Sunday, December 2, 2012

LITERATURE, WINTER & DECEMBER

MAHTAB BASHIR
Islamabad
0333 53 63 248

The month of December is usually referred in literature a phase with feelings of sadness and forlorn attitude, perhaps owing to the combination of autumn and winter- as both are intrinsic part of this month. The pleasant season of autumn - an interval between summer and winter - is welcoming the fall hues in the air of the federal capital, displaying the vibrancy of eye-catching burnt colours through glimpses of nature.

Nostalgia grips every individual during the course of the seasonal transformation. There is no other month of the year except December that is used extensively by poets, singers, intellectuals and men of letters to describe their melancholic feelings of the past when withering crimson and yellow leaves fall on the ground. According to Katherine S White, “From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens - the garden outdoors, the garden of pots and bowls in the house, and the garden of the mind’s eye.”

A Scottish dramatist JM Barrie said, “God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December.” ‘Bhega Bhega sa ye December hay’ by Abrar-ul-Haq, ‘December ka maheena tha, suhani sham mangal ki’ by Aamir Salim and a number of other songs are composed on this month highlighting the sad moments, while Urdu and English literature has given it sufficient space because of strange sadness around them.
William Shakespeare said, “Men are April when they woo, December when they wed. Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.” The season typically begins with the advent of December and brings pleasant change in the weather before winter. Plants start changing their colours and introduce a variety of eye-catching shades which also give unusual feelings to the mood.

According to psychiatrists and physicians, this phase is called ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)’, which is a pattern of major depressive episodes that occur and remit with changes in seasons. “It may be seen in major depressive or bipolar disorders, as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). The most recognised form of seasonal affective disorder, “winter depression,” is characterised by recurrent episodes of depression, hypersomnia, augmented appetite with carbohydrate craving, and weight gain that begin in the autumn and continue through the winter months,” said a physician at PIMS hospital.

Doctors have many options for treating SAD. While questions regarding its validity as a syndrome and the mechanism of action of light therapy continue to be investigated, the established effectiveness of light therapy in patients with winter depression supports the usefulness of assessment for the seasonal pattern and consideration of light therapy as an option in addition to existing treatment choices.

He said depressive episodes were a primary public health problem and one of the most common psychiatric conditions in patients seeing family physicians, with a lifetime prevalence of 17.1 percent in the general population. “Some of these mood disturbances follow regular seasonal patterns.” “The season is also considered as an enchanting attraction for artists, poets and nature lovers to discover and explore the beauty of nature,” said an art student who takes fall season as his inspiration to paint nature. The most attractive thing in this season is the phenomenon when plants change their colours - black tone of greens and browns while reddish touch in rust, ochre and yellows depict the awesome charm.

“People don’ t think much about leaves until autumn whispers in the air revealing the multitude of colours that emerge from what was previously a plain green background,” said Khadija, another student of Fine Arts at a local university. Fall in the air offers crispness to the morning air and sharper shadows as the angle of the sun starts to change and days become shorter. “Walking on dry leaves with crispy sounds provides an amazing feeling which is considered as the best feature of the season by autumn lovers,” she added. “It refreshes the mood while looking at some lively colours that nature offers for a limited period,” she remarked. Every fall displays its gems, majestic ruby, amber and gold leaves that blend to create a vibrant display of hues; say horticulture experts.

According to these experts, plant leaves begin to die in autumn, the green photosynthetic pigment and chlorophyll decay rapidly while other photosynthetic pigments, yellow carotenoids decay slowly and still some pigments and red anthocyanins are produced as the by-products of the leaves.

In this season, green colour fades to reveal the underlying yellows, reds and browns while the exact vibrancy that develops is influenced by plants genetics and the environment. Another feature is the Christmas celebrated by the Christian community on the 25th of this month. The natural beauty of Margalla Hills, Daman-e-Koh and Pir Sohawa, and Lakeview Park and the avenues of federal capital attract a lot of sightseers as a special enchantment for local and foreign nature lovers. “If cold December gave you birth, The month of snow and ice and mirth, Place on your hand a Turquoise blue, Success will bless whate’er you do.” HAPPY DECEMBER!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NATION NEEDS TO CULTIVATE TOLERANCE MORE THAN EVER


It’s time to learn to respect and recognise rights and beliefs of others

MAHTAB BASHIR
mahtabbashir@gmail.com
Islamabad

Someone has rightly said that if the foundation of a society is devoid of tolerance, then it is chaos that eventually ensues. The Pakistani society has been, in recent years, presenting a glaring example of such bellicosity, which has emanated from an intolerant social character.

This society is now undoubtedly yearning for peace - be it social peace, cultural peace, or psychological peace. Political dynamism, democratic etiquette, or human rights, whatever we intend to establish in society must be aimed at forming a tolerant society. We need to consider and analyse why we are an intolerant society, segmented into groups, each claiming his individual version of fundamental rights, but denying the same to others. It is a society where neither religious fanatics, nor the liberal fascist have any tolerance for each other. The former does not grant the right to women to dress in jeans, while the latter has no respect for those women who want to wear the veil or hijab.

Some of them, believing in righteously inflicted violence on “sinners”, remain silent on issues such as tribal customs of wani, denial of ancestral property to women, or the unacceptable practice of burying women alive on the orders of Panchayt that continue to exist in this so called Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

For a successful democracy the opposition must give enough time and find a cause worthy enough to struggle for dislodging an elected government. Tolerance is essential for smooth progress of democracy. With a society showing zero tolerance, Pakistan like other countries of the world is all set to observe The International Day for Tolerance today (16 November). The occasion is observed with the aim to educate people about the need for tolerance in society.

The International Day for Tolerance tends to remind people they should learn about respecting and recognising the rights and beliefs of others. International Day for Tolerance was started by UNESCO in 1996. The day is celebrated to urge all the heads of states and governments across the world to work for the welfare, freedom, progress of their people by encouraging tolerance, respect and dialogue. The day also underscores the need of coordination between different cultures and civilisations.

