D/o. Late Ahmed F. Jivanjee






The Damaged Horse Shoe

2. Not Guilty         9
3. The Final Plunge        12

My Friend The Tree


The Missing Jewel

6. My Teacher        24
7. From Bad To Good        27
8. Going After The Trucks        31


The Damaged Horse Shoe

horse shoe


OR hundreds of years the horse was the most common means of transport. Before the tractor was invented, the horse was often used to pull farm machinery. It is still used for work on ranches, but most horses are now kept for pleasure. People ride them, watch them perform and enjoy them in sports such as Polo, Hunting and Racing.


The following is the story of a racehorse and the people to whom he belonged. It was the day of the Derby. The participants with their horses, manes trimmed and shining, got ready for the pistol shot, which would indicate the start of the race. It was an event, which people really looked forward to. It was a sport enjoyed by the young and old alike. Bets were placed on the horses and the winners left with a handsome sum of money.


          Mark, the proud owner of a racehorse, whispered something into Godfather’s (the name of the horse) ear. It was these ‘sweet nothings’ that brought a smile to Godfather’s lips. It definitely contributed to Godfather’s victory in the race. The owner also gave some advice to David, the jockey. David was a short and strong fellow. He fitted snugly in the saddle, just as a glove fitted the hand. He had started his career as a jockey with Godfather and longed to end it with him also. The age of any horse can be told by looking at its teeth; Godfather’s teeth showed that he still had plenty of race years to go before he retired.


          Also present was Mark’s wife. She always accompanied him to the race. “Godfather is really lucky. He gets all your attention.” She would tell him. But deep down in her heart she knew, that she would not have had it anyway else. She cared for Godfather, too, and would tend to his needs whenever she could spare some time. “I think the trough of water is empty,” she’d say with concern beckoning her staff to fill the trough up. An insect bit Godfather once. Richard, the horse keeper, bathed and dressed his wound so well that Godfather was up and about in half the time than the usual. Godfather loved Richard and he would show it by cuddling up to him. This was Godfather’s family.


          The people who cared for him, who were responsible for his consecutive victories. They were all there with him to see him run the race.


          A few minutes before the race was to begin, David mounted Godfather and rode down to the start. But little did Mark or David know what was in store for them. Another horse owner, who was Mark’s enemy, just could not bear Godfather winning all the time. And to make sure that Mark’s horse would not win this time, he thought of a plan. He suggested to the trainer of his horse that they must visit Godfather’s blacksmith. “It won’t take us very long” he sneered. The trainer who was a little confused asked, “what wouldn’t take us long?” To this the vicious man replied, “You’d see.”


          The deceitful man, when the time was just right (as he knew the time Godfather came to the blacksmith as well as the time when the

 Blacksmith left his seat) damaged Godfather’s shoe. The nail ends that showed through the horse’s hoof were wrung off and turned back. He straightened them just a little in the hope that the shoe would come off during the race. He damaged the shoe so deftly that Godfather did not feel it immediately.


          Finally the starter signaled the start of the race. Godfather took the lead, so erect, so graceful. His poise was proof of the fact that he would be very hard to defeat. There he went like a bolt of lightning. He moved so fast that just when you thought you had focused on him, he moved ahead. He had almost reached the finishing line, when the nail of the shoe straightened and got loose, unbalancing Godfather, who stumbled and stopped in his tracks before any further damage could take place. A race official came to guide them off the track. Godfather, Mark, Richard, Mark’s wife, David were all shocked. They failed to understand what had happened.


          Some time after they had recovered from the shock of the damaged horseshoe, Mark and the trainer accompanied Godfather to the blacksmith’s. They were there to have Godfather’s old shoes removed. Also present was the man who had damaged Godfather’s shoe. He was there with his horse.


          As though instinctively, Godfather trotted towards this man and lifted the foot with the damaged horseshoe and started nodding.


          This scared the evil man and before the horse could burst into a fit of anger, he confessed: “I I, I, was responsible,” he stuttered and went down on his knees to apologize. Mark, who was a soft man, accepted his apology. Thus ended the story of the evil man and his horse and Godfather awaited his next victory yet again.


Not Guilty





Y hand shook as I held the test tube containing the concentrated acid. I was already well aware of what would happen if even a little bit of this harmless looking solution fell onto you. With my heart pounding like a drum inside my chest, I walked cautiously towards the chemistry lab.


          Just as I entered the lab, the bell rang. It was time for our physics test. Not finding anything to put the acid in, I reached for that drinking glass lying on the far end of my table. Quickly pouring the water in it into the sink I replaced it with the acid in my hand. And after placing the glass back on the table, I raced into my physics class forgetting about the acid.


          The door of my bedroom flew open and there stood my father, shouting at the top of his voice, telling me to get ready or I would be late. I jumped out of bed, got ready and left for school without breakfast.


          I was late as usual. I also had detention as usual, but today I felt a bit disturbed, not knowing why, I tried to catch a wink just before the class started. But just as I was about to fall asleep, the classroom door swung open and there he stood, the man we all dreaded the most, our Principal. He told me to follow him towards his office. I knew I was in some kind of trouble.


          With trembling legs and sweaty hands I followed him to his office like a slave following his master. In his office the principal pointed towards me to take a seat next to a person who seemed to be an inspector. I did as I was told. I still did not know what it was all about until the inspector mentioned the word ‘acid’. I slapped my forehead and cursed myself. I knew I had forgotten something. Anyway, the inspector told me that there was an accident yesterday, which involved the teacher and the acid, and they had reason to believe that I was responsible for it. This really came to me as a shock. With my mouth wide open, I stared at the inspector.


          Gaining some confidence finally I replied, “But sir, I also left the chemistry lab with everyone else when the period finished,” trying to act as innocent as possible.


          But the expression on the inspector’s face remained the same as he said, “But you did re-enter the room after everyone else had left and you also put the fatal substance in the glass”.


           I knew I had done something very wrong, so I told the entire story about the previous day’s incident to the inspector. By the time I finished my story, my eyes were, full of tears and I was almost on the verge of crying. The principal, feeling sorry for me, asked me to go back to my class.



          I spent the whole day in misery until after school got over. The Principal called me and took me to the hospital where the teacher was admitted. I gathered some flowers and went to see the teacher alone. As I entered the room, my eyes were already full of tears and when I saw the teacher’s condition, I felt miserable, I wanted to kill myself after looking at the teacher but there was nothing I could do.


          The teacher slowly asked me to come closer. I sat beside him and gave him the flowers and at last managed to say “Sorry”. And even after what I had done to kill him, the teacher took my hand and replied, “Don’t worry, it could happen to anyone”.



The Final Plunge



HE morning rays of the sun filter through the glass in the cell at Alcatraz; this is the only connection with the outside world. As Joseph, who is serving a death sentence, basks in the rays, he hears a shriek from a cell down the corridor. The sound is familiar. It is from an inmate who is mentally deranged. The attendant serves him breakfast consisting of dried toast and tea. With a wicked look on his face he tells Joseph, “eat up, you are lucky to get this”. Everybody in Alcatraz is wicked, thinks Joseph.


          The time for menial labour nears, but he has already ‘burnt’ his breakfast, so he prepares to work on an empty stomach. The warden opens his cell and leads him to where he will be breaking stones with a pick. The warden tells a young boy, “The more hours you put into your work, the shorter the time of your sentence shall be.” Joseph’s eye focuses on the boy. What could his crime be? He had stolen some goods from a grocer’s at gunpoint. The grocer had tried to stop him and the gun that the boy fired in panic had hit him. The boy was given a lawyer, who had lost the case to the grocer.


          Joseph’s son must be of the same age. His thoughts wander back to the times when he used to perch his son on the bicycle to drop him to school. “Come on son, we will stop on the way and you can buy yourself a chocolate.” He loved his children. He also had a daughter. His daughter loved to listen to the stories that he would tell. She sat on his lap, with her gaze fixed on him, devouring every word of the story, he uttered. As he reflected on the past, he felt his heart sink. But did it sink? The prison had really hardened him; hardened a man who was capable of being passionate to the letter E. and how did this come about?


          He had been caught red handed, holding the weapon that had killed Brown. Brown was a cruel arms dealer. He had many enemies. They were all out to get him. He sold inferior arms and a couple of times they had backfired causing deaths. It so happened that Joseph visited the arms shop on the day that the dealer was killed. He was lying dead on the floor when Joseph entered the shop. As he picked the gun that had killed the dealer, somebody entered the shop and thought that he had caught the murderer red handed.


          And here he was in the cell serving punishment for a crime that he had not committed.


          Again his thoughts went back to his son. Well, they did every now and then. But this time a tear rolled down his cheek. So he was still capable of crying. Like all fathers, he had been full of ideas of what he would do with his son’s life, when he was born. Another tear and another, they just would not stop.


          Not long after, news spread in the prison about a team of producers arriving from Hollywood. They were looking for a stuntman. One day Joseph found himself facing a producer. Joseph was a well-built man. The producer looked closely at him. “You are the perfect choice”. Then the producer briefed him. “I shall come with my unit”. The film had a shot of a plunge from a bridge into a rapid flowing beneath the bridge. The rapids were also full of rocks the producer told him, “If you live after the final plunge, you are free. What do you stand to lose?” He further added, “You are serving a death sentence, so even if you die from your plunge, it should not make much of a difference”.


          The above arrangement had been made between the film folk and the prison authorities.


          Wearing the costume that had been given to him by the clothes designer for the film he stood on the bridge from where he was required to dive. The film unit took many takes and finally the day drew close, when he was to take the final plunge from Alcatraz. He would either live or die.


          He stood on the bridge, poised to dive, his eyes scanning the rocks and the empty spaces in between. He knew the empty spaces, so well. He knew them with his eyes closed. He had studied them thoroughly. He saw his son waiting for him on the bank with an outstretched arm beckoning Joseph to come to him.


          The signal for the dive was give, and with the cameras in position, Joseph leapt into mid-air and the outstretched arm met him as his head touched the water. He had made it. The rock was at a short distance, but he had made it.


          He did not surface for quite some time. He was underwater and he would not surface now. Not till he could hold his breathe. He was free and he did not want even the slightest obstacle to come in his way. Maybe if he were to surface soon, an obstacle would come in his way. He was disillusioned with the human race and he had grounds for this. He had just held the gun that had killed the arms dealer and they had locked him up for eternity till this producer came along. And it seemed like his son’s arm was beckoning him. He could not wait to be reunited with his family and now it seemed like the time to be with his family was near. Hope against hope of meeting them now seemed possible.




My Friend the Tree




OU should have heard it. First there was a loud creaking noise and then a thud followed by a ‘Whoosh!’

          Whatever could have happened? I jumped up from my typewriter. I was in the midst of writing a story when I ran to the window to see what was going on. There, right below my window, lay the great old pine tree.


          On going outside to examine the tree, I noticed that it had actually broken into half. The trunk had split from the middle.


          Years ago, such trees were a common sight for me when I was a boarder at a Convent in Murree.


           It seemed such a   pity for this particular tree had taken twenty years or so to reach its present size. And now, in one brief moment, it had become a wreck, only fit for firewood. It had provided shade for us, as it stood tall, close to my house.


          The cause of its decay was not hard to find. Right where the break had come, I could see the telltale signs of decay. Nobody had noticed this earlier. Indeed, to all appearances, this tree was as strong and healthy as any other near it, but the weakness was there just the same, slowly getting worse month after month and year after year.


          As I recollected memories of my past, I saw myself clad in jeans, about to climb my tree house that was built on this particular tree. I remembered the immense pleasure it had brought friends, my family and me. Could the place be such a great source of pleasure? This was a question that crept into the heads of my houseguests, when I would tell them of my tree house. And then I’d take them there and they too went away convinced that it was.


          Experiencing the songs of the birds, the fresh air touching the cheeks, the sight of the sun and the moon, made them all wish that they too had a place like this.

          As for my children, I had tied a hammock on the tree so that they slept well.


          Alas, it was neglect, sheer neglect, which had brought about the decay. I was too busy enjoying my life and my husband was busy earning money for our family. Still sometimes I talked to my tree. Maybe the wind whistling through the branches was my reply. Yes, I think my tree would respond to me this way. My question-answer session, as I spoke about it to the outsiders, seemed like my imagination going wild to them.


          As it now lay there, reminding me that it was only good for firewood, I became sad. My son, who was my best companion too, came to me. He had sensed my sorrow.


          My young man, my son, was a champion cyclist and he rode around in the neighbourhood. He got me specimens of trees and told me to select one for planting. Such gestures of his and the circulars that my husband brought home full of information from his horticultural society meetings, did make me feel a bit better. Maybe I too should start thinking about a new tree in the garden. 


          One day as I took my early morning walk, I saw a small plant staring at me from the base where my tree had once stood. The seed of the parent tree had given birth to this plant. Its roots taking possession of the space. A ripe green shoot was giving me proof of the continuity of life.


           Another story built up in my mind. A story with a happy ending. This little plant gave me reason to be joyous.


          My husband explained the phenomenon to his society. And I did not tell him that the reason behind the growth of my plant was my talking to it. My friend had left a souvenir in its place. One that would always keep its memory alive in my heart.




The Missing Jewel




HE queen wore it in her crown. She looked so regal with the jewel shining in her crown, like water in a pond with the sun shining above it the jewel was priceless and the price was determined, but not so accurately. It could not be so, as this particular jewel had a long story behind it.


          And so it goes. To the North of the equator and in the tropic of Capricorn, there existed a land of which two rival bodies claimed ownership. These rival bodies that co-existed previously had now developed a lot of differences. Obviously so, as the new generation came forth, it came with its own peculiarities. The foremost difference was religion and at the bottom of the list was the dress. These differences grew into enormities, which again led to war, which was sparked off by a country that ruled over them.


          In this land was born Ali. Ali was taught in school about brotherhood. He was told that all the boys in his class were his brothers. Ali’s so-called brother Natoo’s father was a barber. Now it so happened that Ali’s father went to Natoo’s father for a haircut. Natoo looked down upon Ali’s father. But Ali’s father had no place else to go since Natoo’s father’s shop was close to his house.


          Mr. Brown, who belonged to the ruling class, thought the world of himself. He would not even sit on the chair that Ali’s father and his companions had sat on. “Ali, Mr. Brown wants you to go to his house because he said he wants you to clean it”. 


          Although it hurt his pride he knew he would have to go, because Ali’s father worked for Mr. Brown. It hurt his pride because Mr. Brown thought cleaning was a petty job.


          “Ali, pick up this piece of furniture and put it there”. Mr. Brown pointed with his finger to where he wanted it kept. The piece of furniture was so heavy that Ali bent over while picking it up. For his years, such a job was difficult but he had to do it.




          Such were the conditions in which Ali was brought up. Others like Ali and Nattoo fought with each other, and Mr. Brown cashed in on it. The queen of Mr. Brown’s country was very dominating and she ruled with an iron fist. She was also known for her greed.


          Ali’s father read the headlines to Ali one day, “Jewel missing from the museum.” Ali listened with interest and asked his father, “Who could have taken it, Dad?” His father remained silent, as he did not have the answer.


          The next day Ali went to school carrying a satchel. The topic of discussion among his friends was the jewel. Natoo agreed with Ali, about the disappearance of the jewel and who was responsible. They both agreed that the queen was greedy and maybe she could have done it.


          They also knew that the queen’s minister had visited their land a few days ago. The reason for his visit was still a mystery. But the timing was similar. The timing of the disappearance of the jewel and the arrival of the minister. Sure enough, a few days later, a news item in the newspaper read, ‘Queen’s crown studded with heirloom jewel missing.’ The jewel belonged to Ali and Natoo’s land as it was mined there. But Mr. Brown’s people got away with it because Ali and Natoo’s people did not get along with each other. They were busy fighting with each other.


          This lesson of life has taught them the hard way.






My Teacher




HE was more like a parent. This I was to discover later. At the start of the class she stood before her students and the class buzzed with “Absent Miss!” and “Present Miss!” as she marked the attendance register. School was a humdrum affair. I must admit that I would get out of bed with great difficulty. My mom woke me up at the stroke of seven. I longed for an extra half hour on my warm cozy bed. But she wouldn’t allow it. She came up to my room twice and sometimes thrice to make sure that I had gotten out of bed.


