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What does Imran Khan’s telethon tell us?

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It was the overwhelming response from overseas Pakistanis who’ve always stood by their country through thick and thin.

Pakistan’s current climate crisis is making headlines in the international media for the massive devastation it has caused – and continues to do so – primarily because of global climate change. In these tough times, we also see that Pakistanis across the globe remain at the forefront to donate and help make up for the damages and losses.

In the same spirit, recently we saw an international telethon fundraiser held by Pakistan’s former prime minister, Imran Khan, which was telecasted live by a few news channels as well. Call it surprising, or amazing, but a mere three-hour long telethon resulted in fundraising more than Rs5 billion, out of which many celebrities, public figures, and overseas Pakistanis also contributed in considerable amounts.

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This comes at a time when almost all mainstream political forces of Pakistan have united against Imran and his party, which did not only lead to his ouster as a premier few months ago, but also dragged him into court cases and media trials. It is also pertinent to mention here that Imran has always been immensely targeted by his political opponents, not only for his ‘inability to lead the country’ but also for corruption and dishonesty – charges that have fallen flat after the recent telethon, because it showed that none of the accusations against him have so far affected his popularity. On the contrary, what we have seen is the nation’s absolute trust in Imran which is the prime reason why an amount as huge as five billion were collected in a matter of just a few hours.

Very few personalities have such powerful capabilities to mobilise people and gain their confidence to such an extent that the people ultimately hand over their hard-earned money to them. It only goes to show that the donors know the purpose of their contributions will be fulfilled by those they are donating their money to.

Imran has been labelled as “corrupt, poppet, liar, Taliban Khan, zakat thief”. His opponents have attempted to malign him for various reasons of their own but it did not shake the nation’s trust in him, otherwise we would never have seen the telethon turning into a huge success. Those few hours of fundraising further proved to his supporters that Imran is indeed a true leader and the people’s choice – a leader who was ill-intently removed from his office under the no-confidence motion.

The on-going foreign funding case against Imran and his party – whereby they are accused of receiving illegal funds – is a charge that still needs to be proved wrong by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Although his opponents have tried their best to capitalise on this case and declare him a dishonest political figure, it has not convinced the masses to stop supporting him.

One noteworthy aspect with regard to the telethon was the overwhelming response received from overseas Pakistanis who have always stood by their country through thick and thin, and this time wasn’t any different either. Despite the fact that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has made all efforts to keep the overseas Pakistanis from getting voting rights in Pakistan’s general elections, they did not shy away from helping their country in this difficult time. Why? Because it was Imran asking them to donate for the flood-affected victims. For them, with Imran’s name comes the guarantee that their money will remain in safe and able hands.

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I myself being an overseas Pakistani can testify. After having talked to many Pakistanis here in Australia, it is safe to say most Pakistanis abroad absolutely love Imran, as they say:

“Khan sahab ke liye to kuch bhi karenge!”

(We will do anything to support Khan!)

When I ask overseas Pakistanis why they look up to Imran more than any other leader in Pakistan’s recent history, the answer for many is simple: he has a clean background with no history of looting the country or misusing his power and position to accumulate private wealth and assets. These are the same reasons why many Pakistanis did not ever exercise their right to vote until they had Imran standing as a promising option, after seeing years of dynastic politicians taking their turns to come to power only to use the power to their benefits.

Even today, as Imran is mockingly called a “beggar”, he stands tall against all odds as he asks his people to donate for the sake of humanity, and succeeds in doing so.



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Navigating today’s world as a Pakistani millennial mother

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The ‘girl’ in us was indoctrinated, the ‘millennial’ learnt, and the ‘parent’ is still in the process of unlearning

The four words – Pakistani, millennial, woman, parent – serve as coordinates to locate the “presence” of several of my intersectionality on the map of life. But when taken into context, each word/label represents a separate journey of experiences for every woman my age.

I represent a faction that was born into privilege of sorts – in an upper-middle class family, to educated parents, who lives in a big city like Chicago – along with six million other people at the time. Every woman belonging to this faction has lived through a time that has not only seen technology flourish but has also seen the stature of woman and womanhood change manifold.

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The ‘girl’ in us was indoctrinated, the ‘millennial’ learnt and the ‘parent’ is still in the process of unlearning. Finally, the ‘Pakistani’ in us is in an emotional turmoil and has a scattered sense of identity. In my opinion, primarily because as women born and raised in a dogmatic society, we cannot just dissolve into one.

