Thursday, 26 May 2016

This girl's powerful message about India, Pakistan will move you to tears

People on both sides of the India, Pakistan border have spent 68 years hating each other. Is it any wonder then that they blame each other for any political wrongdoing?

People are arrested in Pakistan for supporting an Indian cricketer. A Muslim man in India was stripped and beaten publicly for accompanying a Hindu girl. But who is to blame for all these instances?

An Indian girl whose father, a soldier, was killed in the Kargil war between the two arch-rivals, recently uploaded a video on social media, telling the world how she hated all Pakistanis and Muslims, only to realise that Pakistanis did not kill her father – but war did. Her powerful message will move you to tears.

“My father died in the 1999 Kargil war,” she says in the video.

“I remember how much I used to hate Pakistan and Pakistanis because they killed my dad,” she adds.

The young girl and a soldier, now fight for peace between Pakistan and India. “If France and Germany can be friends after two world wars, why can’t we?”

Watch the video here:

-Express Tribune

Pakistani activist wins Nelson Mandela award 2016

Pakistani activist Tabassum Adnan won the prestigious Nelson Mandela – Graça Machel Innovation Award 2016 on Thursday.

The winners of the 2016 Innovation Awards were publicly announced at Ceremony held on 28 April, as part of International Civil Society Week (ICSW), which was hosted by CIVICUS, in collaboration with the Confederación Colombiana de ONG from 25 to 28 April, 2016, in Bogotá, Colombia.

In 2015, Tabassum Adnan, founder of NGO Khwendo Jirga, or Sister’s Council, a women-only jirga was awarded the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award in recognition of her services of women’s rights.

A victim of child marriage, Adnan was married when she was 13-years-old. After suffering 20 years of physical and mental abuse, Adnan divorced her husband, which made her lose her children, home, and money.


Later she started the NGO, Khwendo Jirga, a first of its kind women-only jirga, where women meet weekly to discuss issues such as honour killings, acid attacks, and swara, or giving women as compensation for crimes.

PHOTO: Tabassum Adnan/FACEBOOK

The jirga brought awareness to women’s security, their right to vote and offers free legal help to victims of violence.

-Express Tribune

This tragic India-Pakistan love story will move you to tears

PHOTO: Mansi Thapliyal VIA BBC

The Pakistan-India conflict has not been kind on the families torn apart after the partition in 1947. Over the decades, many tragic love stories have come to the fore with several having ended in sorrow.

One such tale of love and loss is recounted by Mohammad Javed, an Indian man who fell in love with a Pakistani girl, and suffered torture at the hands of Indian authorities along with spending eleven and a half years in jail branded as a terrorist.

It was love at first sight for both Javed and Mobina when they met in Karachi in 1999. Javed, who is from Rampur in northern India, had taken his mother to Pakistan to visit her family who had migrated to the country after the partition in 1947.

“Within a month of our meeting, we expressed our love for each other,” Javed told BBC two years after he was cleared of all charges.

Javed fell in love with Mobina (second from right) at first sight PHOTO: Mansi Thapliyal VIA BBC

Javed spent three-and a half months in Karachi during which the couple confessed their love for each other. “We were at a family wedding where there were other young women and I think she felt insecure. She took me aside and told me that I was not to look at any other girl since she was in love with me. I told her I felt the same way,” Javed shared.

Javed, now 33, recalls how they would meet each other clandestinely in Karachi’s Safari Park. “She would leave home in the morning telling her family that she was going to college. I would meet her outside the college gate, and we would go and hang out in Sipari Park.”

He returned to India and spent all his salary working as a television mechanic on speaking with Mobina, or Gudiya (doll), spending INR62 a minute to speak to her via a telephone booth.

He returned to Pakistan a year later and stayed for two months. The couple’s family was now aware of their feelings for each other and they had no objections to their marriage. However, there was one problem. Mobina’s family wanted Javed to move to Pakistan, whereas Javed’s wanted the opposite.

Javed still carries one of Mobina’s letters with him PHOTO: Mansi Thapliyal VIA BBC

This time when he left for India, he was not to know that he would never be coming back. “This time as I prepared to leave, she said, ‘You go, I will convince my family and then you come back and take me with you.’ I didn’t know that when I left, I would never return. That I would never see her again,” he said, wistfully.

The two kept writing to each other over the next two years, with Javed enlisting the help of his friends as his Urdu was not up to par.

And then one day, something happened that changed the course of their lives forever.

“I still remember the day very clearly,” said Javed. “It was August 10, 2002. It was a Saturday. I was in my shop when a man came and asked me to go with him and fix his television. I told him I didn’t do house calls, but he seemed quite distraught, so I agreed.”