          “I do not want to go to school today,” I would tell her.


          “Nothing doing”, she would say. The teacher with the spectacles perched on her nose seemed strict in the beginning. I discovered later that she was just the opposite. Science was taught to class V students and that’s why I too had to study it no matter how much I hated the subject. I just couldn’t make heads or tails of what the teacher was saying.


          I was not a clever student but was rated as being average. Sometimes my results left much to be desired. Each time my report card was sent home to be signed, I was scolded and put to shame. Having a clever older brother didn’t do much to improve my position at home. I played truant from school many times. I was somehow not very keen to go. And so I would spend the day in a park close to my home.


          “Today I was scolded by my parents for not bringing better results”. I told a friend.


          The parents had arranged for a tutor. They were to realize later that this was not to make much of a difference. The other day a child psychologist in a television programme said many things about parent-child relationships. I wondered why my parents didn’t do what she said. Maybe they weren’t as smart. She said that parents should praise their child if they do a good deed. They should not scold the children in front of their friends.



          One day, I told my teacher about my brother. I told her that he was smarter than me. And my parents did not let both of us forget this. The next day, I was surprised to see my teacher stay back after school. Her husband came to pick her up but she refused to leave. Instead she called me to her side and from that day onwards she made it a point to coach me personally.


          One day I went with her to the park for a stroll and it was there that she explained to me the importance of parents. She made me realize that parents were seldom wrong, making me see the logic behind their arguments. She gave me the confidence that I lacked. It was she who made me a stronger person. The two words, school and teacher, that had been of no importance to me a short time ago, slowly become the center of my life. And I became completely engrossed in my studies. We were nearing the end of the term and our exams started soon.


          At least this time I was not frightened. I clung to the result card in my hand. My heart fluttered as I made my way home. My mother could not help being surprised upon seeing my grades. She quickly rang up my father to share the news with him. He came back home beaming and holding a parcel under his arm. It was a cake to celebrate my success. But I knew it was more like my teacher’s success. It was she who had shown me what it meant to have a purpose in life. She had given up her hours of rest to teach me.






  Isaac and his friends stole money from people. They also indulged in other bad deeds. A day came when their money finished. They were used to eating good food. They also wore good clothes. All this they got from the money they stole.


One of the friends told Isaac, “The boss of the Plane Company has lots of money”.


          “There’s a lot of money in kidnapping,” said another. “Let’s kidnap his son. We shall get a lot of ransom money”.


          They all sat down together to make a plan to kidnap the rich man’s son. It would be done in the afternoon when he was returning from school. They sat in the bushes on the road from where the boy passed.


          School was over. The boy, Andrew, was returning home. Suddenly someone jumped from behind the bushes. He put a gag in the boy’s mouth. The boy wanted to scream but he could not. The bad men bundled him into a car and took him to a house. It was very far from the city. They had also blindfolded him so that he could not see where he was being taken. On reaching their destination they carried Andrew inside and locked him in a room. Then they called up his father to inform him about the kidnapping. He was told to pay a million rupees.


          Andrew’s parents were shocked.


          They did not know what to do. His father tried to arrange for the money.


          Meanwhile Andrew and Isaac met. Isaac brought Andrew something to eat. Andrew thanked him. Sometimes Isaac would sit with Andrew and talk to him. He told him that he too had once been a good boy. He had turned bad because he did not have any money. He had tried getting a job but had failed.


          “Do not fret. I shall ask my father to give you a job, but only if you free me.” Andrew said to Isaac. Isaac liked Andrew because of his good habits. While eating together Andrew would always ask Isaac to eat first.


          As time passed, they became good friends. Isaac told Andrew about his friends, “They are very bad men. I was forced to join them as they have bought me.” And it was true. They did very bad things to make money.


          Isaac was tired of this life. He wanted to lead a straight and simple life. Isaac and Andrew made a plan. Isaac would put a sleeping pill into their tea, which would put his so-called friends to sleep, thus giving them time to escape.


          It was 4 O’clock in the afternoon; Isaac had brought the medicine and put it into their tea. The men drank it with great enthusiasm. Now he waited for the medicine to show its effect.


          After a while they were all fast asleep. Isaac opened Andrew’s ropes. They locked the room in which the men were sleeping and took off with the keys. When Andrew reached home, his parents were overjoyed. His mother could not stop hugging him. They heard Isaac and Andrew’s story.


          Isaac along with Andrew met the police. They informed them about the location of the house and the presence of the dacoits. The police immediately rushed to the scene to find the men trying to break open the door.


          The police unlocked the door and captured the men. Andrew’s father arranged for Isaac to not be punished. He also asked Isaac to work for him and so ended the bad chapter in his life.


Going after the trucks




NCE my family and me were on our way home from Lahore, I saw a line of trucks passing us by. There were about ten trucks, all full of tons of boxes.

          I asked my father where those trucks had come from. My father replied that hardly anyone knew anything about them, as they were all private trucks. I got very curious and asked father where they were headed. He replied that they were headed towards Pindi where our house is.


          “In fact”, he said, “their den is just near our house”.


          I thought that I would look for the trucks’ den.


          After a while, when we were about to reach home, I saw the trucks turn into a big garage. Now I knew exactly where the trucks were. And it would be very easy to find out about them, as I knew where they unloaded their boxes.


          When we reached home, I ran to my room and called my friend, Asim, to ask him if he knew anything about the trucks. Fortunately he did. He told me that the truck company’s name was ‘Ahmed Trucks’. The owner of the company owned many trucks. I asked Asim to come over to my house.


          The next morning, Asim arrived at my house. We talked for some time, and then we started our homework so that we could be free for the rest of the day. After about two hours we stopped to take a break. During this time we had lunch and later went to my room. I asked Asim if he could spend the night at my house. He agreed and called up his mother to inform her about his plans.


          We discussed what we were going to do. I told Asim that we could go and find out what those trucks actually carried. Asim agreed, as she too was curious. In the evening, after telling my mother that we were going out for a ride, we left the house on our bikes and reached the den in about five minutes. On inspection, we noticed many sacks lying in front of the trucks. As we were moving around, we heard someone coming towards us. Quickly, we jumped behind the sacks and hid ourselves. Suddenly, two men appeared from behind the trucks. More men followed, one of them holding a remote, pressed a button that activated the garage door. The door closed immediately. The two men in suits came forward and started talking about some weapons to be delivered. As time passed, I became very frightened and wondered if my mother was getting worried at home.


          One of the men with a beard and a moustache asked the other man if he had delivered the weapons. The other man replied in a voice so low that I couldn’t make out what he said. Just then I heard a creaking sound. On turning, I saw my friend opening a big box. He signaled me to keep quiet. He opened the box to unveil weapons of different kinds. The guns, we noticed, were fully loaded. My friend whispered, “If we could only frighten these men by using these guns”.


          We both gathered our strength and picked up a gun each. My friend pointed the gun towards the men and started shooting; one of the men fell to the ground. Another man took a shot at Asim who fell and hit his head on the ground. Realizing that now I was left alone to face the gang, I quickly formed a plan in my head.


          My best option was to shoot at the chandelier, bringing it crashing down on some barrels containing diesel. The outcome was a massive confusion; I grabbed this opportunity to rush to a phone that I had earlier noticed lying on a table next to the entrance.


          I dialed the number of a nearby police station and urged them to rush to the scene. Moments later, sirens were heard and the police jeeps came crashing through the metal doors. The following events passed like lightning with police personnel completely taking over the scene and successfully managing to arrest the whole gang.


          After things returned to normal, and the criminals had been taken away, the police inspector came up to us and said, “You must be the brave gentlemen who helped us capture these dangerous criminals. We had been on the lookout for them for the past two months but couldn’t get hold of them. We really appreciate your efforts”.


The police escorted Asim and me home. My parents were indeed shocked to hear of our heroic efforts, but praised us nonetheless.


          The next day, the newspapers carried full details of our escapade. The story of our bravery spread like wildfire and we did indeed become heroes’ even if for one day.


Table Of Contents

1 Rescue On The Sea 4
2 The Honest Taxi Driver 16
3 Why Should I Be Hungry 24
4 The Hands Deserve The Books 32
5 The Hidden Favour 42
6 The Parting Gift 52



Very little has been written about the ancient coastal people of Lyari – the irrepressible Makranis – who take their name from the Makran coast of Sindh and, Balochistan, which also indicates a common history of the two provinces; the Makran coast constitutes the South-East of Iran and the South-West of Pakistan; a 1,000 km stretch along the Gulf of Oman from RA’s (cape) Al-Kuh, Iran (West of Jask), to the Lasbela District of Pakistan (near Karachi). The Makran coast is on the Arabian Sea, to the North-West of Quetta in Balochistan.

The following is a story of one such coastal village:

Children on   bare – back camels, watch   the   sea, its   vastness spanning even beyond the grasp of their eyes. Fishermen on the beach watch the sky, like the city dwellers read their newspapers first thing in the morning. Through the knots of their nets hanging on the line, they seem to predict the weather. This exercise determines whether they should take a boat out or not on the deep sea, for their daily expedition to catch fish. The air is filled with the smell of rancid water that is due to the deposits of oil, resulting in decayed and dead sea-life. Music, which is a part of their lives, plays in the background. The sounds are a fusion of musical cultures from the Middle East, Indo-Pakistan and Africa.


The shells on the beach look like the abandoned toenails of the old fishermen, and they are more beautiful there, than on the foot. The broken wings, the sand-logged crabs, a woman’s lonely shoe, a rusty toy damaged beyond recognition, the plank or sail from a doomed boat, all lay sprawled on the beach, each with a story behind it, cleansed and sterilized by the salt and iodine in the great hospital of the sea. In the night, the light from the tower was but a spot against the background of the sky and spectacular cliffs.


The weather beaten villager’s munched dates from the interior while watching holidaymakers trying to teach their children to swim, like fish to water, amidst the shouts and screams of the children who are already submerged in the waters. The steps of the ladies faltered as they approached the sea, clad in shalwar kameezes filled with the wind, the Shalwar Kameez itself a deterrent for swimming.

The story told here is that of a villager who because of his sharp sense of hearing helped in the rescue of a drowning man. The villager was alone and as he had no family to fend for, hence he had no responsibilities to drain his energy. Somehow he had also preserved his youth, which he owed to mother nature. Religion that usually comes into the house with the presence of a woman was lacking in his and he was quite oblivious of it.


One evening when it was well after ten and the moon was full with black clouds scudding in ordered masses across the sky, he was still sitting on his wall, all alone. A cool wind suddenly sighed from an unexpected quarter and in its wake was a noise like that from a distant cavalry charge. His razor sharp ears picked up the sound. His brow creased up as his eyes searched the distance. He hobbled to his neighbours house and banged on the door of his traditional mud-hut – the two men, though natural life-guards, knew thoroughly all that was written in the books about rescue on the seas. The coastal blacks were descendants of imported slaves – the fishermen being known as the Meds and the seamen as the Koras – when there was no response; he banged on the door again. A groggy fellow soon appeared. He pointed towards the horizon and mumbled something in the Makranic dialect. The man’s eyes tried to see beyond the direction of the location being pointed at. A boat in trouble, he thought aloud. Without wasting any time they woke the other men.


A rule of the sea states, that half the purchase price of the vessel of the sea is given to the rescue party. This prize money was quite a temptation, but since it was always dangerous the case required to be argued, all hands knew that the proposed journey was perilous.

The village women all having gathered on the beach, saw their men disappear, reappear, disappear, reappear and finally disappear into the darkness. They were now a tiny speck in the vast vista of the sea – the ocean that is open to all and merciful to none, that which threatens even when it seems to yield, pitiless always to weakness.


Many of the Makrani women now worked as domestic servants in Karachi; they were also experts in the art of massaging any mother and child    after    birth.   Their   traditional   long   dresses with   hand-woven

Embroidery gave them a distinct ‘folk’ touch, separating them from the typical Karachiites. The skirt-like look, with its wide circumference, and the loose shalwar could be compared to the costumes of the pathan and Kabuli women.


The men in the rescue boat changed sides, so as not to tip the balance of the boat as the surf sprayed them from head to toe. The taste of salt lingered in their mouths during the voyage. They were not bothered by their appearance. On the contrary, they felt no different from when they started out dry.


Suddenly, a dark object was thrown at them on the crest of a wave. It was a man. They held on to the poor fellow and eventually succeeded in dragging him aboard. Nobody felt sorry that this time, there was no prize. They rowed back to their village.


Couples fought with each other to offer hospitality to this half dead man; and they almost came to blows in their struggle for this visa to heaven.

They fetched a doctor from a nearby village, while the women sat all around him wearing their beads. The doctor was a Karachiite who had been sent to the village to serve them. The doctor prompted the man to speak. The man said, “Mahganj” very faintly. Repeated attempts, received the same response. The diagnosis stated that he was a victim of a traumatic shock and was suffering from amnesia, which meant a loss of memory, if only temporarily.


The Priest, who was also a member of the village council, was also summoned, as was the case in other similar incidents. “What’s going on here?” he asked one of the ladies. “A miracle” said all the ladies together. The Makrani women are predominantly Muslim.


The Priest was briefed about the rescue and what followed. Being

an elderly fellow, he recalled that a girl by the name of ‘Mahganj’ had been registered in the mosque some eighteen years ago.


Now, it was easy to put two and two together. The man they found was associated with Mahganj and was discovered as belonging to the same village as her’s.  He was also supposed to marry her.


Mahganj was the granddaughter of the village tailor. Thus it was decided that the man be taken back to the same village that he originated from. Similar surroundings would help to revive his memory, it was hoped.


A therapist was hired from the city and surely, slowly though, his memory came back in bits and pieces. Mahganj’s presence always evoked a response in the man, so strong was the bond of love. His memory did eventually return, which in turn led to their marriage. They led a happy married life.

The Honest Taxi Driver

What all is involved in a taxi drivers life; physical labour and not much exercise for the grey matter. One such driver was Anwar. He got his driving license from the back door. He did not learn how to drive a car, neither was he aware of the traffic rules and regulations. He was however, a man with a generous heart, known for his hospitality.


An overheard conversation, as he sat with his mates at a tea stall. “Tea keeps me on my feet”, have another, everything should be done in moderation”. “Tea is a milder addiction”. The conversation drifted to the price of petrol and passengers. “Things have become so expensive. I bought a kilo of meat for Rs. 150/-. It seems that if the price does not come down, it will be difficult for us to make ends meet”.


One of the reasons why Anwar stood out amongst his mates was his wife. She never harassed him for extra money. The hard work that he put in was evident from his bronze rugged skin tone. Tanned from the hours, days, years that he had spent driving his cab, exposed to the

merciless sun. He was so vigilant that he pierced the distance with the sight of an eagle soaring in the skies and nose-diving to pick up the prey from ground. Proof of his vigilance, “stop the thief, “ cried the lady, whose purse had been snatched. Nobody moved from amongst the onlookers. Anwar from a distance approached the scene of the theft; “move aside” he roared “corner the thief”. The thief was a smart cookie. Dodging Anwar he entered the alley and hid behind a rubbish can. To the thief’s misfortune a cat inside the can scared of the noise the thief made, leapt out of it. Anwar pounced on the thief and recovered the money from him.


Like the lady above, his work led him to interact with persons from various stratas of society. Sometimes there were persons from affluent families also. One bright sunny day when fate was to take a turn for Anwar, Mr. and Mrs. Ahmed sat in his cab. “We want to go to Nazimabad. Will you take us?” “Hope in.” said Anwer. ”We are going to this place for the first time. I hope you will be able to follow our instructions,” said Mr.Ahmed. After clearing a few traffic jams, they finally arrived at the destination. They got off on the main road and said they would manage on foot the rest of the way.

To his utter surprise Anwar found a parcel on the back seat of his cab. This was when he stopped for a meal after dropping Mr and Mrs. Ahmed. The parcel had jewellery inside. He was somewhat anxious regarding how to locate them so that he could give them their parcel back. He searched for some form of identification, but to no avail. His friends tried to persuade him to keep the parcel. But he took pride in being honest and there was no way he would compromise over it.


