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"How Pakistani-Americans are entering interfaith an..."



by 23 Jurors

Pakistan (/ˈpækɨstæn/ or /pɑːkiˈstɑːn/; Urdu: پاكستان‎ ALA-LC: Pākistān IPA: [pɑːkɪst̪ɑːn] ( )), officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Urdu: اسلامی جمہوریۂ پاكستان‎ ALA-LC: Islāmī Jumhūriyah-yi Pākistān), is a sovereign country in South Asia. With a population exceeding 180 million people, it is the sixth most populous country and with an area covering 796,095 km2 (307,374 sq mi), it is the 36th largest country in the world in terms of area. Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650 mi) coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest and China in the far northeast. It is separated from Tajikistan by Afghanistan's narrow Wakhan Corridor in the north, and also shares a marine border with Oman.
The territory that now constitutes Pakistan was previously home to several ancient cultures, including the Mehrgarh of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilisation, and was later home to kingdoms ruled by people of different faiths and cultures, including Hindus, Indo-Greeks, Muslims, Turco-Mongols, Afghans and Sikhs. The area has been ruled by numerous empires and dynasties, including the Indian Mauryan Empire, the Persian Achaemenid Empire, Alexander of Macedonia, the Arab Umayyad Caliphate, the Mongol Empire, the Mughal Empire, the Durrani Empire, the Sikh Empire and the British Empire. As a result of the Pakistan Movement led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the subcontinent's struggle for independence, Pakistan was created in 1947 as an independent nation for Muslims from the regions in the east and west of Subcontinent where there was a Muslim majority. Initially a dominion, Pakistan adopted a new constitution in 1956, becoming an Islamic republic. A civil war in 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan as the new country of Bangladesh.
Pakistan is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of four provinces and four federal territories. It is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country, with a similar variation in its geography and wildlife. A regional and middle power, Pakistan has the seventh largest standing armed forces in the world and is also a nuclear power as well as a declared nuclear-weapons state, being the only nation in the Muslim world, and the second in South Asia, to have that status. It has a semi-industrialised economy with a well-integrated agriculture sector, its economy is the 26th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power and 45th largest in terms of nominal GDP and is also characterized among the emerging and growth-leading economies of the world.
The post-independence history of Pakistan has been characterised by periods of military rule, political instability and conflicts with neighbouring India. The country continues to face challenging problems, including overpopulation, terrorism, poverty, illiteracy, corruption and it ranks among the countries with the most income equality. It ranked 16th on the 2012 Happy Planet Index. It is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Next Eleven Economies, SAARC, ECO, UfC, D8, Cairns Group, Kyoto Protocol, ICCPR, RCD, UNCHR, Group of Eleven, CPFTA, Group of 24, the G20 developing nations, ECOSOC, founding member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation), and CERN.

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img Zainab Zaidi posted a review

The father of a university student who was killed by a mob over blasphemy accusations told Pakistan’s top court Wednesday that his two daughters have received death threats and should be transferred from schools in their hometown.

Mobile phone video of Mashal Khan’s brutal slaying April 13 at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan went viral, shocking the public and sparking condemnation, including from prominent clerics. It has cast a sharp focus on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. An investigation showed Khan had not made online posts that had been attributed to him.

The journalism student’s father, Muhamamd Iqbal Khan, addressed reporters after attending a Supreme Court hearing on the case in the capital, Islamabad.

“Mashal’s sisters cannot continue their education due to threats to their lives,” he said. “They must be transferred to Islamabad from their hometown of Sawabi.”

Iqbal Khan also said the trial of suspects in his son’s killing should be transferred to Islamabad from Mardan because of security issues and local administration attempts to influence the case’s outcome. The top prosecutor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Advocate General Waqar Khan, told the court that 53 of the 57 suspects have been arrested.

3 days ago

img Susan Boyle posted a review

"We, the educated citizens of Pakistan, are concerned about the administrators of various universities and their obsession with the private social lives of their students, especially with regard to their inter-gender interactions. We are hereby compelled to issue the following notice, to address this disturbing phenomenon.