One the way, a car pulled up and Javed was abducted. Although, he initially thought they were criminals, it soon dawned on him that they were members of Indian police. “Then I overheard them talking and I could understand that they were from the police”.

Javed spent eleven and a half years in prison PHOTO: Mansi Thapliyal VIA BBC

Hence began Javed’s ordeal. “They beat me black and blue, hung me upside-down and kept lowering my head into a tub of water. It was so painful. I couldn’t bear it any longer. I begged them to kill me,” he recalled how he was tortured for three days.

Javed was accused of being “an agent” for Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, and his tormenters claimed he had been passing on secrets about the ministry of external affairs and defence ministry to Islamabad.

His friends were also arrested and they were all charged under India’s controversial special anti-terror law, The Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) for being “dreaded terrorists” who were “waging war against India”.

“This meant we couldn’t get bail. We were so demoralised. We were told if we were convicted, we could get the death penalty,” Javed said.

Javed says he has no idea why he was singled out. “But in jail, people said it was because of the Kargil conflict and that any Muslim who had travelled to Pakistan soon after the fighting was a suspect.”

A spokesperson for the campaign group Rihai Manch told the BBC that there are dozens of young Muslim men like Javed who have been held in prisons across India on trumped-up charges.

It was the memory of his love that kept him sane during the long years in jail, shares Javed, when even his friends turned away from him. They accused him of giving their names to the police.

“I used to tell my fellow prisoners about Mobina, how we fell in love, her habits, how she would tease me when I visited her. This made my time in prison more bearable and helped me keep her memory alive.”

His long stay in jail also took a toll on his parents. His mother blamed herself for his wrongful confinement and his father sold his land and family jewelry, accumulating debts on his way to fight his case.

Today, he’s trying to rebuild his life PHOTO: Mansi Thapliyal VIA BBC

Javed was finally released from jail on January 19, 2014 when a court threw all charges against him after eleven and a half years. “When I walked out of jail, for a while it was difficult to believe that I was really free,” he says, adding, “but one-third of my life, which was the most important time of my life, my entire 20s, was taken away from me.”

Javed has since been trying to rebuild his life. He’s taken a shop close to his house where he repairs old TV sets. He’s not in touch with Mobina because he fears she may be married now.

“I have managed to expel her from my head, but not from my heart. I still love her, but I’m afraid to call her. What happens if they go after me or my family again?”

This article originally appeared on BBC

The Indian who archives Pakistani mushairas, music on YouTube

KARACHI: Whether you’re looking for a rare Begum Akhtar recording or an Ahmed Faraz recital, a Parveen Shakir interview or a video of Anwar Masood leaving audiences in stitches, type a search entry on YouTube and the first channel to pop up will be that of Mirza Jamal, called Mahakavi. Bit by bit, this art and literature enthusiast from India has built a unique archive of sorts; an archive that’s free and accessible to anyone and everyone with an internet connection. Over the past 10 years, he has uploaded almost 2,000 videos to his channel, with a combined view count of 29 million.

Born and bred in Lucknow, Jamal left for Bombay to pursue commercial arts and later landed a job in the Gulf that kept him there for 20 years. His grandfather was a landowner in Sitapur and his uncle, Wajahat Mirza, was a screenwriter of great repute and the man behind classics like Mughal-e-Azam, Mother India and Gunga Jumna. Talking to The Express Tribune in an email interview, Jamal recalls of his native neighbourhood,

“There was not a single street in Katra Abuturab Khan Mohallah that wouldn’t have a scholar or a poet’s residence. On one side there was Majnu Lakhnawi, on the other there was Hasrat Mohani.”

Being related to a film giant of his time had its own perks. While living with Wajahat at the latter’s Bombay residence, Jamal got a chance to see writers like Jigar Muradabadi and Shakeel Badayuni in person. “Had I not developed a sensibility for arts and literature after all this, it would have been a real tragedy,” he quips.

From Bombay, he left for Dubai in 1975 and then for Muscat where he remained until 1996. The 90s were quite a time for the Middle East that was welcoming the South Asian working class with open arms and was still new to the intoxication of a newfound opulence. The Pakistani and Indian diasporas had begun to come together and mushairas of Dubai had begun to gain a foothold. It was this very changing world that enabled Jamal to rub shoulders with Pakistani litterateurs.

Literature enthusiast Salim Jafri spearheaded the mushairas of Dubai. In Muscat, there was Humayun Zafar Zaidi. “Basically, I began collecting recordings of programmes organised by them. Although Al Mansoor Video Company Dubai did record some of the Dubai mushairas, the Muscat ones were only with me.” Jamal says a bulk of his uploads are sourced to these two places. “I also have some videos from mushairas in India. I either obtained them from friends or bought them of the market,” he maintains.

