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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Alvida Sachin from across the border

Today, the 23rd of December 2012, hundreds of millions of cricket fans around the world woke up to the news that the legend that is Sachin Tendulkar has announced his retirement from One Day Cricket, bringing to an end a 23 year old career. He retires from One Day International cricket as the leading run scorer in the format having scored over 18000 runs across over 400 one day games. This includes his 49th ODI century which he scored in the Asia Cup match against Bangladesh in Dhaka earlier this year. It will be a long while before cricket is able to produce a legend like him or some one challenges his run record in the game. 2012 can be labeled as some what a year of departures, just recently another legend,'punter' Ricky Ponting, the former Australian captain called it quits after the test series against South Africa.

For some time now, especially since the end of the 2011 Cricket World Cup in which India was triumphant that there have been calls by many for Sachin's axing from the Test and One day squad in light of his decline in form. Many of his supporters believe he was under pressure from the BCCI and his fans to go for one record after another, the record of reaching his 100th international 100th was the most talked about one, it was something that was expected out of him, every time he came out to bat the commentators debated whether this was the match that Sachin would reach his 100th international century. It finally happened in Dhaka during the Asia cup this year. It is entirely possible that maybe Sachin himself might have wanted to call it a day many months back, but the pressure of the fans and the cricket board to keep playing made him stay around. He after all had the reputation of being undroppable, he was after all the legendary little master, the one batsman tens of thousands of people flocked to stadiums to watch bat. The biggest evidence of that is the enormous support that the IPL franchise the Mumbai Indians got from opposition supporters at all of the grounds they played their IPL gaames. Sachin Tendulkar was not just for the Mumbai walas but for all of India and most of the cricket watching world.Some of India's home series where Sachin chose to sit out of such as the ODI series against England in 2011, the BCCI recorded lowest attendance of all time among home ODI series, confirming how much of a crowd puller Sachin was.

I have seen Sachin bat on the television for as long as memory serves me correctly. My earliest memories of Sachin while growing up were from the 1992 World Cup in Australia, followed by the Hero Cup in India. It wasn't until his 78th ODI that he scored his first ODI century, if I remember correctly this was in 94-95, and from then on it seemed as if they just kept on coming. My most memorable experiences of watching him Bat, include the One Day Century he scored against Sri Lanka in the 96 World Cup, the 141 he scored against Pakistan in Rawalpindi, his destructive batting in the 2003 World Cup and his first One day Century on Australian soil at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The last of which I had the privilege of watching first hand, I was present at the SCG, when the little master scored his first ODI century down under to ensure victory for the visiting Indian team against hosts Australia in the final of the Tri-Series. Being a Pakistani, Shoaib Akhter dismissing him for a first ball duck in front of a crowd of a 100,000 at the Eden Gardens is certainly up there.  The same Shoaib Akhter he tore apart in the 2003 World Cup at the Centurion. We were also hoping for final go at him in the upcoming series, alas that is not to be. The legend hat is Sachin Tendulkar has done a great service to the game, and legends of this magnitude do not come around every now and then, it may be another generation before we see the next little master be it from India or some other big cricket playing nation. He has out played and out lasted many legends that debuted around the same time as him, the likes of Lara, Akram, Inzi and the Waugh brothers. He cites his greatest moment, when India lifted the World Cup last year in Mumbai, his team mates lifted him up and paraded him around the Wankhede.

There will always be debates over whether this was the right time or not for Sachin to retire, for many of his die hard fans he should have kept going for a few more years, while some of his critics he should have signed off years back. His critics also kept emphasising that his presence in the team acted as an obstruction for many youngsters who were ageing while sitting on the bench. Like the legends Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting who also retired, maybe from Sachin's personal point of view, this was time to call it a day. He is yet to call it quits in the longer version of the game, but one can sense now that maybe that too is just a matter of time, maybe he is looking for that one final hoorah at his home ground, the Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai. Sachin you are already being missed and when ever you play your very last, that will indeed be a very day for cricket lovers around the world.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The By Stander Apathy dilemma

Very recently the gang rape of a young woman and her male friend in the Indian capital of New Delhi has caught the attention of people world wide with a very active social media campaign protesting the inhumane act, this has been accompanied by off line protests on the streets of Delhi as well as other major Indian cities. Even though Delhi has the reputation of being India's rape capital, the gruesome nature of the act managed to significantly catch the attention of the media and those active on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Among the most common arguments that are being dished out on social media is the issue off not just law enforcement incompetence but also off in action or lack of attention given by those around to suspicious activities. According to some reports, the vehicle in which the unfortunate girl and her friend were assaulted in showed unusual vehicle movement on the road, including a strange number of u turns at a particular junction. In other words by stander apathy is being repeatedly blamed for the heinous crime that happened in New Delhi. But a very important question that needs o be asked is what is by stander apathy and what are some of the possible reasons that cause this by stander apathy.

To describe by stander apathy in simple terms it can be described as the opposite of empathy, i.e. it is the complete ignorance or an absence of any emotional reaction to events in the surrounding environment. This lack of reaction could be both intentional or unintentional. It can be regarded as unintentional if we have grown up over the years being conditioned to mind one's own business, keep to one's self and focus on our personal self interest. It can be forced, i.e. we may force it upon ourselves just to prevent ourselves from getting into trouble. As human beings we have that right, but if we end up suffering due to people's apathy we end up complaining about this same silent by stander apathy. This is not to stay everyone is apathetic, if everyone was, there would be no one helping us when we have a flat tire or when our car breaks down, or when we are injured and some one calls an ambulance. The world has good people as well, but their numbers are diminishing.

Our by stander apathy as adults goes back to our earlier years, be it our child hood or our teenage years when we are in high school or at the start of our university life. I am certain those reading this blog might not be able to relate to apathy as a teenager, our minds are too fragile and confused during those years that when  we experience apathy towards others, it by passes us by so conveniently. Our teenage years are our developmental years and so much variation in emotion is experienced by us as well as certain types of uncertainties we miss out on some while embracing. To be more specific, I will list down some cases of apathy we display while we in our developmental years between childhood and early adulthood. The best example I can think of is bullying, bullying and social discrimination is a very common phenomena through out schools around the world. Bullying and social discrimination is not something that is restricted to a particular socioeconomic group or a particular segment of society, rather it happens every where because of various reasons ranging from individual need to exercise their power against a weaker person, or the ego needs of some one to feel superior over another by down grading or degrading another person who by no means has brought any harm upon them.

