Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Jashn-e-Azadi Mubarak

On this independence day, let us decide that we'll refrain from pointing out all the things that have gone wrong with Pakistan, and instead we'll try to work for the betterment of Pakistan. We'll take each problem and turn it into an opportunity.

It will not happen in a day. But if we try and try hard, inshaAllah one day we'll take Pakistan to where it was intended to be by its founders, the very top.

No matter if you are in Pakistan or abroad, let's work for our country together.
Hai jazba junoon tou himmat na haar.

Let us pray that may Allah help us in our mission and may Allah bless Pakistan. Ameen.

Happy Independence Day 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Help Spread Education ~Change begins at Home

The only way to bring about a bigger change is to educate people. Tell them the difference between right and wrong. Show them the thin line which separates good from bad and then let them make their own decisions.

Don’t leave the responsibility of educating your children to schools alone. Get yourself involved. And play your part.

Take them on a bus ride. So they experience the difficulties faced by people all over the country, everyday.

Give them pocket money, but don’t be overly generous. So they know what “living on a tight budget” feels like.

Teach them to read. Not just the course books. But novels/story books, encyclopedias, newspapers, magazines, comics, anything, everything. So they explore the worlds that go beyond ours. So that they learn to think out-of-the-box.
Make them understand the value of time. And the need of hard work.

Don’t let them get too close to TV, and especially news channels. So that they DON’T learn that human life is disposable.

Tell them your story so that they know where they come from.

Teach them to play. Pay with them. Teach them how to be a good sportsman.

Teach them how to swim, run, ride horses, sew, cook, clean. Give them an eclectic set of skills.

Treat your sons and daughters equally. Instill a spirit of confidence in your daughters, give them the courage to go out in this male-dominated society and excel.

Teach them about Islam. Teach them about other religions. So that they come to appreciate the value of religion; so that they respect not only their own religion but others as well. And more importantly, so that they become good Muslims.

Teach your children to be strong.

Don’t stop your children from cheating. Rather explain to them why it is wrong.

Don’t prohibit your children from doing certain things. Simply, sit with them and tell them what is wrong and what is right; so that they stop themselves from “wrong” and get attracted towards “right”. Make them realize the sufferings incurred by unjust decisions, so that they refrain from them. Do not try to make them good. Try to make them the best.

Teach them to love the country they live in and hold it in the highest of esteems, so they don’t grow up to become the defeated warriors that we are. So that they live with the will to take their country to the very top.

Teach them to share.

Teach them to see the good in people, yet not get tricked by deceiving facades.

Teach them to put all their faith on Allah and Allah alone.

With this you just become a commendable parent; or aunt; or uncle. But what about the so many children who do not think about school. Who don’t consider education a necessity or to be more correct who don’t have the luxury to consider education a necessity and hence are fooled by empty promises of roti, kapra, makan.

Not everyone can afford to make schools and manage them. But there are so many non-profit organizations that are shouldering the responsibility of educating the future of this nation and doing praise worthy job. But they do need assistance and support. You can do that by donating your time, or money, or both.

To name a few organizations:
       1) The Citizen's Foundation (with the slogan soch se taqdeer tak)
       2) Namal College (Imran Khan’s brainchild)

Research on them. Decide if they are doing a good enough job. And if they are, allocate a small amount of your monthly income for them. Donate every month, switch amongst them each month if you find more than one deserving organization.

See if they take volunteers.

There can be more than one ways of helping out. Think of what you can do, and then do it.


Chip-in your penny’s worth.

Speaking of the slogan soch se taqdeer tak; do understand that mere education is no guarantee of an open mind. Minds need to be opened. With us all grown up; we tend to think that we ourselves are open minded and everyone else has “choti soch”. However, we cannot be more wrong. We need to realize that each of us has some space for improvement. And we should always be willing to improve.

Do not just educate children. Educate yourself and your friends and your colleagues.

