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Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

 

RIP, Goatie.

When I was 11 years old, my family moved to Islamabad, Pakistan from Dhaka, Bangladesh. As a child in the noisy and buzzing city of Dhaka, I had seen my share of hanging meat and animal blood in the marketplaces. I still have a vivid memory of a chicken running around with its head cut off as our cook wielded a butcher’s knife in the patch of grass behind the kitchen. That was very frightening. It wasn’t until I moved to Pakistan though that I met my first goat.

I should mention here that my friends have dubbed me Elmira from Tiny Toons, due to my borderline obsession with all things furry and cute, and my desire to unabashedly “hug ‘em and squeeze ‘em.” When I was 11, a spray painted goat arrived at our house. He was a pretty goat with a fabulous coat, spray-painted with neon pink and orange swirls. He bleated pathetically in my direction as I ran breathlessly up to him.

We became friends. It may have been one-sided. I called him Goatie.

I wasn’t very creative.

Needless to say, Eid ul-Azha came soon after, and our family feasted on a meal of biryani with gosht. It wasn’t until later, upon learning of Goatie’s mysterious disappearance, that I put two and two together – I had eaten Goatie.

Apparently, I wasn’t very smart either.

I relate that story, dear readers, because it’s Eid ul-Azha today (or tomorrow for others) – otherwise known as Bakra Eid, the religious holiday where we sacrifice a goat to commemorate the story of Abraham and Ismail. It symbolizes a test of faith and a time when we share with others less fortunate than us, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In Pakistan, Eid is a wonderful flurry of sights and sounds – bangles clinking, lights strewn everywhere, colorful new clothes, and children laughing with their pockets fat with Eidi.

 

Remember the floods.

It is a time for family and celebration, but it’s also a time for reflection, particularly for the millions of families who are still without their homes in Pakistan because of the recent flood disaster. Eid for them won’t be a cheery holiday of new clothes and colors, but a painful reminder of all that they lost in the tragedy. Even if their stories have been muted from the news headlines, we should remember them in our prayers on this day, and we should give what we can to ensure their recovery. You can give to your relief organization of choice, or please give to our flood relief campaign Relief4Pakistan, which launched its second phase last week. It is an innovative recovery program developed in partnership with international relief agency Operation USA to restore the livelihood of families living in Bangla Ichha Union Council, a cluster of four villages in Rajanpur, Punjab not receiving sufficient aid and support from the government. We are working closely with the local community organization and tribal leadership to ensure the sustainable recovery of this community through local investment and engagement. To learn more, click here.

Eid Mubarak, everyone!

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The Pakistan Granta Issue

Granta Mag Cover (© Islam Gull, design by Michael Salu)

On Tuesday, I attended a really fascinating event at the Aicon Gallery in New York City. Entitled, “How to Talk About Pakistan,” the event centered on Granta magazine’s recent Pakistan issue and featured editor John Freeman, as well as Kiran Khalid (CNN producer), Mohsin Hamid (author of Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist), Lorraine Adams (journalist and author of The Room and the Chair), and Ayesha Nasir (journalist and filmmaker).

For those who don’t know about Granta, it is an incredibly rich and textured publication first founded in 1889 but “reborn” in 1979. According to the website’s About section, Granta “does not have a political or literary manifesto, but it does have a belief in the power and urgency of the story, both in fiction and non-fiction, and the story’s supreme ability to describe, illuminate and make real.” The Observer once wrote of the magazine, “In its blend of memoirs and photojournalism, and in its championing of contemporary realist fiction, Granta has its face pressed firmly against the window, determined to witness the world.”

The Pakistan issue truly epitomizes this goal, containing 18 featured pieces by renowned writers and journalists like Nadeem Aslam, Mohammed Hanif, Kamila Shamsie, Declan Walsh, Jane Perlez, and the aforementioned Hamid, Nasir, and Adams. A mix of memoirs, poems, fiction, and “reportage,” the publication strives to showcase the nuances and complexities of Pakistan, a country so often talked about but so rarely understood.

