6 Surprises for a Pakistani at Istanbul

Hagia Sophia - Istanbul

Traveling teaches lessons that cannot be learned through books or teachers. Back in October 2013, I stepped out of Pakistan, all alone, for the first time and the feeling was quite similar to that of a young adult asked to find his/her own ways in an unknown maze. It was a journey undertaken to cover the second Turk-Arab Youth Congress at Istanbul, Turkey as a student journalist and to draft reports of the sessions conducted over there. Unlike exchange programs and other international fellowships, during which students travel in a group, I happened to be the only Pakistani leaving for the congress. It was excitingly scary to give myself a chance for self-exploration. At the same time it was a comforting thought that Pakistan has brotherly relations with Turkey. As soon as I landed at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, surprises started to embrace me one by one.

1-Green Passport received with a warm smile
I was amazed to encounter a pleasant smile at the airport as the officer stamped my passport and found out that I was coming from Pakistan. Our passport is stigmatized (usually) and doesn’t receive a positive glare in many parts of the world. A welcoming gesture wasn’t expected, but I was fortunate to find friendly signs right from the beginning of my adventure to explore Istanbul within a week.

2-Turks won’t let you drag your luggage for yourself
Yes! They simply won’t- no matter how much you assure them that you can easily drag your luggage. Even upon my insistence the logistical team of the congress and even the students who were a part of the administration asked me to let them drag my luggage. They go an extra mile to make sure that their scale of hospitality doesn’t get disturbed.

3-They are good at speaking German and Arabic
They are not well-versed in English and other than the native Turkish language they are more eloquent in German and can comprehend Arabic better off. Even at the airport, people find it difficult to speak English. This gave me an idea that shopping wouldn’t be an easy task due to the language barrier.

4-They don’t let you get bored
They accompany you and talk to you while you are waiting for either a vehicle or a person. Turks are curious to know about Pakistanis and Pakistan. The sad part is that most of them don’t know that Islamabad is in Pakistan, but they do know a lot about Islamabad (at least).

5-The traffic – it’s awful
The first thing that came across my mind while sitting in the van and traveling for good 2 hours to reach the hotel from the airport was that – why does the Chief Minister of Punjab want to make Lahore look like Istanbul? In my opinion, Lahore already looks like Istanbul when it comes to traffic jams during inter-city traveling.

6-While shopping it’s a must to visit everyone’s shop if you are a Pakistani (even window shopping)
The interestingly hilarious surprises came my way during shopping. While I was out in the city with one of my friends from Lithuania, I forgot to take off the name identity tag provided by the congress which included my name on it. Shopkeepers started calling out my name to invite me in their shops and that is the perfect pronunciation of my name, I’ve heard from any stranger so for! (Maybe because my name is an Arabic word, they were quite familiar with it) Anyhow, upon knowing that I am a Pakistani they started offering discounts and gave additional nuts along with Turkish tea at a cafe. Almost all the shopkeepers wanted me to visit their shops as soon as they knew about my nationality.

Above all, there was a thumbs up each time I said: “I am from Pakistan!” Istanbul startled me with its unprecedented hospitality along with the amazing feeling generated through the authentic smiles that brightened their faces upon hearing the name of ‘Pakistan’.


Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Random Scape


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A lecture on “Self Discovery” by Hamza Andreas Tzortzis


Information Technology University, Arfa Software Technology Park, Lahore, organized a seminar on February 7, 2014 by inviting a renowned International public speaker for anyone who is in search of few major questions of life, its reality and human existence! Self discovery is the first step for an individual to recognize him/herself as a being with an identity and a purpose of life .

The seminar was a part of the greater project, titled “Winds of Change”, an initiative by the Youth Club to help the directionless youth of Pakistan.

The lecture was delivered by Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a convert to Islam, an international lecturer, public speaker and writer. Before beginning the lecture, Hamza clarified that he doesn’t want to give a dosage of intellectual and spiritual insulin through his talk. “All I want is to plant seeds of change,” said Hamza in his preliminary note.