Make people around you realize the importance of reading. Get them interested in it, because education cannot just be received from academic institutions. It is not limited to institutes only. There is only so much you can learn there, the rest you need to do yourself. The education you receive from institutes needs to be polished and kept up to date.

Whoever said that you can only excel in one field of study. Work in more than one field and excel. Challenge your limits, go beyond what you think is possible.

Reading up on other fields will only help in brining innovative ideas to your own field. It will open your mind and will motivate you to bring about a more than welcome change.

Read up on nations who brought about a change in their country peacefully. Adapt their traits.

Read up on Islam. It is the only religion which can provide us salvation. Adapt the teachings of Islam. It teaches tolerance.

Sit with your friends and discuss the ways you can bring about a change.

As an idea, consider this; look around and find a student who needs financial assistance. Then ask your friends to contribute. See how much all of you together can come up with each month. And then extend your help.

Ask the university you completed your bachelors from if they have a student you can help with in paying fees.

Although scholarships based on merit are supposed to be for any student who excels whether or not he needs it or not. But if you are a student, or a parent of a student who can afford tuition fees easily, then donate your scholarship money to some other student who needs it.

Buy books and donate them to libraries so that everyone can benefit from that book.

Go in groups to government schools and ask them if they need your assistance. If you have any kind of skill, you can ask the school to arrange a class or a short course where you can impart your skill to students free of cost.

Again, sit with your friends and think what you can do about the sorry-full state of education in our country.

We have done enough talking. Bickering doesn’t get you anywhere.

It’s time we get up and do something ourselves and be the change we want in our country.

Share your knowledge and ideas with others. This road cannot be travelled alone for long. Get other like minded people to accompany you. This way the journey you start alone will eventually become a caravan.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Be uncorrupted. Be the odd one out. ~Change begins at home

There can be many forms of corruption. It starts small and grows into a big, invincible monster. Even the smallest of corruptions have momentous repercussions.

Examples of corruption that we commit day in and day out;

1) Committing to things that we have no plan of doing.
2) Lying (which by the way is gunah-e-kabeera)
3) Giving bribe to license officer so you pass the test without actually giving it
4) Accepting bribery
5) Sitting idly at work. Doing nothing.
6) Spending more time at work so that you get overtime.
7) Ignoring the red light of traffic signal. 

How to be the odd one out?

Promise yourself that you will not stoop as low as to give someone bribe.

Promise yourself that if you have nothing to do in office, you'll research and read up on something that will be beneficial for yourself, your employers and in turn your country.

Promise yourself that you will not use any of the facilities provided by your employers when you don't really need it.

If we, ourselves, are not honorable in the small matters of our day to day activities, then we loose any right to label the government as CORRUPTED.


This article is a part of a series of articles by the name of "Change begins at home". Read other articles in the series:
1) Change begins at home
2) Be the best of the best

Monday, May 13, 2013

Be the best of the best ~Change begins at Home

I have been working on a software project in my office for the past two years. The project, like any other of its siblings, started with a bucket load of hopes. Everyone involved committed themselves to work laboriously and bring out the best product ever. 

And we did work hard. Really hard. I have been claiming to have given my best to the project. A few months ago I realized that I was so very wrong; that I had failed miserably.

With it also came the realization that it is not a lack of skills that reined us. But a lack of confidence in those skills.

And this is what happens every where with everyone here..

We have lagged behind so much that we are scared to even begin to catch up. We, as a nation, have settled for mediocracy.

We put in only as much efforts as are required to complete a task. Again, that is not because the venoms of lethargy run through our veins. But because we fail to recognize our own talents. The fear of loosing keeps us from dreaming.

A person who has the courage to challenge himself with even greater heights than he has already achieved is the person who will eventually defy all odds and emerge victorious. Unfortunately, we think that we can never be this person.

We have become accustomed of complaining about the government which determinedly keeps on forgetting its responsibilities. We are in the habit of swearing the foreign powers that have nothing better to do than to destroy an already self-destructing nation. And when left with nothing else to blame we turn towards load shedding to carry our burnt of failures.

