Saturday, August 28, 2010


One whole week of going to West Wharf, a place hundreds of light years away from my home, while fasting in this surprisingly hot week of August and going to field work to slums, hospitals, etc, made me desperately wait for that one Saturday which I could spend at my discretion.
But, it seems like IBA doesn’t like that idea. The course registration was supposed to take place on that very Saturday morning starting at 8 am. But what I call course registration here actually means…

...Waking up with sleepy, swollen eyes on a Saturday morning :’(…

...Refreshing the URL bar of your internet browser again and again and again for four continuous hours to find error messages of various kinds…

...Exchanging sms’s, talking to friends on the phone and discussing each others experiences with the system…

...Reading Facebook status uploads by fellow-ERP-victims, sympathizing with them and feeling better …

...Feeling that you have been placed in an unfair marathon – one missed course and there you see your perfectly orchestrated timetable burning to ashes.
And after five hours of indescribable tension, frustration and failure – the whole system crashes totally. And we get to know that we will have to relive this e-nightmare again some day soon, and the very thought of it makes me want to return back to the traditional ink and paper and to escape IBA-Course-Registration-Blues!

IBA 'blues'

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Event : Seminar on Osteoporosis followed by Iftar, at Marriott - for Free!

Assalaam o Alaikum All! :)

Good news for you! :) I am sure you must have heard of osteoporosis. Have a look at the diagram...

Since prevention is definitely better than cure, especially when it comes to health, proper education about how our bodies work, what happens in them when we age and how we can go about it to prevent greater loss.

Luckily, Novartis is arranging a seminar on Osteoporosis at Marriott on September 4, 2010 (Saturday). It will begin about at 5:30 and will be followed by Iftar, and that too for free!

People above 50 are invited. Also, they can be accompanied by people who they live with such as the their child or spouse. Let me know if any one you know who might be interested at my email address which is maryam_zahoor[at]hotmail[dot]com.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Land Mafias in Karachi thank God for the Floods in Pakistan

The floods that have been devastating for millions in Pakistan have delighted some people too – the land mafias.

Since, I live in Karachi, the capital of Sindh, one of the four provinces of Pakistan, I am getting to hear and even witnessing cases where land mafias are grabbing vacant property strategically.

The situation is that people from the flood-struck rural parts of Sindh are migrating to non flood-struck areas. Karachi, specifically has received probably the most number of such migrants. Now, those migrants who are still in search of residences are being used by land mafias. By land mafias, I mean people who have the experience of unrightfully grabbing/seizing other people’s property – apartments, bungalows, land plots, etc – and are backed by some kind of political power. Such mafias are simply breaking into vacant houses and inviting flood migrants to stay in them, pretending that the house is theirs or of some one they know. Such incidents are happening specifically in housing projects where a large number of apartments/ bungalows are vacant.

Yesterday only, a family friend’s vacant apartment got grabbed. When he went to check it like he did once or twice a week he found it was locked from inside!!! When he knocked, he discovered two women inside who, when hushed out, left immediately only slip into another apartment on the same floor which apparently too was being used these by migrants. Later on, they found out that 22 vacant apartments of the very same flat have been broken into. It was very easy to do so because most of the houses in that project are vacant and there is no union council which could have kept a check on what is going on and could have prevented this from happening.

Even in the presence of such unions, land mafias do grab property either because the union isn’t resource-able enough in terms of political contacts to drive the land grabbers away or because of their lack of motivation to do so – meaning that, the property owner isn’t offering them any monetary incentive to help him/her vacate the house. However, if the union is motivated to help and has political backing, it can make things difficult for the land grabber. But again, intrinsic motivation and political backing are very hard to find together!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My First Online Shopping Experience in Pakistan… Yippee!!!

I got really excited when I saw this photo a friend posted on a social networking site. That’s her laptop dressed in a skin featuring SpongeBob Square Pants! Cool han?

Uzma's Laptop with SpongeBob Square Pants - a cartoon that I almost dislike, but looks really nice up on the skin! :)

But the even more exciting part is that she got it online – just going to a website, doing some clicking here and there and a man with your desired stuff rings your door bell :D

Haha, I know I sound like a 2-year-old getting excited after spotting an airplane. But honestly it is exciting when done for the first time and especially when what you get out of that experience is something more than what you were expecting.

