Sunday, 3 April 2016

Masked Faces

The room was decorated with red roses, red is her favorite color. Her name ‘Zunaira’ was written in gold along with mine. The night had come when we would finally be together. The preparations began with great pomp and show, everybody was dancing. We were all set to leave the house for the wedding hall. Before leaving, I texted her that, ‘I am coming’. We reached the hall. Her family welcomed all of us by showering red roses upon us. And within an hour, I was sitting right next to her. She was looking beautiful and elegant as always. Her smile had brightened up the entire lawn. Everybody was coming to congratulate us. And sooner she walked like a princess from the hall for a new destination. The room was awaiting her arrival. With glittering eyes, she entered her dream home. Suddenly, my phone rang but I did not heed to the phone, her smiling face was all I wanted to see that night. When she smiles, the whole world seems to be cheering at her. The phone kept ringing, but we just moved towards our room. Just when I closed the door and turned around, suddenly there was an urgent knocking at the door. She asked me to answer the door. As soon as I opened the door, the message was clear. It was my cousin, panting, “It is an emergency! You need to answer the phone.”

Karachi is the heart of Pakistan. Being a metropolitan city, it is considered to be a hub of jobless people. With the population increasing day by day, the city’s natives felt marginalized by the migrants from Sindh, Punjab and KPK. Hence the protests began and trade punctured. Thus, the federation had to intervene to save the good citizens. Sometimes they act as the protectors of the crown, while in other times, as the masters with all the power in their hands.

Farzana had crossed thousands of miles and came this far to start her new life. Happily wedded in Sukkur, she travelled along with a new man. The man she does not know but with time, he discloses his identity through his words and deeds. She murmured in her heart that ‘women sometimes in a period of emergency are landed into new heaven where a rural man will mold their life according to his principles’. It is difficult to identify the real face of a man. Because men are inspired by the Shakespearean character Hamlet and men try to act with so much of grace and perfection in every situation that even the original character could not have done his role with such satisfaction. Behind their factitious smile, surrounds a story. Farzana’s wedding night opened in front of her a new chapter of greed and tax which every woman has to pay with each passing night. But the strength ends one day. And that is the judgment day.

Pir Saeen was lying on his death bed, breathing his last but wanted to establish his legacy before he was laid down in his grave. He wanted another conqueror to rule over his community. Khalifahs gathered to declare Pir’s successor. And the throne was laid upon the head of the eldest son. With the proclamation of the throne’s successor, Pir Saeen passed away and was buried in his ancestral graveyard, below the feet of his mother. Now the destiny of the people of Goth Allah Dino lied in the hands of the new Pir. Dastarbandi was held after Zuhar prayer, Pirs of various tribes gathered to tie the Patko (Sindhi Turban). The newly proclaimed Pir gave a sermon and met his followers who ensured their loyalty to the new Pir by touching his feet.

In the line of duty, you have to be out of your home. Even on the biggest days of your life. Intelligence Department reported that several militants were hiding in Safora Goth. And they had to be captured without any bloodshed. I had to leave my home. There are no options when you work for the dignity and security of your country. The mission had to be perfect, no mistakes could be afforded. The reason, my name was on the higher rank to lead the operation and to catch the big fish. Everyone at my home had slept. It was 2 pm. When I had put down the phone hours earlier, my newly wedded wife sensed that the nation had called me. She stood up like a soldier and uttered the words ‘You can go’. There was a car waiting outside my home as I came out and walked to a distance. The second was waiting at the main road. I opened the door, sat in the car and within seconds it took a turn and sped to its ultimate battlefield. The car dropped me near the main entrance where my comrades were waiting for me to lead them. The night exploded with the sound of bullet fires. When the sun showed its first glimpse, there was blood on the soil. Unfortunately one of the militants got killed and we could not stop the blood gushing from his veins. Such is the job of an intelligence officer who spends most of his nights in deserted places, away from their loved ones and what does he gets in return, bloodshed.

Nauman graduated from the university. He was looking for a job and wanted to be in the good books of government. But his luck could not find him the key to real success. Streets became his second home as he spent most of the time outside his house. The tree, below which he sat daily, is a famous point. Every day he was introduced to a new character that welcomed him to the street politics of Karachi, the very streets which forces the government to change their decision within seconds.

Farzana could not survive with this man. His greed increased with every day. He made promises at midnight and broke them in the morning. He wanted money and expensive gifts all the time. His demands kept increasing. Life of a working woman is miserable. Their fights increased and there could be no settlement. Farzana left his home to find refuge in her father’s home. But her name had been ousted from there as well and life got more and more tough. Such women are not respected in our society who leave their husband’s house. No matter how much the men bite them every day. Women’s respect lies in her husband’s name. Such universal laws have been drafted by the society. But she refused to party in the kind of a house where her soul was humiliated every day. With each passing day, shame was to her name. Boundaries were built around her, making her a prisoner and she disdained to live such a life. But a man has different characters; he plays a monster at night and a goat in the morning. He came and won the hearts of Farzana’s family though nothing changed his attitude. The prize she got for this revolutionary spirit could be found on her back, her hands, since men claim that a woman’s body belongs to them and after marriage, they are the conqueror of it. But with every day, Farzana’s tears grew and she decided to take a decision, now or never.

Pir’s words are holy sermons. The Pir knew how to maintain his authority. His eyes fell on the women who seldom spoke in front of him since they had became voiceless creatures. The Pir wished to be wedded every night, so that he has the power in the morning to make decisions. To decide the futures of his people.