On this particular day, UNESCO has mentioned few guidelines, these guidelines includes the work and actions on human rights, diversity in community, religious tolerance, no to violence, creativity at work and ecological diversity.

Many educators use the theme of the day to help students in their studies and classroom lectures on topics like human rights and non-violence. Special training programmes, talks and conferences are organised on this day in offices where the supervisor briefs the employees about importance and need of tolerance.

A few educationists told this scribe on Tuesday that poverty, illiteracy and class difference (disparity) generates frustration among the masses that ignite intolerance among them. They said intolerance in our society has political dynamics and is quite visible within the political parties.

“The very essence of democracy, which is the right of dissent, is absent when it comes to the day to day working of these parties. Resorting to violence has become a common phenomenon to settle political differences, or as a show of power to establish their political hegemony,” said an educationist at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU). He said we accept harassment of our religious minorities such as Ahmedis or Christians and have no remorse that the Father of Nation had assured them of their rights in his speech delivered of 11 August 1947.

Dr Abdul Siraj, chairperson of the department of Mass Communication at AIOU, said it was unfortunate that the word ‘tolerance’ is not as common in public usage as ‘intolerance’. “Everyone is intolerant and impatient because of low economic conditions and living standards. From elders to the young and even among students, the reflection of inflation ultimately produces intolerance and it is an angry youth that leaves a college or a university at the end of an academic year”, said Siraj, adding that the insecurity on the road, highhandedness of the law enforces was bound to induce intolerance among people that coupled with other socio-political factors culminate to terrorism.

Talking to this scribe, a rights activist questioned as why we have descended to such depths of criminal apathy that tragedies of different magnitudes, from individual’s to the nation’s, never invoke feelings of remorse or shame in us.

Published in Pakistan Today
http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/11/15/city/islamabad/nation-needs-to-cultivate-tolerance-more-than-ever/?printType=article

DIARY OF A SOCIAL BUTTERFLY

I think so Prince William, (oho Queen ka grandson) he's turned out to be completely beghairat. Look at him. This trashy French magazine takes photos of his wife Kate Middleclass in topless and actually prints them and he can't do a thing about it. Beghairat! If you ask me, he shouldn't look left, he shouldn't look right. He should go straight away and burn down the French embassy in London to punish that French photographer and that dirty French magazine. And if he can't burn down the embassy then at least he should burn some French restaurants and if he can't even burn the French restaurants then he should go to Harrods and burn down the Chanel ka counter and beat up the make-up girls who serve behind it (never mind if they're English or Polish or even God forbid Pakistani - it will serve them right for doing naukri of Frenchies).

And I think so Prince William should also burn tyres and disrupt traffic in front of Selfridges and Harvey Nicholas for stocking Dior, YSL, Givenchy and other French brands. He should also stop anyone driving a Renault or a Citrong and drag them out of their cars and beat them up before setting fire to their cars. He should beat up all the schoolchildren who study French in England and set fire to their text books. He should teach everyone who has anything to do with France, such a lesson, such a lesson that not even their grandchildren will forget.

Mein tau kehti hoon, Prince William should even come to French Beach in Karachi and burn the sea over there also. He should show the French who's who and what's what, no? Everyone will do so much of wah wah of him and have so much respect for him after that. Vaisay, I think so it was totally beghairat of him to sue the magazine in French courts when he could be stroking anger outside. I mean, is he a man or a mouse? And also I'd like to ask why hasn't the British army's top ka General come out and complained to French ka Army Chief kay bhai why you have abused our Sovereignty, haan? I heard with my own ears Janoo saying that one day Prince William will be Sovereign of England and so Kate will be Sovereignty. Printing her nangi photos are obviously violation of British Sovereignty and William kay liye doob marnay ka maqaam hai if you have a ghairatmand perspective on life like us type of the people.

I tau just don't understand these William type fazool chooha types. And look at the French! This is the thanks they give to the English for liberating them from the Germans in World War II? And if you say anything to them aagay say they shrug and say, 'Say la we!' What cheeks!
Courtesy THE FRIDAY TIMES

HAND-KNITTED SWEATERS: A SYMBOL OF LOVE NO MORE INTACT

MAHTAB BASHIR
mahtabbashir@gmail.com
ISLAMABAD

I still remember that warm pink sweater my Grandmother knitted for me when I was a 9th grader. Though, Granny is no more around me, but this colourful sweater with all its warmth definitely is - reminding the affection and love of my Grandmother every winter. Khadija, a 27-year-old student while remembering her beloved Grandmother, said sweater knitting was no more a part of existing fashion because of a number of readymade products available in the market, but all readymade sweaters, cardigans, zippers, pullovers, uppers and jackets could not match the love of handmade product produced with love.

Often considered a mere pastime or hobby, knitting is actually much more than this but, unfortunately, with the usage of top technlogical gadgets hand-knitting also becomes a 'victim' of an onslaught of technology.

Knitting is a form of art. The different techniques used to make knitted pieces are truly extraordinary, let alone that beautiful, warm, fuzzy feeling they give afterwards, both literally and figuratively.

The tradition of knitting was widely practised around ten years ago, when mothers, grandmothers and aunts would do the exercise for their loved ones. Carrying the knitting kits with their assorted pins and needles and beautiful balls of wool, whether they were experts or just did it as a hobby, they used to sit for hours making chequered sweater vests for their husbands, children or grandchildren.

Although not as easily to be found as they once were, there are still ways to get your hands on quality wool. As always, the wool balls are found almost in every main market of the federal capital, while it is much easier to find it at old wool shops in Rawalpindi. They sell wool by ounce, and the colours are bright and delightful - golden yellow, tomato red, bright green, gleaming white - instantly attracting you to them. Home-knit sweaters retain an adorable quality with their fluffiness, making the cute toddler wearing them all the more susceptible to some through cuddling.

