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JJ! The icon of 90’s Pakistan

8 Dec

I haven’t written anything in a while. I have been thinking of writing about few things for quite some time now, but somehow did not feel motivated enough to do so. But something happened today. Something that has affected me on a personal level and I feel like it will consume me if I don’t put it into words.

In all honesty I feel surprised at how much of a personal loss I felt when I first read the news of Junaid Jamshed aboard the ill fated PK-661. But I understand. Being a Pakistani millennial (or 90’s kid as we prefer calling it here), it was almost impossible not to have any effect of Junaid on your personal life. I am not using ‘personal‘ here in loose terms. This is true for many of us.

My first memory of him, like thousands of other kids back in the day is, of course, ‘Dil Dil Pakistan‘ and the nostalgia connected with it. It is more than just a patriotic song of my homeland. It was the song for which I would especially ask my mother to wake me up during late night PTV  programs. It was the song for which I would turn my focus away from my books and towards the TV while my mother was trying to put some Math in me (and ultimately pay a hefty price for it). It reminds me of happy times. And simpler times. It reminds me of 14th August every year. It reminds of the small Pakistan flags I would put up all over the walls of my childhood home. It reminds me of a time when I could proudly and whole heartedly embrace my love for my country without looking into its many flawed dynamics.

For many, his voice is reminiscent of their first love. Junaid belonged to first true ‘pop‘ boyband of Pakistan. For 90’s youth, melodies produced by Vital Signs provided a hefty dose of the carefree elation of young love as well as an antidote for broken hearts. Then of course there was a time when he started his solo career and many people weren’t sure if it would make the same impact. However when the first album came out it was an even bigger success with the most memorable romantic melodies and music videos that are timeless and still resonate with the common man, kind of like Ghalib’s poetry. The very first mix tape I made had the most songs from that very album. I still remember the countless times I would switch on my PC sitting in my hostel room only to listen to ‘Aietbar‘ on Winamp. It might not be true to call Junaid the best vocalist or musician ever produced by Pakistan, but his voice certainly resonated with the common man’s heart in the rawest, most honest manner no one else’s could. Sometime after he had decided to call it quits on his music career, he once happened to be on board the same flight of which my Uncle was captain. He recalls a frank chat with Junaid where he asked him the reason for quitting music, especially when his voice meant so much for so many people in Pakistan and around the world. “Why would Allah want to take that help away from people?”, he argued. My uncle, an avid fan, felt compelled to ask this question because he like many others saw it as no less than a tragedy to never be able to take the positive energy from his voice again.

But as time showed he never actually quit music. Not truly anyway. Apart from voicing ‘nasheeds‘ and ‘Naats‘, he would occasionally sing something, without musical instruments (if he could stop Salman from playing the guitar). While it was not the same thing, many of us who loved his voice still cherished these rare occurances.

But he was not just a singer. It would be unfair to his legacy to look at only one aspect of his life. If we are talking about the 90’s generation and the effect JJ had on their lives on a personal level, it would be dishonest not to mention that he was also an inspiration to a large segment of population for his religious and spiritual transformation. While all may not necessarily understand or agree with the choices he made, it is true that he found peace in something which eludes a lot of people and who spend their lifetimes without having a moment of acceptance. He had found it in religion. In this aspect as well, he very much represented the 90’s Pakistan and his transition to post-90’s evangelism that mirrored what was happening with a large segment of Pakistani youth which meant that he continued to be a hero to many people, even if not the same ones. His brand of religiosity like all other brands had its positive and negative elements. People, even fans like me, had a field day joking about some of his lets-just-say ‘inconsistencies’ for the lack of a better word. I would argue that even that was on many levels purely out of love for him because we all felt personally connected to him and felt ownership over his personal life like only true fans would. But by all accounts he was content with the life choices he made and continued to touch people’s hearts one way or the other. Like most people he was a man of many colours. But he was definitely THE icon of 90’s Pakistan and his life journey had stark similarities with Pakistani society itself. He may no longer be among us but he left an indelible mark and us 90s kids will forever be indebted to him.


P.S Time to listen to ‘Aitebar‘ one more time.