All of the above may be the reasons. But the biggest reason is we, ourselves.

Being a software engineer, I can look at the many projects initiated by others and try to implement those technologies in Pakistan.

I can think up of innovative ideas.

But no. I limit myself. I don't try to bring about excellent products. I don't read up on what others are doing around the world to trigger my brain cells.

I try to be good. But I don't try to be the best.

I forget that I have a responsibility to be the best for my country. I forget that I too am working for my country. Whatever I do I represent my country. Whatever I do I may be helping my fellow countrymen.

If you are a teacher, think about how you doing your job, good or bad, is affecting the future of your country. 

If you work in  a local software house with local clients then you are helping your countrymen with a local product of international standards. Your clients, will then have no need to buy the same kind of product from outside Pakistan.

If you work in a internationally-based organization, your work and your conduct represent your country.

If you work in an organization with international clients; well, not to strike too fine a point but YOUR WORK AND CONDUCT REPRESENT YOUR COUNTRY.

Same goes for people who are living abroad.

If you are a blogger or a writer, be careful of how you represent your country. There is no need to lie. But if you talk about the negative aspects, talk too about the positive aspects. Instill hope in your Pakistani readers.

If we can't do our jobs honestly, if we can't be best at what we do, then we have no right to blame our government of being ignorant. And for that matter, we cannot blame the Pakistani sports team for their shortcomings. When it comes to cricket, we expect the team to represent our country by winning every match. Whereas, we ourselves shy away from representing our country.

We ourselves refuse to compete.

The article is in a series of articles by the name of "Change begins at home". Read other articles in the series:

1) Change begins at home

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Change begins at home

I know, I know. The actual saying goes like “Charity begins at home” but I don’t think anyone would mind if I modify it a tad.

To understand the reason for this modification, let’s begin at the beginning.

Yesterday, May 11th 2013, marked the historic day of the much awaited and much anticipated elections. The day we get to decide our fate, or so we thought.

Yesterday, for the first time I went out to vote, albeit of being eligible a long time ago. In the past, Election Day was just a day reserved for sleeping. But this time round I was willing to vote. I was willing to exercise my right to vote and choose a leader for my country. In fact, I was thoroughly excited. And so, I am sure, were a lot of other people who were voting for the first time, who “wanted” to vote, not because we suddenly understood that it was an obligation but because this time we had a party which comprised of educated people, of people who’ve been working for the betterment of this country way before they started playing in the field of politics. So this time we went out to vote for a party we had had no experience with, but were willing to give them a chance. This time we decided to vote and we decided to vote in favor of PTI.

Maybe this happens every time and I got to see it for the first time because I myself was voting for the first time. Or maybe I was simply hallucinating. But all around me I saw motivated people, who stood for hours in long queues, who were determined to cast their votes in spite of the mismanagement and rigging that is part of every election.

Polling stations were supposed to start working at 8. Voters reached at 8 AM. But guess who decided not to show up? The presiding officers.

The pretentious election commission claimed a system that was computerized and could not be cheated. And honestly the sms containing important information regarding an individual’s polling station and such was quick enough to give the false impression of an effective system. Pity, the sms and voter’s list were not in sync. Resulting in giving people a tour of all polling stations in their vicinity, ending where they started and casting vote in the same polling station as the sms predicted.

And even with all this going on, the same people who were complaining of the not-asked-for-city-tour were standing in “sakhth dhoop” for long hours just to be given a chance to cast their votes.

In spite of all this exercise, the enthusiasm soared high and by evening you could hear tvs from neighboring houses with volumes turned up to the highest decibel, like increasing the volumes boosted the chances of your favorite party’s victory. 

Twitter was flooded with Pakistan election’s news and views. Such was the ardor that a guy (on twitter), I am assuming he was not a Pakistani, asked whether this was the first election in Pakistan. People flew in from overseas to cast their votes. And I am not just saying this because I heard it on news but because a friend’s relatives actually flew in from Dubai for the elections.