The craft has faded over the years due to a lot of reasons, one of them being the scarcity of shops selling wool. Schoolteacher Attia Imdad, who has held on to the forgotten tradition, told this scribe how and when she first learnt knitting, she used to have access to the best wools to make sweaters with. ABC wool was her favourite. She gave some other reasons why, in her opinion, this wonderful form of art might have died down.

She has seen the practice of knitting decline as the generations have passed, especially as women and girls get busier in their day-to-day lives. Working ladies have almost no time to sit back and knit after a hard day of work and suffering through the rough traffic, Attia says.

Of course, we must also take into consideration that we live in a country with mild weather where winter does not stay too long.

Attia said when she used to live in a cooler country, like Zimbabwe, she used to spend most of her time knitting perfect little sweaters for her family members. But now buying the funky, trendy sweaters and jackets from local markets where a wide range of items would probably be one’s first choice. “However, knitting a lovely cardigan for yourself every now and then would not only make others appreciate your hard work, you’ll feel proud of yourself too,” she said smilingly.

Attia also loves experimenting with her wool and designs on every chance she gets, accentuating the hint of affection that makes her gifts ever so admirable to everyone who receives them. “Knitting allows the artist the scope to experiment by striking new designs trying new colour combinations whether it be striped or checked, adding sequins, lace, beads, buttons and ribbons, or anything your fashion sense dictates,” she said.

The craft of knitting is not that difficult to master. You need to learn the technique, which puts your hands in a particular flow. Attia also talked about how knitting doesn’t even need much concentration. “All you need to do is get your hands into a rhythm. I had learned to knit from one of my friends’ mother. When I used to see aunt’s work and the products of her toil, I was intrigued. I then asked her to teach me and thus learned to knit at a very young age and have been doing it ever since,” she explained.

Of course, many women across the country are now among the working force and hardly have any time for even a proper meal throughout the day. But then again, there are mothers, daughters, grandmothers who can spare some time for their loved ones. When you get some free time and have nothing to do, you can always sit down and get knitting.

With chilly winter knocking at the door, why not open the gates and welcome it with some cosy, warm wool and your favourite knitting kit? But only if you have the time for your loved ones. HAPPY WINTER!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

PAKISTANIS EASY VICTIMS OF DIABETES DUE TO DIETRY HABITS


MAHTAB BASHIR
mahtabbashir@gmail.com
ISLAMABAD

My mother was tested positive for diabetes, incidentally after a urine test. That was about ten years ago, and since then she, like so many other people with diabetes, became obsessed about her blood sugar level. Her doctor warned her to control it or the consequences could be dire and that she might end up blind, lose a leg, get kidneys failure and so on. Twenty-nine years old Riaz Ahmed, the narrator of this short but sad story, said that since the diagnosis, his entire family had been trying hard not to lose their beloved mother.

“But neither all skills of Surgeons nor the prayers of Saints could survive her. My mother, then 63, began taking pills to maintain her blood sugar level and pricking her finger several times a day to measure her sugar level that, however, could not be controlled. Finally she agreed to add insulin to her medication,” Riaz added. He said they had been doing everything to control her diabetes but they overlooked the importance of keeping a check on her cholesterol level. And in the end, the cholesterol killed her, said Riaz while choking back his tears.

Every year, hundreds of diabetic Pakistanis go abroad in the hope of getting better treatment while the poor stay here and cope with the ailment with limited resources. And then there are others, who suffer because of poverty coupled with illiteracy, lack of health care facilities and awareness.

Besides this, wrong diagnosis and medical negligence also sometime contribute to the rise of diabetes-related mortality rate. This leads the public to not to trust medical professionals. Many patients complain that doctors avoid explaining as to what their ailments are or how they will be treated. For those who can afford it and those who manage to scrape up their savings or use whatever resources they have, opt for going thousands of miles away where they believe they will get the right treatment. In this scenario, the World Diabetes Day is going to be observed today (November 14) all over the world including Pakistan to increase an awareness about the effects of diabetes and its complications amongst the general population and professionals in a range of sectors.

It is also hoped that the increased awareness will lead to more resources to fight the causes of diabetes and help fund research into improved treatment options. The World Diabetes Day raises global awareness of diabetes, its escalating rates around the world and how to prevent the illness in most cases.

Initiated by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and WHO, the day is marked on 14 November to observe the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, was instrumental in the discovery of insulin in 1922, a life-saving treatment for diabetes patients.

WHO estimates that more than 346 million people worldwide have diabetes. This number is likely to more than double by 2030 without intervention. Almost 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.

The World Diabetes Day campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation and its member associations around the world, including the American Diabetes Association, Diabetes UK, Diabetes Australia, the Canadian Diabetes Association, Diabetes South Africa, Diabetes New Zealand and the Diabetic Association of India. These organisations arrange events at international, national and local levels.

Conferences, workshops and seminars are held where health and public policy professionals discuss steps to control the disease. Events are covered in local and national media, including television, newspapers and internet publications to highlight the issue. Diabetes is no longer an unfamiliar disease. It is probably the most talked about ailment in Pakistan. Every year, the number of patients affected with diabetes is increasing. It is a chronic condition that arises when the islets of Langerhans cells of the pancreas fail to produce adequate amounts of insulin, a hormone that regulates the blood sugar level of the body.

Without insulin our body cannot utilise the energy it needs from food. The food that we consume is mostly turned into glucose, a form of sugar, to convert into forms of energy necessary for the body. Insulin enables our muscles and tissues to absorb glucose from the blood. When the body produces very little or no insulin, the sugar cannot be utilized. This can lead to abnormal blood glucose levels. High blood sugar levels can in effect damage the kidneys, the eyes, and the nervous system.

So, no matter how carefully patients try to control their blood sugar, they can never get it perfect - no drugs can substitute for the body’s normal sugar regulation. So while controlling blood sugar can be important, other measures also are needed to prevent blindness, amputations, kidney failure and stroke.

A medical specialist at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) said that Pakistan would be having 16 million people with diabetes with fourth number in the world. He said the warning symptoms of diabetes were weight loss, increased thirst, increased urination and weakness. He said anybody having these symptoms should get his or her blood sugar level checked.

