National bloggers conference 09, don’t flog just blog!!

Today was a great day, I arrived at the national bloggers conference at the Regent plaza hotel around 330pm and stuck there till almost the end. What I got to hear and see were great speaking sessions by some of the most noteworthy bloggers in town, Jehan Ara, Awab, Farhan, Ammar, Asghar, Raja, Ramla, Ammar(Urdu Blogger who i thought had a grt presentation cut short) with some Rabia garib & Akc humor thrown in for good effect.

The government was there as well, with the IT ministry which must take a bow for the great support and exposure they lent the blogging community today & Dr Farooq Sattar who was a joy to hear. I thought the way the 11 year old Umaima Adil was honored was amazing.

Speaking of amazing, although the wifi kept dropping in the start, by halfway point there were more than 4 active connections available and that showed an organization team which fumbled initially but caught the ball brilliantly and carried it to the end. I with the Teeth Maestros collaboration covered it live on this blog and on some others as well via embedding. Quite frankly it was an overall great experience. However I have to say, that even though there was much light put on us bloggers and blaggerettes and many backs patted we failed to mention the people who worked like anything to make this event happen. Ok so we didn’t wanna see anything go down the political road, but there was a Mr Rehan Shakoor who was running from pillar to post organizing behind the scenes, there was a Mr Ali Raza Abidi who probably has not slept in days to keep everything positive, there was a Mr Faizan who was with the media folk making sure everyone’s cozy and a Mr Zeeshan tirelessly manning the laptop in the front to keep the presentations going. there was also Yasir who made so many networks on so many wifi routers he drove me giddy and a Mr Kanwar Moeez Khan or a Mr Khalid manning the security. There was also a few other people who I do not know the names of or do not remember but you get my point, all of these people deserve a clap on their backs cause they made it happen today. It really does not matter which party they represent, they worked their ass off so I applaud them for their effort.

Below are some of the pictures I took of this event.
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Did i forgot to mention that most of the print media (mainstream) ditched us? Except for Batool Habib of Hamse and Salman of Dawn I saw no one else going around making an effort. I guess they are too busy finding filler for tomorrows “imported” newsprint from  copy/past.com ho hum. Who can blame them though bloggers have no integrity man, they do not do research man…we need 5 more boxes from yahoo news to fill page 3 man.

Ardeshir also graced us with his presence, however I think he did one of those I put on a good shirt so why bother with the pants thing. A bit shocking but alright. I wonder what he dresses like for a casual occasion if he chose this ensemble for a conference?

All in all “tension lena ka nahin tension denay ka” Rawk on Bloggers and rawk on Karachi!!!

Shadow Wars

On my way to work today I saw a billboard, one of the many large ones that litter the vision of those driving in Karachi. It said; “Umrah on easy installments, now everyone can do Umrah” – that pretty much put our current religious compass in perspective for me and I laughed as I imagined what the true Aalims of Islam would say to something like this.

Funny thing is in this day and age we do not really know who the true Aalims of “Islam” are or whose “Islam” is the right “Islam”?

There is the Islam practiced in drawing rooms opulently appointed across the major domestic centers of Pakistan, while quaffing imported spirits and stressing on the need for “Huqooq ul Ebad” being as important as “Huqooq E Khuda”.

Then there is the Islam which is practiced along the FATA region and now after seeping its way into SWAT, is insistently announcing its presence in Islamabad, Lahore and maybe someday in Karachi as well. The followers of this Islam say women should sit at home and not work, they say they should be flogged if found even in the company of strangers, they also say that anyone committing any crime should get a speedy trial and be subjected to the harshest and strictest form of Islamic Law, Shariah as interpreted by the ‘Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban’.

Then there is a third kind of Islam which is practiced by the majority of Pakistan, which is somewhat confused and floundering between these two extremes, this is by far the most silent and hapless community with neither voice in the intelligentsia nor violence a la Taliban. This is the Pakistan which really counts and our countries future really depends on which side this majority will lean towards.

