director.

A hope or another One-Man-Show?

The historical PTI Jalsa (rally) has not only shaken many big mouthed veterans in the political arena but most importantly seemed to have kindled a political lamp in the hearts of many a muted-but-concerned citizens of Pakistan. That really means something. It was inspiring to read the running commentary of the Jalsa, on social media, by youngsters who normally shy away from political circles. Many attendees of the Jalsa I know never attended a political rally in the past.

PTI deserves a big applause on achieving this moment of glory, as Tamreez puts it, but a BIG question looms in my mind. Is it really PTI that I should applaud or the lone efforts and leadership qualities of one person, and that is of course Imran Khan?

Going with the cricket analogy, that Imran Khan so often reverts to, I would like to ask: Who are the Wasims and Waqars of his bowling attack and when are we going to see the likes of Zaheer Abbas, Miandad, Saeed Anwar and Inzi strengthening his batting line-up? or maybe the plan is simply to pull off another 1992?

No doubt, 1992 was one of  the rare victories in our history. But why is it that we are yet to repeat that feat? It is because we failed to nourish leadership in our ranks; solid batsmen in our batting line up who are consistent; our bowlers, although incredibly talented like Shoaib and Amir, lacked that vigour and vision or know-how of winning matches and you all have seen their careers.

I fear that Imran Khan might fall into the same trap as others did in the past in Pakistan. What PTI really needs is ‘Leaders’, like Imran Khan, who can rally the same support as he can and sadly I don’t know anyone else in PTI who can. We have seen enough of history repeating itself. I know it sounds idealistic but we should aim towards a “solution”, rather than a one-off victory, that stays solved for some time.

My request to Imran Khan is that he should let his other party leaders also stand with him in the front-line (they are not visible enough); get them seen and heard by the masses and make them leaders who know how to WIN. I think a true leader is the one who knows how to nurture leadership. If we are to challenge the big guns, that’s what parties like PTI should focus on. It is the only way to get somewhere in winning some stake in the 342-seat parliament. It’s all fair that Imran Khan has something to offer that’s better than other politicians but when it comes to elections what matters is who wins the most seats in the parliament. Does PTI have enough blood? That remains a question.

Saying all that, Imran Khan certainly seems to have scored high in the books of one influential entity in Pakistani politics: media. The media has become one of the most powerful stakeholders in Pakistani political affairs and I really believe they will decide who wins the next election, even more so than the army and intelligence agencies. No wonder stakes are high for the top anchors and some of them happily shift from channel to channel. PTI probably has no such influence yet but the last couple of days belonged to Imran Khan and finally his true entry into Politics (in the words of Sheikh Rashid of AML). Although MQM had a rally on the same day and that did try to steal the limelight but PTI’s Jalsa got a lot of post-Jalsa media mileage. The terminology used in the news tickers on various channels and by the analysts/anchors certainly hinted an inclination towards supporting his campaign for the next elections or it was probably just a frustration of the long standing PPP-Nawaz partnership. Let’s see if Imran’s bowling attack has the depth it needs to break that partnership.

The run up to the next elections cannot be more exciting and I hope the sleeping giant (the Pakistani public) finally wakes up.

Embracing life as is

imageLife is a complicated thing. For some of us it is like a bed of roses and at the same time for others it might seem like a thorny pathway to hell. It sounds unfair but that’s life – but one thing is for sure that life is not meant to stay the same way for ever. God has promised us that difficult times are not meant to last for ever.

“So, Verily, with hardship there is relief” (Quran 94:6)

Quran also reminds us in various instances that it’s not just us ordinary human beings; all the Prophets had to go through trials and tribulations.

"Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty, ailments and were shaken." (Quran 2:214)

There is an apt French proverb that “Good fortune and bad are equally necessary to man, to fit him to meet the contingencies of this life.”

There is no education like adversity. In these difficult times is learning we mostly fail to see when we are actually are going trough it. Those who and able to positively channel these Divinely ordained pathways of development and growth with patience, their character is bound to evolves some unique qualities in them, unleashing their hidden potential.

We shall surely try you with something of fear, and hunger, and loss of wealth, and lives, and fruits; and give glad tidings to the patient ones” (Quran 2:155)

Trees that shed all their leaves in the harsh winter bear flowers and fruits in spring. The newly acquired armoury of qualities, from patiently persevering trough times of adversity, adorns the character of a person just like these fruits and flowers.

In pursuit of happiness

Mulla Nasruddin was searching for something in his garden. When his neighbour asked him: “What are you looking for Mulla”.

He replied that he was looking for his house key.

Wanting to help him, his neighbour joined him asking : “Do you remember where you dropped it?’”

Mulla answered: “Of course I do, in my house.”

“Why are you looking here?”, asked his neighbour confused.

Mulla Nasrudin replied: “Because there is much more light here than in my house.”

imageIt’s amazing how accurately this famous Sufi parable depicts our search for the “life we want to live”. Be it job satisfaction, ideal relationships, stability in financial situation or simply happiness, we always seem to be in a struggle to find that key to success.

Who likes to wait in a queue if there is a fast track to the front of the queue. Mulla Nasruddin also wanted the easy route to success but unfortunately, it doesn’t always work in life. To achieve something you need to work hard and search for the keys in the right places, irrespective of how difficult it may seem.

Sometimes we don’t even know what the key is for, or what it looks like, but we continue to search. You never know, your door to success might not even be locked or the key may already be in your pocket. Realisation of our own potential sometimes comes as a pleasant surprise to many. Rumi beautifully once said:

You suppose you are the trouble
But you are the cure
You suppose that you are the lock on the door
But you are the key that opens it
It’s too bad that you want to be someone else
You don’t see your own face, your own beauty
Yet, no face is more beautiful than yours.