How many of us have seen ourselves or some one else take any action or show any empathy towards the person being bullied as a teenager in some way or the other. Bullying ranges from verbal vomit, to severe social discrimination to even physical assault. The effects of bullying during those vulnerable teenager years stay with the victim for many many years to come, in some cases through out life and it strongly affects how they interact and engage with people as adults or how they respond to their surroundings. Apathy showed to them can make them apathetic towards others possibly under the guise of it all being a socially accepted norm of minding one's own business. Our apathy towards those being bullied, harassed, marginalized or mistreated during those years lays the foundation of our behavior of apathetic and self consumed human beings, it isn't until such scenarios fall upon us that. Just imagine if we had seen others being bullied, harassed and abused in front of our eyes in school and had we not chosen ignorance, how different would our lives today have been and the life of the other person being victimized. As teenagers, it might sound very risky to jump into another's problems, where we take countless personal risks, such a risk is not too much to ask, and as far as we adults are concerned, we need to been actively aware of when and how our children start displaying apathy and insensitivity in the world around us. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Male Chauvinism in Pakistan and the Saudi Connection

Earlier in the day today an acquaintance of mine shared an article on social media about yet another step that the authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have taken to add to the already high levels of male chauvinism already found there. This article which featured in the Lebanon based online publication called The Daily Star mentions an approach towards electronic tracking of women in the kingdom and how their husbands would be informed electronically via text message if they leave the country. This is regardless of whether the women are exiting the country with their male companions or with  their permission in their absence. Is it just me or something about it just does not feel right altogether. In a country where the religious high command issues verdicts to legalize treatment of women like personal belongings, is this taking it a bit too far? My first reaction on seeing this article was, oh wait I know which country is next in line, our very own Pakistan.

All jokes aside, even though historically we have been a male dominated society, a lot of modern male oppression over women and their treatment as personal belongings in urban centers has a lot to do with no surprises Saudi Arabia and their radical Wahabi version of Islam. They call  themselves a puritanical bunch, but I strongly doubt that they are in reality, since during the early years of Islam women were prominent in Arabian society. The first wife of the Prophet was a well established trader in Arabia and you do not hear stories about restrictions about the movement of women in the early days of Islam. Anyways coming back to the notion of male chauvinism in Pakistan. A lot of it seems to be the product of influence that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it's scholars and its funded organizations have had on the religious right in Pakistan. In Pakistan especially since the late 90's we have witnessed a dramatic rise not just in religious extremism but also a significant rise in the Arabized or Wahabi-ised version of Islam as practiced and observed by the urban middle classes. The penetration of such schools of thoughts and such practices have been even made their way into the elite of Pakistan's society, a great role here been facilitated by the Tableeghi Jammat, famous for its grand gatherings annually in Malir near Karachi, and Raivand near Lahore. Too much emphasis is moving towards not just literal implementation of orthodox conservative Islam but also towards denial of rights to women, minorities as well as the non religious lot.

Nadeem Paracha, a well known columnist and cultural critic for the English daily Dawn on more than one occasion has mentioned in his articles about the Arabian influence on every day life in urban Pakistan, with particular reference to that influence hailing from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In his articles he has mentioned that among reasons behind this include the fact that the kingdom is the custodian to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and where millions of devoted souls make the journey for pilgrimage. In his articles NFP has also pointed out a great deal of the influence has come from those repatriating back from years of hard work as laborers and skilled professionals in the Kingdom. They often bring back with them not just a lot of hard earned money, but Saudi style customs, rituals and values with the label that this is how true Islam is as followed in the holy land. Among the non tangible things they bring back with them include a huge focus on symbolic rituals, the idea behind domestication and dis empowerment of women, xenophobia towards non religious people and both religious and sectarian minorities. Before you know it, their very proactively communicating their way of thought and their chosen life style to others in the mother land.

At this point I do not know if any country is more chauvinistic and oppressive towards women as Saudi Arabia is, but Pakistan is certainly heading in that direction courtesy of non stop Saudi influence on this country. Women are forbidden from driving in that country, their employment options are severely limited, polygamy is permitted, they can not exit the country without permission from their husbands as if their personal slaves, and their laws in the land that exploit women. Even our mind sets are heading in that direction, those influenced by the Saudi thought are treating their women like personal belongings in Pakistan. Their right for an education is considered wrong, their right for having a career is considered an even bigger taboo, their freedom of movement is severely restricted. I am not making a general statement, but this is me pointing out to those families who have become newly religious or have been in some way inspired or influenced by the radical wahabi style version of Islam.

Some of the arguments I have heard personally that such families are giving for suppressing their women is just plain ludicrous, makes you wana slap yourself just to be sure you heard the right thing. It is very likely and possible that a religious drive that has chauvinistic men convinced they are creating a path to paradise for them, at the same time just some food for thought, religious rigidity is being used as a tool to bring back or reinforce primitive chauvinistic practices and prevent female empowerment. Just food for thought. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lobbying as a Public Relations tool

The concept of lobbying is not a new phenomena by any means and was first used in the early 19th century in the United States. In simple terms lobbying can be described as a sort of advocacy carried for the purpose of influencing decisions, particularly with respect to politics and state level decisions, as off today such forms of lobbying practices are still the more prominent of the lot. Some lobby groups have taken up social causes as a part of their agenda to promote knowledge sharing and different types of social welfare causes. On the other hand prominent lobby groups in the United States proactively make use of lobbying to influence the decision makers at state level to serve their respective interest groups or stakeholders. These include lobbyists to influence foreign policy, in favor of a certain foreign country or to increase the amount of foreign aid a respective country is receiving. Such lobby groups can also support improved ties with a certain nation for the purpose of improving trade and commerce.

The use of lobbying is not just restricted to the political arena and the realm of international relations, it has significant relevance even for the businesses in the commercial sector as a fairly effective public relations tool. This can exist in the form of engagement between corporations and the public sector, as well as between corporations and consumers. Lobbying by corporations happen when they are trying to influence policies and regulations at the federal, provincial or regional level in an attempt to achieve policy changes suited to them. These policy changes come in the form of reduced taxation, infrastructural support or increased government assistance with regards to industry expertise.

