The Heer Waris Shah Sessions by Paraga

Waris Shah - Source: maati.tv

Waris Shah – Source: maati.tv

My friend Sohail Abid, who also happens to be the founder of Folk Punjab and the Folk Punjab Fund for Punjabi Books, was leaving town so I thought I should see him. He invited me to come over to the Academy of Letters and introduced me to a remarkable treasure for which I would remain grateful to him.

Every Wednesday evening, a calm but captivating session of reading is held in the common room of the Writer’s House in the Academy of Letters, Islamabad.

People passionate about Punjabi classical literature gather to recite the epic love story Heer Waris Shah, which is considered the most famous literal masterpiece of the civilization in Punjab. Written by renowned Sufi poet Waris Shah in late eighteenth century in Central Punjab, this romantic tragedy epic is surpassed by very few works of art, if any, in terms of its eloquence.

But what is so significant about reading Waris Shah in this forum when you can do so at home, you would ask.

Not only is the language difficult to grasp for even the more experienced readers, but the discussion in the sessions offers the right historical, etymological and cultural context for the passage. And every single session is an education.

The session is regularly attended by some of the renowned Punjabi and Urdu poets and writers. A regular is Punjabi short story writer Malik Mehr Ali, who is known for his mastery of the language and exploring rare interpretations. The likes of Punjabi poet and vocalist Hazrat Shaam also attend the sessions, who keep alive the age old tradition of reciting this piece of poetry in a melodious tune.

I have personally learned a lot from these sessions, which have ignited a renewed interest in Punjabi classical literature, but more than anything else, in Heer Warish Shah. The lyrical quality and the folk wisdom of this fascinating work of art really gets you hooked. And add the intellectual orgasm the discourse offers you and there is little else that you can ask for.

The sessions are organized by Tariq Bhatti, a civil servant by profession and a man of refined taste in literature. He founded Paraga in 2013 for the development and promotion of literature and arts in Punjabi language.

“I always had this urge to establish a forum where friends with a common interest could gather to read Punjabi classical literature.” Tariq Bhatti said while explaining his aims behind Paraga and these sessions. “Since the times of the Mogul, Punjabi has largely been a verbal language. Even today people cannot read or write the language because of the lack of familiarity with the script. Paraga is a humble effort to bridge this gap.”

Bhatti also said that the forum plans to recite literature from other classical Punjabi poets such as Shah Hussein, Baba Farid and Bulleh Shah. The forum also plans to offer a platform to budding poets.

You can join the Paraga.org facebook page for updates pertaining to the sessions. The recordings of the previous sessions can be found at paraga.org.

The session will not be held in the last Wednesday of Ramadan. However, it has the last session of July tomorrow right after Iftaar at the same venue. After the fasting month, the sessions will be regularly held at the usual time of 7 in the evening at the usual venue.

It is an excellent opportunity for those who want to learn about classical Punjabi literature and want to increase their Punjabi vocabulary.

In any case, I always look forward to the event and there is hardly a better way to spend the evening.

Paraga welcomes everyone.

———-

Note: The edited version of this post was published here

What the Recurrent Gaza Conflict Brings Out in People

Source: abc.net.au

Source: abc.net.au

The periodic, recurrent, Gaza crisis which is bound to happen every few months for certain reasons, brings out a lot of things in different people.

It brings out the compassion and mercy in hearts and souls around the world for people suffering in the prison-like cities of Gaza.

It brings out the Nazi in most Pakistani nationalist conservatives, some of the more educated of which would claim they do not hate Jews but would chant “Death to Israel” in the same breath.

It brings out the hideously antisemitic internet memes attributing antisemitic quotes to their führer Adolf Hitler, that would make you wonder if Nazism is dead.

Source: shariaunveiled.wordpress.com

Source: shariaunveiled.wordpress.com

But Pakistan suffers from antisemitism in the true technical sense of the word, because other than the major chunk for the Jews, the rest of it is directed at the Arabs out of political disapproval. Especially for their hedonistic inaction on Palestine.

And not to forget, the Iran backed terrorists are not so dangerous.

It takes out the most nauseating moralists in just about anyone, from nationalist conservatives to anti-establishment liberals, who would twist logic in whatever form as they deem necessary to fit their worldview.