You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideals and dreams.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.
You have wings.
Learn to use them and fly.

Once upon a time…

Just got a very interesting history lesson in Pak-US relations from Professor YouTube, I thought I’ll share with you all.

Around 50 years ago, a President of Pakistan, then considered “an important and powerful” country, visited the United States of America on a state visit. He was received by the American President and given a very honourable reception. Irrespective of what we think of Ayub and his era now, it’s amazing to see how high Pakistan’s stature was in the international arena.

Here is the video coverage of the visit:


America Welcomes President Ayub Khan of Pakistan 1961

Shisha – is it less harmful?

Shisha is smoking too!I switched on the TV this morning to see a programme on Geo TV about the dangers of smoking. Apparently it is “Anti-smoking Day” today.

A cancer patient was crying live on air pleading all smokers to quit the evil habit of smoking and chewing of Paan.

Many of us know the effects of smoking and yet prefer to be in denial. Isn’t that suicidal? Even if some of us refrain from smoking because of its harmful nature, most of us love socialising with the “apparently not that dangerous” alternative ‘shisha’ and even consider shisha as “not even smoking”. I have also tried shisha a few times on Edgware Road with friends but let me share what I think about it now.

For the benefit of those who don’t know what it is, Shisha (also knows as hookah in Pakistan) is a single or multi-stemmed instrument for smoking in which the smoke is cooled by water.

So, is Shisha as bad as smoking?

According to a research conducted by the Department of Health in the UK, smoking shisha equally exposes people to high carbon monoxide levels. In fact, what’s shocking is that one session of smoking shisha results in carbon monoxide levels at least four to five times higher than the amount produced by one cigarette. High levels of carbon monoxide can lead to brain damage and unconsciousness.

The study also revealed that the level of carbon monoxide in the breath of a non-smoker is three parts CO per million parts of air (ppm) (less than 1% of blood not working properly), a light smoker has 10-20 ppm (2-4% of blood not working properly), and a heavy smoker 30-40 ppm (5-7%). Now when it comes to Shisha smoking, the study found that they had 40-70 ppm of CO in their breath – affecting 8-12% of their blood.

“At the worst, shisha was 400 to 450 times more dangerous than having a cigarette”. Dr Hilary Wareing, Tobacco Control Collaboration Centre

Many researchers have been warning about the dangers of shisha for some time now but yet the number of people getting addicted to it and its social acceptance in general is growing exponentially. Christopher Loffredo, Ph.D., Director of the Cancer Genetics and Epidemiology program at Georgetown University Medical Center said in an interview with Medical News that “people who use these devices don’t realize that they could be inhaling what is believed to be the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes in one typical 30-60 minute session with a waterpipe”.

Smoking is known to be the cause of many fatal illnesses including:

  • heart disease
  • cancers of the lung, larynx, oral cavity, and esophagus
  • chronic bronchitis
  • emphysema
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD or COLD)

In the programme this morning they also mentioned that each year, approximately 100,000 people die from tobacco-related diseases in Pakistan. That’s way more than the innocent casualties of terrorism.

Quit smoking and don’t kill yourself.

The joys of fatherhood

“I won’t lie to you, fatherhood isn’t easy like motherhood”. Homer Simpson image

I won’t go as far as commenting if one is easier or difficult than other but for sure know now that being a parent is the best thing that can happen to any couple. Both roles come with a huge responsibility, that of raising a human being. Knowing that I am responsible for what Elhaan will be like in the next 15 to 20 years is quite an eye opener.

What a life changing experience last few weeks have been. Only a father knows what fatherhood is like and likewise I can never even imagine the joys of motherhood. One thing you fathers out there would agree with is that after the birth you end up taking care of two children instead of one, if you know what I mean ;). Saying that, I don’t blame them, it’s not easy for them.

Mothers spend more time with the child naturally and as someone wise once said that a best start a father can give his son is to love and take care of his mother. After going through the process with Tamreez, I have a new found respect for women, especially mothers.

My experience has been wonderful. It’s tiring, no doubt, but one tiny little smile takes away all the aches and pains in the world.

I pray that we are able to raise Elhaan in the best possible way. I believe my biggest achievement in life would be raising him to his true potential – serving humanity in his own way.

A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty. I wish and pray I am that man.

Elhaan – welcome to our life.


1992: "Cornered Tigers" bounce back to take the title.

I am writing my thoughts as I watch the rain affected start of the second ODI cricket match of Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand. After the dismal performance in the first match, many wouldn’t dare waste a day watching this one and I don’t blame them.

Humiliated on the field on one day as if never played the game before in their lifetime and dominating it like champions on another day – this is the story of the Pakistani cricket team. The cricket board also ensures that the team and the nation get enough grief. The ‘predictable’ nature of our cricket should not be a surprise to us anymore. The only thing we have consistency in is ‘inconsistency’.

It might seem like I am painting a bleak picture of Pakistan Cricket here but of this very same team, amongst shadows of adversity, we witness glimpses of utter brilliance. Is it luck? Winning two world cups (an ODI and T20) can’t just be by fluke?

No matter how many controversies per second our cricket generates, the cricket following never dies in Pakistan. With the World Cup approaching, even if we fail to name a captain till the Cup actually starts, I would not be able to write off our chances. There is something in our team or may be in Pakistanis that keep us hopeful. We will be fully behind our team to bring the 2011 cup back home. Inshallah.

What are your predictions for the World Cup?