The use of lobbying as a public relations tool is not just restricted to western countries like the United States and those found in the European Union, but the use of lobbying to influence policy can also be found in a country like Pakistan, even though the trend of using lobbying as a public relations tool or using public relations as a whole is far from becoming a common sight. By lobbying for policy change, corporations regardless of their sector are able to engage with relevant authorities directly and develop their public relations with wider audiences. Business lobby groups in a country like Pakistan have successfully managed to get the federal and provincial government in the country to develop policies that encourage and promote the development of trade. Such policies can also include the protection of certain industries to give them a competitive edge relative to their competitors.

 A good example is the lobbying done by the Auto Industry in Pakistan which successfully managed to get the government to introduce high tariffs on imported vehicles so as to make the locally manufactured vehicles more competitive for the end consumer as well as preserve the thousands of jobs the industry provides.  Examples of these trade lobby groups include the Karachi chamber of commerce and the Lahore chamber of commerce and industry. Some lobby groups exist to counteract the bad press that certain industries and improve their public relations. A good example is the tobacco industry which has often been accused of causing lung cancer and the deaths of thousands of people, they have managed to use their lobby groups to engage with wider audiences and build positive public relations for the industry as a whole. Even employee unions can be classified as lobby groups that work for the interest of their members with respect to matters of employee relations across their relevant industry.

Lobby groups in Pakistan are also very proactive when it comes to fighting for social causes such as women's rights and the treatment of minorities in this country. It was women's rights advocacy groups that played a significant role in getting women's protection laws passed by the federal government in Islamabad. The Pakistani media as a whole has been collectively functioning as a lobby group to influence Government level policies with respect to increased freedom of the press, as well as encouraging government spending in sectors like education and health care.

A lot has also changed as far as the dynamics of lobbying and the methods adopted by lobby groups are concerned. We live in an era of social media, which has played a significant role in the empowerment of of not just businesses on an individual individuals i.e. members of the public also around the world. A lot of lobbying activities are now beginning to take place online using social media, as social media makes it easy to reach a wider audience spread across the globe. A good example would be the online lobbying done by major corporations in the pharma sector who try to promote their patented drug globally while at the same time influencing health policies in certain countries into making it an acceptable drug.

Regardless of the benefits of lobbying as a public relations initiative, there are many challenges that lobby groups face and it will be a while before lobbying as a full fledged activity can develop and flourish in a country like Pakistan. First of all lobbying to a great extent involves shaping or changing public opinion off wider audiences, low literacy levels and the inability to reach the rural masses can create limitations for lobby groups in getting their message across. Alongside these limitations there are also concerns with respect to public safety, poor law and order, corruption and inefficiency of public sector institutions that make lobbying for commercial or social causes even more challengi

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

This Non Mehram business has to stop

 Seriously people, this whole non mehram business has really got to stop in Pakistan, it has gone off for far too way and this whole attitude business is seriously way past its use by or expiration date. O yeah I mean every word of it, so if any one who does not want to use their common sense and accuse me of being blasphemer please kindly go right ahead. In any case for you lot anything short of the rigid 7th Century Wahabi and Taliban version of Islam, everything is completely unacceptable and down right respectful if people choose to follow a life style that deviates even slightly from those two extremist schools of thought.

For Non Muslims and those in the Western world, who do not have a clue what I am talking about, let me give u all a quick summary. Basically according to the religiously sensitive right wing school of thought especially in Sunni Islam, women are not permitted to have any sort of engagement or interaction with men deemed Non Mehrum. Non Mehrum being men, who are not their father, husband or their blood brothers. In some cases even step brothers are counted in the fold of  Non Mehrum men. The religious right uses an array of references from religious scriptures, texts and traditions to back it up. The most common argument they put forward is that this is necessary to prevent fornication and also argue that any form of interaction is haram (forbidden) period.

I even remember a fictionalized tale some some one told the audience at a Friday prayer sermon when I was a university student in Australia. If I remember correctly the story was something like, a guy and a girl both Muslim lived next door to each other. Everything was fine and harmonious till the guy took the initiative to go and get to know his neighbor. At first there was the formal exchange of greetings and introductions, as time went by acquaintance ship turned into friendship which turned into socialising which turned into bonding, which turned into attraction, and one thing leading to another, it resulted in fornication, and the resulting fornication resulted in an unplanned pregnancy, which led to an abortion blah blah blah. In short that fellow was trying to communicate a lot of grave sins would happen if the two genders interacted. When you hear stuff like this you begin to wonder what God was thinking when He labeled us Ashroof ul Makhlooqat (Urdu for the highest of all living mortal beings). Has common sense escaped Human kind?

Not only does this further exasperate gender segregation, but it also creates a mindset of misunderstandings, fear and even paranoia about the this opposite sex. In a society heading towards intolerance and extremism, there are many who are willing to go any measures possible to ensure both genders are kept as far away from one another as possible. Some examples of these measures include the reluctance of many families including those from the urban elite to educate their daughters because higher education usually involves co educational classrooms and male instructors. People also boycott mixed gatherings because they think social exposure of the two genders is Haram. If you even spot a Non Mehrum Man or Woman, you have committed a grave sin for which you will have to pay for in God's court in the after life or so is the argument put forward, mostly by men, but believe it or not even by quite  few women. These women are usually followers of ultra conservative extremist right wing schools such as the Al Huda School for women. They are notoriously famous for dis empowering women and radicalizing society among the urban elite of Pakistan. Trust me it has become a very common sight in Pakistan, where close relatives have boycotted weddings and family gatherings because they were not segregated or seen people walk out of them upon discovering the genders were not kept rigidity apart. Do not surprised if you walk in to a room and the burqa lot immediately hide their faces or show expressions as if all hell will break loose and the apocalypse is due any moment now.

Very very recently, a blog featured on the Express Tribune blogs, about how just a guy and a girl, probably somewhere in their mid 20's got harassed by law enforcement for just being in the presence or company off one another. The law enforcement officials harassing them demanded they show their marriage certificate the absence of which would make their presence with one another unacceptable. Even when the girl's brother arrived and presented identification the law enforcement officers refused to accept it simply on the basis of different mailing addresses on both identity documents. Again common sense missing, people do shift houses hence mailing addresses do change.