Obviously the kind of warfare being practiced in our country today with repeated attacks on state security apparatus and centers of power leaves no trail for anyone to follow. The attack on the Sri Lankan team was done by people who literally walked away in broad daylight and then just dissipated into the throng of life that is Lahore. Same was the case when the police academy was attacked; the government says there were 12-15 men while those at a construction site opposite the academy itself claim they saw at least 25 men jump into the vicinity. The perpetrators of crimes like this against our land roam free and openly invite people to join their cause. Their best tool are the drone attacks which rain down death on many an innocent civilian day after day through which they paint a picture of a bleak world, Christianity against Islam, the end of times, etc etc.

The seriousness of the whole situation though cannot dim the hilarity of it. We lash women for being in the company of na mehrams while 3 na mehrams hold them down for the punishment itself. The top brass of our politics is known for its colourful lives and rose-tinted glasses and to top it all off each one of them claims they represent the solah karor awam. So what do the solah karor awam really think of the future of their lives?

Most of them are currently trying to survive this weekend, with inflation being what it is and income getting lower every day.
They have no time to really dwell upon the philosophies of religion and propaganda wars as they are too busy keeping the boss or wife or girlfriend happy with them. Sometimes they even have to manage all three at one time. Simply put they do not care as long as they can have a reasonably comfortable life and some semblance of civic utilities reminding them where and how they are citizens of Pakistan. To them the Taliban are about as important as the horror one sees on TV soaps on Star Plus, the unseen violent ones who may be right or wrong but are definitely a bit better than the government. These followers of Geo TV do not comprehend why we make such a big deal out of everything in the first place. After all what difference does it make who is in charge?

Soon though they will have to choose, between the unabashedly corrupt liberals and the untamable other side of our society – the militants. They will have to go with the khilafat or the secularism. What is sad though, is that none of them are by any means even slightly prepared to engage in this choice, nor have the tools or education necessary to make the right one.

Uncertainty thus prevails and will continue to do so till it is decided by a violent struggle, which will either result in our liberation as a nation or our death.

As far as I am concerned, from here on it’s going to be one hell of a ride and I hope to God we emerge resilient as ever with our heads held high, and not chopped off.

As published in the 8th issue of TGK

14.4.2009 (supplemental)

Well its been one hell of a week. I make reference to hell because of the weather Karachi is experiencing these days. Not that I have been to hell or know the temperature there *shudder but it cannot be a lot hotter than it is right now.

Things have been happening so quickly this week that I have had to be on the run constantly just to keep up, first there was the whole Shanaakht thing and the shock I experienced at the brutality of the regime we live in. Then endless armchair activism as people took one stance then changed then went back to their first one and what not. During the process though I think I made a few friends and so I consider the whole exercise a fruitful one. I am just sad because I promised my daughter to take her to the festival on Sunday and then I had to explain to her why it was finished. You know what she said? She said “Baba if the picture was not good they could have taken it down right?” a 5 year old can think this but……emotions count more for some folks eh?

Anyways the whole thing got canceled and some people still have the nerve to make fun of the people who worked for months to make it happen. I would like to see them actually do something in their lives rather than eat off this country. That being said, there was even more happening in addition to this, namely a huge mega bloggers conference which will kickoff on the 18th of April at 4pm in Regent Plaza. It has been organized by the Ministry of I.T and it is one hell of a pleasant surprise. Why? ummm well unless you have been in a cave the last few years you would know that no one and I mean no one in our region of the woods from governmental circles even acknowledges blogging as an alternate form of media.  The mainstream media considers it something of an evil twin amply witnessed in cliches like “Bloggers have no integrity” and what not. So when such public acknowledgment takes place it makes a blagger proud man!! The funny part is though that internationally blogs are now the most read news source according to google and the like. This happened a few months back as well. So umm move over sport.

Today to top it all off our parliament, yes those people we elected into power to represent us, agreed on the Nizam E Adal enforcement in the Swat and MAlakand division. Basically what was agreed upon in the peace deal between the government and the PTT is now officially recommended by our house of politicians. I do not have a problem with the implementation of this system, however I now would like to know what if tomorrow Sind or Punjab or Baluchistan stood up and said we want to implement some other form of law, what supremacy does the supreme court enjoy then? In fact why have a supreme court when parallel systems of justice can exist in one country. That is if you still consider Swat to be part of Pakistan..

