Behind the Veil of Perception


This life has often been described as the journey of our eternal soul in a human body. It is short. So short that you can be holding on to the rope of life, content that it will continue to support your weight, only to suddenly find it being snatched from your very grip in a sudden pull, leaving you to fall in the abyss of death. Yet that is why life is so beautiful. And so precious. Because it offers us an unknown limited time to discover it’s purpose. Before the flashing lights inform a dazed audience that the game is over.





One always likes to talk about things that are close to their heart. I am not an Islamic religious scholar or an authority on Sufism. I am just another human being, fascinated by the mysteries of the universe. Another human being who in the pursuit of truth came across this treasure. Another human being whose soul was touched by the raw beauty in its teachings. And another human being who likes to share what has been a source of inspiration for them with anyone who cares to listen. Hoping it will bring a smile to their lips and light the flame of hope in their heart.
                
I was talking with someone with regards to this concept. They had come to pay their respect and offer their condolence regarding the passing away of my beloved mother. On enquiring how I was dealing with the pain, I told them I found peace when I read about the Sufi stream of Islam and its emphasis on Divine love or love for Allah. The person became notably perplexed, and without thinking spluttered out, ‘Sufism? Don’t tell me you have started drugs.’

Needless to say, I was offended. Indignant even. Then I realized. It’s not really their fault. The person seemed genuinely concerned. And the first thing that had come in to their mind was the cultural perception of Sufism in our society. Images conjured of people swirling around, lost in the rhythm of hypnotic beats, shabbily clad in green with numerous strings of beads around their necks, who had made shrines their second homes. Rumors, which maybe holding some truth, of how they relied on smoking drugs in order to reach their state of trance, in a way to find their pathway to the higher self that is God. Instances of how such ignorance may lead to drug abuse, leading to the person inevitably falling in the wrong path. The list can go on.
              
I am no one to judge another. And neither are you. The ability to judge lies with Allah. Because only He can see inside the soul of what that person may be going through, or the influences that may have lead him to that path. Maybe it is a path chosen by the soul in order to learn an important lesson in this life. Who knows. So I will refrain to comment on these people who are popularly becoming associated as ‘Sufis’. I will instead try to enlighten from my very humble source of knowledge what I believe to be the true aspect of Sufism.

The beauty of Sufism lies in its purity. It is the desire to understand the path leading to Allah, and knowing that the best way to get there is through Divine love and devotion. When someone is in love, they think about their beloved all the time, and there is a sincere desire to attain it. This is my simplified interpretation of the logic behind Sufism. Yet, to understand the beauty of Sufism, one had to learn from the master Sufi poet himself. One has to take a glimpse in to the treasure chest of the priceless words of the great Maulana Jalalludin Rumi.
                                    
Rumi highlights the beauty of Sufism with such intensity that it has at times the power to blind you with its light. Rumi shows how though we are always on the search for Allah, Allah is actually always with us.

The beauty of life lies in its multifaceted perception. I will reiterate, I am no Islamic scholar or even an authority on Sufism. Yet I am someone who highly respects and honors the purity of the Sufi stream of Islam. And I write this as a message so that my society can understand the beauty of Sufism lies in its purity. That to understand it, we should look at the Sufi masters such as Rumi. Sufism is too pure a path, too beautiful a truth and too sacred a view to be confused with cultural perceptions of drugs.

God bless.


EUROSHOP awaits...and maybe a new romance!

Miss Mannequin is getting ready for her trip to EUROSHOP
There's a distinctly vibrant buzz of activity at Mannequin Towers this week as the proportion london team begin earnest preparations for a round of new collection launches happening during the Spring.

Miss Mannequin has her mind on other things, knowing that I will shortly be jetting off to Dusseldorf in Germany for that triennal retail extravaganza, EUROSHOP. Anyone who's anyone in the VM industry is sure to be there, soaking up the many and varied and ideas proffered, perusing the new designs being shown and generally networking like crazy with the rest of the industry!

Fortunately, I will be situated away from the footstomping hurly-burly of the main showground within the welcoming surrounds of the nearby Asthetik and Design showroom. With their dedicated taxi service (sadly not with my usual driver Mark) to run me back and forth from the Messe, hot and cold running refreshments and a plethora of wonderful new collections for company, I shall be in my element and do urge you to pop over for a chat and a glass of something sparkling!