Building the National Narrative

19 Dec



“He is Maalik Ashtar of today. Imam has sent him in his place to fight for him”, said my taxi driver in Tehran couple of years back while pointing towards a billboard that we passed by. That time Iranian revolutionary guard commander General Qassem Suleimani was not that much camera comfortable as he is today so I did not recognize the face. The billboard depicted him in deep though while in the background Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei was waving a salute cum salutation towards him.

“Even Rehbar sends him salam. He calls him a living martyr. He is alive but still a martyr”, he continued. His references were towards the historic Maalik Ashtar who was sent by Hazrat Ali a.s to be the governor of Egypt where constant threat of war was looming over.

And the references did not end there. As we our journey continued towards the city of Qom, more billboards came with more heroes and their pictures with Ayatullah Khomeini and Khamenei with Persian couplets praising the martyrs or Iraq war or the ones fighting in different parts of the world through IRGC or even some key diplomats.

“Here what you see is Muslim Bin Aqeel. Imam has sent him as an ambassador on a very critical mission”, “He is Ammar Yasir. He died in the battle in Iraq”, “He is Ghazi Abbas. He got martyred in command in attempt to save others”, he went on and on till the point where I stopped trying to figure who was who. All the references were mostly from the time of Hazrat Ali a.scaliphate or Karbala. Throughout all his talk what stroke most was how casual he seemed while telling this. It was like he was stating a matter of fact like adding two and two equals four. The decade long Iran Iraq war, the international sanctions and the continuous engagement in Syria has taken its toll on the Iranian people and perhaps this is the reason why everything from a normal cab driver to an organized state machinery makes sure they remember what they are fighting for and that they never forget their heroes, like they would not forget a family member.

The current continuous turmoil that has hit Pakistan is nothing less, if not more than the experiences of Iranian people. At least for Iran’s case they are clear that they have external enemies. In our case the enemy is internal. It is within our society, growing continuously like unsupervised weed. It can be your colleague or your next door neighbor and you would never know. And yet, after losing more than sixty thousand lives we still lack a common national narrative. We still move on from one tragedy to the next, thinking it as part of our routine lives, like taking the car out for tuning once in a while. Unless of course, the tragedy hits us personally.

Do we remember our martyrs? Have we celebrated our heroes enough? We cannot even seem to decide whether people being affected in this war can be called our heroes or not. We are still debating whether this is our war or not. If in any other country Aitzaz Hassan who stopped a suicide bomber in Hangu to enter his school and got martyred in the process, there would have had a statue carved in his honor or at least a memorial in his name. We cannot even seem to honor people like him and Malala by naming schools after them in fear of provoking our ‘misguided brothers’ for another attack. If not for his heroics, Hangu would have witnessed the same tragedy which Peshawar has.

How many precious soldiers have we lost? How many children may never grow old to be doctors, engineers, soldiers or to just be a regular brother who had plans to stand by his father’s shoulders on his sister’s weddings? Sometimes they were in a ‘supposed’ wrong place i.e a wrong mosque, a wrong Imam Bargah, a wrong jaloos, a wrong church and were just part of big collateral damage. Other times they just happened to be in schools, buses, markets. The enemy is clear that they want to do a hard blow wherever they can, while we are still in a fix of trying to talk to them to figure out ‘what actually is their problem’? If their problem is desire for revenge, what do we plan for the revenge desires of all their victims if we plan to pardon them? Consider the curious case of Asmatullah Muawiya who recently attended a funeral of his father in a big village and even stayed during his illness for many days. There was not even an attempt made for arrest. It seems like all his crimes have been vanished in a puff!

How many scholars and intellects have we lost? Do we even remember their names? Everyone in Pakistan knows the name of Hakimullah Mahsud, how many know who was Shakil Auj? Why did we lose a national poet like Mohsin Naqvi? Did we ever catch the killers of Sibt e Jaffar? Why don’t we have the answers of these questions?

Wars cannot be fought with soldiers alone. We need to build a national narrative that reaches every house in the country till the point each one of us remembers it as important as drinking water. We may move from one tragedy to another, but we will only remember those that deeply affect us on personal level. So the faces of martyrs need to be paraded in all corners of the country. People need to own each and every hero. Our soldiers, our generals, our brave politicians who refused to bow down to blackmail, our men who spoke and wrote bravely and paid the price. Our women whose liberty they fear.