Yes, you got it right! I tried it too. You see my laptop’s really huge – 17 inches wide! – which means there’s a lot of bare black space on its back. So, a skin sounded like a good idea. Now, on that website, browsing through the hundreds of designs, choosing only one was really difficult. Also, there was an option of creating a skin yourself which opened up infinite choices. Nevertheless, I decided to play it safe and ordered something I could never dislike – something green and refreshing.

A picture of fresh, green blade-like leafs of some plant wetted most probably by rain... Can't imagine a sight more refreshing!

So I chose the design, filled the form and confirmed my order and viola! My order was at my place in a couple of days. In fact, the delivery had come home earlier but I wasn’t there so it was sent again. All in all I appreciate the fact that what I got hardly was different from what was shown. I know it was just a skin, but still, you never know with these things. Also, the service was good. The promptness with which the website, a Pakistani one, responded to my queries was amazing.

I hope Pakistan progresses in all desirable areas and makes us prouder Pakistanis!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Two Extraordinary Women – One I have Met, the Other I Wish to...

The First Woman

There is a woman who I consider a heroine today. Having spent tens of hours watching and marvelling at her interviews and reading deep and deeper into her story, one that came more as a shock to the world, I became a sincere admirer of her bravery, curiosity and dedication. But never even in my wildest of dreams had I seen myself meeting her or hosting a show featuring her.

Her Long Story Short

The model of inspiration I am talking about here is Mariam Ridley, earlier know as Yvonne Ridley. Yes, she was that one daring reporter who refused to convey to the world the fabrications the media was fed by the White House about what Afghanistan had to do with the incident of the World Trade Centre. This brave woman dared to illegally enter Afghanistan (after having being refused a legal entrance) to find out what was actually happening there by whatever means she had. Eventually, the locals discovered and the Taliban captured what appeared to be a European spy. About 11 days later, after proving that she was no more than a media reporter, the then Yvonne Ridley departed for UK absolutely amazed at the stark contrast of what she had personally seen and experienced as a captive of the Taliban and what she had heard about them from the media.

Long story short, after having safely reached home in the UK, she scanned the Quran to find out where Islam orders men to beat their wives up and other anti-feminist acts of the like. Having found nothing that oppresses women and discovering rights that no religion or social system in the world gives women, she, as a feminist, converted to Islam a couple of years after her capture by the Taliban and is now known as Mariam Ridley.

Mariam Ridley at IBA

With the help of Allah, the Iqra Society managed to invite Mariam Ridley while she was at Karachi, to IBA to speak on whatever she felt important – her experience with the Taliban, international politics, Islamophobia, feminism or something else. And the topic she chose was an eye-opener.

As the banner reads, Ridley speaks to the audience - students, media and others - at IBA.

She enlightened the audience about none other than whose legal sentence is awaited by hundreds of thousands of people all around the world– Dr. Afia Sidiqui – an America born Pakistani Ph.D, having 144 honorary degrees and certificates in Neurology from various institutes around the world and the only neurologist to have an honorary degree from Harvard. A genius who as been physically, psychologically and sexually tortured for seven years in different prisons by the American forces without any legal sentence.

We found out that Mariam Ridley campaigns in protest for the plight of Dr. Afia Siddiqui along with her sister, Dr. Fauzia who accompanied her to IBA as well. Dr. Fauzia is also a neurosurgeon and has had the honour of being the director of the Epilepsy Centre at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Mariam Ridley mentioned facts and scenarios she had personally witnessed. It was both heart-wrenching and blood-boiling to hear the sheer cruelty with which Dr. Aafia is tortured and the inhumane conditions in which she is kept. According to Mariam Ridley:

“She (Dr. Aafia) is kept in a 6’x6’cage-like prison, which contains her lavatory as well. Her limbs are bound by heavy, metallic chains while they are covered in bruises, wounds and blood and a guard watches on her constantly. . . Her cavities are checked in public when she is to be presented for an interrogation . . .”

Mariam Ridley has repeatedly said that if this is how the US treats its captives she would rather be a captive of the Taliban, the most ‘brutal regime in the world’.