Little did he know that this parcel was to seal the fate of a couple about to be married? The couple was Ammar and Shagufta. Ammar and Shagufta had been engaged for a year. It was customary to give dowry to the daughter. Not to display wealth, but to support her in her new home, till she was self-sufficient.


He reached home and asked his wife to keep the parcel in safe custody. Weeks passed, and lo and behold, he spotted Mrs. Ahmed. She was shopping in a market where he had just dropped a passenger. He hurriedly approached her and told her that she had forgotten a parcel in his taxi. She told him, she had searched for this parcel. She could not hold back her happiness and gratitude. “I was so worried. The parcel had jewellery, which was my daughter’s dowry. I had fallen sick due to the loss.”


This jewellery was an heirloom. It had been handed down from Shagufta’s grandmother to Shagufta’s mother and then to her. The grandmother was married to one of Ammar’s father’s uncles. Shagufta’s grandmother had grey eyes and brown hair and so had Shagufta. These qualities endeared Shagufta to Ammar.


Anwar arranged for the jewels to be returned to Mrs. Ahmed. “We will expect you and your family at the wedding”. Mrs. Ahmed’s happiness knew no bounds. The return of the jewellery meant a big load off her delicate shoulders. Mrs. Ahmed just could not stop praising Anwar. She told everyone she met, about how honest he was and how difficult, it was to find people like him. She thanked God, five times a day, when she prayed.


“Welcome Anwar”. Anwar was welcomed in a big way at the wedding. All the family were eager to know him, although he was not a rich man and the other guests were all, well, rich people. But who could deny, that Anwar was ‘rich at heart’. The richest in the gathering at the wedding. He walked, in with his head held high. He felt so good, after returning the jewels. Although he was in a gathering of rich people, he did not feel lost as he was bestowed with ‘wealth’ of honesty.


And as Shagufta wore the wedding band, she looked at Anwar and smiled, a smile of gratitude, before she was whisked off to her new home. Her wedding was memorable right from the beginning to the end. A new life, lay ahead of her, and as she entered the threshold of her new home and prepared to remove the heavy necklace, she heaved a sigh of relief, recalling all that had happened.


Why Should I Be Hungry

Salman come and have your lunch” shouted his mom from the door of their hut in the Katchi abadi. He was playing marbles with his friends of adversary. His mother was thin, a widow who lived in a slum of Karachi. Her husband died when Salman was 6 years of age. He was 10 now in the adolescent phase. She worked hard as a domestic servant in the city. Their slum was outside the city. Salman knew that she always kept the meat for him. If Salman asked her to have it she would say she had eaten at Begum Saheba’s. But Salman, although not so old, knew in his heart of hearts that his mom was laying.  He knew that she saved as

much food as she could for him, of the little that they had. He entered his hut with his friend, his mom looked up as if to say, there is not enough for the both of us. But she told Rahman to come in. So Rahman and Salman sat together and ate the dried bread with curry.


One day Rahman told Salman that a guest to the slum whom he called, Ustadji, had given him 5 rupees, which was a lot of money for Rahman. He asked Salman to come with him to meet Ustadji. Ustadji seemed to be a nice person. He gave Salman Rs. 5; only nice persons gave money, just like that, thought Salman.


Upon enquiring Salman found out that Ustadji lived in the city. He told Salman that he had a big house and he, Salman could come and stay with him. He would receive Rs. 500 per month.

Salman convinced his mom to let him go. He wanted to help his mom by earning some money to give her.


They sat in a taxi, which wound through roads that Salman had not seen in a lifetime. After an hour or so, the taxi stopped outside a building. Ustadji stepped outside and asked Salman to follow. A boy about 14 years of age came to Ustadji. He enquired about who Salman was. Ustadji asked him to take Salman to his room.


There Salman saw a quilted robe and Kashkoll A pair of crutches were propped up against the wall.


Many cases of children being deliberately mutilated and disabled by their inhuman Ustadji’s for the purpose of beggary have been reported. A substantial amount of takings from these poor and innocent child-beggars fill the purses of their cruel tormentors.


After a couple of days, Salman found himself on the streets with the boy who shared his room, begging for money. He had to report to Ustadji in the evening, declaring the amount of money he had collected to him.


It is facts that a vast majority of beggars are able bodied and have taken to this lucrative profession as a means of making some easy money. Well, meaning people give alms to them on Fridays in particular and during Ramazan. But they don’t realize that by doing so, they are not really implementing the spirit behind the concept of charity. No doubt, some of the destitute need our help, but by giving alms to them we are really encouraging them to become lazy and to harass people.


Salman hated this job, but what could he do. He missed his mom and Rahman very much. But what could he do. Ustadji kept giving excuses for not sending him home. Salman did not know how to find his way home. At night he cried himself to sleep. Take this money. Ustadji gave him Rs. 10 as a bonus whenever he was in a good mood.


One day, Salman set out early. In the midst of the crowd, he thought he saw Begum Saheba. She lived in the city. He ran like a bullet towards her. With wet eyes he told her his story. She said she would take him to his mom. She gave him some clothes to wear and made sure he had a bath.


He hugged his mom and would not leave her. He hugged Rahman and thanked Begum Saheba, profoundly. He would skip a meal, even three and live on an empty stomach as long as he could be with his mom and Rahman.


One wonders where the crores of rupees which the government annually collects as zakat goes. Of course the bulk of the amount should be given as annual aid to the poor whether they live in slums or are beggars.

The Hands Deserve The Books

Child Labour is a crime against humanity. At this juncture, I am reminded of a very moving story about one of the world’s greatest humanitarians Abraham Lincoln. The time, at which this episode took place, Lincoln was a candidate for a congress seat. And on that day, he had an important election speech to deliver. But he also had a far greater task to perform. A noble cause to fight for.


He cancelled his election speech and entered the jam-packed court, which was already in session. Unnoticed, he sat down in the last row. The case being ended, the District Attorney rose and moved the trial of John Wilson for murder. There was a stir through the courtroom. In the doorway appeared the Sheriff, leading a childish figure, a boy of ten, dressed in poor homemade clothes. He was pale and desperately frightened. The judge faced the criminal, paused pityingly and steadied himself. “Have you a lawyer?” He asked. The lad shook his unkempt yellow head. “No, I dunno anybody. I ain’t got- Money- to pay”.


The boy was in tears, his widowed mother was sobbing near him. “Do you wish the court to assign you a counsel?” In the stillness a boot scraped the floor. The man in the back seat rose, “May it please your honour” he said. “I am a lawyer. I should be glad to act as a Counsel for the Defense”. The Judge looked for a moment at the loose-hung, towering figure. “What is your name?” He asked. The man answered quietly “Abraham Lincoln”. Lincoln, who gave his life to abolish slavery, had come that day to re-pay a debt.


Years back, when he was a struggling non-entity, the family of the then well to do little boy, then a baby, had given Lincoln solace and succor. Subsequently, the boy’s father died and the family was in a miserable state of abject poverty. The boy, John had to work due to force of circumstances, in a farm of one heartless man who was Shaughnessy by name. He was a cruel tormentor. One day, he started beating the boy so mercilessly that the desperate defenseless boy struck his tormentor’s head with a pitchfork. The man died after some time. The boy was charged for murder. This was the story. It was commonly said that the boy was doomed; No lawyer, even a smart one could get him off after some seemingly convincing evidence. But in the courtroom that day was

no ordinary man. It was the great Lincoln, the unique humanist, who had come, jeopardizing his future career by canceling his election speech, for a great cause- even greater than his own magnificence.


“Gentlemen of the jury,” began Abraham Lincoln. I am going to try this case in a manner not customary in courts. I shall not call witnesses; the little prisoner over there is all the witness I want. I shall not argue. You know that at an age when this boy’s hands should have held schoolbooks or a fishing rod, they held the man’s tool that was his undoing; you know how a grown man goaded the child till in desperation he used the tool at hand. All I ask is that you deal with the little fellow, as you would have other men deal in such a case with little fellow’s of your own at home. Before the verdict, for a second, perhaps, no one breathed in that packed mass. ‘Not guilty’ was the verdict.


It was a momentous Victory for a great cause. The cause of tormented and exploited ‘Johns’ of America.


My story is an inspiration from the former. It is about the ‘Asims’ of Pakistan. A familiar figure in the homes of Pakistan. The not so lucky ones in the houses. I differentiate because cold callous concrete houses consist of ruthlessness.


For one such house Asim worked. His mother was a widow and she washed dishes and clothes for her ‘Begum Sahiba’ who had suggested this couple for Asim’s employment. Asim had formerly tried his hand as a motor mechanic, but as circumstances would have it his boss had closed his workshop because of lack of funds.


After getting the job, Asim worked for Amina and Aslam where he was required to do all the dirty and hard jobs. To clean the bathrooms, to sweep outdoors in the harsh summer sun of Karachi. On the face of it everything seemed fine. His masters bullied him sometimes. They would

feed him with leftovers and not give him new clothes to wear, although he tore his own clothes doing the dirty work. Maybe, it was because poor Asim had not experienced the luxury of life. He could not tell that he was being dealt with severely.


Amina was a frustrated woman. Aslam had two wives and she hated sharing him with his other wife. Maybe this was the reason for her being so cruel.


One ill-fated day, Amina entered the house and heard a noise in the kitchen. A glass had slipped from Asim’s hands and was in splinters.


In a rage, she ignited a matchstick and placed it on Asim’s hands. Singed he ran out, followed by Amina who seemed in a frenzy. Luckily, for him, she was heavy and could not move as fast as he.


In his mother’s embrace he told his story, to his mother’s mistress who listened patiently. She could not even think that Amina could do this to Asim. She was determined to amend the wrong done to him.


She went to Amina’s house, but Amina completely denied that she had been cruel. She knew Amina was scared of being blamed publicly. So Asim’s mother’s mistress threatened Amina to compensate Asim for her ill-doings or she would go to the Police.


Amina was asked to pay a handsome amount to Asim for a life-time in lieu of her attempt to burn Asim’s hand, which escaped several burns because of him not loosing his senses and wrapping up his hand tightly so that no air was left to blow the flame.


Asim’s mother’s won the money and with that money Asim joined school with zeal to become something, and look after his mother.

The Hidden Favour

Khatija was a robust, healthy, 19 year old girl. She had just finished her studies and had found a good job. Because of her good health she managed to work long hours, both in the office and at home. The envy of her peers who could not even do half the amount of work, she did. The secret behind this was that a lot of effort had gone behind raising her. Her mother had spent so many sleepless nights at her bedside, sometimes reading bedtime stories. Her father too had contributed a lot, towards his daughter’s up bringing. They both doted on her. Her life passed just like the brook meandering on its way.  Seldom was she unhappy like the ripples on the surface of the brook. But what does it take for the unexpected to be. But as luck has it, all good times are met with an unhappy event. One-day disaster struck. Khatija fell ill, not knowing what fate had in store for her. After a prolonged spell of illness and numerous tests, it was detected that she had to have a kidney transplant. Her parents tried to find a compatible donor but that is something which is not very easy as it is understood that a member of the family stands more chance of being compatible, then an outsider. Many family members volunteered, as it is common knowledge that living with one kidney is possible.


“She stands a one in ten chance”, said the doctors. “She is young and has the ability to recover very fast, after her transplant”. But to everyone’s dismay his or her kidneys were not compatible. Kidney transplants were not child’s play, and yet people with one kidney or recipients led very healthy lives. Medical technology was so advanced that events such as the above that seemed impossible years ago were conducted nowadays, and successfully at that, too. Medical research had opened up so many vistas and miracles were performed on the operation table. Khatija was aware of all this and it was this hope that kept Khatija going. The hope that some-where, someone would be a right donor. Although they seemed few and far between the search was on.


Who would have dreamt that the donor would be overseas? There, lived a young man who decided to take a trip to his home country. He saw this appeal in the newspaper, for a kidney donor. Maybe it was his instinct, or a simple act out of human sympathy that he thought he should respond. Maybe it was telepathy, as indeed he believed such things did exist. Yes it was telepathy with Khatija. He longed to return to his home country and there could not have been a better opportunity.


“I have not been home in ages, have even forgotten what it looks like”, he told a friend. “Better late than never”. He had also heard that a racket of selling kidneys existed in his home country and he wanted to do something about it.


The hospital that had made the appeal had a good reputation and as he sat in the waiting room of the hospital, waiting for the doctor to see him, his thoughts travelled to the past. He recognized the hospital where his father spent his last days. Tears blurred his vision for a while, but they dried up quickly as he was consoled by the thought that his father had led a good life and had died peacefully at a ripe old age. But then, a father is a father, and nobody can be compared to him. The young man recalled his childhood days, when he had been taken ill. His father sat in a chair, beside him, until the danger subsided.


“Do not let me down, young one. I can’t take any bad news, especially where you are concerned”.


“Cheer up, Dad. I’ve almost recovered. I’ve had a hearty meal, and a stroll down the road”.


Many such incidents, showed the love his father had for him. He felt satisfied. Nobody could love his own son more. Abid (the young man) was an adopted child. He owed all he had to his father. His position in life, the respect he commanded and a never-ending list of favours.


The Doctor nudged him to gain his attention. He had been so lost in his thoughts. He took him to a room and interviewed him, before conducting tests. Then Khatija’s particulars were given to him. His mouth opened wide in amazement. Khatija was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Moiz Khan. Seemed like his dream had been realized. His cherished dream of maintaining relations with his sister and now there was an opportunity to do so. Mrs. Moiz Khan was his sister; she had left a doting father, whose life became empty, until he adopted Abid. He had opposed his daughter’s choice of husband; he had banned her from returning to his home. You’ll regret, he told himself but he was not going to compromise on matters of principle.


His sister’s daughter needed his kidney. The only kidney that was compatible. There was no going back, he assured himself. Even his father would have softened, had he seen his grand daughter’s difficulty. Difficult times had made friends out of enemies, and this was his niece. It seemed like all those long years when they were cut off, now seemed to have shrunk, because a chance for their reunion existed. But how could he hide his identity. He requested the Doctor to tell Khatija’s parents that the kidney donor was a dead man.


The operation was successful. Mr. and Mrs. Moiz Khan’s jubilation knew no bounds. Their only child had a second life. The doctor fabricated the truth, as Abid wanted it to be. He was too scared to confess his identity. Scared, because he felt it might ruin everything and the matter was delicate – a matter of life and death, the kidney donation. “I feel a confession just might make matters worse. Let her recover fully. Then wait for an opportune, moment, “he told the doctors.

Abid was at home recovering after his donation. He was a health conscious man. He ate well and exercised and hence recovered soon. He was grateful to God for the opportunity to return the favour his father had given him.


At the airport he waited in a queue for his turn to get his passport stamped. The passport, before him belonged to Khatija Moiz Khan. Again it was instinct that saw them together, this time hers and nobody knew where it would lead. It was telepathy indeed. There was a bond between    them.  A   bond   that   needed   to   be   restored   and   further strengthened. And this time he would take the initiative.  He smiled at her and she smiled back. It seemed like his father blessed them. Heaven had this affect on the hardest of them. He awaited the outcome, eagerly.



Mark was born in London during the post war period, in the east end of London, which has been largely rebuilt since World War II when it suffered much damage from bombing. London at that time was crippled because of the depression which was an after math of the war. The birth of Mark brought relief to his parents – relief from a devastated world. You had to struggle to survive, as London was economically shattered also. It was hard to make ends meet. Even in those days Mark’s house was full of guests. Their family was known for its hospitality. One instance Mark remembered of his childhood was of his Mom’s spending the last of her saving’s to feed a less fortunate family. ‘Give and you receive’, she used to say. This image of his mother remained with Mark in his adult years.


She worked in a garments factory, which was a part of the textile industry that was established by France, an ally from the war. She brought home samples of dresses that fitted Mark’s sister, Elizabeth. ‘She’s such a Doll’, remarked a friend of Mom’s and she’d go pink in the cheek.