But above all we need to remember our children. Remember our children who died without even proper concept of crime. Remember them because they were the future we could have had and instead we are heading towards a future where there is a dark abyss unless something is done quickly.

And most importantly do not forget the enemy, because they never forget they are in a war. We do. National narrative cannot be set without the proper media campaign reminding us that we are in a constant state of war. It may take years or a decade, but sooner we own it the better. We need to do long marches to declare we are not afraid. If this is the war on terror, only way to defeat is to come out and say “Yes this is my war and my country and I will not allow you to burn it”.

Pakistan bans Ahmadi’s circumcision

23 Sep

In a bid to enforce its citizen’s adherence to the spirit of constitution of the country, Pakistan national assembly passed a historic and unanimous resolutions to ban doctors from performing circumcision on children belonging to the heretic Ahmadiyya sect.

After the landmark resolution was passed, Law ministry issued a statement thanking all the political parties who had drafted the bill together through their legal experts. Ministry reaffirmed government’s mission to eradicate all Muslim signs from Ahmadiyya ‘places of worship’, stating that since erected phallus-shaped-minarets were already being demolished, expanding the operation to actual penises was the only logical way to move forward.

As per article 298 C of the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Ahmadis are barred from impersonating themselves as Muslims and insulting sentiments of real circumcised Muslims. After this bill, every Muslim parent wishing for hospitals to do the circumcision on their child will have to sign the following oath:

I solemnly declare and personally attest that Qadiani dicks are ugly. And so are their relatively less ugly Lahori group’s. But ugly none than less

Speaker National Assembly, on being contacted by the reporter, expressed his satisfaction over the resolution and expressed his hope that Ahmadis will not erect new ways of impersonating Muslims.

“State has got nothing against Qadianis. We only want them to respect the constitution of the land like all other Pakistanis”, he further added while talking to the reporters on his way to attend SC hearing about embezzlement cases.

Speaker also praised veteran journalist Sangsaar Abbasi for bringing the issue to the attention of the nation after his numerous reports and articles highlighting the issue.

Teary eyed Abbasi while talking to the reporters expressed his gratitude towards Almighty for enabling him to carry out his mission without any fear. He complained that liberal fascist had terrorized him with their abusive language and sound reason.

Renowned moderate cleric Molana Tahir Ashracuppi through the platform Islami Nazriyati Council welcomed the decision and has also demanded that government setup a separate commission to check for already existing Qadiani dicks to penalize those who had impersonated Muslims in the past. Considered as somewhat of an expert over the subject, the good Molana has offered to head the commission itself and look for all the ‘cases’ personally. He demanded that all Ahmadi male adults be put in ‘concentration camps’ till he can ‘concentrate’ fully on the given task against each of them.

Kabhi ao concentration camp, Khushbu lagaa kay!

Kabhi ao concentration camp, Khushbu lagaa kay!

Government has already shown positive response to the idea. The proposed commission is being dubbed as Markazi royat e boner committee.

Disclaimer: Any references of names similar to real personalities is purely and extremely intentional

Shrine of Lady Zainab a.s! As I remember it

22 Jul

Piece originally written for Express Tribune Blogs:

Following is the complete unedited version:

I was twenty three. My last year of Bachelor Honours’ degree was in progress and perhaps like every young soul, I just had too many questions, just about everything; Religion, nationalism, God, everything. My mind used to wonder in abyss of confusion at times even though I always flaunted by beliefs with utmost certainty. But I had not been certain for some time.

That was the time in 2008, when I visited Syria and fell in love with it. I loved its people, the cultural diversity and above all, the sacred shrines that invoked spiritual awareness of God inside one’s soul.

Of course, my view of Syria was limited to the areas I lived in and visited i.e mainly Damascus and the small city near outskirts of Damascus where shrine of Lady Zainab a.s is located. I visited the currently much troubled area of Aleppo, only to visit a mosque with the sacred legendary stone upon which it was believed that head of Imam Hussain a.s was presented in court. Most part of my journey of that day passed in sleep but whatever small part I remember, it was a beautiful area which has currently been torn apart by war.

The city where the shrine of Lady Zainab a.s was located was even named after her. My main stay was in that same city. The shrine consisted of a beautiful dome, a mosque, surrounded by a big courtyard and a main hall where the mausoleum was located.