Life continued like that. Four years had passed, the military operations grew day by day and for several nights I had to be out of my home. We had shifted to our new house. Me, my wife and my security guards. I left for Islamabad for an important meeting in the GHQ. And when I returned home, my country was fighting a war. With the traces of blood on my clothes as well now.

Nauman learnt to ride a bike. He mastered the art of street power of Karachi. As his new friends who accompanied him used to journey various spots, he was also becoming familiar to this new world. A world that gives you power within seconds for which he studied years.

Farzana’s phone had been snatched and she could not talk to anyone now. Her voice is silenced. She could not even meet her relatives. Because her husband finds Farzana’s eyes revolutionary which could haunt him and he disagrees to get his name some dirt. He wanted to be greeted as a prince. He shut her in the room and there was no rescue. But one day, she was rescued, only to be killed for years. Because her mind had taken the decision and now was the time to act upon it. But before killing the enemy, you need to share a last diplomatic table. Farzana consulted her parents and they consulted the tribal Head, the guardian who solved all the disputes.

The Pir got ready to listen to his people’s problem. He wore a white cotton shalwar kameez, ajrak on his shoulders, a Sindhi topi and with pride walked into the hall. Everyone stood up as the British had came yet again but this time with a different uniform. He held his hand high up in the sky and asked everyone to sit down. He was surrounded by four men who carried powerful guns so that the Pir is protected from any sort of threats. The Pir listened to all one by one. He was about to get up, when he saw a woman sitting in his autaq. She got his attention which made him inquire about the matter from the Munshi. And within seconds he was just a few feet away from her.

Secret missions had kept me so occupied that I could not talk to Zunaira. It was late in the night but my heart wished to talk to her. I dialed her number but since it was past midnight, she did not answer the phone. But her memories could not fade from my heart so I called her again this time. She picked up the phone. She could barely speak. I just kept on talking whereas she was yawning. The only sounds from her were ummm, ha, okay and fine. Suddenly I could hear a different sound behind her. Sound of bullets being fired. She got scared and rushed to lock the door. My heart beats rose. She came back to the phone and said there was something wrong at her end. I got worried. I put her on hold and called the security head at my house. He did not answer the call. I gave her hope and asked her to wait. Meanwhile I heard two to three more fires. She was breathless now. She was uttering my name loudly. I asked her to keep calm and let me call the agencies. I rang the nearby Police Station but no one answered. Everyone was sleeping and only I was serving the nation by putting my family at stake. I could hear her scream loudly, someone must have held her from her hair, she was being dragged and I could hear it all on the phone. I rushed to the door and started running as if I would cover thousands of miles within seconds. She was being dragged continuously. I could hear her cry ‘Please help! Please help!’ But there was no way for me to get there. Then I heard sounds of nine more bullets and her last breaths. She cried my name one last time and with that I was assured her bleeding body could no more take the pain of the bullets that had thrust into her body. And she went far, far away from me. In the next few seconds I heard a huge explosion and my life ended in those moments. My phone dropped on the deserted road and I was screaming furiously, alone in the dark. The love of my life had gone far away from me, near the fields where I could not join her now. In the line of duty, I lost my most precious jewel.

Nauman was smart enough to learn the art quickly. He gathered more people around him and started the business, business of taking money from people by force. Hence, he conquered the streets and became an active member of 90 guns party. The party gifted him with a bike, so that he could convey the messages rapidly from one corner to another in times of crisis. Crises depended upon the moods of government. With bike he got another facility, he got introduced, through the other guns, to women of Karachi. Since his new spot was near a college, his eyes got attracted to girls. And his lust increased to get nearer to them. Then the guns rewarded him with a mobile phone making girls just a text away from him. That gave him mental peace because ‘men always look towards women for love and peace’ as if God has created women’s body for joy only. The 90 guns had a structure similar to that of Army. Because of Nauman’s loyal services, he was made the Sector In-charge. Hence his mind went more into the criminal world and now he could have much closer looks at the girls since he was to solve the issues of the community in his party office.

The two families gathered in front of the Pir. But the Pir’s eyes were focused on Farzana who was covering her face with a shawl. And the Pir was looking for that veil to be lifted. It is usually a practice in rural Sindh and tribal areas that before any verdict, the girl’s wish or feelings are inquired. Therefore the Pir had been waiting for such an opportunity where he would hear Farzana speak and would figure out her hidden beauty. He heard both the parties. Farzana’s father was still looking for a settlement and she was taken aback when she heard her father speak in such a manner. But perhaps it was a last try. After the Pir had listened to both the parties, it was time to consult the lady. The Pir asked everyone to leave and let Farzana speak; it is usually thought that women are unable to speak their heart in front of their family members and other men. Farzana’s tears narrated the whole story and when accidently, her veil slipped from her face, the Pir’s eyes were amazed with her beauty. But she quickly covered her face again. The entire time Farzana was narrating her story, the Pir’s eyes were fixed on her veil to slip again and again. Farzana recognized the bells which were ringing in the Pir’s heart. She told her decision to him that she could not live with this man anymore. The Pir then talked to Sajid. Since he was overwhelmed by her beauty, all his questions were related to Farzana’s skin and body. But Sajid gave all positive compliments. When both the parties gathered again, Sajid complained about Farzana’s behavior with his parents and family. And now the autaq had turned into a battle arena as all increasingly grew impulsive. The Pir advised both the parties to think once again before dissolving the marriage and gave them more time. Despite having been listened to the miserable story from Farzana, Pir was looking to give more gravity to Sajid. But Farzana had made her mind although her father was still looking for a settlement. After a few weeks, there came a news that Sajid had married again, with his cousin. The news was a bolt from the blue for Farzana’s father who was still negotiating. There was no room left now than to knock the doors of men in black. Later Farzana came to know through her relatives that the Pir had advised Sajid in a private sitting that if he was not happy with Farzana, he has the option of second marriage. And all the famous tales about the Pir came true, that he belonged to the same fraternity which upholds the dogma that men are superior. This attribute Pir did not showcase publically.