Firstly we are not the Wahabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, were Pakistan,  a country with a Pre-Zia era history of moderate Islam, a land of Sufi's and shrines etc, so lets not try and become like the corrupt wana be custodians of the Holy Land. If anything when visiting the kingdom we get mocked for our version of Sufi influenced Islam which manages to even bridge the Shia Sunni divide. Secondly are we even remotely thinking of the social consequences of our actions by such rigid gender segregation. You are creating stereo types and misunderstandings about the opposite sex in the minds of both genders, your terrorizing people through fear inducement and guilt exploitation, your damaging female education and empowerment, hence a waste of talent. You are also giving a potent tool to the chauvinistic men in the country, who will have a religiously backed excuse to persecute and oppress the women in their lives and will influence others to do the same. We are also depriving close family members from interacting with one another. A time will come we will never get to know who our aunt's and uncles some who are no different from our mothers and fathers and our cousins who are like an extension of our siblings? With such rigid gender segregation, not only are we deprived from social interaction with close family it also becomes impossible for us to find spouses to fulfill our God given Sharia compliant right to marry with our choice. I have heard it all too commonly now, among religious families, guy gets to see the girls picture for the first time when the marriage is suggested athe and meets the girl for the very first time on the night of the wedding. I am not sure that sounds like a recipe for a successful marriage. It is high time we open our minds, open our eyes and open our hearts and resist this Wahabi influenced radicalization of our thought and the massacre of our common sense.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Were a Judgmental Bunch and Maybe no changing that

Movies come, movies go. Theater comes, theater goes, art comes and it goes, yet the message that the various arts including the performing arts leave for us fail to become a part of our thought process. Most film makers and theatrical companies try their very best to instill a positive and sound message to their audiences, usually communicating good values and ideas to us. Their purpose of communicating such values is more than  just entertaining us, they are also communicating such values to reach out to us on a very human level and inspire a change of sorts in our behavior. For so many of us, we fail to understand or embrace what is being communicated to us, and we walk out of the cinema or theater unaffected, returning to life as if it were business as usual.
There are many short comings of Pakistani society and to some extent South Asians in general with respect to our values and our code of behavior that needs some work and our resistance to over come some of our short shortsightedness needs to be worked on. One such characteristic of our behavior is our ability to be naturally judgmental towards others around us. Not something to be proud off, but it is one of those things that has become deeply a part of our society that we either take its existence for granted or completely overlook it as if it is the most normal natural thing in the world.

By being judgmental, we are forming or creating an opinion about another person based on usually an insignificant trait or characteristic of their behavior, personality or who they generally are. At times people who are judgmental look for excuses to dislike, discriminate or marginalize another person without knowing them or trying to know them on a personal or social level. We are often very rigid about how a lot of us see the world, we see it from our spectrum, our rigid criteria of what is or what is not acceptable, and on occasions even mild deviations or variations are unacceptable to us. In a n nutshell, we are not very tolerant of social diversity, instead of looking for reasons to find good in some one, we look for the smallest of excuses to dislike some one.

This issue has often been touched upon in theater and cinema. Anwar Maqsood tried to highlight this point in this theatrical debut Pawnay 14 August also where it was briefly highlighted that our judgmental attitude towards one another prevents us from coming together as one nation, as Pakistanis. Even more recently this was touched upon in a Bollywood film from across the border 'English Vinglish' marking the return of the screen legend Sri Devi. In the film, her family is shown as being judgmental towards her and taking her for granted because of her inability to speak English. Her husband takes her for granted, her daughter mocks her, making her feel as if she is not respected. She manages to surprise everyone by secretly taking English classes on a trip to America and giving a speech at her niece's wedding.

I along with countless other bloggers and writers can say this again and again that there are severe demerits of being judgmental, even performing arts will try and communicate this message for years and years, but maybe all this effort will go in vain. In order to beat judgmental attitudes, it is important for their to exist a sense of empathy among people for other human beings, to feel the pinch of what it is like when others are judgmental towards you. But alas one can't teach another to feel empathy, it is after all a natural process.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Good Day for Pakistan

Photo: Cricket returns to National Stadium and i am a going!!! Cmon Karachietes lets support cricket's return

It seems like just yesterday that I last visited the National cricket stadium in Karachi to see a cricket match that involved foreign players. The last such incident was way back in the winter of 2007, which would make it a good 5 years in the past. The last time this stadium in the city by the sea hosted foreign players was during the ill fated 2009 Sri Lankan tour of Pakistan, that match was when Younis Khan scored his triple ton and that very tour was one that sent Pakistan into cricketing isolation. Hailed by the media as the first step towards the return of international cricket in Pakistan, it was definitely something that tens of thousands of people in Karachi, as well as Pakistan were looking forward to.

It wasn't the most impressive line up of foreign stars that descended on to the National Stadium, most of them were retired international cricketers from the West Indies and South Africa, led by the Sri Lankan legend Sanath Jaysuria. The only current international players in the International playing XI line up were two Afghan players.Pakistan's all Star XI was led by none other than Boom Boom Afridi, along with other well known names in Pakistani cricket such as Imran Nazir, Wahab Riaz and Umar Akmal. Some noticeable absences included current T20 Pakistani captain Muhammad Hafeez, Saeed Ajmal and test captain Misbah Ul Haq, though i highly doubt Misbah was really missed. He after all carries the burden of being nick named 'Tuk Tuk', which I think is a brand of Auto Rickshaw i think, I am not sure so do not take my word on that.

Getting into the stadium was probably the hardest part of the evening. I had forgotten how disorganized match day outings were in Pakistan, particular at the National Stadium in Karachi. Very different from a match day experience at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia or the Oval in London, where you have the concept of assigned seating, logistically well coordinated entry into the ground enabling one to even show up seconds before the toss and claim their rightful seat. Since the concept of assigned seating is non existent here, would be spectators have to reach the stadium hours before the toss. Even upon reaching the stadium, there is no guarantee of entry regardless of holding tickets with all the chaos, it almost feels like all hell is about to break loose. Thousands of fans also had to bear the brutal brunt of the Sindh police deployed at the venue who were definitely not reluctant to use their clubs at ticket holders. I am so fortunate I just marginally missed out on getting clubbed.

