up in the air

I was standing outside in the hospital corridor, opposite nursery waiting for my wife to return from operation theatre, after giving birth to our second child. Anxiety was in process of being replaced with happiness and I was enjoying the quiet moment.

Few minutes later, a nurse brought a new born baby boy and few ladies (family of the new born) followed her. One of the ladies, who looked like a typical grandmother sort of stood out from rest of the crowd. There was something not normal about her. She was constantly wiping off her tears, saying things like ‘My son is back’, ‘Mein Sadqey Jaoon’, ‘Mera beta aagaya’.

At first I thought it’s just another over reacting joyous grandmother. While rest of the family went to room, she remained in front of the window of nursery, looking at her grandson, and repeating her chants. It is then I heard…

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Remembering December 27, 2007



It was a calm and quiet evening December in Lahore. Me and my family had missed Benazir’s political rally at Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi due to power outages and were sitting in my father’s room who was on an official visit to Faisalabad. At around 5:00 PM, power came and I quickly switched on the TV only to see that Ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has become a victim of another terrorist attack. News channels were reporting that Benazir has received minor injuries and is taken to the nearest hospital (Rawalpindi General Hospital). The power went out again and we had no more updates,  my mother and sisters started praying for BB’s health. I went outside to see if there are any reactions on the street. There was none, it was still very calm and serene.

Soon, power came back and we heard the news that nobody was expecting “Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated”. And the mayhem started. I messaged my father about the assassination and cautioned him about the developing law and order situation. I was worried about him as he was travelling on a green-number plate staff car which was being targeted by rioters. Thanks to Almighty ALLAH, he managed to return back  home safely. But unfortunately, his driver had to seek refuge in bushes for hours on his way back to office.

The stage was set for rioters; there were no law enforcement agencies to stop them. Numerous people became victims and lost lives. Public transport, government vehicles, private cars were attacked and torched. Banks, restaurants, malls were looted. In short, the country lost billions of dollars in just few hours.

I called my friend Haroon to inform him about the assassination but found him in his own worries as he was to attend a wedding of his relative which seemed impossible as the wedding couldn’t take place in such a chaotic situation.

At that time, I thought that this assassination will make no impact on the politics of Pakistan but I was wrong. Political scene changed dramatically, PPPP won the sympathy votes and became the ruling party with Asif Ali Zardari as President. This is how I remember December 27, 2007. That day I saw a chilling winter evening turned into a bloody night for Pakistanis.

Hijab-The Queen of Urdu Romanticism


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Have you ever heard the name Hijab Imtiaz Ali? You search the name in Google and what you just get are the endless details and images of the Hijab controversy in Europe. Well, it used to be a Muslim female name which shows that the word obviously has a positive connotation. It seems out of fashion today but I think I would love to name my daughter “Hijab”, one day. No matter how horrible feeling those dumb so called reformists associate with this beautiful word.

My personal view is that Hijab is a woman’s very personal matter. Observing Hijab or not is her’s choice to decide, not her husband or father’s. Ironically the woman I am talking about, named Hijab Imtiaz Ali never wore Hijab and was one of the very first Muslim women in India to come out of their homes and play active role in society. Hijab was from an aristocratic family of the Princely state of Hyderabad Deccan. A born writer, Hijab started writing at a very young age. One of her best works “Meri Natamam Mohabbat”, which is considered one of the best love stories ever written in Urdu literature, was written at the age of twelve. Within a few years, she grew up to become the Princess of publishing world. Her short stories were always in demand and her work was published in best magazines of the time. She was popular throughout Subcontinent. Her stories were very romantic with a lot of natural, beautiful and sensitive imagery of life. Her unique style of sentence construction and repeated use of some selected beautiful words made her work very special and distinguished her from her contemporaries. Another specialty of Hijab’s stories and novels was that she always used same characters in different situations. Her famous characters Dr. Gaar, Sir Harley, Dadi Zubeida, and Habshan Zonash etc remained with her throughout her writing career which spanned on more than 60 years. Yet her readers were never bored, in fact these characters became a beautiful and memorable part of the legend of Hijab Imtiaz Ali. She was the pioneer romanticist in Urdu literature.