My life was lost. The love of my life was no more. I returned soon but now I could not feel her near me. I could only see her on the walls. Her voice in my ears ‘Help me! Help me!’ could not let me sleep at nights. My soul burnt every day. I just could not believe she is no more with me. I received messages of condolences but I knew nobody could feel me; nobody has the courage to understand what I had lost. ‘A man’s strength lies in the heart of his woman’. I felt drunk all the time because her memories kept coming in front of my eyes where ever I went. To Allah we all have to return, but not with broken bones and marks of injustice on our body. In prayers I looked for peace, for the painful memories to fade away, I spent hours in the mosque, listening to the Imam. My question was why? Why did they do this to me? I was serving my nation.  I work day and night to save every person on my soil. But these terrorist, they attacked my house and slaughtered my wife. They killed her, they killed her and I heard each blow, her voice kept ringing in my ears for days and I was unable to do anything. I have rescued thousands of people. But I could not save my love. I felt her in my nerves all the time; she was the sole motivation, her smile, her love, her support and her undying spirit. When wars involve families, it gets worse. And civilians suffer. I lost my concentration. Doctor later revealed to me that my wife was pregnant with a three months baby. Perhaps the terrorist killed my whole family all at once and left me to live physically only. Mentally my heart was buried with my wife but I was still breathing, as my face hides the tears for my wife every day.

The well-wishers of 90 guns included them in the power politics yet again. They became partners. Nauman was now given responsibilities to control his area. And bring the bad boys on street in times of danger, to block roads, to close the shops, to collect extortion money. Nauman became popular in his locality. He rode a motorcycle which made a distinctive sound that whenever he tried his streets; his presence could be felt by everyone. And they saluted him. Nauman now could feel the power in his muscles, which gave the impression that he had enough in his pockets. Since Nauman was educated, which made him different as well, and was known for his loyal services for the party, he was promoted, also was given the job of a clerk in the Union Council of his town. With this new duty, he became a habitual smoker. And once again his heart blend for he could see women closely. They came for various reasons, like birth registration, death certificate and divorce certificate. But this time, he was dealing with them personally and was able to take their contact numbers as well.

In the family court Sukkur, Family suit No 2097, plaintiff Farzana d/o Mirza Tufail , adult Muslim resident of Sukkur versus defendant Sajid s/o Imdad Chandio, Muslim adult resident of Goth Allah Dino.

‘I don’t talk to boys. I always prefer to have a distance. I have some problems and I don’t want to be open about it. I cannot talk to you.’ The ideas just flashed back in my mind, while I was under the water. The water entered my nose and for a few seconds I thought there is no more life in me. I would not survive that day. But I did manage to breathe for some more time. It seemed as if a Bollywood movie was in action. The hero was drowning but suddenly managed to rise up, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar type.” I jumped in with a hope of never returning back but her memories of our first meeting gave me life yet again.

“They are close to us, run Nauman! Run! They are on bikes, we just have to hide in the narrow lanes because the streets are blocked, they cannot enter our main lane. You just have to run like an athlete today.” Nauman kept running until he could no more hear the bikes chasing him. “They were after us; they have been after our boys since days. Many have been picked, last night they picked Shahbaz from his wedding, her wife cried all night in the Police Station. We have to do something. They have all the information about us. We need to run away. You need to talk to the leadership. As the well-wishers have gotten upset with the 90 Guns leaders, they are after us every day.”

Farzana was left with no option other than to appear in the court. She filed for khula case as she was willing to forgo dower. The men in black summoned both the parties. But before that, the judge called Farzana in his chamber and tried to play the role of a mediator, he advised Farzana to go back to her home and do not be another Tehmina. Farzana was shocked to hear those words from his mouth and felt she had lost the case already. The judge appeared to be another figure of the male dominant society. Justice for women was written on stones only in the Stone Age whose wording will not be modified ever. Farzana wished Sajid does not appear in the court and with each passing day, her hopes were becoming fruitful but on the last day, Sajid filed his statement. He used tactics to delay the verdict causing more pain for Farzana. Sajid’s statement was a white paper against Farzana, his real nature revealed as a proof on papers. Sajjid called Farzana irresponsible, her family greedy, and he claimed that his precious jewels were in Farzana’s control, which were gifted by Sajjid and his family whose worth he mentioned as 10 lacs. Sajid threw dirt on Farzana’s character by claiming that she refused to perform matrimonial obligation by giving Holy Quran to Sajid. After abusing her so much, he still wished in the papers that Farzana may join him and he would keep her as a Princess. This phrase made the Judge smile and it triggered Farzana that she had lost the case here as well. Because Sajid has given the perfect solution. Farzana lost her hope to get Justice.

My beard had grown and my skin is all hairy. With long hair and beard, when I saw my face in the mirror, I looked like an Afghan Jihadi. When I came back to my senses, I questioned the agencies who had attacked my family. They all knew but seeing the blood in my eyes, they asked me to focus on my missions. I was sent to Pak-Iran border for intelligence networking. But I had made my mind already to look for the culprits who destroyed my family. Revenge was in my veins now.