Our entry into the ground was made possible by a kind family who assisted us on entering the venue alongside them, as it was relatively simpler for families to walk in, as opposed to groups of men. The stadium was packed beyond capacity, as the normal capacity of the stadium is around 40,000, yet they were 70,000 spectators in the ground. The sheer volume of the spectators reflects, how eagerly this city of 20 million awaited the return of international cricketing action to their fair city. It was a sea of green as far as the eye could see, though one did occasionally witness the odd spectacle such as spectators climbing the very long metallic fence like they have been bitten by a radio active spider. These fences are usually designed for the purpose of security and for ensuring spectators stay within their respective enclosure. From time to time one days feel as if they are cooped up in a cage.

The match was pretty much a one sided affair, Pakistan's all star XI racked up 222 runs for the loss of 7 wickets in a span of 20 overs courtesy of some power hitting by Shazaib and Umar Akmal. It was beyond the reach of the veteran stars of the International XI who fell short by a huge margin of 84 runs. There was good news in the making even some 1000 miles up north. In Pakistan's second largest city of Lahore, tens of thousands of spectators had gathered at the national hockey stadium on the opening ceremony of the Youth festival to break the Guinness World Record for the largest audience participation in singing of the national anthem and that they did. All in all, a good day for Pakistan, here is hoping some foreign cricket boards make some gusty decisions and make the initiative of sending their teams for a proper cricketing tour of Pakistan. To the foreign players who showed courage and made the journey here, we thank you, we hope to see you and others from your country again in the future.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Start closer to home

There is often talk, especially by the liberal ultra left circles of urban Pakistan of the need to empower and  educate young women in rural and remote areas. The recent attack by the Taliban on Malala Yousufai has once again brought a magnified focus on the issue of women's right for education and empower, especially with regards to the risks they have to face in order to seek out knowledge. It is indeed a noble cause to fight for the education and empowerment of what is generally seen as the weaker of the two genders and such efforts are indeed commendable, however one interesting observation needs to be brought to attention, especially to the same pro women's rights groups who are making these efforts. That being that their efforts are focused too much on women in rural and far off communities, while women closer to home, i.e. in the urban centers that they hail from are also at a severe disadvantage. One doesn't need to wander out to the country side of Sindh and Punjab or the remote regions of KPK to find young women that are not just deprived off education, but also deprived off the idea of 'choice'.

The idea of choice is essentially knowledge or the presence of knowledge that many human beings have with respect to choices in life and the fact that they have a choice in life. A choice for a better life, a choice to have an education, a choice to live their life how they deem fit and so on. The absence of the idea of choice plays a big role as an obstacle in the empowerment and education of not just young girls, but our youth in general.

Coming back to the issue of female education and empowerment, since these rights activities are usually based in urban centers such as Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, it would be fair to the citizens of their fair cities that they begin their efforts with the women and the young girls that are closer to home, for many do not realize that disadvantaged young girls live closer to home, or they are just simply conveniently overlooked. These women's rights group might argue that socioeconomic disparity would hinder their efforts in reaching the masses and creating awareness of education and female empowerment among the lower socioeconomic groups. However at the same time, they do not act, when many young girls even from privileged back grounds, their own socioeconomic group are deprived off the opportunity for an education.

A lot of people fail to realize that even among Pakistan's urban upper middle class and affluent circles, there are countless young girls that fail to receive a proper education and this practice is found among many many communities in cities like Karachi and Lahore. There are many reasons given by such families or such communities as to why they do not educate their daughters. The most commonly given excuse is that pious girls do not engage in such worldly non sense, they stay at home and learn the skills necessary for managing a home. Building on that some argue, that what is the purpose of educating our daughters when their purpose is to get married, have children and take care of their homes and in laws. You even hear arguments such as girls should be married off young or that few families want an educated daughter in law who can think and speak for herself, a big lot of them want submissive obedient domestic daughter in laws for their sons. While some communities and families even among Karachi's elite circles treat their daughters as commodities in building relationships with other relatives or within their own communities, they give away their daughters hands in marriage to demanding prospects as if they are exchanging a commodity and in return they will benefit through an improved network. It is not uncommon even for educated mothers out of social and community pressures to give away their daughters hands in marriage in order to build ties with others or to consolidate existing ones. Many will give the excuse that this is how things work in our community so it is all justified, etc etc etc.

This completely removes the question of whether the family can or can not afford to educate their daughters due to resource constraint, but other factors are coming into play making them deny their daughters of not just fundamental rights, but also off the knowledge that they have certain rights which includes a right for an education, the right for making a choice and so forth. The Question that comes to one's mind is there a deeply held rigid belief that women are inferior, or is there a deep down terrifying earth shattering fear among  families especially men with regards to female empowerment through education. To those fighting for women's education and empowerment in distant areas, my sincere request to them is kindly also help those that are closer to home, those more accessible to them. Just take a trip down memory lane, and go back to your school days, go back to the time you were between the ages of 16 and 18, think of those girls who were married off straight after high school and think of those whose parents made them drop out of school even before they could finish to marry them off. Think of those 16 year old's who should be spending their teenage years studying for exams and enjoying hobbies similar to their friends instead they have mehndi on their hands and a new life in a new house. Think of those 18 year old's who some how manage to finish their high schooling, but the yeas that they should be spending seeking out knowledge, wisdom and developing skills are spent learning and managing domestic responsibilities sometimes in the back drop of over bearing in laws. Many of them do not even know deep down that they have a right to live like other girls, girls they went to school with, girls they made life long friends with and so on. Let's not forget these young girls also, their education, their empowerment, struggle for their rights also deserve our attention. Just spare a quick thought for them, it is so much simpler to reach out to them,

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Social Media, Empowering the Customer, O Yeah!!!

So many of us belonging to the so called Social media generation will confirm the fact that the power of social media is tremendous. There is great potential in social media, and a lot can be achieved either positively or negatively. Social media has also created a platform to provide a voice to many people for sharing their opinions, thoughts and engagement with others. This engagement also exists in the form of public relations opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses to reach out to their audience and engage in two way communication with them. Social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are extensively used in Pakistan as well by all sorts of small medium businesses, whether be it young artists, upcoming designers, entrepreneurs or new restaurant owners. Facebook in particular has been a revolutionary game changer even in a country like Pakistan where it now has millions of users.