In the midst of all this here I am, working playing, living and doing what I can to keep my head above the waters of sanity here, sometimes I wish I could just vanish to a tropical paradise, I could catch my dinner and write, or maybe to a huge library with constant electricity and tomes of paper and the smell of books…then i wake up and its back to the grind man. As they say no rest for the wicked eh? What I would like most of all though is for each one of us to remember the next time we sit down to chomp, is that a man died at the press club today, protesting the takeover of his land by a fuedal. He was on a fast of protest for 20 days and he died…while there were 3 press conferences at the same place…lots of activists and protests and he sat there on the footpath in front of all of us and he died.

An open letter to karachi

By Sitwat Rizvi

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I had no particular affinity with the city of Karachi having moved here only three months ago. When I came to Pakistan I was a little lost, a little lonely and completely out of touch with who I was or where I truly belonged. Luckily I stumbled upon The Citizens Archive of Pakistan.

Working with Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has probably been one of the best experiences of my life. She is a force to be reckoned with. An inspiration to all. She is hard working, dedicated, strong, honest and true to her cause. She is someone who believes in speaking out when most of us are too scared to do so. She is someone who DOES while the rest of us sit around and talk. Sharmeen is a great leader, a great teacher. And the kind of Pakistani we all need to be.

Even though it did not start this way the last two months have been a process of self-discovery, a process of growing up and a process of beginning to understand and relate to my people. Shanaakht gave me hope. It gave me realization. It gave me the ability to understand that Pakistan is my home. These are my people and it is important that I give something back to them in any way I can. It is my responsibility as a citizen of this city to do something however big or small to help negate the negativity that is associated with our nation. The concept of Shanaakht was only to give people the opportunity to experience and learn from our past and to learn from the positive aspects of our society. It was to show every single Karachiite what it really means to be a Pakistani. It was a platform where people from all walks of life could gather together and enjoy themselves. All we wanted to do was to hand out a slice of hope to people for free. That was our only intention.

We did out part. As someone who was very closely involved in the organization of this festival I can confidently say we did every single thing we could have done to ensure that these five days would be an unforgettable experience for the city of Karachi. Ironically it was but not in the way we had imagined.

During the course of the half day the festival was running I remember having a conversation with someone and saying “Today I am so proud to be Pakistani” I am enraged and hurt that that feeling was taken away from me a few hours later. I am saddened by how a few people for their personal agendas turned everything upside-down in a matter of minutes. I am amazed at the audacity of the government.

We made a mistake. We admit that and we are apologetic for it. We take responsibility for having overlooked the “offensive” picture. But this in no way justifies the reaction of the people who came and ruined the event for the people of this city.
What they did was wrong. Plain and simple. Sadly, they too are our people. This is our identity: Intolerance. These are the cards we’ve been dealt with. All we can do is make the most of it. So we will pick ourselves up. Move on. We will bounce back because that’s who we are and that’s what we do.

Our hearts may be broken but our spirits are not.

Pic Credit

Batool Habib

National bloggers conference

To all the Bloggers out there and the Bloggerettes and the Blaggers and the Blaggerrets, the 18th of April shall see us gather under the roof of Regent Plaza Hotel Karachi to unleash our collective might upon this land.

Hmm sounds skeery? Actually no its going to be a “National Bloggers Conference” where the IT ministry is doing the organizing (check the fancy digs people) and the bloggers of Pakistan will be meeting, discussing, gossiping(we are bloggers) informing and having some fun along the way.

Seating is limited so please sign up at the following link. Suggestions are welcome here and will be routed to the organizers.

By the looks of the speakers panel things will be pretty entertaining. The event shall start at 4pm on the 18th of April, please keep reading this space for further updates.

Hope to see you all there!!!!!

Shanaakht 2009

The Shanaakht festival kicked off at 3pm for the general public at the arts council today. I got there a little after 3pm as I had heard so much about it that I wanted to be among the first to check it out, I can safely say I did not leave disappointed as it was a brilliantly well put together festival celebrating art and artists of many genre’s for the people of Karachi. The Cap team which is the organization that made this all possible have undoubtedly put in months of hard work for this event and it showed today all over the arts council.