He said a 30-minutes walk could reduce the occurrence of diabetes by 40 percent in a normal person. He said heart attack and stroke were some of the main complications and with progress of the disease life could become miserable for the patient. “Controlling the blood glucose prevents or at least delays complications. The factors leading to diabetes mellitus were obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, family history and background etc,” he added.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Japanese embassy gears up for cultural extravaganza

By Schezee Zaidi

The Japanese embassy has geared up for a thrilling and exciting cultural extravaganza in Islamabad to mark the 60 years celebration of diplomatic ties between Japan and Pakistan. From music recitals to book launching, film show to photograph exhibition and calendar display, the power of martial arts performance to elusive Ikebana demonstration, the list of cultural events starting on November 6 would carry on till March 2013, introducing vibrant Japanese cultural ensembles in Pakistan.

Talking about the Japanese cultural extravaganza to the media at an informal dinner meeting at his residence, Toshikazu Isomura, counsellor of the Public Affairs Department, Embassy of Japan, said the cultural arena always proves to be a stronger bond between the two countries, and the planned events aim to introduce Japanese culture to Pakistani friends in a vibrant way to bring the two peoples closer.
 
The Japanese cultural potpourri opens on November 6 with a joint musical recital by Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Oi and four Japanese musicians to be held at the Turkish embassy. The next is ‘The Spirit of Budo,’ an exhibition elaborating the history of martial arts in Japan, organised in collaboration with the Japan Foundation at the National Art Gallery on November 12.

The screening of Japanese films, ‘Kurosawa Movies,’ will open on November 9 and continue till November 14 at the National Art Gallery. Named after the great Japanese moviemaker, the Kurosawa film fest is a tribute to Akira Kurosawa, known as the most influential and important filmmaker in the history of cinema. Kurosawa directed 30 films in a dynamic career spanning 57 years.

The selected Kurosawa movies for screening include ‘The Hidden Fortress,’ ‘Seven Samurai,’ ‘Yojimbo,’ ‘Red Beard,’ ‘Sanshiro Sugata,’ ‘Sanjuro’ and ‘One Wonderful Sunday’.

The Japanese cultural fiesta also brings a unique book launching. The book titled ‘Surkh Phulon ki Sabj Khushboo’ is a compilation of literary works by Pakistani and Japanese literati. Compiled and edited by Khurram Sohail, the book also presents Urdu literary works of Japanese writers and also the translated works of Japanese literati, also done by Khurram Sohail. The book presents unique vision and views of Pakistani and Japanese literati as they look towards Japan through their literary eyes, touching the linguistic service of Japanese literati in upholding Urdu language and literature in Japan.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

BASHIR HUSSAIN NAZIM: END OF AN ERA

WHEN A LIBRARY IS DESTROYED .......!

MAHTAB BASHIR
mahtabbashir@gmail.com
03335363248

"JAB SE MADDA-HE-HAZRAT (pbuh) HY WAZEEFA APNA
TAB SE IFLAAS MERAY GHAR SY PRESHAN NIKLA"!
 
Bashir Hussain Nazim with Majeed Nizami
With the Eid-ul-Adha on the edge, I am penning down my emotions and gut-feelings shared with my great father Bashir Hussain Nazim- immersed with love, dignity, honour and pride. I will miss my dad on Eid day, because of contrasting views on slaughtering of Bakra. I distinctly remember, last year on the Eid day when I planned to hire the services of a Butcher and after some time a Butcher stood at doorstep, father asked him whether he knows about Takbeer? A shake of his head in negative not only put that Butcher in deep trouble but gathered sheer mortification to me as well (not to mention what happened once the Butcher left :-). Later, father himself slaughtered the goat while we managed to handle the legs of that Bakra.

On a very serous note, I will miss my father more than words will ever allow me to express. He was my hero, the wise one I listened to and sought advice from, he was my medicine man when I was ill. My dad was the first man I fell in love with as a little boy and no man will ever fill his shoes nor will walk closely behind. I find comfort in his quick and painless passing but the sorrow will always be deep. He was a simple man- a Shalwar-Kameez type of grace.

My father, Allama Bashir Hussain Nazim was a self-taught person. A linguist personified, a naat khawan and naat composer at par, a staunch lover of Holy Prophet (pbuh), a passionate admirer of Iqbal and a true man of letters. 
Abbu with Ashfaq Ahmed, Bano Qudsia and Mansha Yad

I am blessed to have had such a wonderful man like he was. I was also blessed to be with him as he disappeared to meet his creator. As he entered home on the night of June 16 at 1130 hours, we found him in agonizing pain. I thought this pain was business as usual as he often asked me pointing towards his legs “ay phar yar merian lattan, daba zara, kafi dard ho riya ay”. As we started rubbing and massaging his legs, he felt suffocation along severe sweating. Without wasting time, we called a nearby physician, who had a quick examination and referred us to move him to hospital. And within few minutes, we were on our way towards CMH, Rawalpindi (of which Abbu wished to go, because of his son Brig. Dr Mukarram Bashir , who is working there). We reached there within 20 minutes. As we were covering the distance, I found father reciting holy verses and Darood-e-Pak (as he always found). During this drive, I was not panicked sensing it would be a normal check up. May be father is having food poisoning, may be its because of weakness, or a drip or two will definitely help him stand back on his feet, I thought (because father never told pain in his chest). As he was put on hospital’s bed and Mukarram Bhai along with two other doctors on duty engaged in the remedial process, I took a sigh of relief, left that spot and came outside in the car parking with the prayers on my lips. After 10-15 minutes I thought to go inside to know the updates- I found one duty doctor whispering with Mukarram Bhai, “we are doing the hospital’s procedural work and after that its upto you either you take the body along right now or at morning time.” This brief sentence was the most shocking I have ever heard throughout my life. I found a spot slipping away beneath my feet, literally. I yelled… “what are you talking about. I will see my father myself. I will treat him myself.” …and as I entered the ward, throw the curtain away… I found my beloved father wrapped in a white sheet. I hurriedly slipped the piece of cloth to see his face. He was smiling, and reciting Darood-e-Pak but his lips were not moving ……….!!! I hugged him tightly to confirm whether he is gone and in response he never produced a whisper, even. I only wished I would have hugged him longer and tighter a bit earlier on that blessed night of “Meiraaj Shareef”, and with the dawn of “Fathers’ Day”, had I known it was the last time his strong arms would hold me.