The excitement builds; in the meantime here’s a link for information: proportion london in Dusseldorf) and I’ll have more news about the show shortly.

I’m also rather excited about the impending launch of a rather fabulous new male mannequin (who Miss Mannequin has spied across the showroom and can't wait to be introduced to)! He’s super gorgeous, named METROpolitan and who knows...romance may well be in the air!

Surrender to the Divine

I have always found peace in the concept of Divine Love, or love for Allah. This is one reason why I have always been so fascinated by the Sufism stream of Islam, and especially to the works of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi. The Sufi stream of Islam focuses on the intention to discover the truth in Islam and worship Allah through the practice of Divine love and devotion.

Rumi has been described as one of the greatest sufi poets of Islam. The magic of his poetry lies in the simple beauty of the words which are heavily embellished with gems of powerful wisdom. It is like looking at an ordinary carbon coal and seeing that it actually conceals a brilliant diamond. It was like the moment back in seventh grade, stunned by the glory of God when I found out that a brilliant sparkling clear diamond crystal is actually made up of pure carbon atoms which are intense black in color. It is like throwing your cares to reckless abandon and knowing somehow there is a greater plan of things than you can foresee. And for me right now, it is the comfort that we all belong to Allah and He is always with us, no matter what. It is the peace that the thought brings that God is taking care of our loved ones who are physically not with us anymore. Hence I want to share this particular poem of Rumi which is an old favorite. The message is that no matter what the situation, how very close is Your Soul (the universal oneness that is God) with mine.





I have had the opportunity to visit Turkey, but since my stay was mainly in Istanbul, I did not get an opportunity to visit Rumi's shrine which is located in Konya. I am not a big believer in shrines, but if I get a chance, Rumi's shrine is definitely one where I would like to go. To pay my humble respect to a wise sage who has not only inspired millions, but has had the honor to unveil with his words the nearness, presence and purity of Divine love in each and every one of us.

Classic Gucci Web Printed Bag

What sort of handbags you arranged for every pretty princess like Princess Pea, Snow White and the little mermaid? Qualified handbags for princesses should be cute, vintage and sweet. Princesses are simple pure kind girls, so don't allocate too sophisticated mature Louis Vuitton Fall 2010 flap totes to them.

Those are for quirky queens like Dita Von Teese. In addition, princesses don't have a crush on gaudy tacky stuff, so you know you shouldn't pull some sequined or vastly studded or tassled bags. Umm, what exactly meets their expectations? It seems you have to turn to this vintage Gucci web printed handbag for help.

Though not as naive as the Gucci Snowmen in Africa Joy Boston bag or the elephants printed Gucci Boston tote, even the web print is not the classic gg signiture web.

The taupe curly pads along the top closure, double handles in the same tone, horizontal zip right across the facade of the handbag shape a pretty funky bag. The monochrome web all over the bag finishes the delicate girlish flair.

The Etiquettes of A Funeral

A shorter version of this article was published in the newspaper Express Tribune:
http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/4008/funeral-etiquette-dos-and-donts-for-the-not-so-bereaved/

I recently lost my mother on the 12th of January 2011. I was at the airport, waiting to board my plane for London. The flight had gotten delayed due to the heavy fog in Lahore and just as the call for boarding came, my brother called me and broke the news. I left everything and grabbed the first taxi to the hospital. I had just talked to my mother 2 hours before, and she had been home, getting ready for her doctor regular checkup, and fine. Upon reaching the hospital, she had suddenly died due to heart failure. To say the event was shocking would be an understatement. Since I am the eldest and the only girl in the family, I had to come and prepare the house for the Janaza (funeral). Needless to say, it was a tough and painful day, but I learned from the whole ordeal that some people do not think before they act in this very sensitive scenario and the appropriate etiquette needs to be highlighted. 


 

1)      Do not ask the immediate family members what happened again and again. If every guest comes and asks the person, causing them to undergo the whole traumatic scene by narrating it, it is highly unhealthy for that person. Please be a little considerate and ask someone from the extended family about such details.