His father accepted building contracts, which were part of a rebuild London project. This is how they slowly became rich. He, as a building contractor, before putting up a building, used to first look at the site, choose the people who were going to work for him and plan a schedule of work so that he knew which people should be on the site at the right time. The bricklayers and the plasterer’s would often get in each other’s way. I’ll finish with the bricks in another couple of hours. ‘Oh! So you will, the last time you said a couple, you took eight’. He went off, leaving the bricklayer to finish, who was envious of his long break. He complained, ‘Boss, we both should get equal pay for the hours of work we put in. Mark’s father would tackle the situation, and he planned shifts, so that no body would have any objection.


Then there was the time when Elizabeth contracted an infection after swimming in the pool. They gave her a Penicillin shot (which she was allergic to), but it was too late before they found out that she was allergic. She developed a rash, as if the infection were not enough. But they were a close knit family and that saw them out of such situations. Mark held her hand and teased, ‘your face looks like its full of Polka Dots’. ‘You’d know what it feels like if you had them’. Elizabeth, on the verge of tears, told him.


About the same time, in Stalin’s Russia, Susan was born – in a communist setting. Later, she would question Mark about the gap between the haves and the have-nots. ‘Because they deserve to be so’. He’d reply. Many other questions came to her mind, especially about religion, but her differences were not confirmed. Originally she remained a Christian. A product of the west, although she cherished faint memories of the large farms set up as collective units which were usually worked by 100 to 500 families, who reaped what they sowed. She was impressed and affected by the equal opportunity. And this would reflect, in her life, later on as would the prosperity of Hampstead heath, which is a large tract of countryside of London. (The latter as told by Mark to her). Her childhood memories would reflect in her adult life.


Once during a shortage of wheat (in London – where they were to stay after marriage), she observed that those collective farmers never went hungry whereas England imported wheat every year – and it was expensive. Mark would tease her, ‘the average income of a Londoner affords him the necessities as well as the luxuries’. ‘Capitalist thinking, that’, she retorted. With her there would remain a distinction between a necessity and luxury. ‘If it’s not necessary, why do it’, was an opinion of hers on many matters.


During his school days Mark enjoyed playing Cricket, and kept himself up to date with the score board of County Cricket. ‘The night watchman just might level the score’. ‘Not if the weather does not permit’. His friends enjoyed the game too. In 1882 Australia beat England at the Oval in London and after the match the ‘Sporting Times’ invented the term ‘The Ashes’. The paper told its readers of the ‘Death of English Cricket.’ The Ashes (from a stump burnt during the England tour of Australia in 1883) are kept in an urn at the Museum at Lord’s. Mark took pride in showing his guests this urn.


A fortune teller once told Mark that after his marriage he would be blissfully happy, but then he somehow did not want to reveal something to Mark – something terribly sad. He further added that Mark would have to part from someone he deeply loved. He said that an evil spirit would be the cause of his parting from someone he deeply loved. He further asked Mark to practice religion. Mark was not religious.


Who could tell that after so many years, life would be different.



They were madly in love. Happiness glowed on their cheeks when they faced the colourful world. Mark and Susan were the children of prosperous parents. Life had been kind to them but God’s blessings were only bestowed on a few as would be proved later on. Kind as in material possessions. Mark’s house was full of guests. It was there that in fact he met Susan. The first meeting was followed by a series of them. They decided to seal their relationship and with the consent of their parents they got engaged. Mark was a handsome boy. Girls did vie with each other for his attention. One such girl was his parents’ choice for his partner. Obviously she was his mother’s friend’s daughter. Very compatible, because she was in and out of their house very often and was almost a family member. Mark liked her – but the liking was never to turn into love.


Mark was a businessman; and his commitments kept him busy for the day. ‘The stocks of the company are experiencing a low’. He told a colleague. ‘The clients are not satisfied and are not ready to invest’. ‘We’ll have to work the nights’. But he spared some time every day for his beloved. Sometimes with flowers, sometimes over a meal, sometimes just to remind her that he loved the colour of her eyes, he always had time for such sentiments.


After a brief engagement they married. They went off on their honeymoon to Switzerland. Switzerland was an ideal place. A place without an army. A peaceful setting, detached from the morbid states engaged in war. Amongst so many people, from all around the world, the two of them saw only each other. Walking in the shadows of the Alps, hand in hand, they made a commitment never to let this end. ‘Wear your skis. I’ll race you’. ‘I’m too scared’. ‘Take the plunge’. ‘oo—oop—oops’. She was out of sight. Discovered in a pile of snow. ‘I thought I told you to watch it at the curve’. Seeing her red nose poke through the snow he stifled a giggle. Having made a special trip to separate them, guess who else was there. The same girl. She had not accepted defeat. She tried to blackmail him, by using his mother. Her befitting attitude towards his mother was a result of her long association with him. She was a good cook, unlike his mother and as they say, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. She once cooked a meal that was so tasty that they licked their fingers clean. Susan’s ego was offended.


But there was always Mark’s shoulder to lean on. He assured and reassured her. There was no need to worry. The ‘uninvited guest’ would never change his love for her. Other couples saw them as ideals for a perfect married life. His mother would tell him that marriage was not a bed of roses and not to be disappointed if anything went against his wishes. She went on, saying that Mark’s father had been short tempered at the start of their marriage and many times she kept quiet when he had an anger fit. Mark’s retort, ‘I know mom, I think I can handle it. You make it sound so difficult, when it is actually not’. ‘The situation would get out of control, otherwise’. She advised him, as any mother would her son.


Susan conceived a child in their first year of marriage. Their first child was not going to be planned. The gynaecologist examined her every month. A girl was a great help for the mother and they desired a girl as their first born. Frills, bows all in pink with linen to match, Susan visualised her daughter’s frocks and her room. Susan’s mother had good taste, which showed in Susan’s attire. She was nominated for the best dressed person at a party once.


It was the eight month of pregnancy. An ultra sound showed that it was a girl. Yet their elders were reluctant to make any baby clothes or other things for the baby before hand. They felt that others would be envious, and that was not a good sign.


‘I can’t wait to see her’. As he felt the baby turn in Susan’s belly. ‘Then you’ll say you’re pressed for time, because she is a handful’. ‘That will never happen’. ‘We’ll see’. She got the last word.


The name, what should the name be. Natasha was selected. Natasha was a Russian name. Susan’s parents had spent some years in Russia. Her father had held a good post in the Pakistan Embassy there. Her mother liked the name and had wanted to name her grandchild Natasha.


The delivery time was near. She experienced contractions. The doctor and nurses were by her side. But God’s blessing escaped them. Susan’s life was in danger. On their knees they prayed – the parents. ‘Oh! God, save her – if they are our sins you hold against us, do not make her pay, please God, please’. Some complications developed. Could it be that the evil spirit had entered Susan’s body? The evil spirit that the fortune teller had warned Mark against. Could it be that the profound effort of giving birth and the effort of fighting the evil spirit broke down a weary and tired Susan and finally killed her? Mark awoke to religion as he had been advised by the fortune teller – better late than never. The doctor tried his utmost best to save both mother and child. It was touch and go. They all huddled together outside the operation theatre, looking at each other for strength. The doctor arrived, his face sullen. The message he was about to convey to them was obvious.


Susan breathed her last on a shocked Mark’s lap. The parting gift, Natasha, lay in the nurse’s hands. Caught between sorrow and happiness, he had to decide, to get over his sorrow for Natasha, Susan’s and his Natasha.


Even to this day holding Natasha’s finger he visits the grave, talks to her and gets her response. It seems like she tells him, do not give up, for Natasha. And little Natasha clasps her hands in prayer, taught to her by her father. In a whisper, she recites —– in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Ghost. Amen. He walks away with the child, a smile on his face, ready to take on the world. And still in the race is the girl, who however much she tries will not change matters or should she try through Natasha. She would not give up. Mark was worth it. They do not make them quite like him nowadays.


  1. NO.    CONTENTS                                      PAGE NO.
  2. THE MAGIC OF CLEANLINESS              7
  4. THE DANGEROUS ESCAPE                         11
  5. THE SILK CUSHION INN                       14
  6. THE EVIL SPELL                                                  17
  7. THE LAST DIVE                                         20



Twenty kilometers west of the bounty road a small lane wound its way to a small castle. The castle looked like it was built for a prince and princess to stay in. The sky seemed to hug the earth there. The cheerful sun smiled and beamed on the earth and the flowers opened up and smiled back. The towers which seemed to reach up to the sky had music playing in them. Little children danced to the tune, Ho hum ta ra rum…one leg moved left, one right, hands in the air. The atmosphere was filled with happiness and cleanliness. The bear with his snowy, clean coat of fur cuddled up with the monkey who had a well combed tail. King Lion with his shampooed mane was sleeping and a fly fluttering its wings came and settled on his nose but that did not seem to bother him. The freshly groomed horses sung,

“Neigh ho, here we go, Right and left, high and low,

On and on till we meet miss doe,

We’ll stop her and tell her to come to the show

Sniff, sniff what do I smell in the air?

The sweet smelling flowers nodding their heads from here to there”.

Mr Green the plant was as bright as a day just as if the rain had cleansed it. Freddy the frog sat on the pond and was puzzled to see another frog staring back at him. He wanted to shake its hand but as he touched the water he found nothing there. It was only his reflection. Big Wing the butterfly had hurt one of its legs. Off it flew to the hospital to get it cleaned and plastered. Daisy the cow sat grazing on the grass. “I’ll have a glass of milk shake”.

Big Wing told her. “You get some hair for my bald head”, said Daisy with a smile. “I’ll get you some from Kaku the lion. Urn, mum” he went as he drank the milk it was as white as snow.

The brook was bubbling at its seams. Daffy the duck was busy pointing its beak towards the fish. “I want to play with you”, she said. They all went to Popo the owl’s school. Naughty calf had to jump thrice over the fence for going to school with a dirty uniform and Mammy the mouse was not given cheese to eat as punishment for wearing dirty shoes.

One day the sky was all dark. The moon hid behind the clouds. The lion growled and the bear started to fight. The pond water became black as night. The air started to smell. The grass sprouted weeds and the flowers died. Everything was gripped with fear. Some aliens from outer space had come to earth to dirty and destroy it. They sprinkled dust everywhere with their guns and threw litter everywhere. The animals went to uncle and auntie cleanwallah and begged them to help them overcome this problem. They advised them to take three elephant trunks full of soap, two mouthful of happiness; five bucketful of fairy tonic and ten images of lions paws. Make a potion of this and spray it on the enemy and they shall beat a hasty retreat. The animals sat down to this task and did as they were told. Lo and behold! It was not long before they saw the backs of the aliens.


We’ll build our house on the moon,” said Sunny excitedly. Stories about the moon fascinated him. He would watch that golden globe stare down at him for hours.

“Oh! My piece of gold,

Out there it must be cold,

How I wish you I could hold,

And put you up as sold.

Then you could be mine forever”

He would hum this poem and make up stories about the moon, but his favorite one was about the old lady on the moon. “When I stay on the moon I won’t need any lights. I’ll just open my window and watch the stars going twinkle, twinkle..My carpet will be of clouds and I’ll touch the rain.” He thought of the small wafer pistol that he had and wondered what it would be like if le had all the rain to play with.

“Rain, rain don’t go away, With me you must stay, Together both of us will play

“I’ll cut off small pieces of the moon and make jewelery for mummy. I shall be able to give gifts of gold to my friends on their birthdays. Birds will chirp and teach me their language. There will be toys with wings and they shall fly from here to there. I’ll learn to fly from one place to the other. Oh! What fun it will be.” His thoughts would be about the castle on the moon and he would see himself a little prince there, with a lot of people around him to attend to him. ”Get me some candy floss.” Away his attendant would go and fetch a piece of cloud for him.

The alarm clock brought him back to his world. “I’ll tell my story to Dimpy I’m sure he’ll enjoy it.” Dimpy was sitting with a team of hockey players who were all ready to start a game. He was so excited about his idea that he wanted to tell Dimpy about it there and then. So, he started off blah, blah, chatter, chatter. Dimpy heard him from-beginning to the end and then told him, “Listen Sunny I hope you won’t get upset after what I tell you. Sometimes it gets very cold up there. It’s even colder than living on a snow-peaked mountain. Darkness surrounds you and you cannot see anything. There is nothing to be seen for miles and miles around.” Sunny smiled, a little convinced. On went Dimpy, “You are thrown from one place to another. You can’t smell and you can’t talk and most of all there would be no TV to watch, no comics to read, no candy to eat, no friends to talk to, no stickers to stick around and no songs to sing and there will L be no Dimpy there.” gave up his castle in the air and went away merrily happy where he was.


Once I went to Murree, where climbed a small mountain. On the other side of the mountain the scenery was beautiful. In the middle of some trees, I saw a hut and smoke was coming from it. Then I went towards the hut and looked in the window. I looked all around and saw no one except some tools and other home things and a pot of some food on the fire. I thought that I should go in and look. I went to the door and tried to open it; luckily it was open. I went in and began to look around. I tried to be as quiet as I could. In one drawer I saw some white powder. I couldn’t make out what was it. So I took one out; closed the drawer and put the packet in my pocket; I knew that .this was stealing but I badly to know what was in the packet. Suddenly I heard voices and when I looked around, I saw an empty barrel big enough to fit me in. I got in the barrel and stayed there.

When the men came in, I saw that there were only two. They sat on the chairs beside the table. One of the men got up and brought the plates and the pot of food. They begin to eat, and talk. As they were talking, I noticed that one of them talked a little about Heroin. On hearing this I knew that the packet 1 had in my pocket was filled with Heroin. As I tried to move a little in the barrel, it fell on the ground. One of the men quickly ran towards the barrel and found me. I knew I was in bit trouble.

He quickly took me out and asked me what was I doing here. I told him about the ‘smoke and all the things that happened’ except the .drawer one but I made one mistake. I told him that Listened to all the talk they word. talking; After listening to this he grabbed me and look me to the other man. The other man took a piece of cloth out of his pocket and came towards me. I tried to struggle, but the man was strong. The other man quickly put the cloth on my nose, and mouth. I knew that it had some kind of medicine. After a while I fainted!

When I opened my eyes again, I was amazed to sec that I was on a boat with me two men and then I noticed that I was tied up. One of the men rode the boat and we went at a high speed and after a while we reached a deserted island with only birds around. They took me out of the boat and we went in the cave. When we were deep in the cave, I saw a light. As we entered something like a room, I saw that there were boxes and boxes everywhere. We all sat in the middle of the room. After sometime, they took me to the other room which even had a door. They pushed me in and untied my ropes and threw them aside and locked the door.

There was only a small window enough for me to get out but as it was high, it was not possible for me to escape. As I was tired I went to sleep. The next day I woke up very early. I began to think of a way, to escape. I thought many ways, but suddenly I saw the rope aside. I got a plan. I took the rope and threw it out of the window, luckily it reached the ground. I tied the other end to a big rock. Then I started to climb down. I reached the ground and started running towards the boat. As remember the way. As I got nearer to the boat, I heard voices. My heart sank, but I. got a plan I took a rock and tried to throw it in the deck. And they press to it went right in it and to two men thought that there was someone in the deck. As he was out looking in the deck, I got in the boat and pushed to other man in the deck also and locked the door not be broken, after sometime we reached the pace we come we reached the place we came from. I went to the Police Station and left the two men in the deck. I told the Police Officer the whole story and showed him the packet of Heroin.

After sometime all of the things were taken away and the two men were arrested. The next day I met my parents and my photo also came in the papers.





In heaven, on a cloud, was the Silk Cushion Inn. So beautiful was it that no words were sufficient to describe’ it. The Silk Cushion Inn had “the. softest,, most .tender, structure ever seen, Everything-looked like it was j made up of fluffy cotton balls! or some candy floss. There was no sound of pitter-patter, on the floors for the legs were sunk in the clouds. The walls were so soft that reclining hard against them would mean sinking in. Sleeping here mean that you slept on till you were woken up. There was a special alarm system that woke you up. It rang like a bird song.

It was known, about the Silk Cushion Inn that if anyone sick slept there he woke up all right. Such were the comforts that there was always electricity and water available in abundance, collected from lightening and the rain. Different machines operated on electricity. There were robots to listen to your every command. The waterfalls and the ponds they fell into had all sorts of beautiful fish swimming in it. The stars glowing in the sky just like lamps provided the direction. There were shops, which gave out free chocolate and sweets.