"SILSILA NAAT KA KIA KHOOB CHALA MERE BAAD
QABR PERHTI HY MERI- SALLE ALA MERY BAAD

NOOR-E-HAZRAT SE MERI QABR FAROZAN HO GI
US PE BARSY GI SADA NOOR GHATAA- MERY BAAD

TA ABAD SAYYED-E-ALAM KI SANA MEIN NAZIM
HO GI MATTI BHI MERI, NAAT SARA- MERY BAAD"! 


SACRIFICIAL ANIMAL- A THRILL FOR KIDS WHILE IT LASTS

MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD

A sacrificial animal, for a grown up faithful, may be just a sombre offering from a man to his Creator but for children it is a welcome guest and a thrill while it lasts. With Eidul Azha just round the corner, groups of children can be seen everywhere in the city, showing off their sacrificial animals.

Children are very excited these days and they are having a great fun in walking with their animals, patting and caressing them, feeding them and adorning them with colourful leashes, reins, strings, ribbons, henna, and other little ornaments. Unaware of the exorbitant prices of sacrificial animals and their parent’s ordeal of buying them, children are just thrilled to have them around.

This scribe learnt on Thursday after a visit to the cattle market in H-11 that the prices of animals this year are three times higher than the previous year’s. Hence Eidul Azha, like Eidul Fitre can be called an event for the children since they are the ones who have the maximum fun on these holy days. Kids’ demand for sacrificial animals started as soon as August did. These days, they can be seen boasting about prices, colours and physical features of their animals. These children are just not contented to have their sacrificial animals; they do everything to make them look ‘beautiful’ too.

“I have purchased a few ornaments to decorate my goat that my father purchased spending Rs 30,000. Now, I have adorned my animal with reins of bright colours and silver ornaments for its neck and legs,” said Hamza, a youngster. These enthusiastic children dedicatedly perform all the chores related to their animals, which include arranging for their fodder, sheltering and taking them for a walk. Talha Shakil, 10, said he had to wait all year for Eidul Azha so that he could enjoy the company of his goat. “I love to take it for a walk,” he said. He said that he along with his friends would take their animals for a walk, preferably to some nearby meadow twice a day.

Another kid, Oheed Ahmed, said he preferred to go with his parents to select the animal of his choice, suggesting it should be beautiful enough to show off. “We friends have a sort of competition among us as to whose animal is more beautiful and healthy than others’,” he said. He said it was not easy to look on when one’s animal was being slaughtered. “It’s really hard to sacrifice them but it has to be like that,” he said. Although kids usually fail to collect much Eid allowances on this Eid but they feel compensated with the company of sacrificial animals.

Eidul Azha is celebrated annually on the 10th of the last Islamic month, Zilhajj, of the lunar Islamic calendar. The celebrations begin after the Hajj on the 9th, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia by Muslims worldwide. On Eidul Azha faithful sacrifice their animals to seek Allah’s blessing. Many people have yet to buy animals because they are hoping that the prices might come down in the next couple of days.

Monday, October 15, 2012

TALIBAN’S THREAT TO MEDIA

According to a BBC Urdu service report, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakeemullah Mehsud has issued ‘special directions’ to his subordinates in different cities of Pakistan to target Pakistani and international media groups. This is the TTP’s response in anger at the critical coverage the media across the board has given to the assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai. On the government’s part, the threat is being taken seriously. The Federal Interior Ministry says intelligence agencies have intercepted a telephone conversation between Hakeemullah Mehsud and a subordinate, Nadeem Abbas alias Intiqami, in which the TTP chief directed Abbas to attack media organisations that denounced the TTP after the Malala incident. The cities specified to be targeted are Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and others. Clearly, this is as wide as media targeting can get. The Interior Ministry in response has issued orders to beef up security at the offices of media organisations by deploying additional police. If needed, the government will deploy the Frontier Constabulary as reinforcements. The ministry has also cautioned religious scholars who had publicly denounced the Taliban following the attack.

The countrywide revulsion against the targeting by the TTP of a 14-year-old girl whose only ‘crime’ was standing up defiantly against the Taliban’s campaign to bring a halt to education in general, and girls education in particular, in areas under their influence was also reflected in media coverage of the event. Our lively media rarely converges on such a consensus on anything. When it does, things cannot remain the same and the pressure of public opinion generated as a result of this media consensus tends to force the authorities’ hand to respond to the issue. To their credit, the authorities, from the government to the armed forces, have unanimously come to the conclusion that enough is enough.
Now what remains to be seen is how this convergence translates into action. The reports about finally firmly grasping the nettle that is North Waziristan, the hotbed and safe haven of the Taliban, are a hopeful sign, despite the military’s reiteration of the need for a political decision before an offensive can be launched. The apprehension all along about military action in North Waziristan has been the adverse asymmetrical effect in the form of a terrorist blowback throughout the country. By its very nature, the protagonists of such warfare retreat before overwhelming force deployed against them and strike elsewhere so as to distract and stretch out the security forces, which inevitably produces gaps in the security network. It is imperative therefore that unlike previous military campaigns, including the ones in Swat and South Waziristan, any campaign against the terrorists holed up in North Waziristan must take into account and pre-empt the militants’ ability to melt away into other areas in the face of a military offensive, to live and fight another day. Any offensive in North Waziristan therefore must treat the requirements of the theatre as a whole, cut off retreat routes, and at the same time brace for terrorist attacks elsewhere in Pakistan. Bitter as the harvest of a North Waziristan offensive has the potential to reap, there is now no escape from taking out these fanatics and cleansing the soil of Pakistan from such inimical forces that threaten the best values of our state and society.
Courtesy: Daily Times

Friday, September 21, 2012

GHULAMI-E-RASOOL MEIN MAOT BHI KABOOL HY!