All we were hoping for was a “change”. All we had been promised was a “change” by every party. And like a thirsty person gets fooled by the sand camouflaging as water, we too got our hopes raised.
However, with election results still pouring in, and with no definitive announcement by the authorities, we can see that we may not win this time again. We can see that things will continue to be the same in the future.

That there may not be a change afterall.
We, the people who stay far away from politics are riddled by the same set of questions:
          1)    Are we a minority in our own country?
          2)    Why with so many promises of uncompromised elections, all we got was the most corrupted       elections in the history of the country?
          3)    Knowing the law and order situation of Karachi, why wasn’t army called from the beginning and posted on all polling stations?
          4)    How come the polling stations were without presiding officers?
          5)    How come the polling stations were not open?

And more importantly;

How come with all of this happening in Hyderabad and Karachi, the rest of the country shamelessly celebrated and danced in the glory that often accompanies victory.

All of this goes to show that it was these tattered-to-pieces localities which actually wanted, no.. needed a change.

All of this anger has accumulated within us for a long time, threatening to kill our humanity with each bomb blast, as the only way to survive these days is the stop thinking.. to stop feeling.

I console myself by telling myself that I asked Allah for a leader who would take the country to betterment, even if that person did not belong to the party I supported. I asked Allah to choose the best for us, as only He knows what the best is for us. And so I must accept what He chose for us. 

But what worries me is the disappointment that might ensue because of the rigging incidences so clearly being shown on TV and yet, nobody taking any action to do anything about it.

For the past few days we all gingerly carried a tiny ray of hope within us, protecting it from the scorching negative thoughts attacking it from all sides; not from outside but from within ourselves. The negativity that should most probably be called analytical thinking.

And today I worry that the hope might break. Or we may settle back and prepare ourselves for another 5 years of the same corruption ruling the city.

But wait….. 

I accept that the degree of development brought on by people in government is magnanimous.

But do we really need the government to do everything for us?

We may not be able to bring a whole lot of change but I believe that Change begins at home. That revolution begins at the bottom, ripples up and eventually brings about a tsunami.

Whatever we were promised, Naya Pakistan could not have been made in a day.

Change comes about slowly. And in this case only slow and steady wins the race.

All quick fixes are just that; quick and fixes aka JUGAARS.

And how, you ask, to bring about a change.

Let’s start with listing down things that are wrong; 
      1) The utter lack of security
     2) Corruption in and out
     3) Education or rather it’s absence

And the list goes on…

Now, think about what you can do about each of these problems. How can YOU contribute? What can YOU do to fix these problems, any problem?

Think about what bothers YOU the most. Most of the others are victims of the same. And then try to solve that problem.

I know it’s not easy. But nothing good comes easy.

It’s the difficulty of a task that makes achieving it worthwhile.

I have compiled a list of changes we can bring about as individuals. Some of these have been hitting themselves against my thick skull for a long time. Some of these I try to implement every day. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail. Yet I trudge forward.

When I started writing this piece I knew it would be lengthy but now it has gotten way too lengthy to be digested in a single sitting and any small effect that it may carry would be waived off by its length. And it’s not even complete yet. And it can never be complete. Because there is always a scope for improvement. As we go forward we’ll think of more “changes” which need to be brought about. And this is what I want. I want everyone to participate. Each of us first needs to bring about a change within ourselves and then help each other to achieve. The journey that we plan to venture on can be started alone but cannot be continued alone for a long time.