Pieces of moon would fall out and become expensive gems and harps would play soothing tones. Fountains of syrup flowed. Anybody who did good deeds in a day would be put up at the Silk Cushion Inn.

Around this inn there would always be a lot of hustle and bustle. Angels fluttered their wings. Then there were all those close to God, His deputies, and all good men. They were those who had not been sent down to Earth because they were needed in the skies to look after, the .work there. Otherwise who would maintain God’s offices? There was a system there, just like on Earth, where there were differently trained people to cater to the specific departments. Up above electricity came from lightning. Water was’ obtained from rain, People would gather in Sky Square whenever it poured

“Great its going to be bath day today. We’re going to wash our clothes With .the lightning there, work could be attempted at night too,.”I have so much work left over from morning. I think I will complete it in the night,” Someone would say. Meanwhile the angle would be out and about for the benefit of the sinners on Earth / Cleaning them, washing away their sins.

“That mortal on the East Side has committed a sin. We’ll have to cleanse it away. Is a typical line that .one may hear from the angels. On their winged; motorbikes they would reach the place, purify the soul of the evildoer and make him learn from his mistakes. “Do not repeat what you have done again,” they’d leave telling him.

The scene in skies would have God’s people in big, pure white robes strolling from here and there in pursuit of their daily chores, monitoring the weaknesses of human beings and rectifying them. There has been a fight in the corner house on Morris Street.

We’ll have to get there to sort things out. With this and a straight drop from an invisible ladder they’d descend on the house. Spraying an essence of peace they restore things to normal.

The grading system even persists here. Those close to God are given the most important jobs. The best were made to ward off the worst degree of evil. In the capable hands of these angels, all problems would be solved just like that. Some had spacecraft to escort them to Earth. God gave these crafts to die most deserving.

“I earned mine at the annual good deeds contest.” One of the owners informed. Amongst prizes given by God was also a chance to see Mars. Said one angel to another at one such contest, “I have been trying for two years but hope to succeed this year.” The faces of those heavenly folks are so beautiful that they would put the-moon to shame;

Sometimes the moon would cover itself when it saw them. “I feel shadowed by their beauty.” It would say quite awkwardly.

But now my day in this heaven is reaching an end. No bother, 1 will continue with my good deeds to be put up in the Silk Cushion Inn once again. *




In the year 1907, there lived a witch in the village of Brooklyn, or so it was said. The house in which she lived was called the haunted house and the villagers, be it even the bravest of men in town, were scared of going near it Spooky tales were told about the house, “Hey Sara, my brother was telling me that his friend heard sounds from the house God knows how true is that?” said Hazel, a villager. Unknowingly, people did stroll by the haunted house unaware of the stories told about the house and its spooky atmosphere, only to find windows and doors swinging to and fro. Terrifying shrieks could be heard from within and sometimes one could hear the howling of a wolf coupled with hooting of an owl. The story ran such: Years ago there lived a very, beautiful young woman, Sandra, in this village. Her beauty was compared to the beauty of the moon and poets wrote poems about her many suitors, whom she would turn down because she was in love with Jack, a really handsome and rich guy from a nearby village. However, Jack did not turn out to be as faithful as Sandra thought him to be, and he ditched her in order to marry another female. Sandra could not bear this, so she sought revenge on him. It was then that she became evil. So evil that she came to be known as the witch. Rumours started to spread about her all around. “I am so sure she would have untied unruly hair, long pointed nails, and a crooked nose. Exactly like a witch!” said Gertrude to Jane Children would throw stones at the windows of this house and to their thrill, I shadow would be soon running towards them. Before ill could catch up on them, They would run, run for their lives.

One day it so happened that a girl, Sabrina, who had I strolled near the haunted house with her friends, was captured by the witch, though her friends managed to escape. When she returned to the village, she could not speak. The witch had cast a spell on her. She was an example for the villagers that they would stop going to the haunted house and bothering her, or otherwise face the consequences.

Sabrina had a very pious grandmother and she tried hard to break the spell, but failed to do so. She prayed very hard but even her prayers were not I powerful enough to break the spell cast by the witch.

“I feel so sad to see Sabrina so silent,” said her mother to her friend. She was a child with a sunny disposition,” said the friend. No stone was left unturned. Various means were tried to break the spell. So much so that somebody suggested, “a fortune of gold coins should be offered to the witch they went to the extent of calling the village ‘priest to help them break the spell but that too in vain. The priest though had a suggestion, “Take some holy water and sprinkle it on the witch. You will definitely break the spell then.” However, even this did not work and certainly did not break the spell.

Sabrina had now grown into a fair maiden but she was silent as a stone. One day her grandmother came with the news about a wizard in a nearby village. It was said also. This might prove to be of some help. They tried to contact the wizard but he “refused to meet anybody, without giving any reason good enough.

One day while Sabrina was sitting in her backyard peeling fruit, one of the apples slipped from her hands. To her surprise she called to her room. She could not believe that this was happening. She had actually called out to her mom. She tried again and yes! There it was – the word mom! Her mother heard her, not believing her ears at first. She ran out and hugged Sabrina. It was time to rejoice. Her mom asked her dad to get as many sweets as he could. “I may distribute them in gratitude of the mercy God has shown us.”

As they sat together one day, happily, now that Sabrina could also speak, her grandmother explained.

“Yesterday I met Mrs. Anne. She told me that the spell on Sabrina was broken when the wizard visited the witch. A woman’s ego matters to her the most. The witch’s ego had been deeply hurt when she was ditched by Jack. When the wizard visited her, they had a long talk and she realized that it was unfair to make the villagers’ life miserable because of her own miseries. It was then that she broke the spell.1′ She further explained that in reality there is no such thing as a witch or a wizard. It is pure evil in a person that reveals itself at one point or the other.




His income depended on going underwater. If, whatever this was not finished, how was anybody to invade the waters ever again; They led a comfortable life thanks to the pearls. He was able to get for his wife whatever she desired. Ever then he had enough money on him to buy himself underwater equipment and make a good saving.

Asghar belonged to the coastal town of Archipelago. His tanned skin revealed exposure to the sun; Archipelago was famous; for its pearls. And Asghar was a diver. A diver for pearls.

One morning, while leaving for work, her told his wife; I’ll get some fish with the Cook it the; same way out did last time”. At the beach he could see a large; gathering of people. Upon inquiring he discovered that in the midst of this gathering lay a dead body. Upon at happened he asked. “I really don’t know replied the man standing next to him.

As he made his way through the crowd, he was able to see the dead body clearly. It was of a fellow diver. The pearl divers from this town knew each other really well. They all were given a license; and were paid to search for pearls. “Oh my God!” he “exclaimed; as he saw strange marks on the man’s neck. People from the press, the police and the dead man’s family member were amongst the, people who had gathered all around ‘ Asghar’s wife would be waiting for the fish but he could not help it.

The police said that the marks seemed like those from an octopus. The waters were known to be safe.

What untoward incident could have killed him? The policeman decided to send Asghar to look into the matter. He had a harpoon and a cage to protect him from the mysterious beast.

He went home to tell his wife about all that had happened. “Darling do not worry. Just pray for my safe return.” He loved her very much. After reaching about a 100 feet underwater it started to get dark. Though Asghar knew how deep he had come the darkness sent chills down his spine. Murky water accompanied by a hissing sound like that of a snake hissing. Three dead fish passed by him and the sound seemed to be getting closer. The cage would protect him but what if the creature were small enough to enter through the bars. He assured himself, “The waters are safe. It’s just my imagination playing up.” His wife’s prayers were with him. His eyes searched the waters. He heard the sound of a whip lashing on something and breaking it. Just like a snake would curl around its prey squeezing the life out of him. It would be a matter of only a few minutes to be dead in such a case.

His income depended on going underwater. If, whatever this was not finished, how was anybody to invade the waters ever again? They led a comfortable life thanks to the pearls. He was able to get for his wife whatever she desired. Even then he had enough money on him to buy himself underwater, equipment and make a good saving. It was due to these savings that he had been able to purchase this harpoon gun. The advertisement said that it could also prove to be helpful in killing small whales.

Lost in his thoughts he felt the creeps from the darkness once again. He felt his cage shake. He lifted his gun and pointed it in the direction of the noise. He saw a tail and that very moment it dawned upon him that this could be what had caused the marks on his fellow diver’s neck. All of a sudden, before he could react, the creature flung itself onto the cage. “Oh God! Is this my last dive? The last dive, God!” was all that Asghar could think of at this point. He quivered at the grotesque sight of this horrible huge beast. He was brave, alright, but what he saw was enough to make him want to retreat. But that was not possible. The creature hurled himself again. Asghar picked up his harpoon and aimed it at him. It pierced its centre again and again. After what seemed like ages, Asghar succeeded in injuring and eventually killing the creature. Blinded with pain it moved away. His joy knew no bounds. He had succeeded.

After he was through with his task he surfaced to a hero’s welcome.



Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is a Hero For All Americans

Reported by Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace  1/15/2018


Today, January 15 is Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and it is also a federal holiday here in the United States. Understandably, this holiday has very special meaning for African-Americans throughout the United States and across the world. It is a holiday that should also be vigorously celebrated by all other Americans as well. Dr. King not only fought for the rights of African-Americans but he was fighting for the rights of all other minorities in the United States. The rights of white women, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, Arabs and Muslims, Jews and Buddhists, Atheists and Agnostics and all other minority groups that reside in the United States owe their freedoms to the legacy and sacrifice of Dr. King.

Can we imagine an America without Dr. King sacrifices? Would Korean-Americans in Southern California have the freedom and equality to own businesses and be successful in living the American dream or would they still have been relegated to second-class citizenship as was the case in the 1960’s? Would doctors from India and Pakistan be able to come to America and pursue such high standards of living while at the same time treating Americans of all races in their practices and making the quality of healthcare better for all Americans or would segregation and Jim Crow laws have prevented them from only seeing minority clients and drinking from Black only fountains? It would be foolish to think that only African Americans would be treated badly history shows that anyone who was not white did not have the privilege to access certain facilities.

Countless white Americans have intermarried with Asians blacks Latinos and other races and former beautiful families over the last several decades. What all these families be possible without the sacrifice and struggles of Dr. King in getting equality for all Americans?

A Barack Obama would not be possible if it was not for the sacrifices of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Young children across America of various ethnic backgrounds now have a role model and a vision that they too can attain the highest office in the land now that the color barrier has been broken in the White House. Without Dr. King, President Obama is not possible and hope does not have a vision.

As a Pakistani-American, I do not take for granted the freedoms that I enjoy today in 2018 and that my children are able to take advantage of as well. I clearly understand that along with Dr. King and many other civil rights leaders of the 60s we would not have the freedoms that we now have and those that we take for granted.

Martin Luther King holiday is a holiday for all Americans of all races including white Americans. He has a legacy that has made this country great and what it is today. MLK Day is a day of celebration and a day for all Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to reflect upon Dr. King’s legacy and to honor his memory and ultimate sacrifice for all of us to live in a better America and thus a better world today. As Americans, he belongs to us all and we all should celebrate his life and contributions in making us a great country and society.

Pakistan: US Participation a Must in Russia-initiated Afghan Talks

As Reported by Ayaz Gul for The Voice of America

Pakistan says that Russia-sponsored international talks on Afghanistan must involve the United States for bringing peace to the war-riven country, because Washington is the “biggest stakeholder” there.

Moscow plans to host this week (April 14) a new expanded round of multi-nation “consultations” it has recently launched with the stated goals of developing a “regional approach” for promoting Afghan security and a government-led national reconciliation with the Taliban.

But the U.S. administration has already refused to take part in the conference, questioning Russian intentions and motives.

Speaking to a local television station before the Moscow talks, the Pakistani prime minister’s foreign policy aide, Tariq Fatemi, stopped short of admitting the absence of Washington will not allow the multi-nation process to achieve its mission.

“They [U.S] have their troops present [in Afghanistan], they have invested one trillion dollars there, they are the biggest stakeholder, they have lost hundreds of their soldiers, so they have their interests there,” Fatemi explained.

While Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, China, India were represented in the last round of talks in Moscow earlier this year, former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited for the first time to attend the April 14 conference.

“We hope and desire that when any such peace initiative will enter into a next stage, America will have to be made part of it,” Fatemi told Aaj TV when asked whether the Russian-initiated process could bring peace to Afghanistan without Washington.

Pakistan believes Russia is “positively” using its influence with the Taliban to encourage them to join peace talks and Islamabad is supportive of any such efforts, Fatemi insisted.

“Russia has told us its major concerns are that if civil war conditions are there in Afghanistan, it can become a center for terrorist organizations like Islamic State, or Daesh, who will then try to infiltrate into bordering Central Asian states,” the Pakistani official explained.

The Taliban’s attacks on rival IS fighters in a bid to prevent them from establishing a foothold in the country apparently encouraged Russia to support the insurgent group. But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday again warned Moscow against maintaining contacts with the Taliban.

“Anyone who thinks they can help themselves by helping the enemy of their enemy is mistaken. Anyone who thinks that they can differentiate between good and bad terrorism is mistaken,” Ghani said.

Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, Ghani acknowledged Russia is also threatened by terrorism and sympathized with victims of recent terrorist attack in that country.

“We have an intense dialogue with all our interlocutors because a stable Afghanistan is to everybody’s benefit and unstable Afghanistan hurts everyone,” Ghani said when asked whether Kabul plans to attend Moscow talks on Friday. He added he wants Afghanistan “as a center of cooperation” in all efforts aimed at stabilizing his country.

The Russian foreign ministry, while regretting Washington’s refusal to attend the coming talks, had also underscored the United States is an “important player” in settling the Afghan conflict.

“So [the United States] joining the peacekeeping efforts of the countries of the region would help to reinforce the message to the Afghan armed opposition regarding the need to stop armed resistance and to start talks,” it maintained.

Meanwhile, Fatemi said Pakistan has also stepped up diplomatic efforts to ease tensions with Afghanistan and is seeking implementation of a proposed mechanism the two sides agreed to in talks last months that were mediated by Britain.

The mechanism, he explained, would allow establishment of a “channel of communication at different levels” between Islamabad and Kabul to help remove “any misunderstanding” and deal with any terrorist incident on either side of their shared border.

“Talks [between the two countries] at the Army level and at different other levels are currently underway, and at a final stage, if needed, foreign ministers of the two countries will also engage in frequent meetings,” Fatemi said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan each deny allegations they harbor and support anti-state militants engaged in terrorist attacks on their respective soils. Tensions have lately risen because of Islamabad’s unilateral border security measures to prevent terrorist infiltration.

Kabul disputes portions of the 2,600-kilometer border between the two countries and is opposed to fencing them, saying it will further add to problems facing divided families.

Why I believe Pakistanis are the most gracious people in the world

By Harsh Mander for Scroll.In and

Pakistan Generosity

My mother was forced to leave behind the city of her birth, Rawalpindi, when she was just 18 because of the tumultuous ruptures of Partition. She had never returned. When she was to turn 75, I thought the best gift I could give her was to take her, if it was at all possible, to the city and to the home in which she was born.

I emailed my friends in Pakistan tentatively with my plan. They were immediately very welcoming.

“Just get her a visa, leave the rest to us,” they said. I applied for visas for my parents and the rest of my family. It seemed then a small miracle that we got these easily. I booked our flight tickets, and before long we were on our way.

A warm welcome

Our flight landed in Lahore, and our friends drove us from the airport to their home in Islamabad. I noticed that my mother was initially a little tense. Maybe it was memories of the violence of her exile; maybe it was just the idea that this was now a foreign land, and for many in India the enemy land.

I watched my mother gradually relax on the road journey to Islamabad, as she delighted in hearing my friends and the car driver speak the Punjabi of her childhood, and as she watched the altered landscape of her journey. Islamabad, of course, did not exist when she lived in the Punjab of her days.

In Islamabad, my friends invited to their homes many of their associates with their parents. They organised evenings of Punjabi poetry and music, which my parents relished. Our friends drove us to Murree, the hill-station in which my mother spent many pleasant summers as a child.