The government, under pressure from the growing and increasingly violent protests against the film insulting the Prophet (PBUH) has decided that today will be a national holiday and declared it Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (Day of Love for the Prophet (PBUH)). The federal cabinet also decided to hold Shan-e-Rasool (Dignity and Respect of the Prophet (PBUH)) conferences at the federal and provincial levels. Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told the media that the cabinet had suggested to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) that it should sign an agreement with YouTube for blocking sacrilegious material. It may be recalled that when the furore over the film broke, the government requested YouTube to take the offending footage off its server and help bloc access to the film through all other Internet conduits. 


However, despite the fact that YouTube has blocked the film in a number of Muslim countries, and is adding countries to that list every day, it told the Pakistan government that it could not comply with the request since it had no such agreement with Pakistan. As a consequence, the government shut down YouTube in Pakistan altogether, much to the chagrin of its users. But that was apparently not the end of the story, as the Lahore High Court has issued notices to the government regarding inadequate blocking of, and therefore presumed access to, the offending film. Welcome to the age of the Internet, which makes blocking anything a highly precarious and difficult enterprise. 

The federal cabinet wants the culprits responsible for the film brought to book and to be shown no leniency. Mr Kaira argued that a holiday was the only way the government could show its seriousness about the ruction caused throughout the Muslim world because of the film. Mr Kaira appealed to the protesters to remain peaceful. He revealed a proposal to hold an emergency meeting of Pakistani ambassadors to discuss the fallout of the film and subsequent blasphemies. The cabinet also asked President Asif Ali Zardari to raise the issue in his address to the UN General Assembly and summon a summit of the OIC to tackle the provocation and forge a consensus on the response of the Muslim world.

Critics of the government’s decision to declare a holiday today express reservations that the move would encourage people to participate in the protests, which may turn violent. If the past few days’ events are anything to go by, the apprehension is not without weight. Increasingly violent attacks are being mounted against the US Embassy in Islamabad and the Consulates in Lahore and Karachi. Even the supposedly foolproof arrangements to keep protestors away from the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad failed in the face of the determined mob, and the army had to be called in to bolster a hard-pressed police force. 


The government’s intention may have been unexceptionable, i.e. to answer its critics that its response to the issue had been far too mild. However, if it has misread the mood on the streets, the decision could backfire in the form of countrywide violent protests, which would obviously stretch the already stretched law enforcement and security forces.

While Pakistan attempts to cope with the explosive situation emerging at home, the ‘freedom of expression’ champions in the west continue on their reckless and provocative path. French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which gained notoriety in 2006 by reproducing the Prophet’s (PBUH) caricatures first published in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, has in the middle of the growing protest in the Muslim world decided to publish more blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet (PBUH). France as a result is bracing itself for a backlash, while protests sweep Afghanistan, Indonesia, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. 


More than 30 people have already been killed in the protests, including 12 in an attack by a female suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Al-Azhar has condemned the publication of the cartoons, and even the Vatican has expressed its unease at the emerging crisis by describing the publication of the satirical images as throwing “fuel on the fire”.

What the proponents of unbridled freedom of expression in the west either do not realise or do not give a fig about is the dialectical relationship between freedom and responsibility. In their clinging to notions of freedom of expression (without any responsibility as to the consequences), what these modern day fundamentalists of western values fail to see is how their adventurism is bringing grist to the mill of the extremists throughout the Muslim world, and in the process dooming the liberal, democratic and progressive community in these societies to hell. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

RUET-E-HALAL, SHAHADATEIN & MOON SIGHTING

There is something surreal and vaudevillian about this whole high drama that we go through every year. As surreal as the water car episode that we went through recently. Those otherwise pathologically concerned with Pakistan’s “image” abroad as a modern state should really be on an overdrive here.

What we have, every year, in the 21st century, is a national debate over the sighting of the moon. It would take several attempts at explaining this annual national discourse to an outsider for the latter to take it seriously. And this is not to be attributed to the condescending superiority complex of those using the Gregorian calendar towards those using lunar. No, religious injunctions in other faiths, even other Abrahamic faiths, can be far more eccentric than the mere use of the lunar calendar. What will be questioned would be the reluctance to actually use the lunar calendar to get out of the messy, inexact business of sighting the moon.

Adding a layer of complexity to the whole issue is the forging of new ties across sectarian divides and the burning of old ones. One prism of understanding the issue used to be in the pro-Saudi Arabian versus pro-local terms. How, then, would that explain the functionally anti-Saudi Arabian influence government of KP, celebrating Eid a day earlier and the Saudi Arabia-fixated Punjab government celebrating it a day later?

Also evident is the irony of the central Ruet-e-Hillal committee calling the other camp obscurantists while maintaining an intransigently literalist stance on sighting the moon. But Peshawar’s Mufti Popalzai also based his declaration, not on any calculation or throwing his lot with Eid in other countries, but, yes, on reports of sightings. With this, the debate mutates from the theological into a my-word-against-yours, spawning off arguments about light pollution in cities, the visibility of the moon and whether the faith is sullied by using telescopes to begin with.

Several years ago, Mufti Muneeb (who is now in his 14th year at the committee), in his protest against Mufti Popalzai, equated the matter with the then recent Swat crisis. He explained the necessity of an “operation” the way one was started in Swat to restore the “writ of state.” Heavy words, these. The loss of the state’s monopoly on violence to militant extremists is to be put in the same slot as the trivial issue of gazetted holidays?