Dr. Fauzia, at the event, embracing the mother of Uzair Paracha, an IBA graduate who was captured by the US forces and detained at the Guantanamo Bay.

How I came to meet her

Within 24 hours of the confirmation that Mariam Ridley was coming to IBA, the members of Iqra arranged the whole event! From the venue reservations, approvals and souvenirs to invitations, media coverage and co-ordination, it all fell into places unimaginably smoothly, although there were tough times as well. For instance, at 3 am, the night before the talk, I got to know that I was to host it because of some reasons – however, staying up for it was hardly difficult. After all it was Mariam Ridley’s talk I was going to host!!! Alhamdulillah.

The Invitation

A couple of days after the event, Dr. Fauzia personally sent an invitation to all those people who had helped organize the event to her mother’s house, with whom she resides, at dinner. It is a gesture of gratitude she shows everyone who helps her in her campaign for Dr. Aafia.

The visit helped us get to know the emotional side of Dr. Aafia’s case – about how her only brother has spent all that he had on the lawyers’ fees, how he got a heart attack upon visiting his sister’s prison, about how her mother who apparently is a very strong woman cries every night because her youngest daughter lives in such inhumane conditions, the very daughter whose father used to bring specially soft fabric from Egypt to keep her tender skin comfortable.

I along with Dr. Fauzia's two brilliant daughters, Alia 10 and Amna, 4.

For a detailed account of the visit, you can read a fellow Iqra member Nida's blog post by clicking here

The Awaited News

Ever since the eye-opening event took place, not only the members of the Iqra Society but also many of those who have attended it have been following Dr. Aafia’s case closely because they now know how it feels after hearing accounts of eye-witnesses. The case is altogether very important because Dr. Aafia is not just one woman – she is the representative of the hundreds and probably thousands of people who have gone missing from not just Pakistan but all around the world including the UK and the US, and have not been administered justice to. If Dr. Aafia, who’s millionaire family today finds holes in its pockets due to the high charges of lawyers and still unsuccessful at bringing her to a fair trial, will justice ever reach those who live almost hand to mouth, whose sons, husbands and fathers have been ‘kidnapped’ and put in to torture cells by the American forces.

And for a moment if for the sake of the argument we do agree that all these men and women have been up to something fishy, what about the children that are held in prisons?

One sentence that shall ring in my ears for my entire life is when Dr. Fauzia said, 

‘When I went to take Ahmad (Dr. Afia’s son who along with his mother and his two siblings had ‘gone missing’ in 2003), there were so many other children in the prison and I felt very guilty taking him with me, leaving them all behind and not being able to do anything about it.’

News Update : Dr. Aafia’s case sentence was to be pronounced on August 16, 2010 but has been postponed by a month. This is the second time that it has been postponed.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Yes, let’s be Liberal – to the Point of Nudity on Public Roads.

I remember, at school, I was once asked to prepare a speech on ‘Enlightened Moderation’. At that point in time, the term was newly ‘imported’ from the West, as informed to me by a grand-uncle. He had asked me to stay away from it for behind the unperceivable veil of a term as innocent as ‘Moderation’ lay a whole new ideology that attempted to change the perceptions, ideas, beliefs and actions of the upcoming generations of Pakistan.

Almost a decade later, the term no more sounds strange to me. I have read, heard and seen quite a lot on the media about the seemingly never-ending debate about ‘Extremism’ versus ‘Moderation’, ‘Liberalism’ versus ‘Conservatism’ and ‘Freedom-of-Expression’ versus ‘Oppression’. These terms have been dwelt upon by minds disproportionately than far more important ideas have been such as justice, morality and economic progress has, specifically talking about Pakistan. Now, the result today can be clearly seen.