Her novels “Meri Natamaam Mohabbat” & “Zaalim Mohabbat” were huge hits of their time. Both were beautiful modern romantic stories. She published a few short stories collections. Hijab also translated Louisa May Alcott’s famous classic novel “Little Women” into Urdu. Her diaries were also published in magazines and were later compiled in a couple of books. A very special part of her daily diary was during the 1965 Indo Pak war which was later published with the name of “Mombatti ke Samne” (In front of the Candle). It was so named because during the war, blackout was observed at night and Hijab used to write her diary in the candle light. It is a very interesting account of the days of war in Lahore. Hijab was the most natural person in her real life as well as in her writings. She was so upset with the reports of nuclear bombs and chemical weapons and their impact on human beings and natural life that she started researching and wrote her award winning novel “Pagal Khana” (Mad House). She studied renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud in detail and was fascinated by his concept of subconscious. This provided background material for another of her great novels “Andhera Khwab” (Dark Dream). Although, being one of the greatest Urdu writers ever, Hijab had another talent too. She was the first Muslim woman pilot in Indian subcontinent, which even impressed Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah who always used to wonder how she became a pilot.

To link new generation with Hijab Imtiaz Ali, I would remind you of some great childhood or adolescence memories. Do you remember the famous PTV sitcom of late 1990s or early 2000s named “Teen Bata Teen”?? And remember the guy who always revolved a key chain in his finger. His name is Ali Tahir and Hijab was his grandmother. Hijab got married to Imtiaz Ali Taj in early 1930s. You must remember Imtiaz Ali Taj from your Urdu course. He was the person behind Chacha Chakkan and Anarkali. He was a renowned journalist and also wrote for radio and films. They had only one daughter Yasmeen Tahir who later on became one of the most famous voices of Radio Pakistan. Yasmeen’s husband Naeem Tahir is a great television artist (Shan and Fawad Khan’s father in film “Khuda Ke Liye”).

Hijab died in March 1999. She spent last years of her life in a comfortable home in Model Town, Lahore with her children. In her real life, Hijab was a critical thinker and a very sensitive person. Her style of thinking and vision was different from ordinary people. Very small details affected her. That is why she used to get upset with minor disturbances in her environment. Model Town, Lahore has been the scene of some major terrorist attacks in past few years. Sometimes I think how Hijab would’ve felt after hearing the explosions and seeing broken glass of her room window.

The Queen of Urdu Romanticism rests in peace in Lahore.

Songs of Blood and Sword – Truth and Lies


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Songs of Blood and Sword by Fatima Bhutto! I wanted to read this book since its launch but couldn’t find it at the library I visit to get my reading ration. Two weeks back, I borrowed it from a freind. The book is mainly about the Fatima Bhutto and her father (Murtaza Bhutto); starting from the life of Bhuttos in 20th century Bhuttos, Murtaza’s youth, exile, conflicts with Benazir, assassination and its aftermath.

Though, the book seemed interesting when I went through its pages randomly, however, found it biased and boring. Though, parts covering the relationship between the father and daughter have been beautifully written and are interesting. Fatima has made interesting observations about his uncle and the current President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari. In a reply to a letter of Fatima, Murtaza Bhutto, who was jailed by her sister Prime Minister in 1994-5, reminds her of a poem she had written during her stay in Damascus. I think no one will find it difficult to understand.

A (funny) poem by Fatima Bhutto!

Inky, Pinky, Ponky

Her Husband is a donkey

Both loot the country

Her Husband is a monkey

Inky, Pinky, Ponky
(Pinky was the nickname of Benazir Bhutto)

Chums of Zardari & Benazir

In her book, Fatima has sometimes openly and sometimes disguisedly named the chums of Zardari. According to Fatima, these people were never part of the original PPP founded by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. They only came after the marriage of Asif Ali Zardari & Benazir Bhutto. Fatima says that Nisar Khuro, current speaker of Sindh Assembly, was an anti-Bhutto and he had chanted “First hang Bhutto then try him!” after Zia ousted Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in a coup d’état. After the execution of Bhutto; Nisar distributed sweets in Larkana. Now he is a prominent leader of PPP Sindh. Fatima also names Dr.
Asim, Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza and her wife Fehmida Mirza(Speaker of National Assembly) as chums of Zardari.


During my reading of the books, I came across some historical errors in the book which I have highlighted below.

Custody of 200 Pakistani Soldiers (Officers)

On page 111-112, Fatima writes: “Pakistan also used the summit (1974 OIC Summit) as an occasion to announce formally its recognition of Bangladesh and in return Bangladesh withdrew criminal charges against some 200 Pakistani soldiers in its custody.”

In reality, 200 Pakistani soldiers were held as Prisoners of War (POW) in India. So, India had the custody of Pakistani soldiers not Bangladesh.

(Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Pakistani_War_of_1971)

Khilafat Movement

Page 187: ‘During the Khilafat movement in the subcontinent around the Second World War there was a fighter named Obaid Ullah Sindhi – he too was Sindhi- who based his resistance against the British Empire from the Kabul.’