The power of Facebook is that it provides the user with a real time online profile about the users themselves, research has suggested that majority of Facebook users put in factual information about themselves when creating their profiles, in other words it is our virtual identity more or less or our virtual presence. For millions of users it is the opportunity to share opinions, thoughts, ideas, blogs and through Facebook fan pages engage with their relevant interest groups or the businesses (Both product and service oriented) that they give custom to. For entrepreneurs and others alike, likewise it is an opportunity to engage with their audience or their customers, while at the same time doing some brand building and marketing activities. The voice it gives to customers, has created a new era of user generated content and feedback, and one that can not be ignored. Some people understand the power of user generated content it seems the hard way.

Very recently in Karachi, a well known Chinese restaurant located in the DHA area decided to impose a 10%  on customers that make an advance reservation. Unlike restaurants abroad, where you pay an advance for reservation which is later deducted from your bill, this is a 10% additional service charge you would pay in addition to your final bill.So your final bill is not technically your final bill. For example, on a bill of 5000 rupees your looking at being charged a service charge of 500 rupees which makes your final bill 5500. It would kind of put you in a dilemma if you only have the 5 grand in cash on you or on your debit card. Little did the restaurant realize that its patrons on social media would be very actively opposed to this plan and i of theirs on a short span of time they would have abandon their plans. As off today the 16th of October, the controversial service charge has even made the website of a very popular English Language blog belonging to one of the nation's most recognized English Language newspapers.

Threads on Facebook pages, status updates and other social media tools were used by the restaurant's patrons to get the establishment to over turn their decision and it worked, even though they were some supporters showing off so proudly how much they love to tip heavy amounts that can upto 900 or a 1000 rupees for each of theirs to Ginsoy. Even in the thread I started I debated the demerits of having a different set of policies for walk in and reservation customers. The management on a Facebook page made the claim that every penny earned from those 10% service charges goes to the pockets of the staff at the establishment working on minimum wage. Suppose we assume for a minute that the extra service charge ends up in the pocket of the staff, this would lead to the staff differentiating between walk in customers and those that have advanced reservations. It is after all only human nature to behave in accordance to where our self interests lie. This policy would have resulted in poor customer service extended to walk in customers by the staff who know they do not profit from Walk In's. Bad customer service examples could include a table refusal, long delays in waiting for a table, poor service after being served etc, the list is endless.

None the less, I would like to also take this opportunity to thank the restaurant for their cooperation and for listening to the voices of their loyal customers, many establishments in Pakistan very frequently and conveniently ignore the customer as the concept of customer service is usually non existent and many hospitality and service sector establishments and their owners have an attitude off 'we are doing a big favor on people by providing something in the first place'. I am certain so many of us can relate to that, for the time being Kudos to the Chinese joint for taking customer feedback seriously and acting upon it. 

The Anything Goes Needs to Stop

Please speak up, please speak up already. These are the words, feelings or sentiments from myself going out to the religious right, in fact such thoughts go out not only to them but also to the religiously sensitive people in Pakistan that are continuously on the rise. It seems that through some sort of an indirect process we have been pushed as a society towards the religious right, some would call it a push towards heightened religious sensitivity or insensitivity towards others. In the past week or so, we have seen the brave 14 year old Malala from Swat dominate the news regardless of whether your source of media is right, left or center. We have also seen countless tweets, blogs and Facebook status's dedicated to her. We have also heard condemnation of the attack on her from ordinary people and even opportunistic politicians who want to capitalize on the 'Malala' is our hero fever spreading across the nation. However what we are yet to witness in significant volume is condemnation of those barbarians behind the attack 'Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan', TTP for short. Just to be clear this blog is not about 'Malala' though I should have joined the remaining left leaning liberal lot in dedicating one to her, I will touch on her in another blog later.

One should not be too surprised at the silence of public figures for proactive and vocal condemnation of the attack, for public figures even though we expect a great deal of bravery from them, have their own lives to worry about including the lives of their loved ones. Even well guarded politicians are unsafe in this country, even from  their protectors. It seems like just yesterday that the governor of the Punjab province was brutally murdered by his own body guard for speaking up against the draconian blasphemy laws in Pakistan. And what happened afterwards, that cold blooded murderer. The silence that followed was very overwhelming, and this is the very silence I am speaking about.

The religious right or the religiously sensitive were silent or reluctant to fully speak out what was required when the Governor was assassinated and even today they are not speaking up as much as they should in condemnation of the Taliban. A quick brief up on the religiously sensitive urban lot, they are even found even among educated circles in society, and they are deeply sensitive about even the smallest of things associated with religion. First of all, I can not emphasis on this enough, they fail to understand and realize that religion is a very personal affair and not something that should be made a public spectacle out off. Secondly, they can not bear to see others living a way of life that is different from the one they have chosen for themselves, the same can be said about the Taliban, they want the rest of Pakistan, maybe even the rest of the Ummah to subscribe to their ideology and live a way of life they have chosen for themselves. Thirdly, this lot believes anything and possibly everything is justified in the name of religion, even if it means silencing innocent people, harassing others for not being religious, this includes accusing people of being blasphemous for not being as religious as them, taking the law into their own hands when it comes to others, the list is endless.

It is this very 'Anything Goes' with respect to religion that needs to be stopped and people need to be reconditioned into becoming more tolerant and compassionate towards others. Unless a sense of empathy exists for other human beings, I do not see people breaking their silence and speaking up against intolerance and barbaric acts of violence in the name of religion. There is more to people's silence than fear, it is part apathy and part conditioning around blind unquestioned and unconditional acceptance of things in the name of religion. Small example from my past, a few years back the government of Pakistan took the initiative to end the controversial 'Hudood Ordinance' laws from the dark days of Zia's rule. Around the days leading up to the much needed changes to laws, in living rooms across the country and even among educated diaspora Pakistani's, all I could hear were baseless arguments and a sense of sympathy for existence of such laws. Even when I tried to put forward the reasoning that this law has led to mistreatment of women in Pakistan for decades, it is exploitative and needs to be abolished, the apologists for religious law and the religious right had the same argument across various living rooms and their social circles that 'its the fault of the woman, she should not have ventured out of the house with Non-Mehrum men in the first place, she is responsible for what happened to her and rightfully deserves to be punished'. I feel so embarrassed even writing this, this is the same kind of insensitivity of apathy that is seriously screwing the country over. It is because of this religious conditioning that people having lived through Zia times that there is the 'Anything Goes' among people and deep down people see groups like the Taliban as fighters of Islam struggling for a Holy Cause instead of seeing them as terrorists.

