Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Convicted for Innocence

The types of movies that I like are the ones that make you think, that absorb your mind and demand your attention. The kind that kick your resting intellect to take notice, provide food for thought and especially the ones that are based on real, true life stories. I would like to recommend two movies worth seeing, based on true stories that make us think and question the dogma.

 The first movie is ‘Conviction’ in which a working mother joins law school to become a lawyer and free her brother who has wrongly been accused of murder. This takes her two decades since she was a high school dropout but she eventually manages to prove her brothers innocence.

The second movie is ‘In the Name of the Father’ in which 4 people are wrongly accused of IRA bombings in Britain. Two of them include a father and his son. Many years later, a lawyer stumbles upon their case and manages to prove their innocence, but by then it is too late for the father who dies in prison.

These two cases highlight something that is predominant in our society yet goes largely ignored. People are wrongly accused and put in prison to serve sentences of crimes they did not commit. This is especially the case for the poor, who do not have enough resources to even bail out their relatives. Those who require lawyers do not have the money to pay for them.

During Eid in Pakistan, I came across a case in which police arrested a relative’s gardener who had been employed at their place for the past five years. My relatives claimed they were sure of his innocence since he was a decent, trustworthy employee who had served them well. He was blamed for robbery at a house which had employed two new servants, both of whom had run away with the assets. The poor man came crying to thank them for the bail money, and you could tell from the bruises that he had been badly beaten up in jail to confess to a crime he didn’t commit.

I remember back in LUMS I went to attend a conference where an NGO had come to highlight this issue and ask for student support to go to prisons where they could talk to poor prisoners, and act as lawyers for them to bail them out if they were innocent. I do not remember the name of the NGO, but I asked a lawyer friend to look it up, and it is ‘Prison Fellowship Pakistan.’ I could not volunteer for them because my parents forbade their only daughter from going to different prisons, but if you can, it is definitely something to pursue that could make a huge difference in the lives of innocent people who have no other hope. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Hero for Humanity: Abdul Sattar Edhi

This article has also been published on the Express Tribune Website at the following link:

On 28th November 2011, the Prime Minister of Pakistan nominated Abdul Sattar Edhi for a Nobel Peace Prize. For Pakistanis and most other people in the world, Abdul Sattar Edhi is a name that requires no introduction. The founder of the largest welfare organization in Pakistan 'The Edhi Foundation', he has been referred to as an inspiration, a savior and a living saint. For those who know his story, he is no less than a living legend who has overcome the odds to accomplish not a selfish goal but one that has helped millions see a glimmer of hope through the darkness.

The journey started when Edhi was eleven years of age. His mother got paralyzed and mentally ill. Edhi took full responsibility of caring for all of her needs, from changing, bathing and feeding her to being there as a source of support. Despite his caring, unfortunately his mother died when Edhi was 19, and it affected him to such an extent that he could not complete high school.  Instead of growing bitter that no one had helped them when they were in need, Edhi instead focused on what he could do considering the millions of other helpless and suffering people out there. With little resources and a big dream, Edhi set off to beg on streets for money with which he bought his first ambulance, an old van. Equipped with the prayers of those whom he helped, and continuing forward on mission, the Edhi Foundation today runs the worlds largest ambulatory service.

At the age of 20, Edhi volunteered at a charity in Karachi. However, he was appalled to learn that the charity only helped a certain sect of people, ignoring the other needless. He protested against discrimination towards the poor, and set up his own charity shop instead. However he earned the enmity of the sect he had protested against, and considering his life was in danger he left Pakistan and begged his way through Europe. Becoming an admirer for the Welfare State System, he decided that if the government couldn't help the people, he would do whatever was in his capacity to fulfill that gap.

The remarkable journey that followed has helped Edhi operate not just the largest ambulatory service in the world, but also run free orphanages, old peoples homes, medicine dispensaries, clinics, rehab centers, women shelters and home for abandoned babies. Edhi has not only touched lives in Pakistan but has helped people in Middle East, Africa, Europe and even USA. He has won countless national and international awards for his humanitarianism and philanthropy. Speaking on the news on Monday, Edhi said he was honored to having been nominated the Nobel Peace Prize as the prize money and recognition would further his aims of helping others. Edhi said he plans on giving the Pakistani government a plan for a welfare system for the poor. Best of all, the Edhi Foundation doesn't take any aid from the Pakistani government to maintain its independence. There is indeed a lot that our government, and people around the world, can learn from the selfless, true hero for humanity that is Abdul Sattar Edhi, who commands the respect of millions including that of the author of this article.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I was going through my poetry and came across a poem which I thought I would share on my blog today. I vividly recall the night when I wrote this poem. It was the year 2007. I was fast asleep in my room in Lahore, Pakistan, before being rudely awaken by a loud rainstorm. My room had been enveloped in darkness, yet when I opened my eyes, I could see everything lit up by a stroke of lightning.