A big error! The Khilafat movement took place after the First World War. It was a Pan-Islamic movement initiated mostly by Muslims of Sub-continent after World War I in an attempt to save Office of Caliphate and Ottoman Empire after the occupation of Istanbul and Treaty of Versailles.

(Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khilafat_Movement)

China’s Military Aid

Page 107, Fatima Bhutto claims: “Several months later, in the spring of the year (1972), China sent Pakistan sixty Mi-G fighter jets and one hundred T-54 and T-59 tanks as part of the $300 million economic and military assistance package…”

The only jets Pakistan got from China during 1970s were 30 Shenyang FT-5 (intermediate trainer jet) in 1975.

(Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_aircraft_of_the_Pakistan_Air_Force)

Madam Noor Jahan and the Shattered Memories of Pakistan’s ‘Better Days’


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On the first death anniversary of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, news channels in Pakistan presented special reports on the life and times of the assassinated leader of Pakistan People’s Party. Some programs also discussed the chaos which erupted the night of assassination all over the country as a protest reaction by PPP workers. This violence badly affected Karachi and other cities and towns of Sind province.

Karachi after Riots

In a program, a young man from Karachi shared his frightening experiences of the night of 27th December 2007. He told that he was returning from work when he saw protestors coming for him. He had to leave his car on road and take refuge in the famous Gizri graveyard. He found the darkness and dead silence of graveyard safer than the roads and streets of the city of lights, Karachi. He called his sister who sent a car for him. The next day he found his car which was unrecognizable. It was ruined by the protestors. During this conversation, the young man couldn’t restrain his tears and broke out in sobs.

Just imagine how this young man must have felt that night alone in the dark graveyard. His fellow human beings, people of his own country, his coreligionists compelled him to take refuge in the city of dead. Thanks to the stories we were told as kids, graveyard at night is always the most frightening situation imaginable.

In the same graveyard, Pakistan greatest female singer Malika e Tarannum (Queen of Melody) Noor Jahan is resting in peace. Noor Jahan sang heartwarming patriotic songs in the Indo-Pak war of 1965 when Pakistani nation became one and faced a powerful enemy with bravery. Her voice echoed throughout the country and told every mother that her son is on the sacred mission to protect the motherland, every wife that she must be brave and her husband is going to come back soon and every soldier that both sides of the coin favor him. He lives to see his country free and dies to protect its freedom. The legend of 1965 war is incomplete without Noor Jahan. She stayed in the radio station for 17 days and recorded songs when her infant daughters were ill. She was brave enough to get a curfew pass and drive throughout Lahore in search of musicians. And then she would stand on the microphone and sing “Mereya dhol sipahiya, tennu rab diyan rakhan” (My beloved soldier, God be with you). Her beautiful songs were highly motivating for Pakistan Army soldiers. She got dozens of letters every day from the public and the soldiers at the war front. Her excellent services during the war, for which she refused to accept any payment, earned her a Pride of Performance on the very next Pakistan Day 23rd March 1966. Our Field Marshal General Ayub Khan had to accept that half the credit of this victory goes to Noor Jahan.

Today, the sons of Pakistan for whom she sang “Ae puttar hattan te nai vikdey” (Sons are priceless) are being martyred in their own motherland by our own people. Sometimes I think Madam Noor Jahan died at the right time. She was lucky enough not to witness our steep downfall which started at the beginning of the last decade.

Gulberg Lahore’s Liberty square always reminds me of Noor Jahan. Her house was in one corner of the square opposite United Christian Hospital. Before her death, Noor Jahan divided her property amongst her children and the house where she lived for four decades was sold as a commercial property. Today a multiple storey plaza is standing here which has outlets of some famous brands. A Rolex crown is quite prominent among other displays. After the great artist’s death, the road which cuts liberty square and leads to Qaddafi stadium on one side and liberty market on the other was named after Noor Jahan. Until recently, there were no sign boards on the road and people were confused that which road is named after her. Now there are three standard blue and white sign boards of “Noor Jahan Road” displayed on the road. Across the square, right in the corner where two walls of Noor Jahan’s home met there is a fourth sign board but it is very different from the other three. Golden words of Noor Jahan Road are written on a brown rectangular wooden plate which hangs with a beautifully designed golden pillar. Naming the road after a great artist is the least we can do. And yes, we are doing the least. Since Noor Jahan’s death, no proper biography has been written. No one has collected her entire music. A small museum dedicated to her memory is totally out of question. C’mon! This is Pakistan. A commercial bank however built a beautiful fountain monument in the liberty square a few years ago. It resembles the water works of Shalimar gardens. The square is named after the bank. It has nothing to do with Noor Jahan.