Rangers raided the 90 guns hub, Nauman was there too but he managed to escape a few minutes ago. Dozens of arms and ammunition and boys were captured. The media aired live telecast of the raid made by Intelligence Department. They entered the narrow streets and without firing a single bullet entered in the hub. Nauman was terrified and for weeks did not come out. He got a message from the higher command that the conditions were worst. “You are transferred to Sukkur Union Council. A car will pick you and take you to Sukkur where boys have been informed about your arrival. And you may serve the party there since elections are near. Until the situation here gets under control, stay there and be safe.” Nauman left Karachi and never returned.

The Judgement reads as Instant suit for dissolution of marriage by way of Khulla and recovery of dowry articles filled by the Plaintiff. Pretrial proceedings held between both the parties, but were declared as failed. Defendant has no rejection to grant Khulla to Plaintiff. Hence Farzana and Sajid hereby dissolved by way of Khulla. Copy to UC for initiating proceedings for confirmation or reconciliation.

I returned to Karachi. But my heart was still searching for that criminal who destroyed my home. The army decided to initiate the operation against the 90 boys again, following the similar pattern of 92, 95, 97 and 2008 operations. I had been an active member of the 2008 operation. When I returned to Karachi this time around, I started to investigate the case of my wife. I searched tons of files, the missions and operations I had been a part of. And the criminals I killed. My first suspect was Taliban’s who were killed in the Safora Goth operation. For days I was after them. I walked miles to get the links and went very close to them in the narrow lanes where no one could imagine that people could even reside in such places. Probably if the agencies enter into such places at night, they would find themselves in a mess. All the connections were established but it was revealed to me that they were not behind that brutal act. I searched for other people who might have been involved in this. I tried to seek Corps Commander’s help and he revealed to me that they were the 90 boys. But he did not answer me why and I had to plan and hunt the culprit myself. My love’s killer was in my reach now; I could not sleep for another few nights. Revenge kept playing in my mind and her memories strengthened me.

Nauman entered the Union Council office. Life in Sukkur was very different. Continuous power breakdown and heat makes you short tempered and you indulge in conflicts very easily. Unlike in Karachi, Sukkur had other guns too, other owners of the city. One day, Nauman had a dispute with the famous Shah Tribe of Sukkur, and the whole office was burnt into ashes. Nauman was warned by the Sukkur bosses to be careful and not to indulge in any other popularity stunts.  Anti-Terrorist Court declared Nauman involved in murder and extortion cases and the Police was ordered to present him before the court on next hearing. Sukkur gave new chances of candy crushes to Nauman where he tried to taste new blood. Here he could see some women covering their faces with chaadar and some sleeveless. His heart danced as he saw them. For months not one woman came to the Union Council for any matter, since there tribes are believed to be more powerful than Union Councils.

Farzana read in a newspaper about the judge’s personal life which stated that he has three wives and was looking for the fourth one to have a male heir. This made Farzana furious and she had given up all her hopes. The case had been on the plate for five months for the Judge to give his verdict but he delayed it. Finally, Farzana got justice. But later it was revealed to her by her greedy lawyer that the case was not over yet. She had to consult the Union Council as well. Although Pervez Musharraf felt sad for rape victim Mukhtaran Bibi and wished that such a case should not happen again, he gave powers to the Union Council which acted as sub-bodies of the courts where the case would be tried again. The law, in short, is to punish the woman whose soul takes a revolutionary role. Hence such laws were to restrict women to enact their power of taking divorce from their husbands. Farzana became a victim of that philosophy as well. And now she again had to struggle, go to UC thrice in three months to get justice and a piece of paper which would entitle her as a divorced woman.

I had to cross the narrow streets again. I cross checked the files again, 90 guns was my main theme, I was searching for all the criminals I have arrested over the years. I made a list; they were more than a hundred. Then I made more lists of those I have arrested red handed, those who were killed and others in which intelligence sharing was carried out with the Police. Now I had three separate lists and I was searching for a name. But then it occurred to me, that I had supervised the 2008 operation, so like other officers of the Karachi operation I was the prime target. I just had to look for the murderer who killed my wife. I asked the Intelligence Department to give me list of target killers and highlighting those who were the main shooters of the 2008 era. I got a list of more than 70 people. And one of them had killed my heart.

Nauman had no work today. So he played music ‘Saanson ki zaroorat hai jaise zindagi ke leye, bas ek sanam chaahiye aashiqui ke leye, aashiqui k leye, mile kahin koi raahguzar, tanha katega kaisa yeh safar. Bas ek sanam chaahiye aashiqui ke leye.

Farzana’s father had inquired about the UC procedure earlier. That day she had came herself to record her statement. To tell the world again and again that she could not live with her husband anymore and her soul had turned rebellious. When she entered the UC, she saw a man sitting there, listening to music in a loud volume. He was singing along the lines as well, he looked high, probably was drunk. He was moving his chair here and there. He was about to jump from his seat when my father greeted him and he replied, with his eyes fixed on me, ‘bus ek sanam chaahiye aashiqui ke leye’. But he got back to his senses and explained the procedure. It was another five months plan; the procedure appeared longer and longer. Farzana decided to give up and left the office. But her father pressurized her and she came again. The man disclosed his identity as Nauman. He spoke with my parents but soon his words took the form of sermons of a mullah and started to lecture that women should not file for such cases, the society is not good. And that she should return to her husband. Meanwhile, Nauman lit his cigarette, asked Farzana to write her statement before the UC and continuously smoked in her face. He held her thumb and marked its impression on the statement. Farzana had to wait yet again for another few months to get justice.

When Nauman saw that beautiful girl coming towards her, his legs shivered and he began daydreaming, visualizing all the dirty night scenes he had seen in Bollywood films. But soon he woke up and heard her issue. When Nauman held Farzana’s thumb, his finger’s felt the peace. For three months he saw her beauty on regular intervals.

