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More Than “Just” a Footnote

A year after gunmen attacked his car, killing his young driver, I mourn the loss of Mustafa

 

mustafa2Mustafa – associate, companion, employee, friend

It has been a year since I lost a close associate, an employee, a friend. After I miraculously escaped a carefully planned dénouement, there was much to celebrate: the chance to live, the experience of having defied death. But this living has come with a death at its very centre. Young Mustafa, who had still to experience life, was deprived of that. What can it be called? An accident? An assassination? Crossfire? Or the sheer randomness of death?

In 2008, on returning to Pakistan after a stint with the Asian Development Bank, I hired Mustafa. Another candidate, who could not work full-time, referred him to me. I was a little hesitant to hire someone so young but during the various tests, he proved to be a responsible driver and immediately endeared himself to my family, including my young children, who later became his friends.

An image that has become too common in an increasingly violent Pakistan An image that has become too common in an increasingly violent Pakistan

He shared my enthusiasm for old buildings, random signs, rickshaw posters and pop art

Mustafa, a resident of Kasur, was the eldest child of a landless, working-class family. They had to stock wheat after every harvest, lived in a house that sustained damage after every monsoon, and faced the brutal marginalization of being who they were in the essentially classist rural society of Punjab. Mustafa’s venturing out to the city, therefore, added a bit of pride in addition to financial support for the family. He was choosing not to be a manual labourer, but opting instead for better-paid “high”-skill-based employment. I found out about all these nuances as we spoke about his village and the dynamics therein. […]

Pakistani Media Under Attack

The Pakistani journalist Raza Rumi survived an assassination attempt in March that killed his driver. He and other liberals have been targeted for criticizing Islamist militancy and a blasphemy law.

See more The New York Times

May 23rd, 2014|human rights, media, Pakistan, Politics, SouthAsia|0 Comments

Paradise lost

Raza Rumi narrates two tales of radicalization

 

Paradise lost

 

Writing about domestic help is distasteful as it means Pakistan’s obsession with ‘servants’ crosses the comfort zones of living rooms and travels into the printed lines. With much trepidation I plan to tell the readers about my own experience with a young helper who arrived from Pakistan’s Hazara area into my home a few years ago. Jabbar, a school dropout, had ambitions from day one and I spent the first few months convincing him that to liberate himself from a life-long career of domestic drudgery he would need to complete his education.

In my great moment of overcoming the middle class guilt, I found Jabbar a tutor and his formal education was resumed. He completed his Matriculation and Intermediate diplomas as a private school and did reasonably well given his circumstances and initial schooling. These days, he is enrolled as a graduate student and hopefully will find a better job than servicing my household needs. […]

Social media: Good, bad and the ugly

By Raza Rumi:

Despite the threats and risks, the Internet has provided a useful platform for people-to-people contacts. It has also facilitated issue-based engagement among South Asians and is likely to generate a more realistic understanding of the bitter rivals that are India and Pakistan

The creeping foray of social media into the Pakistani society is a tale, which cannot be ignored. In a country marked by political repression and constraints on free speech, the arrival of social media is a fundamental shift that will gradually unfold in the years to come. At present, it is too early to make any definitive judgment; however, this may be a part of the transformational moment in Pakistan.

Deregulation of electronic media took place nearly a decade ago in Pakistan and is altering the power-sharing arrangements among the elites. The media barons are now influential power-brokers, with unprecedented leverage available […]

October 2nd, 2011|media|2 Comments

Social media and Pakistan – prospects and possibilities

By Raza Rumi

In a picture taken on May 27, 2010 Pakistani IT professionals Omer Zaheer (L) and Arslan Chaudhry browse their newly created networking site in Lahore. Pakistanis outraged with Facebook over “blasphemous” caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed have created a spin off networking site that they dream can connect the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. A group of six young IT professionals from Lahore, the cultural and entertainment capital of Pakistan, launched www.millatfacebook.com for Muslims to interact online and protest against blasphemy. – AFP Photo

When I started to blog, almost by accident, a few Pakistani bloggers were found in cyberspace. Within half a decade the number has multiplied beyond belief.

From the senior writers to young students, blogging is now an avenue that allows forunfettered self-expression and also puts the mostly urban youth in touch with the world. Most importantly, blogging has broken the geographical and ideological barriers with the neighbouring India. A decade ago, such prompt and often real time link was unthinkable.

The pace of change in Pakistan’s crackling society is rapid enough to confound any observer. Within South Asia, its rate of urbanisation is the highest and informal estimates suggest nearly 40 per cent of its population lives in urban spaces. Add to this the growth of young population, social transformation is guaranteed. […]

May 13th, 2011|media, published in DAWN|10 Comments