Noor Jahan Road

The liberty square became the scene of the shameless act of terrorism on 3rd March 2009 when terrorists on motorbikes opened fire on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus. Five policemen sacrificed their lives to protect the Sri Lankan guests. Two civilians were also killed. Six Sri Lankan players and two policemen were injured. Terrorism in the heart of Lahore sent a wave of shock across the country. Sri Lankan team had come to play a test series with Pakistan’s cricket team. Security lapse and uninterrupted movement of terrorists in the heart of Lahore brought Pakistan a lot of ill fame and thus we lost the rights for matches of ICC World Cup 2011.

Liberty Square

The saddest part is that this terrorist act deprived five families of their sons who were most probably sole bread earners. The next day, big posters of these Punjab Police martyrs were displayed in the square and people paid their tributes in form of flowers. Yes, they died in the season of flowers. I saw a lot of people and media in liberty square on the evening of 4th March. There were huge piles of flowers in front of every poster. I added my bunch of tube roses to a pile and recited a prayer in my heart. And then across the road I looked at the huge plaza and thought of Noor Jahan who dedicated all her life to music and enriched our lives with her beautiful songs. Yes, she died at the right time. She was lucky enough not to hear bullet fires and see blood and dead bodies outside her home. God is great.

Noor Jahan represented Pakistan at Tokyo’s World Music Festival and got her name written in World Song Album. When she went to India, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi was waiting at the airport to receive her and India’s great artists touched her feet as a sign of respect. King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan was her great admirer and had a great collection of her songs. She attracted huge crowds in her concerts in United Arab Emirates, United States and Canada. And when Imran Khan campaigned for Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital and went to Noor Jahan with request of a charity concert, she despite of her ill health came to Qaddafi stadium at night and sang all her famous songs for the audience. She was one of the very few Pakistanis known all over the world. Today Pakistan is mostly associated with violence and terror.

Noor Jahan has become a part of history along with the better days of Pakistan. The difference is that Noor Jahan can never be back. She is eternal. But we can bring back the better days of Pakistan. Can’t we?

Martyrs of PNS Mehran



Naik Muhammed Khalil (Shaheed) is another unsung hero from the Pakistan Rangers. Muhammad Khalil had joined Pak Rangers some 17 years ago and was highly respected among his comrades. He was a person filled with patriotism and love for his motherland.

Muhammad Khalil along with other personnel from Pak Rangers was part of the Rapid Response Squad at PNS Mehran. On the night of May 22, 2011 when terrorists attacked PNS Mehran he saw terrorists attacking military installations at PNS Mehran. He attacked them ‘unarmed’ without caring for his life and went to capture 1 terrorist alive. He succeeded in killing terrorist but lost his life during this. According to officials, when they arrived at the scene they saw Muhammad Khalil martyred but still he had clutched terrorist in his hands. Nk Muhammed Khalil was working under Lt. Yaser at the time of the attack.

Muhammad Khalil, a husband and father of five sons was laid to rest at his native village Theatre Wali with full military honours. Large number of people including Wing Commander of 80 Wing Narowal Col. Nadeem Ahmed Kareem and DCO Ahmed Ali Kamboh attended the funeral prayer. Contigent of Punjab Rangers presented Guard of Honor and laid floral wreath at his graveyard.

Addressing the media, Muhammad Ghafoor (Khalil’s father) said he was proud of his son and if required he will happily present his other sons for such sacrifices for the motherland.

Other security personnel who embraced martyrdom in PNS Mehran Operation:
(1) Lt. Yaser Abbass, (2) Khalilur Rehman (Sailor), (3) Javaid Ahmed and (4) Javed Iqbal (Firemen), (5) Rashid (6) Amjad, (7) Asghar, (8) M. Saleem, (9) Khalil Ahmed and (10) Akhter of Pakistan Rangers

(Currently, information on other martyrs is not avaialble. The page will be updated when information is available. Post about Lt. Yaser is @ http://wp.me/p1xKUa-E)

Lieutenant Syed Yaser Abbas Shaheed – PNS Mehran


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Born on July 22, 1987, Yaser Abbas was the only son of Mr. & Mrs. Jaffer Abbas and only brother of three sisters. He belonged to an army family; his both grandfathers were in Army. His father was Colonel in the Army Medical Corps and had recently retired from Pakistan Army. Yaser received early education from the Army Public Schools & Colleges System of Pakistan Army. According to his maternal grandfather Col. Aslam, Yaser was a disciplined boy who always topped.