2)      Do pray and come to offer your support. I appreciated all my friends and family members who were there to offer genuine support at a time when one feels all may be lost. If you are not in the city or can not make it, your messages or calls can make a huge difference. The time is such when the emotional value of support should never be underestimated.

3)      Do not ask the grieving family about the will. My mother has just died, and her body was lying in front of me, when an aunty came, sat next to me and after offering her condolences, asked me if my mother had told me about her assets and how to distribute them. I was in too much shock to realize at that time, until a few days later my best friend who had been sitting next to me pointed out how weird that aunty had been and the way she had asked that question. Especially since she wasn’t even closely related. Asking about some ones will when the dead body is right in front of you is not only extremely rude, it is downright disrespectful.  A person’s worth is more than their material assets and honestly, it is none of your business.

4)      Every Pakistani family has those distant relatives, the huge fat aunties who you have never seen but are somehow related to the family, and they come and howl and scream and squeeze the life out of you. One may think they are actually genuine, except once the drama is done, they sit down and start an amusing gossip and catching up session amongst themselves. Obviously the poor family members can’t help but fall victim to their screams which can cause headaches lasting too long and worsen the trauma, and in my case almost cause me to faint. But the cousins and other members not from the immediate family should try their best to make sure that these aunties do not cause the mourning individual to literally die from suffocation or give them a panic attack.

5)      The Islamic ritual of washing the deceased person’s body before burial also takes place on the day of the funeral. This is a huge and emotionally intensive task. I got sentimental and agreed to wash my mothers body and then in the middle I realized that it was the most testing and painful experience of my life. Somehow I managed to survive it, and I am glad I took part, but the emotional capacity to wash the deceased body of someone you love should never be underestimated.

6)      It is an opportunity for you to be helpful and share the grief of the immediate family. One can do that by looking after the other running of the house and funeral, such as food preparation, distributing Quranic Surahs and rosaries for prayers and helping in any way you think would be needed. I really appreciate the help of my cousins and best friends in such a traumatic time, since we could not have done everything ourselves.

7)      You may not have met the family in some time, but this is not the best time at all to ask personal details about what one is doing, what they have studied, their job details. If you are so interested, come another day but the funeral is not the place to catch up on the grieving family’s current activities.

8)      The grieving family knows the importance of the individual they have lost. You do not need to come and highlight that fact. So many people came up to me and highlighted how my mother won’t be there to pray for me anymore, or she won’t be able to see the important events in my life anymore. I know that, and it pains me enough. Do not pour salt on the wounds.

9)      Pray for the deceased’s soul. That is why funerals are so important. Say Fatiha and recite the Quran.

10)  Once the funeral and burial are done, it is best to politely take leave and leave the immediate family with their loved ones, so they can recover from the shock. Do not hang around gossiping unless you are genuinely concerned. 

My mother was a pious and courageous lady, who had been praying five times daily without break since her childhood. MashAllah she had a smile and Nur on her face when she died. And regardless of this article, I am sincerely indebted to all those who came to offer their respect in her memory and pray for her eternal abode in Jannat, Ameen.

Swatch Novelty Watch or Louis Vuitton Classic Watch?

It seems novelty watches has strengthen its aggression towards the territory of classic watches. People no long feel it interesting or funky to wear a piece of golden watch on their wrists as the single strategy to adorn them. Latest trends lean to Kesha's quirky watch-interlace-bracelet idea. People love it so much and they are rushing out to follow Kesha's suit. From all kinds of streetsnaps you see these previously demure women now insanely wear at least one novelty watch on their wrists and then lace their lovely wrists with scores of rounds of colorful strings or bracelets.

Swatch novelty watch, as Rachel Heller shows, seems times more radiant than the long-established Louis Vuitton classic watch. An increasing number of guys are doubting if Swatch novelty watches would some day take over the position Louis Vuitton classic watches gain. Really? I don't think that's going to take place. The question is a little bit like that one whether there is existence of IT designer handbags.

Classic Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas bags during a spell were facing serious threats from some bold handbags designed by other young genius. When fashionistas were sighing from then on every Louis Vuitton bag they bought were probably the last version of that mode, Marc Jacobs smashed their stupid suspect. The same it is with the skirmish between Swatch novelty watches and Louis Vuitton classic watches. In grant formal cases there is no way Louis Vuitton luxe can be taken over.