To segue that into an appeal: it would do us all a lot of good to drop the hyperbole. The heavens won’t fall if we have two Eids. And national unity wouldn’t have been cemented even if we did. There are other, bigger monsters to slay for that.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TIME TO INTROSPECT

On this Independence Day, as Pakistan turned 65, we find as many views on democracy, secularism and Islam as there are people living in the country. Confusion is one word the youth that comprises 65 percent of this country uses often to describe their understanding of the situation in Pakistan. There is complete disorientation as to the purpose of creating Pakistan in the first place, and then the direction it should have, and still needs to take. If the idea was to create a nation with multiple cultural dimensions, with human values at its core, then the way we have dealt with our citizens by depriving them of a decent living goes against that grain. There is a need to reinterpret, redefine and shed the dust covering the original concept of Pakistan envisioned by Jinnah and Iqbal. They certainly did not talk of a Pakistan enslaved by the current dominant and self-defeating narrow interpretation of Islam.

So-called Islamisation, starting from Zia’s era, has reduced the state and society to being entrapped by religious intolerance and lack of direction. The phenomenon of extremism, with a handful of people hiding in the mountains of northern Pakistan demanding Shariah to be the leitmotif of state and society is an indicator of things getting out of hand. The country is fast moving toward a debacle woven into a pattern of hatred, religious intolerance and crude understanding of Islam. Did Muhammad Ali Jinnah dream of this kind of Pakistan? The oft-repeated speech of Jinnah that he delivered at the first session of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, clearly suggests the role of religion in the state that he envisaged. He delineated the position of minorities in Pakistan by granting them complete freedom of religion so that they could practice their faith in whatever manner they thought fit. This was the spirit that became the cause for the creation of Pakistan.

Today it is a different country we are living in, where minorities are harassed and are forced to either convert to Islam or leave the country for safer havens in India or elsewhere. The domination of right wing groups and opinion in the political, social and economic spheres has affected our relations with the world. We are not at peace with our neighbours. An air of hostility swirls across Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. The India-Pakistan animosity paradigm that saw trillions of dollars lining the pockets of political elites and arms dealers from the western countries in the name of defence and security, brought nothing but economic deprivation for our general public. The case of US enmity sown in the hearts of Islamists played out as an expedient way to exploit public sentiment rather than establishing Pakistan as a country free of political, military and economic dependence. Pakistan is surviving on the periphery of the world’s mainstream, where the purpose, cause and reason for Pakistan’s creation is lost in a welter of noisy and contradictory voices, adding more heat and fury rather than reason and wisdom to the country’s striving for direction, stability and prosperity. We are unfortunately directionless even today after 65 years and the freedom that we so lovingly guard in the name of sovereignty has itself become a redundant formula of false claims of national success and pride. We are in need of deep introspection. And what could be a better time for this than Independence Day?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

LONG LIVE THE KING


Teri Mefil Mein Leikin …….

MAHTAB BASHIR
03335363248

Gulon mein rang bhare, baad-e-nau bahaar chale/ Chale bhi aao ke gulshan ka karobaar chale. Legendary classical singer Mehdi Hassan (July 18, 1927 – June 13, 2012), who captivated the hearts of millions of music fans across South Asia, died on Wednesday (June 13, 2012) after a decade-long illness. He was 84.

Mehdi Hassan, known as Shahenshah-e-Ghazal, or the king of classical singing among Urdu speakers across the world, died at Agha Khan Hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

His son Asif told reporters outside the hospital that his father had been suffering from multiple lung, chest and urinary tract infections. Hundreds of fans gathered at the hospital on learning of his death, while condolences poured in from across the world, including India, where the ghazal maestro had a huge fan following.

Mehdi Hassan was bestowed with several awards, including Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Presidential Pride of Performance, Hilal-e-Imtiaz and the Nigar Film and Graduate Awards from Pakistan, while India and Nepal awarded him with the Saigol Award and Gorkha Dakshina Bahu Award, respectively, in recognition of his services to music. He has left behind nine sons and five daughters. He married twice, outliving both his wives. He will be buried in Karachi on Friday.

He was born in Rajhistan, India and migrated to Pakistan during the partition. Hassan struggled for a long time to establish himself as a singer, which included a one-off performance on Radio Pakistan in 1957. The year 1959 was his breakthrough year when he was introduced to a group of people at the Art Council in Lahore by legendary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. And then, no musical score was complete without Mehdi Hassan’s enchanting vibratos.

“His voice added so many colors to ghazal that at one of the concerts, Faiz [Ahmed Faiz] sahab stood up and raised his hands in the air and said that this ghazal belonged to Mehdi Hassan, that he had nothing to do with it. Such was the impact of the man’s singing,” said Sufi singer Abida Parveen. Poet Nida Fazli, a close friend of Hassan who penned most of late Jagjit Singh’s ghazals, said Mehdi Hassan had been an institution for those in India and Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he had “brought the sub-continental Sufi sensibilities to life through his songs”.

Iconic Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar also tweeted about King of Ghazal Mehdi Hasan’s passing away. She said she had been “deeply grieved because today, Mehdi Hassan, a very big Ghazal Singer, is no longer with us. He brought a major transformation in Ghazal singing” and it was highly unlikely that such a singer would be born again.

“He was a great classical singer as well and his singing had a fragrance of Rajasthan’s music. I pray to Ishwar to rest Mehdi Hassan’s soul in peace,” she added.

Famous ghazal singer Ghulam Ali said: “I m completely shocked to hear about his demise.”
He said it was as if he had lost his elder brother.

Indian singer Hariharan tweeted: “Nobody can replace Mehdi Saab. He was a genius. He was a great thinker”.

Condolences also poured in from former president Pervez Musharraf PTI chief Imran Khan and Indian singer Pankaj Udhas among several others.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

AMANULLAH BUTT MAKES HIS WAY TOWARDS HEAVEN!


MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD

The earth is round, that’s why perhaps when two persons met and left for good, on a particular day come across each other again and that is for eternal relationship.

First time I met him at National Press Club (NPC) office in Federal Capital, couple of years ago at a time when I was working as a reporter for English newspaper ‘Daily Times’ to cover an art exhibition.