As I parent my daughter, I find myself picking a “Frozen” for every “Sleeping Beauty” that I was bought as a kid. For every fragile Barbie that I was gifted, I present my daughter with an equally fierce Optimus Prime. The sons are now, for a lack of better word, ‘allowed’ to play chef, and rightly so, which in our time was downright abhorred. And while it may seem as the obvious thing to do, in this day and age (of woke liberalism), there is also a part of me and my faction that finds it hard to explain the concept of gender fluidity to future generations. As Pakistani millennials, we struggle with drawing the defining line between fluidity of societal gender roles and the metamorphosis of gender identity. Conceptually, the two are distinct, but in practical terms, our millennial minds might fail to translate it into core values while raising children born into the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

It was but second nature to understand unsaid and untold yet differing curfew times for teenage boys and girls in those times – things that few of us questioned. And those who did were labelled as a certain character. Now as a grown woman, I recognise the urge and need to protect the so-called “weaker sex” from the gnawing jaws of untamed men; I feel distraught at being robbed of the opportunity to err and learn. We can possibly encompass some men our age who were raised protected as well. Thus, giving rise to a generation of parents who have so much left to discover within themselves, while also expected to raise another human.

Much as the generation before us struggled to get women out of home-schooling into formal education, rendering the first women graduates of many kinds in many families, today’s woman is caught in the conundrum of prioritising family or career. Today, in the majority of homes, the ideal two-income household exists on the grounds that women take on both the traditional and modern roles. Nonetheless, even the ones with the more egalitarian approach still grapple with infamous parental guilt, popularly marginalised as “mom guilt”, a term that rages many storms in my mind (better to be addressed at a later time). And so, what may seemingly appear as a “picture perfect,” “instagrammable” life, often comes at the cost of severe mental trauma.

Those of us who are able to break free of the chains of mental confines eventually get absorbed into another rabbit hole of striking the balance between how much freedom, how much struggle and how much luxury to provide to our future generation. A generation that was born in the age of instant gratification and where knowledge of all sorts, both good and bad, is a click of a thumb away. While we juggle with this thought, we are often reminded of the stories narrated to us by our parents, of their miles-long commute on foot to get to where they stand today.

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Navigating through existence has never been easy, but I would argue our times are the hardest. We struggle with many rights and wrongs, tussle with nonconformity and yet fancy some degree of traditionalism.

Kahlil Gibran aptly sums our struggles timelessly, in his book The Prophet:

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”



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Can we claim to uphold the principles of Karbala today?

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Today, we choose to submit to the powerful and abuse the helpless.

The sacred month of Muharram has come to an end. It’s now the chehlum of the martyrs of Karbala. I’m writing this piece as a reminder to ourselves of the reasons why we commemorate this tradegy. However, before I get into the details, I’d like to say that if someone thinks that mourning Karbala is just a Shia tradition, they’re unaware and part of the problem. What happened on the banks of Euphrates in 61AH is a tragedy that transcends even religion; it was a turning point in the history of humanity itself, but what were the core principles around it? After all, what was so incredibly important for the family and friends of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) to sacrifice their lives like that?

The core principles of Karbala were truth and justice, standing up tall against forces of tyranny and oppression. These principles were supposed to be carried as a part of one’s very existence, not just blaring sermons about it over microphones every year in the month of Muharram, like it happens nowadays.

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Now tell me, how many of us can claim to uphold this principle in our lives? In my opinion, it’s actually the complete opposite. We choose to submit to the powerful and abuse the helpless; we snatch away the belongings from widows and orphans; we deny our sisters their right of inheritance, we marry our daughters against their will, and kill them if they openly speak about marrying somone of their choice. We hire poor people’s children to babysit ours, and let them suffer and starve in front of our eyes while we feed our own children the sweetest delicacies in the world. Not only that, we add impurities to our food and sell medicines at ridiculously hiked prices when a pandemic strikes, purely to profit from other people’s suffering. We blame our government for not protecting the flood victims and shut our own windows when a homeless person knocks on them. We sacrifice animals in the name of God but call part-time butchers to save a few pennies, causing unimaginable pain to the animals in their final moments on earth. We molest men in mosques, children in schools, and women in their graves, while members of the transgender community spend their whole lives wishing they were never even born.

Perhaps Zahir Jaffer, like all of us, grew up listening to the story of the unimaginable massacre of Karbala. Yet he beheaded Noor Muqaddam in the same manner that Shimar had beheaded Imam Hussain (AS). Zainab’s rapist and subsequent murderer used to recite naats in mehfils of Milad-un-Nabi. In fact, he himself admitted that he went to attend one such gathering immediately after committing those unspeakable horrors to that angelic child. And no, these are not isolated incidents. Bashar-ul-Assad has murdered more Muslims during his regime than Israel has since its inception. Saddam Hussain was an absolute slaughter machine for his people. The Hazaras of Pakistan continue to face an organised extermination for decades. The whole Muslim world has been literally torn apart by the malicious conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, despite this terrifying carnival of carnage, we see people defending crimes of Bashar-ul-Assad, and hailing Saddam Hussain as their hero. The very standpoint of Karbala was to speak the truth against an oppressing regime that was promoting injustice against Muslims. Unfortunately, today those Muslims have become icons of oppression themselves.