Fire


It is 4am in the morning. Or dead of the night would be a better definition for this particular moment. I am sitting in Lahore next to my sick mother’s bed. She finally dozed off after screaming in unbearable pain for at least the past hour. It has made me wonder about an old concept in Islam and theology. The age old concept of hell. 




The concept is very simple. You be good in this life and you live happily ever after in the next. You be bad and you burn in the eternal fire of Hell. Hell is supposed to be very painful. It’s supposed to make you suffer. It’s supposed to be inescapable. It’s supposed to be unbearable. But dear God, there is a confusion here.  Hell is supposed to reside in the next world. Not here. Not right now. And especially not with someone who has devoted her life to Islam and prayed 5 times a day without break MashaAllah since her childhood.

I wonder why bad things happen to good people. We have some politicians running my country, at the very top of the hierarchy who are literally looting money from the poor and hungry. Yet they are happily snoring away right now, in their extremely comfortable, luxuriously soft beds, bought of course at the expense of the sweat and blood of the Pakistani people.

I console myself with another concept in Islam. The concept that being human beings and not angels, each of us commits sin at one point or the other in their lives. And of course sins must be punished. However, punishment in this world is much less compared to that in the next world. The concept that Allah tests those whom Allah loves with sickness before they enter the next world, so that they are forgiven for their sins, not punished in the next world and automatically enter heaven.
                                       
This particular perspective should help me feel better. It should soothe my soul a bit. But when your own mother is screaming in pain and shaking your hand in desperation, asking you to some how save her from the pain. And there is nothing you can do to ease her misery. Well, in this case I need a better reason than that to soothe my broken soul right now.

I remember as a child I used to hear stories about how people made pacts with the devil and sold their soul in order to have the best in their lives in this world. I used to believe with a passion that come what may, if offered a chance I would never do that. But now I wonder if I would do just that, sell my soul. Not for riches, eternal youth or even love. But for the good health of my beloved mother. The most courageous lady and the best mom in the whole wide universe. Love you mom.

The Treasures of the Universe

I believe that the right music, the right story or the right 'coincidence' always finds you. It has a lesson to teach, an aspect to highlight or a truth to unveil. I have always found inspiration from the spiritual and philosophical aspects of life. I believe that Reality is the Ultimate Illusion. The treasures of life, soul and universe lie not in this material world. They are hidden in the unseen. They are available for those who understand and appreciate the true beauty of life, divine love, and universal oneness. I would like to share with you a story I came across quite some time back which gracefully communicates this concept.




An old hermit was once invited to visit the court of the most powerful king of those times.

"I envy such a saintly man, who is content with so little," said the ruler.

"I envy Your Majesty, who is content with even less that I," responded the hermit.

"How can you say such a thing, if this entire country belongs to me?" - said the offended king.

"For precisely that reason. I have the music of the celestial spheres, I have the rivers and mountains of the whole world, I have the moon and the sun, because I have God in my soul. Your Majesty, on the other hand, has only this kingdom."
 
The story above was written by Paulo Coelho. If the message is meant for you, it will touch your soul and you will understand. After all, everything does happen for a reason. God Bless.


Once Upon a Poem

Ever since I was a child, I would go to the terrace of my house in Lahore during the evening or night sometimes to relax, read a book, or write poetry to clear my mind. There has always been something about the night time sky with it's bright stars that has appealed to me. It just reassures me for no particular reason. There is something very calming about the sky's vastness with the intense brilliance of stars that are splattered across like paint drops on a navy blue canvas.