In the weeks to come I will post a few articles comprising of the changes which we should work to bring about. Read them. Ponder over them. Correct me where I am wrong. Try to implement them with me. Bring in your ideas to the table. Let’s work together for a change. Let’s work individually and let’s help each other because
Change begins at home
Please pray to Allah for Pakistan. This country was made on the name of Islam, yet we strayed far away from Islam. As for Allah’s forgiveness. Pray for the betterment of this country.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Taleem ne jin ka kuch nahi bigara ~ Episode 2

With the Election Day looming ahead, with just one day to go before the so-called Big Day, round table conference in office has become the norm. Normally it starts with discussing the "Paid Political Advertisments" which adorn the TV screens every 15 minutes or so and proceeds to serious political discussions. But today, the discussion got so serious, that I actually raised my voice literally (aka shouted) and finally left the discussion because I got just too angry for my liking. Anger that may spill over and poison friendships.

I am, no doubt, a completely unpolitical and completely emotional person.

I may have no prove for anything. And there may be a million things wrong with my country, but I love it nonetheless. And I don't like anyone uttering a single word against it. Yet, on the other hand, I don't like people blaming America or India or Afghanistan or Iran or Iraq or, for that matter, Timbuktu for what has gone wrong with Pakistan.

I am not history savvy. I don't know politics. But I have the brains to understand and comprehend that any more violence, one other bomb blast, even if it lands outside of Pakistan premises is not going to solve any problem. Violence is NOT the solution. But the amazing thing is that, we, who call ourselves, parhay-likhay, are the ones suggesting it. Haven't we had enough blood loss? Haven't we had enough terror?

How can bomb be the solution to anything?

I am not asking to surrender if you are attacked. But why initiate the attack?

And, in any case, loss of innocent people is loss of humanity. And loss of humanity is loss for everyone, not just a single country or a nation.

I was countered by the argument that it is the foreign powers that have sown the seeds of "firqa waariyat" in us. I ask. Are we really that dumb? How come we watered the seeds and let it grow enough so that now we all sit under the shade of a tree which can only give poisonous fruits.

Till this point I argued. But what made me leave the discussion altogether is when it turned to a point when people started giving out unproven facts.

Osama never existed.
It was America.
It was India.
That blast was because of them.
That year was full of violence because of that party.

I believe that we should not speak about things we have no prove for. Who are we to say anything?

Are we sin-less? Do we claim to know things and understand people without meeting them?

These are the same group of people who claim, whenever Pakistan losses a match, that the match was fixed.

Maybe we have seen enough conspiracy movies to come to believe that behind everything there is a conspiracy. And maybe there is. But notice the usage of MAYBE. We are no ones to make any claims about others.

Moreover, I hate the over confidences with which people predict the result of elections. Again, who are we? How do we know the future?

A little change in the tone and structure of sentence can change the meaning.

If someone is very knowledgeable and considers himself an analyst of elite category, he is welcome to make predictions. But it should be just that; predictions. And NOT statements. And predictions start with phrases like "I think", "I understand". Not "I know", "I know", "I KNOW".

And again, these are the people who claim that there is no future for Pakistan.

If you can't be positive, please don't. But at least let others be positive.

If you can do no good, please don't. But at least let others do good.

A request to everyone; vote for anyone you like. But pray that Allah chooses the leader who will be the best for our Pakistan. We really do need a good leader now, don't we? But we can't know for sure who will be the best for us.

Don't say Imran Khan should come now. Or MQM will be the savior for Karachi. Pray that whoever comes is the best for the ENTIRE country, not just Karachi, not just a single city, because that is “firqa-waariyat” again, pray for the whole country, pray for Pakistan.

So, today, in Jumma Prayers, let's pray that may Allah give us the best leader. Ameen. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Taleem ne jin ka kuch nahi bigara

The practice of killing daughters at birth has been long since banished. However, it is believed that there are more ways of killing people than just one. Ways which do not involve stopping a person’s heart from pumping blood but are responsible for much greater damage. Methods which adhere to killing someone’s ambition, someone’s spirit, devoiding a person of self confidence, driving someone to a point where they may start to doubt themselves, forcing someone to believe they are good for nothing, snatching away the right to make decisions, or simply not allowing them to do something they very well deserve to do.