To all university deans, chancellors, proctors, wardens, and administration officials,

We thank you for upholding our long-valued tradition of lovingly blurring the line between an educator and a parent. In the light of the socio-political advances made over the past few decades, this paternalistic tradition has not only been rendered moot, but has become outright obnoxious."

6 days ago

img Susan Boyle posted a review

A local council of elders in Jacobabad, Pakistan, ordered Muhammad Hashim Khoso to give away his two daughters, 8-year-old Fehmida and 2-year-old Sughra, and to pay a $12,500 fine in February.

The council, known as a jirga, called for the transaction after the elders found Hashim’s brother guilty of committing adultery with a married woman. Hashim’s daughters would be given as compensation to two men from the woman’s family.

“I am a poor laborer,” Hashim said. “I was about to lose my daughters for no fault of mine. It was my brother’s case, and the jirga asked me to pay [the] fine because he was having an affair with a married woman.”

The sentence ordered by the council was one of the hundreds of incidents known as vani that are estimated to occur annually in central Pakistan. Also known as swara and sangchatti, the 400-year-old custom involves fathers offering girls as young as 1 for arranged marriages to repay debts and settle tribal feuds and vendettas.

Human rights workers are concerned that the practice of vani is on the rise — an assessment based on local police records, regional media reports and direct work with victims. But there’s hope that a new civil mediation system approved this year by the Pakistani government could help.


“Children taunt me and tell me that I will get married to a man older than my father. I don’t like to be reminded about that incident every day but that’s all people say when they look at me." — Saneeda, 6 years old
Vani is illegal in Pakistan, but the perpetrators are rarely prosecuted. Jirga proceedings aren’t recorded and villagers often won’t admit to witnessing or participating in them. And yet the custom of vani is strictly adhered to in some conservative rural communities, where the jirga's word is de facto law.

Pakistan is a signatory to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child that prohibits child marriages but the commitment is seldom honored, experts say.

The international advocacy group Girls Not Brides estimates that 21% of women in Pakistan marry before the age of 18 — an estimate that includes vani cases. Most are from traditional families in the country’s remote provinces. The Pakistani government doesn’t keep statistics on child marriage.

Samar Minallah Khan, an anthropologist and documentary filmmaker based in Islamabad, says at least 28 cases of vani have been officially reported in Pakistan since January 2016. But she thinks the actual number of cases is much higher.

“Earlier, the practice would take place as a tradition, a custom,” Khan said. “But now that people are becoming aware of the fact, it is being seen as a criminal offense. They try to practice it discreetly.”

Pakistan’s state-administered justice system can step in to prevent vani, but only if news of the jirga order actually gets out.

Hashim and his daughters got lucky. A local media report about the jirga’s ruling reached the chief justice of Pakistan’s highest court, Mian Saqib Nisar. Police arrested three members of the jirga that issued the vani order and filed charges against others who were present. Hashim did not have to pay his fine, and his daughters remained at home.

In another case, the chief justice prevented a vani order from being carried out in Ghotki, in central Pakistan, after Ali Hassan Mazari told authorities in January that a jirga was taking his daughter away.

“Some powerful men of Mazari tribe held a jirga and decided that if I don’t pay the fine of $4,600, my daughter is to be given in marriage,” Mazari said. “I asked for the protection of my daughter and legal action against the jirga.”

In another case this year, a jirga in the Neelum Valley, near the Indian border, ordered the marriage of a 3-year-old girl to a 9-year-old boy to settle a dispute between the children’s fathers. One father, Mohammad Younis, had accused the other, Muhammad Aurangzeb, of cheating with his wife. Younis demanded $4,700 to absolve Aurangzeb of the alleged misconduct, and then allegedly bribed local police to jail his rival.

“That is when the jirga gathered and got my daughter married to Younis's son to settle the dispute,” Aurangzeb said.

Local police said that six out of the 15 people who participated in the Neelum Valley jirga have been taken into custody. Three of the six arrested include Younis, the girl's grandfather and the cleric who solemnized the marriage.