I have always loved writing poetry, and I still have many of my first pieces of poetry which I wrote as a young child, which back then were published in the children's magazine 'Young Nation'. Today I came across an old poem of mine which I wrote quite a few years back, around 2005 I think. I still remember the evening I wrote this. I was lounging around the terrace as always. The view from the terrace is such that you can see the lawn and the trees outside as well. And somehow it was such a gorgeous evening in Lahore, you know those evening when the sky gets lost in an array of so many brilliant colors that you have difficulty pin pointing which particular color it is for a moment. So I ran inside, grabbed a pen and paper, and penned down whats below. I later submitted it to a poetry competition and it was published in an international book of poetry. The latest version of the book came out in 2009, hence the link containing my poem shows copyright 2009. http://www.poetry.com/poems/dark-beauty/4586315/




I look above as the clouds move swiftly to cover the orange sun,
Birds quickly fly to their nests and animals to their homes run.
So beautiful is the sight, so tranquil and serene,
The sky forming an orange hue and the clouds a stormish scene.
The trees grow tall and mysterious,yet their leaves and flowers dance,
In the gentle evening wind which shakes the trees still trance.
Indeed a strange picture it paints...to yellow the orange sky fades,
Purple,red,blue,yellow,it's a mixture of varied shades.
Then slowly the moment comes when I see the silver moon,
& amazingly the setting sun is also visible before it disappears soon.
One indeed has to marvel the glory of this time,
when the moon starts to glow and the sun ceases to shine.
Leaving in my mind an image of it all,
Causing me to smile when later these images I pleasantly recall.


A Miracle of Hope

The following is the longer version of an article I wrote for the newspaper Express Tribune in December 2010, in order to spread some awareness on the issues highlighted here. Although I wrote it last month to highlight the events of the year 2010 in my life, I believe the final message applies for 2011 also and all the years to come. The shorter version of my article can be found on the Express Tribune Website at http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/3488/2010-the-year-my-mother-didnt-die/




The eve of a new year brings hope and the promise of positive expectations to all. There is a chance to believe in dreams again. A hope that the resolutions left unfulfilled last year may finally be achieved in the new one. A reason to celebrate the opportunity for new beginnings. Needless to say, you can do all these things at any time of any day of the year. Yet there is this magical quality about the eve of the upcoming year which just somehow adds to the vivid imagination of humans and conjures up images of hope, fulfillment and promises of dreams finally coming true.

I was also excited about the year 2010. It would be the year when I would go back to my beloved Pakistan after successfully completing my higher education from the UK. I was excited about meeting my parents, family and rediscovering my Lahore from the eyes of someone who has been away from home for so long and has learnt to treasure all the quintessential Lahori qualities which otherwise were taken for granted. It was a happy beginning, where I would soon find myself swept into a whirlwind of colorful activities of catching up and rediscovering life in Lahore.

Life is unpredictable. That is of course where the magic of life lies. The beauty of randomness, the sudden spurt of spontaneity. Armed with this notion, I somehow forgot that not all surprises in life are good. Some surprises can shake the very foundation of your life. Some can take your breath away. And some can even add a whole new perspective to how you view and value life… your own or that of a loved one.

My mother was diagnosed with a rare cancer in the leg in February. What followed was a nightmare of conducting more tests to ensure the cancer hadn’t spread to any other part of the body and to check the stage of the cancer. We were recommended by a family friend who is a highly renowned surgeon to get the malignant tumor removed by the Head Surgeon of a reputed hospital that I will refrain from naming. The operation was conducted in March, and the malignant tumor removed successfully. On further lab results, we were told that the tumor had been wrongly diagnosed and it was in fact benign. We were in awe. It was a miracle. God had listened to our prayers. A miracle was the only explanation we could fathom from the whole experience when so many different test reports, from MRI tests to many biopsy reports had previously all pointed to one thing: malignant tumor.

Time heals all wounds. We brought mom home and looked forward to her healing and returning back to normal life. We eagerly waited to see her energetic tiny frame bustling through the house, taking charge of all household affairs to ensure a positive environment for her precious family. And we waited. And waited some more. But something was amiss. The pain would not go. Instead of quickly healing, my mother’s health deteriorated as she stayed awake night after night in severe pain, which the surgeon explained to us was due to the tumor being near the Sciatic nerve and damaging it.

Time is always in a hurry and waits for no one. The days swept by as we tried different medicines and tests hoping to ease mom’s pain. It was soon July. We finally decided to change doctors. And what the new doctor told us shook the very ground that we stood on.