When I inquired about those 72 people, 40 among them had already been arrested and were in jails. None of these were behind my wife’s tragedy. But they named four men who were assigned the task of target killing. I counter checked in the hospital records and Police if they alive or not, but the list was a long one. I spent three nights and learnt that 2 among them were dead. Now remain only two. And both of them had been missing. I inquired from Rangers officials since they raided the hub of 90 boys, and reported that these two people were present there on that day but have gone missing. Through my contacts, I inquired from the border Police if these two had ran away in rural Sindh. One was Nauman and the other Saqib. Nauman was indicted by the ATC court as well. I contacted the Police and some good men of 90 guns party and got to know that he was in Sukkur. Now I was inches away to get my wife justice. I reported to the Intelligence Department and was assigned the task to arrest these criminals along with the Police. We landed in Sukkur, for a few days we kept an eye on him. I saw him and when I did, I wanted to pull the trigger and kill him right away but Zunaira’s picture came in my mind and I dropped the idea. As it was a UC, we had to be careful no civilian gets hurt. I had seen men going in and out from a far end, sitting in the car but one day, I saw a woman who went inside the UC and came out with tears in her eyes. And I did not know why. My focus was on my mission, and finally, the day had come and we were to arrest him.

Farzana read a newspaper’s headlines ‘Agencies conducted operation in Sukkur and arrested workers of 90 guns party from the UC and took all the records into their custody. Four men were arrested; among them the head clerk of UC, named Nauman, was arrested as well’.
After some days, Farzana’s father visited the UC and inquired about Nauman and the certificate. There was a munshi who told him that Nauman had been taken into Police custody, while the UC is closed for untold period. Rangers raided last night as well and had taken all the records with them. Your certificate is in the records as well. Farzana’s father tried to contact the Secretary as well but he did not answer. Farzana felt as if this was the end of her justice journey. Her family started abusing her as well, and she was despondent to see herself standing alone in her journey of justice.

Nauman was arrested in a joint action when he was in the UC. He confessed in the ATC court that he had killed a lot of people on the orders of his leadership, which had a team of target killers. I could not shoot him then and there since her images kept flashing in my eyes and made me weaker. I could not sleep for few nights. Just then I remembered the lady who came out crying from the UC. I searched the files we had taken from the UC. There were several certificates, from birth to death. Since she was an adult woman, I was unable to figure what made her walk in there. Two things came to my mind, either someone from her family had died, which means death certificate or marriage certificate, but no, she was crying it can’t be so. And then my eyes fell on a Khulla/Divorce Certificate which belonged to a woman. All my queries ended there. After removing the legal barriers, I posted the letter to her home. And now, my destination was the grave of my love, Zunaira.

All hopes were lost and tears became the sole partner of Farzana’s life. Then one day, after two months, Farzana received a Khula Certificate through courier and she was relieved. Farzana had struggled very hard, travelled very long on her road to justice. She came across men with same despicable desires but wore a different mask. He saw the first class in the form of her greedy husband, then the Pir who consider women as weak and inferior, then the judge who thought of women as commodity and then the young aashiq in the UC who saw women as prostitutes. Farzana turned out to be another Tehmina, as Farzana was raped by the society over and over again, just to get justice. It is not easy for women to get justice in a patriarchal society. No matter how much we claim women empowerment, a woman will be blamed and punished, always.

Few days later Nauman’s family and Farzana read in the newspaper that ‘Prisoners tried to escape from Sukkur Jail and were killed in an encounter. Three are wounded and one, named Nauman, is shot to death’.

I stood on her grave and recalled how in the line of duty, people lost their families. Wars should be fought man to man, on battlefield only, houses should not get bloodied. Because it leaves some people with a lifeless life, neither they die, nor do they live peacefully. Men are thought to be the strongest creatures on this earth but when they lose their heart to someone, they are the weakest souls.

There is a reality behind every face. Greed, lust and sadness are all locked behind a man’s face that masks it behind his smile.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Guests are coming

It’s an unlucky day, there is so much dust around and Karachi Water Board has gifted us with empty tanks.  The desire for drops of water is increasing minute by minute. Chained behind walls, we serve to shiver the legs with our beauty. Family planning seems to be an important factor in our lives, fixed in numbers usually six and often the number varies in the records of NADRA. Born to be slaves like the Africans, our existence refers to comfort only. Living in highly populated areas, we have neighbors too, distinct in everything: quality, color and size. Within a single family we all have same features, sixlets, can be a term of reference, so that no communication gap occurs. We live a harsh life, locked behind wooden doors with no sunlight, we are at a miles distance from the real world.

We can sense someone close to us, the door seems to be opening. A monster has come up to pick us and put on a great show. We move from our comfort zones, ‘it seemed as if, we haven’t moved for years, the muscles have become stiff. Our bodies are going to be washed today there is so much dust on us. ‘Get ready, be prepared are the slogans’. The masters have realized our worth in their life, drops of water fall on our bodies, and we feel the comfort, clothes and bodies are cleansed again and again so that no dirt remains on our figures. We will be representing our master, the supreme council has gathered. We can hear a lot of talk around us, probably the guests have come. It’s time to march close to them, first they try to hide us, then parade us like prostitutes. Shifting us from place to place, milking us with water as pure souls, they present us in front of strangers. As a battalion we march towards our ultimate journey, the guests are hundred eyed, looking at us from each angle, touching us weirdly while others move us again and again. Coughing over us, they love to lick us. With each second, they get dirtier. Sometimes our neighbors resemble their animal nature, smoke on our faces trying to exploit our beauty, the whiteness we bear, and they try to destroy the makeup done by our masters with Fair n lovely. While others leave their dirt on our hearts. We are washed by the masters again and imprisoned, again; the guest hadn’t bidden fairly on us.