This healthy man greeted me with open arms and huge smile to follow. With exchange of quick words and an informal attitude wrapped with spontaneous humour, he won my heart in no time.

Before I planned to leave NPC for my office, he with his trademark Punjabi accent said, “O janab, pehli mulakaat ay, koi roti shoti te khaa k jao’. (It’s our first meeting and you should have a meal with me). I was in hurry and with an excuse I replied, “Butt sab- mein kuj jaldi which aan- Insha Allah, fair bohat jald mulakaat hoi gi.” (I’m in hurry and will see you pretty soon)”.

For mid and begin level Journalists in Pakistan, life is tough as he has to do all the hard work compiling stories braving scorching heat or chilly winter, to compose, and file it in a day’s stipulated time and often he has to skip his daily meals.

Days went by and it became my routine after finishing off my official work, I along with my young fellow Ali Hassan started our search for good restaurants in twin cities to have dinner together. We tasted almost every restaurants of sister cities but failed to find out a particular restaurant with a combination of taste and low price.

Ali at that time was residing Shamsabad (Murree Road) and I have to drop him there at night before moving to my own place at I-10. Mid way through, at double Road (Stadium Road), we tried all the restaurants and got fed up soon.

On a night, Ali desired to look around a restaurant he was told by his friend that restaurant offers a taste to devour. We didn’t know the exact location but all we knew it was situated in a small street over the road. And finally we got it. “Lahore Khaba” was the name of that small restaurant with a big portrait of comedian Sohail Ahmed eating a chicken piece erected in and outside the eatery.

As soon as I reached near, I saw Amanullah Butt (a senior journalist and owner of that restaurant) for the second time- sitting on a reception chair of ‘Lahori Khaba’. Drawing a long puff of ‘Gold Leaf’, he instantly recognized me and started uttering ‘Bismillah’, ‘Bismillah’ for a fair distance. Later I found, ‘Bismillah’, ‘Welcome’ and ‘Thank you’ as his pet (repeated) words.

On my first day, inside the ‘Lahori Khaba’, I noticed a number of photographs of Butt sab with prominent political, social and cultural personalities hanging over the walls. Afzal Butt’s solo photograph was also seen on the wall of restaurant. Upon asking why Butt sahib’s photo is here? Is it because he is the president of National Press Club? Butt sab first smiled and than replied, “o janab (Afzal Butt sab) … meray wadday pai jan nay ay. And I said masha allah. Later, Butt sab told me he writes column/ article in Urdu and Punjabi newspapers and I said pointing towards a wall--- yes, it is quite visible butt sab as one of your article is also pasted on the wall. He smiled again.

I distinctly remember, on that day I enjoyed Egg dipped in ‘Channay’ in dinner and it was the first time I tasted Chanay the way it is cooked. Before leaving the restaurant, I spoke highly about the taste of Chanay and told Butt sab we were in search of delicious food and your restaurant is the one we are looking for. Butt sab smiled again and shared a joke in response.

‘Lahori Khabay’ offered traditional foods including Chanay, Sri Paay, Khadd, etc I’m oblivion with.

Now, visiting that restaurant became my staple diet. Everyday I went there along Ali at ‘Lahori Khabay’. Later, we started debating on political issues rather just having a dinner. I’ve also visited his restaurant at Sehri time during last Ramadan.   

Every night, Butt sab delivered an insight out analysis of an issue- and that too prolonging with few jokes. From allotment of plots to journalists, to Supreme Court of Pakistan, from Zardari to Gilani, every issue came under our discourse during the dinner.

One night, when I reached ‘Lahori Khabay’, Butt sab asked me, haan g- ki khabraan nay. I said Butt sab- I went to attend a memorial reference in memory of Mastana, and Babbu Baral and just came here after filing this story. Butt sab went in a trance of nostalgia and kept of sharing the history of both the late great comedians. “Main ainda dowan naal bohat time guzaraya ay- balkay bohat acha time guzarya ay. Bohat achay insaan san tay bethay bethay koi jughat te gal bana lainde san. Or banda hans hans k pagal ho janda si,” he shared changing his facial expression from smile to sadness.

“Par Babbu wi ajeeb banda si. PM ne 5 lakh ilaaj aaste ditta, te 2.5 lakh de LCD lay aya,” Butt said. Now I was confused whether I should laugh here or to show seriousness. Butt sab also shared about the expansion of his business saying he will maintain balance between his hotel business and journalism.

It is quite hard to round off my feelings about this great workaholic man who always said goodbye to me with his trade mark humour. I remember often while leaving ‘Lahori Khabay’, I requested Butt sab to share that incident about brother of Humaira Arshad. And Butt sab said… “haan… o ainj hoya, aik din aisi aik party arrange keeti, ohday te Humaira Arshad nu bula lia. 2 ghante ho gay, o na aai. Ohda bhai (ohda secretary wi si). Mein ohday kolo jado wi Humaira Arshad da puchaha, o kainda ay… ye jo ap meray galay mein Locket dekh rahay hain na, ye may Humaira k sath UK, gia tha, wahan se laya tha. Ye jo ap bracelet dekh rahay hain, ye mein HUmaira k sath UAE ki visit pet ha, jahan se lay k aya tha. Or ….. ye jeans maine USA se purchase kit hi. Butt sab said, he got furious upon this answer as everyone getting late. And…. Finally I said to him… “Aor tum apni behan ki kon kon si naimato ko jhutlao ge,” and everyone around us found laughing.

On June 2 (Saturday), I got an sms from Bilal Dar about Amanullah Butt suffering with brain hemorrhage and admitted to PIMS hospital. I started praying for his early recovery knowing well those who make other happy wont vanish too early. But later, I got the news of sad and untimely death of Butt sahib.

May Allah Almighty bless Butt sab’s soul in eternal peace and grant his family and relatives the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.

RIP Butt sab, I know, now the air of Heaven is filled with your jokes and you are making your presence felt there as well.