He explained to the audience that the self or the ego always wants to be “right” and it wants to impose itself on others, whereas, he expects the listeners to burn their egos for a while. Hamza’s discussion revolved around 4 major questions that he posed in the beginning:

1) Who we are?
2) Why we are?
3) For whom we are?
4) What on Earth are we?

He suggested that if these questions remain unanswered then the person remains deluded and the answers to these questions are necessary for the spiritual and intellectual revival of an individual.

He asked the audience to unwrap their linguistic wrapping by asking themselves the following:

Did you choose your name?
Did you choose your gender?
Did you choose your ethnicity or socio-economic upbringing?

The answer to all these was; “ABSOLUTELY NO CHOICE”

“Yet people believe they are free,” exclaimed Hamza. He opined that double slavery is to be in a state of shackles and to have the illusion that you are free, hence, illusion of freedom is worse than slavery itself.

Hamza explained to the audience that human beings are thrown into reality and the more a human looses him/herself, the more free he/she is. Therefore, we are:

a) A slave to context
b) A human being in search of meaning

According to him, “Fitrah” (self-transcendence) is supported by empirical evidence. It is the fitrah of humans to believe in unseen transcendence. On the other hand, Atheism is learned, forced and taught. He quoted a 14th century theologian, who said that

the only way to get free of our limited understandings is to change the direction of our slavery towards someone who knows you better than you know yourself!

As per Hamza’s opinion:

Pakistan is going through an existential crisis. Pakistanis define themselves by what they are known for, but not by what they are! The neo-liberal media of Pakistan is responsible for imposing a forced religious dichotomy within the society.

He urged the youth of Pakistan to:

1) Prioritize it’s life
2) Find the human element within them by connecting to, obeying and loving Allah (the Creator)

As an example in Pakistani context, he referred to Shoaib Akhtar ( a Pakistani bowler and the fastest bowler in the history of international cricket).

Hamza recalled his meeting with Shoaib Akhtar, who told him that whenever I bowled fast, people expected a swifter ball, whenever he won a match, people expected him to win the next as well. His life was all about satisfying the slave masters. Shoaib Akhtar, lived on anti-depressants for two years, just because he was living to reach newer heights every day. However, now he has realized that contentment cannot be achieved by satisfying worldly expectations. Now, Fajr (the morning prayer) is the highest height for him.

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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Inspiration


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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Inspiration


Helpless Rohingya Muslims

Rohingya Muslims, Courtesy: Asian Correspondent

Approximately 800,000 Muslims live in Burma, forming 4% of the Burma’s total population. Apart from these official estimates, the Muslim population in Burma is double according to neutral sources. These Muslims are commonly known as “Rohingya Muslims” and have never been given the legitimate citizenship of Burma despite living there from the 8th century. They are subject to racial discrimination as “Bengalis”, and, under a 1982 law, are denied citizenship. For decades, they have been suppressed by restricting their freedom to travel, practise their religion, or work as teachers or doctors. They need special permission to marry and are the only minority in the country barred from having more than two children. The discriminatory prosecution against them accelerated since 9/11, but it has surpassed all the previous brutality since June 2012. They are being slaughtered mercilessly and images on social media shook the world when it viewed the plight of these innocent victims. Marginalized for the past 30 years, this minority is seeking refuge in countries like Bangladesh and Thailand (that have their own reasons for not granting shelter to the distraught Rohingyas).

In a recent spate of this unconstrained atrocity, at least 48 Muslims were killed.  The incident took place in a small village that envelopes itself with an isolated corner of Burma. According to the United Nations (UN), Buddhist mobs attacked  at the village named Du Chee Yar Tan, situated in a state called Rakhine. This state at the northern side of Burma is home to 80% of the country’s 1 million Muslim Rohingya population. It runs along the Bay of Bengal and is disconnected with the rest of the country due to a continuous mountain range (Arakan Yoma mountain range). Not only this but, foreign journalists and humanitarian aid workers have limited access to this village, adding to the difficulties of confirming details about the violence. Above all,  the United Nations has declared “Rohingya Muslims” as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