My mother had just one more request. Could she go to see the colony in Rawalpindi where she was born and spent her childhood in? My father also wanted to visit his college, the famous Gordon College in Rawalpindi.

A homecoming

My mother recalled that the name of the residential colony in which she lived as a child was called Gawal Mandi. My friends knew it well; it was now an upmarket upper middle-class enclave.

When we reached there, my mother tried to locate the house of her childhood. It seemed impossible. Everything was new: most of the old houses had been rebuilt and opulent new structures had come up in their place.

She located the building that had housed their gurudwara. It had now been converted into a health centre. But we had almost despaired of actually finding her childhood house. We doubted if it was even standing all these years later.

We were leaving when suddenly my mother pointed to the filigree work on the balconies of one of the old houses. My mother said: “I remember it because my father was very proud of the designs. He said there was none like it in the neighbourhood.”

Taking a chance, we knocked tentatively on the door of the house. A middle-aged man opened it, and asked us who we wanted to meet.

My mother said apologetically, “We are so sorry to trouble you, and intrude suddenly in this way. But I lived as a child in Gawal Mandi, before Partition, when we had to leave for India. I think this maybe was our home.”

The house owner’s response was spontaneous and immediate.

Mataji, why do you say that this was your home? It continues to be your home even today. You are most welcome.”

And he led us all in.

Before long, my mother confirmed that this was indeed her childhood home. She went from room to room, and then to the terrace, almost in a trance, recalling all the while fragments of her childhood memories in various corners of this house.

For months after we returned to Delhi, she would tell me that recollections of the house returned to her in her dreams.

Take a look: Why my heart said Pakistan Zindabad!

Half an hour later, we thanked the house-owners and said that we would be on our way. But they would not hear of it.

We were told: “You have come to your childhood home, then how can we let you go without you having a meal with us here?”

They overruled all our protestations, and lunch was prepared for around eight members of our party, including not just my family but also our Pakistani hosts. Only when they were sure that we had eaten our fill, and more, did they allow us to leave.

Caravan to Pakistan

After we returned to India, news of our adventure spread quickly among family and friends. The next year, my mother-in-law — a wheel-chair user — requested that we take her to Pakistan to visit her childhood home, this time in Gujranwala.

Given the joys of my parents’ successful visit, I was more confident. Many elderly aunts and an elderly uncle joined the trip, and in the end my wife and I accompanied six older people to Pakistan.

Our experience was very similar to that of the previous year. The owner of their old ancestral haveli in Gujranwala village took my mother-in-law around the sprawling property on her wheel-chair, and after we had eaten with them asked her: “Would you not like to check out your farm-lands?”

On both visits, wherever my wife visited shops for clothes, footwear or handicrafts, if the shopkeepers recognised her to be Indian, they would invariably insist on a hefty concession on the price. “You are our guests,” they would say. “How can we make a profit from our guests?”

As news of these visits travelled further, my associates from an NGO Ashagram working in the small town of Barwani in Madhya Pradesh for the care and rights of persons living with leprosy — with which I have had a long association — demanded that I organise a visit to Pakistan for them too.

See: Pakistanis seem to love Indians. Do Indians feel the same way?

Once again, the Pakistan High Commission granted them visas. There was only one catch this time: all of them were vegetarian. They enjoyed greatly the week they spent in Pakistan, except for the food.

Every night they would set out looking for a wayside shop to buy fruit juice. Each night they found a new shop, and each night without exception, the shopkeeper refused to accept any money for the fruit juice. “We will not charge money from our guests from India,” they would say each time.

This happened for a full week.

I have travelled to many countries around the world in the 60 years of my life. I have never encountered a people as gracious as those in Pakistan.

This declaration is my latest act of sedition.

Getting To Serenity: 10 Daily Habits For Inner Peace


By Meerabelle Dey for The Huffington Post

We all want serenity, that elusive state of calm that seems to belong solely to Tibetan monks and yoga instructors. People with serenity are better equipped to enjoy life. Their small problems remain small and don’t become magnified into huge catastrophes. And when real crises arise, they react with steady, clear thinking.

However, serenity isn’t achieved without effort. Just as we need proper exercise habits to have healthy bodies, we need good mental habits to have peaceful minds. To that end, here are some daily habits to get you on your own path to serenity.

1. Give Thanks Continually. When your alarm goes off, before you even get out of bed, close your eyes and think about the ways in which you’ve been blessed. Consider the most basic gifts that you have: a job, good relationships, your home, your clothing, your health. Then continue to give thanks throughout the day. If someone lets you in their lane when you are driving, give thanks. When your paycheck is deposited into your account, give thanks. When your child comes home from school safely, give thanks. Make a point of acknowledging every good thing that happens to you.

2. As Soon As Your Mind Wanders Off in The Wrong Direction, Get It Back on Course. We know when we are getting mentally off course. We get irritated over minor things. We decide it’s our job to correct other people’s bad behavior. We obsess over past slights. These are all symptoms of the mind going down a path toward wrong thinking. Like a car that has shifted into a lane with on-coming traffic, our minds also can shift into the wrong lane. As soon as that happens, stop what you are doing. Walk away from the person who isn’t acting properly. Then do whatever it is that helps you get your mind back on track. For me, it’s reading something spiritual. For others, it may be listening to inspiring music or talking to a good friend. By re-directing your mind, you can more easily return to clear thinking.

3. Practice Acceptance. Practicing acceptance doesn’t mean that you allow yourself to be treated poorly by others. It means that you accept others for who they are. If someone is a jerk or manipulative, that is who they are. It’s your choice whether or not to spend time with them, but accept that you can’t change them. Likewise, practicing acceptance doesn’t mean that you don’t try to improve your life. For instance, you may not like your current job or home. Accept your situation for what it is today. Do your best at your job, and make your home as beautiful as possible. Appreciate that you have work and a place to live. Then do what you can each day to get your dream job or home in the future. Acceptance isn’t stagnation. Acceptance is understanding what you can and cannot change.

4. Be Kind To Others. There is no scenario in which being unkind to others will benefit you. So be careful how you operate. The ugly things that you say and do to other people may affect them, but those actions will poison you. If you are unhappy, take a long, hard look at your behavior. If you spew mean comments or take advantage of people, you will be miserable. I can’t sugarcoat that. Instead, be consistently kind. Build others up. Be helpful. You will find that by doing those three things, you’ll be at peace with yourself because you will actually like yourself.

5. Be Careful What You Drink. Some things we drink can affect our minds. Coffee, tea and some soft drinks have caffeine. Caffeine affects each person differently. Evaluate how it affects you. If it makes you jumpy or irritable, then either reduce your consumption or eliminate it altogether. Alcohol affects people differently as well. If drinking wine, beer or hard liquor makes you anxious or depressed, again, limit your drinking or cut alcohol out of your life altogether. Being happy is more important than your Starbucks or your nightly glass of wine.

6. Get Enough Sleep. Our minds cannot think clearly if they aren’t rested. Small children need copious amounts of sleep in order to be happy. Adults are no different. While we may not throw ourselves on the floor and scream if we haven’t had a nap, we function only slightly better without sleep. Develop good sleep habits. Go to bed early. There is nothing wrong with going to bed at 9 p.m. The television shows you are missing aren’t nearly as important as your serenity.

7. Watch and Read the Right Kind of Books, Movies and Television. What we watch and read affects how we think. Choose your entertainment carefully. There is a lot of violent, pointless junk out there which is deemed to be “avant-garde” or “creative.” If you want to have a relaxed mind, spend your time watching and reading things that have a positive message or that educate. Don’t spend your valuable free time filling your mind with garbage just because it’s popular.

8. Keep a Clean, Uncluttered Home. There is a reason why spas don’t have dirty towels on the floors and shelves covered with knickknacks. You can’t relax in a place that is messy. A cluttered home or room is a sign of a cluttered or unstable mind. Make your home a place that is tidy and beautiful. You should breathe a sigh of relief when you enter your home. It should be a refuge for both your mind and your senses.

9. Spend Some Parts of the Day without Noise. There is nothing wrong with television per se, but there is something wrong with the television being on all the time. People tend to turn on the television to avoid being uncomfortable. We are either uncomfortable with our families, or we are uncomfortable with ourselves. So we distract ourselves from that discomfort with a lot of racket. The problem is that noise impedes you from truly relaxing. Make the choice to give your ears and mind a break, and enjoy the silence.

10. Spend Time with the Right Kind of People. There are people who can’t help but be a problem. Everywhere they go, they create drama. Someone has always done them wrong, or they are continually upset about something. Or they just can’t say anything nice. Give those people wide berth. You can’t necessarily eliminate those people from your life, but you can limit your contact with them. It is a matter of self-preservation. When you allow people into your life who bring chaos, it is very hard to maintain your serenity. It isn’t your job to make their lives better. It is their job to not spread their brand of drama.

The Rights of non-Muslims in Islam



Intelligent people understand this.

Prophet Muhammad(sa) gave zero permission to curtail the rights of non-Muslims.

Stand with Ahmed against Islamophobia

By Haroon Moghul for CNN

(CNN)The last time I wrote about events in Texas, it was so ridiculous it almost seemed funny. This time, though, I confess my reservoir of sympathy has run nearly dry. Fourteen-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, who attends Texas’ MacArthur High School, was arrested for bring a bomb to school.

Except it was a clock.

Ahmed had actually told his teacher that he’d made the clock at home and brought it in to show what he was capable of. Well, one teacher showed us what this country is capable of, too. The police were called, arrested Ahmed on suspicion of building a bomb and the snap of a shocked young teenager in a NASA T-shirt has gone global.

Irving, Texas, is not far from Dallas, the same part of the country that was making a bid for the 2024 Olympics. Before you welcome the world, might I suggest you welcome your own citizens?

On Tuesday, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz wrote an op-ed for The Daily Beast asking us to pay attention to Islam’s “jihadism problem.” (A few decades off, but hey, better late than never, guys.) Today, however, America woke up to its Islamophobia problem. It’s a reality American Muslims have endured for years.

Because let’s be real. The clock didn’t look like a bomb. Ahmed just looked to some like someone who might want to make bombs. He’s that very menacing brownish color that racists and bigots associate with either everything south of Texas or some country they probably think is called Terroristan. As it happens, he’s of African, specifically Sudanese, descent. He’s got a doubly Muslim name.

Are you surprised he was arrested?

It’s been 14 years since September 11, and some Americans still cannot believe Muslims are human beings, or American Muslims are Americans or that no people shouldn’t be judged by the actions of people they are completely unrelated to.

And why? Let’s not beat around the bush. We have a whole class of professional bigots — I’ve called them “Islamsplainers” — whose very purpose in the world is to tell us what Islam really is. Except their explanations are based on no evidence, little argument and zero interaction with actual Muslims. They make broad, sweeping, ridiculous generalizations, which would be wholly and completely unacceptable if directed at any other people. Yet America takes them seriously.

It’s trickle-down Islamophobia, the opportunistic and grimy peddling of misinformation, making money and accumulating airtime by alarming Americans with exaggerated fears and wholly decontextualized theses.

Glenn Beck. Bill Maher. Robert Spencer. Pamela Geller. Sam Harris. Maajid Nawaz. Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Their views are vile, hateful, ignorant and, frankly, scary. Yet instead of being called out, they continue to receive mainstream endorsement. In fact, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a fellow at Harvard, while Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz’s terrible new book was also published by Harvard Press. Is this what passes for intelligent conversation in supposedly sophisticated circles?

Our professional Islamophobes say the same things, over and over again. They publish the same arguments, over and over again. Glenn Beck’s new book, cleverly titled “It IS About Islam,” is pretty much a rehash of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s latest book, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.” (Probably none of them could invent a clock. Probably they’re just jealous.)

And people who don’t know any better eat it up. They think it’s the truth. They believe Muslim extremism is somehow different from other kinds of extremism. That radicalism is pervasive in Muslim communities. That American Muslims are terrorists. That our cemeteries are secret jihadist training grounds. (Really, we couldn’t think of a better cover story for jihad camp than “Muslim burial ground?”) That all Muslims are either jihadist apologists or jihadist denialists. That the dangerous nature of Muslims requires persistent surveillance.

As Daily Beast columnist and CNN contributor Dean Obeidallah has shown, Irving has proved especially receptive to these arguments, and its mayor has partaken in the demonization of Islam. People like her are part of the Islamophobia problem and why a 14-year-old kid got arrested for doing the most American of things: Tinkering. Inventing. Creating. For heaven’s sake, he’s got a NASA T-shirt on. He’s looking to the future, the place we used to think we owned. And do you know why we feel like we don’t? It’s not because of people like me, or kids like Ahmed. We believe in America. It’s the racists and bigots that don’t.

When I was 14, I loved “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” I watched each episode religiously. I had and still have a man crush on Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. I wanted to marry Counselor Troi in a Sharia-compliant ceremony. I screamed out in agony at the third season finale. I believed I’d become a theoretical physicist. But I didn’t.

Fast forward to today, and instead of being able to focus on what I want, studying what I want, contributing what I feel most able to, I have to talk about my identity 24/7, because who else is going to respond to the racists, the bigots, the misinformants? Who’s going to read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s next book, or Sam Harris’ subsequent screed and tell you, once again, that despite all their advantages, they still know next to nothing about Islam, about Muslims, about America’s Muslims?

So yes, I and countless other Muslims will keep fighting the good fight, joining hands with people of conscience and conviction to oppose injustices, inequalities and racism of all kinds. Why? So that the real next generation — Ahmed’s generation — can follow their dreams. Not suffer for some people’s nightmares.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note: Haroon Moghul is a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He is an author, essayist and public speaker. Follow him @hsmoghul. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

#IStandwithAhmed, #AhmedMohamed, #Texas, #Irving, #Islam, #Islamophobia, #Mulims, #Clock, #IT, #SiliconValley, #Tech

Why Don’t Men Cover Their Faces?

By Hind Aleryani for Your Middle East
Yemeni blogger and journalist @HindAleryani tells her intimate story about what’s feminine and masculine in the Middle East.