The generation I belong to has mentally defined these terms for itself (after being inspired by certain ideological campaigns by certain people within and outside the Pakistani border), the definition being that

“ ‘Moderation’, ‘Freedom-of-Expression’ and ‘Liberalism’ are ideas that collectively seek to borrow and adapt (actually the worst of the and rarely a few good) social and cultural values of the West and to strengthen a few degraded traditions from within our own culture. ”

This, I think is the ‘Net Effect’ of the term an adolescent heard years ago,  a term that grew into a whole belief in the fact that whatever a person feels like doing and however, he has all the right to do it and should be encouraged to go ahead with it even if it is as shameful as…

photo by the author

… posting a larger-than-life-sized-billboard degrading a woman! . . .
Today, in Pakistan that was ‘created in the name of Islam’, a fast-food franchise’s billboard ad uses not only the picture of a model who seemingly is wearing nothing to sell something as irrelevant and mundane as cheese-sticks but also captions it as ‘Kya Cheese Hai’.  It translates into English [Kya = What, Cheese = Thing, Hai = is] as ‘What a Thing!’… Speaking about the connotation of the phrase, it is so derogatory and disrespectful for a woman in Pakistani culture that the least a woman would do would be to slap a man who would pass such a remark on her, if she has the strength to.

This example very well illustrates the definition I mentioned above of ‘Liberalism’, and the terms of its like, for what was done in Pakistan by this franchise seems clearly inspired by one of the worst practices of the West –capitalising on feminine beauty. Here have a look…

I have censored the picture because I believe that I don't have to
post nude photos of my fellow sisters in order to prove my freedom of expression.

Right in the middle of the road a 40 feet high billboard ad features a naked woman again, to sell something as mundane as trainers!– and the only concerns the Western media shows about it is that it might cause road accidents!!!

At this point when the society fails to call bad as bad as it is, and the few voices that rise are lost in the continuous noise being made in the name of ‘Freedom-of-Expression’, I wonder if I make any sense at all to anyone out there.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Its August 31, 2009 and It is Raining!

The paras below are an excerpt from my personal diary. I wrote it almost a year ago - August 31, 2009, that is. Hope something similar happens this year too. I am posting a few photos that I'd taken that day too. Enjoy! :)

Love the reflection of the roof's red shingles on the wet black grill.

''It is raining and I was reading Muhammad Asad’s autobiography, The Road to Mecca a moment ago when my mind started debating whether to continue with that fantastic piece of literature or to pen down how the rain was temptingly inviting me to join it in it’s dance again and again. At first I thought that I should continue partly because the book really was intriguing and also because I wasn’t a good writer in the first place. However, due to reasons I remember no more, here I am sitting on this chair at the door opening to the balcony right under the small shed, with my laptop safely in my lap and my eyes taking brief tours of the scene beyond the balcony, resting on the screen for sometime and then escaping again.

It is the 6th of Ramadan and I had fallen asleep an hour or so after my Sehri, my consciousness diverted to senseless dreams. And it was around two in the afternoon when my maid woke me up, partly because she wanted me to see the rain and partly and secretly because she would get a chance to go to the balcony with me. It’s been more than four hours since then and the rain has delighted us all more than it ever has because for the past two months or so the weather had been very desirable with a cloudy sky and pleasant temperature and breeze. But as soon as Ramadan began the sun came out from its vacation. And so the heat affected us multiple times because we are not to drink anything till dusk! And on this fine Sunday morning Allah blesses us with such cool water which has not just cooled our bodies but also given peace to our minds which were worrying about the three more hot and hard fasting weeks ahead.

Hence, with all worry gone with the wind, all heat gone from the house and thirst gone from the tongue the only thing on my mind and senses is the rain and of course the absolute beauty it has brought with it, which I even attempted to capture with my Kodak C713 before I had begun with the book, but in vain for a camera can never capture the wholesome experience a human enjoys – hearing the pitter-patter of the intermittent rain, smelling the refreshing fragrance of wet leaves and sand and feeling the clean wind move right through his tired soul."

Long Time No See :/

As the captioned goes, yes, it has been a long long time since I have posted anything. The reason? Very simple. I have not been burdened with loads and loads of assignments at college or any other sort of academic pressure so its natural of me not to seek for relief in blogging and have been enjoying life otherwise :)

Hah, yes. blogging sees it's peak when I have lots of other stuff to do  - that's the way it is ;) So, a few people just asked me why they aren't getting to see me posting anything and that's a push good enough for me. Just for a starter I am posting a page from my diary I wrote last year, at almost the same time of the year. And main course and dessert will follow after a while! :)