Let's see what the future holds for Pakistan, for now I can only hope and pray that in the days to come people start waking up before the war comes closer to home and girls like Malala are in every neighborhood of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and every other major city of this country.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pak Sur Zameen Shad Baad... (2012)

I consider myself very fortunate that I was back home on what is one of the most important days of the year for myself. A few months ago I was under the impression that I would be sitting on a rain drenched Island some 3000 miles away from home,  and would be experiencing this moment as just another member of the diaspora. That day is the independence day of my beloved nation and Today is that day the 14th of August, 2012, Independence day in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it is now 65 years since that midnight on the 14th of August in 1947 when Pakistan came into existence and the whole world witnessed the dream of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Dr. Allama Iqbal and millions of Muslims of the Indian subcontinent coming to a reality.

For many of us Pakistani's, the birth of the nation came at a great price paid by ancestors when the Indian sub continent was partitioned by Great Britain. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims from through out the subcontinent left their homes and made the journey to the new promised land. Pakistan was to be the fruit of years of hard work and political struggle a sort of Utopian dream for millions. The barbaric violence and atrocities that followed the announcement of partition meant many could not make it to the promised land. There were also those that were sole survivors of the treacherous journey from their large house holds. A very large number of those migrants came from East Punjab, which saw itself get completely ethnically cleansed of Punjabi Muslims, while the Urdu speaking lot was a diverse bunch hailing from all over the Indian sub continent. The Urdu language became a natural choice as the national language of the new nation since apart from Islam, this language was the lingua franca for millions of Muslims in the sub continent from Khyber to the Bay of Bengal.

Minar-e-Pakistan is sparkling in Green colour against the dark background of night

I remember my time abroad, between 2004 and 2010 I have spent many independence days living on foreign shores. As an undergraduate student in Australia, there was little air of the Pakistani spirit and patriotism owing to the small size of the diaspora, none the less Pakistani students from universities across New South Wales used to get together and try and organize a get together. Such was the size of the Pakistani student community there back in the day that it required pooling together of Pakistani students from across multiple universities to make up a sizable lot. Now that I am back in the land of the pure the feeling of being surrounded by the white and green on the streets of my home town Karachi over whelming and I find myself facing a scarcity of words with which to describe my feelings of being home.

Even now, every time the national anthem I get some what emotional, be it right here in Pakistan or be it some where overseas. Not long ago in the British capital, I was at a Shakespearean play organized by a Pakistani theater company in the Urdu Language. Prior to the start of the play, the on stage musicians also from Pakistan played the national anthem. It was a really nice gesture on part of the audience as a whole which included many non Pakistanis to stand up in respect for the national anthem of a nation that was not there. It was touching moment, and one I will cherish for many years.

Though I have always been a patriot, my patriotism and my commitment to Pakistan has been questioned by many people over the years. The reason most commonly thrown at me growing up was that I am culturally too distant from Pakistani culture, there is nothing culturally or socially Pakistani about me. Upon reaching adulthood, I was witness to Pakistan's religious transformation, which added a religious element to accusations of my lack of patriotism where I got accused of cultural and national insensitivity due to my values differing from predefined societal norms and conventions. The latest addition to that has been my political support, some have accused of me being unpatriotic because I am not a supporter of a cult like personality who is trying to make inroads into mainstream politics. Not for a moment, did I let that push me away from feeling the way I do about my beloved home land, if anything such narrow minded accusations have made me value my unique individuality far more, and value my home land and my identity as a Pakistani. Even now when as the plane was making its descent into Jinnah International Airport after a long 7 hour journey from London, it felt that there was patriotic music playing in my ears. It could have been my iPod but all I could hear was Amanat Ali's 'Aye Watan Pyare Watan' followed by the relatively lighter 'Dil Dil Pakistan' by Vital Signs. I know very well who I am and who I am not, I was, I am and I always will be loyal and patriotic.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ramzan Diaries 2: Pre-Dusk Food Can be hazardous for Health

Very recently I came across a bit of news in the local media, I will not disagree that it was not surprising to see such events taking place in this country. Even in the absence of surprise such stories in the news are unpleasant to read. I am referring to the incidents that have recently happened where law enforcement has taken advantage of their powers and caused some citizens some discomfort. The incidents both of which happened in the capital city Islamabad relate to individuals eating during the day within the holy month of Ramzan, such incidents are a cause for concern for those of us elsewhere also.

In the case of the first incident, a couple of youngsters were sipping a beverage in the privacy of their car somewhere along the Margalla Hills, when a few police officers came and harassed the young men in question. The report even made claims of the young men experiencing some minor form of police brutality, having personally experienced police brutality in Pakistan, I find it very believable when I hear news concerning such police behavior. In the other incident, a few high end establishments frequented by Islamabad's elite and the large foreign population living in Islamabad were on the receiving end of a police raid, where the staff, customers and restaurant management were harassed by the police for not respecting the holy month of Ramzan and for not following legal protocol which the police comes under some Ramzan ordinance act in Pakistan. The police in this situation even stated that they were not willing extend leniancy to foreigners also who must respect Ramzan.

I can not even begin to start on just how ridiculous and ludicrous all this. Either these laws are in place to please the religious right or give legal power to the ever growing number of religiously sensitive and intolerant people in Pakistan. The religiously observant or the religiously sensitive it seems love forcing religion down everyone's throats and want others to follow the same exact life style choice as them. I have previously blogged about this that religious people want us to be like them, but now I am starting to believe in addition to all this, they see non observant or non practicing Muslims as the idea tool or the perfect excuse for blowing some steam. Whoever is familiar with human behavior will be able to make sense of the fact that persecution, bullying and harassment of others especially those seen as relatively weaker or inferior gives the initiator a feeling of empowerment, and everybody loves that good feeling of empowerment. This Wahabi influenced religious sensitivity backed by legal action makes others, Non Muslims as well as practicing Muslims soft targets.

The Ramzan ordinance and other religiously influenced laws have been around since the time of Zia Ul Haq, the military dictator responsible for the bizarre Islamization of the country. This process has caused significant violation of personal human rights and it has created the perfect excuse to harass and exploit others. Having lived in Pakistan, I too am no stranger to religious harassment, I have experienced everything from direct mockery and abuse for not being observant, to social discrimination, public humiliation, open cursing to fear inducement (through the sin I am apparently committing by not being religious) and even death threats from a guy who got outraged at the idea of me not being a supporter of the Burqa. At this point it seems there is no foreseeable solution in the fight against the religiously sensitive types who feel they have an open  license to judge others based on their morality and treat them as they please.