Wajahat spent his last three years in Karachi on the insistence of his daughter. When he died in 1990 at the residence of his younger brother Murtaza Changezi, Jamal approached the Pakistani embassy in Muscat for a visa. “It got rejected on the basis that ‘chachas don’t count as blood relatives’,” he says, adding, “I tried again when Murtaza chacha died. It was rejected once again. It seems I was never destined to visit Pakistan.”
He might not have visited Pakistan but his collection of PTV videos is quite impressive to say the least. “I got them when I was in Muscat. Most of these are from 1993-94 when I recorded feed from the channel on my VCR,” he says. Had he known the very recordings would become a personal asset of sorts, Jamal says he would have done this on a proper basis.
The habit of collecting things goes back a long way. Jamal has been collecting books and magazines ever since he was young. “Then audio cassettes came and I began collecting those. When I was in the Gulf, video tapes were all the rage,” he recollects.

The idea of digitising these tapes struck him when he returned to Bombay. “I first got a few video cassettes converted to CDs from the market, edited the clips and uploaded them on YouTube.” Seeing the response to his uploads, Jamal began digitising the tapes himself. “I am glad I did this because today fungus has eaten away on most of them,” he adds.
Having been archiving for the past 10 years, Jamal hasn’t bogged down a bit. “I have a lot of audio cassettes that I have to digitise and upload. I have also started an e-book collection on Slideshare,” he says. So far he has made PDFs of over 150 books and magazines and has designed new covers for them.

Jamal’s sons have taught him how to edit videos and everything that he needs to know about using the internet. These days he is on the lookout for someone who would help him make audiobooks. “It is a need of the hour. In India the younger generation finds it hard to read Urdu although they can understand it.”

When asked how his channel touches lives, he narrates another incident. “I had uploaded 4 videos of Jyoti Pande reciting ruba’iyat. A few days later I received a message from his brother who lives in the States, saying that these recitals are over 20 years old and no one in the family has them! He asked me, ‘Where did you get them from?’” he recollects. Jamal is also unknowingly a valuable source when it comes to literary research. “I get messages from people saying how some of my rare uploads helped them with their research work. Someone is working on Amir Khusrow. Another is exploring na’at … I just try to help them in whatever way I can,” he says.

Kunwar Mohinder Singh Bedi was a Sikh poet of Urdu known for his sense of humour that transcended political, religious correctness. “His son Karamjit Singh Bedi contacted me and said he wants Kunwar sahab’s recital videos that I uploaded, in order to release a DVD.”

Jamal admits his audience on YouTube largely comprises the older generation that has begun to feel the pinch of nostalgia. “Between 2007 and 2010, my channel was amongst the top 100 channels from India,” he mentions. Although he proudly talks about his relationship with Wajahat, Jamal still blames Indian cinema, particularly contemporary Bollywood, for short-changing the people. “These bawdy Bollywood numbers have taken over YouTube,” he laments, adding, “I never upload film music. Although my channel does have some 29 recordings of Mohammad Rafi sahab … they consist of his non-film singing and recitals.” Jamal also has a playlist of religious hymns and eulogies recited by singers like Noor Jehan, Nayyara Noor, Salma Agha and Talat Mehmood. “Okay, I do have film music but that’s only Begum Akhtar’s … and that too her ghazals, thumris and dadras because I wanted to collect them together,” he has an afterthought. Jamal says very few people are aware that Akhtar also sang ghazals in Bangla and Gujrati. “People found out once I put them up,” he adds.

In uploading hours and hours of footage from different TV shows, age-old cassettes and live shows, Jamal must have encountered issues of copyrights. According to the art maven, the issue of copyrights is a little problematic. “For instance, there is a Qateel Shifai ghazal or an Ahmed Faraz ghazal that someone has sung in either India or Pakistan. Naturally a recording company would own the rights to that song … but what about videos of poets reciting these pieces at mushairas themselves? I have lost many of my videos of Faraz, Obaidullah Aleem, Shameem Jaipuri, Santosh Anand and countless others.”

There are only a handful of people who come to the mind when you think of those who took up archiving as a personal project and their collections gained fame. Pakistan’s Lutfullah Khan is one such individual. But there’s a problem. None of his possessions are available for 24/7 public access. “It’s the same in India. They will let their collections rot in the store but will never let others benefit from them,” he says. According to Jamal there are several such families in Lucknow that own a considerable amount of such material. “But they revere them so much that they won’t touch them.”