According to a UN report, shared by an Iranian journalist, Dr. Ismail Salami, there are eight phases for any genocide:
1)  Classification, people are classified into “us” and “other”, the first stage towards isolation and colonization. In Burma, Muslims are seen as the ‘other’ and are considered inferior.
2)  Symbolizations, people are given names or symbols in order that others may tell them apart. This stage is not, per se, dangerous unless it turns into dehumanization.
3)  Dehumanization, in this stage, one group refuses to acknowledge the humanity of the other group. In other words, one group reduces another group to a subhuman. Rohingya Muslims are also being dehumanized according to this definition.
4)  Organization: Genocide is backed up by the government or government-related bodies. A genocidal act is carried out through an intermediary such as terrorist groups or punks in order that the government can exonerate itself from any blame whatsoever. In Burma, the government has frequently repeated that the carnage is conducted by mobs. In the recent case of Du Chee Yar Tan village, the government has also denied the occurrence of any carnage or mass killing.
5)  Polarization: Hate groups forbid some of the very fundamental rights of the browbeaten group. If Ronhingya Muslims marry unofficially, they may be arrested and burnt alive. Muslim men ought to shave their beard so that they may be given permission for marriage. They are not allowed to build new mosques or seminaries (places of worship) nor are they allowed to renovate the old mosques.
6)  Preparation: In this stage, the victim groups are identified and made to wear badges which distinguish them from others. Further to that, they are selected for the death row or marked for death. The selection may be random or systematic.
7)  Extermination, in this stage, the extermination of the downtrodden group starts at the hand of the hate group. The term signifies that the hate group who functions like a killing machine refuses to believe that the people they are killing are indeed human beings with human feelings and worthy of living in this world.
8)  Denial, it is the last stage and a routine with any genocide. In the recent attack and mutilation of women and children, the government denied that a Buddhist mob rampaged through a town and mutilated Muslim women and children. However, human rights group and eye witnesses testify that the mob intentionally killed the Rohingyas.

Matthew Smith, executive director of the Thailand-based rights group “Fortify Rights”, called on the Burmese government to give humanitarian workers, independent observers and journalists unfettered access to the village. He said hundreds were still in hiding and may need help. The Burmese government should let the UN probe the issue, if it believes that the incident didn’t take place at all. On the other hand, the Muslims countries should take a collective decision to support the case of Rohingyas at every platform.

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Posted by on February 2, 2014 in International Affairs


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Reflections 2013

Dear Readers/Blog Visitors

Another year has come to an end. Alhamdulillah! (Praise be to Allah)

I would like to thank all those who have been visiting this small blog . This little effort attracted more than ten thousand views this year and made me a 3 year-old blogger (means three years of blogging). I took refuge in “blogging” as an immature writer who entered the University back in 2010 to complete an undergraduate degree in communication studies. This platform gave me a chance to practice “online journalism” and reach out to people belonging to diverse backgrounds, around the globe. It now has visitors from over 110 countries and around 500 followers.

2013 has been a very exciting year for me and broadened my perspective towards life in a positive way. It took me out of national boundaries for the first time.
This year reinforced my belief in an old adage; “work and worship never go unrewarded”.

I entered into 2013 with a powerful and wise thought by Tariq Ramadan.


 I hope that 2014 unfolds in a better way. I wouldn’t take much of your time as new year‘s eve has evolved into a festivity that is cherished by people in various ways. All I want to achieve via this blog post, is to share some beautiful sayings that I came across or heard.

 The first one is by my teacher at University- Dr Bushra Hameedur Rahman (who is, perhaps, the ONLY teacher that has ever inspired me in life till now).

Dr Bushra

The second one is from a public figure and a writer (Yasmin Mogahed), author of Reclaim Your Heart (the best self-help book that I got my hands on during 2013).

Yasmin Mogahed

The last two quotes are from Nouman Ali Khan ( a person whose perspective towards Islam has helped me to understand my religion in a better way).