Seeing how sensitive and intolerant people are becoming, today for about 5 minutes I too was frightened as I was not fasting due to health reasons and after having starved myself the whole day I gave into hunger and sat down for a quick meal. For a while I was reluctant to have that meal which my body needed so badly, for a few minutes I was frightened to eat in public, I was terrified at the prospect of being harassed or worse being reported for eating in public because some religiously sensitive nut job thinks by eating in day light in Ramzan I am committing some sort of act of blasphemy. For a few minutes, before I made the decision to eat, I scanned my surroundings to see if there are other souls out there who are braving the intolerant sensitivity of our urban society and eating a bite or grabbing a drink. When I analyzed the premises and figured out I would not be the only one on the premises making this move, the first thought that came to my mind is should I get an upsize?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Tragedy in the UK & an unhealthy obsession with honor and kinship

Wikipedia describes the concept of kinship as the web of social relationships that forms an important part of lives of most humans in most societies. One can say that is very true and applicable to a society like Pakistan where the sense of kinship is very strong, in fact among the strongest in the world, this could be owing the assumed collective nature of our Asian culture and society. Even western writers and historians have been amazed by the amount of importance given to kinship in our society, how much people value social relationships, be it relationships with  people that they are related to by blood or simply those in the wider community. It is not uncommon to hear people around us very regularly make use of the word 'biradari' which is the Urdu word for community, and how important it is to maintain our position within that biradari.

To get a good idea and understanding of this very kinship concept from an outsider's perspective, I would recommend reading 'Pakistan: A Hard Country'. This book by professor of History at King's College London, Anatol Levien in a way serves as a biography for the great nation of Pakistan. In a lot of those chapters, especially those covering the provinces he has significantly highlighted how important community ties are for Pakistani's especially those with some rural connection. Considering the majority of the population of Pakistan still lives in the country side, and a significant chunk of the urban population having some recent or distant roots in the agrarian backdrop, it is entirely possible that this strong sense of kinship and the issue of honor associated with it has become a reality for not only Pakistani's in urban centers such as Karachi and Lahore, but also in the diaspora.

This is off particular relevance to the United Kingdom, where today more than a million of its citizens are off Pakistani heritage with the number continuously on the rise. Some members of this community have done exceptionally well to prove themselves integrated and worthy parts of a free British society, however at the same time Pakistani's in the United Kingdom also feature in the news for a lot of very wrong reasons.

Very recently British Pakistani's were in the news again. The murder of the 17 year old British Pakistani girl Shefilia Ahmad dating back to 2002-3 has been in thee news all over again, with significant coverage given to it by both the British as well as the Pakistani media. A murder that happened almost a decade ago was brought back to light because this past week, a British court just handed out prison sentences to the parents who had murdered their own child. Based on evidence, testimonials and investigations that had been on going for the last several years, Shefilia was murdered by her parents on account on honor. They believed that she had dishonored the family by refusing to marry a cousin back in Pakistan and for developing a westernized life style while growing up. Her younger sister who is now 23 had testified to the court that she had witnessed the abuse that her sister experienced growing up. It must have certainly taken a great amount of courage for that 23 year old to come out and testify against her parents knowing that by doing so she puts herself at significant risk if the court decides that the parents are found not guilty.

Let us assume for a moment,  that both Shefilia's refusal to marry her cousin as well as her westernized life style was what dishonored her family and brought shame on them. Let us analyse this for a few minutes. Suppose it is the former, her refusal to marry her cousin, what her parents tried to do was force her hand in marriage to a relative back in Pakistan. Not uncommon among Pakistani circles, as there is an unhealthy obsession among Pakistani's to  treat their children like commodities especially with respect to the issue of marriage. Shefilia's refusal or resistance must have upset her parents who were probably deeply concerned about upsetting their relatives back in Pakistan who had asked for their daughter's hand in marriage. The fear of damaged social ties and inability to look at blood relatives in the eye created feelings of being dishonored. The need to maintain such ties are given so much importance by Pakistani adults that they end up treating their children like objects or tools for personal public relations, easily illustrated by the case of Shefilia, where her parents first offered their hand in marriage to a relative, then murdered her in cold blood as if she was an invaluable human life. Take for example the social dilemma in Pakistani societies related to the marriage scenario.  For example you are a Pakistani couple with children, boys and girls of marriage age, and one of your siblings or first cousin approaches you and asks for your children in marriage for their own children, what are you supposed to do? It might seem easy on the surface to say No or to say the option will be considered, but here is how our Pakistani psyche works, even the hint  of refusal in such matters can be taken as a matter of personal insult which carries enough weight to damage the original social relationship, i.e. between the parents and their siblings or cousins. In a way you could say it would create disruption of a social relationship network.

 Assuming it was the latter that brought them shame i.e. Shefilia's westernized lifestyle, let us see why it would be a source of dishonor for her parents considering the family lived in a free western society in the United Kingdom.? Well this also comes down to the whole scenario of kinship, in this case it would be about kinship closer to home i.e. within the Pakistani community in the UK. It is possible that Shefilia's liberal westernized lifestyle attracted too much unwanted attention among other Pakistani parents who were probably concerned that seeing Shefilia their daughters and sons might start demanding similar freedoms and liberty. This would particular be a cause of concern if their trying to raise their children according to the picture perfect that they have off them and one which might be very divergent from what an organic up bringing for them might be. Let us not forget it is also a Pakistani obsession to ensure that our children grow up and develop in their lives according to the picture perfect image that many parents have.

The tragedy of Shefilia's untimely death has brought to highlight a very important issue that is deeply prevalent in our society, one that is damaging and destroying a lot of lives, in some cases prematurely ending it. Shefilia did not deserve to die at the hands of the two people on earth who are supposed to unconditionally love their children till death does them part. Courtesy of British and Pakistani media, we still came to learn about the story of Shefilia and her tragic death, how many more Pakistani youngsters are out there who we never hear about? How many more Pakistani boys and girls living in the diaspora as well as Pakistan's major urban centers have been forcibly married off against their own will all in the name of honor, all the name of maintaining these social relationships, and how many have just ended up as a statistic in the name of honor killings?

We as a society should be truly ashamed of ourselves.