The Tuesday discussion was ultimately important because it addressed this very issue – namely, how can writers be instrumental in closing the perception gap about Pakistan? Can fiction writers play a significant role in supplementing the news information that trickles down about Pakistan? And do writers have to be Pakistani or based in Pakistan in order to be legitimate resources on the country? Hamid, who recently moved back to Pakistan after years of being abroad, noted, “I felt that if I wanted to write about Pakistan, I needed to go back to Pakistan…or else I’d be wondering if my opinions were actually my own, or ones that I had heard that I thought were my own…”

Lorraine Adams, who co-wrote a piece with Ayesha Nasir on Faisal Shahzad, touched on the limits of journalism in her comments, emphasizing that most news agencies produce stories based on a “consensus narrative” decided on by the editors, not the journalists on the ground. Given that the original stories are far more contentious and nuanced than this narrative, a lot gets lost in translation. According to Adams, “People think that if they read non fiction or the news, they know a lot about the country than if they read fiction,” which is an untrue assumption.

The debate over the benefits of fiction versus nonfiction is significant and deserves further discussion. From a personal standpoint, neither fiction nor nonfiction alone will give you a full picture of Pakistan. While nonfiction and news items can give you a snapshot of the current affairs of the country, fiction stories can provide further insight into the cultural nuances and intricacies of Pakistan. Even if you read the work of Pakistani writers, “old” and “new” alike, their treatment of issues and their prose can sometimes be windows into the Pakistani psyche and experience. At the same time, there are obvious biases involved in fiction work, while nonfiction pieces tend to be less emotional and relatively more objective (though not always, of course).

Moreover, the line between both is becoming increasingly blurred, with writers like Hanif and Adams doing extensive research and reporting in order to produce properly nuanced and textured fiction work. Authors like Hamid, Shamsie, and Hanif also  straddle both lines, writing novels but commenting frequently on current events in Pakistan. In an article for Canada’s Globe and Mail, Piali Roy wrote,

Fiction writers like Daniyal Mueenuddin and Ali Sethi see literature as a project. They both have said in interviews that they see themselves as explaining Pakistan in all its complexity to the West, not merely as the “failed state” with budding terrorists in every bazaar. It may seem like a hefty burden for any writer to bear, but there is no doubt that Pakistan is a country in need of PR. Is there any wonder that nearly every one of these writers (dare I call them the Pak Pack?) are taking their advocacy role about the humanity of the floods’ victims seriously? Or that they rarely agree with one another?

Do Pakistani writers have a responsibility to always write about the positive side of the country? Yes and no. Writers, by virtue of having a platform, can and should discuss the nuances of Pakistan that often get swept to the side by Western news agencies. But those nuances shouldn’t always have to be about positive topics. As Hamid noted, “There is a notion and expectation that you must write positively about Pakistan, and if you don’t, you at least write hopefully.”

Adeela Suleman artwork at Granta event, courtesy Mahnaz Fancy

The discussion, as a whole, was fascinating and was further bolstered by the incredible exhibition in the gallery by Pakistani artist Adeela Suleman called, “After All It’s Always Somebody Else Who Dies,” (see above image). Granta’s Pakistan issue also includes fantastic artwork by contemporary Pakistani artists, an effort by the publication to go beyond their typical photo essays and showcase local talent. According to a review by The Independent, “Granta’s Pakistan is a bleak but mesmerizing one that rages with astounding horrors. Yet this ‘immense homeland of heartbreaking beauty’ is not without love, romance, nor hope.” The print edition can be purchased here.

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Happy Holidays!

Wishing all our readers a very happy holiday season! In honor of Christmas being a wonderfully globalized holiday, see  this properly irritating yet amusing video (who knew you could desi-fy Jingle Bells?):

December 25 is also the 133rd birth anniversary of Pakistan’s founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Given the tremendous obstacles facing our country today, below is a timely message Quaid-e-Azam delivered to the nation October 24, 1947:

My message to you all is of hope, courage and confidence. Let us mobilize all our resources in a systematic and organized way and tackle the grave issues that confront us with grim determination and discipline worthy of a great nation.