Kind regards

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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Inspiration, Random Scape


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T.V Channel Ratings: “Sensationalism versus Responsibility”


The long standing debate of ethical concerns in the Pakistani media has been raised quite often at the seminars organized by the Institute of Communication Studies (ICS), University of the Punjab, Lahore. However, this time the topic alluded towards “Television Channel ratings: Sensationalism versus Responsibility”. The key note speaker was Syed Talat Hussain (renowned columnist, anchor person and analyst). Vice Chancellor of University of the Punjab, Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran, Dean Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, Prof Dr Zakriya Zakar and Tanveer Shehzad (representative of Voice of Germany) also spoke on the occasion. The seminar received media coverage and the enthusiasm of the students was evident as there was no vacant seat left in Hammed Nizami Conference Room of the ICS.

Mr Tanveer Shehzad while opening the discussion expressed his disappointment over the shameless degree of irresponsibility found in the media persons of Pakistan. He quoted the example of Z.A Sulehri, who used to detect and edit trivial errors of his program in order to practice ‘responsible journalism’. According to Mr Tanveer, media is a business and the owners are concerned with ‘revenue’ instead of considering the reform of the society. In his opinion, “rating” is a controversial term that needs to be redefined and its basis should take into account media content and quality. Mr Tanveer suggested the inclusion of independent media watch groups in the Pakistani media landscape. He laid stress on the formulation and implementation of ‘sound code of ethics’.

The key note speaker, Mr Syed Talat Hussain, explained to the students how “facts” can be dangerously sensational. According to him, people want to know the facts, but they don’t possess the “stomachs for it”. The seasoned journalist elaborated the difference in choice of ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ viewer. He told the students that during the genocide of Hazara community in Balochistan, the members of the community wanted an extensive media coverage of the dead bodies that were not being laid to rest. On the other hand, urban viewers were fed up of the issue. Mr Talat didn’t favour ‘Television talk shows’ as platforms for policy-making. In his opinion, “media owners” are now a part of “power politics” and have converted into power brokers. He concluded his note by suggesting that all the television channels should abide by the PEMRA ordinance and advertisements need to be more sensible.


According to the Vice Chancellor, Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran talked about “media conglomeration” and told the students how 95% of the U.S media is owned and controlled by six corporations. Dean Faculty of Social and Beahvioural Sciences, Dr Zakriya Zakar, emphasized that underlying social mechanisms should be explained through journalism. He believed that for a social scientist, accidents don’t happen the negligence of human beings make them possible, the media should highlight that negligence as well.

It is noteworthy that Mr Syed Talat Hussain has recently joined Bahria University as project director in order to reinvigorate the Media Studies program at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. The increased interest of media professionals in academic sphere is a positive sign for the students of mass communication and journalism who require the right direction to make their mark in the practical field.

From left to right: Dr Noshina Saleem (Incharge Director Institute of Communication Studies), Prof Dr Zakriya Zakar (Dean Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences), Syed Talat Hussain (renowned journalist), Tanveer Shehzad (correspondent Voice of Germany), Dr Ahsan Akhtar Naz (faculty member of the Institute of Communication Studies).

From left to right: Dr Noshina Saleem (Incharge Director Institute of Communication Studies), Prof Dr Zakriya Zakar (Dean Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences), Syed Talat Hussain (renowned journalist), Tanveer Shehzad (correspondent Voice of Germany), Dr Ahsan Akhtar Naz (faculty member of the Institute of Communication Studies).

Photo courtesy: Facebook page of the Institute of Communication Studies


The Arab awakening, Islam and the new Middle East

Book Review:
The Arab awakening, Islam and the new Middle East
New York: Penguin, 2012. 273pp ISBN 978 1 846 14650 3
Reviewed by Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