Sadly soon after I left some miscreants entered the premises and upon witnessing a mural they considered objectionable not only ripped it off the wall, but broke several things and other exhibits in the process. It was chaotic scenes for a while and some weapons also came to be involved. This is quite pathetic and by now everyone has seen the footage of what took place, it was totally uncalled for as the organizers appealed to them and apologized right then and are still doing so for their oversight. Breaking and damaging the other pieces and smashing windows sends only one message, that of absolute intolerance. However rather then dwell on this subject I would like to personally congratulate Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Amean J, Sitwat Rizvi, Sabeen Mahmud and all the others involved that worked tirelessly to make this festival happen. Even if it does not continue they have all shown us that when people get together and try nothing is impossible.

Here are some of the brilliant exhibits I saw

The Murals

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Then & Now curated by Amean J

This photo exhibit featured photos from 1967 to the present era, the right side of the exhibit or the right wall was then and the left was the now side, quite impressive.

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Some of the pictures were so real it seemed like I was staring through some sort of portal, it was mesmerizing.

Forgotten Paradise ( a collection of pictures taken by Iqbal Akhund of Kashmir)

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Although most of these photos were taken with I would imagine a very old camera they were capturing in their natural beauty and had almost an ethereal feel to them

The Four Faces of Karachi (Mohammad Luthfullah Khan)

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A priceless and personal photo collection depicting Karachi back in the days.

Sohni Dharti Exhibit

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The 3d Cap Archive

Innovative and multi dimensional the CAP team managed to also put up a 3d presentation of various pictures from their archives jazzed up to make them look like they were popping out, complete with old style 3d glasses.

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The T2F Booth

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The T2F booth seemed like a pretty nifty idea and theme, it had coffee it had flavor and as Sabeen kindly pointed out it had 1400 kids visit this morning for art activities which they thoroughly enjoyed!!

Obviously if the festival goes on there is a hell of a lot more to come as aside from the exhibits there are book readings, oral listening projects, 3d art and graphics and plays as well as street theater. Lets hope the CAP team gets the support it needs for their efforts and the show goes on!!

UPDATE FROM SHANAAKHT MANAGMENT

The Shanaakht festival will continue today,Thursday, it will be open to the public after 3pm this afternoon. Please pass this message onto all your friends and please come out and show your support. Our hopes of uniting our people, our country remains the same. Come to show your support for Shanaakht, but more importantly for Pakistan. We will confirm events shortly.

FURTHER UPDATE

As of now the festival has been canceled again, some fool released the objectionable photo on a facebook group and its public now, well done guys digital activism without responsibility leads to disaster for people who have worked months for this.

I am speechless..

I cannot even begin to tell you how i feel after hearing the comments of this revered leader of the JI, I think these people are absolutely nuts and need to be barred from spreading their hate. Blaming the U.S for everything is hardly an answer to our problems, its part of the problem itself.

Fake video or not?

Merely a day after the entire civil society and intelligentsia of Pakistan seemingly erupted over the shocking footage of a 17 year old Chand bibi being flogged by militants, she has come out and denied the whole thing ever happened.

According to the story that was broken first in “The News” the investigation team visited Chand bibi’s village and spoke to her, she is married to one Adalat Khan and claims there was no such incident. She has though refused to appear before the supreme court citing her hijab and modesty as a reason. Her husband has agreed to appear on her behalf.

Sounds fishy? hell yes, because rather that going by her testimony alone we have actual video footage of her, which can be examined if needed by graphics experts available in pakistan to judge whether any of the frames have been tampered with, or voice analysis which can be carried out in perhaps a day in the top research labs anywhere in the world with a voice sample from her and one of the screaming girl in the video.

The government should indeed follow either of the above strategies or force her to give testimony even if it is in an enclosed room with no other men but the judges present. The nation needs to know the truth here, because right now people are just spreading rumors like mad and this is not good at all.

If this is fake then the channels which aired this video should be tried for slander and punished by a court of law. I personally do not think the video is a fake one but the nation needs proof and it needs it now. People are getting sick of all the head games being played on our mainstream media and need a clear picture. As for all the Taliban apologists out there, no israel did not make this video even if you think so, and even if Chand bibi claims it is fake the other countless atrocities being carried out by these militants are enough for them to be publicly nailed to a cross.  Does anyone seriously think these people are innocent? If they do I would like to have a little of what they are sipping.. please I need escape too.

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