Posts Tagged ‘ Altaf Hussain ’

Saving Pakistan’s Face?

By Huma Yusuf for The New York Times

On Monday morning, Pakistanis awoke to news that their country had just won its first Oscar. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and her co-director Daniel Junge received the award for best documentary in the short-subject category for “Saving Face.” The film chronicles the work of the British-Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad, who performs reconstructive surgery on women who were attacked with acid.

The media in Pakistan couldn’t get enough of the story. Television channels repeatedly broadcast footage of Obaid-Chinoy receiving her award. Fans posted on their Facebook pages pictures of the filmmaker on the red carpet. Her acceptance speech was tweeted and retweeted: “To all the women in Pakistan who are working for change, don’t give up on your dreams — this is for you.”

Politicians tried to share the limelight. Altaf Hussain, the head of the Karachi-based M.Q.M. party, congratulated Obaid-Chinoy publicly. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced that she would be given a civilian award for making Pakistan proud and catalyzing social change.

The chain restaurant Nando’s, which specializes in grilled chicken, even designed an advertising campaign riffing on the documentary’s name: “From one hot chick to another: Thanks for Saving our Face.”

But Obaid-Chinoy’s triumph, a rare piece of good news out of Pakistan, also reveals the extent to which Pakistanis have become accustomed to feeling dejected.

For once, Pakistan is making headlines for a positive achievement, not another terrorist attack, political squabble or natural disaster. For Pakistanis who have been struggling to restore their country’s flailing image, it’s a relief to see a talented, young Pakistani woman receiving a coveted international award — and hobnobbing with George Clooney. As the cultural critic Nadeem F. Paracha put it in a tweet, “Viva la @sharmeenochiony! The pride of Pakistan is in their artistes & intellectuals. Not in bombs and bans!”

But what does it say about a country that it would rejoice at attracting global attention for rampant violations of women’s rights?

Pakistan is the world’s third-most dangerous country for women. Over 150 Pakistani women are the victims of acid attacks each year. Activists for women’s rights claim that only 30 percent of acid cases are reported and that this form of violence is extremely widespread because acid is easily available and inexpensive. Last year, the government passed the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill, which imposes on attackers prison terms from 14 years to life and fines of up to one million rupees (about $11,000). But the new law has yet to be rigorously implemented, and attitudes toward women’s rights are far from reformed.

Obaid-Chinoy’s film highlights these problems — hardly a point of pride for Pakistanis.

Once the Oscar high subsides, Pakistanis will have to contend with the fact that their nation remains notorious for its challenges, violence against women included. Then the question will be, can the hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who rooted for Obaid-Chinoy at the Academy Awards muster the same enthusiasm to tackle the problems that her work exposes?

Huma Yusuf is a columnist for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn and was the 2010-11 Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

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World’s Youngest Microsoft Prodigy Arfa Laid to Rest

By Tariq Butt for The Gulf Today

Funeral prayers of the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) Arfa Karim Randhawa, who passed away on Saturday night after protracted illness, were held in Lahore on Sunday.

The prayers, held in Cavalry Ground, were attended by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and her close family members. Her coffin was draped in the national flag. She was 16. The teenage genius suffered an attack.

She got recognition and became her a source of inspiration for young and old across Pakistan. Arfa had an epileptic attack on Dec.22 and had been in a coma since.

Well-wishers prayed and watched her progress closely.

On Dec.29, doctors said there was no hope for her survival, and that her life support could be switched off any time. However, she had then miraculously responded to certain stimuli, as recently as Jan.13.

Two more funeral prayers will be held for Arfa, one in Faislabad and another in her ancestral village where she is to be buried.

As Pakistanis mourned the loss of the child prodigy, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also expressed their grief and sorrow over the sad demise of Arfa. They prayed to Allah Almighty to rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved family to bear the loss with fortitude.

Jamaat-e-Islami head Syed Munawar Hasan expressed grief at the death.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain said that Pakistan has lost “precious talent” in Arfa. He expressed grief at Arfa’s demise and has sympathised with the bereaved family members and prayed for Arfa’s soul.

Arfa became the world’s youngest Microsoft certified professional in 2004 at the age of nine. She was also invited to the Microsoft headquarters in the US by Bill Gates for being the world’s youngest MCP.

Gates had also offered to conduct the child legend’s treatment in the US, but the doctors advised against transporting her to the US due to the risk involved. However, the doctors continued her treatment in consultation with specialists in the United States.

Arfa had earned the Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal in the field of science and technology and the Salam Pakistan Youth Award in 2005 for her achievements. She is also the youngest recipient of the President’s Award for Pride of Performance.

She earned her first flight certificate by flying a plane at a flying club in Dubai at the age of 10, and was invited by Microsoft in 2006 to be a keynote speaker at the Tech-Ed Developers Conference, where she was the only Pakistani among over 5,000 developers.

Arfa represented her country Pakistan on a variety of international forum. She was also included as the honourable guest by IT Professionals of Dubai for two weeks stay in Dubai. During that trip, Arfa was awarded by a number of medals and awards from various tech societies and computer companies working in Dubai.

Arfa was a genius who had left an indelible mark on the international IT scene, winning millions of hearts in Pakistan and abroad for her excellence. The death of the child sensation had left millions of people, along with her family, relatives and friends, grieved over this national tragedy.

Suspected Political Violence Kills 25 in Pakistan

By Ashraf Khan for the Associated Press

KARACHI, Pakistan – Gunmen have killed at least 25 people in Karachi in the past 24 hours, raising tensions in Pakistan’s largest city as voters cast ballots Sunday to replace a provincial lawmaker murdered in August.