We used to play at my aunt’s garden when we were younger…girls and boys, there was no difference… we grew up together… we used to race, play, laugh… sometimes we would fight playfully… we used to watch TV together… cry at the end of sad cartoons together… we grew a bit older… we began to study for our classes together… whenever we’d fight we used to threaten the other that we’d tell on them to the teacher… we used to play practical jokes on one another… we’d laugh with all our hearts…

And so the days went by…

My cousin and I are staring outside the window… we are looking at the garden where my male cousin and his friends are playing… this is the garden where we used to play together… they used to be our friends once upon a time… these are the boys we used to play with… what happened? Why are we prisoners at home, while they play ball outside with all freedom… what did we do? Did we grow older? Did our bodies change? Did we become an object of temptation that needs to be covered from people’s eyes? Aren’t those the boys we knew since we were children? What changed? Why are we strangers? Why do I run and hide whenever I hear one of their voices? Is it just because the pitch of his voice changed? Is that why we aren’t friends anymore? Are we supposed to act differently towards one another? Different to how we acted just yesterday? We started to act shy and anxious whenever we’d speak… we stopped playing with one another… My cousin and I began spending our spare time watching Mexican soap operas, as if we were in our 50s…

And so the days went by…

I am at school…we are learning about what a woman should cover… her hair is temptation… her eyebrows are temptation… I remembered my favorite male singer… his eyes were beautiful too… his hair is beautiful… why doesn’t he veil? I asked myself this question, however, I couldn’t find the answer… I remembered that I was banned from playing in the garden because I hit puberty… however, my male friends weren’t… didn’t they hit puberty too? Why weren’t they imprisoned at home? I also couldn’t find the answer…

And so the days went by…

I hear it all the time… “A woman is a jewel that needs to be protected (i.e. covered)”… and sometimes it is even said that a woman is like candy “if you remove the wrapper (i.e. the cover) the flies will swarm around her”… I turn on the TV and find that favorite male singer that I am so fond of brushing his soft silky hair and flaunting his handsomeness… his arms are bare… his chest is bare… why isn’t this object of temptation covered? Why isn’t he imprisoned at home? Why aren’t women tempted by him? Some might claim that a woman shouldn’t look at this… then shouldn’t men shield their gaze when looking at a tempting female “object”? I couldn’t find the answer…

And so the days went by…

I am at university… I see some people distributing a small religious book… “Temptations of a Woman”…Her hair… her feet… her eyes, and “thus, a woman must cover one of her eyes as both of them together are tempting”…I swear this is what I read in this book!… it’s as if there is nothing left in this world to talk about and scrutinize other than a woman and how she is a temptation…I decided to observe men’s looks…I wanted to know which women would attract men with her temptation… in front of me walks a woman wearing a tight Abaya (long black cover)… aha!.. I found her… she is an object of temptation… I continue watching… in front of me walks a woman with a baggy Abaya, however, with an uncovered face…the man stares at her… aha! So her face is also a temptation… a third woman walks in front of me… her face is covered and she is wearing a baggy Abaya from top to toe… the man is staring at her! Huh? I don’t understand… what is so tempting about a black Abaya? No eyes, no feet… What is this man staring at? At that moment I realized that clothing has nothing to do with it… men would stare on all occasions… however, he, with his broad shoulders and his hair, eyes and lips isn’t considered an object of temptation, even if all the women in the world started at him… he is a man…he shouldn’t hide in his home… no one calls him a jewel… at that moment I wished I wasn’t a jewel. I wished to be a free man…

And so the days went by…

I am in a Western country… women are walking around me…one is wearing pants… the other is wearing a short skirt…another wears shorts…men and women are walking side by side… it is strange… no one is staring… why don’t I see the looks of men I saw in my country? Those looks that made a woman feel naked… those looks that I hated… the ones that made me hate being on this earth, and hate being born a woman… those looks that deny me my humanity…why don’t I see those looks here? All the women are dressed up… why don’t I see those looks even though all the women are attractive here? I saw one women run and laugh… I remembered that I wasn’t allowed to run once I hit puberty… I remembered my aunt’s window… I remembered I was an object of temptation that must be covered… I remembered that a man in my country wears white, while I am covered in black… I asked myself, why don’t men wear black? Why don’t men cover their faces? And I couldn’t find the answer…

And so the days go by…


Pakistan No Country for Foreign Journalists

As reported by A REPORTER for DAWN


His sin – he was an Indian and a journalist reporting on Pakistan. And one hot day in the middle of June he was informed that his presence was no longer acceptable to someone, somewhere – through a phone call and a letter.

But despite the unceremonious departure, his one regret – at least in recent days – is that he will not be able to get “some nihari from Kale Khan in Pindi before [he] leave[s].”

Perhaps he has more regrets too – about friends he could not say goodbye too or places he was not allowed to visit but such are the state of affairs between his country and Pakistan that he refuses to talk about the issue at all. The longing for nihari too was gleaned from his twitter account.

And this silence says far more than any lengthy interview he may have given. The few details that are available came from someone close to him who spoke on the basis of anonymity.

Hasan – as always – was waiting for a renewal of his visa when on June 13 he got a letter informing him that he should leave by June 23.

The journalist panicked as he had no valid visa by then, without which he could not even leave. Much effort, phone calls and visits later, he was given a ‘generous’ extension till June 29.

The valid visa came on June 25 – finally making him eligible to leave.

“Two thirds of his time in Pakistan was spent waiting for an extension of his lapsed visa,” says the someone.

So much so that twice at least when his wife’s father had a heart attack, her family kept the news from her – because neither she nor Hasan could visit India and the ailing father.

Nothing of Hasan’s stay is unusual for an Indian journalist in Pakistan but his departure surely is.

The tradition is that “the journalist is allowed a short overlap with his successor for a smooth transition”. But both Hasan and Anita Joshua, the second Indian journalist in Pakistan, who were scheduled to leave in any case and were only waiting for their successors to show up, were denied this in recent months.

Indeed, Hasan’s abrupt departure came hot on the heels of the return of his counterpart – Anita Joshua of The Hindu – who was asked to leave shortly after the elections (but before the new government took charge) while New York Times’ Declan Walsh was bundled out a day after May 11, his notice period even shorter than the Indians.

The story of these three proves that Pakistan is fast turning into not just one of the most dangerous countries for journalists but also one of the most inhospitable.

“What else would you call a place that so abruptly orders out those who have been living here for years on such a short notice,” says a senior journalist.

When Walsh was thrown out, Pakistani journalists whispered that it happened because there was no empowered political government in place and the spooks got a chance to avenge past grievances.

But Joshua and Hasan were told to leave after Nawaz Sharif – the statesman who wanted and wants peace with India – has taken over. Yet there is not a peep out of the new government.

As Mariana Babar, a senior journalist, puts it, “These cases show how powerful the security establishment is. Indian journalists were reluctantly issued visas for a few days on eve of elections. The process started during the caretaker government and continued as Sharif government was in the process of settling. Now as The Hindu and Press Trust of India (PTI) have requested visas for new representatives, we will wait and see how much authority Sharif asserts.”

Admittedly, the India-Pakistan journalist exchange is notoriously reflective of the poor bilateral relations – the feel-good rhetoric of the politicians notwithstanding.

Both countries only allow two journalists from the other side to be stationed in the host country – but while the Indians use these positions, the Pakistanis are so uninterested in understanding our ‘worst enemy’ that no Pakistani reporter is based in India.

The PTI and the Hindu have a correspondent each based in Islamabad and what a welcome they are extended.

They are not allowed to move outside of Islamabad without permission (even Rawalpindi is out of bounds) and they are constantly shadowed by those who cannot prevent terrorist attacks but are aware of every nook and corner visited by the two Indian hacks in the soap dish sized Islamabad.

Yet these two people never forget to remind the one billion people living next doors that there is more than Taliban and extremism to Pakistan. And for those who want proof of this, they need not google the stories that Hasan and Joshua did – they should read the blog, “the Life and Times of Two Indians in Pakistan”.

Written mostly by Hasan’s wife, the posts paint a warm and engaging picture of her former host country (by the time this story appears in print, the couple will be on their way back to Delhi). Beyond the suo motu notices and the Taliban, these posts are about the more colourful characters that inhabit Islamabad; Mehmal the Lahori journalist; Pakistani music (“Still, give me Pakistani music any day” she writes) and the not to be missed post – about the testosterone filled spooks who follow her around.

“Bhai, I feel so special and so cared for each time I step out of the house and you try and match footsteps with me. The other day when you followed me into the superstore and kept me company when I was shopping for groceries, I was so moved.

“… And you looked so cute making a mental note of which pulses I eat and which brand of flour I buy. Ah! I so wish I could tell you so.”

There has rarely been such a wry account of what the spooks’ victims suffer. And one that even the non-Indian victims/residents of Islamabad can connect with.

Such posts and the memories of those who met and laughed with these two Indians will do far more for Indo-Pak relations than all the track two meetings.

Anita Joshua was no different. Less intense than Hasan (who reminded one of Amitabh Bachchan in his heyday, minus the height), her cheerful presence was a constant in the small social circle that the capital city offers to its inhabitants.

She was also generous enough to speak of the pain of living and working as a single woman in a small and conservative city such as Islamabad – with rare references to what it meant to be an Indian woman living alone here.

She was a mandatory participant of all the civil society gatherings in town provided the cause was a worthy one – trotting off to the Super Market sit-in more than once after the Hazara killings in Quetta.

And lest someone accuse her of being a ‘civil society type’, she was the only Indian ever invited to visit the Pakistani side of the Siachen Glacier by the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

It wasn’t because she had some special access – it was because she could get the message across to the Indian people and their government. She did.

Those who are continuously throwing journalists out of the country because they don’t approve of the stories should start seeing the glass as half empty instead of half full.

Each one of these journalists provided a glimpse of the Pakistan that many of us believe exists – where people struggle to make a living, where there are not just suicide bombers and militants but also their victims.

It is said that this is what got Walsh thrown out.

But does anyone remember Walsh’s human interest reporting?

Back in 2006, he reported on the media revolution in Pakistan by profiling Begum Nawazish Ali when Pakistanis were still far from aware of the change that television was about to bring to their lives.

And he reported on the missing people in 2007 before the superior judiciary became truly independent to discover the plight of the disappeared.

He endeared himself to many because long before the foreign corps discovered the “anti-Taliban fashion shows” in Pakistan, he had already found the Begum and written about her.

As a fellow journalist wrote in the New Yorker recently about Walsh, “The best Pakistani nonfiction writer was an Irishman”.

Such stories still need to be told – even if Walsh continues to also write on the drones and other ‘secrets’ that irritate some people. And Pakistan also needs the two lines of communications with the people of India.

Over a year ago when the military took Anita Joshua to Siachen, the former DG ISPR Athar Abbas said that it was “part of the Army’s campaign to open up,” adding that “May be we are more confident than the Indians about our case.”

Should one now assume that the Pakistanis are no longer confident about “their case”?

A Global Snapshot of Same-Sex Marriage

By  for The Pew Research Center


Around the world and in the United States, the pace of same-sex marriage legalization has picked up in recent years. Of the 15 countries worldwide to permit gay men and lesbians to marry, eight have done so since 2010. In addition, same-sex marriage is legal in some parts of the United States and Mexico but not others; of the 12 U.S. states (plus the District of Columbia) where same-sex marriage is or soon will be permitted, nine have legalized it since 2010.

In the United States, the spread of same-sex marriage laws has coincided with rapidly shifting public attitudes toward homosexuality. Six-in-ten Americans now say homosexuality should be accepted by society, up from 49% in 2007; 33% say it should not be accepted, down from 41% six years ago. (Look here for details on Americans’ changing attitudes toward same-sex marriage itself.)

In most other countries, attitudes toward homosexuality have been fairly stable in recent years. Not surprisingly, same-sex marriage has advanced the most in countries and regions where acceptance of homosexuality is highest.

We’ve surveyed eight of the 17 nations that have legalized same-sex marriage in all or part of their territory; in all but one of them at least 60% of people say homosexuality should be accepted. (The exception is South Africa, where only 32% say it should be accepted versus 61% saying it should not be; still, that was the highest acceptance level among the six African countries surveyed.)

On the other hand, among all but one (Jordan) of the 13 countries in our survey where 80% or more of people said homosexuality should not be accepted by society, same-sex relations are illegal in all or part of their territory, according to a report from the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association.

 is a Senior Writer at the Pew Research Center.


Militants Kill Nine Foreign Climbers in Pakistan

By Haq Nawaz Khan and Tim Craig for The Boston Globe


Gunmen stormed a camp on Pakistan’s second-largest mountain Sunday, killing nine foreign climbers, including a US citizen, in a brazen assault that could deal a blow to the country’s efforts to jump-start its tourism industry.

The Pakistani Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack, calling it retribution for a suspected US drone strike last month that killed Wali ur-Rehman, the second in command of the terrorist group.

‘‘Through this killing we gave a message to the international community to ask US to stop drone strikes,’’ said Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Taliban spokesman.

The attack in northern Pakistan at Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth-tallest mountain, occurred around 1 a.m. as the climbers and their guides were at a camp about 4,000 feet above sea level. According to local and regional officials, about a dozen gunmen tied up the climbers’ Pakistani guides before shooting the climbers as they slept in tents.

The attackers reportedly wore police uniforms, an increasingly common tactic that Taliban militants have used to evade scrutiny.

In all, 10 people were killed, including five from Ukraine, two from China, and one from Russia, according to preliminary information from Pakistani authorities. At least one Pakistani guide also was killed. At least one Chinese tourist survived and was rescued from the area, known as Fairy Meadows, officials said.

Pakistan’s interior minister said a US citizen was killed in the assault. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said four bodies have been identified, including those of a Chinese-American, two Chinese, and one local guide who is thought to be a Nepali national.

Matthew Boland, acting spokesman for the US Embassy in Islamabad, said authorities were withholding the identification of the American until relatives could be notified.

‘‘The United States government strongly condemns the terrorist attack on tourists in the northern areas of Pakistan in which nine innocent tourists and a Pakistani guide were murdered,’’ Boland said. ‘‘The US Embassy Islamabad expresses its deepest condolences to the family and friends of the US citizen and the other innocent tourists who were killed.’’

Boland said the FBI was working closely with Pakistani authorities to gather more information on the attack.

The assault occurred in the picturesque Gilgit-Baltistan area, a popular tourist area in the Himalayas near the country’s border with China. Nanga Parbat rises to 26,660 feet. The world’s second-largest mountain, K2, with an elevation of 28,251 feet, straddles Gilgit-Baltistan’s border with China.

The slayings come as Pakistan’s military and government have been trying to combat a wave of terrorist bombings and sectarian attacks, including some aimed at Shi’ites in the northern part of the country.

Attacks on foreigners have been rare, and Sunday’s killings rattled Pakistan’s government.

Khan, the interior minister, spent part of Sunday fielding calls from worried ambassadors, including Chinese envoy Xu Feihong.

‘‘He asked whether Chinese tourists were the target, and I said Pakistan was the target,’’ he said. ‘‘The terrorists want to give a message to the world that Pakistan is an insecure place and insecure country.’’

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to rebuild Pakistan’s economy. He said such acts of ‘‘cruelty and inhumanity’’ wouldn’t deter the state from efforts ‘‘to make Pakistan a safe place for tourists.’’

But Syed Mehdi Shah, the chief minister in Gilgit-Baltistan, said he worries that the incident will hurt the local economy, which relies heavily on the summer climbing season.

‘‘It will have negative effects on tourism in the scenic northern areas, which is the sole source of revenue of the government as well [as] of the local population,’’ he said.

Shahjahan Khetran, managing director of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, said the ‘‘government tries its best to provide security cover to tourists’’ in that area, including making hikers and climbers register their whereabouts.

But until now, Khetran noted, the biggest threats for tourists in that remote area were not man-made.

‘‘I personally see the involvement of some foreign hand, some foreign agency in this incident as local people could not think of carrying out such a heinous crime,’’ Khetran said. ‘‘Some foreign element could have carried out this attack to destroy Pakistani tourism.’’

For weeks, Pakistan’s Taliban has been vowing that it would avenge the death of Rehman, who was killed May 29 when a suspected CIA-operated drone fired two missiles into a house in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region.

US officials have not confirmed that they carried out that strike, but they had issued a $5 million reward for Rehman’s capture after he was linked to a 2009 assault that killed seven Americans at a CIA training facility in Afghanistan.

At the time, the Pakistani Taliban partly blamed the Islamabad government for not doing more to stop suspected US drone strikes on Pakistani soil.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– The tragic killing of these innocent foreign mountaineers in Pakistan goes to show that the Taliban one again can not be trusted and it is foolish to negotiate with them or even try. Pakistan must eradicate this menace from wiithin and only then will the citizens of Pakistan and other nations ever be safe.

Pakistan, Afghanistan trade accusations at U.N. over extremist havens

By Michelle Nichols for Reuters


Afghanistan and Pakistan traded accusations in the U.N. Security Council on Thursday over the whereabouts of Islamist extremists on their porous border as the United Nations described increased tensions between the neighbors as “unfortunate and dangerous.”

Afghanistan’s U.N. envoy, Zahir Tanin, told a council debate on the situation in Afghanistan that “terrorist sanctuaries continue to exist on Pakistan’s soil and some elements continue to use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy.”

Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador, Masood Khan, said “terrorists operate on both sides of the porous border” and many attacks against Pakistan were planned on Afghan soil. He said aggressive policing and border surveillance were needed.

“I reject most emphatically Ambassador Tanin’s argument – root, trunk and branch – that terrorist sanctuaries exist in Pakistan and some elements continue to use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy,” Khan told the council.

He told Reuters in an interview afterward that Tanin had been “ill-advised” to raise the border issues at the Security Council as Kabul and Islamabad were already talking through other channels. Khan blamed Afghan President Hamid Karzai for stoking tensions.

“When President Karzai meets our leadership, he’s most gracious, engaging, he’s a statesman. But when he talks to the media, he says things which inflame sentiment and that’s most unhelpful and destabilizing,” Khan said. “We have given very restrained responses.”