Here’s to our families and friends staying safe and well in 2010. Happy Holidays!

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Eid Mubarak!!

Reuters: From the Boston Globes Big Picture Series

Reuters: From the Boston Globe's Big Picture Series

Eid Mubarak CHUP readers!! Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday which celebrates the end of Ramadan, was celebrated by Muslims in the United States and across much of the Middle East on Sunday, and will be celebrated in South Asia today.

Growing up, my favorite part of Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr always centered around two things – my family and food. On Chand Raat, the night before Eid, I loved going to the market to buy bangles or get henna painted on my hands. My memories of Eid as a child were flooded with color, bright new clothes, laughter, and the taste of sivaiyyan [vermicelli noodles in sweetened milk] first thing in the morning.

As an adult, Ramadan has become increasingly a time to think about others around me, particularly the poor. Working in the development realm has helped put such issues into further context. My thoughts and prayers go out to the women recently killed in the stampede for food in Karachi, as well as the numbers of others in Pakistan and throughout the world who don’t have the luxury to go back to eating heartily and regularly like I will. I hope we all continue to think about their well-being and find ways to help, in our own small way.

So, Eid Mubarak, and I hope everyone enjoys their holiday! Do tell us – what has been your favorite memory from Ramadan and Eid? How do you celebrate the holiday?

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Ramadan Mubarak!!

Happy Ramadan everyone! The Muslim month of fasting begins this weekend (Saturday in much of the Arab world, Sunday in Pakistan), and marks a time for reflection, self-discipline, and patience. On a lighter note, below is the link to a classic clip from Family Guy, poking fun at Osama bin Laden’s message to the West prior to Ramadan, and what really goes on behind that camera. Enjoy and Ramazan Mubarak!

more about “Family Guy – Bin Laden – VIDEO“, posted with vodpod

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Pakistan Zindabad!!

Given the volatile situation in the country, today’s cricket victory should give Pakistanis something to smile about. After defeating the tournament favorites South Africa in the first World Twenty20 semi-final, Pakistan will move on to play either Sri Lanka or the West Indies in the final Sunday. Team captain Younus Khan told reporters after the game, “We are slow starters, we arrived late, didn’t have a lot of practice sessions so there was no pressure on us – but suddenly we are in a good position.” He, along with many people, gave credit to Shahid Afridi, who hit 51 runs, took 2-16 [bowling], and was subsequently awarded man-of-the-match. BBC quoted Afridi as saying, “The captain and the coach [Intikhab Alam] really gave me a good confidence. I asked them to send me in as number three and after that I enjoyed my batting. In the semi-final you don’t have any more chances – this is good for Pakistani cricket.”

This is what the Guardian had to say about Afridi’s performance today:

Afridi’s promotion to No. 3 was Pakistan’s wild card, and his 51 from 34 balls justified it. It has never been possible to ascribe logic to an Afridi innings. There is none. Even before the advent of Twenty20, no matter how serious the circumstances, he was thoroughly recalcitrant. He only averages 15 in 41 Twenty20 matches, and he started scratchily, barely looking at the bowler’s approach initially. But he is a perpetual menace, occasionally contained but never controlled. From the depths of his memory, he summoned what his former coach Geoff Lawson concluded was his ‘best innings for two years.’

It is incredible how sports can unify a country and ignite the national spirit. I am always proud to be Pakistani, but was especially proud today, [a feeling echoed by Pakistanis at home and around the world]. So, it’s been a good day. Pakistan Zindabad, and good luck to our team in the final!

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Happy Earth Day!

river-indus

Flickr image by Faisal Saeed, View of Indus from Karakoram Highway

Not too long ago, I interviewed Roland Stevenson of RiverIndia, a company that leads kayaking expeditions in India and throughout the subcontinent. This past November, Roland led a team on an expedition down the Indus River in Pakistan, the longest river in the country and the 21st largest river in the world in terms of annual flow, [click here to read the interview]. While on the trip, considered one of the most successful descents of Indus River’s Rondu Gorge, the team filmed a documentary entitled, Hotel Charley IV: At Your Own Risk. The trailer of the film, shown below, not only highlights the breathtaking natural beauty of our country, but also the people-to-people understanding that was fostered during this expedition.