Every week we have such guests and we undergo the same torment. The UN seems to be sleeping when our rights are being exploited. One day we will draft a new constitution for ourselves. Sometimes we are dressed differently too, bearing tattoos on our bodies and try to attract the guests, so they are pleased by our kindness.

Some of us lose their hearts and die, leaving others behind; like the Hindus, Christians and Muslims we don’t have any graveyards and we are thrown by our masters in dustbins as if we don’t matter to them ever. We don’t belong to any sect which can appeal on our behalf in front of the men in black. We leave our family behind with a disastrous future as the master’s welcome new slaves. Nobody gives an ear to our worries. No NGO protests for us, our society has no mayor or feudal lord who can fight for our rights. Even the Americans do not favor us.

Some of us, are awarded life imprisonment waiting for death to come to us. Probably that is why the NAP ordinance has been issued to release the pain from our bodies at once.

Sunday, 7 June 2015


 The soil of Sindh bears religious purity, as it is the place where the flag of Islam was hosted for the first time. Sufi leader Laal Shahbaz Qalandar spread the message of pureness in every knock and corner. With great pomp and show, the Urs of the Sufi leader is celebrated by the devotees for three days. Music, dance, traditional food and culture of Sindh reflect out during the Urs. The present generation seems to be unaware of the beauty of culture this place has and historical tales that are attached with the leadaer Laal Shahbaz.

The shrine of Laal Qalndar which stands tall and can be observed from a far off place was renovated by the great Mughal conqueror Akbar and then by Kalhoras who gifted the soil with Sindhi Kashi tiles and mirror work. The main door of the shrine is Gold plated which was gifted by Shah of Iran for this religious place. 
Sehwan attracts thousands of devotees during those three days, songs of Abida Parveen seems to provoke the Sufi soul in devotees and announces the beginning of  Urs, and people start to get up on their feet and dance on “dama dam mast qalandar” lyrics. The dhammalan escatic swirl of the head and the body, includes men and women to dance on the beats of naqqara, a big barrel drum, together as if they are celebrating the achievements of Qalandar. The Urs along with its religious colors, has its economic value as well, from the bus conductors to the local shop keepers all seems to profit a lot during the Urs.

Beside the shrine of Qalandar, his two devotees also attract people. Bodla Bahr and Jumman Jate, just as Abdullah Shah Ghazi as it is said saves people of Karachi from floods; Jumman Jute’s grave near water saves the people of Sehwan from flood and any other natural disaster. Beside the shrine of Qalandar is ‘Laal Bagh’ where there is greenery. Qalandar preached Islam near a tree in this Bagh. The tree still stands today, which is 800 years old and is seen as a symbol of religious purity by the devotees. People who came to visit the shrine also visit the bagh and some devotees pass under this tree to get spiritual blessings and their wishes to get fulfilled.

Terrorism seems to lose its feet near this place and never a heart-rending news is heard except the heat that kills a few. Those three days are marked as the cultural identity of Sindh as the true colors of Sindh spring out, Malakhro (wrestling), Sughran Jee Katchery (talks of the folks), musical concert, dhammal and Adabi conference try to reflect the historic culture of Sindh. Yet the present generation is unconscious of the culture Sufism has with it, and they seem to be interested in the western culture.
We live in an age of science, yet the place attracts thousands of people who gather as if a mela is being staged. On the other hand, the youngsters are unconscious of this essence which the Sufism culture embodies and do not feel that pleasure in their veins. For them, Urs of Qalandar is just another public holiday. Our course books need to comprise chapters which talk about the culture of Sehwan and the contribution of Laal Shahbaz Qalandar. Likewise, the historical palace of Mahraja Sehbastan, also known as Chupat Raja, should be given a thought by the Culture Department of Sindh. As it is our heritage.

Neither the power of crowns and Kings, nor the might of armies equals the force of a Qalandar. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

“How to bring peace in Karachi through Arts, Sports and Culture”

  If you are a criminology student, you would love to report Karachi’s criminal stories. The love and hate relationship of gangsters and political clashes. But that’s not the true picture of Karachi. Its true colors lie in the folk music played at Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine, the folk plays enacted at IBA, bike racing on the streets of sea-view and food stalls at Burns Road. These are the true colors which have been killed by the strikes, target killings and terrorist activities.

“Blood can be defeated by the colors of culture only”

Books present the real life of Karachi. But they have traces of blood on them now. Each strike leads to closure of Karachi’s biggest book market Urdu Bazaar. But the spirits can never be defeated, these shopkeepers have opened small shops near footpaths so that the booklovers can never die and so the book. The stalls are set on every Sunday near Regal Chowk and you could find all the treasure there. Be it a strike or any other tragedy the stalls are always set up to entertain the book lovers.

“Book is the real hope to kill criminal minds”

Libraries should be opened all weekends even on strikes so that a peaceful arena is always there for the citizens. Ethnic conflicts over the years in Karachi have increased, clashes over gatherings or religious practices play a party to it. This can be undone by a joint gathering. People from different ethnic backgrounds should gather at Jinnah’s tomb. Hence a feeling of brotherhood and unity is created. Millads and Conferences should be organized collectively. So that non state actors have no part to separate us.

Sports and Arts are the real building blocks. But the terrorist activities have made our grounds barren and arts is only presenting the darker side of Karachi. Painting competitions should be organized and the theme should be Peace. So that the true colors of Karachi are reflected. The barren grounds should be filled again by the participation of public. But such tournaments should be organized which attract the audience. Traditional games should be organized like Malakra besides Horse riding. And our ancient culture should be promoted which is dying.