Pakistan's government is trying to institutionalize systems that could help stamp out the practice. In January, lawmakers approved an out-of-court settlement process that might curb vani ceremonies by taking civil dispute remediation out of the hands of jirgas. Parties can agree to settle their differences through a neutral, government-appointed mediator. Otherwise, the case goes to the courts.

Khan says government monitoring is probably the only way to reform the jirga system, but others warn that Pakistan should be careful about meddling in tribal governance and traditions.

Tabassum Adnan, who heads Pakistan's first and sole female-only jirga — one she founded in the Swat region in north-central Pakistan to stop abuse of women and girls — says the country must keep its traditions while ensuring justice.

“I don’t agree with those who say that jirga system should be dismantled because that’s not practical,” Adnan said. “People need structures to solve their issues. We need to reform the jirgas.”

Pakistani officials have been more active in preventing vani in recent months, perhaps due to growing attention in social and mainstream media, but for those who have escaped their sentence, it can be hard to put the episode behind them.

In Swat, 6-year-old Saneeda and her cousin avoided arranged marriages to her stepmother’s relatives.

“Saneeda’s mother came to us for help — she wasn’t ready to comply with the decree made by a male Jirga,” Adnan said. “But the pressure increased with every passing day to give her in [vani].”

Eventually, local police arrested the jirga members who'd ordered the vani.

But now Saneeda faces discrimination and bullying in school.

“Children taunt me and tell me that I will get married to a man older than my father," Saneeda said. "I don’t like to be reminded about that incident every day but that’s all people say when they look at me. I want to concentrate on my education.”

6 days ago

img Lucas Lynch posted a review

Daria's parents emigrated from Pakistan after her birth and eventually settled in Toronto. As you'd expect, they were pretty strict (though not with regards to religion) mostly about schoolwork and her friends. As an adult, Daria wound up in a bad relationship and became depressed. Her parents started to worry she was "spiraling down." Eventually, she shook it off, worked through her issues, and started dating a new guy -- one who is now her fiance. But before her parents even met him, tragedy struck:

"My dad was diagnosed with cancer ... and my mom had a heart attack, and then she was diagnosed with cancer."

Her parents asked if she'd go with them on a trip to Pakistan, "and made it seem as if it was our last family trip together, so I felt guilty kinda not going."

6 days ago

img John Adams posted a review

The daughter of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto condemned a "ridiculous law" banning people from eating publicly during Ramadan by declaring: "This is not Islam." Bakhtawar Bhutto, 27, warned that people may die from dehydration as a result of the ban, which has effect during daylight hours throughout the fasting month. 

The law has existed in Pakistan since 1981, but a new amendment has introduced stricter penalties that could see people jailed for up to three months for a violation. 

Broadcasters or cinemas that breach the rules could be fined more than £3,700 after Pakistan's Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs unanimously approved the bill on Wednesday.Hotel owners will also face increased fines of up to £185 for an offence, according to Pakistani news outlet Dawn. 

Reacting to the news on Twitter, Ms Bhutto said: "People are going to die from heat stroke and dehydration with this ridiculous law. Not everyone is able. This is not Islam.

"Not everyone in Pakistan will be fasting – children in school, the elderly, people with medical issues – Should we arrest them for drinking water?"

1 week ago

img Ahmed Malik posted a review

At least 28 people have been killed and over 40 others injured in an explosion in Balochistan's Mastung district, which is around an hour's drive from the provincial capital, Quetta.

The bombing took place near a local seminary shortly after Friday prayers.

Deputy Chairman Senate Abdul Ghafoor Haideri's convoy was hit in the attack. The explosion occurred right as Haideri's convoy was exiting the seminary.

A Senate director staff, Iftikhar Mughal, was reportedly killed in the attack.

It is unclear whether the explosion was the result of an improvised explosive device (IED) or a suicide attack. Police say the attack is likely to have been a suicide bombing.

Haideri had been invited to the seminary for an investiture ceremony, DawnNews reported.

An eyewitness present at the event said the guests were leaving for a luncheon when Haideri's convoy came under attack.

The eyewitness told DawnNews that there was an explosion, followed by sustained firing. "After the air cleared, we saw bodies everywhere."