Police said they were still investigating the motives behind the shootings, but many so-called “target killings” in Karachi have been linked to gangs controlled by the city’s main political parties, which have been feuding for much of the last 20 years.

“We cannot say whether all the killings were politically motivated or some gangs were involved because the killings took place in different parts of the city and were not confined to the area where the elections were being held,” Karachi police Chief Fayyza Leghari said.

The two parties most linked to violence in Karachi — the Muttahida Quami Movement and the Awami National Party_ have their electoral bases in different ethnic groups that make up a large chunk of the city’s population.

The MQM claims to represent the Urdu-speaking descendants of those people who came to Karachi from India soon after the birth of Pakistan in 1947. It is secular and likes to speak out against the so-called Talibanization of the city, a jab at the Awami National Party, which represents the ethnic Pashtuns from the Taliban heartland in the northwest.

Raza Haider, the member of the provincial assembly who was gunned down in August, was a senior member of the MQM. In the wake of the shooting, the MQM accused the ANP of supporting Islamist militants suspected of being behind the murder — an allegation denied by the ANP.

Both parties were competing for Haider’s vacant seat, but the ANP announced Saturday evening that it would boycott the election, saying the MQM would rig the vote. The shootings began around the time the ANP made its announcement.

At least 25 people have been gunned down in Karachi since Saturday evening, said Zulfiqar Mirza, the home minister of Sindh province, where Karachi is the capital. He called on party leaders to come forward to “help us turn Karachi back into the city of light and peace.”

“If someone has a complaint, it should not be settled on the street,” Mirza told a news conference. “It is disappointing that we are shedding our priceless blood with our own hands.”

The dead include members of a broad range of ethnic groups in the city, he said.

Haider Abbas Rizvi, a senior MQM leader and member of Parliament, accused the ANP of being behind the shootings, saying “19 of our workers and supporters have been killed so far.”

Senior ANP member Amin Khattak denied the accusation, saying, “we are not involved in killings, and I think that this blame game should be stopped.”

Leghari, the police chief, said at least three of the killings did not seem to be politically motivated and were carried out during “other criminal offenses.”

The killings were reminiscent of the violence that followed Haider’s murder. At least 45 people died in the days following his killing.

Police have arrested at least 60 people in connection with the most recent shootings, Mirza said. But few killers in such cases have ever been brought to justice, and motives for the attacks have not been revealed.

The rising tension between the MQM and the ANP represents a serious danger to stability in Karachi, a city of some 16 million people and Pakistan’s commercial hub.

Pashtuns have been arriving in the city in greater numbers in recent years, fleeing Pakistan army offensives against the Taliban. An estimated 4 million Pashtuns are now in Karachi and many live in sprawling slums on the outskirts that are “no-go” areas for authorities.

Violence has surged in Karachi this year with hundreds of people slain in target killings. This increase has echoes of the city’s bloody past.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Karachi was regularly convulsed by violence in which hundreds were killed. MQM leader Altaf Hussain fled to London in 1992 as a result of that bloodshed and was granted asylum. He regularly addresses large gatherings of supporters by telephone link.

Prominent Pakistani Politician Murdered Outside His London Home

By Laura Roberts and Heidi Blake for The Telegraph

Imran Farooq, a prominent Pakistani politician, has been murdered outside his home in London. Dr Farooq, 50, was repeatedly stabbed in the head and neck during the assault in Edgware, north London.

He was a leading member of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) party, which is one of the largest in Pakistan.

There were suggestions from Pakistan that he may have known his killer. When police arrived at the scene, they found Dr Farooq’s body outside his house.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said officers attended an address in Green Lane, Edgware, shortly before 5.30pm after reports of a serious assault. “On arrival, officers found a single Asian man aged 50 with multiple stab wounds and head injuries,” the spokesman said.

“Paramedics attended the man but he was pronounced dead at the scene.”

Next of kin have been informed and no arrests have been made.

Dr Farooq was expected to attend a birthday celebration at the MQM headquarters on London’s Edgware Road on Thursday night but the event was cancelled at the last minute. Police said it was too early to know if the murder was politically motivated.

The politician claimed asylum in Britain after spending seven years on the run as one of Pakistan’s most wanted fugitives. He was accused of a range of charges, including murder and torture.

He has not returned to Pakistan since his arrival in England in 1992.

He claimed that year that he was wanted “dead or alive”.

“This gave licence and impunity to every individual in Pakistan to assassinate me,” he said.

Dr Farooq said he spent more than seven years in hiding in Karachi, southern Pakistan. He continued: “It was impossible for me to remain in Pakistan due to the continued threat on my life and liberty.”

He insisted the claims against him in Pakistan were politically motivated and continued his involvement with the party from Britain.

Last month Raza Haider, another MQM member, was gunned down with his guard as he attended a funeral near the centre of Karachi. The killing triggered violence in which dozens of people were killed and at least 100 wounded.

Azeem Tariq, the former chairman, was murdered in Karachi 13 years ago. Intruders entered his home and shot him as he slept.

MQM, based in Karachi, is the fourth largest party in Pakistan and is part of the ruling coalition government. It has a strong anti-Taliban stance, although rivals accuse it of exaggerating the threat of the Taliban.

The party represents mainly descendants of Urdu-speaking migrants from India who settled in Pakistan when it was created in 1947.

A statement on the MQM website said the party had declared a ten-day period of mourning in Pakistan and around the world.

London has played host to many of Pakistan’s exiled politicians. Gen Pervez Musharraf, the former president, lives in self-imposed exile in London.

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