It brings out the usual twisted logic among liberals that you get to hear from time to time that conditions the righteousness of outrage to preference of wrongdoings in the order of immediate geographical proximity.

It also brings out the good old emotional blackmail in the overzealous political activist. One who would stop at nothing to hurl abuses at their target audience for watching football, and even worse, inventing non-existing obligations, in order to milk action.

Action for nothing.

Source: The News

Source: The News

It brings out the completely unreasonable policymakers in the Pakistan Foreign Office.

The policymakers who would very rightly condemn the Israeli brutality, but would never utter a word about the Hamas rocket strikes. Now this point is absolutely relevant because it defines your diplomacy toward the belligerent parties.

How can people possibly support terrorist groups over a legitimate state and the only democracy in the Middle East? If you ignore the growing intolerance at home thanks to the artificially created demographic.

Source: timesofisrael.com

Source: Times of Israel

It brings out the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a formidable wartime leader to his potential voters who easily comes across a war criminal to most people watching the Gaza operation on TV.

It brings out the illusion of defiant war heroes in the de facto Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshal, whose authority is doing hardly anything but jeopardizing the life and peace of their captive subjects.

It brings out the Israeli Defense Forces as vigilant publicists reaching out to the world meticulously chronicling the incoming rockets and highlighting Hamas war crimes of using civilians as a shield for their weapons.

It also brings out the Western progressive and radical left critics of Israel to abandon their usual devotion to political correctness and equate Zionism with Nazism.

It at least brings out the best of propagandists out of anyone commenting on this complicated conflict.

In the end, you would feel that the criticism of Israel is absolutely justified, as always and the criticism of such critics is pretty foolish. Especially considering the completely cynical disregard to the peace process ever since Bibi Netanyahu took office.

Still, it is encouraging that the Israelis are reportedly warning citizens before attacks. But many wonder if it is of any use.

Where are they to go in that desert of misery and despair?

But to my mind, the responsibility on Hamas is just too incredibly great.

It all comes down to how much you are going to put up with a next door terrorist regime which is hell-bent to jeopardize your peace continuously. Leaving them no option but to go on and act without mercy.

Still you would ask why does not Israel simply flatten out Gaza City with bombs? Or why does it refrain from making such attacks in the West Bank?

The Hamas armed resistance would otherwise be respectable, but to my mind, saving every life in their given situation should be a priority. Which does not seem to be a priority of any party at the moment.

Gaza right now is Hell on Earth.

Sadly, you can’t do much worrying about a government who are content on making it even worse for themselves.

Somehow you hope that the current operation will bring the violence to an end for good.

Would You Shoot at Gullu Butt?

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

He is the new cultural icon.

He is at the center of political satire and social media humor. He even has a game app to his name now.

He is Gullu Butt.

Now while people have started loving this character, don’t forget who he really is. Gullu Butt is a dangerous, irresponsible criminal who should do his time.

But the question remains.

Would you shoot at Gullu Butt?

Surely not with the intention to kill him, but certainly to harm him.

Ideally, just to incapacitate him from wreaking further havoc and damaging private property.

OK, probably not the car smashing revolutionary hero, but probably someone with more lethal designs such as arson.

Or probably someone looking to commit more dangerous crimes which could arguably lead to injuries and, in some cases, lost lives.

Source: Reporter's Diary

Source: Reporter’s Diary

Now leave Gullu Butt’s cuteness aside and consider our usual, probably equally cute, religious and political rioters who burn colonies to the ground. Consider these innocuous looking protesters for example, who raided the Joseph colony for a righteous cause.

All in the name of angry protest. All in the apparent name of freedom of association and religion.

Source: Express Tribune

Source: Express Tribune

So just like the Punjab police were spectators in the background when Gullu was smashing windshields of unattended vehicles, they were spectators when these folks burned homes of several families.

The Punjab police were also apparently helpless when they were witnessing the stoning to death of that woman Farzana Parveen outside the Lahore High Court.

For an even darker possibility, these rioters could become mass murderers when they act in the Indian state of Gujarat and all the police does is to stare at arson sites helplessly.

So would you shoot at Gullu Butt? I know not everyone. Or perhaps it depends.

But shoot or not, the fact remains that when the hands of security personnel are tied, the private citizens will need to act to protect themselves and their property.

It would be a lot easier to shoot at these several Gullu Butts if they would not have such a public face.