Karachi has traces of blood on it but that’s not its history. The Sufi music being played at the Urs of Ghazi’s shrine spread the voice all over the sea. The Hindus’s Mantars sang near the Bin Qasim park in a temple has its own beauty. Hence the sea is rejoiced by the two cultures. It’s time that these events should be broadcasted on television rather than criminal’s most wanted shows.  The media should highlight the peaceful facts of our culture rather than killings in the park and life of feudal lords.

Let’s relive the art and life of Karachi unless it would die out behind blood and strike.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

"A British library seeking our attention”

Frere Hall is one of the many remnant buildings that the British has gifted us and still exist in Karachi. In the Days of British Raj, Frere hall serves as the hub of Karachi's socio cultural activities. Imagine a scene of Hollywood movie in which the British are dancing in the middle of the hall. The picture would be exactly the same here.
The building was built in honor of Sir Henry Bartie Edward Frere, who can be imagined as a champion for the Nationalists. As he made sufficient efforts in making Sindhi Language as the official language under his office.

In order to gather attraction to this building different events are organised against the backdrop of this building, like Karachi Eat Festival and Vintage Car Festival. So with my friends I decided to go in the vintage car festival. Every eye was praising the beauty of the cars, its color and engine. The more the prize gets higher there mouth opens a bit more .But its actual beauty hasn't been portrayed by far.Beside the park stands a great architectural wonder hardly the eyes notices it.

In the building exists a library. The first question that came to my mind when I went near this historical building was do the doors get open or not? Ironically an old men tried to enter the library but a guard shouted that "it’s close". Then a shopkeeper nearby told us that it is open for five days from 9 am to 5 pm. While its doors remain shut off on Saturdays and Sundays. So it is unfortunate in gathering a large public on weekends. And I was unfortunate to enter the building. But I have decided one day I will.

On Sundays the hall presents a different outlook. As books are found outside the library. As there was a book bazaar today in the courtyard where it is possible to purchase some old out of print books. I purchased a book by Tariq Ali "The leopard and the fox" which is a play on the politics of 80's. Whose normal prize is Rupees 495 but luckily I got it in just 150 rupees thanks to my friend Shahzaib. 

However the library was on the less attractive side and people were mainly enjoying the event. I wonder how many people would be coming in the library on regular days. Beside these social events I believe more efforts should be made to promote the reading culture and the beauty that lies in the library. And Literature festivals should be arranged in this historical building so that the true picture is presented rather than the social one. If you ever cross the road near the Frere Hall do visit this historical library and enrich your brain with some books.

Photography By : Hassan

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Karachi exhaling the new, inhaling the old

The sun is spreading its light and the birds announcing the message of God that O! Lovely creatures open your eyes and get enrich with the beauty of the sea, the atmosphere, the shrillness the birds are facing they want everyone to feel it. The sounds of shore slowly marching ahead and spreading over the soil is bringing a pleasant smell to one’s senses. The light of God has spread more and the sky has fully turned on and darkness gone. With unusual amounts of guests, walking over the shore, some feeling the water and other’s chanting sounds that seems to come from the depth of their vocal cord. Announcing that today is Sunday and they want to spend most of their time at sea. These chanting slogans and excitement makes the neighbors near the Sea view get onto their feet as soon as possible. As if we are guests to all these people and we are welcoming a worst day. People from far off places came to visit Sea-view and Sunday is the best time for it. There is a fact that those who come from rural areas to Karachi if they haven’t visited Sea-view than their journey is incomplete. Young guns go crazy on their bikes and their silencers make the worst sound they imagine themselves to be doing a Hollywood action film scene.

Families, couples, young guns and sometimes disabled children came to enjoy and feel the atmosphere which indeed is very different and if you have been there you can smell it right now. The sea is calm; the smell acts as a magnet and the joy is never ending. The neighbors due to unusual guests all the time are sometimes fed up of so much joy. And they wish the Government should banned picnics on Sunday.

We had two guests my cousins at our home that have come from Larkana. After they got free from their busy schedule we finally planned to go to Clifton and Sea-View as it is the famous spot for visitors. So finally the day came and on Sunday after eating lunch we left our home for Clifton. I was accompanied by my sister and two guests.
It was 31st of July on the eve of Eid when we switched on our televisions and we heard that many people have drowned in the sea. It appeared as a common story because once in a week or on weekends many young souls lose grip over their legs and go deep into the water and are drowned. The life guards can’t stop them they seem to be dysfunctional and they can only help people to survive by putting their lives in the sea.  Initial reports informed that three young souls and a 12 year old girl have been drowned near famous picnic spot “Do Darya”. But after people arose their voices that more people are missing, government washed their eyes and awakened from a long sleep, the rescue teams expanded their search activities and rescued more bodies whose breath was no more and subsequently the amount kept on increasing as administration failed and Navy with their helicopters came into the battlefield rescuing innocent soldiers and at the end it was reported that more than 40 people lose their souls in water. 

The car starts, put into gear and moves slowly and starts to march towards the destination. In the middle of the journey, our guests were enlightened by our tales about the earlier tours with our other cousins. Meanwhile my cousin asked me that can I take them to Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine. So we decided to pray at the shrine. My last visit was before 2007.