He feels there are many who don’t know the historical importance of these recordings. “I had this friend in Lucknow, Shaukat Chaudhary sahab. He was associated with national radio at one point. He used to record mushairas held around the city. After retirement he started a modest company and used to sell the CDs,” he says, adding, “He himself once told me that he has 2 rooms full of tapes.” Chaudhary always promised Jamal of giving him his collection. “After his death, I inquired from his son who said only eight months ago he sold the entire collection at the hands of a scrap dealer.” 

Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st,  2016.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Muniba Mazari appointed UN's first woman Goodwill Ambassador to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women has named Muniba Mazari as Pakistan’s first female Goodwill Ambassador to advance gender equality and empowerment of women.

Speaking on the occasion, Muniba Mazari said, “I am a strong supporter of UN Women and the role in ending gender-based discrimination, and to work towards gender equality.”

In her new role as National Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women Pakistan, artist-activist-writer, singer and speaker, Muniba will dedicate her efforts towards for the empowerment of women and girls.

In a tweet, Mazari said, “We need to educate both men and women that if we empower one woman, we empower whole generation!”

Muniba, who has been in the wheelchair for the last seven years after a car accident that left her with spinal cord injury, has represented the voice of women, men, girls and boys across Pakistan on important issues of gender inequality and discrimination.

Jamshed Kazi, Country Representative for UN Women Pakistan said while announcing Mazari’s name, “We are thrilled and honored to have Muniba Mazari as UN Women Pakistan’s first Goodwill Ambassador.”

To mark the 16th Day of Activism against gender-based violence, Saudi Pak Tower turned orange in colour.

The campaign ORANGE color reflects a bright and optimistic future for women and girls, and a life free from violence and discrimination.

-Express Tribune

International recognition: AKU’s Dr Bhutta receives award in health, life sciences

KARACHI: Researcher Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta has been presented a prestigious Turkish award, the 2015 International TÜBA Academy Prize, in health and life sciences, said a press statement issued by the Aga Khan University on Monday.

Dr Bhutta, the founding director of the Centre for Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University and the co-director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health in Toronto, received the award from Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey.

The annual TÜBA Academy prizes are presented by the Turkish Academy of Sciences in three categories to scientists with original and path-breaking works in their fields. Dr Bhutta received the award in recognition of his ground breaking research on mother and child health, and contributions to global health and policy.

“I accept this award with great humility, on behalf of many in my team who have worked hard over the years to uphold the vision and mission of the Aga Khan University in supporting research and scholarship to address the lives of poor and marginalised women and children,” said Dr Bhutta.

“The fact that it comes from Turkey, a leader in science and research in the Islamic world, based on the nomination from the Pakistan Academy of Sciences, makes it all the more rewarding,” he added.

Other two recipients of TÜBA Academy Prize included Niyazi Serdar Sarıçiftçi of Linz Johannes Kepler University in basic and engineering sciences, and Mehmet Genç of Istanbul Şehir University in social sciences and humanities.

-Express Tribune

The encouraging future of e-commerce in Pakistan

The world of e-commerce has recently emerged and progressed at an astonishing speed in Pakistan with many new and existing organisations, businesses, and customers.

The e-commerce industry is booming throughout the region, with India’s leading e-commerce website, Flipkart, raising a record US$1 billion in investment and Alibaba’s – China’s e-commerce giant – market capitalisation estimated to be over US$250 billion.

Pakistan, although a late entrant to the world of e-commerce, has recently recorded a massive rise in online shopping trends and other e-commerce businesses. Such exponential growth trends over the past few years – with US$30 million being spent on online purchases currently – depict a highly positive picture for the future and the size of Pakistan’s e-commerce market is expected to reach over US$600 million by 2017.

With many new online ventures springing up rapidly and existing businesses recording unprecedented growth rates, there is still a lot that needs to be done to reach the true e-commerce potential of the country and compete with other big players of the region. Several factors are responsible for drastically changing shopping trends over time and driving the growth of e-commerce in Pakistan.

One of the most important factors in the equation is the rate of internet penetration in Pakistan. Pakistan’s internet enabled population is limited to around 30 million users today. This, however, is expected to rise up to 56 million users by 2019.

Pakistan’s much-awaited entry into 3G and LTE services in 2014 has increased internet accessibility and will also most likely propel the growth of online purchases. Statistics from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) reveal that the total number of third-generation (3G) mobile subscriptions have risen up to 10.3 million in 2015. The number of 4G or Long Term Evolution (LTE) subscribers also increased to over 68,000.

Over the next 5 years, 28 per cent of the country’s population is estimated to have internet access. With increased access to the internet and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, marketing trends are also rapidly changing and transforming the way opinions are now being shaped.