A police car was part of Haideri's security detail and police officials are among those injured in the blast, another eyewitness said.

Haideri belongs to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).

While speaking briefly to media, he said he had suffered minor injuries but was otherwise fine.

He has been shifted to Combined Military Hospital Quetta for treatment. His condition, according to Balochistan government spokesman Anwar ul Haq Kakar, is "safe and sound".

1 week ago

img Lucas Lynch posted a review

"Sixteen-year-old Sita was picking cotton in the fields of Darshi Kohli near Samaro, Sindh. Like many other Hindus in rural Pakistan, she along with her parents worked on land owned by a Muslim family. Her family has been working as farmers since generations.

While this seemed like any other day, it was one that would change her life forever.

Out of nowhere, a group of armed men stormed towards the family. Two men held Sita’s mother, Lakshmi, and her father, while a few others forcefully took Sita with them.

Reliving the dreadful day two years later, Lakshmi says, “They belonged to the Khashkheli tribe from a nearby village” – the same tribe who owns the land on which she and her family continue to work.

“We could not stop them and watched our daughter taken away right in front of us. It is so cruel,” she laments."

1 week ago

img Justin Thomas posted a review

Good for us but bad for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. It would have been great if all Muslims had left India.

1 week ago

img Zainab Zaidi posted a review

Literature is a form or a branch of knowledge that helps in the development of mind by creating awareness and ability to think freely. Be it fictional literature in the form of novels, or nonfictional writing and journalism, it always plays a vital role in creating conceptions and perceptions of general public. During the academic years, or after completing the education, people usually get influenced by the books, columns or analysis they are provided to read, and build their thoughts and ideologies on the basis of that.

Even the teachers or professors associated with education generally make their opinions and ideologies through the books and other written forms of literature and journalism. What one reads or what one watches defines his angle of perceiving the world. That is why books and book-reading are considered as the fundamental part of the intellectual growth and an integral part for the maturity in the collective thinking process of a society. Unfortunately literature and journalism in Pakistan has been used to spread narratives of the state and have always remained under the influence of writers and journalists from the conservative faction of the society.

Sadat Hasan Manto, a famous Urdu short stories writer, was considered as a cheap writer who used sex to promote his writings; in reality he was writing on the issues that were considered taboos in the society.  Ismat Chughtai, Quratul Ain Haider, Abdullah Hussain , Intezar Hussain all were sidelined. Poets like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Habib Jalib and Ustad Damin were considered guilty of treason. Manto specifically wrote on our hypocritical attitude and exploitation of the women and about our collective denial in admitting the basic instincts of humans. He was labeled as a cheap sex writer. Faiz was considered a USSR agent, while Habib Jalib was declared a rebel and arrested many times. The famous Punjabi poet Ustad Damin had to face a case of possessing a hand grenade because of his poetry that was questioning the dictatorship. Even the famous Urdu poet Ahmed Faraz, who was called a poet of love and fragrance, had to flee the country in order to avoid arrest. So was the case with all other authors who tried to write naturally and whose vision was different from the narrative created and spread by the state.

In contrast, people like Altaf Gohar and Qudratullah Shahab who, while serving in bureaucracy, facilitated the dictators and contributed towards a conservative and fanatic mindsets were presented as the greatest author of their times. Their books were backed on the state level, and this gave birth to the breed of writers who even in fiction writing brought the motions of religious intolerance and glorification of wars. Authors like Nasim Hijazi, Tariq Ismail Sagar and in recent times Umaira Ahmed are examples in this regard. These writers’ books are mostly based on self-imaginary past battles and glory, on the basis of religion. Umaira Ahmed, and others like her, try to portray religion as the attribute of a hero or heroine, thus spreading the message of marginalizing the minorities of the society. Even a writer like Ashfaq Ahmed used Sufism as a tool and spread the message that to kill desires is the main motive of humans and to care about life after death is the only thing one should focus on, thus contributing in creating an unproductive mindset that refuses to admit that it is natural and instrumental for humans to chase their dreams. Literature was radicalized in 1980s under the rule of Zia-ul-Haq, with the sudden Islamization of literature and journalism coming into play on the state level. Tariq Ismail Sagar and Nasim Hijazi became state patronized authors and a surge of nationalism, religious fanaticism and glorification of wars became the central topic of fiction and nonfiction.