Karachi besides its ethnic and Political activities is also famous for its largest Sufi shrine, located near sandy shores of the city; Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine has its own symbolic presence. The Shrine attracts the beauty of the city because the admirers believed that the reason cyclones usually miss hitting Karachi is squarely due to the mystical power and presence of Shah Ghazi’s spirit that resides within the shrine. Of course many people also laugh off such beliefs but even to this day there are number of people who believe the shrine is encompassed with supernatural powers that Fautus failed to earn. But still the shrine enjoys devotional power and which is only fulfilled when devotees pray on the shrine and their souls are gifted with supreme peace. The shrine is dated back to 1400 years ago but the first picture which appeared in newspapers was taken around 1950’S in which the shrine was just a tiny, shaky hut on top of a sandy hill in Clifton area. During the 1960’s a whole culture of festivities including Qawalli and dhammal became regular practice at Urs, along with this small shops began emerging around the shrine. And in 2007 the shrine appeared more beautiful when extensive repair, cleaning up and renovation job on the shrine was done. But the militant extremists have gone so deep in their hatred against the state that this shrine which is land of peace and symbol of hope for many devotees was bombed on Oct 7th 2010. The blast went off at the entrance as people were queuing up to enter the shrine. Many innocent devotees and believers were butchered to death. Media reports that more than eight were killed and over sixty were injured. As a reaction a strike was called on the other day as it is a common practice. The shrine survived the carnage and kept on attracting many homeless and downtrodden believers.

We finally reach Clifton Road but when our feet touch the soil, we saw dug-up roads, mounds of earth, choked thoroughfares and alleyways, all were presenting an image of Moen-Jo Daro. It was all due to construction work on a flyover and two underpasses on the site. The area appears to be barren especially the recently renovated Bagh Ibane Qasim and lots of other historic places such as Jehangir Kothari Parade and ancient underground Shree Ratneshwar Madadev Temple.
The temple’s existence is of historic importance. The stairs of the temple lead to as many as six levels, situated in the opposite direction under the parking area many believe it is under Bagh Ibne Qasim. The tunnel which lie in the fifth and sixth basement levels leads to Mohatta Palace, fourth level is courtyard on the terrace there is a cement pigeon house with clean water, situated so near to the sea a sweet water springs at its lowest ebb is another nature’s miracle. Just as the followers of Ghazi believes that the shrine holds the sea back from flooding the sea. The Hindus believe that Lord Shiva third eye watches over the sea and keep it in check. But many of the rocks in the cave have developed fresh cracks due to the digging and heavy construction work outside. But the Hindus haven’t appealed against this development; they are indeed trying to reduce violence between Hindus and Muslims.

We cross this ancient ruin for a good cause left by the mastermind owner of Bahria Town and reach our destination i.e. the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi. But the shrine which is famous for its spiritual power was under high security zone now and in order to reach the stairs which were zig zag in the earlier days when I have visited the place. We have to cross high small security street and twice we were checked. And finally we reached the stairs and went to pray at the shrine. There were a lot of devotees praying, reciting in loud voices; some were snapping pictures, others crying with their heads bowed and in a line we have to stand to pray at the shrine. Finally after a long lane our turn came but 15 seconds was the time, there were some “protectors or soldiers of the shrine may be” who don’t let you stand for more than 15 seconds and ‘move ahead move ahead’ were the instructions. So in 15 Seconds we came out. I hardly know what my cousins prayed at the shrine in such a valuable time.But it was a technique to let everyone pray as there are enormous amount of devotees. Now we live in an age of terrorism where not even mosques, religious saints and Sufis are protected. But our internal security measures can let to make a difference.  Walking back to the main entrance from the stairs, in between we snap some pictures so that my cousins can relive the memories. And walking again through the security lane we reached the main road from where we have to go to Sea-View.
 Passing through the Hyperstall mall, the sea was attracting us towards itself; the first sign of it gave you an everlasting joy.  But as we reached near the sea my sister suddenly said why there are no people around the sea? Memories of the past events flashes back in my memory, the complaints of the neighbors that we read in the newspapers, the car racing, the bikes going crazy and families and couples at the sea side. We finally parked the car near the street, the car parking instructor was not there so the extortion money was saved. When we arrived there we saw very few people there and then we came to know that section 144 has been implemented and government has banned bathing in the sea. Life guards were standing nearby and they were stopping people from going into sea. Perhaps the government in state of confusion banned not only bathing but walking near the sea as well. Police vehicle was marching on the soil, the sea I think was also in the state of terror and the water which on usual days is on the shores almost near to the end of the footpath was too far thatday. We were unaware of the fact that the government could ban going to the sea-view for so long because almost a month has passed since the incident occurred. But we didn’t give up we felt the soil, snapped some picture and also tried to play with the law and tried to wet our feet’s in water but as we go near to the water , sound of whistle kept on increasing and warning came up that don’t go near the water. Perhaps bathing and getting your feet’s wet are two different things I guess but it was the precautionary measure for future I guess. I didn’t want my cousins to break the law and spent a day at Clifton police station. So we stayed at the shore, saw the sun playing with us. Eating chaat there, we finally left the place as darkness was spreading its shades and the street lights were closed not to be opened till the government orders. And we left the sea for our home with little disappointments in our heart. But days after I was happy to read that people are allowed to visit and bath in the sea. And the sea was spreading its magic again.

So Karachi which is known as the city of lights was hiding itself under article 144, security and terrorism for some time. But we are continuously struggling to make it better, passing through the security zone every day, breaking each wall that it is building around itself in the name of protection. Yes the new Karachi has replaced the old one. But still the old one is alive in our hearts and the sea, shrine and the parks they all are reflecting the joys of the past. And by visiting such places once a week we are being revolutionary against the government and atmosphere which is restricting the people of Karachi to make borders between it and ourselves. But we will break all the barriers and keep on living with the glories of the past.