It could not only help protect private property but also save innocent people.

While shooting rioters sound authoritarian and draconian, it is arguably the next best thing to do for a private citizen at least. Especially when the protectors of their security would do nothing to ensure it.

When protesters turn into criminals, they should be treated as the latter.

Her Mother Didn’t Have to Die

 

 

The other day I was writing a post on the Lahore PAT protest and police violence, so I came across this video.

Let’s keep politics aside for a moment.

Now call me an idiot or accuse me of emotional blackmail, and I’d gladly agree, but nothing has affected me more recently than this. Because I can so easily see myself in her position.

Now the question that the little girl asks is so clear, so valid, so astonishing, that not only it moves you to tears, but also makes you reflect on its possible answer, which no adult would be able to give to her.

One simple question.

Why did they kill her mother? Really, why.

There is one thing that I know pretty clearly and that is that her mother did not have to die. But would she understand why.

Her mother should not have been putting her life on the line for a cause as ridiculous as removing a security barrier from a religious leader’s home. For her children’s sake at least.

Seriously, what was this incident about anyway?

But surely it was not her fault. Probably she was just trying to evade a bullet or a baton around the residential compound.

Probably she was a passer-by or just happened to be caught up in the great mess. Maybe she was just a Minhaj-ul-Quran employee and was doing her job.

But perhaps the Punjab police should have thought twice before relentlessly firing at the people and beating them.

But didn’t some cops die too?

I don’t know.

I just know very clearly that her mother did not have to die.

It’s not only unfair. It’s irresponsible.

Countless individual lives are ruined by politics everyday with people dying for the convenience of politicians.

War is understandable and hard to avoid, but such petty politics.

Nobody learns any lessons.

State Violence, Democracy and the Illusion of Liberty

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

A comment on the latest incident of carnage in Lahore.

Ahead of the arrival of Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Maulana Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, the Punjab Police supposedly wanted to remove a barrier outside his residence.

They were met with supposedly violent resistance and the police ended up firing on them, apart from violently beating them for not letting them do their jobs. The incident resulted in 8 deaths and counting and several critical injuries.

A needless, needless loss of lives. I really respect people who give their lives for democracy, but wonder what the cause was here.

In any case, this surely has been the greatest mistake to date of the Punjab government and one that could have been avoided. There was bait for state violence and Punjab government took it. Needless and disastrous.

But it is pretty much mission accomplished for PAT leader Tahir-ul-Qadri who had prepared supporters for martyrdom and has asked the government to step down as lex talionis.

I know it’s better to shut up about it if you don’t know the facts, but a few occurrences are unmistakable.

The Punjab police actively confronted the protesters this time around.

zI support aggressively curbing violent protesters damaging private property, but don’t forget, the Punjab Police were arguably infringing on private property themselves. Unless they had a judicial warrant.

However, if the guards fired first, as the government claims, they suffered the consequences. With liberty to bear arms, comes responsibility for actions.

But the Punjab police is traditionally very lenient when it comes to violent protesters, rioting religious mobs burning Christian colonies and women being stoned to death.

They usually witness the incidents and lodge a report afterward. Hell, they could not even protect vehicle-damaging Gullu Butt to be beaten up by an angry mob near, if not inside, the Lahore court.

So what happened that day?

It can be safely said that the police were ordered by some high officials to crack down on the protesters in such a violent way, some of them unarmed women. It could either be the responsibility of the police chief, the Punjab law and home minister Rana Sanaullah or the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif himself.

At the moment, the Chief Minister is playing safe and has ordered an inquiry into the incident. But it is clear that what happened was undemocratic, unconstitutional and dictatorial. It was not only an excessive overreach, but criminal on the part of the government.

Rana Sanaullah - Source: Dawn

Rana Sanaullah – Source: Dawn

In my opinion, at least the Punjab law and home minister Rana Sanaullah should step down to offer reasonable closure to the incidence, if not someone higher in the hierarchy. For now, only police officials have been suspended.

Who would regard the Constitution, if not a democratic government?

But to add insult to injury, PML-N has now handed over tremendous political leverage to the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, who would rightfully play martyrs now. Well, and guess who is saying the same about the PML-N government. The opposition is rightful in reminding the provincial government that it’s a democracy.

PML-N must pay a price for its disregard of democratic principles, and especially more for its idiocy and political naivety.