Lt. Yaser

After doing intermediate from Garrison Degree College, Lahore Cantt (Now Garrison University) Yaser appeared for selection test for Pakistan Air Force but was rejected due to eye-sight problem. But despite of being rejected by PAF, he declined his father’s offer of sending him to abroad for further education. He instead opted for Pakistan Navy and was selected for the 67th CAE/EC course of Aeronautical engineering at Pakistan Air Force Academy, Risalpur in 2005. After graduation from College of Aeronautical Engineering-Pakistan Air Force Academy, Lt. Yaser Abbas was posted at PNS Mehran base of Pakistan Navy.

College Roll of Honor shows Yaser

Lt. Yaser last visited his family during Eid ul Fitr in 2010. His family has recently shifted to their new constructed home at Askari 10, Lahore but Lt. Yaser was yet to visit it.

Lt. Yaser at PNS Mehran

Lt. Yaser Abbas was the duty officer on the night of May 22, 2011 when terrorists attacked PNS Mehran. He was having conference-call with his close family members when he heard sounds of blasts. He immediately told his family about the blasts and told them to wait while he went to check. On rushing to the scene of blast, he was stopped by Navy guards and sounds were heard by his family members “Sir, agay mat jaen…Sir, agay mat jean” (Sir, Don’t go ahead…Sir, Don’t go ahead). But despite of repeated warnings by Navy guards, he went ahead and was by engaged terrorists. During the intial firefight, Lt. Yaser received 3 bullets(1 in heart, 2 in abdomen), he was rushed to PNS Rahat (Navy Hospital) but he embraced martyrdom.

Funeral of Lt. Yaser (Shaheed) at Askari 10

Funeral of Lt. Yaser was held at Askari 10, Lahore and he was laid to rest in the Askari 10 Graveyard next to Captain Farhan Ali (Shaheed).

His last facebook status on his profile was: “finding it easy to bear the unbearable…”

*By acting vigilantly, Lt. Yaser saved important lives of his comrades and civilians. His quick response saved many strategic assets of Pakistan Navy. It must be noted that Lt. Yaser was only an aeronautical engineer of Pakistan Navy.. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has suggested Sitara-e-Basalat for his courageous and brave act. After appeal by the mother of Lt. Yaser (Shaheed), PM Gilani has recommended Nishan-e-Haider (Highest Gallantry Award of Pakistan) for Lt. Yaser (Shaheed). He will be the first recipient of Nishan-e-Haider from Pakistan Navy.

*As reported in Press.

Protect Your Army!


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In the wake of Abbotabad Operation, Pakistan Armed Forces (especially Army & the ISI) have faced unprecedented criticism by Pakistanis and from the world. What happened in Abbotabad is truly shocking and surely demands an explanation from the Armed Forces who take a large chunk of our budget.  The Armed Forces of Pakistan are considered one of the best fighting forces in the world due to their professionalism and sacrifices offered in the line of duty. But what happened in Abbotabad has surely come as a ‘shocker’ for the nation who sees it’s forces as the last hope in times of need.

The way things have happened in Abbotabad, they should be criticized and analyzed. But the way ‘some’ people have gone to criticize it’s forces is beyond limits and totally obnoxious.  Patriotism doesn’t mean stop asking questions but if you are going to come hard, ruff and personal then the consequences will be negative and perhaps disastrous for the forces and the nation. Army is not a political force so it cannot be criticized the way we criticize political parties or political persons.  Actions can be criticized but national institutions shouldn’t be criticized. It’s a national army and it has constitutional protection. It’s a force which depends heavily on the support of its people to. The way it has been criticized is totally ‘unbearable’ for patriotic Pakistanis. Last few days have been very tough for the Pakistani nation and the Armed Forces. Criticism has poured from every corner of the world. Our arch-rival India taking advantage of this new developing situation has already sent an alarming statement. So, this is the time to be united to show our support to our forces. If we are going to throw dirt on our Armed Forces then our enemies are surely going to take advantage of the situation and they may cause irreparable damage to our security institutions! Making jokes or talking funny things and making them public are  going to worsen things (Facebook/Twitter accounts of notable media-persons and political persons have posted such jokes and messages).

Great Muslim commander, Sallahuddin Ayubi rightly said,

‎”To destroy a nation or a country, one should create mistrust between the mass civilian population and its Army.”

We should not forget the scarifies made by Pakistani forces in the ongoing war against terrorism. It is also worth mentioning that almost 600 men (including top leadership) of Al-Qaeda were arrested by ISI and other relevant agencies. According to a report released in 2010, almost 3,117 security forces members of Pakistan have been killed while 6,512 wounded in this war. Even with this war going on, Pakistani Armed Forces managed to help their fellow citizens during the 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods.

So, being a citizen of Pakistan, Isn’t it our duty to defend our national institutions just like we defend our country?