If you have the guts to categorize such things as killing then beware that you live in a world where either you are at the receiving end of the these day-to-day activities or you are at the famous giving end.

This is what happens every day in this male-dominated world. This is what the ladies are required to go through every day if they are to survive. Or else they can simply accept the supposed weakness that is attributed to them more often than not.

You would think that all those years of education may have taught people to refrain from discrimination, deeming it an unjustifiable trait. But it’s a shame to know that this aspect of education was wasted on them.

Females are still considered to be weak creatures, owners of small minds. One look at them and judgments are made just like that. Embellished and you are too “out” to have any brains. If you choose to present yourselves otherwise then you are too conservative.

Fighting the discrimination war for as long as I can remember, I am so much consumed with anger that there is a high chance of this frustration spilling over the edges and poisoning everything it touches. And this is true for all females.

Luckily enough, I have been raised by a father who held the education of his children; daughters and son alike; of utmost importance. But, with the rest of the world, I am surprised that I had to prove that I too have some brains, some skills, some talent.

And this is the story of every other girl. We have to work harder to prove our worth. In a job, we strive to work, going out of our way to accomplish tasks assigned to us so that no one gets the chance to say that females are no good.

Of course, there are some limitations. Most of the ladies refrain from late sittings. Females may not be allowed by their families to travel abroad. But don’t the guys have some sort of limitations as well? Or are they all super human beings.

I beg to differ. In my experience I have seen the female staff reach office even on the worst of days, whereas, the male staff deemed it unsafe to leave the premises of their homes.
Females, on the other hand, go out of their way to make up for these limitations. They come on time and mostly stay glued to their desks, completing their work on time.

And it’s not as simple to go work in an office as you may think. Standing on a bus stop more than one pair of eyes may stare at you. Walking on your way back home and you’ll get to hear some colorful, obscene comments.

In spite of all of this your colleagues consider it their right to judge you. And this judgment, though I have been a target, is not something I feel comfortable mentioning.

Spending four years in academics and almost 5 years in professional environment I have learnt that I am not supposed to be a programmer, let alone be good at it. I am not allowed to participate in a programming competition.  I am not allowed to talk or laugh out loud because that is not the trait of a “good”, “nice” girl.

I didn’t know that this is still a world where I will have to fight to be allowed to go for a badminton championship. Where my team leads will have to fight for my promotion, not because my performance is below the scale but because I am a girl and I am supposed to get married soon. Where I may not be given responsibilities because I MAY get married and I MAY resign as a consequence (and that is a big MAY). Where if I do get entrusted with some kind of responsibility it’s because no one else is left to shoulder it.
Where a female, if she ever gets a chance to lead a team, is ridiculed and criticized more than anyone else. Where your reserved nature may not be taken as your choice but  lack of guts to talk face to face with the opposite gender. And if you do talk then you are too bold, too cheap and may be given the dazzling tile of ‘chipkoo’.

Where the opportunities I clearly deserve are handed over to male colleagues, because, well, because it suits them better. And while we are on the subject; cricket suits them better. All events are tailored so that they suit the not-so-‘fair’ sex. While international travelling is considered sinful for the ladies, attending a company sponsored dinner conveniently arranged far away from most of the employee’s homes is mandatory. Where your resignation is not as important as you-know-who’s because you weren’t doing anything worthwhile anyways. Where an already planned event may not actually happen because it could not have been carried out by a gentleman for the ladies, which makes me wonder if we normally sit with our male colleagues with thick layers of curtains separating the two genders.

Where a girl’s CV is considered only as an afterthought, or maybe to fit the slogan “equal opportunity employer”.

Where you can work as hard as you can, and still be considered incompetent.

So yes, I give up.

I have lost all will to go on.

I am sick and tired of this all.

I have lost the spirit to prove myself anymore.

I admit, I have lost, and they have won.

Because there is nothing I can do about them besides stating:

Taleem ne in ka kuch nahi biagara