The unexpected spectacle, astonishing for the world and a trigger for mass mobilization in Middle East, involved a street vendor setting himself alight in Tunisia. The defiance of Mohamed Bouazizi against state oppression is often labeled as the beginning of Arab uprising. However, The Arab awakening,Islam and the new Middle East urges readers to view the demonstrations in the Arab world objectively and by taking into account broader historical, political, social and economic contexts. Ramadan explores the appropriate term that should be
associated with mass protests in the Arab world, instead of blindly projecting them as ‘revolutions’ or ‘springs’, he calls it an ‘awakening’, with “cautious optimism”. The author connects the deep-rooted indicators of ‘social explosion’ like unemployment, illiteracy, lack of opportunities and despotism at a specific and general level in Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Tracing down the origins of these unprecedented mass mobilizations, The Arab Awakening, Islam and the New Middle East, finds a midway between the notions of ‘Western control and manipulation of Arab uprising’ and the ‘exaggerated optimism that if often linked with the change in Middle East’. According to the text, “cyber-dissidents” and digital activists were trained by foreign funded organizations (centers like Albert Einstein Institution and Freedom House), back in 2004, to promote non-violent protest through the use of social networks and digital technology. However, none of the Western powers could have
anticipated the reaction of Mohamed Bouazizi and the chain of reactions after his death. Resistance against dictatorial set ups scattered at an exponential rate. This propelled the Global North to give a patient hearing to the aspirations of the people.

The author links this ‘revolting attitude’ of the Arabs with Edward Said’s concept of ‘other’ by marking it as an end point of a “time worn” debate between “Secularism and Islam”, “Occidents and Orients” and “We and Others”. For Ramadan, “the other no longer remains the other” as it is striving for the same values179
(equality, dignity and freedom) that the West has always promised, but has failed to provide. To validate his hypothesis, the author refers to other events occurring in the wake of Arab uprising. Considering the death of Osama Bin Laden as a ‘media coup’ planned by the American president at an appropriate time he opines that this event itself indicated the extension of a friendly-hand from the West towards the Muslim. After eliminating a man known as the symbol of “anti-Western ideal” a new “political orientation” was established for Muslim-
majority countries. There was no reason for the West for not listening to the voices in Liberation Square (Tahrir Square) when they non-violently demanded for human dignity and an end to coercive measures employed by the dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Throughout the text, references are made that explicitly indicate dual-standards and moral relativism of the West for the sake of safeguarding economic and geo-political interests. While
the United States and other NATO countries accepted the aspirations of the people to some extent in Egypt and Tunisia, at the same time, it maintained close contacts with the military establishments of these countries. On the other hand, the mass movements in oil-rich petro-monarchies like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar were downplayed and manipulated by the international media. The liberty to use Internet when curtailed
for the Egyptian bloggers was countered by Google, which provided them with satellite codes. The same ‘Google’ denied access to those codes when asked for by Syrian bloggers. It is noteworthy, as Ramadan mentions that the role of Google has been completely in line with the policies of NATO countries
along with the United States during the mass protests in the Middle East.

The author considers the ‘Arab awakening’ as an eye opener for the Muslim countries and the rest of the world as well, to devise new socio-political models instead of adhering to the present and flawed ones. Restoration of “self-confidence” in the Global South is the key to engage developing and under developed countries in a constructive debate. For the author, such debates can serve well to provide blueprints of socio- political models based of ethical governance, that is no where to be seen in today’s global order. The Muslims are advised by the author to use their state of awakening in a positive direction for the welfare of human society. He refutes the argument that democracy and political Islam are dissimilar by claiming that180 Journal of Media Studies 26(2)
five essential components of democracy are in “fundamental conformity” with Islam; ‘rule of law’, ‘equality for all citizens’, ‘universal suffrage’, ‘accountability and separation of powers’ (executive, legislative and judiciary). Religion can play a decisive role for formulating the ethical norms of governance that are absent in majority of the countries of today even “the civilized Occidents”. The Arab world needs to turn this uprising to its advantage as it has suffered a lot at the hands of Western imperialism and colonialism. Ramadan aptly puts it at two instances “ours is the era of mass communication”, “ours is the era of passivity” and the need of the hour is to change for the good of humanity. Relying on the ideology that there are “no ideologies” will not turn the Arab awakening into the Arab revolution as the author points out the necessity to create ideologies from within, which are irrefutable for both the East and the West and derive ethical principles from religion.

The Arab Awakening, Islam and the New Middle East is a well- researched attempt to understand and operationalize the accelerating changes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The author generously offers readers to negate his views and proposes that the debate in his book is open for all.

Originally written for and published in the Journal of Media Studies (JMS)- research journal of the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab.

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Posted by on November 10, 2013 in Book Review


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