While on the trip, the team visited a school in a village called Harmosh, where they taught the students a class in English, [the school is now being targeted for closure by the Taliban]. At one point towards the end of the clip, a member of the team told the young students, “Thank you very much for letting us come to your valley and let us experience your river and your home and your culture. Thank you.” The trailer ends with the powerful message, “The children of Pakistan represent the future. Think about it.”

On a day like Earth Day, meant to inspire us all to appreciate the world and people around us, it is important for Pakistanis to be proud of not just our natural beauty but also the tenacity of our people in the face of daily violence, rising extremism, and political turmoil. Happy Earth Day everyone.

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CHUP: Teabreak’s Blogger of the Month!

So I’m happy and humbled to report that Tea Break, a network/community for Pakistani blogs, has named me their Blogger of the Month. Thanks for the support and the honor, I really really appreciate it! Here is a link to my interview with them.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! 2008 has been an eventful year for the world. In Pakistan, we have seen a transition from military rule to an elected government, an intensification of violence, natural disasters [the Balochistan earthquake], increased national solidarity against militancy and terrorism, the impact of the global financial crisis, and the rise of tensions on both our western and eastern borders. Let’s hope that 2009 is a better year for the future of our country and our people.

CHUP’s one year anniversary is also fast-approaching on January 11th, and I am putting together a special post commemorating the most interesting, shocking, and significant events I have covered in the past year. However, this blog could not have survived without you – my glorious readers that have contributed your thoughts, your readership, and your ideas over this past year. So I’d like to hear from you – what are your perspectives on Pakistan’s last year? What should the country do in 2009 to progress towards a better future? Leave comments here, or email me thoughts, or even videos of your thoughts to changinguppakistan@gmail.com.

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I am Pakistan

n37699605993_5138My cousin in Karachi referred me to I am Pakistan – an online movement that is on the verge of becoming an Internet sensation. Initiated by television journalist Faisal Qureshi, the country’s first e-rally urges Pakistanis around the world to take ownership for their actions and stop shifting responsibility. On his Facebook post, Qureshi wrote, “I think the sole purpose of this group is to instigate a desire and an oath to be a model Pakistani, wherever we may be. To be under oath to take responsibility of my 2′x2′, the space that I occupy, wherever I may be.” 2×2 specifically refers to the 2 feet by 2 feet space a person occupies while standing in place. He wrote, “It’s the space that is mine and my responsibility, wherever in the world I may be. If you believe in Pakistan and if you believe in yourself, then we all must join hands to stand up for our country.”

How can you get involved and show your support? Join the movement’s Facebook group – which already has nearly 5,000 members, and change your profile picture to the image depicted in this post, [available at this link]. However, don’t join the group, “just to join another group,” or if you are looking for another platform for mindless discussion. Qureshi wrote, “Let this be a beginning of a Peace and Love Rally for all Pakistanis. Nothing political, No sides, No discussion, No agenda.”

We as Pakistanis have the power to alter the negative perceptions of our country. Our actions, our statements, and our opinions impact not only the way the rest of the world perceives us, but how we view ourselves. This discussion is particularly relevant given the overzealous arguments that can occur in the blogosphere, [including on CHUP]. Instead of talking AT people, we should talk TO people – of all nationalities, religions, and mindsets. Blogs provide us with that forum – it connects us with people we may never meet in our everyday life.

Ultimately, we can only progress as a people and as a nation if we allow ourselves that moment of reflection, tolerance, and objectivity. So, join the movement, take responsibility for your actions, and realize that you are Pakistan. If we are united, we may soon realize that our power can extend much farther than our 2×2.

[Note: Teeth Maestro also included coverage of the movement on his blog]

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