The mind sometimes refuses to believe what it does not want to hear. But that is only possible if you have the luxury of time to ignore the inevitable. Hectic running around and many more tests later, the doctors suspicions and our worst fear were confirmed. The previous operation had removed the tumor at all, and the tumor was now three times larger in size. But how could such extreme negligence ever be possible? The surgeon was the head of one of the best hospitals in Lahore. This was supposed to happen only in movies or rare circumstances when operations were conducted by inexperienced doctors. This was most certainly not supposed to happen to anyone in my life, and especially not my own mother. I needed explanations but those would have to wait. Right now, it was pertinent that we get the tumor removed and check if it had spread elsewhere in the body. 

I don’t think there is anything more traumatic than waiting for test results to ensure a possible fatal disease hasn’t spread elsewhere in the body. Yet God is kind. The tumor was still only in the leg. However, to remove it, they would now have to amputate my mother’s leg from the hip joint. A solution which if the previous operation had been conducted successfully, would never have been resorted to.

This time we took our mother to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital to make sure the same mistake wasn’t made twice. We wanted to ensure mom was as comfortable as possible so we went to get her a room. And found out that there were no single rooms in the hospital. All rooms had double beds, separated by curtains to make sure the doctors did not separate the rick from the poor, and everyone received the same treatment and care that as human beings they were entitled to. This was the first time I had heard of a hospital having no single room, and I greatly respect the concept. And I know from first hand experience that though the lady in the second bed in the room was not very well off, the nurses and doctors all showed her the same level of respect and attention that they would give to someone more financially better off. Another thing very unique at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer hospital was the level of discipline maintained. Only one person was to spend the night with the patient to ensure there is peace and quiet. My brothers and I spoke and discussed things at length with the surgeons appointed to operate on mom, Dr. Ahsan Shamim, Dr. Saad and Dr. Abdur Rehman. Unlike the previous experience, the doctors were extremely cooperative, empathic and explained everything in detail to ease our worry. I reiterate, God is kind and the operation was successfully conducted and moms leg along with the tumor removed from her body. My mother was finally cancer free and I owed that to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital.
                                                      
Everything in life has a meaning with lessons hidden waiting to be uncovered. As this year is about to set, I sit and ponder on the events that defined 2010 for me. And I believe that underneath all the pain and troubles lies a beautiful lesson. I have always been interested in helping out on charities but until one sees from a first hand experience of exactly how desperately our help is actually needed, one cannot fully grasp its importance. I remember as I sat with my mother in the operation theater before her operation, an old lady was sitting with us whose young grand daughter was waiting to undergo chemotherapy. The girl was supposed to be 10 years old but she was could easily be taken for half her age. She was stick thin, completely bald and very weak. Having traveled from a remote village, her grandmother was however happy that at least she was getting treated, since they had previously assumed that due to limited resources, all would be lost. In fact the thing that touched me the most while staying with mom during her treatment at the hospital was how many young children, some hardly able to walk were suffering from such a deadly disease which can totally bring the stronger adults to a point of desperation. I can only salute their courage and that of their families. But wait…is that really all I can do? Is that really all you can do? The beauty of being a human is the power to make change happen. And what better change could a human aspire for than bringing hope to someone’s life.

There is still time for us to make 2010 a special year. Personally I would like to do that by trying to bring the miracle of hope in someone’s life who has been affected by cancer. An easy method through which you can also make 2010 a special year for yourself is by beginning to donate through a SMS at least. I am going to copy paste verbatim the following few lines from the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital Page on Facebook: A life depends on your SMS; Send a blank SMS to the number 7770 to donate Rs. 20 (+tax) through any network in Pakistan at anytime to support the treatment of poor cancer patients of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre.

 

Death is close, it's getting late,

Help them escape their painful fate,

Walking on the brink of life,

You can save them from this painful strife.


2010 has taught me that life is short and it is important to appreciate and value each moment. To help out our loved ones, make life meaningful and best case scenario to create the miracle of hope in some ones life. And I believe if even one of you reads this, helps out and donates even Rs. 20 to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, then my 2010 has been extremely meaningful and fulfilling. After all, it’s not everyday you get a chance to bring a miracle of hope in a life engulfed by the wrath of cancer.

An Impartial View on Salmaan Taseer's Assassination

The following is an article I wrote as a reaction to the shocking event that transpired yesterday. Some comments from this article were published in the Commune Blog on the Express Tribune website: http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/3819/in-the-commune-in-memory-of-salmaan-taseer/.