Behind my bed there is a huge window, and from it you can see our backyard with the lemon trees and other few perennials my mom had had the gardener  plant there. I woke up, turned aside the red curtains, and sat on my bed, watching entranced the frequency and size of the raindrops getting bigger right before my eyes, lightning possessively showing mere glimpses of the backyard at night from time to time, my ears submerged to the mercy of the roaring thunder. There, that fateful night in 2007, instead of going back to sleep, I wrote the following poem:

Sleeping, tired, troubled daze,
Wake me from this blurry haze.
Darkness envelopes, thunder strikes,
The night enchanted by its eerie lights.
For a moment I see it all,
The beauty, galore, magnificence standing tall.
Before it is snatched from my grasp,
With the wind, deafening in its sordid rasp.
Yet I know in my heart,
I always did from the start.
The lightning will show it all,
The backyard cascading with dancing rain fall.
With a secret smile, transfixed, I fly,
From the temptress past, its seducing cry.
From the morbidity of that gloomy land,
trying to devour me like quicksand.
It is heart-wrenching, yet I know,
this time I veritably must go.
Closing my eyes, I succumb to my fate,
Trusting it before it is too late.
Time transmits me through its chimerical illusion,
The universe empowers me with positive fusion.
Away I transcend, searching for my alchemist's gold,
As memories slither from my hand,
When I unclench my fist, the wind creeps them away like particles of sand.
And finally I can give a sigh of relief,
I have let go, I have transcended from my grief.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stumble Upon a Lost Prayer

I have the tendency to be a Socratic tourist, inquisitive, curious and excited to learn more. I love history, exploring places and not just by listening to what the guide has to say, but by going and getting a feel for myself about how the place must have been back in the old days, by exploring the hidden nooks and corners. Holy sites form a huge part of history and culture of most places in our world. I have had the opportunity to visit Muslim mosques, Christian churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples, Sikh gurdwaras and even pagan worship sites such as Stonehenge. I am a Muslim and I visit the sites of other religions as a tourist, yet respectful towards them as I would like others to be respectful when visiting Muslim holy sites.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity of visiting one of the old churches in London, Southwark Cathedral. My visiting the site, which later turned out to be the oldest cathedral church building in London, was quite an accident. I was coming back from someplace, and this was literally in my way. I decided instead of going around the church, I may as well go through it. It was a nice, beautiful cathedral and my curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to explore it. While exploring it, I came across a small old tomb, with some inscription on the wall besides it, containing information regarding who was buried there. I had really liked what was written there and had taken a picture with my cell phone. While browsing through my images gallery in my cell today, I came across that picture and decided it was definitely worth sharing on my blog.

The inscription informed us that the person buried there was Bishop Lancelot Andrewes. It then went on to quote a prayer by him, and I quote verbatim:

'Thou, O Lord, art the Helper of the helpless,
the Hope of the hopeless,
the Savior of them who are tossed with the tempests,
the Haven of them who sail, be thou all to all,
the glorious majesty of the Lord, our God be upon us,
prosper thou the work of our hands upon us,
oh! prosper thou our handiwork.
Lord, be thou within us, to strengthen us,
without us to keep us, above us to protect us,
beneath us to uphold us, before us to direct us,
behind us to keep us from straying,
round about us to defend us.
Blessed be Thou, O Lord our father, for ever and ever.'

I don't know if it was just the soothing aura of the place, the peaceful ambiance or just the sincere beauty in these words, but they touched me and I stopped to capture the moment with my phone camera. Apart from the last line, which is Christian specific considering the 'our father' bit, this is actually a beautiful and simple prayer that transcends religious boundaries. That is of course just my opinion, however the sincerity in it has definitely stood the test of time, and enchanted many a tourists visiting Southwark Cathedral. God bless.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Waiting Area

God bless PIA (Pakistan International Airlines). My flight was scheduled for 10am today. Around 5am in the morning, I got a call from the PIA personnel, informing me that it had been delayed and was now at 6pm. When I called to confirm the timings at 2pm, the flight had again been delayed by 15 minutes. By the time I reached the airport, I found it was now at 6:45pm. Considering the exasperating experience of a family member  weeks ago with the same airline, I am hoping the flight doesn't get delayed any longer. Fingers crossed.

Somehow, whenever I end up in such situations, my laptop and ipod batteries are almost dead, and either I forget to bring a book, or as is the case today end up packing it in my checked in luggage. The phone battery status isn't reassuring either so I thank God that I have two empty pages left in my trusty old notebook to scribble my thoughts upon. With my writing hand injured, the scribbling bit would be S.L.O.W. and hopefully legible enough to read later.

Alhamdulilah I have never had a fear of flying, despite one or two bumpy rides endured in the past. I never really delve into the morbid thoughts of planes crashing, God forbid. Until recently when I had no choice. There comes a popular TV show on National Geographic called 'Air Crash Investigation'. Hubby is a huge fan of the show. I questioned watching such shows, especially since it can inadvertently induce an aversion of air travel. In a debate on the pros and cons of the show, I ended up watching an episode myself. That particular episode told the story of a very well established airline with no history of plane crashes. Until one fateful day. After intensive forensic investigation, the cause was found to be cost cutting. In an effort to reduce costs, instead of replacing a rusting component on the wing of the plane, the engineers kept welding over it. This worked for quite a few years but eventually backfired, costing many precious human lives. Although this incident took place in the US, I could not help but think... this is soo Pakistan! Hopefully not, but the thought definitely crossed my mind.

That said, inshAllah there are no common links between this story and PIA. Having a random realization that this is not the best story to write about when you're about to travel. Too late now. Oh well, life and death is in the Hands of the Almighty. In the meantime, I shall seek refuge in our trusty 'Safar ke dua' (prayer for travelling).

That said, instead of dwelling on this story I shall now pay attention to the chai I just ordered. I glimpse at the clock. Two more hours to go. Tick tock, tick tock.