Karbala is not a piece of land on the bank of Euphrates incarcerated by Yazeed and emancipated by Imam Hussain (AS). It’s a name for a place cooking inside a cauldron of injustice, broiling raging fumes of resistance, pounding ruthlessly against the mouth of the crucible. It’s a story of people who auction their souls to sustain their existence. It’s the plight of animals and the death of trees in the burning forests of Amazon. It’s the heaps of haggard babies in the laps of their hapless mothers sitting by the haunted graves in Africa. It’s the march of humans wearing yellow stars to their extermination camp in Auschwitz. It’s the folktale of generations lost waiting for their homeland in the daunting desert of Palestine. It’s the blinded eyes and the bleeding hearts of the enslaved Kashmiris imploring the mighty custodians of the world’s biggest democracy for their right of self-determination.

How people choose to celebrate their events or mourn their tragedies remains their personal matter as long as their practices don’t disrespect others’ beliefs, but I have the honour of having a very special affiliation with Prophet Muhammad (PBUP) and his family. I find it utterly disrespectful to send blessings on them on one hand and wrong a helpless being on the other. Please, I request you once again to not interpret this for Ahl-e-Tashee. Like I mentioned in the beginning, this idea is about our very essence as human beings. The perfect example of this quality was displayed by our beloved Holy Prophet (PBUH) in several different ways. One particular instance that is often spoken about frequently was when the Holy Prophet (PHUB) showed concern for a lady who disrespected him when she fell ill, despite how she treated him. These qualities were reflected in his grandson too, when he respected the rights of his absolutely monstrous enemy under the scorching sun. Hence, it’s simply unbearable for me to see ourselves telling tales of Medina and Karbala during Ramazan and Muharram and then resuming our reality of corruption and oppression as soon as that period comes to an end.

No, all of this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to be good wherever and whenever we can, neither does it imply that I have given up on humankind completely. It only means that our yardstick for justice should be the same for everyone and that we need to mend our ways before it’s too late. Miracles stop happening when the belief in their existence is gone. The long stream of Nile can once again become water with our faith but yes, right now, it’s flowing with blood.

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Monster monsoon returns to Pakistan, but many are here to help

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Is the aid really reaching the deserving people? And if it is, is it enough? All these donations are temporary relief.

A reality that everyone used to call a hoax and a conspiracy theory has now come to life in the worst way possible. Catastrophic wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis and floods have hit the world. A country like Pakistan contributes merely one per cent to the global carbon emissions, and on the other hand, Europe and Northern America contribute the most. Yet, Pakistan is the worst affected country by the aftermaths of what humans have done to the world due to its geographical location, making it very sensitive to climate change. Pakistan is situated in an area of the world subjected to the effects of two major weather systems. One can induce high temperatures and drought, like the March heatwave, while the other provides monster monsoon rains.

The devastating floods in Pakistan serve as a wake-up call to the rest of the globe about the dangers of climate change. A sense of injustice is keenly felt in the country. More than 1,100 people have died, and millions have been affected by the floods in Pakistan. One-third of Pakistan is currently underwater, which has exceeded every threshold and norm we’ve seen in the past. Not only that, Pakistan may face a $2.24 billion annual average loss due to natural disasters. The provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been the most affected, and most of the people killed were women and children.

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Broken hearts, teary eyes and loud cries are heard and seen as floods wreak havoc in Sindh, Balochistan, Nowshera, Swat and other parts in the Northern part of the country. The flood water swept away many people’s dreams; many cries and shrieks were silenced, innocent and weak lives were separated from their loved ones. Many homes were broken, and soles were consumed by the unmerciful flood waters. No one could have done anything; all they could do was stand and watch.

However, efforts all around are being made by many to simply reduce the damage done by the monster monsoon in Pakistan since reversing the damages altogether is practically impossible. The Pakistan forces, government, foreign friends and the United Nations (UN) are attempting to reduce the risks of these sudden floods by installing early-warning systems and protective infrastructures in place. Rescue operations are being carried out for the affected population. The Pakistan army, like always, is carrying out these operations and is helping those who lost everything during this time. Food, clothes, shelter and other essentials are being arranged regularly. Rescue operations are not only saving human beings but animals as well. Foreign countries, NGOs and international organisations are also sending in huge amounts of funding and donations to help out.

Still, many questions arise: is the aid really reaching the deserving, helpless people? And even if it is, is it enough? While I was in Charsada, I observed that the army and many private organisations were distributing bedding and medication that the residents needed. According to many people, the aid is reaching some, and they are thankful, but some are not getting the help they need as ID cards are required by some agencies distributing aid. Unfortunately, because many local people lost all their documentation in the flood, they were not able to receive the aid or relief packages they so needed. Another issue arising is the repetition of aid each family gets. Families repeatedly send different family members of the family to get multiple bags of rations. Furthermore, many say that the aid is temporary help. Their means of income – the fields they used to grow crops in – have been completely destroyed. Hence, this is temporary help and the worst is yet to stay.

All these funds and donations might help people survive for the time being but it won’t be able to bring back people’s homes which they made with all their hard work, or their livelihoods. The only hope the people of Pakistan have is that God stops the chain of unprecedented rains in the country, so their misery can end here and they can move forward to build a new life.



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