There is a popular saying that politics plus religion equals disaster. That certainly seemed to hold true for today. Now that the day has passed, I sit down and ponder over the events that defined 4th January 2011. To say it hasn’t exactly been the best start of the year for Pakistan would be a blatant understatement. The new year started off with the government coalition on the verge of collapse and went on with an assassination of an important political persona. Salmaan Taseer was mercilessly shot with 26 bullets, an excruciatingly brutal death. And that too by his own bodyguard who later confessed that the reason he committed such a horrendous crime was due to his disagreement on the stance Governor Taseer had taken on the blasphemy law.

I want to evaluate the tragic incident through the eyes of an impartial Pakistani. True, where your government is concerned and when your country faces such a crises, it is hard to stay impartial. However, let me try not to take sides of political parties, such as mourning the loss of the PPP or heralding that a key opponent of PPP’s opposition has fallen. Let me not take part in religious debate either, on whether the blasphemy law should be changed or not, and whether human rights should be given precedence over religion. For the moment, let me just be an impartial observer who is quietly observing the aftereffects of this tragic incident.

I see the reactions of the people around me. Many are in a state of shock and despair. Living in Pakistan or abroad, we are all intricately connected to the welfare and well being of our country, and we all want it to somehow miraculously prosper or at least get on a road that leads there. Many are aware that this event is like a powerful punch on a glass window of civic stability that is already weak and full of cracks. Yet, on the other end there are those who actually question his character and are happy with the result. There are those who believe that Pakistan has lost another important voice in its fight for liberalism and moderation. And then there are those who are happy with the outcome, saying it is rightly deserved by someone who dared question the blasphemy law and the sanctity of religion that it may apparently protect. There are those who point it to being ‘Wajib ul Qatl’ where someone is promised he will directly go to heaven for helping wipe out an enemy of Islam. And of course there are the conspiracy theorists. They believe that the murder is part of a larger plot to bring more instability to the country by its enemies. Some conspiracy theorists and I reiterate I am just an impartial observer, ponder on whether it was actually a move by the PPP itself in order to gain some sympathy and more time whilst the coalition majority is on the verge of collapse. While we are at it, lets not forget the good old international media. Pakistan once again makes the international headlines, nothing new there, with the over emphasis on how Islamic fundamentalism is taking over the country and the liberal governor rooting for moderation and changing the blasphemy law has been ruthlessly murdered.

Now it is time for me to have a say in the matter. I will again not take sides, with political parties nor voice any opinion on the blasphemy law. I will just say that as a Pakistani, belonging to a democratic system, it is our right to voice our opinions and have our voices heard. I believe in freedom of speech, and I respect the courage of someone speaking up for what they believe in. I am at the same time realistic and agree that we are very far from reaching such a utopian democratic state. We are not debating idealism here. We are talking about how no matter what, no one, and I reiterate, no one deserves to die for voicing their support for what they believe in. That is every human individual’s right. And it is a frightening thought that this incident may caution others to hesitate before voicing their opinions. Terror should not choke our voice.

We are far from a utopian state. But we are like the cells of a body, and if we start slowly but gradually to make an effort to stand up for our values and those of this nation, we can actually help make this body healthier. I write this just as a message to my fellow country men. We can berate this incident and be depressed about the events in the country but then again, it will make little difference. It is time we started taking responsibility for our country, and that in a civilized educated way, not by breaking the windows of cars or burning tyres on streets. We should start from ourselves and those around us. And slowly, maybe excruciatingly slowly we can start to see a change. It is better than giving up altogether. 

I may sound overly optimistic, but as an economist, I can tell you that even though the country’s outlook is already not looking very optimistic, expectations of people play a vital role in mapping out a country’s macroeconomic future. If the educated people start and take a positive stance of civic responsibility, it is better than doing noting at all. Lets not give up on Pakistan, in it’s democratic values with freedom of speech and in justice. I am doing my part in taking a stand. I know you will too.

Happy New Year!

From My Home to Yours,
Happy New Year!
                
                          
     
       
                
In  2011 I hope for your family and mine, less physical and emotional pain, and much love....
God's blessings to you all.
Ele