But make no mistake about it. Dr. Qadri is on a mission here, and has way too many brainwashed pawns at his disposal. And he made a fool out of the PML-N, if not a criminal.

The likes of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, as reasonable as they may sound in their criticism of a faulty democratic system, represent a mindset against democracy in Pakistan. This mindset has been particularly promoted and nurtured by the State bureaucracy in Pakistan, which involves holding democracy and the Constitution in contempt.

They are doing it for the right reasons alright, but all the parties lining up for the government to step down are the ones who are always standing for pro-establishment campaigns. Why is the PPP largely silent at this point and only resorted to issuing a warning before the incident?

In front of our very eyes, we are witnessing pro-establishment parties building a coalition against the elected federal government. And everyone who was not happy with the result of the last election stand behind them. Apparently except the PPP.

The demands of the government to resign due to the violation of democratic principles are fair. The demands of suspending democracy are not.

The most idiotic part is that people call for or expect the martial law whenever a civilian government violates democratic principles. More oppression as a remedy for oppression. How ironic.

Has anyone ever asked for our state bureaucracy to step down? Yes, and don’t ask what happened to them in the 1980s.

Sadly, many in this coalition do not understand that a dictator has no reason or interest to reform a democracy. They can wish for a dictator like General Musharraf again, but that’s just wishful thinking. But a democratic government, no matter how terrible it is, can be voted out.

I agree that the current democratic apparatus does not offer true liberty, since its foundation lies in authoritarianism and Islamic principles, but the perceived liberty offered by military dictatorships is an even greater illusion.

Don’t forget, right now at least people have the option to ask, and are asking, for government officials to step down.

Wonder if that would be the case if a Pakistan Army General were in power.

Boko Haram, Women and the Embarrassing Face of Islam

Source: abc

Source: abc

There is some problem with the way women are treated by Muslim populations, despite all the claims of honoring them.

Now there are a handful of events that actually directly point finger at the ideology, instead of the individual criminals.

The entire world was shocked when the Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram abducted hundreds of teenage girls from a school. In a video released by the group, the girls were seen in Hijaabs and veils.

Well, if you thought their intentions were any good, they have been reportedly forced to convert to Islam and have a bride price to their names, which is another expression for selling slaves. The Nigerian state is vowing to take action against  the perpetrators.

Source: Independent

Source: Independent

On the same continent, a Sudanese Muslim woman Meriam Ibrahim who married a Christian was sentenced to death by a court in the state for apostasy. Coincidentally, she was pregnant at the time. So her punishment was suspended till the time she gave birth to a child, which probably the state was interested in “confiscating”.

She has delivered the child and is now awaiting a walk to the death row. The international community is outraged, but the Sudanese government is unmoved.

Source: awamiweb.com

Source: awamiweb.com

A few days ago, a Pakistani woman Farzana Parveen was stoned to death, right outside the Lahore High Court in an “honor killing”. The attack was carried out by her father, brothers and accomplices for marrying against their will to the man she loved. Her lover, turns out, strangled his first wife to death to marry her and got away with it as well*.

This incident would also reignite the debate on blood money laws in Islam, which allow acquittal on pardon for exchange of monetary compensation. However, it is encouraging that the news was highlighted by the media all over the world.

This was not necessarily a religious, but a cultural punishment. But one that is not necessarily frowned upon by most Pakistanis, and one that is reinforced by the treatment of adulterers recommended by the Islamic Shariah.

However, the Pakistani government has now ordered action against the criminals, most of them already arrested.

But when you ask yourself the question as to why the Punjab Police failed to intervene, while witnessing the incident, there are no simple answers.

Events such as these are just embarrassing for otherwise peaceful and sane Muslims who secretly harbor the same beliefs but choose not to practice them.

Peaceful and responsible citizens who would have a good sense that such beliefs have no place in a civilized society in any century, but choose not to renounce them.

Who would express sorrow at an adulterer being killed. Then present the caveat of four witnesses before finally agreeing that they should be stoned to death, when the question is asked.

Who would otherwise propose strict punishment for murder and encourage proselytizing, but would support death penalty for an apostate Muslim.

It is just an embarrassment. Plain and simple.

Though this little inconvenience is causing a lot of individuals their lives and liberty.

*EDIT: June 2, 2014 0226 HRS

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