This resulted in creating the lot of conservatives and extremist type of journalists, analysts and columnists, who instead of focusing on rationalism, creativity and the endless horizon of thinking beyond the time and space, out of the box and paradox, preferred to just write on self-loving pieces of columns and analysis. Any writer or journalist who tried to write independently, or with his or her version of the reality or ideology, was termed as a kafir or unpatriotic. The decline in creativity, the inability to highlight the real issues faced by society both in fiction and nonfiction forms, led to low standards of literature and journalism in the country. People like Orya Maqbool Jan, Haroon-Ur-Rashid, whose only source of knowledge seems to be the fictional war history of Tariq Ismail Sagar and Naseem Hijazi, occupied the driving seats in journalism and opinion-making. They have been joined by the self-proclaimed analysts like Zaid Hamid and retired Air Vice Admiral Shahid Latif, with their only objective somehow revolving around enmity against India and USA and the democracy. Likewise the new generation of Urdu fictional writers, led by Umaira Ahmed, gave birth to fiction based on marginalizing Ahmadis and other minorities, presenting woman as a decoration piece whose only aim in life is to please the men and to do so she must submit to all the violence and torture committed against her.

This hijacking of literature and journalism in fact created general acceptance in the collective behavior of society towards the violence against women, honor killing, marginalizing the minorities and living in the self-loving worship of our false created heroes, and self-created conspiracies. On the other hand, writings of Ashfaq Ahmad and Qudrutalah Shahab gave a lesson of not addressing problems objectively. They told the readers to think about all the individual and collective problems as a result of divine act, hence asking for the forgiveness from divine instead of solving the problems – how easy it is to live in a big luxurious houses enjoying all the luxuries of life, taking benefits from state and preaching the millions of people to not strive for these luxuries. This one-sided and conservative style of thinking remains dominant in literature and journalism in Pakistan. As a result every teenager growing up reading these writers, fictions or columns or watching the programs, has built a skewed image of a hero, heroine or a good man unconsciously.

According to this image, a hero should be a man having a girlfriend and saving her from the wrath of others male members and in the end he should be leaving the world activities becoming a devotee and only adhering to divine instructions – or he could convert a girl from other religion to his set of religious beliefs. A heroine should be a one-man woman, no matter how loose her lover or husband’s character. She also has to bear the character assassination by the society and has to surrender to all the violence imposed by the society – sometimes she needs to accept violence from her lover and husband as well. The nonfiction work or the current affairs columns and analysis creates the mindset that a perfect person is one who only says yes to the customs and traditions set by the society, with hatred towards neighboring countries and west. He or she would sacrifice everything in the name of jihad or nationalism. And in the case of Ashfaq Ahmed and Qudrut Ullah Shahab, an ideal person should always adhere to their defined or perceived divine Sufism by killing his needs and instinct.

So all these writers of fiction or nonfiction helped and contributed in building a society that actually lives under an unjust and exploitative social order, where violent extremism or glorifying death is normal and where instead of looking for the solutions of individual and collective problems, running from them in the name of religion is considered a highly appreciable thing. Though authors like Mohammed Hanif, Mohsin Hamid, Wajahat Masood, Haris Khalique, Raza Rumi, Iftikhar Arif and Mohsin Naqvi have made efforts on their parts to break the inertia encircling literature and journalism, there is a dire need of writers like them to counter the lifeless and uncreative fictional and nonfictional pattern of the writing. There is a saying that a mind grows on the books and literature it reads, and by producing and nurturing rotten and visionless literature and journalism we have successfully created generations incapable of thinking and a society that usually accepts violence and extremism. It is high time that the manipulation on journalism and literature be stopped and dissenting authors, poets and analysts be given space so that we can take a step towards a pluralistic and peace-loving society.

1 week ago
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Book rating: 24.3 out of 100 with 23 ratings