The dome of Shrine of Lady Zainab a.s

The dome of Shrine of Lady Zainab a.s

The surrounding area consisted of humble markets with shops of different variety, some of which were operated by students from Pakistan as well. Syrian shopkeepers used to greet the pilgrims warmly. Many seemed to know much about Pakistan and each seemed to have his own favorite politician of Pakistan including Shaheed Mohtarma, Mian Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf.

I had grown listening to the tales of bravery of Lady Zainab a.s in times of Karbala and after it. She was a symbol of resistance to the oppression as well as women empowerment. When I first entered the main hall of the mausoleum, I was overwhelmed, so much so that I could not even lift my head up to look at it and had a total breakdown near it. All I remember is the agonized cry coming out of me, the tears and a distant uncle holding me. I do not know how long I went on crying loudly. All I know is that for that moment and for the coming days I felt such a strong presence of God that has not left me ever since, even in times of most confusion and distress.

In old Damascus, I visited the historic route of passage from the old souk or market, to the Omayyad Mosque, close to which originally court of Yazid was located. Half a kilometer away was the shrine of Ruqayya Bint al Hussain a.s, commonly known as Lady Sakina a.s, the four year old daughter who had died in imprisonment and buried within.

Ruins of Yazid palace and gates of Omayyad Mosque

Ruins of Yazid palace and gates of Omayyad Mosque

Omayyad Mosque

Omayyad Mosque

Grave of Prophet Yahya a.s, also known as John the Baptist inside Omayyad Mosque

Grave of Prophet Yahya a.s, also known as John the Baptist inside Omayyad Mosque

Mausoleum of Lady Saikna a.s

Mausoleum of Lady Saikna a.s

If anyone had told me then that in three years, the violent struggle against the regime would start and the sacred places attacked, I would have told him that he must be hallucinating.

But it happened nonetheless. Before the recent attack on shrine of Lady Zainab a.s, the shrine of companion of Prophet SAW, Hujr Bin Adi was also attacked by rebels. Not only was it attacked, but the rebels took complete control of it, totally destroying the mausoleum including the grave within and allegedly taking the body as well.

Mausoleum of Hujr Bin Adi (RA), 2008

Mausoleum of Hujr Bin Adi (RA), 2008

Hujr's desecrated grave after the destruction,2013. Courtesy

Hujr’s desecrated grave after the destruction,2013. Courtesy

Before these, tomb of one of the most revered companions of Prophet SAW, Ammar Bin Yasir r.a was also destroyed and the mosque associated to one of graves of one the greatest Prophets of Islam i.e Abraham a.s was also bulldozed by the rebels. In an instance of rebel-government crossfire, tomb of Khalid Bin Waleed has also been destroyed.

While thankfully the shrine of Lady Zainab a.s has not come to such a state and may it never will, the attack left the respected caretaker of the shrine, Mr. Anas Roumani killed. It appears that a democratic struggle has been hijacked by the splintered groups, many of whom have their own agenda. The most dangerous of it is to rid Islam of all of its diversity and sources of inspiration. In this ‘Spring’, flowers of treasured heritage are being plucked to leave a hollow desert.

However it’s a futile goal that will always remain unsuccessful because inspiration is connected to the souls and not just places. Lady Zainab a.s will always remain an inspiration to everyone fighting against tyranny and oppression. As for the place itself, it will always remain in the hearts of those who cherish it and remember it. If only those who attacked it, had a heart of their own.

Flowers of treasured heritage, plucked in ‘Spring’

5 May

Spring usually is a long awaited and pleasant affair. After the brisk autumn and a long winter which dampens the moods, spring promises to bring blossoms, not only to the gardens but for the faces as well.

That is why, when a wave of ‘change’ seemed to sweep over deserts of Arabian lands, it was almost like poetry when it was termed ‘Arab Spring’. Lead by Tunisia and Egypt, the ‘Spring’ fever caught up with many youth of Middle East and soon calls to topple tyrants and dictators were started to be heard from Libya to Yemen. Egypt was the first to produce a result in successful ouster of Husni Mubarak and Tunisia soon followed.