Pakistan’s role in the 12-year-old war in Afghanistan has been ambiguous – it is a U.S. ally but has a long history of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan in a bid to counter the influence of its regional rival India.

Pakistan’s military played a key role in convincing Afghan Taliban leaders to hold talks with the United States, U.S. and Pakistani officials said, but Afghan anger at fanfare over the opening of the Taliban’s Qatar office this week has since delayed preliminary discussions.

“We were talking to multiple interlocutors behind the scenes and we have been asking them to participate in these talks, (telling them) that we think the war should come to an end,” Khan told Reuters.


U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Pakistan helped the Taliban take power in Afghanistan in the 1990s and is facing a Taliban insurgency itself. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban, is a separate entity from the Afghan Taliban, though allied with them.

“Stability and sanctity of Pakistan-Afghanistan border is a shared responsibility. Robust deployment of Pakistani troops on our side is meant to interdict terrorists and criminals,” Khan told the council. “This must be matched from the other side.”

A spate of cross-border shelling incidents by the Pakistani military, who said they were targeting Taliban insurgents, has killed dozens of Afghan civilians in the past couple of years.

“We are very concerned with ongoing border shelling,” Tanin told the council. “This constitutes a serious threat to Afghan sovereignty and the prospect of friendly relations between the two countries.”

U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, told the Security Council that the heightened tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan were a serious concern, especially at this stage of Afghanistan’s development.

“Such tensions are unfortunate and dangerous,” he said.

The NATO command in Kabul on Tuesday handed over lead security responsibility to Afghan government forces across the country and most foreign troops are due to withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.

“It is for the two countries to address these concerns and problems and their underlying reasons, to build trust and to refrain from any step that could contribute to an escalation of tensions and inflamed public sentiments,” Kubis said.

“They share common concerns and interests in fighting terrorism. They can succeed or fail together,” he said.

Militants blow up historic Pakistan building linked to Mohammad Ali Jinnah : officials

As Reported by The AP


Separatist militants blew up a historic building linked to Pakistan’s founding father in the country’s violence-plagued southwest after shooting dead a guard in a predawn attack on Saturday, officials said.

The attackers, armed with automatic weapons entered the 19th century wooden Ziarat Residency after midnight and planted several bombs, senior administration official Nadeem Tahir told AFP.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the driving force behind the creation of the Pakistan, spent his last days in the building which was declared a national monument following his death, one year after the country’s independence in 1947.

The building is in Ziarat town, 80 kilometres southeast of Quetta, the capital of insurgency-hit Balochistan province. “They shot dead the guard who resisted the intruders,” Tahir said. Police official Asghar Ali said militants planted several bombs and detonated them by remote control. “The Ziarat Residency, which had its balcony, floor and front made of wood, has been totally gutted,” he said.

At least four blasts were heard in the town, he said. The building caught fire and it took five hours to bring the blaze under control as Ziarat, a small hill station, has no fire brigade. A separatist-group later claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We blew up the Ziarat Residency,” Meerak Baluch, a spokesman for the Balochistan Liberation Army said from undisclosed location. “We dont recognise any Pakistani monument.” No one has been arrested, officials said.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but most undeveloped province on the Iranian and Afghan border, is racked by Islamist and sectarian violence as well as a long-running separatist insurgency, and attacks on official buildings and security forces are common. The attack came after the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party of prime minister Nawaz Sharif won the May 11 elections in the country.

Sharif appointed Baloch nationalist leaders as governor and chief minister, raising hopes that a coalition between PML-N and nationalist parties could address some of the long-held grievances in the province about its treatment by the federal government.

Prime Minister Sharif and several political leaders strongly condemned the attack while Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar promised arrest of the attackers. Hundreds of people including, some party leaders and students staged a protest rally in the town demanding “exemplary punishment of culprits involved in the attack,” witnesses said.

Provincial Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob told reporters that “people involved in the colossal destruction of our national monument will not be spared”. “The government has ordered immediate steps to rebuild the Ziarat Residency in its original form,” he said.

“It was an undisputed structure, it had never received any threat in the past. Local people had special love for this site because it had been attracting local and foreign tourists,” he said. Ziarat, located at more than 2,500 metres above sea level and surrounded by Juniper trees is a popular tourist site.

The two-storey structure was built in 1892 and was formerly used by officials from the British Colonial rule in India. The furniture used by Jinnah and kept at its original place as national heritage since his death in September 1948, has also been destroyed, officials said.

Pakistan _ Nuclear-Armed but Short of Electricity

By Gujar Khan for The Associated Press


A woman named Rehana Yasmin struggles to keep her sick 2-year-old granddaughter cool in a sweltering hospital where working air conditioners are rare and electric fans are idle for much of the day.

Elsewhere, households can’t rely on their refrigerators, and at textile factories, factory workers say they can’t operate their machines for enough hours to earn their daily bread.

All are victims of Pakistan’s biggest problem, one that recently brought down a government — not the U.S. drone war in its backyard, not its permanent confrontation with India, but its inability to generate enough electricity. Pakistan, nuclear-armed, can’t deliver a reliable power supply to its 180 million citizens.

“Power, power, power is the problem. It’s power at home, in the workplace, on the streets,” said Rizwana Kauser, head nurse at the hospital in the city of Gujar Khan, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) from the capital, Islamabad.

Power can be out for up to 20 hours a day in the summer. TV coverage may be lost in the middle of a cliffhanger cricket match. Office meetings are scheduled around anticipated power cuts. Without electric fans, mosquitoes proliferate. People get stuck in elevators. Meat rots in refrigerators.

The shortfalls that became the top issue in the recent election are estimated at 3,500 to 6,000 megawatts — up to a third of total demand.

The problems result in part from bad bill-collecting, which leaves utility companies short of funds to pay for the oil that powers much of the production, which in turn means the state oil company can’t buy enough oil on international markets.

Power theft is rampant, often consisting of simply slinging a hook over a conveniently placed electricity wire. The infrastructure of the state-controlled utility companies around the country is outdated, the companies are inefficient, and power plants are heavily dependent on oil despite Pakistan’s abundant coal resources, experts say.

Fixing the problems is likely to take years, leaving Nawaz Sharif, the new prime minister, with a gargantuan task. But with Pakistanis impatient for action, the government has announced plans to pay off about $5 billion owed to companies throughout the supply chain within 60 days. It’s not a long-term solution but it would at least offer the government some breathing room.

And that’s just to keep the electricity flowing. Pakistan also has a problem with delivering natural gas to households and companies, and that too will need solving if the new government hopes to last.

For Rehana Yasmin, relief can’t come too soon. She has been at the public hospital in Gujar Khan for a week, tending to her granddaughter who has dysentery. She brings her own water because there’s no electricity to run the pump of the hospital well. She buys homemade straw fans hawked in the hospital’s hallways.

For the past week, Yasmin said, “during the night we hardly have two hours of electricity and during the day, it’s minimal. This lack of electricity is making children sick and making the elders sick as well.”

Public hospitals like the one in Gujar Khan, which care for the majority who can’t afford private hospitals, generally draw power from two grids, but nowadays, especially in the hot months, there’s sometimes no electricity coming from either grid.

The hospital uses a generator during operations, but sometimes has to resort to ice to keep medicines cool.


It is a struggle simply to maintain basic sanitation, said Kauser, the head nurse. Wounds take longer to heal. And “When there is no water, there is no cleaning,” she said. “How can you wash the sheets?”

In the past, power cuts (“load-shedding” in Pakistani bureaucratese) used to be much shorter and followed patterns that allowed people to plan such routine activities as scheduling an office meeting or taking a shower. But it was the newer phenomenon of “unscheduled load-shedding” and the much longer outages that raised tempers to the level of an election issue.

Dr. Ashraf Nizami of the Pakistan Medical Association said that doctors are seeing more psychological effects of load-shedding, such as stress and depression.

“It is a torture for the medical community and the patients,” he said.

It’s also bad for business.

The looms in one of Waheed Raamay’s workshops are silent and soon to be sold as scrap metal. This workshop, a graveyard as Raamay calls it, is a sign of how the electricity crisis hurts Pakistan’s economy.

“This is not just the story of this single factory. There are dozens of factories in this particular area, and there are hundreds of factories in this city that have closed down due to this power crisis,” said Raamay.

Faisalabad, the third-largest city in Pakistan with a population of about 2.6 million inhabitants, is known for its textiles. But from the low-end workshops that produce for the domestic market to the warehouse-sized factories that export sheets and pillowcases to international chains, that industry is hurting — badly — as a result of the electricity crisis, say workers and factory owners.

Analysts and government officials estimate that Pakistan loses about two percent of its GDP every year due to the electricity crisis. The Pakistan Textile Exporters Association estimates about 150,000 jobs lost in Faisalabad and surrounding Punjab province over the last five years.

In the part of the city where fabric is made for local consumption, the clicking and clacking of the machines rises and falls with the load-shedding.

Workers show up hoping for a day’s work, knowing they are hostages to power cuts. A show of hands indicates all the workers are deeply in debt to their grocery stores or the factory owners. Angry job-seekers have taken to the streets in protest.

“We don’t have money to bury our dead,” said Mohammed Haneef, who was missing part of one finger from a loom accident. “My mother died and I had no money so I had to borrow money from the owners. A year later my father died, and I had to borrow money. … The situation is bad.”

Kurram Mukhtar, head of Sadaqat Limited, one of Pakistan’s leading textile manufacturers, said that from 2006 to 2010 many companies in the city and surrounding area were bankrupted by the power crisis. Owners who survived decided they needed energy independence. Now, at Mukhtar’s factory, piles of coal sit next to a massive generator that keeps the workers stitching, cutting and dying fabrics through the load-shedding.

But Mukhtar said that the cost has cut deeply into his profits, leaving no money to invest in new technologies.

He doesn’t have the option chosen by Aurangzeb Khan in the northwestern town of Mathra when his power was cut off last year over unpaid bills: Khan resorted to the tactic Pakistanis call “kunda,” the hook slung over a convenient electricity pole.

He said he did it because it pained him to see his kids suffering through the August heat. “I am not stealing electricity just for fun or pleasure but I don’t have any other option,” he said.

Such non-payment is rampant. Even government agencies are known to default on bills. And customers can always go to court to obtain a “stay-order” that forces the power company to keep supplying electricity.

“There is no concept of paying the bill,” said Ashfaque Khan, the dean of the business school at the Islamabad-based National University of Sciences and Technology.

A report in March commissioned by the Planning Commission of Pakistan estimated that the delinquencies added up to about 86 billion rupees (about $870 million) in lost revenues.

The Peshawar Electric Supply Company, whose coverage area includes Khan’s home, was said to be one of the worst at bill-collecting, though it suffers the added problem of being a target for violence. In April, militants attacked a grid station outside of Peshawar, killing eight policemen and electric company officials.

The new government says it wants to increase bill collection but has given few specifics about how they’ll go about it. People like Aurangzeb Khan say they want to see improved service before they pay up.

“I know stealing is not good,” he said, “but if we get uninterrupted supply of electricity at a reasonable price we shall pay the bills.”

Priority in Pakistan: Turn On Lights

By Saeed Shah for The Wall Street Journal


When Nawaz Sharif starts his new term as Pakistan’s prime minister on Wednesday, 14 years after he was ousted in a military coup, he will focus on turning on the lights in a nuclear-armed nation that has been increasingly starved of electricity.

Power outages of 12 to 20 hours a day have crippled industry and made life miserable for households, a problem that worsened under the previous government of the Pakistan Peoples Party. Electricity shortages cost Pakistan some $13.5 billion a year, equivalent to knocking 1.5 percentage points off the economic-growth rate, Lahore’s Beaconhouse National University said in a report this year.

After Mr. Sharif is sworn in, he will deliver a speech outlining his strategy for solving the electricity emergency through wide-ranging intervention, bond sales and privatizations, aides said. The financing of the electricity rescue plan would be laid out in the budget to be announced next week by incoming Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, they said.

The new administration plans to pay off what it says is $5 billion in debt that has paralyzed the industry, build new power plants and privatize the sector in a multibillion-dollar overhaul that could attract foreign investor interest, the aides said.

The challenges are great. The previous government poured billions into the sector without eliminating the debt or significantly increasing the supply of electricity. The industry is riddled with corruption and depends on expensive oil for power generation, instead of cheaper gas or coal.

The most pressing issue is the chain of so-called circular debt that runs through the sector: The government keeps the price of electricity to the consumer below the cost of production, but can’t afford to make up the shortfall. It means that oil importers are owed money by power plants, which are owed money by distribution companies, which in turn are owed money by consumers.

“First, we need to write a check,” said Miftah Ismail, an energy adviser to Mr. Sharif, who drew up the energy policy in the party’s election manifesto. “We will pay off the stock of circular debt. It is choking the system. No fresh investment will come into Pakistan unless you get rid of circular debt.”

Although the incoming government has given the level of this debt at $5 billion, a government think tank, the Planning Commission, issued a report in March this year placing it at $9 billion at the end of 2012.

The new administration would borrow the money from banks and also take on the debts owed to the banks by various energy companies and government-owned entities, Mr. Ismail said. Then the government would plan to tap domestic and international bond markets.

A domestic bond issue picked up by local banks would be the most likely scenario, said Ashraf Bava, chief executive of Nael Capital, a brokerage in Karachi. Pakistan would need to improve its credit rating and balance of payments before approaching international capital markets, he said.

“The local banks will have no choice. They’ll have to do it,” said Mr. Bava. “Obviously they’ll be offered a decent return.”

Pakistan, a country of 180 million people, is currently producing some 11,000 megawatts of power, though that dropped last month to less than 9,000 megawatts, compared with demand of at least 17,000 megawatts.

By comparison, installed generation capacity in Indonesia, a country of 240 million people, is 41,000 megawatts, according to a 2012 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Pakistan’s supply shortfall results in power being switched off to households and industry for part of each day on a rotating basis across the country—outages known as “load shedding.”

After paying off the debt, the new government plans to pursue a three-pronged strategy, the aides say. The government would aim to cut line losses and electricity theft, shift power plants from oil to coal, and eliminate subsidies to consumers. Pakistan currently charges consumers around 9 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity that costs 12 to 14 cents to produce.

Those who use minimal amounts of electricity would continue to get power cheaply, a cost that would be borne by the full fare paid by heavier users—including the middle classes, who form Mr. Sharif’s core constituency, as well as Pakistan’s elite. But if the plan works, Mr. Sharif’s aides said, the cost of power production and prices would come down again.

“There’s no reason why we should be subsidizing those who can afford to run air conditioners,” said Mr. Ismail.

Mr. Sharif’s plan envisages converting three or four of the biggest power plants, which currently burn oil, to coal. Experts estimate such a plan would cost about $2 billion but would pay for itself in savings in about a year.

New coal-burning power stations would also be commissioned, which the incoming government says would take around three years to come onstream. Government-owned generation plants and the grid companies would be put under new management and privatized.

“We will nibble at this problem from many angles as we go along,” said Sartaj Aziz, an adviser to Mr. Sharif on finance and a former finance minister.

Foreign companies rushed into Pakistan’s electricity sector in the 1990s, when new private generation plants were allowed, on lucrative terms. Oil prices were low at the time, so oil-burning plants were built.

However, frequent changes in governments and policies that followed, together with the circular debt issue, chased away most of the foreign interest. The last major American investor, AES Corp.,sold out in 2009.

GDF Suez of France and Malaysia’s Tenaga Nasional Berhad are the remaining foreign firms active in Pakistan’s energy sector.

Naveed Ismail, an independent energy-sector expert who previously worked with the government, said that 48% of Pakistan’s thermal generation came from burning furnace oil, the highest such proportion among any major countries, while contribution from much cheaper coal, the main source of generation in India or China, was close to zero.

“Pakistan just has to learn from the rest of the world. It doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “The issue is producing affordable electricity. No new capacity should be added unless it brings down the average cost of power.”

Helping Pakistan with its electricity crisis has been a major focus of American aid in recent years. Since October 2009, the U.S. has spent $225 million on energy projects in Pakistan, according to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, adding more than 900 megawatts to the country’s generation, with schemes for upgrading power plants and dams.

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