This will not only transform shopping trends but also significantly impact several other e-commerce arenas, such as online job hunts through which has facilitated job hunts for over 1 million people, and land, property and rental transactions via, to name a few.

Along with increased internet penetration, 73.2 per cent of the entire population also have access to mobile phones. There is also a recent surge in smartphone usage with an estimated 9 million smartphone users in Pakistan. Internet-enabled smartphones have dramatically increased the ease of internet access and made online businesses much more accessible for all.

Both the rise of internet penetration and the declining costs of smartphones have accounted for this rapid rise in smartphone usage in Pakistan. Many Chinese brands have launched sophisticated devices at the fraction of the costs associated with the world’s leading mobile phone brands, which has augmented mobile penetration across the lower income strata of the country.

With such easy access to the internet via affordable smartphones, e-commerce trends in the country are expected to boom in the near future.

Online modes of payment
Even though Cash-on-Delivery (COD) payment methods continue to remain widely popular in Pakistan and account for more than 95 per cent of online purchases, other promising initiatives such as branchless banking (Telenor’s Easy Paisa, Zong and Askari Bank’s Timepey, Mobilink’s Mobicash etc.) and Inter Bank Fund Transfer (IBFT), are also underway.

Many banks and Telecom operators have introduced the concept of branchless banking, and the number of branchless banking agents facilitating offline payments for online purchases have recently tripled, making it much more convenient to transfer money in a secure environment.

Online merchants now have much greater access to merchant accounts that enable them to collect payments electronically via the 12 million debit cards in circulation in Pakistan. Moreover, with more and more banks now offering consumers internet banking payment facilities, a vast volume of payments are made through IBFT which enables consumers to electronically transfer funds directly from their online bank accounts to online stores.

Logistics and delivery infrastructure
Delivery giants such as TCS and Leopard, as well other couriers, are providing COD delivery services across 150 cities nationwide.

The fact that 35 per cent of the total 70,000 COD parcels are delivered to cities other than the urban cities of Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, depicts the potential of the vast untapped segment of the population outside of these urban centres that is increasingly transitioning to online shopping due to the lack of options available for rural shoppers. This has also encouraged many specialised online grocery stores to recently pop up and tap into the need for specialized online stores, such as AaramShop, PakistanGrocery and

These trends provide ample growth opportunities for emerging online business, as well as potential exploration and growth avenues for courier services by association.

Growing trust and reliance on e-commerce
The future of ecommerce trends lay in the ability of online business to gain their foothold and establish trust in online shopping and e-commerce initiatives.

There is a long way to go. With just 3 per cent of the Pakistani population indulging in online shopping, several initiatives are starting with online businesses in Pakistan to reach out to their potential market, build up their credibility, and garner consumer trust. This is especially true for risk-averse shoppers.

Online brands such as OLX have now begun to set up significant advertising budgets for mainstream media advertising, as well as targeted digital marketing initiatives through social media. Rocket Internet, which operates different ventures in Pakistan, has injected a lot of capital into the Pakistani e-commerce market.

Unilever’s recent partnership with Daraz to utilize the platform for reaching out to consumers all over Pakistan for its beauty and personal care products signifies a shift of the FMCG sector towards e-commerce as well. has established itself as a successful online marketplace through a consumer-to-consumer (C2C) and business-to-consumer (B2C) model. It has also launched a mobile phone app to provide widespread access and opportunities to existing and budding entrepreneurs. Approximately 17.3 per cent of ecommerce activities take place via smartphones.

Such marketing initiatives are generally successful in reaching out to first time consumers and generating overall awareness, acceptance, trust and credibility.

Pakistan’s new e-commerce horizons
Many visionary local players such as Shophive, Homeshopping, ROZEE,, and Pakwheels, as well as giant foreign investors such as Rocket Internet with their diverse online initiatives such as Jovago, Tripda, and Foodpanda, are all swooping in to establish their market share in the emerging e-commerce industry of Pakistan, within their respective domains.

Various other local and home operated business have also flourished through Facebook pages as a result of rapid penetration of the internet and smartphones, COD and IBFT services and the overall growing trends of online shopping.

All these businesses have emerged in spite of all the barriers such as misconception and mistrust of e-commerce in Pakistan, security concerns regarding online transactions, low access to technology, low literacy rates, and limited infrastructure and logistical support.

All in all, this goes to show that the market and timing is ripe for e-commerce in Pakistan – irrespective of a few hiccups – and the industry is all geared up to create massive waves in the country, with colossal scope for innovation and improvement as well as exponential long-term growth.