Than of course things did not happen as people envisioned. Egyptians even after electing their own president are still not satisfied by the amount of power/influence given up by the establishment to the elected president. Tunisia seems to be still engaged in unrest with the elected government not meeting demands of hardliners who themselves have lot of street power. Libyan ‘revolution’ was brought up with the help of NATO aircrafts carrying the heavier weight. Of course it did not stop the hard-line elements to kill the US Ambassador in Benghazi who had aided in weapons supply to the very rebels in the first place.

And than there are cases of Syria and Bahrain. Condition of ‘revolution’ and the world response regarding them is only a reflection of inherent hypocrisy that plagues International Relations of different countries. Arab And Turkish leaders who fervently are backing the rebels inside Syria are silent in case of Bahrain, some of them even helping regime to crush them. Iranian Ayatullahs had come out to prophecies end to kingdoms of Middle East and yet in case of Syria, Iran and Lebanon continue to put their weight behind Assad making the problem much more difficult to handle. Any ‘direct’ western show of power may result in total unbalance of the demographic of Middle East.

And than in the midst of all the chaos are the opportunist groups which are taking advantage of the whole situation to fulfill their petty short term goals. Syrian rebel forces which now consist of lot of non Syrian millitants of other countries as well do not just desire to ‘liberate’ Syrians of the tyranny but to see their hard work result in their personal desires. That is why in Tunisia even after the elections, tensions and clashes run high.

While the rival forces of such countries with ‘Spring’ murder each other, another collateral damage cum murder of its own kind is being taken place with their national heritage as well. Besides the destruction of the country’s infrastructure due to natural outcome of internal conflicts, targeted attacks are being carried out splintered groups against historic landmarks and places of reverence. In Tunisia, till January this year, [40 different *Sufi* shrines had been destroyed][1]. Similar attacks are being carried out in Syria as well.

The most recent example is of the destruction of shrine of companion of Prophet Muhammad SAW i.e Hujr Bin Adi a.s who ironically was martyred during the Omayyad Rule by than Syrian regime under Muawiyyah. Apparently the Syrians have yet not forgiven his sacred corpse of his boldness of truth. I had the fortune of visiting the mausoleum in 2007 when Syria was somewhat peaceful. Its current picture after the destruction feels like a stab to my wonderful memory.

The desecrated grave after the destruction. Courtesy

The desecrated grave after the destruction. Courtesy

[The desecrated grave after the destruction. Courtesy][2]

The tomb was not destroyed but the grave dug up as an insult the remains as well. Also, the sacred and legendary stone on which head of Imam Hussain a.s was placed and kept was preserved in pre-spring Syria. However since the fighting started in Aleppo which is the main source of unrest in Syria, the whereabouts of it have been unknown.

Sacred Stone preserved in a mosque in Alleppo - 2007

Sacred Stone preserved in a mosque in Alleppo – 2007

And now the Hujr’s a.s body’s whereabouts are also ‘unknown’. Even the Arab channels reporting the news are mentioning conflicting reports. Many however reported that despite the blasts there was a flowery scent in the air. A fitting situation for the flower that was present in the desert which now has regrettably has been plucked. Is this the last heritage of this sort the receive this fate before the war is over? Unfortunately that is not the safe bet. Syria is filled with historic landmarks and revered graves and the splintered groups with their own agenda may think of such roses as unsuitable with the stink of their hatred in their very own desert.

Being brave when it matters

11 Oct

Fear is a dangerous thing. It can create panic and obscure our purpose and journey. It can make us hesitant in doing the right thing to do. Few people in this world show valor at the time when it really matters, because the path of valor requires sacrifice. Because it is one thing to hurl threats against an enemy from afar, while looking at an armed and powerful enemy in the eye and standing your ground is another. It is this very reason that history only remembers those heroes who chose to fight for what they believed in regardless of the size of their enemy.

When a nation is fighting a war it rallies around its heroes. They are the ones who inspire others. They have influence beyond material output as they ignite passion among others and the will to resist. Malala Yousafzai is that warrior hero. She is the one who has eloquently used the most powerful weapon there is, to make grown men fear her, her vision, her philosophy and her resistance. If ever a book is written by the phrase ‘Pen is mightier than sword’, than her face should be on it. Some sections have pointed out that young children have died in Pakistan and indeed they keep on dying rather frequently in Baluchistan, FATA and other areas effected most by terrorism, so why such special focus on her? For such people I would say ‘Open your eyes. It is not every day that you can find a hero that has the potential to inspire thousands of others’

Unfortunately for her, she is the hero of a war which is least likely to be owned up by its own people who are supposed to defend themselves. She is the hero of a nation which has sunk its head in the sand and has not, even after these many years not made up its mind whether to even acknowledge the enemy. Can she grow beyond herself to change all that?

For her part, she has mostly done her job. When grown up leaders were questioning whether terrorist attacks on schools do actually exist or is it all some media propaganda, (you all know who you are) she was 11 year old girl facing all the situation herself and decided to speak up against all that herself through her pen and through her voice. One assumes she would have tried to do so by hand as well if she was old enough. Her story would make many grownups feel like a useless lot. I for one surely feel that way.

She showed valor when it all mattered. She was in the thick of the situation and yet she spoke up. Not from her drawing rooms in farm houses of Islamabad and Lahore. Even after the cowards threatened her she remained brave. There is nothing further that we can demand of her. Well perhaps we could ask her to kick our leaders in the nuts whenever she recovers. Perhaps that would help them realize that they may have them still. Will that throw in some senses? They sure do need a reminder. None have clearly spoken against the enemy even half bravely as her. Even Imran Khan clearly admitted it citing safety for his own workers as a concern. Many circles have criticized him for his statement, I would say at least he had this much courage to say these words, while there has been complete silence from other leaders and our National Assembly which has issued a mere redundant and bogus condemnation. If today also, we do not recognize this as our war than when will we?

The reasons given by TTP spokesman make one thing clear. This IS an ideological war and not reactionary. The terrorists are people who have their own mindset over how they want to see Pakistan through their closed mind. Anything other than that is against them and is a threat for them. No matter if she happens to be a 14 year old girl.

Meanwhile in an evil parallel Universe …

23 Sep

The blasphemous movie producers and opportunist distributor find them in a peculiar situation after thousands of white flowers were sent to their homes with little teddy bears bearing signs of ‘Get Well Soon’.

The campaign started by reformist cleric of Lebanon, Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah has gained widespread momentum and appreciation. Muslims from all around the different countries have responded to his call positively. One such case is of a peace activist in Pakistan by the name of Malik Ishaq, who alone donated for the ten thousand white jasmine flowers to be delivered to Terry Jones.

When Nasarullah was asked about the campaign itself he shared that he was very much influenced by the teachings of great South Asian pacifist Abul Alaa Mohan Daas Maududi.

“I am a strong believer of Maududi-giri. I believe his philosophy and message of love and peace can conquer hearts across the globe. I just hope in whatever heaven he might be, he would be proud of me today”, Nasarullah said after removing a tear of joy from his eyes.

In addition to this campaign many Muslims across the globe are distributing free copies of Quran and participating widely in philanthropic activities. A teenage activist and hit singer, Ghulam Ahmad Bilor said that he is not bothered by people like the movie producers and the best way he can serve the Prophet SAW is by following in his footsteps.

While the reactions have been appreciated by people from all walks of life across the globe, not many share the same sentiment. International criminal cum terrorist cum cult figure, The Dalai Lama is of the opinion that Muslims are pussies and if something similar had come out about Budha he would have personally ripped the fu**in throat of the director.

“And then I would have grown my Satanic horns”

Speaking via satellite from his secret evil lair, the felon reissued the fatwa of murder of alleged blasphemer painter, M.F Hussain for his painting of the laughing Budha and increased the bounty from 3 million Bangladesh Taka to a mind boggling five million Taka.

In other news, violent protests have started in The Greater Israel by the majority Ahmadiyya community after some unknown Muslim cleric from Czechoslovakia posted an image of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad with a caption “Imposter” on his facebook page. Demanding death penalty for the blasphemer, protesters burned the state buildings and attacked minority Muslim and Jewish  population, accusing both of being a part of a greater conspiracy against their religion. However, the major damage was done in the capital city of Jerusalem by the community against its own people after enraged protesters ran out of patience to find any Muslim or Jew nearby.

Democratically elected president of Saudi Arabia and Nobel prize winner, Princess Ameerah showed grave concerns over the safety of minorities of The Greater Israel and also condemned the Czech cleric for instigating hatred against the other community.